Bjelke-Petersen Dam, located near Murgon in Qld, has long been a favourite of bass anglers from around the country. BP, as it is affectionately known, has been rested as an Australian Bass Tournament venue for a number of years to give the budding stock of Australian bass and yellowbelly plenty of opportunity to grow and flourish. So it was with a little trepidation that anglers attended the Toray BASS Pro event on 29-30 August. Would the dam produce the number and quality of bass that were a hallmark of years past? Or would it react to the pressure of Australia’s best tournament anglers going full throttle in their quest for success? In hindsight, anglers needn’t have worried – the bass came to play and they left nothing in the tank.
Grant Clements (6/6, 8.63kg), a 32-year-old builder from Heddon Greta in NSW, stormed home in the last session to secure his maiden ABT victory at the Toray Bjelke-Petersen BASS Pro. Clements produced a consistent effort across the first two sessions, boating 2/2, 2.36 and 2/2, 2.38kg, which had him sitting in contention (fourth) as he headed out for the final session. It was very much ‘cometh the hour, cometh the man’ with Clements finding the fish in that last session to rocket up the leader board, eclipsing his nearest competitor by over a kilo and in the process securing the Austackle Big Bass (2.60kg) and Duffrods Big Bag (2/2, 3.89kg)!
Clements took the opportunity to pre-fish before the tournament as he had previously never fished at Bjelke-Petersen Dam. Unable to find schooling fish, he made a move to the edges. Finding only limited structure or featureless banks, Clements focussed on areas that had pelicans and birds chasing baitfish. In the end though opportunities were limited.
“I worked a lot of banks with only three really producing anything,” he said. “After five bumps and one legal bass I thought ‘man I am in trouble!’”
In the first session Clements headed to his first position, located at the back of the dam.
“The location was about 10-15ft in depth on the edge then dropped off quickly down to 28-35ft to an old creek bed,” Clements said. “I found that the fish were moving out of the deep and up into the shallows feeding. I positioned the boat in about 30ft of water and cast back to the edge.”
Clements and his non-boater employed different techniques to establish what presentations the bass would go for. The spinnerbait presentation received several bumps, which prompted Clements to change his plastic presentation. The change delivered immediate results.
“I changed my plastic to a 4” Berkley Gulp Jigging Grub in pepper prawn colour rigged on an Impact Tackle 1/2oz jighead, and that’s when things started moving,” he explained. “I landed two fish pretty quickly and spent the rest of the session upgrading.
“I moved between three banks I had found during the pre-fish, which all had the same setup with 10-15ft on the edge and a steep drop-off into an old creek bed. I caught fish at each location using the Jigging Grubs.”
A return to the same locations in session two saw Clements jump straight back on the horse, rotating through his selected banks with the same presentation. His efforts were rewarded with a tournament limit and multiple upgrades.
In the final session Clements’ objective was to replicate his Day 1 efforts and to pursue a top place finish. A return to his Day 1 money banks saw Clements fill his limit and then start to upgrade.
“I was finding the fishing a lot tougher on the Sunday morning with the water temp about 2.5°C warmer and the wind a lot stronger then the day before,” he said. “With an hour to go I went to one of the banks I had been working over the last two days. It was a bank that had a weed edge that came out about 2m from the edge with the water depth at 10ft, and slowly got deeper over about 30m. I noticed birds in the water pulling up to the bank, and using the sidescan and downscan on my Lowrance sounder – there were a lot of bait being balled up in the water in about 18ft – I noticed small dots underneath the bait which I thought may be bass.
“I pulled up and started casting at the bait balls, slow rolling the lure through them and hopping the Jigging Grub off the bottom. After about 15 casts and two hits I felt a thump. I instinctively loaded the rod and off it went with two or three massive runs following. I chased it with the electric until it came to the surface and I immediately knew it was the biggest bass I had caught, the bass that would win me the comp if I landed it! I netted it by myself (I didn’t have a non-boater for the final session) and let off a massive cheer, which just about everyone on the dam probably heard! I put the bass in the livewell and went back to the weigh-in with half an hour left – I didn’t want anything to go wrong with that fish!
“A big thanks to Fishtec solutions for their ongoing support, Ballina Marineland and to Adrian Melchior for lending me his boat!”
Michael Thompson (6/6, 7.50kg), finished runner-up at the Toray Bjelke Petersen BASS Pro. Thompson, a 32-year-old self employed concreter, quickly zoned into the predominant bite pattern and pushed the leaders all the way, only for Clements’ final session heroics to overtake him.
Thompson said it was hard work identifying the bite during the pre-fish.
