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Autumn

2020

SURFACE

COD

YELLOWFIN

WHITING

MACKEREL

ISLAND

MAGIC

AUTUMN

IN OZ

FINESSING

BREAM


Contents EDITORIAL

Our Cover... Big queenfish are on tap at WA’s Mackerel Islands (see story page 28)

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AUTUMN IN OZ

MACKERELS MAGIC

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BOAT PROJECT STABICRAFT 490 FUGLY

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ULTRA FINESSING BREAM

COD ON THE TOP

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YELLOWFIN WHITING - KING OF THE FLATS

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ANGLER PROFILE DEAN SILVESTER

A ROYAL AFFAIR WHAT’S NEW

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COMPETITION PAGE

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From the Editor

From The Editor

SHANE MENSFORTH

SO, WHAT NOW? At the time of writing (late March) the Prime Minister had just delivered his latest round of COVID-19 rules and regulations, effectively putting an end to recreational fishing as we know it. At this point at least, the only outside activities permitted are essential shopping and maybe a brief daily exercise period close to home. I know some might stretch this ‘exercise period’ to include wetting a line in a secluded spot, but the thrust of the regulation is to have us all inside and away from each other as much as possible.

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As much as it pains me, I feel we have no choice other than to put the tackle away, 04 prepare the boat for winter storage, and look for alternative activities to keep our minds sharp and alert. Fortunately, there is now more fishing-related material available on the internet, in magazines and on TV than ever before, so finding something of interest shouldn’t be too difficult. A lot of this is information-based and highly educational, so it’s the perfect time to learn how to tie that FG knot, create a new fly or strip down and service your reels under the on-line guidance of an expert. And, talking about the guidance of experts, we’ve decided to take a slightly different tack in our upcoming Winter issue. Instead of regular contributors sending us location-based or adventure-based material, we’ve asked them to start thinking about submitting more specialised features that will help readers with the more technical side of fishing. Pip Clement will start talking about fly tying, Steve Starling has agreed to do an in-depth piece on customising/ modifying lures, and I will be looking at the importance of ice in rec’ fishing and how best to use it. Most of our regulars will now work along similar lines to produce a truly cutting edge issue – possibly the most informative collection of such material ever published here. As is the case in most industries now, Aussie fishing and boating manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers will suffer drastically during this dark period. Hopefully, they will be well enough prepared to weather the storm and come out the other side in reasonable shape once life returns to normal. These vary from the husband and wife-owned tackle shop to large scale boat manufacturers like Telwater and Haines Hunter, and all will experience hardship of varying degrees. It would seem the Federal Government is doing all within its power to keep these businesses afloat, and fingers are crossed that the coffers are deep enough to do this in the long term. So, to answer the question posed at the head of this Editorial, all we can do is heed the Government’s regulations and help keep the COVID-19 infection curve heading in the right direction. On the positive side, our fish stocks will get a welcome reprieve during the angling hiatus, and they should be fairly snapping in all directions once we’re allowed to get out there again. And don’t miss the Winter issue. It should be an absolute cracker!

SPOOLED COMPETITION WINNERS Congratulations to Jim Molloy (NSW), Chris Pearson (NSW), and Peter Nelson (VIC). Our three winners from Issue #5 will each will receive a 4 pack of Bassman Spinnerbaits. Don’t forget to enter the comp in this issue! See details here. www.spooledmagazine.com.au


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Autumn Fishing In Oz

JAMIE CRAWFORD

AUTUMN FISHING SPOOLED MAGAZINE

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IN OZ

JAMIE CRAWFORD PROVIDES A SNAPSHOT OF WHAT WE CAN EXPECT OVER THE NEX T THREE MONTHS. IT’S AN EXCITING TIME TO GO FISH, RIGHT AROUND THE COUNTRY!

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Autumn would have to be my favourite time of year for fishing in Australia. It’s a great time of year to be on and around the water, with the heat of summer being replaced by crisp mornings and mild to warm days. And while it’s a popular time of year for fishing, it’s not generally overrun by fisho’s compared to the peak holiday fishing periods, so you can still expect some shoulder room at your favourite locales. At this time of year we have stable weather down south, with multiple days of light winds in a row a common feature in our southern states. This stable weather opens up some great offshore locations for the blue water enthusiast. Up north we have our peak barra season coinciding with the runoff. We have Australian salmon down south, and enough fresh water options to satisfy fly fishers, lure casters and bait fishers alike. Below we’ll have a look at some autumn options around our country.

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Trolling a spread of lures along the Tasman Peninsula in Tasmania

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//AUTUMN OPTIONS Southern fishers look forward to the stable weather patterns of autumn, offering relatively calm seas. Down in Tasmania the autumn months offer good inshore and blue water sportfishing for southern bluefin and albacore. Locations such as Maria Island, Pedra Branca, St Helens the Tasman Peninsula off Eaglehawk Neck all offer good fishing for tuna during autumn.

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A school sized SBT from the Tasman Peninsula

While most of the bluefin average around the 15-20kg size, some barrels up over 100kg make an appearance most seasons, just to spice things up. Likewise, the albacore average 3-5kg, but some better fish of up to 20kg can get in on the action. Running a spread of 4” and 5” cup-face skirts is the go-to method down in Tasmania, but hard body lures such as 160mm and 190mm Halco Laser Pro’s also work well, along with the popular 140mm Zerek Speed Donkey for smaller school-sized fish.

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Eaglehawk Neck in Tasmania is a popular bluefin location during autumn

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Keeping the blue water theme going, the offshore fishing in South Australia can be red hot during autumn. At this time of year bluefin tuna are still available – although they start to thin-out in our western waters as autumn progresses. This is the peak time of year for the bigger yellowtail kingfish and samson fish around the western reef systems and islands. Locations such as Rocky and Greenly Islands, out from Coffin Bay on SA’s Eyre Peninsula, the Cabbage Patch and South Neptune Island offshore from Port Lincoln, and Wedge Island offshore from Yorke Peninsula all offer fantastic blue water fishing at this time of year when the conditions are favourable. Live baiting and jigging are the main methods for targeting the seriola clan, with the bluefin still taking skirts and divers near the surface when fish are found. There are a couple of reputable liveaboard charters operating out of these waters at this time of year, offering multiple-night forays to these offshore islands.

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Bluefin tuna are still available for the offshore fisher in SA, although they start to thin out in our western waters

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Autumn Fishing In Oz

Moving westward, the blue water fishing along WA’s Pilbara coast is arguably at its finest during autumn. The Exmouth Game Fishing Club hosts Gamex annually in mid-March to coincide with this blue water action. Small black marlin are typically around in good numbers at this time of year, with fish averaging 3050kg offering plenty of mid to light tackle fun. A few blue marlin are also taken through the wider grounds off Exmouth during autumn, with the usual dolphin fish, wahoo and occasional yellowfin tuna getting in on the action as well.

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Exmouth’s inshore grounds also fish well at this time of year, with queenfish, turrum, golden trevally and GT’s on offer around Ningaloo Reef and the North West Cape. It can 14 be a breezy location to fish, so early morning forays are a good option. Less seasonal are the spangled emperor, yellowfin emperor, coral trout, baldchin groper and coronation trout that can be found around the coral bommies and reef systems near Exmouth, and they offer a good shallow water option when it’s too windy to hit the blue water.

A small black marlin takes to the air off Exmouth during the annual Gamex comp www.spooledmagazine.com.au


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Mahi mahi are available out from Exmouth during autumn, and are often picked up while trolling for marlin.

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Autumn Fishing In Oz

Autumn is Australian salmon time along the south coast of Western Australia. Vast schools of salmon push into the surf beaches along the south coast, with the stretches of sand around Esperance, Bremer Bay, Albany and Margaret River all offering good action for the surf fisho. Late autumn and into early winter sees these fish push further along the coast and they can even make an appearance off the Perth metro beaches.

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A yellowfin emperor caught along Exmouths Ningaloo Reef

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Spinning 30-60g metal lures in the surf is one of the most effective ways of connecting to these aggressive surf speedsters, especially when a school is visually located and within casting range. However, soaking a pilchard in a deep gutter is another effective approach for picking up big salmon in the surf, and has the added advantage of picking up bycatch including flathead, gummy sharks and the occasional mulloway .

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Autumn Fishing In Oz

Likewise, on the NSW south coast beaches salmon are available during autumn months. The salmon found in these parts are Eastern Australian salmon, and don’t grow to the same proportions as their western cousin. Some nice fish of 1.5-2.5kg are still fairly common in the deeper gutters fringing these south coast beaches. Bonito are also encountered during the autumn months for NSW fishers. These inshore pelagic fish can be caught by small boat fishers trolling or casting hard body lures, or by rock spin fishers working the stones along the east coast. While not recognised as a premium table fish, bonito are great light tackle sportfish and cook up okay when bled and iced immediately.

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Bonito are readily available for small boat fishers and rock fishermen along the NSW coast in autumn www.spooledmagazine.com.au


March and April is run-off time in the NT, and is regarded as THE best time of year for barra in the Territory. The run-off is when the floodplains recede after the wet season, which results in baitfish and terrestrial feed being flushed into the tributaries and big rivers of the Territory. The exact timing of the run-off varies each year, depending on when the wet season finishes. The extent of the wet season and volume of water to drain from the plains generally dictates how good the fishing will be during the run-off. A year with plenty of water and feed draining off the floodplains generally equates to good fishing in the NT.

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Trolling and casting hard body lures is an effective way of connecting to a few run off barra

A big croc suns himself on the banks of the Adelaide River in the NT

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Peter Zeroni with a lovely top end barra taken on a 120 Classic Barra lure www.spooledmagazine.com.au


Some of the popular waters for big barra include the Daly, Mary, Adelaide, Roper, South and East Alligator Rivers, just to name a few. Trolling accounts for plenty of big barra, but casting hard body lures and soft vibes at feeder creeks and snags also accounts for some quality fish during the run-off. With the amount of feed getting flushed out of these systems, other predatory fish, including threadfin salmon and black jewfish, can also be caught around the lower reaches of these rivers, especially around the river mouths and the first deep hole of each river.

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Rainbow trout will be available in the rivers during autumn

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Trout fishing in the rivers of Vic, NSW and Tas is good during autumn while the rivers are still open to fishing Moving back down south into some cooler climates, the trout rivers in Victoria and the high country of NSW are still open during autumn, and can result in some good fishing, especially late autumn as fish start pushing up into these rivers from nearby lakes in preparation for spawning. These rivers generally close on the June long weekend, with May being a pretty good time to don the wading boots and trek up a picturesque river for some trout fishing. Both fly and spinning accounts for some rainbow and brown trout at this time of year. Down in Tasmania most public waterways close at the end of April, with some good fishing being reported as the season draws to a close. www.spooledmagazine.com.au


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Staying in the fresh water, the River Murray fishes well in autumn, and is my favourite time of year to hit the big river. The water often clears up a bit at this time of year and lends itself well to lure fishing for golden perch. With the river temperatures still up, the goldens are generally quite active and willing to swipe at a passing lure. www.spooledmagazine.com.au


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Fishing around structure such as fallen timber, roots and rock bars often yields a few nice 24 goldens on lures and baits. Fishing lipless crankbaits down against structure is an exciting way of fishing the timber in the Murray, and accounts for some nice goldens. Bobbing baits such as shrimps, tiger worms and small yabbies also accounts for some nice golden perch.

