After an exhilarating win of 1st in the Non-Boaters Division at the St Georges Basin ABT Bream Tournament last weekend, I am slowly trying to digest the significance of the result. It is difficult for me to comprehend that I could achieve this in such a short history of fishing and with most of my learning coming from verbal conversations, You Tube and internet articles such as those found here on lureandfly.com.
Growing up, my family would go out waterskiing at Lake Macquarie about 2-3 times each year. It produced some fond memories on the water and I always wished to get out on it more often. Living in Sydney, however, restricted the convenience of waterskiing regularly as you had to plan well in advance and cancel if the weather appeared to windy or miserable. On odd occasions, we went out for a fishing day using a pack of prawns and the outing was deemed successful if someone caught an under-sized fish or even got a couple bites.
When my parents moved to Lake Macquarie a couple years ago in preparation to retire, I was delighted at the opportunity to try fishing more often, especially when their neighbour offered for me to fish from his jetty. I just about glued myself to the end of that jetty on my holiday visits for several months to be rewarded with continual weed snags and only 2 legal fish. Regardless, I continued to persist as I found it addictive and therapeutic being around the water.
In April 2011, my cousin Warren Carter was up from Victoria to fish the ABT event at Lake Macquarie where he invited me out on his pre-fish. He handed me a rod and lure and showed me the basic technique needed to make the lure work. I caught several undersized fish and a squid that day which was by far an improvement on any other fishing day I had ever had. Immediately, I was hooked to lure fishing and knew I just wanted more of it.
For the next month, all I could think about was getting a boat to be able to go beyond the jetty. This was realised a month later, when I became the proud owner of my first 12-ft tinny which I could just pull up onto my parent’s property on the side of the lake. An added bonus included a basic sounder which came with the boat. My uncle gave me 1 day crash course which included how to setup the boat and motor for each day, connect the sounder, operate the motor, cross waves safely, marine maintenance and much more. That afternoon I was ecstatic to catch my first legal flathead – and on a lure too! I had already watched You-Tube to learn how to fillet it so I was ready to put it into practice. It was the most satisfying dinner I ate that night knowing that I was finally able to catch a fish and would have the opportunity to do again at my very own convenience and independently.
Over the next couple of months, I was amazed how much more effective the lures were to bait and the improved quality and size of the catch that they gave. Each outing seemed to land me a new species and my 3rd flathead I landed was a massive 83cm. My parents were also amazed at the fish I caught and my 2 kids loved getting out in the boat, though it was rather crowded and casting was (and still is) a nightmare for both them and me alike.
Contact with Warren by phone or SMS became a regular event following a day on the water and he would mentor me accordingly and answer all my questions. He encouraged me to enter as a Non-Boater in the ABT Tournament at St Georges Basin held in August 2011, which I did. While there, I caught my 5th legal bream and had my eyes opened to a whole new world of other passionate anglers from whom I could learn so much. I also got to do a pre-fish with Warren again. I was stoked to weigh-in 1 fish for the weekend but was frustrated to have to wait to 2012 to attend the next convenient ABT event.
Finally, the new calendar came out for 2012 and I was keen to get my name down for the few selected events I planned to attend. At Warren’s recommendation, I made the trek to Mallacoota to experience super-sized Bream and where I caught my PB of 36cm fork – on the pre-fish day of course! While there I heard a comment between two anglers where one accused the other of being a ‘bream-eater’. Since then, I started releasing my bream and just kept the by-catch for dinner. I started to view the bream as my sport fish and the other species as my food supply.
It was another long wait until last weekend’s event at St Georges Basin, but I was pumped with adrenaline from the moment I arrived. I had 2 goals for the weekend. The first was to get my first bag of 5 fish in a tournament and second, to weigh in fish on both days.
My pre-fish on Friday was not the best as I dropped 3 of my 4 fish due to lack-of-skill. Thankfully, due to Warren’s coaching on how to hold the rod and manage the drag, I was able to improve my landing rate on both the tournament days.
On Day 1, I was surprised to land 3 fish in the first hour and it really boosted my confidence. I achieved my first goal and landed 5 fish that day. I didn’t realise the significance of my bag weight even after I weighed in and was dumbfounded when it left me as the leading non-boater. The shock of it left me trembling all night through until the start on Day 2.
My second goal, to weigh in fish on both days, was a mental barrier for me as both my previous tournaments had resulted in doughnuts on Day 2. The added pressure of potentially falling from leading position to a doughnut did not sit well in helping to alleviate the nerves. It was a very welcomed relief to repeat the previous day’s start with 3 fish in the first hour again. I set a new goal of an upgrade and was rewarded with 1 on the second day which made the all the difference for retaining my lead.
I am looking forward even more now to my next event on my home fishing waters at Lake Macquarie and even though I don’t have expectations to repeat such a performance, I have realised you can never dream too high. Just getting out and having a good time doing what I love best is enough, but a top score makes it extra sweet! I also have to say I enjoy the luxury of fishing on a comfortable boat with an electric motor, all the gismo’s on board and the good company of different anglers is fantastic.
For any anglers out there who are hesitant to participate in a tournament, in particular female anglers, all I can say is give it a try. You don’t have to be successful or be highly skilled in order to have a good time – you just might find that you enjoy it more than you anticipated. The other anglers don’t bite, only the fish do!