Tournament Angler Guide 2018

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Australian Bass Tournaments




Tournament Angler Guide

2018abt calendar BREAM SERIES

with the Victorian double header, then makes its way through the country before heading to Marlo in Victoria in early December for the big show: the Costa BREAM Grand Final.

Get set to fly because the Costa BREAM Series spreads its wings in 2018, with five states and nine qualifying rounds waiting for anglers in the new tournament season. The tour kicks off in February Costa BREAM Qualifiers

• Boater $250 • Non-Boater $125





13-14 Feb



Round 1

17-18 Feb


Gippsland Lakes

Round 2

20-21 Mar


St Helens

Round 3

24-25 Mar


Derwent River

Round 4

21-22 Apr


Gold Coast

Round 5

5-6 May


Swan River

Round 6

2-3 Jun


Hawkesbury River

Round 7

11-12 Aug


Lake Macquarie

Round 8

13-14 Oct


South West Rocks

Round 9

30 Nov-2 Dec


Gippsland region

Grand Final

5-7 Mar


Sydney Harbour/Hawkesbury River

BREAM Australian Open


Revamped for the new tournament season, the Casino Outdoors BASS Electric Series is primed and ready for 2018. Four Qualifying Rounds and a Grand Final await anglers in the new tournament season, with two new venues slated for the 2018 series. It all kicks off at the end of February on





25 Feb


Richmond River

Round 1

22 Apr


Clarrie Hall Dam

Round 2

10 Jun


Wyaralong Dam

Round 3

29 Jul


Lake Macdonald

Round 4

25-26 Aug


Wivenhoe Dam

Grand Final

BASS Electric Entries $80 per angler





10-11 March 19-20 May 22-23 May 7-8 July 11-12 July 8-9 September 22-23 September 20-21 October


Hawkesbury River Lake Glenbawn Lake St Clair Lake Boondooma Cania Dam Clarence River Lake Somerset Lake Glenbawn

BASS Pro #1 BASS Pro #2 BASS Pro #3 BASS Pro #4 BASS Pro #5 BASS Pro #6 BASS Pro Grand Final BASS Australian Open







10-11 Feb


Bemm River

Round 1

10-11 Mar


Foster / Wallis Lake

Round 2

7-8 Apr



Round 3

14-15 Apr


Blackwood River

Round 4

5-6 May


St Georges Basin

Round 5

2-3 June


Gold Coast

Round 6

15-16 Sept


Central Coast

Round 7

6-7 Oct


Swan River

Round 8

13-14 Oct


Hopkins River

Round 9

3-4 Nov


Lake Macquarie

Round 10

24-25 Nov



Round 11

Feb-19 2019



Australian Championship

TAG 2018 abt

one of the best wild bass fisheries on the tour, the Richmond River, then heads to Clarrie Hall Dam, Wyaralong Dam, and Lake Macdonald. The BASS Electric Grand Final returns to the scene of two past BASS Electric Conventions, Wivenhoe Dam, with the biggest event of the calendar taking place in August when the Hoe’s big bass are at their most active. To qualify for the Grand

Final all you need to do is fish two rounds throughout the year, while the Angler of the Year points race will be decided on an angler’s best three results, with the Grand Final included in the calculation. This is the first time BASS Electric anglers get to fish their first event for free in 2018, so check out the calendar to find out where and when you can get your Casino Outdoors and Disposals BASS Electric fix.

Rapala headlines the BASS Pro Series in 2018, with the new tournament season delivering a host of challenges and rewards for new and returning anglers. Six Qualifying Rounds throughout the year held on Queensland’s and New South Wales’ finest bass rivers and lakes – plus a

Grand Final at Queensland’s home of XOS bass, Lake Somerset, in September – will present anglers with a BASS Pro calendar that is sure to test and challenge. Add the Storm BASS Australian Open to the mix, and the BASS Pro calendar is the biggest and best we’ve ever seen.

Rapala BASS Pro Qualifiers

• Boater $275 • Non-Boater $150




19 Nov

Kinchant Dam (Evening Event)

Round 1

20 Nov

Teemburra Dam (Evening Event)

Round 2

21 Nov

Peter Faust (Night Championship)

Round 3

23-24 Nov

Peter Faust (Evening Event)

Round 4

Barra is on the menu for the November full moon, with the Zerek BARRA Tour set to storm the bass lakes of

North Queensland. Kinchant, Teemburra, and Peter Faust dams host the four-event tour, and if the biggest fish

Zerek BARRA Tour Entries $250 per team, per event

The Hobie Kayak BREAM Series marks a milestone in 2018, celebrating its 10th birthday with a tour set to impress. Featuring events in WA, VIC, NSW and QLD,

anglers are spoilt for choice with 11 rounds making up the series. All events of course lead to the biggest event of the year, the Australian Championship, and in 2018

and big bites of 2017 are anything to go by then the 2018 Tour is one not to miss. Whether you’re a veteran of the tour or a barra beginner looking to catch your first barra, the Zerek BARRA Tour is the place for you next November. the big show has a twist; the climax event of the series will be taking place in February 2019, becoming the opening event of the new tournament season.

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Tournament Angler Guide

A day on the lake at wonderful Wyaralong Dam BRISBANE

Bob Thornton

Whether you’re a tournament buff, a travelling fishaholic, or just a holiday angler, at some point you will find yourself fishing in unknown territory without any help.

Chances are, if you’re new to tournament angling, you’ll probably find yourself fishing a lot of bodies of water completely foreign to you as you follow the tournament trail up and down the coast. It’s a daunting feeling standing on the boat ramp and looking out onto a waterway that is someone

else’s stomping ground or, in the case of this article, no one’s stomping ground yet… GOING IN BLIND I decided to simulate this and I asked Michael Rowswell if he wanted to help me out. Michael is new on the BASS Electric scene, but already has a few podium finishes to his name, and is

Expectations were high as Michael and the author launched the boat at Wyaralong Dam. 4

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definitely one to watch in the next few years. My plan was to get out on a body of water completely foreign to both of us, and observe the decisions Michael made both prior to and during the day’s fishing. Michael didn’t take much convincing and was as keen as I was. The arena for the day was going to be Wyaralong Dam in South East Queensland, near Beaudesert. A relatively new dam, it was completed in 2011, and stocking began shortly after with the Logan & Albert Fish Management Association providing a steady supply of bass and Mary River cod. As yet, very little, if anything, is written about the lure fishing opportunities in this dam, and anyone who does catch fish keeps the info close to their chest. I gave Michael a week to do some research and prepare a plan for our day on Wyaralong. The aim was for Michael to treat the day like a tournament and put a limit of bass together – it was going to be interesting. FISHING DAY 5:43am As we rolled into the car

The guys were met with unseasonably cool weather for this November day with intermittent rain, so spray jackets came on and off all morning.

park with Michael’s boat in tow on Saturday 11 November 2017, it was unseasonably cool, and drizzly rain looked like a possibility. We noticed another rig being set up in the car park, and neither of us were surprised to see the figure of Bass Electric veteran Adrian Wilson step out of the car. Adrian has been putting some time into this lake, and assured us there were some chunky bass in residence, we just had to find them! We finally pushed off Wyaralong’s steep one-lane


Tournament Angler Guide

boat ramp at 5:58am, and the plan was made to fish some grassy edges with topwater offerings immediately opposite the ramp. I’d originally planned to not fish, and just take photographs and notes while Michael fished, but he insisted I fish with him. Again, it didn’t take much convincing. We’d done some research, and found that there were no bony bream in the lake, which often points to a good edge fishery. We decided to fish this area thoroughly, but

with this area and technique bearing no fruit by 7:00am, we thought it was time to move further up the dam. At 7:32am, we ran into Adrian along a steep bank, with a mixture of drowned timber and rock dotting the waterline. Michael and I were throwing a spinnerbait and football jig respectively. Adrian said he already had a full livewell between him and his partner for the day, and tipped us off that the fish were sitting off the edge a little bit and relating

All the bass caught on the day were relating to the drowned timber scattered throughout the lake. This made extracting them something of a challenge.

