Manning River Marine Snare Skeeter Classic Championship
  |  First Published: December 2011

Anglers from across Australia converged on the NSW mid north coast township of Taree for the fourth annual Skeeter Boats BREAM Classic Championship, held on November 1-2.

The best-of-the-best bream angling teams from the season’s BREAM Classic events battled hard over two days of competition on the Manning River to see who would be crowned the champion bream pair for 2011.

Kris Hickson and Daniel Brown from Team Manning River Marine made the most of their local knowledge to claim the 2011 crown and drive away with the $40,000 Skeeter/E-Tec tournament boat package.

The locals were pushed to the limit with two teams coming very close to dethroning the pair. Mark Healy and Adrian Neoh from Team Cranka/Lowrance and Russell Babekuhl and Trent Fahey from Team Berkley finished second and third respectively.

Victory though belonged to Hickson and Brown with the champion pair fishing a combination of hard bodies and soft plastics to catch their fish.

Day one saw the pair start out at Pelican Bay throwing grenade coloured 75mm Squidgy Lobbies rigged on 1/28oz and 1/16oz, size 1/0 heavy wire TT HWS jigheads at oyster racks.

“The retrieve was straight forward, chuck it in next to the structure and let it sink. If a fish didn’t eat it on the drop we’d wind it back in and make another cast,” explained Hickson.

The approach was super effective with the pair filling their bag by 10am. With five in the well, the pair left the area and adopted a run and gun approach all the way back to the event site.

“We wanted to cover as much water as possible and give ourselves the best chance possible to come into contact upgrades,” said Hickson.

To maximize their chances they used a two-lure approach, Hickson throwing a Daiwa Baby Crank in blue gill colour and Brown a dusk coloured Squidgy Lobby and 3” Z-Man Shrimpz rigged on a 1/20oz TT jighead. The retrieve for the Baby Crank was a slow roll, while the Lobby was fished with a sink, twitch, pause retrieve.

Fishing mangrove edges, weed beds, and racks the Manning River Marine pair focused their attention on spots that had produced fish in the past and looked the best at the time.

“We only hit the prime spots, gave them 10-20 minutes, and if we caught nothing we moved on to the next spot,” said Hickson.

The outcome was several upgrades with two of the best fish coming within sight of the start line. Their bag for the day weighed 3.28kg and had them sitting in second place, the only downer to the day was the two hours of fishing time they lost due to motor problems.

“We had had an injector that stopped working on the motor and couldn’t plane or run at full speed, so we spent a fair amount of time trying to trouble shoot the problem. Eventually we just put a small prop on so we could limp through the session and keep fishing,” explained Hickson.

With negligible effects on the scoreboard as a result of their mechanical issue, the pair headed into day two with their motor issues fixed and their confidence high.

“We headed straight back to Pelican Bay with the mindset of one, catching our bag, and two, catching big fish,” Hickson said.

The technique was largely the same as day one, albeit with a slight twist.

“We wanted to maximize our chances so Brown threw a Squidgy Lobby and Z-Man Shrimpz like he did the day before and I threw a brown coloured Zip Baits Kamsin Jnr,” explained Hickson.

By 11.30am they had their bag, and with the wind starting to increase and the tide beginning to change they made the decision to move and hit their run and gun pattern of the day before. Timing their run perfectly the pair picked up three upgrades using the same pattern as the previous session - a combination of hard bodies and soft plastics.

“We were looking for the big bites, but could only manage a few small upgrades,” said Hickson.

While their bag weighed 1.35kg lighter than the day before, they had more than enough to hold their closest rival.

Hickson’s tackle selection when fishing soft plastics included a Daiwa Black Label 641LXS rod, and Daiwa Freams 2500 reel spooled with 15lb Daiwa Shinobi PE and 10lb and 14lb Daiwa TD-R Competition fluorocarbon leader. While his crankbait outfit included a Daiwa Sol 701LFS rod, matched to a Daiwa 2000 Sol reel, spooled with 15lb Daiwa Shinobi PE and 10lb and 14lb Daiwa TD-R Competition fluorocarbon leader in the racks. For fishing the natural structure rod of choice was a TDZ-I 662ULFS paired with a Daiwa Freams 2000 reel and 4lb straight through fluorocarbon.

Brown in contrast used two outfits for the event, namely a Daiwa Black Label 6101LFS rod, matched to a Daiwa Freams 2500 reel spooled with 10lb Daiwa Shinobi PE and 10lb and 15lb Daiwa TD-R Competition fluorocarbon leader for the heavy structure and a Daiwa Black Label 631ULFS and Daiwa Freams 2000, 10lb Daiwa Shinobi braid and 6lb leader for the run and gun locations.