The River Murray is a magic place to fish in autumn

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Casting lures in the Murray at some bankside structure during autumn for golden perch.

Concentrating on heavy structure such as fallen trees is a good approach in the Murray

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The Murray is a beautiful river Well, there we have it – a whirlwind lap around our country offering up some autumn options. March to May really is a great time of year to hit the water, so get out there and enjoy the spoils of autumn. www.spooledmagazine.com.au


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Mackerels Magic - Pilbara Piscatorial Playground

SCOTT COGHLAN

MACKERELS PILBARA PISCATORIAL MAGIC PLAYGROUND SPOOLED MAGAZINE

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SCOTT COGHLAN LE TS US IN ON ONE OF WA’S VERY BEST SPORTFISHING SECRE TS.

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Located off the coast off Onslow, some 1400 kilometres north of Perth in Western Australia’s rugged Pilbara, the Mackerel Islands is a fishing destination with real bite. For all the fishy locations spread along the vast western coastline, I reckon the waters of the Pilbara are as a good as anywhere, offering a wide range of highly-prized angling species, both demersal and pelagic, without having to deal with the monster tides of areas farther north. The Mackerel Islands, a collection of 10 or so islands and atolls, are just far enough away from any major towns to minimise angling pressure, with the quality of fishing certainly not falling away in the three decades I have been going there. Some of my best fishing memories have come at the Mackerel Islands and I’m fortunate enough to visit there every year on an organised Seafari, where we take dozens of people to Thevenard Island for a week of fishing on their own boats.

Thevenard Island.

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Thevenard itself is around 20 kilometres off Onslow and easily reached in any boat over 5m in most conditions. The accommodation at Thevenard is what sets it apart from many other prime fishing destinations in WA, with fully selfcontained beachfront cabins enabling anglers to set up a very comfortable base for exploring all the local waters for the duration of their stay.


Mackerels Magic - Pilbara Piscatorial Playground

Boats are moored in the small bay in front of the cabins, so owners can keep an eye on their pride and joy while they are not on the water. There is no need to take gear off the boat every night and no worries about boat ramp queues when you want to go fishing. Facilities on the island include fuel supplies, unlimited desalinated water in the cabins, a small shop that sells tackle and bait, and a storage freezer, while meals can also be arranged if preferred during peak times.

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The cabins themselves include air conditioning, flat screen TV, plenty of beds, large fridge and shower, not to mention great sunset and sunrise views. It’s not uncommon to be able to watch fish busting up while rigging and preparing tackle on your cabin porch, which is a great way to build the anticipation for the day ahead. www.spooledmagazine.com.au


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Big queenfish are a feature of Mackerel Islands fishing.

The facilities at Thevenard Island are second-to-none for an offshore fishing destination in WA, and that’s one of the reasons it has been such a popular spot with visiting anglers for decades. However, the most essential element of the Mackerel Islands fishing experience are the fish themselves, and you can catch all the prime northern species in these waters. From queenfish to giant trevally, and marlin to red emperor, if it’s on your bucket list it can probably be caught at the Mackerel Islands. The beauty of fishing out of Thevenard is that there is a myriad of options to suit the preference of different fishers. There are heaps of shallow-water options for dedicated lure casters like myself, while those looking for a good feed of bottom species don’t need to fish in much over 30m and there is a plethora of ground like that through the Mackerels. Those who are so inclined can push farther afield to chase deep-water species on the bottom, or billfish on the surface, while sailfish often show up in quite shallow and have been caught in little more than 5m of water at times. Whether you are a troller, caster, jigger or bait soaker, the Mackerel Islands has something for you. If you really want to enjoy the Mackies lucky dip, simply put a floating bait out the back while doing other things, as this method often produces some amazing captures! www.spooledmagazine.com.au


Mackerels Magic - Pilbara Piscatorial Playground

Scott Coghlan releasing a shorecaught queenfish at the west end of Thevenard Island.

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While we always take our own boats, you can fly to Onslow from Perth several days a week, and transfers are available to the island. They have small boats available for hire at Thevenard, and also offer a charter service. Even the shore fishing can be great, and I’ve had some incredible sessions walking the shallows at the west end of Thevenard, catching queenfish, small giant trevally, golden trevally, long tom and a few other species. The service jetty near the cabins also produces a few fish, including some solid mangrove jack, as well as heaps of squid. The only limit at the Mackerel Islands is time, and there often isn’t enough to enjoy everything this magical area has to offer anglers. www.spooledmagazine.com.au


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The Mackerel Islands are well named! //MACKEREL As the name suggests, this is a prime spot for chasing mackerel. While big spaniards are taken around the Mackerels, what is most staggering is just how many smaller fish there are, and they can often be in plague proportions. Finding the fish is usually not hard. There are many well-known locations like the Supermarket, Rowley Shoals, Penguin Bank and Black Flag, to name but a few, but sharks can be a problem at times at these more popular spots. Pretty much anywhere there is a decent dropoff in 10-40m there will be mackerel cruising along it, and it’s not uncommon to find big schools of fish. Often you will see markings on the sounder as you approach the drop-off and can almost count down to the scream of a reel. When they are about in big numbers, the action can be frenetic, with hordes of 6-10kg fish hitting lures. We’ll often troll until we get a hit and then cut the motor and just cast a variety of lures around. Metals, bibbed minnows, poppers, stickbaits – they all work when the fish are fired up. Using a stickbait or popper offers the most excitement though, with explosive surface strikes as mackies launch into the air. Sometimes you can look over the side of the boat and see heaps of mackerel just free swimming in the water below. www.spooledmagazine.com.au


Mackerels Magic - Pilbara Piscatorial Playground

I don’t like using wire generally, as I believe I get less hits, but when the fish are so prolific, a short length of single strand is essential to avoid horrific lure losses, and even then you’ll still likely suffer a bite-off or two. Sharks aren’t as much of a problem at some of the lesser-fished spots, but if they move in, it is time to move on, as that will be a battle you won’t win. Mackies can turn up anywhere around the Mackerel Islands and many a jig has also been lost as a spaniard comes through and snips it off with its razor-sheep teeth. One of the benefits of fishing for spaniards is the bycatch, which can be varied.

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Former Eagle, Ash McIntosh, with a longtail tuna hooked in a metre of water.

Yellowfin and northern bluefin (longtail) tuna are a regular catch, and the odd wahoo shows up, while there is always the chance of a sailfish or marlin showing up. Shark mackerel are also common around the Mackies, often in quite close around the islands. The tell-tale sign of the sharkies is fish busting up with birds around them in shallow water, with the backs of the mackerel cutting rapidly through the surface of the water. While spaniards hit anything that moves seemingly, sharkies are more like tuna in that they can become turned on to one particular food source and can be frustratingly hard to catch when they turn onto tiny baitfish. www.spooledmagazine.com.au


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Nice spangled emperor on fly for Glenn Edwards //OTHER PELAGICS The waters of the Mackerel Islands are teeming with hungry shallow-water predators that offer some awesome sportfishing opportunities if that is your bent, as is the case for yours truly. Big queenfish around a metre in length are found in the shallows around many of the islands and offer brilliant visual fishing, with their propensity to hit lures and get airborne when hooked. On our most recent visit last year we found good numbers of thumping queenfish and golden trevally in the shallows just a few kilometres from our base at Thevenard at a spot called Sandy Cay. We had a magical couple of hours where we enjoyed triple hook-ups and the big trev’s and queenies had us dancing around the boat. Several of the islands have sandy points around which the queenfish can be cruising as the tide rises, including Thevenard, where there are some fun shore fishing opportunities at the west end at the top of the tide. It can be tough work finding the queenfish at times, but then all of a sudden they are all around the boat. The explosive surface hit from a fired-up queenie is a sight to behold and they fight very stubbornly in shallow water. www.spooledmagazine.com.au


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There are several species of trevally to be had around the Mackerels and it’s not uncommon to find numbers of both goldens and gold-spots in the shallows and also around structure in deeper water. Some very big goldens and gold-spots show up at times and fully test angler and gear. The king of the trevally family, giant trevally, can also be found around the Mackerels. Little GT’s are often in the shallows in massive 36 numbers, but the big hulking fish are also there for those who want to target them. The bigger GT’s don’t like angling pressure and shut down pretty quickly if there is constant pressure, but we’ve got some nice fish to 25 kilos and seen bigger ones.

One great memory from the Mackerel Islands was idling along in a metre of water, spotting packs of GT’s and sight casting at them. Most of the islands have a few resident GT’s around them, but they don’t always play the game and sometimes conditions ensure you can’t get at them either. www.spooledmagazine.com.au


Former Collingwood star, James Clement, admires a golden trevally

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Mackerels Magic - Pilbara Piscatorial Playground

Cobia are another common species at the Mackerel Islands, and I’ve seen some absolute horses hooked there, while wahoo often find their way into quite shallow water. We’ve caught them in 20m at times and there seem to be years when they are around in quite big numbers.

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This cobia swam up to the boat in 10m of water.

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Sailfish are another regular capture at the Mackerels and often show up when least expected. A few years ago former Test fast bowler Merv Hughes was casting a Halco Roosta popper into a school of longtail tuna when he hooked a sailfish! Sails also are often hooked on floating baits by anglers chasing other species. Those who make the effort to head out wide can certainly get marlin and sails, but it’s not something we’ve ever worried about. In closer, while they are not pelagic species as such, lure casting can also produce some other fun catches. Spangled emperor are a willing lure taker in only a couple of metres of water and fight hard for their size as they try to bullock back into structure, while good numbers of prized coral trout are also found in the same areas and are always a welcome catch.

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Mackerels Magic - Pilbara Piscatorial Playground

//BOTTOM FISHING There is no shortage of bottom structure around the Mackerels, and highly-rated demersal species like red emperor, coral trout and rankin cod are taken in this area in good numbers.

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Fishing the bottom around the Mackerels can be very tide dependent. and those who plan their attack do best. You don’t need to go deep either, and many of the best hauls are in 2030m, unless you specifically want to target deepwater species like goldband snapper, ruby snapper and the like.

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The most successful bottom fisherman at the Mackerel Islands is Darryl Hitchen, who for a few years ran a charter business in the area. A very canny fisho with a lifetime of experience behind him, Darryl rarely fishes in more than 30m and has a very specific plan for catching demersals that works an absolute treat. Hitch chooses a location and aims to be there a couple of hours before the turn of the tide. He’ll then anchor up and berley as the tide slows, with the aim of bringing the fish on the bite at the turn of the tide. His most productive time will be an hour either side of the tide change and he catches some stunning fish this way. Darryl always has a floating bait out the back too, which has accounted for sailfish and many mackerel over the years. Once the tide starts to pick up again, Hitch will up anchor and move off to target pelagic species like mackerel.

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Rankin cod, in particular, and coral trout can also be caught by trolling over likely-looking bottom. Anglers who go out at night can find some good action on reds, in particular, in surprisingly shallow water.