The first bass was an incredibly stout, 40cm fish that ate a ZX40 blade.

to the thermocline that was clearly visible on Michael’s Lowrance HDS Carbon 12” unit. It was then that the fish started to trickle in… 7:34am While hopping and rolling an Ecogear ZX40 blade in colour 442 just below the thermocline in around 25ft of water, Michael hooked up. His drag was screaming in noisy protest, but when a beige mud marlin broke the surface, we were both a little disappointed. As Wyaralong is dammed on a tributary of

the lower Logan River, the European carp that abound in its waters were able to build a self-sustaining population in the lake. We were aware of this coming into the day, but clearly they were more numerous and aggressive than either of us had predicted. While it wasn’t a bass, it somehow relaxed us both. It didn’t get the monkey off our back, but it did convince him to loosen his grip a little. Catching fish is always a good way to ease the tension. The carp of around 50cm was

humanely dispatched and disposed of. 7:47am After this we came across a little patch of fish on the sounder as we continued to cruise along the bank. We were still in about 25ft of water when Michael hooked up again. The smaller headshakes indicted that he’d hooked a native species – it was now a question of what kind. It wasn’t a bass! It was the biggest spangled perch either To page 6

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of us had ever seen. With this thing giving 30cm a tickle, it’s no wonder we mistook it for a bass on hook-up. We agreed that spanglies of that size would hang out with bass, as they’d most likely be after the same tucker. We

Tournament Angler Guide away to around 80ft, was only about 50m away. We decided to give it a peppering, with Michael throwing a ZX40 in colour 442, and myself throwing an Ecogear Grass Minnow with a 1/4oz jighead. I suddenly found myself turning around when I heard

After a few runs for cover and some fancy rod work from Michael, we had our first bass for the day in the net. Finally, the monkey had let go! At exactly 40cm to the tip of the tail, this was considered a good one in here according to Adrian, who was still

Cod never go quietly…

This little Mary River cod was without doubt the highlight of the day. It was taken on a scent-laden ZX40 blade hopped amongst a bass school, no less! continued mooching along the bank. Surely we were getting closer… At 8:14am, we came to a timbered point, which protruded out into the riverbed. Bass are wellknown to hang around points with deep water nearby. It was 16ft where we were, and the riverbed, which dropped


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the sound of drag coming off Michael’s reel, but Michael had merely snagged the blade on a piece of sunken timber close to the bottom. With a few flicks of the wrist, Michael managed to rip it away from its snaggy doom, but as the blade came free of the timber, the rod buckled right back over – fish on!

within earshot. This fish was incredibly deep-bodied, and had clearly been eating well. We were stoked, and after a few photos, put our first customer into the livewell! Hooking this fish so close to timber was an important piece of information to note. As we got ourselves reorganised, we noticed a few

fish moving in under the boat on the sounder. We were now sitting in very close to the timber line. We both switched to blades and began harassing these fish by vertically jigging them in the sounder beam. At 8:30am, Michael decided to give his blade a bath in some Ecogear Egi Max scent. We’d been getting half-hearted bumps and taps without any hook-ups. He assured me that this product had turned many of his slower days around. As he sent his blade back to the bottom, the hits started up again as the

bait was dropping, and after 2-3 hops off the bottom he was hooked-up once more. The surging runs had us calling this fish for another carp, but when I caught a glimpse of the animal under the boat, I saw it had a rounded tail. “No way!” I heard myself saying, as I slid the net under a fat little Mary River cod. The high-five that I then I shared with Michael hurt my hand for minutes after the capture! We knew that Mary River cod had been stocked into this lake, and the stocking group had made an effort to stock more cod than usual into Wyaralong in the hope of creating a viable fishery for them. That said, having personally only ever seen two

Even though the author was meant to be taking photos and notes, he couldn’t resist dropping an ice jig down to some suspended fish spotted around a sunken tree.

caught from dams in about 20 years of fishing, I was pretty excited to see such a beautiful and endangered species up close once again. With a few photos, the fish was lowered back into the water, where it powered back to the deep, giving Michael a late shower in the process. These fish never go quietly. We speculated that with good stocking of these cod, in a few years this may be an area where anglers can set out to target these majestic mottled gluttons… but then it was back to the task at hand. At 8:42am, while fishing the same school of fish with a ZX40 blade, I managed to connect to another one of the 30cm spangaloid monsters – the dam was proving to be full of surprises. After that, we decided to leave those fish and return later, opting to head toward some isolated timber in the distance that we saw Adrian pull a fish off around half an hour earlier. Upon getting there, we realised that this tree stood alone in around 70ft of water, and we could see fish suspending about 15ft down, both tight to the tree and out to the side. 8:57am Michael made a cast with a black Ecogear Grass Minnow on a 1/4oz jighead away from the tree, let it fall


Tournament Angler Guide

Michael’s second bass ate his soft plastic in seemingly open water around 70ft deep, but upon inspecting the area afterwards the guys discovered a sunken tree with more fish suspending around it. for only 2-3 seconds to keep it up where the fish were, and almost immediately after commencing his retrieve the soft plastic was crunched. Knowing that carp generally feed in the bottom third of the water column, we were very confident that this fish was a bass. At 32cm to the fork of the tail, this bass was Michael’s second for the day, and was put into the livewell

to join his first victim. Our objective had been reached; Michael had put together a tournament limit! Upon moving over to where Michael had hooked this fish, we found there was a second, sunken tree, with plenty of fish relating to it. With suspended fish notoriously difficult to target, Michael suggested that I tie on an ice jig and lower it

down to where we could see fish sitting at around 15-17ft, just below the thermocline. I chose a 12g Smak Wild Ice Jig Darter in brown dog colour, because it reminded me of peanut butter and I was hungry. At 9:19am I pulled tight to a fish that barely breathed on the jig, after several minutes of tiny bumps that had me questioning whether they were bass. Again, my lure was very close to timber when the fish struck. With a very stout 35cm fork-length bass in the well to join Michael’s two fish, we decided to have a bite to eat, before exploring further up the dam. Pulled pork rolls and Gatorade did a good job to pick us up after a slow morning. As we worked our way up the dam, we were seeking out timbered points and isolated timber similar to the area that produced those two bass, but while we found bass on the sounder, we struggled to get them to eat. At least we know where they are for next time. At 11:34am, after approximately two hours of not turning over anymore bass, we pulled into a small bay in about 14-16ft of water, where we could see some large arches holding tight to the bottom. Deep down, we knew they were probably carp, but it didn’t stop us

from trying. With Michael fishing his ever-faithful ZX blade, and me continuing to rock the ice jig, we dropped our offerings to the bottom expectantly. Within seconds, Michael was hooked up, and low and behold, the second carp for the day came to the surface. Once we agreed that all

to catch one anyway,” Michael laughed. Within seconds he had his rod bent to the felt, as a hefty mud marlin sucked his ZX blade off the bottom. I shot a few photos of him hooked-up while I held my rod between my legs, making my ice jig dance in an unusual fashion near the bottom and, of

The Lowrance HDS Carbon 12” sounder proved invaluable to the day’s fishing. the other large arches were probably carp, we made a move and headed for the next little bay. We arrived at the next bay at 11:45am, and found an even bigger patch of fish on the sounder. It was only about 12ft deep where we were. “I’m 100% sure they’re carp, but I’m gonna try

course, another carp decided it was time to eat. I promptly put the camera down – it was time to have some fun! For the next half hour we caught around 15 carp, with a few double hook-ups! It didn’t seem to matter what we dropped down, they would eat it in seconds, and each To page 8

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fight usually broke the threeminute mark, as 2kg of angry mud marlin doesn’t come in easy on ultra light bass gear. We were having too much fun. We were like a

Tournament Angler Guide in shallow water well away from any structure were most likely carp. In a tournament situation, this would be a very logical way to fast-track your search for bass. The bass we found were all near timber,

It was around midday that the boys discovered ‘carp bay.’ pair of giggling school kids every time one of our rods buckled over. It was time to move on. The livewell was filling up with carp, which were to be dispatched. We left them biting at 12:15pm. I told myself I’d return at some point with a fly rod for some real fun. I honestly can’t wait! We didn’t view the last half hour of our fishing as a waste of time. What we did learn from our session in ‘carp bay’ was that any really large fish schooling


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and suspended off the bottom. This is all useful information for next time. Our day was cut slightly short when the sounder that we were relying on died at 12:30pm, and the decision was made to jet back to the ramp, release the fish in the livewell, get packed up and head toward the golden arches for a feed. LESSONS LEARNED Although we didn’t light up the bass, our day at Wyaralong Dam was most definitely a success, and it was very interesting for me to see how Michael took on the challenge of fishing a dam he’d never been on before and that doesn’t have much published information about it. Watching how he broke down the water and put together a bag of bass

This beautiful koi carp was a highlight in the short but intense pest control session.

