The 2011 Gold Coast Sportfishing Club Flathead Classic delivered just about every conceivable environmental factor over the two and a half days of fishing, yet the event still saw a record number of fish caught, measured and released and a record field of anglers.
Over 400 anglers braved conditions that could be described as inclement on Thursday with howling 20-30 knot northerlies followed by a 3 hour downpour and then a cold 20 knot westerly blowing competitors around in typical Flathead Classic style. The result of the large tides (around 2.5m difference) and strong northerlies produced a waterway that was more like liquid mud than clean estuary water, but some anglers managed to cope with all of this and come away with some exceptional day one fishing.
At the head of this list were Shane Gartner from Pig Lures and David Green from Dead Fishy. Both men found trolling the best option and with their team mates, amassed amazing points to place them at the head of the field and also the envy of most who found the conditions trying.
Day 2 started much better but the winds soon returned and a cool westerly kept a bit of chop on the open water. The incoming tide brought with it some amazingly clear and wonderful water and anglers took full advantage of the break from the dirty run-out tide water.
This clean water worked for us with Shayne McKee and Shane Juttner catching a 66cm and 71cm flathead in consecutive casts and then McKee backing up on the next drift with a 69cm fish. This was the best action we had all comp and showed that the fish were in our spots, we just couldn’t get them to actually see the lures in the dirty water.
Gartner and Green continued to battle it out up top, trolling their way into plenty more fish for the day and a few other anglers and teams cottoned onto the pattern and started putting some fish on the scoresheets. It was tightening up at the top of the ladder in terms of individual and team honours. The final half day would be a very important few hours for those in the running to top the field.
Day 3 started in glorious sunshine and virtually no wind, but by 9am the wind was back and strengthening toward the 12pm finish. The clean water was back on some favourite banks and it was at this time that we had the pleasure of seeing Shane Juttner land his biggest flathead on a Bozo 4” Grub plastic.
The fish measured 73cm and took out equal largest fish for our team with McKee capturing a 73cm flatty on day one on a 5” Mr Twister Exude RT Minnow. The two Shanes were ecstatic and into me like there was no tomorrow – something about having a strong back and legs to hold these two aloft all tournament if I remember rightly.
As the competitors returned to the Gold Coast Sportfishing Club rooms, everyone was keen to see how everyone else went and the final wrap up saw Shane Gartner from Pig Lures take out Champion Angler ahead of David Green and Danny Sands, while Greenie’s team Dead Fishy took out Champion 3 angler team and Austackle Anglers Connection Senior took out Champion 2 angler team. Other major winners were Kai Sanderson who took out the Junior Champion and Christine Hunt who took out the Female Champion awards.
There is a full list of anglers and teams in the fact boxes hereabouts, but let’s hear what went right from the winners themselves.
Shane Gartner battled it out with David Green for top individual honours this year and he came out on top by using the lures he designed and makes, Pig Lures, a hugely popular south east Queensland estuary lure.
Shane caught the majority of his fish trolling in shallow water in the middle reaches of the Broadwater. His tactics and choice of lure colour are an interesting observation in what works in varying conditions.
As Shane said “I trolled a red and black deeper diving Pig early in the morning in really shallow water. The water was discoloured and the darker colours were working really well. The other colour to work was brown, a lure colour designed specifically for dirtier water.
“We targeted water from 5 feet up. This depth of water holds plenty of flathead and they can be targeted by trolling very easily.
“The trick is to fish the lures so they run just above the weed. This may mean running your lures virtually at the back of the boat,” said Shane.
I quizzed Shane further on this as running lures basically in the prop wash in shallow water goes against just about every fishing recommendation you can imagine. But Shayne was adamant that flathead are not spooked by the boat and motor and a 70cm fish that was taken on the deep diving red and black lure run less than 10ft behind the boat gives good evidence to the tactic’s effectiveness.
As the tide rose and the water cleared, Shane and his team mate swapped over to greens and yellow/black colours. Shayne reckons these colours perform better in clearer water. And it’s hard to argue as Shane landed 20 fish on day 1, 15 on day 2 (he also dropped 17) and bagged 7 scorers on day 3.