Darryl Hitchen picked up this big rankin cod on the troll. (Pic Andrew Jarvis) www.spooledmagazine.com.au


Mackerels Magic - Pilbara Piscatorial Playground

Coral trout are a common catch at the Mackerels. (Pic Andrew Jarvis)

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//POTENTIAL NEW OPTIONS At the time of writing a plan was underway to create several new artificial reefs in the waters around Thevenard Island. There are a number of oil rigs/platforms that are no longer in use and need to be removed, but around which fishing is currently not permitted. There are large numbers of fish around several of these platforms and the plan is to turn them into artificial reefs rather than removing them altogether. If this plan comes to fruition, it will add another great new aspect to what is already a fabulous offshore fishery at the Mackerel Islands.

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Ultra-Finessing Bream

STEVE ‘STARLO’ STARLING

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STARLO RECKONS THAT GOING A LIT TLE LIGHTER AND FINER WILL ALMOST ALWAYS IMPROVE YOUR RESULTS ON BREAM, AND THAT SWITCHING FROM BRAIDED MAIN LINES TO SUPER-FINE FLUOROCARBON ALSO HAS ITS SPECIAL PL ACE IN THE BREAM LURING BAG OF TRICKS. www.spooledmagazine.com.au


It’s my oft-stated opinion that the art of catching bream on lures has been one of the major drivers of change in Australian sport fishing over the past few decades. In less than a single generation, catching bream on lures has gone from being an accident or a novelty for most anglers to a regular pursuit for many. Even those who don’t really “get it” and wonder what the hell all the fuss is about must grudgingly admit that the pursuit of bream on artificials has completely transformed our sport.

What Vic could hardly have guessed in those days was the passion with which this country’s sport fishing community would eventually embrace that particular challenge, and how doing so would revolutionise our tackle, our techniques and even our angling mindset. Make no mistake – bream luring has radically altered the shape of Australian fishing, and this significant evolutionary upheaval is far from over. Many discoveries and significant breakthroughs remain to be made. I dread to think how many hundreds (more like thousands) of hours I’ve spent intently pursuing bream on lures over the past 20 years or so. But however many it is, I don’t regret one minute of that considerable investment. I believe it has made me a much better angler — on all species and in all environments. Above everything else, however, it has taught me the amazing power of “finesse”.

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Well before many of you reading these words were born, that elder statesman of the Australian fishing press, Vic McCristal, offered the opinion that anglers skilled enough to regularly take bream on lures would tend to find most other species pretty easy. It was McSea’s quietly understated way of doffing his battered fishing cap to the “humble” bream clan as perhaps our most challenging piscatorial targets. As usual, he was right on the money.


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Big bream are too good to be caught just once, especially when you consider that a specimen this size may be 20 years old or more.

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The hot house environment of hard-fought bream tournaments has helped refine tactics for these fish. Most serious competitors will have at least one ultra-finesse rig in their rod racks these days, often spooled up with skinny fluorocarbon.

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//TREADING THAT FINE LINE It’d be fair to say that the concept of “finesse fishing” has become my personal mantra, guiding philosophy or totem over the past couple of decades. In fact, I bang on about the subject so damn much that it no doubt annoys some people, and I’ve certainly had a degree of pushback at times from folks who reckon I make too much of it. Nonetheless, I remain totally convinced of the power of finesse in improving strike rates in almost every form of fishing. I’ve seen it demonstrated far too often in a host of practical fishing situations to ever ignore the message. As I wrote in a book on exactly this subject some years ago: “I firmly believe that one of the very first things we should consider doing whenever our catch rates fall is to increase the finesse of our angling approach. This is always my first response to tougher fishing. Before I try anything else, I’ll shift to longer, finer leaders, thinner main lines, smaller hooks and lures, make longer casts and adopt a stealthier approach to the water… These relatively simple finesse tactics work, and I have proven that fact for myself and many other anglers countless times over the years, in every imaginable fishing scenario: from mullet to marlin.” I haven’t changed my mind on any of this since writing that book. In fact, the passage of years simply serves to reinforce my belief in the effectiveness of the finesse philosophy. www.spooledmagazine.com.au


Ultra-Finessing Bream

Starlo shows off a pair of lumpy southern black bream taken on fine braid with a long fluorocarbon leader attached.

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//WELL SCHOOLED FISH Nowhere, in my opinion, is the finesse approach more applicable than when lure fishing for bream, especially in relatively shallow, clear water, but also anywhere that these critters are subjected to intensive fishing pressure (which is a lot of places these days). There’s no doubt whatsoever in my mind that populations of most fish can and do “learn” to avoid or minimise danger, regardless of whether that threat comes from sharks, seals, dolphins, sea eagles… or man. The longer a fish lives and the more fishing or hunting pressure it is exposed to over that period, the greater its ability to “learn” or become conditioned to dealing with threats. www.spooledmagazine.com.au


Few species demonstrate this phenomena more unequivocally than members of the bream family. They are masters at hook, net and spear avoidance. It’s also likely that catch and release serves to greatly intensify and hammer home the whole “learning” process by putting “educated” fish back into the population. A school of 15 to 30 year old bream — at least a few of which have most likely been caught and released at some stage in their long lives — seems to share some sort of collective wariness when it comes to the passing shadow of a pelican, the splash of a lure, the hum of an electric motor or the click-click-click of a depth sounder transducer. Furthermore, they respond instinctively to each other’s body language and — it seems almost certain — to fear pheromones released into the water by other school members. If one spooks, they all spook.

SPOOLED MAGAZINE

Catching these fish — especially on lures — can be tricky at best and almost impossible 49 at worst, but your greatest chance of success lies with the finesse approach: the finest lines and leaders practical, a stealthy approach and a long cast that lands with minimal impact. Get any part of that process wrong and you’ll most likely draw a blank.

Hookups may be quite tenuous. Pull too hard and you’ll often drop the fish. Lighter tackle and stretchy fluorocarbon reduce the frequency of pulled hooks. www.spooledmagazine.com.au


Ultra-Finessing Bream

Releasing a solid black bream taken using the ultra-finesse approach.

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//LEADER LORE My starting point when lure fishing for bream in most estuary scenarios is an outfit spooled with braid that’s rated by the manufacturer at 3 or 4 pounds (around 2kg) — bearing in mind that most braids break at close to double what they’re rated. To the end this light braid, I’ll typically attach a clear 6 pound (3kg) fluorocarbon leader measuring slightly over a rod length. I’ve caught an awful lot of bream on exactly that set up. I regularly move up and down from this basic starting point, in terms of finesse, depending on the terrain, water clarity and perceived activity level of the fish. For example, if I’m fishing tight to gnarly snags, I might increase my leader strength to 8 pound (4kg) fluorocarbon. If I’m trying to extract fish from between the razor-lined racks of an oyster lease, I may even go to 12 or 15 pound (6kg) leaders. I accept that while I’ll probably get less bites using these thicker leaders, I’ll be able to land more of the fish I hook. www.spooledmagazine.com.au


Very rarely would I look for an outfit spooled with heavier braided main line. In my experience, it’s unusual to break even the lightest braid in a direct pull with the sorts of leaders I’ve described. However, there have been a handful of occasions when I’ve used braids rated at 6 to 8 pounds (3 - 4kg) and 16 pound (8kg) leaders, combined with a completely locked up drag, in an effort to literally skid and “pole” bream out of oyster leases… it works, too! On the other hand, if the fish are super spooky or the water is extra clear, my first response is to switch to a 4 pound (2 kg) fluorocarbon leader and perhaps extend that lighter leader to a couple of rod lengths. It’s truly amazing the difference this move can make on tougher days.

The results of a double hookup. www.spooledmagazine.com.au

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Personally, I never drop below 4 pound leaders when running braided main lines, as this seems counterproductive to me. Instead, my next step on the ultra-finesse path is to switch to an outfit spooled entirely with fluorocarbon carrying a strength rating somewhere between 2 and 4 pounds (1 – 2kg), and to run this skinny line direct to the lure. This is my “ace up the sleeve” for the most demanding of all breaming scenarios and has saved the day for me on multiple occasions.


Ultra-Finessing Bream

Notice how hard fluorocarbon is to see when it’s underwater.

//TRIPPING THE LIGHT FANTASTIC

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52 In my experience, the switch to very fine fluorocarbon fished “straight through” can

potentially double or even treble your catch rate, especially on very difficult or finicky bream. If you’re game to give it a whirl, I think you may be in for a very pleasant surprise. While it works with all styles of bream lures, light fluorocarbon fished “straight through” is especially effective when throwing small, hard-bodied lures for bream: something that’s been widely popularised in recent years by gun tournament anglers such as Steve Morgan of ABT fame. Steve and many others swear by it in this role,

A reel completely spooled with very fine fluorocarbon line can be a wonderful choice when casting hard bodies for bream in relatively open water. www.spooledmagazine.com.au


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not only due to its ultra-finesse factor, but because they believe the increased stretch of fluorocarbon over braid provides a shock absorber that reduces the incidence of pulled hooks when running the tiny trebles fitted to most bream hard bodies. They’re right, too. Fluorocarbon has a little less stretch than nylon, but quite a bit more than braid, and this seems to make a big difference in terms of fish staying connected. Despite knowing all of this, I’m damned if I can satisfactorily and completely explain exactly why this “fluorocarbon straight through” set up is so incredibly effective on bream, but it is. On some occasions, the difference is nothing short of remarkable. Yes, you’ll lose a lot of the flathead you hook as a result of being chewed off, but trust me when I tell you this: on some days, in some places, you’ll pin a lot more bream fishing this way. As a bonus, you’ll also get to find out just what a hot little sportfish a kilo bream can really be… Boy, do they go! www.spooledmagazine.com.au


Ultra-Finessing Bream

All three of these sought-after Sparidae family members respond extra well to a little finesse, especially in estuaries. The fish at top is a black bream, the one in the middle a yellowfin and at the bottom is a pinkie snapper.

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www.spooledmagazine.com.au


Clearly, the reduced visibility of ultra-thin fluorocarbon to fish plays a role in its effectiveness. This is not only about the direct visibility of the line itself, but also any shadow it throws and also its “sonic signature” or acoustic presence in the water (potentially detected by a fish’s lateral line, as well as by its eyes and “ears”). But I suspect there are other subtle forces at play, too. I firmly believe that lures simply behave more naturally in the water when attached to long lengths of very skinny, highly flexible line. Then there’s the whole issue of reduced “feel” at the angler’s end of the chain when using a stretchier line — something that sounds like a negative, but can actually be a positive when it comes to not reacting too early and pulling a lure away from a softly or slowly taking bream… There’s a lot of factors involved!

Jo Starling with a hefty, blue-nosed bream taken on 3 pound braid with a longish leader of 6 pound fluorocarbon attached. This is the author’s starting combination in most bream fisheries. www.spooledmagazine.com.au

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Obviously, this ultra-finesse approach is highly problematic in snaggy country and has no place in oyster leases, but there are plenty of more open water scenarios where it works extra well.


