I’M a really crap competition fisherman. I just don’t have the patience or steadfast commitment to work out and stick to a game plan. So my results – big fat zeros – were not wholly unexpected at the conclusion of the Squidgie Southern Bream Series round held at Mallacoota on the weekend.
But my team mate Wes Murphy and I had a bloody good time, exploring new water, catching fish (just not the right ones) and swapping the usual insults and banter over the two-day comp. I also got to see some really good bream anglers in action, made some new friends and picked up a few tips that will definitely help me in my estuary fishing around my home waters.
During the pre-fish last Friday, however, Wesbo and I thought we were in the running for comp success. Conditions for the pre-fish were blowy and overcast, with heavy rain showers in the morning resulting in a late start. Once on the water we were amazed at the size of the system and the various habitats it offered. We started off fishing shallow flats with hard-bods in the Bottom Lake before moving through the Narrows to the Top Lake. I was particularly keen to work the edges, a technique that guys like Bushy and Chris “Slick” Wright had told me was both challenging and productive.
The scenery in ‘Coota is pretty amazing. Dense bush extends right down to the shoreline with just a sliver of yellowish sand and scattered rock separating the water from the vegetation. Big grey gum trees rise up the steep hills and all around you hear the sharp crack of whip birds and shrill cry of sea eagles cruising high above the water.
We positioned the Fisho Sea Jay along a section of bank that was exposed directly to the wind. Our rationale was that the bream would be feeding comfortably in the choppy, foamy water and that any food – insects, small fish or prawns – would be blown towards the shore by the steady breeze. We set the i-Pilot to take us along the flat, about 30m out from shore, and peppered the bank with Jackall Bros Chubbies and shallow running Maria hard-bods, hoping for a “kicker” fish. (I’m turning into a bream knobber!)
I hooked up first to a nice black bream of 35cm that took a liking to my Chubby. I was using a new outfit obtained specifically for this comp – an ultra-light Shimano Rarenium 1000FA reel spooled with 3lb Power Pro braid teamed with a super responsive G.Loomis SR841 rod. I also lashed out and purchased some 4lb Unitika fluorocarbon leader – not cheap but damn good line. The use of light braid and long light fluoro leaders is a technique advocated by Bushy in a series on bream that he wrote for us recently. Since the Bush Man is the bee’s knees when it comes to breaming I made sure I followed the advice in his articles to the letter.
I was pretty pleased to blood my new outfit with a nice bream and was doubly happy when I scored a slightly smaller yellowfin bream a short while later. Both fish were caught in different locations and we felt confident that the edges were the place to fish.
We both picked up a few flatties and I lost a Chubby to a stinking tailor before heading back for an early night.
Next morning the comp started in dead calm conditions. We fished our edges but the water was crystal clear and no fish were evident. After an hour or so of casting we made a decision to abandon the shallows for deeper water, which we worked with blades and soft plastics.
Making this move proved to be our big mistake. In retrospect, we should have stuck with our game plan. But we were weak. Oh well, you live and learn …
We zeroed on the first day – along with a number of other teams – and also pulled a zero on the second day. A number of other teams joined us in recording doughnuts (which sort of relieved the pain) but plenty of fish got caught by more successful anglers, which showed that the fish were there but we weren’t good enough to catch them.
Midway through that fishless second day our collective mojo took a bit of a nosedive and I’m ashamed to say that we gave up on the bream and focused instead on catching some of the salmon that had invaded the system. Hooking up on these high-flying sportsters on our 1-2kg bream outfits was a blast, although I sorta felt a bit guilty having fun catching salmon where I should have been hard at work not catching bream.
Comp angst aside, I caught sambos on blades, Squidgy Fish, Chubbies and a Stiffy Popper. Wes delved into his tackle box and caught some crackers on a Jointed Jitterbug and a Tiny Torpedo.
While I’m obviously no great shakes as a dedicated comp angler, plenty of guys who fished this tournament are. Their commitment mostly paid off with those in the winners’ circle recording some great bags of big fish. See the results HERE for full details. Briefly, the event was won by Team Smith Barflies (Jesse Rotin and Mark Hayes) with a bag of 8.7kg. Team Cranka Lures/Original Source (Dan Mackrell and Mat Kearton) took second place with 8.495kg and third position was won by Team Damiki/Pontoon 21 (Scott Brown and Trent Killmore) with 8.31kg. Matt Petrie from team Scott Lovig Hobie did a fantastic job to take out the kayak section with a thumper bag of 5.1 kilos. Darryl Head of Bay and Basin Sportsfishing took second place with a bag of 4.675kg. Darryl also took out the biggest ‘yak bream category with a stud fish of 1.44kg.
Interestingly, several of the champion anglers said that they scored their bags by focusing on the edges, putting in the hard yards for their fish and obviously believing that their instincts about the fish being in the shallows were worth persevering with. Hard-bods did the trick but blades flicked up into the shallows and worked back over the drop-off also produced the goods. The biggest bream of the comp, a massive 1.845kg beauty caught by Warren Carter, fell to a lure fished along the edges.
Personally speaking, I doubt I’ll ever fish but a few selected comps in any given year but I can see how these events force thinking anglers into situations that ultimately improve their general fishing. Perseverance, commitment, trusting your instincts and putting in the hard yards are just as important as having all the flash gear and boxes of shiny lures. Mallacoota obviously wasn’t fishing at its best for the SBS comp – the fish were largely shutdown – but those anglers who worked hard, were innovative and who applied their knowledge and skills to the conditions at hand did well and walked away with some impressive cash prizes.
I went away with nothing but respect and admiration for those fishos who triumphed over the adverse conditions and also for the hardworking members of Basin Lure & Fly Inc who staged an enjoyable and well-run comp.
See www.ssbs.basinlureandfly.org.au for more details on the SSBS series.