Bream Tournament Catch rates – “bigger and dumber” or “who shares wins”?

This blog post was inspired by a conversation that Josh and I had the other day, that was subsequently followed by a conversation with Steve Morgan.  The premise of the discussions went something along the lines of this… “in relation to Bream Tournaments, are the fish getting bigger and dumber, or are anglers getting smarter and better at catching them…”?

bream catch rates

Personally, my catch rates continue to improve, and I put that down to more refined techniques that are deadly on the bream. by refining the intricacies of the techniques, as my understanding of the species has increased has made them all the more effective.

I hope the question will prompt some discussion, but on the surface, my perception is that the bag weights in tournaments are getting bigger.

Take for example the BETS Bream Series.  They run a tournament on Lake Macquarie at roughly the same time each year in winter.  My initial thought during this discussion, was that the bag weights for this tournament have steadily increased over the past 3 years, and that the number of bag weights over 3kg have increased as well.  These observations were based merely on my perception, and on no actual data.

I had a similar perception of the bags weighed over the past 3 years of the Australian Open, since it became an individual event, and held at the same time each year on Sydney harbour.

Well, I’ve crunched some numbers from the results of these 2 tournaments run in 2011, 2012 and 2013, and the data is very interesting. Check out BETS Bream and if you want to have a look at the raw data.

The Lake Macquarie results, run in June, show a clear cut trend.  Over the last 3 years:

  • The number of 5 fish bags (expressed as a percentage of teams entered) have nearly doubled.
  • The number of bags weighing over 3Kg (expressed as a percentage of teams entered) have doubled.
  • The number of teams coming back to the weigh master with a big fat donut (expressed as a percentage of teams entered), are on a steep downward trend
  • Average bag weights have increased by nearly 50%
Lake Mac 2011-2013_A

Bets Lake Macquarie results 2011-2013 – click to enlarge

Lake Mac 2011-2013_B

Bets Lake Macquarie results 2011-2013 – click to enlarge

The Australian Open data is less convincing, but take into account that it is an event that runs over 3 consecutive days, plus a prefish day, so the results are more likely to be influenced by a smaller sample size, angler consistency and pressure on the fishery. This data also includes the 2013 event that ran in March, 2 months later than in previous years.  Yet, we still see:

  • Increase in the average number of fish weighed per angler
  • Increase in the number of anglers presenting a full limit over 3 days
  • The bag weights over 9 Kg (representing a consistent 3Kg bag weight over 3 days) trends downward, BUT
  • The average bag weight per angler is actually increasing
Aus Open 2011-2013

ABT Australian Open results 2011-2013 – click to enlarge

Well what does all this mean? I’m fairly confident that these results would be reflected in catch rates of recreational fishers as well, (if there was data available), so I’m really interested to hear about your thoughts.

Perhaps some combination of the points below might form the beginnings of an explanation for these observations.

  • With the amount of knowledge so readily shared and available these days on internet forums and websites such as, with organisations such as ABT promoting the “Who Shares Wins” philosophy, anglers are getting better at catching bream on lures?
  • The events being run at the same time each year, means that anglers need only review previous years results to know where to find the fish and how to catch them
  • Recreational Fishing Havens, largely free of commercial fishing, including Lake Macquarie and Sydney Harbour have been successful in promoting a healthy fishery

16 responses to “Bream Tournament Catch rates – “bigger and dumber” or “who shares wins”?

  1. Yeah the Bags are certainly getting bigger. Marlo ABT is a classic example. A few years back Greg Lewis got a 6kg bag that most people thought would be hard to better. This year there was 2 bags over 7kg’s, 1 over 6kg’s, and about 18 over 5kg’s…. And for 6 fish thats insane!!!!!! i think its certainly angler awareness and skill levels that have risen being the result in the bigger bags….

  2. Totally agree with your three points Greg. Data I have from the Port Macquarie Bream Classic has trends of bags getting bigger and also the average size of the fish!

  3. I think your three points are spot on particularly around the commercial netting being banned. I had planned to compare numbers myself this weekend. I was also going to have a look at average weight of each fish and the average number of fish caught per angler each day. Was also going to look at the BETS results as well. Great article.

    • Rob I didn’t break the results down per day, only for the duration of the event. will be interesting to do it, and have a sense of how consistency over multiple days affects the results

  4. Interesting number crunching, agree it would be also interesting to look at areas commercially fished. The other interesting comparison would be the competitors ,does the cohort change and is that change in membership nominal or significant? eg: Is the majority of the anglers over the 3 years the same anglers and can an assumption be made that their skills and knowledge of the area improves and therfore the catch rate improves? Good Conversation.

    • Christine my gut feel without crunching the data is that there will be an element of the same faces refining their knowledge of the area.

      But we all know there is a natural attrition with anglers and teams, and there are many new teams coming on board. The information is freely and easily accessible, so even if you don’t know an arena, you can get a sense of the techniques and locations that work…

  5. Has anybody though about the effect of technology advancements and the affordability of it on the catch rate as well? electronics, tackle, 4 strokes, electric motors, power poles, purpose made fishing kayaks etc, etc?

  6. I think it is sites like this who teach and the mentality of who shares wins mean anglers entering tournaments are learning continually year on year. They can read reports on what worked for who and how they did it, they can then go and refine their skills and try to replicate that the following year. Tackle performance and innovation in the tackle industry are the other keys that have already been mentioned which will result in higher catch rates as well. Great read as always Greg and some great answers too.
    Thanks. DB

  7. Technology would have to play a big part in it, and also web
    Sites making info more freely available . 5 to 10 years Ago the
    Learning curve was a lot slower.

    Cheers steve

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