Ultra-Finessing Bream

//HOW THIN? In my opinion, backed up by plenty of on-water experience, it’s the actual diameter of the fluorocarbon you choose that’s most critical to its effectiveness, rather than the breaking strain stated on the packaging by the manufacturer. Breaking strain claims can be a little “rubbery” at best, but diametres aren’t — or shouldn’t be.

SPOOLED MAGAZINE

The magic mark on the finesse scale appears to be around 0.15mm. Lines finer than this become exponentially more effective at fooling bream, although once you get down to about 0.12mm and thinner, you’re dealing with lines that breaks 56 so easily it can be hard to regularly land larger fish. There’s a trade-off. Interestingly, tournament trout fly competitors are similarly fixated by the importance of tippet diameter over rated strength, and will change up and down by tiny increments to find out just how thin they need to go to begin scoring decent numbers of trout in a given scenario. It really matters, and it really works. If you love your bream luring as much as I do, I strongly urge you to give the ultrafinesse approach a try. You might be in for some rather pleasant surprises!

Starlo does battle with a solid bream in fairly open water on 2 pound fluorocarbon. Soft hands and light drag settings are mandatory!

www.spooledmagazine.com.au


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Boat Project - Stabicraft 490 Fugly

BOAT PROJECT

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JOHN WILLIS

Stabicraft 490

Fugly

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Like most early Stabicraft, our Spooled project boat certainly started life as butt ugly or even affectionately, Fugly! Yet the strip down, repairs, modifications and a new spray job from the boys at Ozsea Boats in Seaford certainly started the transformation. I don’t think she’ll ever morph into a beautiful swan, but certainly now has the potential to ‘phoenix’ into an impressive aquatic assault vessel. The new black wave breaker certainly gave this little craft an alter ego. Let’s face it, she’s turning from a puce pussy into an armour plated Trojan. With our modifications she has gained an incredible amount of serviceable function that will now gain respect instead of ridicule.

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Boat Project - Stabicraft 490 Fugly

We waved goodbye to Barry and Brendon at Ozsea after they sand blasted, repaired any misdemeanours and corrosion, fabricated the wave breaker as well as a new inbuilt fuel tank, transformed the seat storage and made the small cuddly storage functional and trailered her back to my place for the engine fit and bolt down.

SPOOLED MAGAZINE

Our old mate John Fay at Icey Tek solved the icebox, bait, refreshments and fish storage problem with one of his ripper 70 Litre roto-moulded boxes with dual lids for easy access. We really like the fact that it’s not only removable at the end of a watery session, but it runs east-west across the cuddy and is secured by the original cross frame, at the same time creating quite some forward secure storage space. I have 60 used these Icey Tek ice boxes in two other project boats and find them exceptionally tough, attractive, functional and will keep your precious cargo cold for days on end.

A good icebox is almost essential on a boat and they don’t come any better than Icey Tek. Plus it has created a terrific cavity for secure storage in the bow.

www.spooledmagazine.com.au


It seems ice box construction is a little more high tech than most of us consider, with the hinges and fittings made using 316 stainless steel, premium thermoplastic/ elastic catches, dual bungs (very handy for draining from either end), high quality roto-moulded polyethylene outer skins, plenty of internal insulation and smooth foodgrade internal liners. John explained that the smooth internal liners are essential, as they are impervious to contaminants and hence will not hold smells and restrict bacteria growth. There are optional cushions that make terrific seats in portable excursions and, with the prevalence of large pelagics currently available in our home waters, we have also ordered an insulated fish bag to quickly cool a big’n.

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Our new custom aluminium fuel tank from the boys at Ozsea Boats is far safer and space efficient than the old portable plastics, plus there’s room to store the deck wash hose. The new alloy fuel tank under the transom is around 50 litre capacity, which is more than adequate for many sea miles. Yet we are still toying with an added bow tank, and now there’s room, but let’s see how she rides first. At worst we can now easily carry portable tanks for extended sojourns far from civilisation. The icebox has created a terrific barrier in the cabin, forming a deep cavity suitable for carrying tackle boxes, safety equipment, lure rolls and the multitude of other gear we tend to gather for serious fishing trips. www.spooledmagazine.com.au


Boat Project - Stabicraft 490 Fugly

Bow access through the front hatch will now be restricted, but still possible; however, we won’t need it because the infamous Malki Ary from Lone Star will be providing a new GX1 drum winch with all the ground tackle and accessories, including a stainless steel bow fitting. There is no question in my mind who won the “winch wars” of the past, and who also comes with a great reputation for customer service. These Lone Star winches are tried, proven and are true blue Australian-made. That’s good enough for us!

SPOOLED MAGAZINE

Meanwhile, back at my place I got the job of sorting out the shemozzle of nuts, bolts, looms, control cables and assorted fittings. I must have removed 50m of useless wiring, most of which wasn’t tinned cable nor colour coded, and mainly 62 corroded with rotten plastic outers. Corrosion will simply travel throughout non-tinned cable, causing potentially dangerous failures, and at the least major frustration. My wonderful little mate and “Spooled” owner Rob, bless his little heart, had done his best at removing the engine, gauges and components, but had disconnected the engine by disassembling everything at the hand set controls instead of at the engine. Wrong move, Rob! It’s just lucky you weren’t around to cop the wrath of the Bear while I sorted out that little mess!

We have been blessed by our new electric anchore winch with bow fittings and ground tackle from Lone Star.

www.spooledmagazine.com.au


At the other end, the engine needed to be refitted and sealed, but I no longer have my big workshop and gantry for lifting. So how was I to separate the boat and engine, securely take control of a 113 kg outboard and refit the mounting bolts with sealant – all alone? The answer was to back the boat under the carport, making sure the engine was in line with a strong cross member in the truss. I lowered the tilt by releasing the relief valve on the side of the trunk and nipped it back up so it was locked in the vertical position.

SPOOLED MAGAZINE

After all his hard work at stripping 63 down the boat, Rob unknowingly is about to poke the Bear!

Next I positioned the jockey wheel so that I could securely lift and lower the bow on the axle axis until the skeg of the engine just touched the ground, taking the weight. I had a top rope tensioned from the engine lift points keeping it upright enabling me to take full control when the mounting bolts were released. I virtually removed the boat from the engine, not the engine from the boat, sealed the whole unit with neutral cure silicone and replaced the bolts individually. Some will use Sikaflex or similar sealants, but let me tell you, you don’t ever want to try to change engines if you do! You need to be very aware of your steering arm at this point, especially if you are using standard non-feedback cable, as in most cases the steering arm needs to be installed while the engine is free swinging. It wasn’t so important with Fugly, as we were replacing the hydraulic steering that came with the boat, but you still need to ensure that you fit all of the necessary links before bolting the engine back on permanently. The gauges were refitted, switches mounted, wave breaker securely bolted and the steering reassembled, with the wiring, shift and throttle cables all pulled through the tight channel along the side pockets. Always make sure that you leave a pull-through in the channel for further accessory cables. In my case I use a plastic strip from yellow tongue flooring. www.spooledmagazine.com.au


Boat Project - Stabicraft 490 Fugly

I am a boat builder, not an electrician; in fact, I hate fitting electrical wiring. After all these years I now have a basic understanding of electrical circuitry, but I will always pass the job over to the experts rather than botch it up myself.

SPOOLED MAGAZINE

This is where another old mate and genius ex Australian Navy aircraft electrical/ electronic engineer, not to mention former super yacht industry whip Michael Fitzallen from Nautek Marine, entered the project. The team at Nautek are the go-to guys for getting a proper job done. There is almost nothing more dangerous in an aluminium boat than bad wiring, not only with obvious shorting, but invisible power leakage that will cause electrical corrosion throughout. 64 You would be amazed at just how quickly this form of corrosion (often loosely and incorrectly termed electrolysis) will turn aluminium to chalky powder!

Nautek Marine’s Michael Fitzallen strongly recommends creating a wiring plan for the loom, ensuring sufficient power to all of the electronics

www.spooledmagazine.com.au


It is vitally important to use premium connectors, tinned wiring, tidy colour coded looms and high quality waterproof switchgear in any boat, but most certainly in small alloy boats with a high possibility of salt water soakings. The salt itself is a good conductor and vicious corrosive, so a professional wiring job is essential.

While there’s a lot more electronics since the refit the wiring is efficiently and safely laid out, and easily serviced.

www.spooledmagazine.com.au

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Michael strongly recommends creating a wiring plan for the loom, ensuring sufficient power to all of the electronics, and we have plenty to consider. The winch is the primary accessory with by far the highest power drain, and hence has its own circuit run directly from the “house” battery in our twin battery setup. We are also utilising a Narva VSR (Voltage Sensitive Relay) Battery management system to ensure that the engine starting is never run down by the raft of electronics. Most of our lighting and electronics have evolved to lower power draw due to modern LED and LCD technology, but it still all adds up.


Boat Project - Stabicraft 490 Fugly

SPOOLED MAGAZINE

Garmin is always keen to put their money where its mouth is and, as such, has supplied us with a EchoMap UHD 95SV Model touch screen colour sounder/GPS multi-function unit and Garmin VHF 115 radio. We couldn’t be more pleased with their contribution, especially since the GPS/plotter is one of the first to combine both Garmin charts and Navionics after Garmin recently 66 acquired the brand and its intellectual property. More on all that later, but we have planned for uninterrupted power in the installation. Making a new gadget like the Garmin sit perfectly on the dash with a customer “fitted-from-factory-look” took a bit of crazy trigonometry planning by the Nautek team. It looks suberb in a practical location to use this latest tech, and more so, easily find the fish.

Our new dashboard layout looks sensational and utilizes every inch of space.

We just love having great sound to accentuate our fishing excursions, and Audioxtra have joined the party with a terrific Axis sound system with a MA1802 watertight marine AM/FM radio, Bluetooth and multimedia head unit combined with

www.spooledmagazine.com.au


MA600B ultra slimline marine speaker system. These speakers feature an IP65 weatherproof rating to rock the fish straight out of the water!

We have the twin battery BMS, navigation and overhead work lights with twin 5W LED’s, blue 5W underwater lights (rated to 50,000 hours lifespan), high output waterproof

The new twin battery switching system ensures we will never run out of power to the engine.

www.spooledmagazine.com.au

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Nautek fitted three switch panels, two in-dash and the other on the starboard side in the back coaming. The dashboard switch panel operates all the essentials, such as navigation and work lights, coaming lights etc, and the stern-mounted panel is for the array of accessories. These include the live bait tank pump, deck wash and internal light, plus quite a few added bonuses supplied by the premium electrical wizardry from NARVA.Â


Boat Project - Stabicraft 490 Fugly

Everyone just loves our new underwater lights plus a fin friendly fold down ladder.

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LED strip lights, and even a complete new ‘plug and play’ boat trailer wiring kit with waterproof connectors so there’s no splicing or joining immersed wires. The best thing is the confidence of knowing we have the very best in marine electrical accessories from NARVA, teamed with professional and experienced installation from Nautek. Nautek also connected the fuel tank gauges fitted by Ozsea, a spunky new sports steering wheel and provided a host of sensible layout ideas and alternatives. Yet again, it’s all in experienced planning! So it’s onwards and upwards for “Fugly” and now we are hanging out to finish the project and go fishin’!

