Berkley BREAM Pro Russell Babekuhl claimed one of the few titles that had eluded him throughout his illustrious tournament fishing career with an impressive come-from-behind win in the 2011 Daiwa BREAM Grand Final.
Sitting in 11th place heading into the final day Babekuhl timed his charge to perfection weighing in his biggest bag for the event on the day when he needed it the most.
One of only six anglers out of the top twenty to catch his limit on the final day, Babekuhl blew the field away, living up to his reputation as one of the locals to watch in the talented field of tournament anglers.
Continuing the good form he’d shown through the entire BREAM Grand Final Week was Tristan Taylor, with the Brisbane breamer claiming another Grand Final runner-up title to accompany the one he picked up at the Gold Coast Grand Final in 2009.
For event winner Babekuhl it was a perfectly executed event, with the Wingham breamer filling his bag each day, then blowing them away on the final run.
“I started out in the racks down the bottom but it was just too clear and too still, so I headed up the Wallamba River to throw topwaters [snoop coloured Berkley Pop Dog] and hopefully fill my bag,” explained Babekuhl.
The approach paid dividends with Babekuhl catching a string of undersize fish and many legals. With the wind starting to increase he headed back down to the bottom and hit the racks where he started the day.
A switch from topwaters to soft plastics saw Babekuhl throwing a pepper prawn coloured 2” Berkley Gulp Shrimp rigged on a 1/0 Owner worm hook.
“I’d cast the Shrimp as far as I could across the racks, wind it back in, then stop it just as it came over the edge and sink it down into the shadows,” Babekuhl said.
The technique kicked Babekuhl’s Grand Final charge off in great style, delivering him a 3kg bag and 7th place at the end of the opening day of competition.
The start of day two was a repeat of the previous with Babekuhl heading straight upriver with the intent of filling his bag before looking for upgrades.
“There was hardly any flow and the fish didn’t bite, all I managed was a few undersize fish,” explained Babekuhl.
Cutting his losses Russ headed back to the racks at 9.30am and once again threw worm hook rigged Gulp Shrimps.
“It was important to rotate the racks regular, catching a few fish then resting it to let them recover,” Babekuhl explained.
With his limit in the well by lunch time Babekuhl was gunning for upgrades but they proved hard to find.
“It was hard to find the big bites, the upside though was that I landed all the better bites I had and I didn’t get dusted up by any fish,” said Babekuhl.
Slipping to 11th place Babekuhl was getting further off the pace set from the front of the field, but with his A-game (un-fished racks) still up his sleeve he had the ammunition he needed to blow the field away, which is exactly what he did on day three.
“I had two full sets of racks that I saved for last day. They hadn’t been touched and they were ones that had produced plenty of big fish for me over the years. So I was hopeful that they would fire when I need them the most,” explained Babekuhl.
With the wind not strong enough to have the racks at their best, Babekuhl hit some oyster sheds to kill some time and get started on filling his limit. Hitting the shaded edges and the poles of the sheds Babekuhl fished Shrimps tight to structure on 3lb straight through Sensei fluorocarbon and had three fish in the well in the hour.
With the wind starting to blow Babekuhl moved and headed straight to the racks that he had been keeping up his sleeve.
“It didn’t take long to get onto the fish, the first one I caught within five minutes of getting there and I had another one and my limit within half an hour,” said Babekuhl.
His first fish was a classic Forster special. A big, old, blue-nosed oyster munching bream that shatters anglers’ hearts and keeps them coming back.
“They were tough the fish, I straightened the hooks on four and got done over twice by fish on the last day. It was the only day of the four days I had on the water at Forster where I got out muscled by fish,” Babekuhl said.
While the retrieve for the Shrimp was the same as the preceding two days, there was a slight twist in how it was rigged.
“The wind was getting stronger making it hard to keep the Shrimp swimming below the surface so I added some weight to it by rigging it on a 1/32oz Nitro jighead,” explained Babekuhl.
