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Report: Road trip to the Flattie Classic

IT’S a good drive from Jervis Bay to the Gold Coast. I left my place at midnight last Monday and picked up Ian “Big E” Phillips at his joint about an hour later. Fast-forward 14 hours and we were dropping the Fisho Sea Jay into the creek behind Greeny’s house to see if the flatties were biting.

We scored a few small lizards and E got a surprise soapie jew before we pulled the pin and headed back to the ramp. By that stage it was dark and we were both shattered from lack of sleep. The wind had picked up and the tide was roaring. I’d left my specs in the car and couldn’t see a thing. These factors combined to result in me somehow managing to drive the boat into a tree …

Greeny had finished work and was waiting for us back at his house. The tree incident left him perplexed. “But there’s no tree at the boat ramp,” he said.

“The only trees are miles away. How did you get stuck in a tree?”

I had no answers and E was staying quiet. We put the tree debacle behind us and focused on a game plan for the 2013 Flathead Classic, an iconic sportfishing event founded by Greeny 20 years ago.

After a feed at a local Indian restaurant and some much-needed shut-eye time for E and I, we launched at Runaway Bay the following morning and headed out into the Broadwater for a pre-fish. Greeny knows these waters like the back of his hand but work pressures – something or other involving moving a hospital – hadn’t given him much time to suss out where the fish were.

We spent the day checking out a variety of spots and slowly began building a picture of where the fish were located. Strong winds over the ensuing days meant we’d be looking at a trolling program, Greeny said, with a bit of casting at peak stages of the tide.

This would be interesting. At our home waters around St Georges Basin deep jigging is the go. E has forged a solid reputation as a master of XOS lizards by casting and jigging his beloved Riptide plastics in the calm, non-tidal waters of the basin (see video HERE). But the Gold Coast waters were radically different from what he and I were used to. Our pre-fish day saw us fishing shallow and in very strong tides. The next few days looked like being a serious learning curve for us.

Day One of the Flattie Classic dawned clear and still. Strong nor-westers – “evil winds” according to Greeny – were predicted for later in the arvo with a blustery sou-easter the following day. The first day saw us score some respectable fish in the mid to high 60s trolling Micro Mullets and Pig lures in the shallows. When I say “shallow” I mean just a couple of feet deep – and jigging plastics around weed beds, drop offs and over flats.

The wind out on exposed waters was crazy strong, making boat positioning difficult and muddying up some of the drains and flats that Greeny had wanted to fish.

Squadrons of mentally retarded jet skiers and maniacs driving 50-foot cruisers flat out past us didn’t help either.

We placed 2nd in the rankings at the end of Day 1, a result we were pretty happy with. Day 2 was tougher but we managed to find a few fish, mainly in the shallows around mangrove-fringed flats. The Pig lure, which is made locally on the Gold Coast, got me a couple of nice point scorers on the mud banks. By day’s end we had dropped four places to 6th but remained happy with top 10 positioning.

Day 2 was also notable for E doing some pretty spectacular gymnastic moves on the front deck and for Greeny demonstrating how careful throttle application can make team members suddenly disappear over the transom … Maybe if you put the seat a bit further back, Dave? Haha!

As mentioned above, one of the interesting things about fishing on the Gold Coast is the preponderance of boat traffic. E and I live a sheltered life down here on the South Coast and were somewhat shocked by the relative insanity displayed by the Queensland boat drivers. Greeny had no time for our timid approach to boating etiquette and told us in no uncertain terms to “toughen up”.

Day 3 was really hard. The sou-easter had cleaned the water up but the fish were either not around or completely shut down. We caught bugger all, apart from a few wrigglers earning us a measly 20 points. Many other teams reported zeros or very minimal catches.

This dragged Team Fisho to 19th overall. Personally speaking, I was pretty happy with that but I know Greeny and E were disappointed not to have finished higher up.

Without Greeny’s local knowledge and flattie fishing expertise there’s no doubt in my mind that we would have finished much lower down the rankings.

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This year’s Top 20.

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The largest flathead went to Brenden Whyte with a 94cm fish.

This year’s Classic was a particularly tough one. Unseasonally warm water had seen the flatties become very lethargic. There was some speculation that many fish had actually moved away to find better conditions. That said, there were fish to be caught – and some quality ones at that.

Aside from the challenging fishing, I was impressed with the organisation of the comp and how popular it is with both local and visiting anglers. Christine Hunt and her colleagues at the Gold Coast Sportfishing Club run a top event – it is, in fact, one of the very best I’ve had the pleasure to be involved with.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the Flathead Classic will continue to grow and develop in years to come. I’ll be back there for the 2014 event!

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Junior boat prize winner Aiden Cross.

See HERE for full results and more details.

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