Phelps Gets Jiggy At Toray BASS Pro Grand Final
  |  First Published: December 2015

Peter Phelps (6/6, 7.61kg) has added his name to the select group of anglers who have won an ABT Bass Pro Grand Final. Lake Glenbawn NSW, was the happy hunting ground where Phelps overcame Australia’s best bass anglers to secure the victory. Using all his experience Phelps keyed into a pattern during the pre-fish, and presented a lure that has, until now, been largely synonymous with largemouth and smallmouth bass fishing in the USA.

In the first session Phelps, a 30 y/o Operator at Liddell power station, quickly compiled a small limit of around 1.2kg in 20 minutes using a Bassman Shorty Spinnerbait and Mumbler over shallow weed and timber. After losing another 4-5 fish on reaction lures he then picked up the jig at 8am looking for upgrades. After almost 3 hours of fishing with no result Phelps started to think he had made a bad decision. The sun came out and the water glassed out. “I did one last run over a wall that delivered me two fish for 2.5kg in the last 20 minutes, which had me sitting in 4th after the first session,” explained Phelps.

At the start of session two Phelps was confident that his jig presentation was going to pay dividends, “I knew the jig was going to work better in the afternoon. The water was glassy, which allowed me to fish methodically and I felt the heat of the afternoon would drive the fish tighter to cover. I did a pass over the stretch where I caught my session one limit for no bites. I then jumped between rock walls. Three casts later I boated my biggest fish for the tournament. The bites then started to flow; I caught one every 30 minutes. Ultimately my first two fish were my biggest, weighing 2.7kg and elevated me to second place.

In the third and final session Phelps dispensed with the reaction lures and focussed on using his jig presentation to get fish. The wind, which had strengthened made things difficult.

“Around 9am I had only managed 2-3 little taps again on the jig. All of my spots had been hammered and finding fresh fish was hard. I came out to the very start of the 8 knot zone and fished a stretch thinking the location might be protected from the wind. However the wind started curling around the wall and pushing straight in my face. I was unable to really hop the jig and ended up dragging it rod tip down parallel to the bank in deeper water than I had been fishing (around 25ft). I felt a bite, and let it fall again and he came back and loaded up giving me my first keeper.”

“At around 11am, relying on past experience I went to one spot that could hold a fish thinking no one would have fished it much. I came down the dam to a slow tapering bank with a good weed bed and 5-6 isolated trees right on the edge of the weed.”

“I targeted the tree bases throwing multiple casts at each. With minutes to go I warned my non-boater Dayne Taylor to get ready to go. I fished the front side of a tree and as the boat went past I started casting to the next one. When I looked behind I saw the shade cast by the tree and threw in. The cast was almost straight down beside the boat. I hopped the jig once and felt weight. The next part was a blur. All I remember at the death was high-fiving Dayne as he yelled, “Drive!” and sorted my rods and fish out for me!”

The rock walls of Lake Glenbawn provided the bulk of Phelps’ fish with five of six coming off rock walls in the 8 knot zone. The sixth came off a weed edge at the base of a tree in around 12ft of water. The rock walls provide the fish with an uneven bottom and ample structure to hold off. The steepness of the walls provide depth for the bass to move up and down with changing moods and weather conditions. Most fish ate the jig in the 10-15 ft range.

The lure that Phelps used to great advantage was a skirted jig and craw trailer that mimicked native crustaceans. Practising with this lure presentation and understanding how to naturally present the lure was key to getting the bass to react. Phelps shares his experience, “All of my limits were weighed on the skirted jig and craw trailer. I cast tight to the edge and because of the steepness of the banks fished I gave the jig the smallest hops possible trying not to let the jig fall more than one foot at a time. I would pause it for a second, then hop it again. I would fish the lure down the slope to around 15- 20 feet deep before quickly winding in and firing out the next cast. Most fish ate it on the drop.”

The lure was a Peppers Custom Finesse football jig in blue/black and a Bassman Jig (custom and yet to be released) in Colour 051, both weighing 3/8oz. On the Peppers jig I would rig a Berkley 3” Chigger craw in black/blue and on the Bassman jig a 3” Gulp Crabbie in camo colour. I trimmed the skirts slightly to give a jagged edge and smaller profile and trimmed the plastics to suit and match the jig size.”

