Wow! What a week. At no point in time did I think it would pan out like this. A win at one of the premier individual events of the year and the Australian Bream Tournaments (ABT) season opener is just mind blowing. To think I won competing in such a high caliber field including the likes of Steve Morgan, Russell Babekuhl and Kris Hickson, ranked 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the country.
Prior to this tournament I spent a small amount of time preparing my boat doing basic repairs, tidying up and some general maintenance checks. When I hit the water on the pre-fish day I was immediately confronted with issues that would potentially inhibit my tournament. Initially I was pretty devastated but I quickly realised that I had two options: find somebody to do the repairs hoping that any parts that may be required are available, or do the smaller repairs myself and hope that everything else holds together. Having been in this kind of situation before, rather than panicking I accepted the circumstances and opted for the latter spending most of the day at the boat ramp repairing what I could to try and keep me on the water.
Day 1 I found my way to the start without too many dramas and before long the most productive day fishing I have ever had on Sydney Harbour commenced. I must have caught at least 60 Bream that day and of that I estimate I caught in excess of 30 fish over 25cm fork length. I had upgraded 5 times by 10:30am and probably 15 times throughout the day. Over the previous 4 years fishing the Open, one of the most important things I have learnt is that you need to manage your fishing spots. This year I think I did that well. After I had those 5 upgrades by 10:30am I moved around a lot trying not to sting all my potential fish. Albeit I had one of those magical days, everywhere I went I found fish and I didn’t lose any fish or lures. It actually got to the point where I had to slow down because I knew that there were another two days of fishing to go. Day 1 result 3.08kg, sitting in 3rd place with Greg in 4th and Chris in 5th. My thoughts at this point were: don’t choke, another 2.8kg a day and I may see the top 5.
Before I go any further, I need to ‘tip my hat’ to Kris Hickson. Kris saw I had been fishing 3 different banks that were also in his plans for the tournament and asked me if I managed to catch any of my fish from them. When I told him how well they fished for me and that I caught some of my larger fish there, Kris kindly told me that he wouldn’t fish there for the remainder of the tournament. This is Sportsmanship – Kris was sitting a fair way down the standings, he didn’t have to do this but he did even with two days of fishing to go. Coupled with his multiple ABT tournament wins, 2011 Australian Open win and 2011 Classic Grand Final win, in my eyes this is part of what makes Kris a true champion.
Day 2 wasn’t too different from Day 1. I managed to catch my limit by 8:15am staying in the clean water until the tide was high enough for me to hit the upper area of the Parramatta River. Once the tide was up I had a feeling there would be a short hot bite, and there was. A 45 minute window of fishing like never before to the point that I was catching and throwing back 28 and 29cm fork length Bream. Not because they wouldn’t upgrade any of the fish I had in the live well but because I was on a school of active fish and must have caught 10 in a row. I figured it wasn’t worth wasting time upgrading by grams when there might be that kilo ‘kicker’ fish swimming around in amongst them. Day 2 result 3.22kg keeping me in 3rd place just behind Greg.
Day 3 still sitting in 3rd. Was I nervous? Nope. Even with my engine issues worsening day-by-day I had still managed to maintain a surprisingly relaxed attitude. When asked after Day 2 whether I would borrow one of the boats kindly offered to me? My reply was “Thanks but I’ll play the hand I’m dealt”. As long as I could get to the start I figured that I could fish even if it was only under electric power all day – I’d done it before. I honestly wasn’t too confident going out on Day 3 but at the same time I wasn’t too concerned. After a few early hiccups, my plan was to stick close to the start and fish some of the areas I had rested the previous two days. Right place at the right time, that’s all I put it down to. I was off to a flying start and had a 31cm fish in the live well before most of the field had even started and a 28cm fish probably before most people even got to their first spot. Again by 8:15am I had a respectable limit in my live well. I turned to my observer and said “I may have a shot at the top 5 here”. By 10am I had a couple of upgrades and intended to go up the Parramatta River at about 10:30am but confidence in returning to the finish had declined. Happy with over 3kg’s I had in the live well, I was ready to sit back and just fish within a couple of kilometres of the start and play it safe. After umming and ahhing I made the call, ‘all or nothing’. If I didn’t go I’d only ever be left wondering. If I did go, catch the fish and not make it back then I’d at least know I did what I could. I’m glad I did go because I managed to upgrade another couple of times before heading back towards the weighin at 1:00pm. Something in the back of my mind told me to give Birkenhead Marina one last go and I’m glad I did picking up another two fish in the final 45 minutes allowing me to cull the remaining fish which were under 30cm. Was I happy? You bet I was, I went full ‘Ike’ and if you were in the vicinity of Birkenhead Point I’m guessing you would have heard me. It wasn’t until this point that I actually thought I was in with a chance of not just a top 5 finish but actually winning the Bream Australian Open.
After returning to the weigh in, I still somehow kept my nerve and it wasn’t until I stepped up on stage that it hit me and I went blank. The next few moments went in slow motion from the scales pulling down 3.81kg, knocking Steve Morgan out of the ‘hot seat’ to Russell Babekuhl stepping on stage and shaking my hand before weighing his fish giving me a look of congratulations. I had somehow managed to weigh in 10.11 kg over 3 days and won by 600 grams claiming the honours of 2012 Daiwa Bream Australian Open winner for 12 months as well as a cash prize of which $900 will be donated to the Cancer Council.
A huge thank you needs to go out to a few people in no particular order. Firstly, ABT for facilitating the event every year. As I have mentioned several times before, this is THE event of the year for me and I encourage people to get involved. The new individual format may seem daunting but is an awesome event to fish. Daiwa Australia, not only are they the naming sponsor for the event but are also a personal sponsor. They have supported Greg, Chris and I flawlessly and I am proud to be associated with them. Thank you to Hobie Fishing who is also a sponsor and support lureandfly.com. Having a Hobie kayak has provided a huge amount of convenience by keeping me on the water fishing at the drop of a hat. Josh Carpenter who rounds out the lureandfly.com team always provides that carefree angle and quite often puts things into perspective. Thanks must go to the two guys I look up to greatly and have an enormous amount of respect for, my brothers Greg and Chris. I could give you a list of details of how awesome they are but the bottom line is, these two guys have been there for me on and off the water long before our fishing days commenced and the Australian Open this year was no exception. Greg and Chris’ families, for their support not only to the three of us but also to my family while we are on the water or away fishing. Last but definately not least, a huge thank you to my wife Lauren and little boy Luca, these two have been tireless in supporting my obsession every step of the way. Without all of these people I would still be fishing but I probably would not the angler I am today.
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