Evolution of a Barra Fisho
  |  First Published: September 2011

We all have our stories on how we have evolved as anglers.

Coming from a game and reef fishing background, I hadn’t really done any bass fishing and just dove into barra fishing without prior experience. But I have learnt a lot from my fellow anglers and friends, and if you just pay attention to the things other fisho tell you, it can really pay off.

My good friend Jason Ehrlich told me years ago how he caught some barra in Lake Monduran on lipless crankbaits, I thought to myself: ‘what the hell is a lipless crackbait?’ After some research and some education I discovered what these lures are and how to use them by adopting bass techniques that I was previously unfamiliar with.

Some time later, Jason embarrassingly pulled me up for saying we have no need to fish hardbodied lures any more as the soft plastic boom took on. I tend to lead with my heart when it comes to fishing, not my brain.

During one of the tournaments at Lake Monduran the fishing was very tough and people had caught fish in the pre fish on hardbodies. But I thought I would stick to my guns and keep fishing with plastics.

During the competition Jason told me he caught a fish on a Tranzam. Once again I thought ‘what the hell is a Tranzam?’ and then never thought about it again. My son, Tommy, fished with Jas this weekend and is an eternal Rapala fan after learning about the lures on the XBox 360 game. Tommy wanted to know what lure he should use, so I told him to ‘be your own man and choose your own lure’. He inevitably chose a Rapala hardbody and with that lure he caught the first fish in the tournament. Jason and Tommy used hardbodies in the tournament and ended up coming in third overall.

Dan Grech and his girlfriend, Belinda, went on to win that tournament fishing with Tranzams that he had borrowed from Jason. This for me was the birth of the Tranzam as a barra fishing tool. Dan went on to use it very effectively and do very well in the ABT tournaments as well.

These lures really came into their own with the recent spill of barra into our saltwater estuaries and more noticeably at the Boyne River. The Tranzams have now become a very important part of every barra fisher’s tackle box, which just goes to show what you can learn from your peers.

In the Jackall stable the Mask Vib is also a very effective barra lure and we use these in the Boyne and other saltwater estuaries. When fishing these types of lures I use a 20lb main line and a 40lb leader. The Tranzam hooks are fine to catch fish up to 132cm in open waterways, but if you choose to upgrade the hooks be careful not to retard the action of the lure. The other lures like the 19g Jazz Deka Bokun, TN60 and Threadybusters may need hook upgrades.

The secret to catching barra in saltwater estuaries is to have a good side scan sounder. I have just recently purchased the 1198 Humminbird and this has been great tool for finding big barra schooled up in saltwater estuaries. Lowrance also make a very effective HD sounder that will do the same job.

I can’t emphasise how important a tool the side scan has become. I have used it all over the state fishing fresh and saltwater and it can mean the difference between success on any given day.

Just last night I was in the Burnett River scanning schools of barra, which gave me the edge to catch some great barra and my PB threadfin salmon at 108cm.

In the coming months fishing it will continue to be fantastic in the saltwater estuaries, with all these big fish and loads of bait and prawns, we can expect good spawning in the future.

Lake Monduran has still been tough and will be tough in the months ahead. I have seen plenty of fish on the side scan that are proving to be uncatchable at this stage, maybe as the waters warm up in the summer these fish will come into their own.

I really feel that there are plenty of fish left in Lake Monduran, as most of the fish I have seen on the side scan are perfect barra signature shadows on the sounder.

The month ahead offshore will be great with our usual reef fishing prowess around Bundaberg. The sailfish will also turn on in September with wahoo, small black marlin, and mahi mahi. Heavy tackle marlin fishing will fire up with blacks, blues and stripe marlin caught in the deeper waters on the Shelf of the Bunker group of islands and Fraser Island.

No Go for Netters

Barramundi have infiltrated the estuary system and huge barra are being caught in all the rivers including the Burnett River right in the town reaches of Bundaberg. These barra are a much sought after item by the anglers but it seems the pros can’t help themselves. I was fishing the Burnett River last night and was appalled to see eight nets in under 1km of river.

This has also happened in the Boyne River and around the power station at Gladstone. The pros have taken advantage of fishing the warmer areas of the river where the warm water from the power station has been pumped, which entices the barra to come in and enjoy the tropical conditions.

The government closing off large areas of the Great Barrier Reef seems pointless to me when they continue to allow netting in the rivers. Netting in rivers exploits the nurseries that hold these fish.

Most of these stocked fish that are in the rivers at the moment, having escaped when the dams flooded, have been payed for by anglers through stocking permits. In my opinion these metre plus fish are worth at least $600 each to the tourism industry, yet the professionals flog them for less than $3.00 per kilo.

To me it seems that the professional fishers have no place in our estuaries and their industry is affecting our precious resources.

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