The ABT Bream Non Boater Division Angler of the Year has been run and won by a female angler previously, but not in the Bass Series until this year.
In a tightly contested Non Boater Division this year, Karen Fontaine won Angler of the Year. She is a quiet achiever, one that sit’s back and just takes it all in and believe me she takes it all in!
I first had the pleasure to meet Karen at a Reel Women’s Event which was a bass round held at Lake Glenbawn in 2005 from memory. It was from this event that a friendship formed and Karen started fishing tournaments.
Anyway, please enjoy the following interview:-
1. What is it about fishing that you love?
Being a hunter the challenge of you verse the fish and conditions.
The fact you never stop learning, there’s always new techniques, new products, new locations to adapt to and no two days on the water are ever the same. You’re just enjoying the moment, not thinking of anything else…just the fish.
The opportunity to visit some fantastic locations and meet great people holds the biggest appeal.
2(a). You fish a lot of fishing tournaments for Bass, Bream and Yellowbelly. Which do you enjoy the most?
That’s a hard question to answer.
They all have their different challenges. Bream you are working with tides, currents, and water clarity. The Bass bite can switch on and off like a light switch and level of technique/finesse needed to catch Yellowbelly can be mind-boggling.
At the moment I would have to say Yellowbelly. The Australian Yellowbelly Championship has just finished its second year and it’s very social. I get a buzz out of watching the excitement on the kid’s faces as well as all the Anglers trying their hand for the first time at Tournament fishing. The level of excitement and fun at these tournaments is great to be around.
3. What is your proudest achievement?
I made the decision in 2011 rather than just fish my local dams I would fish all the NSW and Queensland rounds of the ABT Bass Series. Since I was fishing the full series I set myself some goals. The first was to try and move my overall ranking from 7 to 4, the second was to qualify for the 2011 Grand Final and the final goal was to try and fish consistently enough that by the final round to be in contention for the Non Boater Angler of the Year Title.
I upgraded my equipment and spent a lot of time on the water prior to the start of the 2011 series. I had a thoroughly enjoyable year and was fortunate to fish with some great Boaters. In a very close finish I managed to weigh just enough to take out the Non Boater AOY.
Next it was off to the Boondooma Grand Final where I was thrilled to finish 5th.
The icing on the cake came a week later when I found my ranking had moved to number 1. Thrilled, I couldn’t of asked for a better year on the Bass and now comes the toughest challenge… to try and defend the title in 2012 against a very strong field of Anglers.
4. What are your secrets in achieving consistent results in the Non Boater Division?
Pre-tournament I spend a great deal of time researching the location, reading old fishing reports and flicking through magazines. I also keep a diary, which on occasions provides me with a starting point for pre fish.
I have come to appreciate the value of investing in quality rods and reels. They certainly improve lure action and the sensitivity of these rods is the key on a tough bite.
I’ve learnt to read the sounder, as fish tend to change habits as the day progresses. This skill has helped me stay in the strike zone.
When packing your kit, make sure you have a bit of everything i.e. plastics, spinnerbaits, ice jigs, blades, Jackalls, divers, surface lures – at least you have all the options covered.
I always fish from the back of the boat. Sometimes Boaters will invite you up the front of the boat to fish alongside of them, however I always feel more comfortable down the back. There may be times you may not like the angle/casting distance you’re getting fishing from the back of the boat, I always have a planned technique in case I need to fish away from the bank i.e. drop an ice jig, hop a blade or roll a plastic.
I have learnt to get rid of the clock ticking away in the back of my head and I try not to get frustrated if I’m not catching them early as it can all happen in 2 casts.
I try and stay relaxed, you fish better when you’re not tensing up. It is a pressure sport so you have to stay positive.
Etiquette is key to Tournament Fishing. I respect my Boater and his/her decisions. There is a lot of expense for the Boater and for all you know they may have spent months pre fishing for an event. I put myself in their shoes, you’re consistently getting great bags on every practice day and then early comp day it’s not going to plan… the last thing they need is the Non Boater sighing or continually telling them how and where their mate wacked them on pre fish.
Even on a fishless day on the water you will still learn things.
I believe Non Boaters need to show discretion. If you and your Boater had a good session in the morning, it’s not a good look if 3 or 4 of your mates suddenly turn up on the spot in session two and the same goes for the final day.
On every occasion I have learnt something new from the Boaters I’ve fished with and some of what you learn will help you see the water and the fish in an entirely different way.
I always stay for the presentation, the winners will often talk in great detail about the tackle, techniques, water-depth and temperature, how they located their fish, there’s a lot you can learn.
Finally and most importantly I always enjoy myself no matter what the day throws my way… fishing should always be fun. Stay positive and never give up.
