The Berkley Challenge was an innovative, head-to-head style bream tournament with anglers being drawn against each other and despite losing eight anglers in the preceding days due to car blow ups, outboard blow ups and the odd wife blow up, 30 anglers started on day one, cut to 16 on day two and finally down to an intrepid eight for the third and final day.
There was a fascinating mix of tactics with some anglers playing the man, some playing the waterway and a few playing themselves!
As the competition progressed Sydney Harbour certainly delivered with nearly all anglers getting a five bag with a few upgrades along the way and the great conditions saw a sunrise start each morning.
It was, however, the outcome of the third and final day that would provide the answer to the all important question – who would take away first place and the $4000 cash?
With tactics key to success would it be the big bream bashers, the consistent collectors or the quietly confident? And for one of the most successful “quietly confident” BETS anglers there was only really one person to look to.
BETS regular Mark Healey passed the two cut days barely raising an eyebrow. His Day One and Two bags quietly surpassed his opponents, often overshadowed by some cracking 4kg+ bags that grabbed the attention.
Danger was lurking for the other anglers however as Mark is renowned for managing his spots and come the final day where other anglers had harvested their best fish Mark had a range of spots ready to produce.
And produce they did with Mark accumulating his fish using a range of techniques in different types of terrain. With a bag secure the search was on for the bigger fish and it was here the star of the show revealed itself. Fishing an Olive Cranka Crab with an S-Factor concoction injected into the scent chamber of the crab the lure was pitched in to the base of structure. A subtle take and a rapid wind to the boat gave little indication of the mayhem to come when Mark’s “just legal” fish woke up close to the boat and stormed off back into structure peeling off line as it went.
After a bit of to and fro, the fish was finally in the net and not only the star of the bag it was the star of the show, measuring over 43cm to the fork and weighing in at 1.94kg, it was a fish that contributed to the 4.47kg bag and earned Mark the win in the inaugural Berkley Challenge and the $4000 Cash Prize. It also earned Mark the $200 Big Bream Award.
Just pipped to the post was another angler with a cracking fish. Richard Potter had prepared to go home after missing out on a Day Two five bag but when pair Josh Batterson returned with a solitary fish his plans for a Sunday bike ride went out the window.
After struggling to find quality fish in the preceding days Sunday was to be Richard’s day and another cracking bream at 1.75kg took him oh-so-close to the winner’s bag. Rueing a lost big fish metres from the finish the weighed bag was still a belter at 4.32kg and secured Second Place and $2000.
While some anglers put it all on the line for a big bag some chose the consistent approach, aiming for a solid bag each day and allowing what would be to be.
Pete Cook was one such angler who found a consistent deep bite and slowly but surely reaped the reward. With around 3.5kg each day the bags were not only enough to progress through each day but enough to secure the third and final payout.
Earning Pete $1000 it was a fine effort and fishing from a small tinny showed success didn’t necessarily depend on big glass and big horsepower. - The BETS TeamReads: 858