Spooled Magazine would like to thank the following for their ongoing support and sponsorship. PTY LTD

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Cod On The Top

ROD MACKENZIE

COD ON THE TOP ACCORDING TO ROD MACKENZIE, PROSPECTING THE SURFACE IS EASILY THE MOST EXCITING WAY OF CATCHING OUR MOST ICONIC FRESH WATER FISH.

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The new Bassman Aussie Crawler surface lures have been very effective this season and already come fitted with the right Mustad trebles. www.spooledmagazine.com.au


Imagine if you will, the plop-plop-plop as your lure works its way across the surface of the water. The sound is amplified by the stillness of night. Cast after cast explores the edges where weed beds and half submerged snags offer high expectations of a strike.

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For your chance to win a Bassman Aussie Crawler push the red button. www.spooledmagazine.com.au


Cod On The Top

A solid early morning Murray cod taken on an oversized surface walker.

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As each cast returns full distance unscathed, your mind wanders into the midst of the darkness. For the umpteenth time the lure struggles its way across the surface towards the rod tip. You marvel at its action, a popping struggle. Its creator must be proud. As you motion to lift the lure, an explosion of water as though a car battery has fallen from the heavens soaks you from head to toe. Heart in mouth, you wonder at the size of the beast that has just engulfed a bucket of water, yet managed to miss the lure. The thrill of surface fishing is about such encounters, where the prize that hovers just below your lure has the ability to quicken the heart and suck the breath from the staunchest of anglers. Imagine such a take, if you will, on the ebb of a new moon when the night is inky black and visibility is rated to that of a welder’s dog.

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Cod On The Top

The autumn months are my favourite time to target surface cod, as fog-draped mornings offer up big fish opportunities, especially when the barometric pressure is on the rise. While this form of fishing consistently attracts the attention of big Murray cod, the strike to hook up rates are not always that great.

SPOOLED MAGAZINE

The seasoned guns will tell us to throw 74 the rod tip forward on the take to create slack line so the lure can be fully inhaled. This might sound great in theory, but deliver yourself into the half-light scenario where every sound is amplified as you hang in wait, only to be monstered at point blank range. I’m not sure about you, but the last thing on my mind is to throw the rod forward. In fact, it’s quite the opposite, as it’s about this time I’m wondering whether there is still a spare roll of toilet paper under the seat of the ute! Over the past few seasons we have invested a fair amount of time into the surface bite and how to make the most of each opportunity presented. Of course, all waters are not the same, from the calm, still waters of numerous cod-laden lakes to the often current-rich waters of our inland rivers; you will need to adapt and fish each location accordingly. Keeping that in mind with but a few small snippets of information, you can improve your chances, regardless of the waters you intend to fish. Let’s start with lure size. There is no doubt that larger lures attract larger fish; it’s as simple as that. Yes, big Murray cod will strike small surface lures at times, but they will more often strike at a large www.spooledmagazine.com.au


offering. I won’t dwell on this too long, as those in the know already realise the link between large lures and large cod. This leads me to what hangs under the lures, as in trebles.

We have found with larger diameter hooks that penetration is a problem, and strike to hook-up ratios quickly start to slide. Dropping an extra split ring on each carry point hangs the trebles just that little further below the water surface. While it will increase the hookup rate, you need be aware it will also lead to snagging, should you try and walk the lure over snags that sit just below the surface. A simple flick of the rod tip as the lure approaches the snag should see it hop over and continue on its way. For our smaller sized surface lures that are still in excess of 100mm we drop down to a 2/0 hook size in the same model. Most anglers are aware that fishing the surface works best during periods of low light, with dawn and dusk providing the optimum windows. Some anglers prefer to fish well into the night, and while they do most certainly catch fish, night sessions are not the be all and end all of surface fishing for Murray cod. On overcast days and late periods of fog, surface opportunities continue for those www.spooledmagazine.com.au

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It’s a common mistake to think that giant lures require giant hooks, and while we do change every treble on our surface lures, it’s more about balance than size. Yes, we will try and stay with a large treble that suits, but we look for finer hook diameter and strength. All our larger surface lures are upgraded with Mustad 3/0 Ultrapoints, which are 3x strength. These fine hooks allow for better penetration, at the same time providing the strength to deal with larger fish. Remember, on surface lures there is nothing above the lure to stop it from going airborne, so if hit with force, even outside the mouth, the hooks need to penetrate past the barb as easily as possible.


Cod On The Top

who fish outside what’s viewed to be the norm. Personally, I am reluctant to fish the surface late into the dark for no other reason than I like fires and alcohol. The social side of angling is to be savoured, and the crackle of the riverside campfire has no doubt inspired many fine angling moments. There are more than enough surface opportunities hidden in the light changes and the shadows of the river to keep me interested.

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Early morning or evening are prime times to be on the water for the surface bite. www.spooledmagazine.com.au


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Cod On The Top

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A good selection of surface lures all retrofitted with sharp trebles to ensure the best hook up rates.

Why is it that large cod are far more receptive to surface presentations than other methods of fishing? Perhaps they are not given the time to examine and inspect the lure as it’s on the surface and paddling towards the bank or structure. A deliberate assault, they cannot afford to spook the meal in case it is, in fact, a bird that might suddenly take to the wing if it suspected there was a giant cod lurking below. www.spooledmagazine.com.au


to approach the surface with caution is to see the meal more often take to the sky. Hence, the full blown assault that might see wings injured by the flailing body and tail, should the jaws miss the mark. Either way, it is very frustrating to tempt the strike only to see the fish disappear – lure free.

It seems the straight retrieve without a pause tempts the majority of the aerial fumbles. This might explain the amount of missed strikes as the fish fails to lead the moving target, instead pushing it out of the way under speed. On the flip side, the broken retrieve generally produces a better hook up rate and a more calculated assault, as the fish has time to prop under the lure, even if it is for just a few short seconds. Once the lure is re-engaged, it generally moves but an inch or so before it is engulfed.

Most of the strikes I have seen in the current-rich sections of the Murray River have been full-on airborne explosions where, if not all, but most of the cod cleared the water. These fish are hitting the target at full speed, yet their accuracy is nothing short of abysmal. Perhaps in nature there is a fine line between opportunities where

It’s funny how each new location presents its own set of patterns, and shallow, fast-running sections of river are no exception. Our first observation was the difference in where you might expect the fish to come from. The calm eddy behind a log might seem the most likely hold for a giant cod, patiently waiting in ambush out of the main flow, yet we have taken few fish from such locations. The end branches rich in the flow of passing water have been the holding points for most surface assaults. Wide of

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The best takes, by far, are those that hardly break the surface, yet implode a bucked-sized hole in the glass-calm water. Such takes generally result in a good hook up as the lure is sucked deep 79 into the fish’s mouth. The question is, how do you tempt such a strike and avoid the all too often overzealous airborne assault?


Cod On The Top

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Jamie Stewart sight fished this solid free swimmer snagging it in full light on a surface lure.

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Cod On The Top

the main buttress, these fish hold tight to structure, allowing the current to deliver their next meal. In many instances these fish will leave their wide holding points and strike the lure at close quarters next to the boat. What we have found on these larger fish is that if they fail to find the hooks on the first strike, most will not take a second shot. The vast amount of energy spent in a failed attempt may be weighed and measured as being not worth the effort second time around. While many fish will not be tempted twice, not all is lost, as that first betrayal provides a positive location for future visits.

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Surface fishing for Murray cod is very effective for several reasons. Firstly, these fish are hunters and the chance to engulf a substantial meal is often too good to 82 refuse. There are other factors that include lure recognition. In hard-fished waters educated fish quickly come to recognise certain lures and will often follow them all the way to the boat before refusing to take a swipe. No doubt they are having a good look before they make their decision. In the case of a surface lure, they can only see it from below as they cannot get up beside or above it for a better look. Over the next few months early morning and evening light changes will offer up most of my big cod opportunities. And regardless how many times it happens, I will never tire of the explosive sight that is surface fishing for Murray cod.

Most surface strikes are coming wide on the timber in the full flow away from the calm pockets of bankside water.

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Yellowfin Whiting - King of the Flats

SHANE MENSFORTH

YELLOWFIN WHITING —

KING FLATS OF THE

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AS SHANE MENSFORTH EXPL AINS, YELLOWFIN WHITING ARE RIGHT UP THERE WITH THE MOST EXCITING LIGHT TACKLE FISH AVAIL ABLE IN SOUTHERN AUSTRALIA. CATCHING THEM ON BAITS AND LURES HAS NEVER BEEN MORE POPUL AR. www.spooledmagazine.com.au


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Yellowfin whiting love poppers when surface conditions are right.

I’ve always loved chasing yellowfin whiting – a passion that began when I was a teenager and still flourishes today. They’re close to the ideal inshore fish, providing terrific light tackle action and some of the best seafood available. Back in high school times my typical yellowfin day would begin in the morning by push-biking to a local estuary to dig worms, then riding home to clean up and get the tackle ready for the afternoon run-in tide. Adelaide’s metro jetties were my usual stomping ground, and if I didn’t catch at least a dozen fat whiting during an arvo’ session, I would pedal home disappointed. The gear I used back in that era was pretty agricultural by today’s standards; a Steelite centre-pin reel, solid glass rod, 15 pound line and two ounce barrel sinker hardly qualified as ‘light tackle’, but it did the job well enough. I often wonder how much better my results would have been if I’d been fishing then with the yellowfin gear I use today! www.spooledmagazine.com.au


Yellowfin Whiting - King of the Flats

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Despite the fact that yellowfin continue to be netted commercially, their numbers remain quite strong. They can be found in various southern states 86 locations at different times of the year, but for the most part, late spring through until Easter is high season. It pays to know a bit about their seasonal movements, as well as tides, preferred weather and water conditions, to build a reliable knowledge bank and put you on the track to consistent catches.

Alex Watson with a victim of the Bassday Sugapen 70mm www.spooledmagazine.com.au


//WORKING WITH THE TIDES There are some exceptions (generally pertaining to specific locations), but most yellowfin whiting are caught here on the rising tide. As the sand flats drain on the ebb, the worms, yabbies and other natural whiting tucker retreat into their burrows or tubes. As soon as the water turns to flow back in again, these creatures start to poke their heads out to grab their prey – the micro-organisms and detritus that are swept in with the rising water. The yellowfin begin to feed actively at the same time, gradually swimming in over the flats and grubbing through the sand and weed as they go.

Quite often the bite starts to shut down as the flats are completely flooded and the tide nears its peak. This is probably because the whiting are spread far and wide by this stage, and locating them in numbers becomes far more hitand-miss. Occasionally it’s worth retreating completely from the water and casting your bait or lure just a few metres from the shoreline. A few late feeders may still be lurking right on the beach, and on more than one occasion I’ve topped off my bag near the end of the session by prospecting in close.

A lovely fish of 40cm taken on frozen bloodworm

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It’s often possible to catch yellowfin in water as shallow as 30cm, particularly on an overcast, breezy day. However, most seem to be hooked when the water is between knee and waist, and this is the depth I prefer to work in when flats fishing. The idea is to walk out as the tide starts to flood, prospecting likely looking areas as they are covered by rising water. Occasionally, when I’ve waded out to almost waist deep, I’ll turn around and cast back toward shore. This enables a shot at fish that may have swum in past you as you were wading out.