“Having good mates Mitchell Cone right beside me and Tom Slater right behind him kept my head in the game during the whole tournament, because I felt if I fell short one of them would win – which to me is just as good as winning.”

Hickson’s Almost Steals Top Spot

Kristoffer Hickson, a 29 y/o tackle manager at Manning River Marine pushed Phelps all the way, falling only 30g short of securing a Grand Final victory. Hickson, long recognised as one of the most consistent bream anglers on the ABT circuit, showcased his versatility, and went within a whisker of simultaneously holding both bream and bass Grand Final titles!

Hickson targeted banks from the top of the main basin all the way to the 8 knot zone, and caught fish on most of them with the two best banks located on the outside of pump house bay and a bay just short of the 8 knot zone. The first session started slow for Hickson as he threw topwater and jerkbaits for the first hour with no result. A change to a Jackall TN60 saw the first solid legal fish hit the deck. Hitting a number of locations with the same presentation saw Hickson fill his bag with smaller fish. In the last hour a move to a productive pre-fish bank saw a solid upgrade fall to an Imakatsu Alive chatter.

In the second session conditions became more challenging. Wanting to keep his key locations rested in case the fishing became tough he considered other options. Hickson shares his second session thoughts and approach, “ I saw a few ski boats on the outside of a bay at the top of the basin and thought that was the best chance I had of finding some stirred up water where the bass should have been confident to feed in. It was a bank I had done well on in the past with weed, deep water and trees, plus the dirty water. Throwing the Alive Chatter, it was only a couple of minutes before I got my first fish for the session and in the next 45 minutes I had landed 8 fish with a few upgrades.”

The final session wasn’t a problem for Hickson. He returned to a bay where he had located bigger fish during the pre-fish, “I had a plan to fish tight to the edge for big fish for the first hour then move out to the weed edges and pockets after that. I went back over the same bank as I planned and then to the edge of the weed for one good upgrade. With an hour to go I decided to go back to where I got fish at the start of the second session and after 6 or so more fish I got a 41cm on my last cast.”

The technique that produced the best results for Hickson was slow rolling the Imakatsu Alive chatter over from the bank over the weeds, dropping it into the gaps and rolling it back out. Once that area was covered he would cast parallel to the outside edge of the weed, sink it to the bottom then slow roll it back with pauses keeping it close to the bottom and in and out of the weed.

Lures used included a Jackall TN60 in brown dog colour, TT's Jig Spinner sporting a 1/4oz #1/0 HeadlockZ Jighead and a 2.5" Z-man Slim SwimZ in smoke hologram colour and a Imakatsu Alive Chatter. Hickson alternated between baitcast and spin outfits depending on lure presentation. For the Jackall TN60 Hickson used a Daiwa Black Label 6101MXB paired with a Daiwa T3 1016 reel with SV spool and spooled with 12lb flurocarbon fished straight through. For the Jig Spinner and Alive chatter Hickson used a Daiwa Gen black Trauma centre paired with a Daiwa 2500 Caldia reel spooled with 8lb Daiwa J Braid and 10lb Gamma leader.

Hicksons final thoughts on the 2015 Toray Bass Pro Grand Final, “I think the key to this tournament for me was being able to find fish that were catchable in any situation. This gave me confidence in what I was doing, especially when it came to honing in on where the bigger fish were, determining what they were eating and choosing the right lure for the situation.”

Falkenhagen Completes The Double

Shaun Falkenhagen, a 31 y/o Technical Manager at Holcim went back to back, adding the 2015 Non-Boater Champion title to his illustrious tournament resume that included the 2014 Non-Boater Champion title and 2010 Electric Convention title. With a skill set the envy of many boaters across the ABT tournament circuit, Falkenhagen again showed that when the chips are down he can never be discounted.