The carp were putting a real bend in Michael’s rod and taking some serious drag. was informative for me, and I also believe our day’s fishing proved the point that even the top tier of tournament anglers like Michael don’t spend the whole day smacking fish. Sometimes they’ll even doughnut, but this is also useful information in the process of nutting out a new waterway. The lesson here is to learn from your experiences, good and bad. Another key lesson is to let the fish tell you what they want. Every fish you catch tells a story, and it’s important to note when, where, how, and why you think you caught each fish. This is how they tell you what they want. As for Wyaralong Dam, I really hope to see it added to the calendar sometime in the next few years. Those chunky bass will only get

chunkier and more numerous as the stocking continues. Oh, and the by-catch isn’t too bad either! I hope this gives you the confidence to tackle more unfamiliar territory as we march into the tournament season. Or, if you don’t fish tournaments, I hope you make plans to try fishing those places you’ve been meaning to for years, but have ‘never got around to.’ You’ve gotta be in it to win it. Good luck!

While the bass weren’t jumping into the boat, having two bass as chunky as this to show at the end of the day is never a bad result. The condition on these bass really had the boys baffled, as there are no bony bream in Wyaralong!


Tournament Angler Guide

Using subtle spybaiting tactics for our wily bass SYDNEY

Tom Slater

Australians are a savvy bunch; I’ve had many conversations over the years with international anglers that would tell you as much. Australian anglers, and especially those who fish tournaments, are often at the forefront of angling techniques and tackle. Take spotlock and side imaging for example; we’ve known the benefits of these technologies and used them better than arguably most of the other markets in the world. There is, however, one phenomenon that has quietly taken the bass fishing world by storm and completely missed Australia. Despite being one of the hottest baits of the last two years, the spybait (or ‘spinbait’) has yet to draw the attention locally as it has in Japan and the USA. Spybaiting originated in Japan many years ago. You can in fact go back decades to some of the first lures of this style. In the last few years spybaiting has boomed, sparking a revolution in many markets. Every few years you can bet on a new technique to break through and capture the minds of 10

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anglers. A few years ago, it was the skirted jig, which Peter Phelps used to win the Grand Final in 2015. In 2017 on the ABT BASS Pro series, it was the finesse technique of spybaiting. Although it’s not new, the spybait has yet to take off in Australia. A finesse tactic, spybaiting relies on the subtle nuances of a sinking prop bait to draw strikes from fish that you previously thought were uncatchable. Most anglers would look at a spybait in the water and think that it doesn’t have enough action, but that’s what makes it so effective. When fish are shut-down and pressured, sometimes a lessis-more approach is best, and that’s where the spybait comes into its own. The spybait became prominent at the conclusion of last year’s Storm BASS Australian Open, and looks set to establish itself as a tournament-winning tactic in 2018. As this year’s calendar looks to return to a number of deep Queensland impoundments, don’t be surprised to see savvy anglers using this technique as part of their repertoire on the BASS Pro Series. WHAT IS IT? A spybait is recognizable by the rotating propellers that

are found on the front and back. It’s often mistaken for a topwater fizzer style lure, but a spybait actually sinks. They’re often available with different sink rates to cater to different depths, and a spybait will swim as it sinks, shimmying like a stick minnow as it reaches its target depth. It’s not all about the sink though. Once at its target depth, the propellers will begin spinning as the angler imparts a slow and steady retrieve. The two propellers don’t look like much, but they’ve been specifically developed to impart a tantalizing wobble as the bait tracks horizontally through the water column. Spybaits are finesse lures, so don’t think you’re going to feel a solid thumping vibration through your rod tip. It’s a technique that requires confidence in your approach, knowing that even on the slowest of winds, your lure is down there doing what it’s supposed to, even if you can’t feel it. Spinbaits come in all shapes and sizes; some go as small as 40mm, though they are more commonly seen in the 70-90mm range. All have their small differences, and at last year’s Storm BASS Australian Open, just about

every variety caught fish for the competing anglers. HOW DOES IT WORK? So now we know what it is, how does it work? At its core, the technique of spybaiting is very simple. Locate the depth where the fish are holding, cast as far as possible, and slowly retrieve the lure through the strike zone.

The spybait shot to fame in Australia during last year’s Storm BASS Australian Open, where Steve Morgan highlighted the lure’s effectiveness during his pre-fish day. Having received a Storm Arashi Spinbait in his pre-tournament swag, Morgan put it to good use during the event, landing almost 100 bass during the

three days of fishing. Once word spread, other anglers were quick to jump on the bandwagon and soon there were spybaits being flung around all over the place at Cania Dam. Spybaits work on one fundamental principle – realism. How many baitfish do you see swimming around vibrating like a TN60 or

It’s not just bass that love spybaits, yellowbelly will take a fancy to a well-placed and worked lure.

darting side to side like a jerkbait? When fish are active this in-your-face response works great and triggers a reaction bite. When the fish shut down, however, things can change quickly. If you’ve ever watched baitfish when not under duress, you could hardly even notice how they propel themselves through the water. That action is what a spybait mimics. The two props on a spybait give just enough flash and turbulence to create an irresistible shimmy, and they work even at the slowest of speeds. As slow as you can wind, a good spybait will be swimming. Designed to target pressured fish in clear waters, spybaits are perfectly suited to Australian bass, a species notorious for shutting down, especially under tournament conditions. Queensland’s stocked impoundments of Somerset, Wivenhoe, Boondooma, BP and Cania are perfectly suited to the technique of spybaiting. When fish are suspending mid-water, relating to schools of bony bream around creek beds, it’s time to spybait. When these schools are biting, it can be the best day’s fishing you’ve ever experienced, but when they shut down, it’s a tough slog to convince one


Tournament Angler Guide

of them to bite. HOW AND WHEN TO USE IT? Spybaiting is a technique best reserved for open areas. Think of it much like heavily weighted soft plastics, which are so dominant in QLD impoundments. It’s a lure and technique for targeting schooling fish in any part of the water column. Being a finesse tactic, spybaiting is definitely more suited to spinning gear than baitcasting. Once you’ve located a likely school of fish using your sounder, position your boat so you can make as long a cast as possible. Spybaits work best when retrieved horizontally through the water – avoid retrieving them up on an angle. Once you’ve located the fish, you want to familiarise yourself with the sink rate of your chosen spybait. All spybaits will sink at slightly different speeds, and some are even weighted towards the nose to sink faster and reach deeper depths. Counting your bait down is paramount to making sure you’re retrieving through the strike zone. Once you know how long your lure takes to sink 1-2m, you can use this to determine how long you need to allow

for your bait to reach your target depth. Once you’ve counted your bait down, commence a steady slow retrieve, almost as slow as you can wind. A smaller, slower gear ratio reel will help with slowing you down. Depending on how deep you’re targeting, you can occasionally open your bail and allow the lure to sink back. This can also be a key bite trigger, forcing following fish to commit to the strike once your bait begins to sink and shimmy as it’s falling. You’ll be fishing treble hooks, so when you feel a bite don’t strike. Imagine you’re fishing a crankbait; you want to keep winding until you feel consistent pressure, then a gentle sweep of the rod should be enough to make the hooks penetrate and hook the fish. WHAT TACKLE DO YOU NEED? Spybaiting is a technique our bream anglers will immediately feel comfortable with. Straightthrough fluorocarbon, long rods and slow retrieves are pretty common in the Costa BREAM Series. For our freshwater friends, this will require a more tailored approach. With treble hooks, you’ll want to invest in a