I also talked to Shane about the specific tactics used to combat the dirty water and he said that his game plan did not change. The only thing he changed were the colours on the lures. So what was his game plan?
Simple: troll in shallow water in the middle reaches of the Broadwater where the current flow was a bit slower. Once trolling Shayne said you had to work the lure the entire time, not just leave it in the rod holder, and, if you felt weed, wind the lure in a little to make the lure run over the top of the weed.
“It was all about feeling the lure and knowing when it was fouled with weed and adjusting your drop back to minimise contact with the weed,” said Shane.
So keep these tips in mind next time you are presented with a flathead fishing session. Shane’s tactics are somewhat revolutionary and his lures have been designed to make the most of these tactics, so go out and Pig into a few flathead for yourself.
Catching 10 fish in this event was reward for effort, but Greenie’s Dead Fishy team accumulated 79 fish over the two and a half days of fishing to take out overall team honours with 3782 points.
I had a chat to David about the event and his initial thoughts were that everything went to plan and his favourite trolling lure, the Lively Lures Micro Mullet, was the key to their success – well that is apart from the well chosen location and brilliant tactical decisions!
Green said that in the prefish they could not pin enough big fish in the deep to make it a worthwhile option come tournament time so they scouted around and did some more prefishing. It was during this time they noticed a lot of fish had brown, weed dwelling baitfish in their guts and this had always been a sign that trolling would be the best bet. The reason is pretty simple: if the fish are eating these baits, they are not actively hunting, and it follows that casting lures is much less productive.
He also visited a few old stomping grounds that had not fished for years, but were again producing and by the night before the comp a game plan was hatched.
This plan revolved around trolling and the team stuck to their task amassing an incredible 79 flathead to 75cm over the tournament. Of these 63 were caught trolling and the most successful lure was the pink and silver Lively Lures Micro Mullet that landed a staggering 60 flathead. This is allure David had a big hand in developing with Alan Dolan of Lively Lures and to say Greenie was proud of this achievement this year would be a dramatic understatement.
“The main take away lesson is there are many, many ways to catch a flathead on a lure, and you need to work out your best tactic in the conditions prior to the event and have plenty of good options and methods at your disposal,” said Green.
“The more adaptable to the conditions you are the better you will do. Trolling was good for us this year, but next year it may be jigging the deep, blades, crankbaits, drop shotting or ripping cranks across the flats, and you need to work out all the good options and be able to fish a lot of methods.”
In what can only be described as a stunning effort Austackle Anglers Connection Senior (Brett Rayner and Chad Paterson) took out the title of best two angler team with a very impressive 2692 points. Just to put this into perspective, the Austackle team finished 5th overall when all team results were combined.
With their usual southern Broadwater locations covered in snot weed, the pair made the decision to head north to find water that was cleaner of the dreaded weed. They searched out areas that had expansive high tide flats adjacent to drop offs that had weedy edges and plenty of draining gutters.
As the tides were high in the mornings the pair worked the flats with Sakana hardbodies and soft plastics to accumulate their fish. But as the tide fell away they found themselves trolling Boneheads in pink stripey and silver candy colours in water between 5-8ft, or swapping over to the ubiquitous Lively Lures Micro Mullet when the depth blew out to more than 8ft.
As with all competitors the pair had to find cleaner water as the tide dropped to continue their fishing.
Brett Rayner said: “We searched for clean water so we could visually see the channel edges and not have to rely solely on the sounder. We also found that trolling our lures a little shorter, so they only occasionally hit the bottom, meant we were not constantly fouling our lures with snot weed.”
Brett also commented that if they went shallower than 5ft they encountered too much snot weed, so they really worked hard at running their Boneheads in 5-8ft, trolling for around 60% of the actual tournament time.
Some great tactics from a team that really performed above and beyond in a tough competition.
Tournament organiser, club president and crazed angler Christine Hunt easily accounted for the rest of the female field in this year’s Flathead Classic with a consistent event that saw her amass 636 points.
