As day dawned on the Georges River with just a slight southwesterly wind and fine conditions, it was obvious that the fishing would be good in the first round of the NSW Berkley Summer Series.
Almost half of the 43 boat field presented the weighmaster with a full bag of five fish, but it was Team Barely Legal (with anything but barely legals) who finished the day on top.
Team Barely Legal, consisting of Chris Anagnostou and Steve Poulos, compiled a 5/5, 3.91kg limit to finish the day $1500 richer and a full 650g ahead of Team Cletus (Chris Cleaver and Zac Crombie) who walked away with $850 for their 3.26kg bag. Third place went to the Qld Fishing Monthly contingency of Steve Morgan and Simon Goldsmith, a mere 10g behind on 5/5, 3,25kg, the boys received a couple of fantastic Engel ice boxes for their efforts.
Equipped with Daiwa Heartland rods and Diawa Airity and Luvias reels rigged with 4lb Pink Fireline and 4-8lb leader, the Barely Legal lads targeted mangrove roots and weedbeds close to channels and drop-offs throughout the southeastern side of Botany Bay.
The boys started off early, flicking Sugoi poppers at the mangrove edges. With a couple of fish in the well and a couple of good fish lost (along with their poppers) they decided to cast Berkley Gulp 3" Smelt Minnows and Gulp 2" Natural Shrimps rigged on 1/24 Nitro jigheads to the edges of the weedbeds, letting them drift into the deeper water.
"The bite would come on the drop as the bait drifted past the weed and into the channel, resulting in another half dozen fish with a couple of good upgrades," Chris explained. "But the bite basically shut down after about 9.30 when the water flow slowed considerably."
Second-placed Team Cletus also fished mangrove roots in Botany Bay, but opted to get their kicker fish in the oyster racks of Wooloware Bay ("the nastier the better," said Cleaver). Using custom-built Hastings rods with Shimano Stella 1000 and Stradic 2500 reels spooled with 4lb Nitlon PE braid and 14lb Vanish leader, the boys cast their Ecogear SX40s and CK40s in colour 339 as tight to the racks as possible.
"I fished my lure between the rails and Zac fished the edge," said Cleaver. "Hooking up wasn't the problem, we had our limit in about 10 minutes."
Getting the bigger fish out, however, was a challenge.
"We lost no less than nine hard bodies to big fish,” Cleaver said. “I had to go to 17lb leader to land our last upgrade, which I hooked only a metre from the boat. I basically poled him into the net on pretty much the last cast."
It was that last cast that saw them edge out Team Fishing Monthly, who also opted to fish Ecogear SX40s to shallow feeding fish.
The BLA clothing Big Bream was a battle of the Steves. Steve Morgan held it early with a 0.91kg fish wrestled from the Cooks River, only to have it taken from him by Steve Pietraskawiecz with a lovely 0.98kg fish, but the honours finally went to Steve Poulos. His superb 1.11kg specimen fell to a Berkley Gulp 3" Smelt Minnow fished over a shallow weed bed.
The hard luck story for the event has to go to Team Samant Consulting (Bill Parasiris and Pourniotis). The boys had engine troubles and limped back to the weigh-in 20 minutes late, only to have their 5/5 3.66kg limit disqualified (under ABT time penalty rules). No doubt they will be back for revenge at the next round!
Mark and I would like to thank the following sponsors for their support: Berkley, Engel, Evinrude, BLA, BIAS Boating Warehouse, Skeeter Boats, Windsor Bait and Tackle, Gabe's Fishing and Boating and NSW Fishing Monthly.
Next issue we’ll be reporting on the second round of the NSW Berkley Summer Series, held on February 18 on the Hawkesbury River. For more information on the series log onto www.bream.com.au or contact Mark Mangold on 0419 212 553 or myself on 0412 254 098. - Scott Towner
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BLA Big Bream – Steve Poulos (Barely Legal): 1.11