The change in approach was perfect for the conditions and the prevailing bite with Russ landing 20 legal fish for the session. Hitting the stage early during the weigh-in Babekuhl set the mark for the others to beat. His 3.38kg limit set the field back on their heels, and was 850g larger than any other bag weighed in. It gave him a lead that was never bettered. The only angler to come close was event runner-up Tristan Taylor.
A week after the win Babekuhl was still coming to terms with what he had achieved.
“I still can’t believe that I managed to win from as far back as 11th. It’s a win that will be impossible to top,” said Babekuhl.
The tackle the 2011 Daiwa BREAM champ used to secure his greatest win included a Berkley Tournament Pro TP-721-35 rod, and an ABU Soron 4000 reel spooled with 12lb Berkley Nanofil line. His choice of leader varied throughout the tournament, fishing 8 and 10lb Trilene on the first two days then down sizing to 6lb on the last day when the fishing was at its toughest.
For event runner-up Tristan Taylor it was another BREAM Grand Final win missed, with the Brisbane dentist falling 280g short of claiming his first GF win. Compiling a 15/15, 8.57kg for the event, Taylor like many anglers in the tournament fished a combination of flats and racks to catch his fish.
Fishing oyster racks behind Bandicoot Island on day one was where it all started for Taylor, with the 2011 QLD Lowrance Angler of the Year throwing bone coloured Megabass Dog X Jnrs.
“The approach was simple - throw the lure as far as you could across the racks, and when a fish ate it, wind like crazy so you didn’t get bricked,” explained Taylor.
With two and a half hours elapsed and three fish in the well Taylor changed location and hit the flats at Wallis Lake to crankbait up the rest of his bag. Slow rolling Atomic Hardz Crank 38s in ghost gill brown and ghost green shad colours, Taylor struggled early and didn’t find any consistency until late in the session.
“It was definitely a late bite, I didn’t get my limit until 12.30pm and the most action I found was on my last three casts of the day,” explained Taylor.
Weighing in 2.99kg Taylor’s late bite paid off and had him sitting in 8th place heading into day two.
The start of day two was a repeat of day one - all bar the fish bitin - with Taylor struggling to find fish willing to take his topwaters in the racks.
“I cut my losses one and a half hours into the session and headed out to the flats [two to four feet deep]. But it was for nil return and I didn’t catch any first fish until 12pm,” Taylor said.
Fishing away from the masses Taylor picked up a fish a drift with the clumps of bright green weed the hot spots to target.
“They were the gun places to fish, if you were going to catch a fish from anywhere it was going to come from the bright green, wide leafed weed,” explained Taylor.
Taylor was keyed in on the fish better than any other angler on day two and weighed in a 3.11kg limit, pushing him into second place and within striking range heading into the third and final day.
Bypassing the racks of the first two days Taylor headed straight to the flats and kick started his game plan for day three - fish hard, all day, and right through to the very end.
“I knew it was going to be a late bite, but by 8.30am I was beginning to get ancy so I moved locations and tried a couple of different flats,” Taylor said.
By 10am and with nothing to show Taylor moved once again, this time heading back to the racks, followed by Hells Gate.
“All I had to show was one bust off for all my running around, so I headed back to my original flats and just put my head down,” explained Taylor.
Once again slow rolling his Atomic Crank across the flats Taylor had bites from seven legal fish, but landed only five.
“The two fish that I missed are the ones that I will remember forever. One of them popped my leader knot while the other I lost at the net. It’s definitely the most stressful day I’ve ever had on the water,” Taylor said.
While Taylor may lament his missed opportunities his podium finish and finishing the year as the highest money winner ($10,075) should bring some solace for his year on the tournament trail.
The tackle he used to catch his Forster fish included a Samurai Reaction 203 rod, Megabass Caiyen 256 reel, spooled with 8lb Aorika II PE, and 6m long 2 and 3lb Silver Thread fluorocarbon leader.