“Our preparation for the Classic didn't indicate a big showing of flathead in the deep, which was a bit of a disappointment to us as that is our preferred style for chasing flathead,” Christine said.
“This didn't see us rule it out of our strategy altogether though as the pay off of pulling a couple of bigger fish in the day sets you up for a higher score.
“Lucky for us this was how things went on day 1 when I was able to set the team up by netting an 88cm and a 79cm both on the white ZMan Swimmerz.
“We backed these bigger girls up with some smaller fish but day 1 showed us that the fishing was going to be tough.”
A change of tactics for day 2 saw Christine and her team mates downsized their leaders and jigheads and get set for a shallower approach.
On day two they hit their favourite shallow spots and turned over a few fish through the day but it wasn't until the last hour where they saw good sized fish and numbers.
“We worked a drain where we were confident fish would be feeding, and to be honest it was the first time we found a good showing of baitfish all day,” said Christine.
Using their Lowrance HDS sounder they found where the bait was schooled at the edge of the drop-off and worked their lures from the edge of the drain to the bait; at one stage it was a fish cast for Team TT.
Day three is always hard because with the half day you don't get as much tide variation or time and their high performing spot from day two was going to have too much water over it.
With the water still dirty, Christine decided to follow the clean tide on the incoming tide, picking up fish that kept the scorecard ticking over. Her only real challenge came from her team mate Tracey Mammen and I am reliably informed that when Christine was driving the electric she gave Tracey every bit as much opportunity to catch fish. They were more focussed on a good team performance and this shone through with Christine winning overall female champion and Tracey coming in second.
Christine’s final sentiments reflect how just about every team felt.
“Thanks to TT Lures for their support and to my team mates Tracey and Guy McConnell for a great Flattie Classic.”
As with all Flatty Classics, there are a range of other categories anglers compete in for trophies and bragging rights. Gavin Dunne took advantage of the strong winds and waved the wand around to land a cracking 66cm flathead on fly to take out that section, while Brendon Knight managed to subdue a sensational 117cm mulloway to claim honours in the mulloway category.
Other momentous captures included a bunch of near on 70cm Australian salmon, a tournament biggest 91cm flathead caught on day one by Kurt Buhner and Darryl McMahon’s sensational 39cm whiting. The fact box hereabouts gives the full results of other categories and shows just what sort of by-catch flathead anglers can expect when fishing the Gold Coast waterways.
And lastly to the winners of the Blue Fin Boat prizes for seniors and juniors. The seniors were randomly drawn for a shot at a Blue Fin WildCat teamed up to a Suzuki 60hp four-stroke one a Special Trailer’s trailer and this was eventually won by Anthony Fullarton. The junior prize was a 3.4m Blue Fin Drifter donated by Blue Fin Boats matched to a Suzuki 4hp outboard donated by Whitewater Marine and was won by a very excited Nicholas Newton.
We struggled for most of the event but had a few highlights that will ensure we’ll be back next year. For starters just staying on the water was a real challenge. This tournament was about sticking with it and never giving up.
For me seeing Shane Juttner land his biggest flatty on a lure was special, but what I liked most was the netting effort as the fish was netted underneath the boat in current that was ripping. It put a smile on everyone’s dial. The next highlight was Shayne McKee’s 73cm fish that was caught in super shallow water and half way through the fight we noticed it had a Do-It Mould jighead and 5” Gulp Jerkshad in its top lip. The tackle was virtually brand new so we surmised it was hooked that morning or at worst the day before. A greedy fish.
Seeing two flathead over 65cm in the boat at the same time was pretty special too, it’s just a pity none of these were mine.
But perhaps the real highlight was working out a special tactic on snot weed. We realised early that if you got a touch from the snot weed, you could drop the lure back and pick up the main bulk of it, reel it carefully in then throw it at your team mate’s head. This works best in a three person team where someone distracts the victim while the other angler does the throwing. Brilliant fun when someone is re-tying their leaders and helps pass an otherwise slow day on the water.
Our final highlight was the surprise at finishing in the Top 20 teams, a feat we thought could not possibly happen with the fishing we experienced. But it just shows you that when it’s tough, it’s tough for everyone.
