As a young boy I always loved when I got to go fishing with my dad. We would fish from the bank of the Hawkesbury or under the Roseville bridge with our tackle consisting of a piece of cork with fishing line wrapped around it a small sinker and a 1/0 hook. I would rest the fishing line on my index finger and it was always such a thrill because you could feel every time the bait was touched.
The trade-off for this sensitivity was I would always get a little cut in my finger when the fish would make its run for freedom although I wore these as a badge of honour. As much as I loved catching fish I loved releasing all the fish I caught.
Over the years I made the step up to a plastic hand line then decided to get a rod when I had saved up enough to get a boat after leaving school. I had always fished with bait until nearly two years ago when I was given a Christmas present which involved Gary Brown coming on my boat and giving me some tips.
It was on that trip that Gary Brown introduced me to lure fishing. I managed to catch a flathead on lure and it felt like a whole new world had just opened up to me. I wanted to learn more and after some searching on the internet I found a You-Tube video by Chris Gates (Gatesy) which told me one of the best ways to learn was to enter as a Non boater in an ABT event.
The first event I could enter was the 2011 St Georges Basin qualifier. Coming into this event I had only caught two bream on lures so I had no pressure as entering for me was purely a learning experience. I was lucky enough to be drawn Cam Whittam who was to be my boater for day one. I arrived at the start and was just gob smacked by how cool all the boats were. All the boats got in order and we moved out of the river in single file until we reached St Georges basin when Cam opened up the throttle and we took off.
Within the first 30 seconds my hat and sunglasses blew off and the force of the wind caused tears to well up in my eyes. The ride across the bay in that boat was worth the admission price alone. On my first cast I was onto a fish unfortunately it turned out to be a flathead and on trying to get the hook out I managed to drop my pliers in the water. I ended the day with a donut (no bream) and unfortunately a penalty as we did not make it back to the finish line (the boat’s overheating alarm came on and we had to get the boat out on the other side of the basin). Although I caught no bream I truly believe Cam caught every fish that came within casting distance of the boat that day it was such a great learning experience in what turned out to be a difficult day to fish. I finished this event dead last with a double donut and a penalty but learnt so much from the experience.
In 2012 I continued my learning experience and had better success catching bream. In all tournaments I entered I had great boaters who all taught me something new. I had my first full bag of five bream and caught bream at every event which got me into this year’s Grand Final. I have really enjoyed fishing the ABT events and have met some great people including Greg Seeto who was kind enough to drive my rods and gear up and back to the Grand Final as I could not fit it on the plane.
As I have always been a catch and release fishermen tournament fishing has brought back a lot of the excitement that I used to have as a kid. I have started to share what I have learnt with my three year old son who caught his first fish in the Hawkesbury last year.
I can highly recommend fishing in the ABT as a Non Boater and look forward to March when the ABT will hit my local the Hawkesbury where I can continue my fishing education. I can only hope that I may catch one of those fish that I released as a kid.