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A small landing net is a very handy inclusion //CHOOSING YOUR GEAR Because I do a lot of fishing for yellowfin whiting in varying locations, I own several outfits that are used consistently. I fish with both bait and lures, and have dedicated rod/reel combinations for each style. However, it’s practical to buy just one yellowfin outfit that will cover all bases, and you don’t have to spend a fortune to own a highly efficient set-up. By far my favourite reel for the job is Shimano’s brilliant Stradic HG in 1000 size, which I’ve spooled up with 5 pound Power Pro braid. I use this reel for both lures and bait, and it’s about as smooth and comfortable to fish with as anything in its price range. I regularly match the Stradic with a Shimano Starlo Stix Flats Spin rod, which unfortunately has been discontinued, but is an absolute beauty if you can still find one. Fortunately, top class alternatives in yellowfin rods are easy to find. Shimano’s Zodias 268L is a pearler for ultra-light flats spinning or bait fishing, matching perfectly with the Stradic. It casts lures as light as 6g, as well as super-light ball sinkers when bait fishing. Wilson’s Live Fibre Venom RLFVS3 is another top shelf choice. It’s a seven footer (my preferred length) that fishes 4-6 pound line nicely, and I simply love it for throwing little poppers and stickbaits. The Live Fibre Blade ‘n’ Tails RLFSSBTUL is another stick from Wilson worth considering for both bait and lure fishing. www.spooledmagazine.com.au


You can find plenty of other cheaper alternatives in both rods and reels, but make sure the reel is light, comfortable to use over an extended session and has a smooth drag. The rod needs to be fairly responsive for casting small lures and sinkers, with a sensitive tip for bait fishing.

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Yellowfin love little plastics on ultra-light jig heads //TERMINAL EQUIPMENT FOR BAIT In keeping with the rest of your yellowfin whiting outfit, terminals should be as light and subtle as you can get away with. These fish can be pretty finicky at times, especially in super shallow water on a bright, still day, and you can only help your cause by keeping things unobtrusive at the business end. My ‘go-to’ hook when targeting yellowfin is the Mustad Bloodworm in size six. These hooks are chemically sharpened, they are made from strong wire and their extra-long shank minimises swallowing, which can be a problem during a hot bite. It’s a real pain when you stumble onto a school of willing biters and have to spend 30 seconds or longer trying to extract a hook that’s been swallowed past the gills. The Bloodworm’s extra-long shank also affords some protection from the menacing jaws of puffer fish, the scourge of the flats fisherman! I like to use ten pound fluorocarbon in my yellowfin rigs, as it’s a little more abrasion resistant than nylon monofilament and, according to the experts at least, harder for fish to see. I’ve used several brands in different price brackets, but keep coming back to the relatively inexpensive SureCatch fluoro. It ties nicely and www.spooledmagazine.com.au


Yellowfin Whiting - King of the Flats

I now use it on both hook droppers and in the body of the rig. Going lighter than ten pound on the hooks may win you the odd extra bite, but it markedly increases the possibility of break-offs after extended use, and isn’t recommended. I like to use the lightest sinker possible when fishing the flats, which occasionally means dropping right back to split shot in ideal conditions. For the most part, however, I’ll slide on a tiny ball or bean sinker – usually 7-10g – that runs between the top and bottom hooks.

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Retro-fitting lures with small assist hooks makes 90 them far more effective

//THE BEST BAITS Using baits that occur naturally in the yellowfin whiting’s feeding zone is the obvious way to go. Live clickers, those diminutive little salt water yabbies armed with one oversized claw, are right at the top of the pile. They can be gathered quite easily on the flats with the aid of a stainless steel bait pump, and I’ll guarantee there isn’t a yellowfin swimming that will refuse one if it’s presented properly. Next on my list are blood worms, seaweed worms and beach worms, all of which can be gathered locally by those with some spare time, and are deadly yellowfin bait. There’s a bit of technique involved in extracting beach worms from the sand, but once you get the knack, it’s really not difficult at all. Pieces of green prawn meat make a reasonable back-up bait if you haven’t got access to worms or clickers, and there are a couple of choices in this regard. Most of the bait www.spooledmagazine.com.au


prawns available from tackle stores are of good quality, and an average prawn will make at least two baits. I like to peel them first, as this makes them easier for a marauding yellowfin to suck into its mouth, and also releases internal aromas that drag the fish in. The second alternative is to buy 300g-400g of fresh green king prawn meat from a fish processor and cut it into bait-size pieces prior to freezing. It’s handy to have precut baits available when the whiting bite is on, and often I’ll use a prawn bait on one hook and a worm on the other. This stretches out the worms if you have limited supply, and on rare occasions the prawn will outfish worm, so you have all bases covered. Not long back I came across a guy fishing the flats who was using tenderised chicken breast for yellowfin. Believe it or not, he had half a dozen lovely fish in his shoulder bag, so I guess anything is possible!

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Live clickers (yabbies) are dynamite bait, but hard to keep on the hook

Yellowfin will rarely swim past a live blood worm

Seaweed worms are the author’s favourite yellowfin bait

Green prawn meat makes a handy stand-by bait www.spooledmagazine.com.au


//LURES THAT WORK Being highly predatory fish, yellowfin whiting can often be tempted by a well presented surface lure. In fact, catching inshore whiting on small poppers and stickbaits has become extremely popular.

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The Bassday Sugapen is by far the most effective lure we’ve ever used on local yellowfin. It’s a stickbait that is best retrieved with a short, flicking action and at slow to moderate speed. The colour C95 (orange) is undoubtedly the most productive, and you’ll need to replace the original trebles with something a little smaller. We’ve 92 had good success by removing the rear treble completely and slipping on some Ecogear ZX assist hooks. These definitely improve the hook-up and retention rate. We started off by using the Sugapen in 70mm size exclusively, but now often tie on a 95mm model if there’s some wind about. Surprisingly, even ‘average’ yellowfin of 30cm will tackle the 95mm version with gusto, and bigger fish simply annihilate them. As far as popper-style lures go, the Zerek Poparazzi 50mm is right up there with the best. Colours don’t seem critical, but the SG and LC patterns have been consistently productive. Most of the better-known lure makes now offer lightweight poppers suitable for yellowfin whiting. Go for something of around 5-6cm long with a decent cup face and super sharp lightweight treble hooks.

The now superseded Stiffy popper remains a deadly surface lure

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Although we don’t do much soft plastic fishing for yellowfin on the flats, there is no doubt this style of lure is worth carrying. You’ll need super light (3g) jig heads, and by far the most effective plastic we’ve tried is the Berkley Gulp two inch sandworm. I’m not sure if colour is critical, but both the ‘Bloody’ and ‘Natural’ patterns are proven whiting catchers. Interestingly, they also work a treat on King George whiting out in the boat.

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Brett Mensforth with a better-thanaverage whiting of around 36cm //THE INEVITABLE BY-CATCH Rarely a whiting session goes by without something else grabbing your bait or lure. Some of this by-catch is welcome, while there are a few little pests that most definitely aren’t. I don’t mind hooking the occasional tommy ruff or two, particularly if they are big ones, and rarely get upset about catching a decent mullet, salmon or flathead. I do get upset, however, when one of those obnoxious puffers attacks the bait. Unfortunately, puffers are a fact of life, wherever you bait fish for yellowfin whiting. They are unpleasant to handle, they regularly swallow hooks and they’ll often rush in and beat your target species to the bait. If you do manage to snag a puffer inside the mouth before it has the chance to swallow your hook, the chances of getting that hook out again without damaging or distorting it are slim. As mentioned earlier, this is why I always carry a good supply of spare pre-tied hooks that I can loop on and off after a puffer encounter. www.spooledmagazine.com.au


Yellowfin Whiting - King of the Flats

//AND FINALLY….. ON THE PLATE I rate fresh yellowfin whiting fillets right up there with flathead and gar as my favourite table fish. In warm weather it’s mandatory to keep your catch moist and as cool as possible, as yellowfin will deteriorate noticeably if left in a shoulder bag for several hours. Although it’s a bit of a hassle, we like to carry a small eski onto the beach, leaving it above the high tide mark and visiting it periodically to deposit the caught fish on ice. If you’re fishing in tandem, taking turns on the eski run makes life a little easier, and it really is worth the extra effort.

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I will then scale, head and gut the fish at the end of the session before driving home, returning them to the ice as soon as they have been rinsed off in sea water. Refrigerating the whiting overnight enables the flesh to ‘set’ and makes the filleting job much easier. While yellowfin whiting freezes well, particularly if it’s vacuum packed, I don’t think it lasts as long as its King George cousin. We rarely manage to keep yellowfin in the freezer for more than a few weeks anyway, as the extended family is always on the look out for a feed! While I love serving these great table fish in a number of ways, frying them in a very light Japanese tempura batter is undoubtedly my favourite. The flesh is delicate and sweet, lending itself perfectly to the tempura option, but the golden rule is to keep the batter as thin as possible and minimise cooking time. Provided your oil is hot enough, an average battered fillet should take no longer than 40 seconds in the deep fryer, with a crisp, golden brown and absolutely delicious result.

Jack Laidlaw with half a dozen superb yellowfin from SA’s Yorke Peninsula www.spooledmagazine.com.au


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A Royal Affair

JUSTIN FELIX

A ROYAL AFFAIR UNLIKE THE ROYAL FAMILY, KING GEORGE WHITING (KGW ) ARE CERTAINLY WORTHY OF THEIR PL ACE ATOP PEDESTALS AMONG SOUTHERN-DWELLING SALT WATER FISHOS. JUSTIN FELIX EXPL AINS HOW TO TARGE T THEM FROM SHORE.

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Not only do KGW punch above their weight when it comes to the fight, they just about knock every other southern species off their perch when it comes to flavour. And while it’s well documented that the boat brigade gets among its fair share over the warmer months, those on foot are certainly not out of reach. Such was my discovery around a decade ago.

As the sun dips beneath the horizon, KGW come into the shallows to feed on all manner of goodies.

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A good friend and I spent many a night pier hopping the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, in search of calamari and anything else that swam in those waters. To be fair, we never really had a plan. We merely fished as an excuse to avoid studying for uni and enjoyed the outdoors while shooting the breeze. We did okay on the calamari front, but rarely enjoyed bountiful fresh fish. That all changed one night when we decided to swing by a now overly popular location among holiday goers searching for a feed of royals.

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Visible from a popular main road, we often cruised by, laughing at those punching baits out into the shallows via rods that looked more at home on the back beaches. I guess curiosity got the better of us after a fruitless night on the piers. The saying, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”, rang true in this instance.


A Royal Affair

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//KNOW YOUR TERRAIN After successive nights on small bags of whiting, we started to pay more attention to the area during daylight, when we could actually see what we were casting into. It was obvious, even at night, that weed abounded, but we couldn’t make out exactly where the more unforgiving snags were until we’d bust off. We made mental notes of where pockets of sand sat and came back before most other anglers got there to claim our spot for the night.

