Russell BBQs the opposition
  |  First Published: March 2008

Anglers experienced one of their toughest challenges to date, with the Manning River producing flood like conditions for the opening Super Series event of the year – the Berkley Manning River BREAM Challenge.

A swollen mud coloured river tested anglers adaptability and mental toughest with one angler mastering the conditions to secure his first victory on the BREAM tour.

For event winner, Russell Babekuhl, it was a fairy tale victory. Climbing from fourth position on the first day to second on the second day, and then ascending to the number one spot on the final session. Living in the shadow of many of his Team Berkley stable-mates, Babekuhl showed that he had the ability to beat anyone on tour. He compiled 15/15 fish and 8.53kg total limit to become only the fifth person to claim a $10,000 Super Series prize winner cheque.

Fishing the Scotts Creek region of the Manning River system for the duration of the tournament, Babekuhl targeted fish holding on the mangrove edges behind the flooded oyster racks. He used a cut down 3” Berkley Gulp Craw camo colour rigged snagless on a modified 1/50oz Nitro Torpedo jighead.

“I shortened the tail of the craw to minimize short strikes and trimmed the tip of the lead on the jighead to lighten the whole rig even more”, explained Babekuhl.

The end result was an ultra light compact plastic that Babekuhl could fish slow and methodical, tight into the mangroves where the fish were holding. Hanging wide of the bank to reduce the likelihood of spooking fish, he would then make a long presentation up into the shallows landing his offering tight to the mangrove fringe.

“It was crucial to get the lure as close to the bank as possible”, said Russell.

Once the lure was there he would let the lure sit for a couple of seconds before giving the lure a shake, all the while conscious of not moving the lure out of the strike zone. He followed this with a series of slight hopes interspersed with the all important pause.

“Most of the takes came in the first few inches of the edges so it was important to maximise the lures time in the strike zone and not work it back to the boat too quickly”, he added.

Once the lure was 3m out from the edge, Babekuhl would crank the lure back in and start the whole process again.

The approach proved effective, delivering upgrades each day and his kicker fish on the third and final day. Wrestled from the mangrove strewn shoreline, the 1.23kg specimen opened his account on the final day and added another $500 to his prize purse as the tournament’s Go-So Big Bream.

Babekuhl opted for two complementing outfits during the tournament; a lighter more finesse style set-up for filling his well, and a slightly heavier outfit when targeting upgrades. The former of the two comprising of a 6’10”, 2-4kg Berkley Pro Tactic rod, ABU Cardinal 801 reel, spooled with 2lb Stren, and fished right through to the jighead. The heavier upgrade outfit featured a 7’, 2-5kg Berkley Pro Tactic rod, ABU Cardinal 801 reel, spooled with 4lb Stren Microfuse and a 4lb Berkley Vanish leader.

Babekuhl’s assortment of tackle didn’t stop there with the Super Series champ liberally applying Gulp Alive scent on just about every cast.

“I went through two bottles of the spray over the weekend, it was a must when it came to maximizing the presentation of the lure in the water”, Babekuhl said.

His rewards for the weekend didn’t stop with the winner and big bream cheque. The newly crowned winner added another $250 to his pocket by securing the Mercury bonus as the highest placed Mercury user.

As one of the young guns on the tour, Babekuhls’ Manning River victory is sure to become the first of many.

Second place

Not to be over shadowed during the tournament was unknown tournament angler David Gibson of Sydney. He produced his best tournament result to date and secured second place and $5000. Compiling 12/15 fish and 7.48kg total limit for the event, Gibson spent the duration of the tournament fishing an 8ft deep rock wall at Harrington, located in the lower reaches of the Manning.

Buffeted by the constantly ebbing flooded waters, Gibson worked the wall with a deep crankbait presentation, searching out his fish in the murky waters.

“A crankbait seemed like a logical choice in the cloudy and brown water, with its noise and vibration hopefully making it easier for the fish to find than a soft plastic”, said Gibson.

The choice of lure proved spot on, delivering fish each day including a 42cm P.B. during the Thursday prefish.

The presentation of the lure involved Gibson working his way along the wall casting the lure parallel before retrieving it back to the boat with a slow rolling retrieve interspersed with an occasional pause.

“The key was to get the lure tight to edge of the wall and work it back bumping it over the rocks”, explained Gibson.

This proved vital for success with the majority of the hits, and the fish came when the lure was at its closest to the edge of the rock wall. The lure that Gibson chose for the job was the ever-popular deep diving Jackall Chubby in a matt/yellow/brown colour – a colour that Gibson regretfully informs is no longer able to get.