The ultra-sharp finesse hooks on a spybait will easily pin fish – even a tentative, enquiring bass. long rod. Anything over 7ft will be adequate, but if you think of where and how you fish a spybait, a longer rod will offer far more benefits. A longer rod acts as a larger shock absorber, keeping that light line intact and those small trebles holding in the fish. A longer rod will also allow you to make longer casts. You’ll also want to

invest in a quality small spinning reel, preferably with a slow retrieve ratio. Drag is also important, as it’s pretty hard to find a bad reel these days. Something like the new Daiwa SOL III in a 2000 size would be perfect. A spybait works best on fluorocarbon line. Just like any treble-hooked bait, fish have a tendency to swipe at

the bait, often getting hooked in the lip or on the outside of the mouth. As good as braid is, the lack of stretch in this instance can be detrimental, pulling hooks free when a more cushioning, stretchy fluorocarbon line would have landed the fish. You can keep your fluorocarbon line in check with a lineconditioning spray, which To page 12

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minimises memory and lengthens the life of your fluoro. Use a straight-through fluorocarbon line of anywhere between 4-8lb, depending on the size and weight of your spybait. The lighter the line, the better it will work. As fluorocarbon line sinks, it will help keep your lure tracking horizontally through the strike zone. When it comes to the lures themselves, my favourite is the DUO Spinbait G-Fix 80. It’s an 80mm bait, which sounds long, but the thin profile makes this a perfect morsel for an Australian bass. The DUO Spinbait is available in a range of sizes, from 60-90mm. I like the G-Fix version because it’s heavier, but it still sinks horizontally. It’s good for depths up to 10m. If you find fish in deeper water than that, or if the fish are responding to a faster retrieve, upsizing to the Spinbait 90 is the way to go. This model sinks head-first, and will reach depths faster and track deeper than even the G-Fix version. Many other brands have a selection of good spybaits. The Storm Arashi Spinbait is a great option with a slower


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Tournament Angler Guide sink. Nories also have their Wrapping Minnow, which is more suited to fish on braided line with its one larger single hook. Whatever bait you choose, be aware of how it swims at all speeds and take notice of its sink rate so you can be sure to keep it in the strike zone at all times. Spybaiting has taken Japan and the US by storm over the last few years. Kevin VanDam won last year’s Bassmaster Elite Series tournament on the St Lawrence River in the US on a spybait. It was the first time a Bassmaster Elite tournament had been won on such a technique. Tackle stores in the US sold out of spybaits overnight. After Steve Morgan’s masterclass on spybaiting at the 2017 Storm BASS Australian Open, it’s only a matter of time before spybaiting wins its first Australian tournament. The next time you’re on the water and catching them on the same old grub you’ve been throwing for over a decade, why not grab a spybait, count it down and take a more finesse approach? You just never know when having another arrow in your quiver could come in handy during the 2018 ABT BASS Pro Series.

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Tournament Angler Guide

Sports science and competition fishing BRISBANE

Stefan Sawynock

I have been working most of my life to understand how fishing works. That journey started at 18 months old as I was being carted around by my father in the trout streams of Victoria. I suspect that spending my earliest years trying to replicate my father’s fishing techniques gave me a natural curiosity for fishing. Translating that fascination into knowledge took a lengthy study in the fields of evolutionary biology, neuroscience and sports science. In this article, I aim to provide insights into practices that will make you a better competition fisher. On your behalf, I have pulled together observations of the world’s best anglers and worked with elite sports scientists and experts on human performance. None of my advice will change your unique technical skills, but rather enable you to weaponise them. 14

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Main: It’s go time. The question is who’s best prepared and skilled enough to win? Above: Tackle knowledge and preparation is one of the keys to angler and tournament success. JUST COPYING THE BEST ANGLERS IS A BAD IDEA One of the elements I have noticed with fishing, in general, is there is a focus on interviews with the anglers at the top and getting their ‘secrets’ and sharing techniques. The trap for aspiring fishers is that while new techniques might be attractive, there is a routine of preparation that

leads to success. Rather than focusing on techniques, you need to focus on preparation. Dig out a copy of The Karate Kid and put it on repeat until you burn into your brain the fact that technical knowledge alone is not the path to victory. Also, top fishers may well say they don’t follow the routines below. Everybody is different, but simply put, with few exceptions,

competitors rise to the standard of the competition. Would those fishers do more if presented with an improved opposition? The opportunity to set a new standard for competition fishing is there for taking. THE STORY OF FISHING How old do you think fishing is? The first recorded book on recreational fishing Treatyse of Fysshynge wyth

an Angle was published in 1496 just after the invention of the printing press, by Dame Juliana Berners. It caused controversy at the time, not because of the gender of the author but because the gentry was concerned that involving the ordinary folk would destroy the sport. That argument sounds familiar even today, but I digress. Flyfishing in Europe dates back at least as far as 200CE and even further back in Japan to the ninth century BCE. From an Anthropological point of view, the earliest evidence of fishing comes from isotopic analysis of skeletons, paintings, and hooks made from bone, which takes us back at least 40,000 years. As fishing is a subset of hunting, we end up traveling back around two million years to the earliest hominids who started the path to the brain we have now by adding the energyrich protein sources found in animal meat. From a technical standpoint, the fishing brain is the result of two million years of natural selection. Fishing is one of

the last significant links to our origins as a species. However, that is not the end of this journey. The real story of fishing goes back way further – 500 million years – to the seas of the Cambrian Era. A FISHER’S EVOLUTIONARY LINK TO THE SEA Two neurotransmitters are responsible for your fishing success, and they date back a long way further than two million years. You have probably heard of them – dopamine and serotonin. Dopamine traces back to sea sponges, jellyfish, and worms. If you increase the dopamine levels of worms, for example, they become more motivated to seek out food sources; if you reduce their dopamine levels, they will only seek easy to obtain food sources. Serotonin is even more interesting. Serotonin dates back even further to protozoa but again manifests in influencing behaviour with the arrival of arthropods such as lobsters. When lobsters battle, as they do to establish a hierarchy of dominance, the loser pulls


Tournament Angler Guide

in its claws and makes itself smaller – the trigger for this is falling serotonin levels. You see the same behaviour in humans – when you look at a child being berated by an overbearing adult, what do they do? They make themselves smaller. What is a competition if not a battle for dominance in a hierarchy? WHERE THIS FITS IN WITH FISHING How do these neurotransmitters affect fishing? Dopamine you

probably know as the ‘pleasure’ chemical, but that is a simplistic and somewhat outdated view. There is a moment that every fisher experiences when they catch their first fish. Most of the time we associate that particular happy dance with ‘I just conquered the world’ when in fact what it really means is – ‘I just got food – I am not dying tonight!’ It’s important to remember that industrial food production is only a

hundred years old. Go back to 1870 and 70% of the US workforce was employed in food production. As of today, only 2% of the global workforce is involved in food. That, however, is a fact your brain is yet to catch up with from an evolutionary standpoint. Even if you fish to catch and release from an ethical perspective – your mind understands the opposite. A big fat fish means party time for the tribe. That is why we value trophy fish

Being happy and relaxed can play a pivotal role when it comes to catching fish and tournament success.

even if we have the luxury of being able to let the fish go in modern times. Dopamine can more accurately be considered a ‘motivation’ chemical. Dopamine is the drug that enables you to spend hours catching nothing and plays a critical role in our decision-making. A brain is a prediction machine (e.g. this lure will get me fish). When we make a wrong prediction, it’s dopamine that triggers the brain to start updating our understanding of the world. Almost everything you have learned in fishing is down to Dopamine. Serotonin is essential for one’s sense of self-worth and willingness to take on challenges. It might sound obvious, but nobody wins a tournament by feeling defeated from the start. Serotonin is crucial in developing the confidence to take on challenges. You need to defeat the big lobster after all. Here is the takeaway. You owe your fishing ability to your ancient ancestors of the sea. Respect that gift. WHAT THIS MEANS FOR COMPETITION FISHING Competition fishing is a ritualized version of a two million-year-old practice. The guy who brings home