When it comes to looking for the ideal terrain, aim to get your baits in sand patches surrounded by weed and sea grass. It worked. Four to five fish became 10 or 12 and the confidence grew. And as the location became more popular, we looked to the likes of Google Map for similar terrain within casting distance of the shore. It turns out most of these were similarly successful when the techniques were replicated. www.spooledmagazine.com.au


With the above in mind, you want to find an area where weed beds or sea grass interspersed with pockets of sand abound. If you can find bigger patches, you’ll increase your chances of success. It doesn’t have to be that deep either. We fish in anything from 50cm of water up to around three metres.

//HARDWARE

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There’s nothing complicated about this style of fishing. Depending on your preference on baiting and waiting or active baiting will dictate what style of rod and reel combo you should employ. If you’re happy to just cast out and chill with your rod in a holder, you can just about get away with anything. But you can certainly over or under do it.

I recommend something around 9ft with a super responsive tip. Whiting can often be finicky, and you want to be able to see even the slightest of bites. A 4-6kg stick is ideal, as is a 4000-size reel spooled with 10 pound braid. You certainly don’t need that amount of line for whiting, but in these areas by-catch of pinkie snapper (and sometimes bigger), flathead and even juvenile gummy sharks have been encountered. Not to mention the undesirables like Port Jackson sharks and myriad winged bandits. To top it off, a 12-15 pound leader will do the trick. www.spooledmagazine.com.au


A light outfit that can cast light weights at distance is ideal for targeting KGW from shore.

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When it comes to hooks, again it depends on your approach. If you’re happy to just stick your rod in the holder, I’d recommend circle hooks. Black Magic 1/0 KL’s are popular, but so too are many others. Ask your local tackle shop for advice and buy the best you can afford. If prepared to work your bait (see below), a long shank (size 6) is more advantageous, as you’ll no doubt be more inclined to strike when holding the rod and a bite registers. In terms of sinkers, use the smallest possible amount of weight you can get away with. If whiting pick up your bait and feel the weight before the hook hits the mark, there’s a good chance they’ll drop the bait and dismiss it altogether.

//BAIT Speaking of bait, you should do your utmost best to try and source the freshest possible. When KGW are on fire, they’ll be less finicky, but there are times when they’ll only take one particular type or only fresh. Over the years we’ve always found squid, cuttlefish, mussel and pipi to be standouts, but most recently we’re finding beach worms to be a real winner. If you have the time to go beach worming to collect a few, definitely do so. If not, you can also find cured varieties in certain tackle shops. Other effective baits include nippers (Bass yabbies), prawn pieces and pilchard slivers. www.spooledmagazine.com.au

Cuttlefish make for excellent baits, particularly if tenderised.


With low-slung mouths, KGW mooch along the seafloor in search of food, so a running sinker rig is preferred by many. However, paternoster rigs are just as effective from shore, as typically, both hooks will be on or near the ground when you consider the angle of the line from rod tip to sinker when fishing from a beach and casting at distance.

//TECHNIQUES

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Staying mobile is pretty important when it comes to whiting, and not only from the shore. You’ll often hear boaties talking about moving 30-50m to find the school. That’s as much as it can take for whiting to be non-existent in one spot and abundant in the next. Think of it like a building site on a Friday. On one corner of the site is a pub. On the other is a coffee shop. They’ll be lining up for caffeine at 6am and frothing for a coldie by 3pm. So, for whatever reason, fish can be at one patch at a certain time and another 30m away at another. As you would if lure fishing, cast your bait and slowly work it back to shore, just a lot slower. Whiting love to hit a moving bait and will often hit squid, pipi or pilchard slithers while they’re being wound back to shore. There must be attraction to the puffs of sand kicking up from the sinker too. I imagine it gives the impression something edible is trying to hide.

Pipi has long been a favourite among KGW anglers. www.spooledmagazine.com.au


A Royal Affair

Bait and wait

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This one’s pretty self-explanatory and makes up the majority of a bait fisho’s time. Cast a bait, sit it in a holder and watch for the bite. It works well a lot of the time, so long as you’ve got an active school hanging about. Unfortunately, that’s a hard thing to maintain when land-based because getting berley to the spot you’re casting in on a consistent basis isn’t as easy as it is from a boat. Sure, you can use small berley cages as sinkers, but even then it isn’t guaranteed you’ll always land your bait in the same spot. I highly recommend the bait and wait approach while there’s some run in the water. That means between tides when water is either coming in or going out. At slack tide they become a lot more active in their search for food, so it pays to stay mobile once this period of the tide is reached.

//TIMING The majority of my time spent fishing for KGW from the shore takes place once the sun dips beneath the horizon and darkness takes over. I find the fish to be more inclined to hunt the shallows once the sun has made them less visible to the likes of birds. I also find fishing after dark far more enjoyable than I do during the day, especially on beaches due to fewer people being around. Running water (tide going in or out) tends to spark the whiting into gear, so time your sessions around midtides for heightened activity. Once you’ve fought with and cooked up some of these tasty suckers, you’ll know doubt get hooked on these royals too.

Low light conditions are always preferred when fishing the shallows from the shore. www.spooledmagazine.com.au


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Angler Profile - Dean Silvester

ANGLER PROFILE

MATTHEW TAYLOR

DEAN SILVESTER MATTHEW TAYLOR DELVES INTO THE LIFE OF ONE OF THE COUNTRY’S MOST SUCCESSFUL TOURNAMENT ANGLERS.

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A quality Smallmouth Bass Dean caught during the 2019 Bassmaster Open at Lake Chickamauga in the USA.

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Success in any sport is dependent on adaptability, and fishing is no exception. The most accomplished anglers possess the skill to catch fish of both quality and quantity in any circumstances – rain, hail or shine. In essence, this ability separates the best anglers from the rest. Dean Silvester is undoubtedly one of the most adaptable and successful Australian tournament anglers in history. In his 15 years of competitive fishing Dean has won 28 tournaments and, in 2014, 2016 and 2017, won the B.A.S.S. Australia Nation ‘Angler of the year’ title, cementing himself as one of Australia’s all-time great anglers. In this article I delve into the life and mind of Dean Silvester to discover what gives him a winning edge.

//EARLY DAYS Born April 4, 1980, Dean ‘Hollywood’ Silvester began fishing at a very early age. He was first introduced to fishing by his parents at Lake Eucumbene in New South Wales when only three years old. From that time onwards, much of Dean’s early years were spent fishing for redfin, as well as brown and rainbow trout in the Snowy Mountains. From a young age Dean’s passion for fishing was centred around spending time with his family in the outdoors. As he grew older, his love for fishing became more and more driven by the sport’s challenges. He began to set himself new goals, be it to catch more fish, discover new fishing destinations or choose his own lures and catch fish on them. To this day, Dean recalls that the target species did not matter; if he was learning about the art of fishing, he was in his element. There’s no question that these early experiences sparked the beginning of Dean’s life-long passion for the sport of fishing, and wasn’t long before it became Dean’s dream to pursue a fishing career. At the age of 14 Dean began writing professionally in national fishing magazines. Soon upgrading to high-end camera equipment, he invested much of his time and money into making his dream a reality. At the time his long-term goal was to fish full time, eager to earn enough by writing for fishing magazines to travel across Australia and the world doing what he loved. To this very day, Dean continues his passion of passing on his knowledge and experience by writing magazine articles. You can’t say he isn’t dedicated! During his time at school, Dean’s family moved regularly. This provided him with the opportunity to target and learn about new species of fish in each new place he lived. By the time he reached high school, he had caught almost every fresh water and salt water fish possible to be had from land-based locations. When Dean finished school, he acquired a boat that allowed him to target pelagic fish species, further improving his already wide range of fishing knowledge and skills. Dean attributes many of these early fishing experiences to his more recent success at a competitive level. He recalls that it taught him everything from knots to just understanding fish themselves. He learnt attention to detail for any species, which www.spooledmagazine.com.au

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Angler Profile - Dean Silvester

allowed him to catch more fish than anyone else. Most importantly, he learnt patience, but at the same time became aware of the fact that all fishing days are different and one simple change can make the difference between no fish and a lot of fish. Fast-forward to 2005, Dean entered his first tournament, giving him a new outlook and passion for fishing from which he’d never look back.

//TOURNAMENT CAREER

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Until Dean retired from Australian 106 tournament fishing in 2017, he’d become known as one of the most successful competitive anglers in history. He has won Australian bass, barramundi, bream and sooty grunter competitions. Silvester’s first taste of competitive angling occurred in 2005, the same year he caught his very first Australian bass. Having never even targeted bass previously, one of Silvester’s closest friends convinced him to give it a go. Dean soon found himself backing the boat down the ramp of Lake St Clair and it didn’t take long for him to catch some quality bass. Dean and his friend attended the weigh-in of a fishing tournament that took place on the day to see

Dean’s passion for fishing extends far beyond Bass. Here he’s fighting a ‘monster’ Giant Trevally.

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the results. As it so happens, the fish he caught would have won the competition. Soon afterwards, Dean began looking into the Australian Bass Tournament (ABT) and Pro Bass circuits. Later that year, Dean fished his maiden event. A fifth place finish cemented a dream within him to become a professional tournament angler.

In 2009 Dean once again moved, this time to Mackay, redirecting his passion for fishing towards the mighty barramundi. Shortly after moving, he also began competing in local tournaments and won quite a few of them. He recalls that his proudest achievements on the barra scene were winning an ABT Barra Pro event at Lake Monduran, along with another win at Lake Teemburra. Dean moved back to New South Wales in 2012, but later relocated to Boonah in Queensland, where he has lived for the last few years. Dean entered himself into the B.A.S.S. Australia Nation competition shortly after it launched in 2014. The years following have arguably been the most successful of his competitive angling career. Dean had an incredible maiden year, competing on the B.A.S.S. Australia Nation circuit, finishing in the top 10 in all except one event, along with a convincing win at Lake Somerset. These finishes resulted in him taking out the ‘Angler of Year’ title. Dean recalls the key to his success in 2014 was a motivation to become the number one tournament angler in Australia and a new-found drive to compete in the USA.

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Dean continued to fish in Australian Bass Tournament competitions for several years until he moved to Brisbane in 2007. Having lived in many different places throughout his life, Dean has come to appreciate the benefits of targeting new fish species. In his opinion, the more different fish you chase, the better angler you become. So, it’s no surprise Dean soon stepped out of his comfort zone and began competing in ABT Bream tournaments. In a short few years he amassed numerous wins and high finishes, with one of his most notable accomplishments being winning the ABT QLD Bream Open.


