After the enjoyment of the 2015 Tuross Flathead and Bream comp, in which a few mates enjoyed considerable success, to say the anticipation around the 2016 competition was high would be an understatement. However, all the reports were that the fishing had been tough at Tuross, and they weren’t wrong.
Graz and I were lucky enough to arrive on the Frivo before the comp. We launched the boat for a quick ‘prefish’ to see what we could learn in the few hours we had before comp registration. We had a solid plan to go straight to the opening of a large sub-lake in Tuross, but couldn’t resist a few casts out the front of a few creeks on the way up. After faffing about for a while we made it to our destination and started casting little stickbaits and poppers around. It didn’t take long for the action to begin – on the third cast, Graz had a seductive ‘kiss’ from a bream but failed to hook up. A few more casts and a fish was in the net. A good sign – they were looking up. A few more fish found the net, along with a couple of little flatties, so we were feeling pretty upbeat about the days ahead. Once the lads had arrived, the excitement grew, and so did the stash in the fridge.
Fishing comps are interesting. On one hand, you want the fish to be catchable. On the other hand, you want them to be as hard to catch for everyone else as possible. I think the latter scenario is preferable, which is what it was like during the comp. The flathead were small, the bream were finnicky, which meant it took a little bit of skill to tempt them to the net.
The average size of the flathead was small, with numerous fish in the 30-35cm bracket. We wrote about the post-holiday fishing blues here, but I concocted another theory that might help to explain the lack of big fish. According to some of the locals, it is one of the best years for prawns in a long time. As we were fishing around the moon, I pondered whether the larger fish were all out eating at night and were basically too full of prawns during the day to be bothered with eating. Just a theory, but as an angler, this sort of endless speculation abounds. In conjunction with the ‘obvious’ reasons, it might help explain why we couldn’t catch many decent flathead.
My first decent flathead came on the back of Grazza’s great idea to fish a deep hole further back in the system, reasoning that the fish were mooching deep in the bright sun of comp day 1 and that the back of the system would have seen a bit less pressure over the silly season. He’d caught about 1o tiddlers to my one, and we knew there had to be a bigger one amongst them. Luckily for me, but extremely unluckily for Graz, I had a solid tap and landed a 54cm model, which was to be my biggest for the trip.
Another 44cm fish came from the shallows, which made up half my bag. It was time to focus on bream! A few days before the comp I’d invested in a Stradic 1000 on a little Crucis 1-3kg rod. Without this, I don’t think I’d have had as much luck on the bream. Casting tiny little 1/32 ounce jigheads and 2inch gulps into the snags and weedbeds became a real joy, and it wasn’t long before I came up tight to a small, but ‘respectable’ bream of around 27cm to the fork. Day one was a success for me – 3/4 of my bag.
The fun started early on day two. It must have been the second cast after the comp start time of 7am, and I was whacked on the surface by what sounded like a decent tailor. I was reluctant to cast the stickbait again for fear of getting razored, but hoping for a bream I cast again. A few bloops and the lure was inhaled. Big bream? Tailor? Estuary Perch! Sadly this fish fought like seaweed, but consequently was soon in the net for a few quick photos before being released. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was to be my most ‘valuable’ fish (as far as prizes went, anyway).
Day two was similar to the first – tough but with enough action to keep us interested. Graz upgraded his flathead bag and we decided to hit the bream. We had a cracking session on little fish – at one stage we were getting nibbles and hits every cast, and even landed a few. But eventually we realised the bigger fish weren’t where we were and decided to hit some racks. Only problem: we had slightly less than 20 minutes.
At this stage, Graz still only had 3/4 of his bag and was in powerfishing mode. With the exception of Hamish at Wonboyn trying to catch his first whiting on popper, I’ve never seen someone so intent on catching a fish. On went a little hardbody and Graz started peppering the racks. I was fishing lazily at this stage, just content to enjoy a beer and the spectacle that is Tuross Lake.
We had about 10 minutes left. ‘Yep! I’m ON’! was the call. Graz had hooked a fish…a good fish! With 9 minutes remaining, 3/4 of a bag, 3lb leader and a $30 lure, to say we were both nervous would be a total understatement. This was true heart-in-the-mouth stuff. I had one attempt with the net that was a complete failure, and I could feel Grazza’s eyes burning into me as the fish did another lap under the boat. The second attempt was far more successful and a lovely 30cm bream found the net. Many whoops and cheerses and high fives ensued.
The Yammie 30hp had us up to nearly 45km/hr as we smashed it back to the boatshed. We’d made it.
The presentation was a little anti-climactic, compared to last year when Stu won biggest bream and Justin got third biggest flathead. I was super chuffed to get 9th out of 258 competitors, but recognised that apart from the skill in getting a bag, a lot of this result was luck. It was good to know that there were some ‘amateur pros’ there who fish the ABT, and that if you think about where the fish are and what they might eat you can get amongst it. Apart from feeling pretty pleased with this, my ‘win’ came in the form of the bycatch comp, in which I scored a lovely Finnish-made knife set for the EP early on day 2.
The presentation was over early and we headed back to the accommodation to enjoy a few cold beers and a feed. You’d think after fishing for 2 and a half days you might feel like a break, but from our rental we could see a few mullet flitting about in Coila, and possibly even the odd ‘kiss’ from a bream. Needless to say, we gravitated towards the estuary and had a very relaxing and enjoyable session casting topwater lures for finicky black bream. A few were landed, but the real enjoyment of this session was the fact that there was no pressure, just the usual banter and enjoyment of fishing with friends.
It was a good weekend. One of the best things about this competition is the people that enter. Before fishing this comp, I thought fishing comps would be full of macho, narcissism and bravado. But the thing about this comp is that everyone is just there to have a good time. Despite being from different walks of life, different skill levels, different political persuasions and so on, everyone is equal on the water. A big thanks to the organisers and the entrants for making it such an enjoyable competition. See you all next year.