The live streaming of ABT events allows you to see exactly what the best anglers do during tournament hours. the biggest fish is the leader of the tribe. Yes, technology has changed that game, but that was true even two million years ago when the advent of the use of simple spears improved success catching antelope. Knowing that your brain is purposebuilt for catching fish is a blessing because now you know that all you need to focus on is getting rid of the things that get in the way of performance. Warning: everyone is different. If a fisher came

to me individually, I would measure many elements of current performance and tailor a specific plan. What follows is a core set of practices, rather than the perfect recipe that will maximize your unique performance. TRAINING AND PRE-SEASON First things first, competition fishing is like all sports, you need to have a routine built around the competition circuit, and you To page 16

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Tournament Angler Guide

From page 15

need to plan your pre-season, and that includes exercise. Fishing is not an aerobic sport. Nobody runs out of breath during fishing or at least nobody that shouldn’t be having an ambulance on standby before they get on the water. The exercise regime should be built on some form of weight training, be that with weights or just using body weight to

increase muscle mass across your body. Note that bulking up is not the objective and is counterproductive. You want to create muscle mass, which has the dual benefits of improving serotonin and testosterone levels. The combination of the two will increase confidence and risk-taking, which you need in competition. Too much testosterone though will tip the confidence and

risk-taking balance too far towards the risk end, so you don’t need to go crazy. The second purpose of training is to develop finemotor control. Pilates and yoga (sans the leotard) are good examples and have the bonus of strengthening parts of the body related to fishing. Any fine-motor training needs lots of deliberate movements, not just highspeed repetitive moments.

Note taking and recording good and bad days on the water helps identify and measure the influences of success and failure.



IN 2018

Aim for three or more sessions a week of each type of exercise with 20 mins each a session. If you want to go ultimate, take up the sport that has a historical link to fishing – karate. Many of the stances used by karate were developed by fishers in Okinawa while at sea. Kata will supercharge your brainbody connection while doing some kumite (sparring) will do wonders for decision making under pressure. Find a dojo where the teacher focuses on teaching the craft – not self-defence. PREPARING FOR SUCCESS There are two parts to getting your fishing brain in top condition – setting goals and solving problems. Goal setting is simple. Your goal must be to get a maximum bag (e.g. five for bream) 100% of the time. The advantage of setting that goal is it’s measurable. If you are achieving your goal only 50% of the time, you have work to do. If you are reaching your target 80% of the time, you are in a position where regular podiums are possible. Put that goal up on the wall and mark every time you achieve the goal both in practice and in live events and continually update your success rate. Keep the two

Carl Jocumsen knows the value of physical preparation for peak angler performance. sets of results separate. If there is a big difference between practice and competition outcomes, that’s an indicator that the increased pressure of competition is affecting decision-making. In that case, you need to practice making choices under pressure. Try this. Reduce the time window for a practice session down to an hour and offer your partner $50 spending money every time you fail to make the maximum bag. Either you will become amazing at decision making under pressure in record time, or

your partner will tell you to go fishing every day. Either way, you win. The other advantage of setting a goal is you will be focusing your dopamine system on the thing it’s designed for – working out how to catch fish. DIRECTED PRACTICE Now that you have a goal and ability to measure that goal, you can direct your practice to removing obstacles to that goal. Instead of discussing techniques, I would prefer to highlight practice regimes. The practice regime below will give you

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Tournament Angler Guide

the elements of dedicated practice. Dedicated practice means you are focused on continuous improvement that results in being prepared for the best and worst of circumstances. In terms of frequency, three times a week is a minimum. Always record your bags and weights (use a lengthweight curve if needed). Keep a track of your averages and compare over time. • Include casting sessions where you practice casting into difficult situations like low hanging trees • Allow a maximum four hours on the water to get your five-fish bag. Don’t do all-day sessions, because if you are doing exercises, you will be fit enough. Focus instead on perfecting the different parts of the fishing day. • Mix up practice times; fish the first half of the day and second half of the day sessions, different tides and all the conditions you will see in competition. • Practice with a single Practicing, particularly on casting accuracy, is a must for all anglers. technique or lure each time you’re on the water with only only sessions to be clear where he would sit on the the odd session where you favoured method. • Practice across the tidal on how you want to start pitch with his bat and build swap between all methods. a picture of what was going • Compare results of each range and record success. and finish. PRE-FISHING to happen when he went out of your techniques and Where possible, focus on focus on the weakest ones improving outcomes during I have only a single piece to bat. Take a leaf out of his until you get similar results the worst part of the tide and of advice for pre-fishing. book. Your job on pre-fish is Don’t pick up a rod. Matt to spend time on the water, to the strongest. Then rotate cash in on the best part. Samurai Mag ad PRINT copy.pdf 3 18/09/2017 12:29:32 PM back to improving your • Practice first and last hour- Hayden used to have a ritual maybe sound up fish and get

to understand conditions. Use that time to create a picture in your mind of how you will be getting your max bag during the event. The brain doesn’t know the difference between imagination and reality. Having a picture in your head sets up your built-in prediction system. If your vision of what will happen is not coming to fruition – your problem solving will kick in immediately on the day. WHEN THINGS AREN’T WORKING Here is my last piece of advice and it’s probably the most important. There are those days when the fish don’t play the game within the bounds of the techniques you have. On those days, it’s easy to grind it out, throw out the game plan or just put it down to the fish not being in the mood. While these conclusions may be correct, none are useful because they reinforce the idea that the result is out of your hands. This belief, even by implication, is where neurotransmitters come in – you are essentially admitting defeat no matter how you want to spin it. When things aren’t working, it’s essential to stop fishing, even for few minutes. In this instance, a useful technique is to close your eyes, focus on breathing

with deep breaths in and out. I have some great meditations to use, but the important thing is to just reconnect with yourself and go through one by one all the tools you have available to change your fortunes until one stands out. By doing this, you have tapped into the dopamine system rather than depleting serotonin. You may not catch fish, but you will find reward down the track in a fishing brain that is much more resilient and always focused on working out the fish. WINNING IS THE RESULT, NOT THE OBJECT If you do everything I have listed here for an extended period, you will climb the leaderboard. That said, there is no shortcut. One season will see a significant improvement, but it will take 3-5 years to see the full results, depending on your current skills and how much you practice. The key is to understand that winning and taking your place as the leader of the tribe is what happens when everything comes together. It is not the object of the game. If you perform at your peak, you give yourself the best chance of success. Until you push yourself, you will never know just how good you can be.

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Tournament Angler Guide

How to start stepping up your tournament game


Elliott Fooks

Whether your aim is to catch fish at every tournament you fish next season or to take those midfield finishes into top-tens, we can all make steps to improve our success on the water. While most of the time anglers look for the next hot bait that no one has found, or fish that harder-to-reach spot in the search for tournament results, for sustained longterm results anglers need to look deeper. To give us all an insight into what it takes, we talked to three of ABT’s finest anglers: Mark Crompton, Craig Griffiths and

Charles West. Regardless of which ABT species you target, this talented trio will have plenty of tips and tricks on how to step up your angling in the next tournament season and beyond. While all three of our anglers believe that you can fish for a lifetime and still have an infinite amount to learn, they all believe their angling has greatly benefited from four key areas: goal setting, building a knowledge base, mental strength and understanding the seasons. SELF-EVALUATION AND SETTING GOALS While most people say they want to be a better angler, without specific direction and measurable outcomes it’s easy

to become complacent and your angling can stagnate. We all want to win tournaments and come out on top, but most anglers fail to build a plan to achieve this goal. “Fishing is like business – you’re not going to start out employing 5-10 people. It takes time to build up your business, much like you should build up your fishing goals,” explained Crompton. Building your goals in layers can make this process easier; think short-term, medium-term and long-term. Short-term goals should be something that you can achieve in a few months. It can be something as simple as being able to hit a target at To page 20