Angler Profile - Dean Silvester

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One of the many Australian Bass that has helped Dean progress to where he is today. Taking a hiatus from competitive fishing in 2015, Dean returned to the B.A.S.S. Australia Nation competition in 2016. Throughout the season, he finished third, third, third, fourth, seventh and thirteenth, along with a sixth place finish in the Grand Final at Lake Glenbawn. He also won the AOY title for the second time. In 2017 Dean had his career-best year of tournament bass angling. It was also his final year of competitive Australian bass angling before retiring to refocus his efforts in the USA. For the third time he took out the ‘Angler of the year’ title. Along with this, he won five events, including the B.A.S.S. Australia Nation Teams Championship at Lake Glenbawn, and B.A.S.S. Australia Nation Grand Final at Lake Boondooma, winning a trip to the USA to compete in the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship at Lake Hartwell. In this event he finished seventh – an incredible feat for an angler with little experience on a foreign fish species. Looking to reach new heights in bass fishing and experience new angling challenges, Dean began competing in the USA in 2018. He fished two Bassmaster Opens; one event on the Arkansas River at Muskogee in Oklahoma and another event at Lake Champlain in www.spooledmagazine.com.au


New York. In Australia he only fished events for which he’d qualified through his previous year of tournament fishing, including the B.A.S.S. Australia Nation Teams Championship at Lake Somerset, where he finished first for the second time in consecutive years. He was also the runner up in the B.A.S.S. Australia Nation Grand Final at Lake Glenbawn and won his fourth title in Series XV of the Australian Fishing Championships. Last year in 2019 Dean took on the role of social media manager at MoTackle in Coffs Harbour, fulfilling his dream to fish full time. He competed in five Bassmaster Opens in the USA, which are essentially the level of competition below the Bassmaster Elites that tier up to the Bassmaster Classic and the Bassmaster Elite Series. His goal is to qualify for both events.

//LOOKING FORWARD Looking into the future, Dean’s goals cannot be described in any way other than inspirational. When I asked him about where his future lies, his response summed up his confident nature, replying that in five years’ time he aims to be “fishing full-time in Australia and competitively in the USA.” Dean’s goal is to eventually own a boat and ‘truck’ in the USA. His overall dream is to compete in the Bassmaster Elite Series. To put this in perspective, only one other Australian has ever achieved this feat.

Dean has fished for Team BCF in the Australian Fishing Championships since 2013, winning an impressive four titles.

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Angler Profile - Dean Silvester

In the long term, as he becomes more competitive as an angler, Dean aspires to one day compete in the Bassmaster Classic. For those of you unfamiliar with this event, it is the pinnacle of Bass fishing in the world, with the first place angler receiving $500,000 US.

//A HELPING HAND In no sport does an athlete become successful by chance. Dean attributes his angling success to his work ethic. DEAN SILVESTER

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“My work ethic is what separates 110 me from other anglers, along with the fact that I don’t slow down when I win, nor do I look back when I don’t do well. Nothing is ever good enough in my eyes with what I achieve, so I always strive to be better.” To finish this article, it’s only fitting that I leave you with a piece of wisdom from Dean. For any angler looking to improve their angling skills and become the best they can be, remember this: “Strive for nothing less than perfect every time. As the adage goes, ‘practice makes perfect’. Nothing is better than time on the water.” We wish Dean all the best with his endeavours in the USA. Keep an eye out for my next article, in which I delve into the mind and life of another of Australia’s most well-known anglers. Until that time, tight lines.

Dean enjoys sharing many of his fishing experiences on social media, along with some of the tips and tricks that have helped him progress to where he is today. If you want to stay up-to-date with his fishing exploits, make sure to check out the below pages. YouTube – Dean Silvester Instagram – @dean_silvester_ Facebook – Dean Silvester Twitter – @deandotfish

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Fish can’t resist ‘em...

CAN YOU?

Australia’s best Spinnerbait, made by anglers, for anglers!


What’s NEW? SPOOLED LOOKS AT WHAT’S NEW IN THE MARKE T. FOR MORE INFORMATION ON ANY OF THE PRODUCTS, SIMPLY TAP THE BUT TON SHOWN.

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13 February 2020, Melbourne – Leading global boots brand, Muck Boots presents new styles from its core Excursion and Chore collections, built for those working in farming and agricultural industries. The Chore and Excursion ranges have been specifically designed for those working on the land in all conditions. As usual, these styles stay true to Muck Boots’ promise of comfort and protection from the elements, offering 100% waterproof protection. This mid-height 100% waterproof full grain leather pull-on is all about standing comfort on hard surfaces. Worn in the field or to work, the boot’s absorbing outsole and gel-core subsole adds cushioning while standing on unforgiving surfaces. The Hydroguard waterproof, breathable membrane and Airmesh lining displace moisture effectively to keep the wearer cool in summer and warm in winter.

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SHIMANO BEASTMASTER 9000 The new Beastmaster 9000A electric reel possesses unprecedented power, speed and durability. It utilises the upgraded brushless GigaMax Motor that offers 10 per cent more deadweight winding power than the previous model, taking it to 19kg from 17kg, and has 25kg of Cross Carbon Drag output. Regardless of the load applied to the reel, the Constant Speed Mode maintains a consistent retrieve speed without loss of cranking power during the fight. Meanwhile, the Heat-Free system allows for heat to be released from vents in the side plate, ensuring reliable performance. To reach the significant depth required, the reel can be spooled with up to 900m of PE8 braid. The new Beastmaster also features an aluminium cold forged clutch lever and a sharp LCD screen with an easy to operate English menu. The Beastmaster is backed by Shimano’s 10-year warranty and is ready to lift monsters from the deep. Available in stores now.

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What’s New?

BASSMAN AUSSIE CRAWLER SURFACE LURE. The new 120mm Aussie Crawler surface lure from Bassman is specifically designed to target large top water predatory fish like Murray cod. Its strong paddling action and unique sound combine to draw a response even in the toughest fishing conditions.

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Retrofitted with 2/0 Mustad trebles the Aussie Crawler is rigged to provide a much cleaner hook up ratio. Its aerodynamic shape allows for long accurate casts and fewer tangles. The paddling wings are fixed to the body with small stainless steel nuts and bolts for added strength and ease of movement. The Aussie Crawler comes in five different fish tempting colours with each one catching metre plus Murray cod during the testing period. If you are into surface fishing then these lures would make a great addition to your tackle box.

For your chance to win a Bassman Aussie Crawler push the red button.

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ATOMIC ARROWZ WHITING TIP Atomic Arrowz are the best value fishing rods on the market. Whiting anglers have always utilised rods with super sensitive tips to ensure that a bite from a whiting is felt, resulting in better hook ups, and we’ve developed just the tool – the new Atomic Arrowz Whiting Tip.

The rod features an ultra-fine solid tip, designed with superior sensitivity to ensure those subtle takes that barely register are noticed. This is particularly relevant when using baits for the southern species like King George whiting. The rod has been designed for both bait and lure and will accommodate anglers who fish in high current with heavier weights.

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Just like all the Atomic Arrowz models, the Whiting Tip Specialty rod is fitted with high quality Fuji components and a hard-wearing duralon grip.


PLATYPUS HARD ARMOUR LEADER – TOUGH & SUPPLE

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Platypus Hard Armour Monofilament Leader is not only Australian made, it also has increased knot strength and up to 20 per cent more abrasion resistance than equivalent diameter leaders from market-leading brands. These are big claims, but 116 comprehensive testing and product development have been undertaken to create a product that is worthy of Platypus’ 120+ years of fishing line development. It’s still Australia’s only fishing line manufacturer and oldest Australian fishing tackle brand. Manufactured from premium Japanese copolymers, Hard Armour features outstanding levels of clarity, controlled stretch for shock absorption and outstanding knot and crimp strength. It is available in both ‘Tough’ for the ultimate abrasion resistance when extracting fish from cover, and ‘Supple’, designed for increased sensitivity and action, while still maintaining extreme abrasion resistance. Frustration with spool management and locating the tag end on many current leader spools has seen the addition of a Line Tamer for easier leader dispensing. For the ultimate connection to your catch, check out Platypus Hard Armour Leaders at your local fishing tackle retailer.

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TT DELUXE ZMAN BAIT BINDERS The ultimate storage solution for your 10X Tough ZMan soft plastics is here. ZMan soft plastics are best stored in their original packets, and the TT Deluxe ZMan Bait Binders feature extra heavy duty rings designed to fit the prepunched, reinforced holes located in the bottom corners of ZMan packets. Other features include larger, heavy duty zips, carry handle, water resistant, durable material and an internal pocket for storing a jighead tray, leader and snips. Sizes available are small (single) that holds approximately 10 packets of ZMan 3� MinnowZ (more packets in less bulky models) and large (double) that is designed to hold around 20 packets of ZMan 3� MinnowZ (more packets in less bulky models). By clipping your ZMan packets straight into the binder, there is no need for clear plastic sleeves to hold the packets and take up space in the binder. This is quicker and easier to access plastics and there is no need to remove the plastics from the binder, where they can then be misplaced or blown into the water. Check out the TT Duluxe ZMan Bait Binders at your local ZMan dealer. The small binders sell for around $19.95 and the large ones for $39.95.

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What’s New?

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ZEREK INFINITY BLADE The Infinity Blade redefines spinnerbait design by providing an extra blade under the chin of the head weight. This addition gives the lure extra attraction through the water, while maintaining the standard spinnerbait benefits of snag resistance, excellent fish appeal and ease of use. Weighing an easy to cast 28g and available in 10 awesome colours and two blade configurations, the Inifinity Blade features silicone skirts, durable hardware and strong hooks. Clever anglers have been adding trailer plastics and stinger hooks, making these lures deadly weapons in the water. During testing, Australian bass and Murray cod found this spinnerbait to be appealing and, with a priced-to-please tag, this lure will be a fantastic addition to your tackle trays.

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BONE HERO DARTER The new Hero Darter is a soft, multi-function vibrating lure that has a number of awesome features. There are three tow points on top of the lure that provide three slightly different actions, and another on the nose that gives the lure a cast and retrieve option. This essentially offers anglers four fishing options with the one lure. However, the big thing with this lure is that when it is in the jigging/vibration mode, a chin weight can be attached to the front nose eyelet that will allow the lure to be sent on deeper missions or fished in faster currents. The real beauty of this option is that the action of the lure is unaltered; in fact, while testing, the nose weight increased catches. The Hero Darter is available in eight colours, and will appeal to a broad range of local species. It’s available from stockists of Wilson Tackle.

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What’s New?

ATOMIC SKINNY WATER RODS

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Manhandling a long rod in tight water is an absolute nightmare, and often ends in heartbreak. Resulting from customer feedback, Atomic Arrowz have introduced two Skinny Water models for shore-based anglers looking for an affordable way to fish those tight waterways. They combine high quality components into a blank that is light, slightly shorter and yet strong, offering better fish control in close quarters combat. The shorter length is ideal for long treks through the bush or for kayak fishermen without the awkwardness of trying handle a fish kayak-side with a 7ft-plus rod. Both models come in a two-piece format. Think jungle perch, small bass creeks and any tight water kayak locations.

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GAMAKATSU P-FLEX SINGLE LURE HOOK The P-Flex Single Lure Hook is a single hook rigged on a short braided assist cord. It’s available in three sizes – #1, 1/0 and 2/0 – and is classified as Extra Strong for reliability with heavy tackle. The P-Flex will be perfect for anyone casting smaller stick baits and other surface lures across reef edges or even on sinking stick baits for kingfish and tuna. Species like these demand hooks with plenty of beef and the sharpest of points to penetrate and hold.

Available from Gamakatsu dealers nationwide.

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Retro-fitting lures with P-Flex singles is easy, and won’t cost you an arm and a leg.


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Spooled Magazine Autumn Issue 2020  

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