A massive event, well organised and wonderfully catered saw 450 plus anglers and their entourages happy with the 2011 Blue Fin Boats Flathead Classic. All the juniors took home a prize courtesy of AusTackle and the lucky draw anglers all left with arm full’s of new tackle to try. The boat winners, Nicholas Newton in the Juniors and Anthony Fullarton in the seniors were stoked and everyone is keenly looking forward to next year’s event.
|Largest Flathead||Kurt Buhner 91cm|
|Largest Flathead on Fly||Gavin Dunne 66cm|
|Largest Mulloway||Brendon Knight 117cm|
|Largest Australian Salmon||Joel Erskine 67cm|
|Largest Trevally||Ben Godfrey 60cm|
|Largest Estuary Cod||Jamie Douglas 41cm|
|Largest Tailor||Christine Hunt 40cm|
|Largest Whiting||Darryl McMahon 39cm|
|Largest Bream||Phil Hill 39cm|
Top 10 2 Angler Teams
|1||Austackle Anglers Connection Senior||2692|
|4||Team Next Year||1458|
Top 10 3 Angler Teams
|5||Keep It Cool||2327|
|6||Team Liive Vision||2261|
|7||Team Hi Seas||1922|
Top 10 Females
Overall Senior Results
|213||Mark St Ledger||166|
Overall Team Rankings
|5||Austackle Anglers Connection Senior||2692|
|7||Keep It Cool||2327|
|8||Team Liive Vision||2261|
|9||Team Hi Seas||1922|
|13||White Water Marine Suzuki||1686|
|14||Doug Burt's Tackle World Rovex Tsu||1577|
|15||Queensland Fishing Monthly||1538|
|18||Team Next Year||1458|
|22||Bush n Beach Fishing Mag||1322|
|33||Hi Seas Team On Strike||1096|
|36||Team Pink Bits||1043|
|37||Ballina Bait & Tackle||1023|
|40||Blue Fin Boats||981|
|44||Z Man Tough TTs||928|
|47||Here For Beer||875|
|48||Team 'Shake & Bake'||875|
|49||Team Gold Coast Fishing Tackle||862|
|50||The Jig Spitters||861|
|52||Team Carlton Mid||845|
|53||Sofa King Awesome||844|
|54||Flying Hell Fish||822|
|56||The Marlin Hunters Health Retreat||814|
|63||Team Burley Boy||733|
|64||Ray White Commercial Gold Coast||725|
|69||Bork & Budgie||689|
|73||Team Kakadu Annexes 2||647|
|93||Team Nover Platinum||450|
|95||Oxenford Bait & Tackle||429|
|96||Stick Flicks 2 XXX||407|
|98||R & R Hay Team||391|
|101||The Reel Deal Team||375|
|103||The Dyslexic Luckhead Flatwits||360|
|106||Coomera Houseboat Holidays||343|
|112||Team Tight Lines||287|
|114||Team Storm BOSS||285|
|116||Team Beer & Bullshit||267|
|117||Dawn 'til Dusky||267|
|120||Team Kakadu Annexes 1||261|
|121||Austackle Anglers Connection Junior||259|
|129||Just Add Water||238|
|130||Team No Bananas||235|
|133||Team Mad & Dad||231|
|135||Get Jiggy With It||228|
|137||The Lounge Lizards||226|
|138||Lures All Day||226|
|139||Jiggers R Grinners||215|
|142||Team Flat Stick||210|
|144||Sons of Anglers||203|
|149||The Flick Wits||186|
|150||Reel Overheads $$||180|
|151||Team Young Retrievers||177|
|155||Team Orange Pearl||155|
|159||Sportys Fish n Kidz||137|
|160||2 Fast & 2 Furious||133|
|162||Way Not To Go!||123|
|164||Blind Date 2||114|
|169||White Water Marine Evinrude E-TEC||55|
|171||Caught By The Cods||55|
|172||Two Shags on a Rock||52|
|173||Anglers Connection Mixed||10|