Kris Hickson claimed the biggest win in his tournament career to date with a come from behind victory in the Daiwa BREAM Australian Open, held between January 12 and 14. Claiming the win for personal and event sponsor Daiwa, Hickson eclipsed a talented field of anglers with the Port Macquarie breamer charging from 4th on day two to 1st on day three thanks to his 3.54kg final day bag.
Compiling a 15/15, 9.56kg limit to claim the Australian Open title, Hickson leap frogged Steve Morgan to become Australia’s number one ranked BREAM angler and secure a long held personal goal.
Falling 370g short of denying Hickson his goal was 2008 Australian Open winner John Balcomb who compiled a 15/15, 9.19kg three day bag to come within one decent fish of toppling Hickson from the winner’s dais and adding another event win to his impressive Sydney Harbour tournament CV.
Victory though belonged to Hickson, with the Daiwa bream pro inscribing his name into the records book as the winner of the inaugural, boater-only Daiwa BREAM Australian Open.
Fishing a milk run of wind blown marinas between Putney and the Harbour Bridge, Hickson would start each morning at Rozzelle Bay, hitting boats and pontoons that he could see holding fish underneath.
“I used my sunnies to spot fishing hanging and feeding on the floating structure then took my lure straight to them,” said Hickson.
With his targets located Hickson would cast his 1/28oz, size 1, TT HWS rigged Squidgy Lobby in dusk colour at the fish, delicately enough not to spoke the fish, yet tight enough to get their interest. He’d then let the lure sink watching for any signs of interest from fish.
“As it sank you’d see the fish break away and follow the Lobby down, so you’d watch the line closely looking for the slightest tick that indicated a bite,” explained Kris.
If there was no hit Hickson would give the lure a couple of small hops before winding it back in and repeating the process.
The approach was spot on delivering Hickson a string of fish each day, but it was out on the more wind blown locations later in the day where he’d change his approach and fish more by feel than by sight.
Swapping to 80mm Squidgy Wrigglers in dusk, flash prawn, and wasabi colours, Hickson keyed in on the poles, walls and parallel pieces of structure, pitching the offering tight to structure, sinking it 4-6 feet down then working it back with a hop-pause-drop retrieve.
The modification in presentation was just what the doctor ordered and kept Hickson catching when the fish weren’t holding high in water column and feeding shallow.
Hickson hit each of his locations at least once each day, returning only twice a day to a handful of spots that had plenty of fish in residence.
“There were a few spots where you’d hook a fish, pull it out and there’d been a heap of others following it. So I’d rest it and come back later and pick up another one,” explained Hickson.
Managing his fish to perfection Hickson showed equal foresight during the official prefish, using his time more to locate fish rather than to catch them. The later being a mistake that many tournament anglers all too regularly make.
“I spent most of Tuesday just driving around looking for fish hanging under structure and throwing topwaters when I wanted to see if they were going to respond to lures,” said Kris.
Hickson’s restraint paid off with Australian Open champion landing 30 fish on the first day, and despite missing a few crucial bites he found himself sitting mid field and firmly in contention heading into day two and three. Especially on a waterway that regularly produces four and five kilo plus bags.
The bigger bites came and stuck on day two with Hickson weighing in 3.43kg and jumping to 4th place. Day three was when it all came together with Hickson dropping only one big fish and catching his biggest bag for the tournament (3.54kg).
“Driving back to the weigh-in I thought I may be in with a chance, but for it to happen meant that the leader (Steve Morgan) would have to stumble and nobody could nail a big bag,” explained Kris.
And that’s exactly what happened. Holding the hot seating with only one more bag to weigh, it was only Steve Morgan that stood between Hickson and the win. Needing 2.92kg to win Morgan fell short, weighing in only 2.35kg and handing Hickson his first Daiwa BREAM Australian Open trophy. As a Daiwa sponsored angler it was perhaps karmic influences as well as sheer angling talent that saw Hickson claim victory in the Daiwa sponsored event.