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Tournament Angler Guide

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10-20m distance eight times out of 10. Medium-term should be something that will take you 6-12 months, such as mastering techniques or understanding a specific waterway. Your longterm goal should be something that will take you up to five years, such as placing in the top ten of Angler of the Year, or taking a podium place on your favourite waterway. All your goals should always be specific, attainable, relevant and time-specific, not aspirations. As a part of your goalsetting process, it is also important to assess yourself as an angler. Again, Mark Crompton shows how his business insight can guide you to find the gaps in your angling skill set. “I am happy to admit I have used a range of business assessment tools to evaluate myself as an angler,” he said. “It’s important to know what your strengths are and what you need to work on before you even think about getting better tournament results.” Setting short-term goals to fill gaps in your angling ability is ultimately what will help you reach your longterm goals. BUILDING THE KNOWLEDGE BANK When I asked all three

anglers about finding information, techniques or fishing locations, all three anglers quickly shot back saying written and video information are a good start, but there is nothing is better than working it out on the water. “You need to create your style of doing something – a book or dock talk is good to get a starting point, but the only way to get it right is time on the water,” said West. “Most of what I know and use today is the result of previous experience, talking with my fishing partner and time working on my skills,” said Griffiths. While putting time on the water is one thing, the key is using it effectively and understanding the successes and failures you experienced most on the water each session. For Crompton, his process of building a knowledge bank all started with having a fishing diary. “When I started fishing more seriously, I really struggled to remember everything that happened on the water,” he said. “Looking back on old diary entries, I really missed lots of key indicators for where fish were on a given day. Maintaining my diary allowed me to retain more information, and now I can use old entries as a method

to jog my memory.” In a standard diary entry, you should cover everything from tides and wind through to the lures that worked and didn’t work. It is all about helping to build a mental memory bank to reflect upon, and to help you build patterns of success. And if writing isn’t your forte, don’t worry – West has you covered. “I really can’t find an ordered method that allows me to keep a fishing diary in written form, so I take photos instead,” he said. “When I am visiting an old lake or thinking of a technique I am trying to work out, I use old photos to jog my memory.” While all three anglers agree that you need to be able to reflect on your fishing successes and failures, each of them have wide-ranging views on pre-fishing and social fishing, and how best to use your time on the water. Crompton and Griffiths do most of their fishing solo, using the time to focus on what they are trying to achieve. “I find when I fish solo I can experiment more,” Griffiths said. “I don’t worry about getting other people onto fish, and it frees me up to try techniques and locations that may fail spectacularly.” Once off the water, Griffiths uses his networks to validate and bounce ideas off

other anglers to see what they have been finding. “I think it’s important to have a network of people you can talk fishing with; that idle chat allows you to think of new ideas and push each other forward,” said Griffiths. Unlike our two lone wolves, West likes to use his social time to take family and friends out on the water, but still focuses on his

angling goals. “I think too many people worry about catching fish on a social outing and don’t look at it as an opportunity to learn,” Griffiths explained. “I am more than happy to forgo catching 30-50 fish a day socially if it means I can work out a new technique or understand where the big bass will hold in a tournament.” You may be thinking,

‘gee this sounds like I need to become a monk and not talk to the outside world’, but for our anglers it’s about building confidence in yourself and knowing what works for you. External information is great but it should be used as a starting point. “Everyone’s information is valuable; no matter if you’re first or last in the tournament,

The hard work and preparation is done; it’s now time to put what you’ve learnt into action.

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Tournament Angler Guide

From page 20

there is plenty to learn from everyone,” West explained. “It is all about having it stored in the back your head so you can adapt to any conditions.” CONFIDENCE, DISCIPLINE AND MENTAL STRENGTH Griffiths said that all of his tournament wins have come down to being confident, working to a plan and not stressing out. That’s all well and good, but how exactly do you build up to this success? Much like setting your goals and building knowledge, this can be broken down into setting yourself up, using the moment effectively and post evaluation. For each of our anglers the tournament starts weeks before they have even cast a lure on the pre-fish day. Having all your gear maintained and set up in the week leading into the event can make all the difference, because every minute counts during a tournament. “I start checking over my gear in the week leading into the tournament,” West said. “I like to have my reels in top condition and rigged on clean rods before I set out on the drive. It’s all about putting myself in the tournament space before I hit the water.” Building a pre-tournament ritual allows you to mentally

Success comes through hard work and planning. Mark Crompton’s evolution as a tournament angler is testament to that. check off the tasks you need to complete, so once you get to the event it’s all about the fishing. Over years of running tournaments I have seen loads of anglers miss opportunities to win or place well in events due to boat or equipment failure. Once your physical equipment is prepared it’s time to get a game plan set for the weekend. As they say, failing to plan is as good as planning to fail. Your game plan can be as detailed as a time specified run sheet of spots based on the tides and winds, or as loose as a mental checklist of spots you want to hit. It’s all about what works for you.

Craig Griffiths plans where and when he is going to catch every fish in a tournament. “The goal is to get dialled in to knowing when the fish will move through, to maximise my time fishing with confidence,” he said. West and Crompton both added that having a plan is all about maintaining the confidence that you have something as a backup, and that you are already in the mindset of catching fish. “I try to think it’s a process of when I am going to catch my limit, not if I will catch them,” said West. “I visualise how I will catch the fish and what I am doing on



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is a tough ask, it’s always important to remember fishing is fun, and accepting failure is a major part of the process. These failures can be fed back into your knowledge bank. And through reading the tournament report, you can learn how others caught the winning fish on the same day. UNDERSTAND YOUR SEASON AND SPECIES If you look at the biggest difference between tournament fishing and social fishing, most people will tell you it’s the boats or the gear. When you scratch below the surface though, it’s the fact you don’t get to pick when you go fishing. Champion anglers of the past got to pick the best times to catch the best fish, and now it’s all about knowing how to catch fish in any conditions. “I think the biggest and steepest learning curve for anglers is understanding what effect the weather has on the fish,” said Crompton. “Knowing what the weather will do to the fish will allow you to cut down your time searching for them. “The biggest thing I look at in the weeks leading into a tournament is weather patterns; knowing what has happened weatherwise on the lake in the weeks before, combined with previous knowledge helps


me narrow my pre-fish down into manageable areas,” explained Griffith. Having a quality data bank of diary, photo and metal notes will allow you understand weather patterns and the way it changes fish behaviour, and use other written texts to give you a starting point on where to begin. West takes his understanding of the seasons one step further, citing the breeding cycle of bass and their cyclical habits in both lakes and rivers. “I think knowing the breeding and movement cycle of any species helps you target them. If you can understand if they are feeding up or sitting deep, combined with an good understanding of weather conditions, you can eliminate a lot of wasted casts,” said West. JUST KEEP FISHING While you may be thinking, ‘I haven’t been told anything about techniques and the new hot baits,’ it’s important to know that great anglers are a product of a passion for fishing, understanding their target, and refining their skills – not a specific lure or technique. Set a goal and push your knowledge. In the words of Craig Griffith, “trust your gut on the water, fish with confidence and enjoy it.” C R E AT E , I N N O VAT E , D O M I N AT E



the water.” While even the best-laid plans don’t always work, the anglers who consistently do well in tournaments are the ones who bounce back and mentally reset themselves during the event and after a hard day. “Staying calm is the best way to ensure you make the most of your whole session in a tournament,” said Crompton. West added to this, “You need to find something to calm the nerves; it could be music or sitting down for two minutes and then getting back into the fishing.” While keeping focused throughout a tournament



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Tournament Angler Guide

Filling your quiver – the right rod for breaming SYDNEY

Tom Slater

You wouldn’t build a house with just a hammer and you wouldn’t play 18 holes of golf with only a 7-iron. It’s time to take a serious look at your stash of light tackle rods to ensure you have the right selection, as anglers around the country are putting the finishing

touches on their equipment in preparation for the 2018 Costa BREAM Series. While it’s true that lures like the Cranka Crab and ZMan Grub have simplified many anglers’ approaches to tournament fishing, the many varied venues that the Costa BREAM Series takes us to present anglers with a wealth of opportunities; you only have to watch some of Kris Hickson and Steve Morgan’s

livestream highlights videos from the 2017 tour to see just how many different ways you can catch the humble bream while competing on the water. The idea behind having a variety of outfits on the deck at any one time is exactly the same principle; just like you wouldn’t use a hammer to cut a piece of timber, a rod that has been designed to excel at one technique might not be

Main picture: A shorter rod is often the best way to go when fishing close to cover and casting accuracy needs to be pinpoint. Above: Length and strength is the name of the game in rocky situations.



