Clarrie: Being there is good enough
  |  First Published: July 2012

Now in its 15th year, the Australian Bass Association’s Clarrie Hall Bass Classic isn’t much of a fishing competition, really.

The bass rarely reach trophy size and they almost invariably don’t choose to commit suicide in vast numbers. In fact quite often they can be cantankerous and unwilling to play at all for many anglers, even occasionally for some of the luminaries of the sport.

Nobody ever walks away from this comp with a new boat, a car or big cash, and if they happen to win anything at all it’s usually a modest trophy or simply getting their name engraved on a shield.

But for around 60 bass diehards from southern Queensland and northern NSW, the Clarrie Classic makes the May Day holiday weekend an essential date on the calendar, around which the rest of one’s yearly activities is organised.

It takes something really, really serious to happen in life not to make it to Clarrie for the Classic, and each year only a handful of new faces seem to mingle with the old hands. If somebody doesn’t show up, concerned fishos firstly inquire as to the absentee’s health.

Speaking of absentees, it was great to see Jesse Lomas, of early BREAM tournament fame, make a rare appearance after many years away in Sydney. He enjoyed his fishing with ABA patron Kevin Clark.

This weekend is one of the extremely rare times that the Tweed Shire Council permits overnight camping, for a capped number of people, at the park-like Crams Farm Day Area at the head of the dam.

It’s a payback for the Australian Bass Association’s dedication to stocking the dam, and quite a few others around the region.

Encircled by the World Heritage Mt Warning caldera, this has to be the prettiest impoundment in NSW, with thick rainforest and lush pasture running right down to the water.

The camping experience alone is worth the registration fee: A full moon mirrored in the lake; pre-dawn torchlight processions of climbers ascending nearby Mt Warning; 200m cataracts pouring off Mt Nardi after the 2011 deluge, and the boofs of surface-feeding bass echoing through the fog every morning. They’re all special parts of the Clarrie Classic experience.

The ABA also uses the Classic as a major fundraiser for its activities through the rest of the year, chiefly by raffling a swag of goods donated by major sponsors Engel, Jackall Bros Australia, Fishing Monthly Group and Warlock Lures, along with many others. Engel also donates financially to keep the stocking program and the association humming along.

Given the scheduling during the inevitably wet Autumn in the Border Ranges, Clarrie is always full and loaded with lilies and weed. This year the coon-tail weed seemed to dominate over the lily pads, restricting access to some of the smaller backwaters.

That didn’t worry the champion team of Rob Gaden and Brian Mac Farlane, and Rob also caught the longest fish in the comp for some years, at 442mm fork length. Bassmaster title winner was Rob ‘Rube’ Gaden Jnr for five fish totalling 1868mm.

They won their names on perpetual shields, joining such anglers as Harry Watson, Rod Harrison, Steve and Tim Morgan, Jamie and Steve Kanowski, Gary Prerost, Simon Goldsmith, Dave Irvine and Rob Blackeby, Phil Lomas and Graham Dodds.

It hurts a little that Queensland won the State of Origin contest – again! Heavily outnumbered, we Blues battle on each year but really no one seems to care too much, as long as a few fish get caught.

So why do the same old faces keep coming back? It’s certainly not for the fierce competition; that’s as laid-back as any comp with winners and losers could be. Maybe it’s the food – I seem to put on 2kg-3kg each weekend, thanks to the big roast dinner, the fried breakfasts and that sensational macadamia slice. Maybe it’s for the quality and quantity of the raffle prizes; I seem to always go home with a couple of bags of goodies and so do most other entrants.

Nope, it isn’t much of a competition at all – which is why everyone keeps coming back!

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