The tackle his used of course was dominated by Daiwa, with Hickson using a Daiwa 701 LFS Sol rod, Daiwa Sol 2000 reel, spooled with 6lb Daiwa Tournament Hi Visibility braid, and Daiwa TDR Competition fluorocarbon when throwing his HWS rigged Squidgy Lobbies, and a Daiwa Interline TMZ-I 662ULFS rod, Daiwa Sol 2000 reel, spooled with 6lb Daiwa Tournament Hi Visibility braid, and Daiwa TDR Competition fluorocarbon when using fishing 80mm Squidgy Wrigglers.
Post victory Hickson was ecstatic with his start to the new tournament season and his third tournament win in 12 months.
“One of my goals for the season was to maintain the consistence that I’ve achieved over the last couple of years. If I continue this then the rewards such as ranking points, prize money and Grand Final qualification will more than likely come also,” said Hickson.
With a full calendar of BREAM events ahead of us the battle to see who grabs the lion’s share of rewards will be an exciting one to watch. Will Steve Morgan regain his number one ranking from Hickson or will a new angler emerge, on time and tournaments will tell.
For event runner-up John Balcomb is was another successful tournament on Sydney Harbour with the tackle store salesman falling just short of claiming his second open victory.
Fishing the marinas that had served him well in the past, Balcomb focused on particular locations, namely Balmain, Birkenhead, Walsh Bay, and a rock wall situated at the back of Blackwattle Bay.
Fishing 2” Berkley Gulp Minnow Grubs in camo and watermelon colour and rigged on 1/16th oz and 1/20th oz, size 4 and size 2 Nitro jigheads, Balcomb’s approach was tight, structure fishing to say the least.
“It was essential to drift the plastic in and under the pontoons and structure and into the kelp that hung down,” said Balcomb.
Once the lure was in the kelp Balcomb would let it sit for a while before ripping it out to continue its sink.
“It was as soon as the plastic came free from the kelp and started to sink that most of the fish would hit the plastic,” explained Balcomb.
If no hits came Balcomb would simply wind it back in and make another cast.
“The fish were holding tight to the kelp so you needed to make sure you got your plastic in there, if you didn’t you didn’t get the bites,” said Balcomb.
As the tide rose later in the day, Balcomb changed tact and headed into Blackwattle Bay to fish a rock wall that was primed to fire with the high tide on it, and that’s exactly what it did with Balcomb picking up the tournament’s second biggest day one fish of 1.03kg and the biggest fish of 1.29kg on day three.
“The technique was the same as on the marina, cast it close to the structure, drift it in and wait for the fish to hit it,” said Balcomb.
The approach fired on day three with John weighing in the biggest bag for the day (3.56kg) and the second biggest for the tournament. If it wasn’t for losing a couple of fish in the kelp and a conservative day two bag (2.64kg) he may have had enough to claim his second Australian Open title.
Far from disappointed with the outcome Balcomb was pumped to simply be on the water.
The tackle he used to catch his cash and prize winning fish included a 7’2”, 2-4kg Quantum Response rod, Quantum Energy reel, spooled with 6lb Rovex Viros braid, and 4lb Sufix fluorocarbon leader.
Balcomb wasn’t alone when it came to sharing in the spoils of the Daiwa Big Bream Prizes, with a Daiwa Tournament Master X Interline 762LFS rod and 2000 Daiwa Luvius reel outfit awarded to the biggest bream each day and a Daiwa Saltist Rockfish RF75PE rod, and 2004 Daiwa Infeet reel outfit awarded to the second biggest bream each day. Joining Balcomb on the list of big bream winners were Corrie Stewart, Josh Carpenter and Scott Butler.
With the new individual format of the Australian Open proving a huge success and silencing most doubters the 2012 Daiwa BREAM Australian Open is destined to see the field swell with anglers champing at the bite to be part of one of the most unique and prestigious events on the BREAM calendar.