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all there for another. Each rod will have a purpose and that comes down to three main properties; length, action (fast or slow) and strength (stiffness). With that in mind, here’s the ultimate guide to setting up a quiver of rods catered to the demands of tournament fishing. CRAB ROD What better place to

start than with possibly the hottest lure the country has ever seen? The Cranka Crab has totally revolutionised the modern angler’s approach to bream tournaments, especially those held from Sydney north to the Gold Coast. Those deep, clear NSW rivers are prime Crab territory. Just like with any new lure, as the techniques

evolve and anglers begin to understand the nuances of how best to use them, tackle selection adapts. If you look back over the past few seasons of the Costa BREAM Series, there were two main ways the Cranka Crab dominated. The first was fishing it deep around reefs and rockwalls predominately at the front

Tournament Angler Guide

of river systems. The second was using it as a specific structure lure and placing it close to cover, allowing the natural look and movement of the Crab to draw fish into striking. For fishing Crabs in deep or open water, many prefer a longer softer tapered rod. A longer rod will help avoid pulling hooks when fish are hooked in the lips or on the outside edge of the mouth, and it will help control fish so you can more adequately steer them into the clear. It will also aid in deep water hook sets, because as you strike, the tip of a long rod

will move a greater distance than that of a shorter one, so you can more quickly eliminate any slack in your line and set the hook after feeling a bite. The debate on line choice for fishing Crabs still lingers on, and many still opt for a braid and leader combination. If you do choose braid and leader, adopt a longer leader length to help give you back some of that stretch. For the deep stuff, find a rod at least 7’4 or longer – Steve Morgan even uses rods as long as 8’6 for fishing Cranka Crabs, so don’t be scared to go extra long.


For structure fishing, there are generally two trains of thought – go stiffer and shorter to aid in casting accuracy and strength to pull fish away from cover, or stick with a longer soft rod and rely on your casting skills to allow you to fish a long rod and cast tight to structure. Again, line choice will dictate which way you go; if you like to fish braid, choose a softer rod. Adversely, if you choose to fish straight-through fluorocarbon, which many are favouring for this ‘cast and wait’ style of Crab

Charlie Saykao loaded up in the heat of battle.

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James Morgan arms himself with a variety of different rod lengths, weights and tapers as he travels the country fishing the Costa BREAM Series.


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Tournament Angler Guide

From page 24

fishing, then you can get away with a stiffer rod and rely on the stretch to be the shock absorber. Don’t go too short; stick with something around 6’8-7’0 and try to find something with power that doesn’t lock up in the middle section of the blank. Having a rod that is too fast – it goes from a light tip to a stiff middle section – is where lots of dropped fish and pulled hooks come from when fish take their last lunge under the boat. SOFT PLASTICS ROD Again, there are two main ways soft plastics win tournaments on the ABT BREAM Tour. The first is fishing light (1/40-1/20) with lures like the ever-popular ZMan Grub and flicking these baits as close to structure as possible. Venues like Forster, Lake Macquarie and Sydney Harbour are prime ground for this technique with the plethora of floating structure to cast at. The second technique involves a much heavier jighead and the deep water around the mouths of river systems are where the Cranka Crab has dominated. Before the Cranka Crab, a heavy soft plastic was the number one choice for fishing deep reefs and steep rock walls with fast current. Losing Crabs can get

Few people on tour fish with as many rods as Kris Hickson. Each one is selected with a particular lure and job in mind. expensive, and the humble soft plastic still catches them as good as ever down deep. The principles of rod selection for these two styles of fishing soft plastics mirror that of the Cranka Crab – longer for deep water and shorter for close quarters. A longer rod in deep water will

enable to you pick up slack line quicker; it also allows for longer casts to get the lure as far from the boat as possible. For the close quarter work, look for something shorter but not too stiff. A short rod will help you to flick underhand casts and skip lures into places others

can’t. Take it from guys like Kris Hickson; if you can put your lure further into a jetty or snag than anyone else, there’s usually a fish there waiting to reward you. TWITCHING ROD If you’re heading to the Victorian or Tasmanian legs of the Costa BREAM Series

this year, then you’ll definitely want to pack one of these in your stash! Twitching a hardbody is a go-to technique for black bream in Australia’s southern states. While you might reach for that ultralight rod you’ve been using to slow roll crankbaits, maybe it’s time to think again.

Finding the perfect rod for this technique can be difficult. To start with, you’re fishing a lure with treble hooks, so you don’t want a rod that’s too stiff. To get the best action out of your lure, you really want to be using a braid and leader setup, so that lack of stretch in your fishing line means your rod has to make up for it. Finding a rod that’s soft enough to not pull hooks but has that perfect tip for twitching a lure and making it dance can be difficult. Look for a rod between 6’8 and 7’0 that allows you to really ‘snap’ the slack line with the smallest of rod movements; that will ensure your lure is working fiercely left to right underwater and that’s what big southern black bream absolutely love. SLOW ROLL ROD Time to bust out the ultralights! Slow rolling a crankbait is an angler favourite on the Costa BREAM Series. Baits like the OSP Dunk, Jackall Chubby, Pro Lure Crank and many more feature so often in anglers’ talks at the weigh-in stages. These lures are simple to use, cover lots of ground and help you find productive areas where you can knuckle down and grind out a limit.

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Russell Babekuhl uses a long rod to punch out a searching cast on a St Georges Basin flat.

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Using the correct sized and weighted reel – and the right line – is important when putting together a quiver of rods.

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abt From page 26

Many anglers prefer to use straight-through fluorocarbon line when fishing one of these lures, and that’s all about the stretch. Specifically, the stretchiness of the line cushions timid hook sets in the outside of the mouth, which is so common when fish attack a moving lure like a crank. Treble hooks that are just pinned on the outside of the face can so often pull free with the slightest change of angle, so

Tournament Angler Guide the more shock absorption you can have in your system, the better. For this reason, the perfect crankbait rod is long and soft. Just like the fluorocarbon, the long soft rod is another shock absorber. It also helps with casting baits as far as possible – something that’s very important when fishing over shallow clear flats where your boat and shadow can be the biggest deterrents to catching more fish. Look for something at least 7’4 in length with a slow taper.

KRIS’ PICKS • Cranka Crab rod (used for deep reef, seaways and rock walls) – Daiwa TD Zero 701LXS or Black Label 701ULXS • Cranka Crab rod (used for structure fishing, boat hulls and jetties) – Daiwa Black Label 642ULFS • Soft plastics rod (used for deep reef, seaways and rock walls) – Daiwa TD Battler 762ULFS Kung Fu Prancer • Soft plastics rod (used for light plastics, skipping pontoons and boats) – Daiwa Black Label 642ULFS • Twitching rod (used for twitching hardbodies around Victoria and Tasmania) – Daiwa TD Commander 6101ULFS Desert Bull • Slow rollin’ rod (used for slow rolling hardbodies) – Daiwa Gekkabijin AIR AGS 74UL-S • Topwater rod (used for treble hook topwater lures, bent minnow-style lyres and walk- the-dog lures) – Daiwa TD SOL 701ULXS

Low ratio reels, slow taper rods and straight through fluorocarbon are essential when fishing cranks. TOPWATER ROD You should think of a topwater rod very similarly to the twitching rod mentioned earlier. Many topwater lures require rod work to get the maximum amount of action, so the same principle applies. You’ll often work a topwater lure with your rod tip pointed downwards towards the water. For that reason, you don’t want anything too long. Look for something around 6’8-7’2 depending on your height and your boat’s height off the water. Topwater lures often have treble hooks, so you don’t want something too stiff. Bream will often only barely get hooked when trying to eat a surface lure, so you have to be gentle to avoid pulling hooks. You can’t rely on the stretch of


straight-through fluorocarbon either, as the line’s inherent lack of buoyancy will drag your lures under the water. Braid and leader with treble hook lures mean you need to go soft, look for something with cushioning and get ready to put more fish in the boat this summer. The first tournament of the 2018 Costa BREAM Series is right around the corner, so now’s the time to clean the boat and organise the tackle. For some, this is the perfect opportunity to shop for some post-Christmas bargains and fill out that rod locker a little more. This guide is just the beginning, but most of these styles of rods can cross over into other popular techniques. Take the deep-water plastics rod, for example; more often

than not, that style of rod is perfect to use with blades and vibration-style lures. If you’re the sort of angler who likes to have one of everything rigged up before a day on the water, then you might end up with as many as a dozen outfits scattered across the front deck. For some, 4-6 outfits can comfortably get them through anything they face on the water and leave their boat (and their minds) a little less cluttered and focused on finding those winning fish.