Claiming the non-boater title at the 2011 Daiwa BREAM Grand Final Series was 37 year old Northern Rivers angler Heath Blaike (10/10, 6.58kg). Fishing with Don Johnston on day one and Mark Mangold on day two, Blaike fished a combination of soft plastics and hard bodies to catch his fish.
On day one with Johnston the pair hit Wallis Lake throwing topwaters early. Blaike’s lure of choice being an Atomic stick bait that he worked with a constant walk-the-dog retrieve.
“I tried a walk and pause retrieve but the takes were half hearted, so I just kept it moving to get the fish worked up and willing to take the lure,” said Blaike.
The retrieve was spot on with Blaike catching a 33cm fish within the first 20 minutes. The topwater bite waned and rather than persevering with rat fish he swapped to sub-surface and began using an Atomic Hardz Crank 38 mid, catching two more fish, including one legal.
“I tried a few different things, including working the lure faster but could only catch undersize fish so I followed Don’s lead and tried more minnow styled hardbody and worked it with a twitch, pause retrieve,” explained Blaike.
The change was spot on with Blaike adding another quality fish, this time a 34cm, to the bag courtesy of a Bassday Kangoku Shad. At the end of the day he was sitting in second place and primed for a big day two.
Fishing with Mangold on day two, Blaike started where he left off on day one, throwing a crankbait in shallows of Wallis Lake.
“I began with an Atomic Hardz but the water was a lot clearer then where we were fishing the day before, so I had little to show for the first couple of hours,” Blaike said.
Swapping to a soft plastic Blaike used a wasabi coloured 75mm Squidgy Lobby rigged on a 1/20oz Atomic Seekerz jighead cast up into the shallows and fished with a slow lift, drop, pause retrieve.
“The fish were very tentative picking the bait gently up off the bottom,” explained Blaike.
Going softly on them Blaike made long stealthy casts, aiming at areas where he saw bait movement, and in the sand pockets scattered amongst the weed. The approach produced a hand full of undersize fish, but it was Mark’s kicker fish that was the most memorable.
“We saw some bait flicker in the shallows so Mark threw straight in there and this fish nailed it,” said Blaike.
At the scales Mangold’s and Blaike’s bag weighed 2.84kg, delivering Blaike the event win and an ecstatic end to the 2011 season.
Heath’s assortment of tournament winning tackle included custom made Samurai rods, Shimano Symetre and Sedona reels, 3lb Sunline FC Sniper fluorocarbon for crankbaits, and 3lb Berkley Exceed Fireline and 3lb Berkley Vanish fluorocarbon leader for soft plastics.
The Daiwa BREAM Grand Final at Forster was the final chapter in the 2011 ABT BREAM season and for anglers attention now turns to the BREAM Classic events held over summer, and preparation for the 2012 tournament season.. Visit www.bream.com.au for all the latest tournament information and results.
Daiwa BREAM Grand Final Boater Results
|1||Russell BABEKUHL||NSW||15/15||8.84||BassCat Sabre boat, Mercury 115 Pro XS, Minn Kota 80lb Fortrex, Humminbird sounders|
|2||Tristan TAYLOR||QLD||15/15||8.57||Engel Fridge/Freezer|
|3||Steve GILL||NSW||15/15||8.2||Blue Eye Sunglasses|
|4||Dean GAMBLE||VIC||12/12||8||Blue Eye Sunglasses|
|5||Don JOHNSTON||WA||12/12||7.72||Blue Eye Sunglasses|
Daiwa BREAM Grand Final Non-Boater Results
|1||Heath BLAIKIE||NSW||10/10||6.58||Hobie Pro Angler kayak|
|2||Tim OLSEN||ACT||10/10||5.91||Daiwa Prize Pack|
|3||Dan STEAD||QLD||10/10||5.9||Engel Fridge/Freezer|
|4||Andrew DIBLEY||VIC||10/10||5.89||Lowrance HDS 5|
|5||Richard LINOSSI||VIC||10/10||5.43||Blue Eye Sunglasses|