“I started looking for schooled fish, but after about an hour I realised I could not get them to bite,” he said. “The majority of bass were sitting in 14-20ft of water, closer to the bank than where I was fishing. Using a spin rod I tied on an Imakatsu Piranha lipless crankbait and cast to the edge. As soon as it hit the water I gave it a little hop and started winding using a reasonably quick retrieve, and quickly hooked up to a kilo fish. Straightaway I worked out that the schooled fish weren't biting, and that the active ones were going to the bank to feed. Realising it would be an edge reaction bite saved me plenty of time and frustration.”
Thompson’s key location was a gentle tapered bank with timber in the area. Thompson targeted bass between 12-16ft around 15-20m from the bank, and used the Imakatsu Piranha lipless crankbait (colour 23) to catch his fish. With a bass caught first cast each session, and a tournament limit in the boat within the first five minutes of each session, the fishing was red hot on all fronts.
Thompson said he kept the boat in 12-16ft of water and cast within a couple of meters of the edge.
“As soon as the lure hit the water I gave one short hop and a reasonably quick retrieve,” he explained. “All the bites came halfway back to the boat in about 6-8ft.”
Thompson used a 7’2” 2-5kg custom Duff Rod paired with a Quantum EXO 25 spin reel spooled with 15lb Toray Seabass braid and 8lb Toray super hard leader.
Thompson said it was a combination of all of the above that helped with his success on the day.
“It was good to have quality gear I could rely on, supplied by my sponsors Duff Rods, Fish Tech Solutions and Warwick Outdoors and Sports and Basscat Australia,” he said. “Also a huge thanks to Sean Haynes for the loan of his Legend boat, as without it I could not have attended the comp as my new Basscat Cougar is still on its way!”
Ben Randall (6/6, 6.44kg) took out the non-boating division at the Toray Bjelke Petersen BASS Pro. Randall, a 29-year-old security guard, fished with event winner Grant Clements and local Trevor Stead.
Randall had the opportunity to pre-fish with Tony Thorley and Barry Reynolds, exploring the lower parts of the dam around the quarry, the dam edges and finally the timber. Randall found the going a little tough, boating two fish during the day.
During the tournament Randall focussed his efforts on the dam edges. The characteristics of the locations fished were similar: edges in 10-15ft, with weedy patches with the odd timber snag. The technique used was to slow roll the lures back to the boat. Randall used spinnerbaits in the morning, and then switched to plastics later on in the day.
Randall said during the first morning session he had his bag and a couple of upgrades within a couple of hours.
“Come the afternoon I found it a little more difficult to pick up my second fish, but with a little help from Grant we soon picked one up,” he said. “Come the second day I caught my first fish on the first cast! The bites continued and I had my first upgrade within 15 minutes of the start of the session.”
Randall’s key lures were Bassman Spinnerbaits Carl's Compact colour TW2, and a modified (approx.. 10mm cut off) Berkley 4” Gulp Jigging Grub in pepper prawn rigged on a 3/0 size 3/8oz TT’s jighead. The lures were fished on two different outfits. For the spinnerbait, a Pagotto custom rods 3-6kg, Daiwa Type R Tatula baitcast reel, 15lb Shimano Powerpro braid and 14lb Sunline leader. For the plastic lure, a G. Loomis Dropshot 2-4kg rod, Daiwa 2506 Luvias, 10lb Shimano Powerpro braid and 8lb Daiwa leader. – ABT
Clements attributes the use of a subtle, plastic lure presentation and selection of locations that continually replenished as keys to his victory.
|Rod||Edge rod 703 4-12lb|
|Reel||Daiwa Certate 2500 reel|
|Line||10lb Toray Super Strong PE|
|Leader||Toray super hard spinning fluorocarbon leader|
|Lure||Berkley 4” Gulp Jigging Grub in pepper prawn colour rigged on an Impact Tackle 1/2oz jighead|
Austackle Big Bass
Clements cashed in during the final session with his 2.60kg bass claiming the event Austackle Big Bass.
ABT BASS Pro Series: Toray BASS Pro Boater Results
|1||Grant CLEMENTS||6/6||8.63||$1800 + prize pack|
ABT BASS Pro Series: Toray BASS Pro Non-Boater Results
|1||Ben RANDALL||6/6||6.44||Prize Pack|
|2||James REID||5/6||5.84||Prize Pack|
|3||Owen MCPAUL||4/6||4.81||Prize Pack|
|4||Peter MORGAN||4/6||4.27||Prize Pack|
|5||Marnie WATSON||3/6||2.94||Prize Pack|