In session one Falkenhagen headed to the middle stretches of the dam. Using a Z-man soft plastic, the first two casts yielded his tournament limit. It was an auspicious start and a sign of things to come. Session two saw Falkenhagen start in the 8 knot area where both anglers caught their limit within the first hour on soft plastics. A move to steeper timer banks yielded seven upgrades using lipless crankbaits.

Session three saw Falkenhagen paired with Paul Gillespie. The anglers headed to the main basin rock walls. Using a 5/8oz spinnerbait in 20-25ft, Falkenhagen would make long casts then sink the spinnerbait to the bottom while employing a slow retrieve. In all twelve fish were boated for the session including 3-4 upgrades.

Falkenhagen discusses the locations and presentation of the lures used, “Weed edges were targeted with soft plastics, with most fish coming out of water less than 6ft in depth. Lipless crankbaits were fished in the tops of the trees. After casting, I would count the lure down to 10 and then slow roll the lure back. Finally spinnerbaits were used along the deeper rock walls in the main basin; the technique involved sinking the lure to the bottom in 15-20ft with a slow retrieve. Long casts were important in the clear water.”

Falkenhagen’s lures included a Z-man slim swim soft plastic in watermelon red, slightly cut down on a ¼oz painted impact tackle jighead, Silent Jackal TN60 in shad colour and a modified Impact Tackle 5/8 spinnerbait in smoke yellow core colour. “I altered this spinnerbait to have a single willow to help keep the lure stay deep in the clear water,” explained Falkenhagen.

Falkenhagen’s tackle outfits were rotated depending on the lure used. For soft plastics the outfit included a BarraBass IP901 rod paired with a Daiwa Certate 1000 reel spooled with 6.5lb Toray Light Fish PE and 6lb Toray LEX leader. For lipless crankbaits; BarraBass REV702 rod teamed with a Daiwa Alphas reel spooled with Toray 13lb Jigging PE & 10lb Toray Superhard Leader. Finally for spinnerbaits, a BarraBass XSB610 rod matched with a Daiwa Sol 1500 reel spooled with 12lb Toray SeaBass Power Game and 8lb Toray Superhard leader.

“Thanks to ABT and my boaters for the weekend. Also thanks to my sponsors Fishtec Solutions, Stomr Rain Gear and BarraBass Rods for their continued help and support”.


Winning Ways

I would say it was a combination of everything. My years of experience fishing Glenbawn give me a great understanding of the fish and how they behave. The lure was something completely different to what the pack were using, and I knew I could get big bites in the right locations.

Winning Tackle

Rod13 fishing 7'3" Medium Envy Black
Reel13 Concept C 8.1:1 bait cast reel
Line16lb Delux Amigo Braid
Leader10lb Gamma fluorocarbon

“The fast reel was used for winding quickly on a bass after it bit and getting the jig in quickly once I had finished a retrieve.”

BASS Pro: Toray BASS Pro Grand Final Boater Results

PlaceAnglerFishTotal Weight (kg)Prize
1:Peter PHELPS6/67.61Trip to the USA
2:Kristoffer HICKSON6/67.5813 Fishing Prize Pack
3:Tom SLATER6/67.4713 Fishing Prize Pack
4:Mitchell CONE6/67.17NS Black Hole rod
5:Greg BEATTIE6/67.17NS Black Hole rod
6:Tony THORLEY6/66.96
7:Anthony THORPE6/66.96
8:Mark LENNOX6/66.47
9:David YOUNG6/66.45
10:Grant CLEMENTS6/66.40

BASS Pro: Toray BASS Pro Grand Final Non-Boater Results

PlaceAnglerFishTotal Weight (kg)Prize
1:Shaun FALKENHAGEN6/66.16MotorGuide Xi5 electric motor
2:James HICKSON6/65.7313 Fishing Prize Pack
3:Cameron LEY6/65.6613 Fishing Prize Pack
4:Ryan JONES6/65.55NS Black Hole rod
5:Tony NEAL6/65.44NS Black Hole rod
6:James REID6/65.40
7:Luke DRAPER6/65.36
8:Warren HOWE6/65.05
9:Ben RANDELL4/64.55
10:Owen MCPAUL5/64.45

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