2013 XXXX Gold Rocky Barra Bounty
  |  First Published: December 2013

The end of September welcomed the 13th Rocky Barra Bounty fished on the Fitzroy River in Central Queensland.

Organisers had good reason to be a bit nervous about whether competitors would find fish this year, given that the commercial netting sector has removed close to 150 tonnes since February, but despite large sections of the river holding few fish, competitors worked incredibly hard and managed to find good quality fish in pockets of the system.

It was going to be a big ask to repeat even the 2012 result of 669 barra tagged for that event, let alone the mind boggling 1210 barra of 2011, but when final numbers were tallied late on the Saturday afternoon, the total ticked over to another amazing 671 barra tagged and released for the event. On top of that, another record was set with no less than 167 king threadfin tagged and released during the event.

Stock predictions indicated we should have seen solid numbers of barra in the 700-900mm size class in the system, but fish in this size range were no where near as prevalent as they should have been. Fortunately good numbers of barra in the 500-650mm size class were still in the system and made up the majority of the catch across the event.

The really good news is that some large fish have survived and the event returned 7 barra over the magic metre mark, with the largest a ripper 1.19m ‘horse’ landed by Craig Griffith. There were also plenty of sad stories about the big ones that got away too.

The weather gods turned on a record hot spell for September as everyone who was here will remember, so conditions and water temperatures were right up for the event. After 11 hours on the water in sweltering conditions, competitors logging off at headquarters each afternoon were sunburnt and bedraggled and ready to rehydrate and crash early in preparation for another tilt the following day.

At the end of day one, the competition was very close, except that is for the eventual winners Steve Pil and Craig Griffith from Barra Jacks/EJ Todd Team who had 40 barra on the scoreboard, double the next best from husband and wife team of Todd and Jessica Van Den Heuval. Jess was however in the lead in the women’s section from Shelly Newton. Andrew Willcox had what looked like the biggest barra for the comp of 1010mm already on the board, which only fell late on the final morning to Craig’s 180mm longer fish.

The phones at headquarters on the morning of day two seemed a fair bit quieter than the previous morning and it looked like things were slowing down, but as the day went by, it was apparent that there was a steady stream of fish being caught rather than the pulses of the day before. When lures were retrieved for the final time at 5pm that afternoon, the second day total was just about the same as for day one. Organisers had hoped for a grand total of around 400-500 barra for the event, and it was already pretty clear that it was going to reach that target quite comfortably.

Steve and Craig added a further 22 barra to their first day tally, bringing it to an amazing and unassailable 62 fish after the second day on the water. The competition was now for the minor placings. The Van Den Heuval’s couldn’t maintain their day one success and struggled to find fish, which allowed Shelly Newton to close right up to Jess in the women’s division, with both ladies finishing day two with 10 fish each. It was going to be ‘on’ for the final session.

By the end of the second day, 52 of the 70 teams had boated at least one barra and were on the scoreboard.

For the first time, the scoreboard was live on the event website, enabling competitors and followers to keep abreast of who were catching what and exactly where the threats were coming from throughout the event. This was possible as a result of the IT skills of Stefan Sawynok and the exhausting efforts of Bill Sawynok and Wendy Parson at the event headquarters who answered the phones and punched the data without a break for the two and a half days of the event.

Once again the Rocky Barra Bounty has lifted the bar for fishing competitions and the challenge is now out there for others to follow.

Day three was all about who would take out the minor placings, who would win the ladies section, what would be the biggest fish for the event and what the final total would be compared to 2012.

The leaders, Barra Jacks/EJ Todd Team added another 10 fish to their already impressive tally, bringing it to an amazing 72 barra for the event and the title of 2013 XXXX Gold Rocky Barra Bounty Champion Team by a massive margin over the ever competitive Beer and Bundy Boys in second place.

Craig Griffith put more of the 72 fish team total on the board than team-mate Steve Pil, taking out the overall Individual Champion, with Shelly Newton finding enough fish during the last couple of hours of competition to edge out Jessica Van Den Heuvel for the Women’s Champion.

While the Rocky Barra Bounty has always been about the prestige of being crowned the best wild barra fisher, rather than winning large monetary value prizes, this year the event was able to distribute over $50,000 worth of prizes and goodies thanks to the support from the growing list of sponsors keen to be part of this benchmark setting event.

With XXXX Gold coming on board this year as naming sponsor, the major draw prize was four days on the legendary XXXX Island for four people. When the time came for the draw at the end of a great presentation night, the well-hydrated and happy crowd fell almost silent. The numbered ball fell out of the container and the number was checked against the team list.

The room erupted when the lucky winners were announced as the boys from team Salty Dogs, Richard Hughes from Emu Park and Jason Maupin from Karratha in Western Australia. There were scores of immediate offers from other competitors to make up the remaining two places as you’d expect, but the boys will no doubt have a couple of very lucky mates who they’ll take along on the trip.

The full scoreboard of the results is on the website rockybarrabounty.com.au along with all the other information and images from the event. Bring on 2014! – Kim Martin

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