5. What is your most memorable capture?
Somerset Dam Queensland 2011. I didn’t catch a fish in the first session and to stay in contention for AOY, I had to make something happen in the second session. My Boater and I had been fishing a great looking bit of bank near Pelican Point through the morning and couldn’t believe we hadn’t pulled a good fish off it. In the lunch break I changed to a Bassman Spinnerbait set up with the thought that Spinnerbaits usually catch quality fish even though it was really an ice jig bite. We fished for an hour without a touch at the end of the bank was a small bay with spindly bushes off the front. We pounded this area for another 30 minutes then I remembered some advice a Boater had said to me. A quick change of retrieve and bang instant reaction. This was by far the hardest fighting bass I had ever hooked into. After a couple of solid runs the bass finally landed in the net. This bass hit the scales at 2.19 kg, which was a new PB for me but still not a big bass by Somerset standards. Can’t wait to get back there next year.
6. Who or what got you into fishing?
My earliest memories were in the 70’s on the family fishing days. As a kid I remember walking the rocky edge and finding old bits of fishing line, I spent hours untangling them and joining them together then I would go see dad for a hook to finish it off. With my rig tied off to a bit of stick I’d start fishing. Only having a few metres of line I would flick it out and wait…luckily for me the flathead use to hang pretty close to the shore so I’d get a few. That’s where my addiction started.
7. What got you started in to tournament fishing?
I met my partner David who liked to Freshwater fish and at the time I was into the Saltwater fishing. We spent many weekends teaching each other what we knew. Spending a lot of time on the water we started to catch fish more consistently.
We use to fish the Georges River and see a husband and wife team in a tournament boat regularly and I asked David “do you want to try one of these fishing tournaments?” Then Squidgies hit the market and the addiction really kicked into overdrive. Fishing magazines on the coffee table, lures on the kitchen bench, rods and reels in the living room and the new Stacer Tournament Boat was put on order.
We were drawn to Tournament Fishing for 2 reasons the first to be more social, meet a few like-minded people, travel and the second was healthy competition, just basically to see if we could compete.
That was years ago and we still enjoy our tournament fishing. A couple of years later we met the couple who we use to see on the Georges River, it was Vicki and Scott Lear, as I said you meet some great people fishing and build some really good friendships.
8. What would be your dream fishing experience?
To be able to take a year off and zig zag my way from the freshwater to the salt water enjoying all the best locations Queensland and NSW have on offer.
9. What advice would you give other woman or young girls whom are looking to get into fishing?
Fishing is one of those fun things you can do throughout your life almost anywhere. It doesn’t matter what age you are or where you live everyone can enjoy fishing. So it’s time to get a fishing licence and grab a family member or friend and spend a day on the water.
Where do you begin…the internet is a good tool there’s plenty of forums, articles and information out there to get you started. Fisho’s are a pretty friendly lot and most like to share information, so take a visit to your local boat ramp and strike up a conversation. Join a fishing club. If you’re serious about your fishing and your budget allows book a day with a fishing guide. Guides know their stuff and supply the right gear so you can sort of “try before you buy”.
After a bit of reading you will soon get an idea of the fundamentals such as techniques, gear, how to locate fish, manage and release your fish. Next is a trip to the local tackle store. What you purchase will depend on what type of fishing you want to do and your budget. If you are aiming to fish tournaments I recommend you look at middle to top of the range rods and reels. Then its time to get the reel spooled, most Anglers use a braided line tied off to a rod length of fluorocarbon leader. If you don’t know how to tie fishing knots you can buy a book, visit you tube or get someone to show you and then practice, practice, practice. I recommend buying high quality lures, they are more expensive but they usually cast easier, have a better action in the water and tend to catch you more fish.
So you have learnt to tie knots, practiced your casting in the backyard, spent some time on the water and your thinking you’d like to try Tournament fishing. I suggest you go to an event an hour before it starts and see what goes on, then come back and watch the morning weigh in. Introduce yourself to few people and ask some questions most Anglers are very accommodating. I have seen people bring their tackle bag along just to see if they have the right type of gear and get a little advice. Let’s face it if you’re going to spend a bit of money setting up you want to know you’re on the right track.
What type of tournament fishing do you want to do? There’s quite a few options out there. You could enter some ABT Events as a Non Boater, this is one of the quickest learning platforms. Visit and join the Australian Bass or Bream website they have a wealth of information available on becoming a Non Boater.
You may want to grab a friend or family member and fish some of the Teams events just to get a feel for competition fishing before you step up to ABT. There’s lot of catch and release Teams events that cater for the novice through to the more seasoned angler. These include BETS Bream Series, Gamakatsu Bream Series, Jackall Bassin Teams Challenge, Jackall Australian Yellowbelly Championships as well as a host of local one day competitions.
Just participate, next weekend grab a rod have a flick and soak up the nature and landscape surrounding you. It’s rare to find a sport so exhilarating, yet relaxing… enjoy!
Vicki Lear is a self confessed fish-a-holic and works as a real estate agent to support her habit. Far from being a “one trick pony” she excels at many diverse styles of fishing from land based game fishing to offshore gamefishing. As well, she kicks most guys butts at Bream and Bass fishing