Barra Patterns – Lake Awoonga

Barra patterns are cool, fullstop. Trends are distinguishable, identified through decades of scrutiny while working and fishing Awoonga. Sure, they’re barra, but small, medium and large fish all behave differently. You’re more likely to find that 120cm barra in Awoonga visiting the

fringe from noon until mid afternoon as it wanders in from the depths. The deep water is home base.
On the other end of the spectrum the 30 to 40cm barra are likely to be hiding in quieter shallow water tucked well away from ‘shark attack waters’, often in warm weedy pockets where it’s not too rough. Spindly snags, weed, lillies and 30cm of depth is common baby barra country, especially if fed by a gentle stream of active water channeled by the wind.

A 50+ cm barra taken 18 years ago- Andrew Hamilton (from the GAWB Hatchery) and I fished daily, doing research tagging and surveys on early day stocks. We caught about 60 this day on surface lures.

The thousands of 30 to 40cm stocks can seem absent in a big lake, yet just like that, ‘kapow’ a whole pile of 60cm fish start being caught the following year because the fish grow rapidly, change behaviour, shift habitat and find the angler rather than the other way around.

Non-stop action from tiny barra, shallow water, weedy pockets, Lake Awoonga- the year 2000.

If you’re not catching tiny barra it generally means you haven’t thrown a cast anywhere near where they hang out.
As these small fish grow they become bold, gaining confidence, realising they’re the apex predator in the lake.
When reaching 60cm or so their needs change somewhat and they’ve already wandered out from the protected shallows readily caught on weed and lily edges, happy to face the open water world, but still on training wheels.

Food 90% digested with barra still keen to eat; feed time varies, as conditions in play may simply not suit all sizes to feed, some lay patiently waiting……….. not always willing to eat at the drop of a hat.

By the time they’re 70 to 80cm long they’ve adapted to the rapidly altering dynamics of the lake water and become more nomadic, transient with every change of day and night, aware of subsurface and surface current flows, often moving in schools like a silent army leaving their base in 20+ft of water to hunt the food rich targetable lake fringe.

Growth rates of up to 4kg a year is normal, they pack it on.
85cm (8-9kg) fish catches can drop a bit from the average angler’s scorebook even though last year’s stock should be that size, why, because as they grow larger they too ended up with a different set of rules and changed into a mid-lake wanderer only coming to the fringes if and when times are right, spending more adult life out deep. (Trolling Heaven)

A barra hooked at midday, 20ft below using a small soft plastic paddletail. The school was found using sonar, then targeted accordingly. Larger fish live deep.

Casters have to begin zoning in using sonar to find and target these deep water fish. Sonar Course
Next is 100cm fish and so on, older fish have different tolerances to temperature, have been caught and released numerous times and slowly but surely learn that another predator exists on the lake, the apex of them all, man.

‘Catch and Release’ eventually impacts the sensitivity of the fish, not in favour of the angler.

Eventually (a few years of pressure) wise fish ignore lures and take a bit more skill to entice than the 60 to 80cm barra that are still new, hungry and learning about life in lakes.


So in all, the easiest size range to nail consistently in Awoonga are the current crop around 60 to 80cm. This is based on their bold nature and lack of life experience, wandering pattern and areas chosen to feed.

Enjoy the time, thankfully, ‘a barra is a barra’ anywhere around the country, but each size class of fish is operating under a different set of rules, and being controlled by a variation of factors that constantly change their immediate environment making them as fickle as the waterways themselves.

My first winter guiding trip, about 14 years ago was based on the ‘KNOW YOUR ANIMAL’ principle simply through awareness and observation.

You can find a barra anywhere, anytime, but there’s some amazing details attached to their habits, many which are being taught and shared through our training seminars. A long guiding career with clients and thousands of metre plus barra catches (monitored with a questioning eye) unearthed some eye popping information about barra, the same information now being used by trained anglers to win tournaments and expand barra guiding tourism businesses.

My decades studying barra with an analytical mind have allowed our Masterclass trained anglers to target XOS barra, salties especially via an intricate understanding of that particular sized fish, and believe me there’s some serious things needing consideration to nail 120cm + salties consistently.
Most anglers aren’t even looking in the right place, and once explained it makes simple sense!
“KNOW YOUR ANIMAL”, one of my favourite essential quotes for success.

Johnny Mitchell

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