Losing my Barra Virginity
  |  First Published: April 2011

I recently headed up to Awoonga Dam for the first time to compete in the No Blokes Barra Bash, never having targeted barra before I was so excited and really looking forward to landing my first fish. My team mate, local Elaine Sanderson, is a regular competitor on the ABT Barra Tour and I was confident if the fish were playing the game she would get me onto a few.

As this was all new to me I had to put in some research and preparation time to ensure I had the right gear to take on these big fish. I had plenty of club mates at the Gold Coast Sportfishing Club who were regular visitors to Awoonga provide not only useful information but even rods and tackle to take along with me.

Gearing up for barra definitely meant heavier set ups all round to what I was used to fishing with. I already had the spin reels all 4000 size and a Berkley Tropical Spin Drop Shot rod that were all capable but the extra rod from a mate and a heavy action baitcaster rod teamed with a Shimano Calias baitcaster reel was a treat.

It was not only the rods and reels though, it was going up in line class to leaders between 40-80lb and then perfecting new knots like the Bimini Twist or Double Uni. And of course it was a matter of ensuring I had the right lures to do the job. I had already been collecting a few hardbodies over the past year knowing a trip to chase barra was high on my to-do list.

It pays to do this early preparation and buy such lures when they are on special and tuck them away for when the day finally arrives. I topped up my collection of Killer Lures, Classic Barras and Gold Bombers with a few Rapala X Raps and the Lively Lure Arafura in the 130mm size. I was also pleasantly surprised as the tournament bag had so many lures included I could have arrived without any and been fine. I also ensured I had a good assortment of Z Man plastics and TT Jigheads in the tackle bag.

The tournament was in its seventh year and despite its name of No Blokes it still allows for the involvement of non-fishing male captains. It has a good assortment of categories and prizes to cater for the 70 odd competitors that enter.

The comp had a very friendly, welcoming atmosphere and was more like a big family get together rather than a serious fishing comp. The organisers worked hard to ensure the whole event ran like clockwork and it made for a very pleasurable few days.

These sorts of events don’t happen without the support of sponsors and this comp attracted $30,000 worth of prizes donated by sponsors, which is great for encouraging women in the sport of fishing.

All reports prior to the event indicated the dam was going to fish tough; the big recent rain and many thousands of fish escaping over the dam wall (some reports say as many as 100,000 fish!) it was always going to be hard. However we were prepared.

Long sessions throwing everything at the fish proved fruitless. I had heard it was a place of patience and a thousand casts but I was fishing with a local who knew the dam well and even she was shaking her head in total disbelief. We were finding fish stacked up on the sounder holding very deep but nothing seem to stir them up, not even the full moon.

Neither myself or my team mates were fans of trolling but we even gave that a good go, to see if we could chance a fish. Amazingly despite there being over 70 competitors and three days of fishing only one barra was caught in the whole competition. The lucky lady who picked up the 90cm+ fish on the troll took out all the prizes!

My host Elaine was very disappointed that I didn’t get onto my first barra, so once the competition was over we headed high up into Boyne River where we had heard locals had been landing the escapee barra in big numbers. Thousands of fish had made their way right through the Boyne system out into the Gladstone Harbour destined to a future as a salty but some of the unlucky ones had become land-locked in areas where water levels had dropped or debris prevented escape. Sadly the future for these fish doesn’t look bright unless rain returns to wash them through the system. However for the avid angler it presented a great opportunity and there were plenty of boats there to chase them.

For me it presented the chance to get my first barra. The fight was fantastic and lived up to all of my expectations, the fish went 1.08cm and fell to a Rapala X-Rap in the glass ghost colour. I even caught a second barra on the same trip that was 90cm and preferred a 6” Z Man Swimmerz in a white colour teamed with the TT Warhead jighead in the 3/8oz size. I was absolutely over the moon to catch what is a lifetime dream of a fish and a big thanks to Elaine for persisting until she got me onto fish.

I can highly recommend the No Blokes Barra Bash to female anglers of all ages whether they have chased barra before or not, like myself there were a few ‘Barra Virgins’ amongst the field so don’t feel like you have to be a seasoned barra angler. The comp is very well organised and a credit to everyone involved.

I am already planning my next trip up to Awoonga and am hoping fishing fortunes on the dam turn for the better soon.

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