The win for the Manning River Marine pair delivered them a host of rewards. For Brown it was his second win in a week, the first being the Daiwa-Hobie BREAM Kayak Grand Final only three days earlier and the win for Hickson bumped him to the top of the list as the country’s number one ranked BREAM Classic angler.

Finishing second in the event was Mark Healey and Adrian Neoh from Team Cranka/Lowrance with the NSW bream pair just edging out Team Berkley (Babekuhl/Fahey) on a count back to claim the runners-up position.

Healey and Neoh covered a lot of water to claim the podium finish, with the pair burning 100L of fuel each day to catch their fish.

“We only found two spots during the pre-fish that consistently produced fish, the only problem was that they were at either ends of the Manning and took twenty minutes to run between,” explained Healy.

Spot number one on the opening day of competition was a stretch of natural bank upriver of the start line near Wingham. Here they fished Ecogearaqua Bream Prawns rigged on 1/28oz and 1/16thoz TT jigheads and skipped tight into structure.

“You had to be on the money and get your lure within 6” of the snag, let it sink, then give it a couple of rips,” Healey said.

Most hits came on the initial sink, or just after they’d give the Aqua a twitch. To keep the bite going for as long as they could they rotated between colours - swapping between king prawn and olive prawn.

The other step they took to stay on the fish was to rotate spots.

“We’d do a drift through at Wingham then we’d high tail it down to our second spot, also a natural bank, down at Manning Point,” explained Healey.

The technique down river was the same - skip the bait into the edge and wait for the fish to respond. The approach delivered them their limit by 10.30am. The session gave them 2.76kg at the weigh-in and 3rd place heading into day two.

Day two however proved a lot tougher, with their productive upriver location failing to fire.

“We fished it for a while and caught nothing, and had a strong sense that it wasn’t going to happen. So we went and checked out something that we saw on day one with the hope that it may pay off,” said Healey.

Heading back down stream the pair went and looked at one of the many bridges they’d driven under on the first day and investigated what they found on their sounder.

“Driving past the bridges on the first day we picked up a lot of fish on the structure scan of our Lowrance sounder, so we went and dropped some lures down to them and quickly found out they were bream,” explained Healey.

Using the same Ecogearaqua Bream Prawns as the day before, the pair matched their jigheads to the current at each bridge, made long up-current casts then drifted the bait in under the concrete platform of the bridge that sat below the water-line.

“If you didn’t drift the bait in underneath you didn’t get a bite,” Healey said.

Getting the bait to the bream was hard, and so was getting them out once hooked.

“We got drilled at least four or five times, but that comes with the territory when fishing close to structure,” explained Healey.

Just like they did the day before Healey and Neoh rotated spots, moving from bridge to bridge. While they tried in vain they just couldn’t get the final fish they needed to get their bag, falling short with only four.

“We got the bites we needed, we just couldn’t get them in the boat. We dropped a fish at the net that would have been over 30, and lost a few others,” explained Healey.

The pair used an assortment of Samaki, G.Loomis and Neptune rods to catch their fish, matched to Daiwa 2000 spin reels, spooled with 10lb Sunline PE and 4lb Nitlon fluorocarbon leader.

For BREAM Classic anglers the qualification process starts all over again with Queensland bream mecca, the Gold Coast set as the venue for the 2012 BREAM Classic Championship. Stay tuned to www.bream.com.au for all the information on the 2012 season.



PlaceTeamFishWeight (kg)Payout
1MANNING RIVER MARINE: Kristoffer Hickson & Daniel Brown10/105.21Skeeter SX190/ Evinrude 115 E-Tec
2CRANKA/ LOWRANCE: Mark Healey & Adrian Neoh9/104.68Engel Fridge/Freezer x 2
3BERKLEY: Russell Babekuhl & Trent Fahey10/104.68Duffrods x 2
4NITRO MARINE / PONTOON 21: Scott Butler & Dan Walter8/104.08Engel Esky x 2
5MINN KOTA: Cameron Whittam & Warren Carter6/103.98Blue Eye Sunglasses x 2
6TEAM TT'S: Darren Borg & Tracey Mammen7/103.84 
7 ALS MECHANICAL: Matthew Finney & Anthony Duff7/103.7 
8 PORT MACQUARIE TACKLE/ DAIWA: Wayne Bale & Jeff Brunsdon9/103.46 
9 PFLUEGER LL: Dean Hammond & Neil Foley7/103.37 
10 COMPLETE ANGLER BATEMANS BAY/SQUIDGIE PRO RANGE: Craig Johnson & Jason Mayberry8/103.34 

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