Mackay Area Fish Stocking Association (MAFSA) successfully hosted the M Group Tyre and Mechanical 9th World Sooty Championship on Eungella dam on 3-4 May with a full complement of 100 anglers participating. The event is a major fund raiser for MAFSA, and attracts anglers from far and wide.
The tournament is held over 3 sessions starting 1:30PM Saturday and despite very blustery windy conditions, Dean Coghill chose not to work the timbered areas, but instead worked the banks opposite the camp ground and presented 2 sooties to the weigh master within 15 minutes. Dean kept returning to the same area and managed 10 sooties for the afternoon session.
As the session closed, all boats returned to log off and present fish for measuring (the Championship is decided on a length overall (LOA) measurement calculated at 1 point per mm, and the 2 best fish for the session are scored to determine the champion angler). A total of 76 fish come in despite the challenging conditions, with fish being caught both in the timber and around the lake margins.
The previous largest sooty record of 487mm was shattered with Daniel Grech presenting a 495mm LOA fish to take the best fish for the session. Steve Lill was the session winner with 945 points and runner-up was Geoff Busbridge with 901 points.
Sunday morning dawned chilly and windy. The overnight wind change was not conducive to good fishing and anglers had to work hard during the 6:30-10:30 session. Interest was again on the points.
At the end of the weigh-in, Roderick Walmsley from Gladstone arrived with a new record that measured 510mm. With a back-up fish of 489mm, he won the session win with 999 points – another record for the tournament. He was also in the lead overall, with a 2 session total of 1869 points.
The final session got underway at 1:30 and blustery conditions chopped up the surface and made fishing difficult under electric power. Only 54 fish were presented. ‘Mule’ Parmenter won the best fish of the session with a beaut 490mm fish, while the final session was won by Nicholas Moore with 898 points and runner-up was the consistent Roderick Walmsley at 897.
Roderick Walmsley was awarded the M Group Tyre and Mechanical World Sooty Championship Champion Angler by GM Barry Vella, along with the Best Fish award.
The full results can be seen on MAFSA Facebook.
I hadn’t fished the dam before, and my fishing partner Ben Biggs and I were keen to see it and get a feel for its layout.
During the pre-fish we found several areas that held fish and also found a standout lure: the Imakatsu Piranha Vibe 60 in the loud full tungsten rattle version. The rest of our gear consisted of the new Gary Loomis Edge MB 664, a 6’6 baitcaster that is extremely sensitive and ultra light. The sensitivity allowed us to feel the instant the lure picked up a bit of weed. I was using a Daiwa Alphas and Benny was casting a Daiwa Steez, both spooled with Toray Jigging braid in 20lb, with 20lb Toray super Hard Natural leader. This probably sounds a bit heavy but the fine diameter of braid and leader made casting easy with very little wind effect.
We drove directly to one of the areas that had held a lot of fish. Several other boats had the same idea, and after 20 minutes of peppering the trees none of us had had a bite. We pulled the pin and went to our go-to spot, casting the . Piranha 60 to the edge of the weed beds and steadily cranking it out. We both put two fish in the well in less than 45 minutes and immediately left the bank. We didn’t want to overfish it.
We headed off to another likely looking bank with a good weed edge which delivered a decent upgrade for me and a 40cm fish for Benny.
We drove straight to our go-to bay and again had it all to ourselves. We filled our bag casting the Piranhas and the average fish size was larger. A few other boats moved into the bay and it looked like the strong westerly wasn’t helping things in the main basin.
We headed back to the point that had produced the upgrade the session before and it did the same again. I pinned a very good upgrade. We didn’t want to catch any more fish as we wanted to give ourselves a fighting chance in the historically tough final session, so we headed in early. We measured our fish and discovered that one was over 50cm –the biggest ever weighed in the event. We then replaced our leaders were once again, and inspected our lures and hooks checked. We didn’t want to leave anything to chance.
We left in the second last group of boats and when we arrived we found another boat sitting on our bank. What to do? I decided to leave the bank to him as he was there first, and I drove to the opposite bank which we hadn’t been on since pre-fish. Karma was with us as I hooked a fish on the very first cast! I soon filled my bag, and after getting a good upgrade gave the front of the boat up to Benny to see if he could get his bag filled.
Once again all our fish were caught on the Piranhas. This time we used a faster retrieve and relied on a reaction bite. We did mix it up in the session with several other lures to try to show the fish something different, but the Piranha kept getting the bites.
With 5 minutes to go Benny dropped a good fish trying to keep it away from the weed, the only fish he lost all comp, which was real blow.
We headed back to the weigh in. The two fish in the well were enough to consolidate my win. Benny ended up with a very credible 7th place, and we both took home a few great prizes.
Key to our success was the productive pre fish. We relied heavily on my Humminbird 898 Side Imaging sounder to locate the fish-holding structure. The key to picking the right weed was bait. If you could make out patches of bait on the edge of the weed then the sooties weren’t far behind.
Secondly I had mounted a Humminbird 698 SI DI unit on the bow to give me Side Imaging and Down Imaging as an option on the bow rather than just having standard sonar. This game me a better view as to what I was casting at, giving me an edge over my competitors.
The smaller, isolated clumps of weed seemed to hold most of the fish and we moved fast under electric power till we marked these sparse areas and then slowed down and fished them thoroughly. Once we landed a fish we used the iPilot’s ‘Spot Lock’ to anchor us, ensuring that the strong winds didn’t push the boat over the areas we wanted to fish.
I would just like to say a big thank you to all the organisers of the World Sooty Grunter Championships. It was a great experience and I’ll be back next year.