Phew…… another year of tournaments over. Unfortunately this year I didn’t get to do anywhere near as much as I wanted, mostly due to work commitments earlier in the year. The goals however were the same. Consistently catch full limits and qualify for the GF. Unfortunately it was pretty dismal on the consistency side of things with a few day 1 donuts into good day 2 limits however this was offset by a good 2nd place and 3rd place at Redcliffe and Forster respectively.
Having the grand final in Mandurah was always going to be interesting. Usually the west coast crew always has to come east to fish GF’s and it was a great boost for them to have it work the other way around. The venue itself was another one of those places you drool over once you get there. Pretty much every kind of structure you would want to fish in a kayak was covered in spades. Miles of river with thousands of snags, flats out the front of the rivers that went as far as the eye could see and extensive canal systems. Driving around in the preceding days and being on the water showed plenty of big fish in all these locations. On a side note, the one thing all that time didn’t show was the extent of “blowies” or small toads as we east coasters may know them as. They certainly showed themselves as soon as a lure hit the water and not just soft plastics, they hit and hooked up on plenty of topwaters too.
The setup was amazing. Accommodation on the water, with a huge grassed area and landing beach and 50 metres to the pub. You couldn’t get better. About the only drawback was that the 3 hour time difference had all us east coast guys waking up at 3:30am everyday which is great for the fishing side of things but meant we were all tired and in bed by 8 at night.
For me the navigation day went how you would want it to go. I went up river and saw plenty of big fish on the snags and the way the tides were I figured they were going to bite later into the session rather than first thing. My plan then for the first day was to push downstream to one of the canal systems and hit it hard in the morning figuring they would only hold up for one day and then make my way up stream. Day 1 was a complete blow out, I got to the canal I wanted first and had it all to myself. For the first little while all I could get interest from were blowies and small bream but as the sun came up more I could see much better fish under most pontoons. Getting them to bite however was impossible. In all I spent 3 hours slowly and methodically fishing that canal for all it was worth.
From there I headed upstream as planned for nothing. I saw plenty of fish and plenty of big fish but they would just kind of look at everything offered to them but then lose interest and swim away. Very frustrating indeed. At the end Day 1 I had nothing to show however Dan Brown (who Kris Hickson and I were staying with) was leading having fished a similar region of the Murray river. So for Day 2 the plan was to leave all of that for Brownie (not that it did me much good anyway).
By day 2 I knew it was not a hardbody bite for me and most fish were being caught on plastics which will always make me struggle but I set off straight up river to the snags I had seen so many fish the previous two days. I scrounged one just legal in the first few hours on a worm hook rigged Pink Grub until I came upon Justin “Dinga” Dingwall who gave me a tip to Texas rig a 3.5 inch Zman and throw it right into the middle of the snags where you wouldn’t throw anything else. This was one of those “face palm” moments because it was one of the things I had tied on for day 1 but went down a finesse path figuring the heavy gear wouldn’t be the go. From there the bites came much better and it was actually quite fun. Throw the plastic in the worst part of the snag you could imagine, get a bite usually on the drop and set the hook like a tonne of bricks and just keep winding. I didn’t win all of them but I filled a bag and upgraded the just legal fish I had. In the end I weighed about 1.4kg on the second day which doesn’t sound like much but considering the eventual winner weighed about 1.6 each day, had I weighed that the day before the story would have been very different.
A huge congrats to Chris Burbidge for weighing those two consistent bags to take it out. It certainly was a tough two days fishing and the cream rose to the top. A big thumbs up to WA as they really put on a great show with some big crowds to watch the weigh in. Also a big thank you to Hobie and ABT for putting on the series all year. I’m certainly looking forward to next year.