Aussies Rompin to podium placing at sailfish comp

ON the weekend of the 14 and 15th September, three members of the Australian Land Based Anglers Association Inc. (ALBAA) tackled The Royal Pahang Billfish International Challenge held at Kuala Rompin, Malaysia. The world renowned event involves various teams from around the globe including Japan, Malaysia, China, Singapore, New Zealand, Indonesia, Thailand, Korea and many others including several from Australia. Most teams are experienced, highly recognised and professionally sponsored by leading fishing industry companies.

The three ALBAA members – Peter Oberg from Goulburn, Spyros Vassiliades from Sydney, and Ben Heinrichson from Brisbane – made the journey to meet up prior to the event. They decided to enter as a bit of fun, and with Spyros having family connections in Malaysia, it made it much easier to locate a good boat and boatman, both of which are extremely difficult to source for the tournament. All three are renowned land based game fishermen who hold dozens of national and state records between them. The trio mostly fish with their feet planted firmly on the rocks chasing all manner of gamefish, so tackling a tournament of this nature was always going to be a unique and challenging experience.

The fishing rules for the tournament are strict but simple. Over two designated days using circle hooks only, teams have to catch, tag and release alive in good condition as many sailfish as possible in the allocated time frame. Each team has a formal judge assigned to the boat whose job is to officially photograph and record all tagged sailfish. Any fish not alive or in poor condition are not recorded. The leading team after the two days is then the winner, with prize money and trophies awarded down to seventh position.

The trio put in an excellent performance at the event, even though none of them had fished such a tournament before, nor had much experience in many aspects of this style of fishing. Add to that the difficulties of language and being thousands of miles from home, it certainly set the scene for some issues. After two solid days the team ended up in third position, and the first Australian team, with 21 sailfish. “Potentially we had the chance to tag around 40 sails,” Peter Oberg told Fisho. The winning team had 25 Sails.

“Inexperience in the early stages let us down but after that first day we had 14 fish and were in second place by only three fish which was a surprise. We realistically should have been leading by around 10 fish based on our numbers … if they had all stayed connected.”


Double hookup on the South China Sea – Ben Heinrichson (left) and Peter Oberg.

Oberg said the final day was a shortened half day, and the early bad weather conditions shut down the bite for the majority of the boats.

“All leading teams found it tough and making hooks stick was a task in itself. The fish were finicky and had also altered feeding patterns. As the morning continued things improved and double hookups became common. As it was, these three unknowns took out one of the major podium positions in the tournament much to the surprise of the media entourage in attendance.

“After all, among all the flashy gear of other sponsored boats with their forty and fifty thousand dollars worth of sponsored gear and paid for trips, how did three land based fishing rough nuts who carried a case of beer on the boat every day manage to knock nearly all of them off. To say the competitors were confused is an understatement.”

“We didn’t go over there to win, but simply to have some fun. A top ten result would have been good. Top three was brilliant.”


The successful team – (from left) Peter Oberg, “Ray”, Spyros Vassiliades and Ben Heinrichson.

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