CROMMO’S PICKS • Cranka Crab rod (used for deep reef, seaways and rock walls) – Daiwa TD Zero 701LXS • Cranka Crab rod (used for structure fishing, boat hulls and jetties) – Daiwa TD SOL 701MLXS • Soft plastics rod (used for deep reef, seaways and rock walls) – Daiwa TD Zero 701LXS • Soft plastics rod (used for light plastics, skipping pontoons and boats) – Daiwa TD SOL 701LXS • Twitching rod (used for twitching hardbodies around Victoria and Tasmania) – Daiwa Gekkabijin AGS • Slow rollin’ rod (used for slow rolling hardbodies) – Daiwa Gekkabijin AIR AGS 74UL-S • Topwater rod (used for treble hook topwater lures, bent minnow-style lyres and walk- the-dog lures) – Daiwa Gekkabijin AGS


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0425 230 964 – SHOP 18, 29 KIORA RD MIRANDA NSW 2228





ABERDEEN Phone 69 New England Hwy, [02] 6543 7111 Aberdeen NSW 2336



Tournament Angler Guide

2017 ABT Rankings and Angler of the Year

The calm before the storm – anglers patiently wait for the kick-off to another season. The big guns fired and a host of first-time winners cashed in on the BREAM, BASS and BARRA tours in 2017. Kris Hickson finished the year as the number one ranked BREAMer and BASS Pro boater, while Stuart Walker once again rounded out the season as the number one ranked non-boating BREAMer. Walker will be the man to catch on the BREAM tour, as 2018 is sure to be no different for the Canberra-based bream gun. Warren Carter was as consistent as ever securing the Power-Pole BREAM Angler of the Year boater AOY crown for the Costa BREAM Series, and Stuart Walker etched his name on

the Power-Pole BREAM Angler of the Year with his third AOY crown in as many years. Ross Cannizzaro made the step from the bream into bass in 2017 and hit the ground running, claiming three wins for the season and capping off his maiden year on tour with the Bass Cat BASS Pro Angler of the Year title. Keegan Painter also claimed the non-boater AOY crown in his maiden year on tour with the Brisbane basser securing the title with his victory in the last qualifying round on the Clarence River. Paul Aldous continued his winning ways from the 2016 season with the Kingaroy bass angler finishing another tournament

Ross Cannizzaro had a red-hot year on tour this year.

Kris Hickson with the Mercury Cup for the best ranked Mercury owner for 2017.

year as the number one ranked BASS Pro non-boater on the Bass Cat BASS Pro Tour. New to the BASS Pro tournament calendar in 2017 was the Storm BASS Australian Open, with Matthew Mott returning to the ABT winner’s stage after a long absence, with the Mayor of Murgon securing a wire-to-wire win in Australia’s first-ever boater-only, five-fish limit bass tournament. The Open returns again

in 2018 with the Hunter Valley’s Lake Glenbawn set to host this unique event in October. Richard Somerton continued his dominance in the Hobie Kayak Bream Series with the Victorian bream fishing juggernaut claiming three event wins, and a 493/500 point score for the season to secure the Angler of the Year title over Tony Pettie in 2nd and Simon Morley in 3rd. Angler of the Year dominance continued on

BREAM PRO RANKINGS BOATER 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Kristoffer Hickson Warren Carter Steve Morgan Mark Crompton Cameron Whittam Brad Hodges Graham Franklin Charlie Saykao Mark Healey Ross Cannizzaro

NON-BOATER 325 323 317 295 256 232 221 220 216 214

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Stuart Walker Rodney O’Sullivan Clint Voss Jonathon Thompson Mike Hodges James Morgan Shaun Egan Simon Johnson Tomas McIntosh Russell Winters

305 234 255 220 218 209 207 198 186 182

BREAM PRO ANGLER OF THE YEAR (AOY) BOATER 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 30

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Warren Carter Kristoffer Hickson Cameron Whittam Mark Crompton Steve Morgan Charlie Saykao Jason Harlock Graham Franklin Andrew Moore Alan Lister

NON-BOATER 483 481 470 465 461 428 383 369 369 357

t 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Stuart Walker Nick Penprase Allan Murray Wally Fahey Justin Reeves Scott Wilson Tanya Konsul James Morgan Rebecca Fazlo Tony Khouri

474 450 449 441 427 422 419 414 384 371


Tournament Angler Guide

the BASS Electric scene in 2018 with Charles West writing his name into the ABT record books with a perfect season. Compiling a 500/500 points score to claim the title. West had one of those years where everything he touched turned to gold. Five wins from as many starts, West capped off his year adding the number one ranked BASS Electric title to his AOY crown for 2017. West had a stunning

year, a year like none that we had seen before on the BASS Electric tour. The question is will 2018 be as fruitful for the Valley Hill sponsored tournament angler? The five event Casino Outdoors BASS Electric Series will decide. The race for the Zerek BARRA Tour Team of the Year was more of a nailbiting affair with two points separating the top three wins in the 2017 Zerek BARRA Tour. Craig Griffiths and

Karim DeRidder (297/300 points) from Team Fish-Tec Solutions/EJ Todd made it back-to-back Team of the Year wins, pushed to the limit by the new kids on the block, Peter Laine and Zac Hunt from Team Barratrauma in 2nd with 296 points, and Ash Sims and Dan Curry in 3rd with 295 points. For full rankings, records, and earnings of each species and series visit

Ross Cannizzaro and Brian Everingham with the spoils of their 2017 Bass Pro wins.

BARRA RANKINGS 1 1 3 3 5 5 7 7 9 9

Craig Griffiths Karim De Ridder Ashley Sims Dan Curry Jake Mitchell Wally Wilton Geoff Newby Phil Lyons Dustin Soppel Rick Napier

228 228 191 191 161 161 146 146 143 143

BARRA TOY 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Fishtec/EJ Todd Barratrauma Jackall Venom Triton Boats/Edge Rods Lucky Craft/Edge Rods Zerek Tree Huggers Lews Toray Flattop Fishing

297 296 295 286 284 283 281 280 279 279

BASS PRO RANKINGS BOATER 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Kristoffer Hickson Peter Phelps Tom Slater Mark Lennox Brian Everinham Mitchell Cone Stephen Kanowski Warren Carter Terry Allwood Mark Ferguson

NON-BOATER 265 252 242 221 215 208 201 193 189 166

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Paul Aldous Peter Morgan Jason Martin James Reid Orton Marchant Brendan Pieschel Brett Hyde Simon Johnson James Hickson Aimee Thompson

212 206 200 199 187 183 182 176 174 165


Ross Cannizzaro Mark Lennox Terry Allwood Kris Hickson Tom Slayter Stephen Kanowski Peter Phelps Adrian Melchior Brian Everingham Graham Ford

NON-BOATER 395 389 382 384 380 372 369 364 361 359

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Keeghan Painter Peter Morgan Dylan Byron Paul Aldous Jason Martin James Reid Lochie Rutherford Brett Hyde Leone Walker Mal Draper

388 387 384 379 376 360 357 356 350 348


Charles West Adrian Wilson Dean Thompson Tom Reynolds Jonathon Bale Matt Johnson Tim Nagano Brett Kleinschmidt Robert Butler Joseph Urquhart

397 342 286 242 230 219 209 203 177 160

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Charles West Adrian Wilson Tim Nagano Brady Ellis Craig Atta-Singh Shaun Falkenhagen Joey Urquhart Dean Thomson Tom Reynolds Sean Connelly

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