The remainder of his tackle included a 6’9” Daiwa Battler Kingbolt rod, matched to a 2000 sized Daiwa Caldia Kix reel spooled with 4lb Platypus braid and 8lb Yamatoyo Rockfish fluorocarbon leader. Like all good crankbait anglers, Gibson studiously replaced trebles on his lure each day and sweetened his offering with the addition of CLF Dizzy Scent.

Post event, Gibson was acknowledging of his keys to success for the event and was openly praising of them.

“The colour changes were hot spots for fish, definitely producing the majority of fish, and the bigger ones as well. The other was my non-boater on day two, Nick Lototzky; he definitely helped lift my spirits with his enthusiasm. That was something I needed after the disappointment of only two fish on day one”.

Heading into the final day Gibson had only one goal he wanted to achieve – to hold onto fifth place and secure a berth into the BREAM Grand Final. He did that and more, producing the biggest limit for the tournament and steam rolling into second place. If he had a more productive day one it may have been a true fairy tale finish.

Non boater champ

Claiming the title of champion non-boater for the event was 52-year-old Blue Mountains resident Phil Nix. Partnered with Darryn Love on day one and Craig Simmons on day two, Phil spent his tournament, like many, fishing the mangrove fringes in the upper reaches of Scotts Creek.

Opting for a crankbait presentation in the murky water, Nix presented his shallow running Jackall Chubby tight to the edges before twitching the lure a couple of times then beginning a slow retrieve back to the rod tip.

“The hits were hard and in most cases came with the first couple of turns of the reel handle”, said Nix.

The approach proved productive for Nix delivering him 8/10 fish and a 3.43kg limit – a tournament bag that eclipsed many seasoned and highly regarded boaters.

“Getting the lure deep back into the mangroves where the fish were feeding was vital to get the hits. If you were half a foot off the mark you missed out completely”, said Nix.

Nix’s choice of tackle included a G.Loomis 842 rod, 2000 Daiwa Sol reel, spooled with 4lb Berkley Crystal Fireline and 6lb Sunline FC fluorocarbon leader. His choice of colour for his Jackall Chubby was a gold version on day one and the ever-popular ayu on day two.

The newly added Daiwa Sponsors Bonus received strong support through the tournament, with the easily distinguishable orange Daiwa cap littered throughout the field. Taree local Daniel Brown claimed the bonus prize for the tournament on day one, being the first angler back to the weigh-in wearing his orange cap. The battle to claim the prize is sure to heat up as more anglers receive their cap as part of their 2008 membership renewal pack.

The next round of the Ford Ranger BREAM Series sees the tour head to St Helens for the opening round of the Tasmanian leg of the Series. For more information on the event or any of the series visit www.bream.com.au or phone ABT (07) 3268 7958.



1Russell BABEKUHL NSW15 8.53 $10,000+$500BB+$250M+$50 MRM
2 David GIBSON NSW 12 7.48 $5000 + $50 MRM tackle voucher
3 Andrew HOWARD NSW 13 7.03 $3000+ $50 MRM tackle voucher
4 Tim MORGAN QLD 12 6.95 $2000+ $50 MRM tackle voucher
5 Scott TOWNER NSW 13 6.41 $1000+ $50 MRM tackle voucher
6 Nigel WEBSTER QLD 11 6.16 $900+ $50 Port Macquarie Tackle voucher
7 Kristoffer HICKSON NSW 13 6.06 $800+ $50 Port Macquarie Tackle voucher
8 Darren SECKOLD NSW 9 4.97 $700+ $50 Port Macquarie Tackle voucher
9 Michael COLLINS NSW 10 4.55 $600+ $50 Port Macquarie Tackle voucher
10 Martin RICHARDSON NSW 7 3.86 $500+ $50 Port Macquarie Tackle voucher



1Philip NIX NSW 8 3.43 Engel Fridge+prizes+Berkley Pack+$50 MRM
2Michael COLLINS QLD 6 3.23 JW Electric+Shimano reel+Berkley Pack + $50 MRM
3Cameron BALL QLD 5 3.05 Berkley Dropshot+Cardinal reel+Prize+Berkley Pack+$50 MRM
4 Brad GOYEN NSW 5 2.77 Berkley Dropshot+Tica reel+prizes+Berkley Pack+$50 MRM
5 Roy HILLS NSW 4 1.88 Daiwa Tierra rod+Pflueger reel+prizes+Berkley Pack+$50 MRM
6 Dean NASH NSW 4 1.59 Spotters sunglasses+prizes+Berkley Pack+$50PM
7 Karen FONTAINE NSW 3 1.59 Shimano Starlo Stix+prizes+Berkley Pack+$50PM
8 Trent MANDER QLD 3 1.58 Shimano Starlo Stix+prizes+Berkley Pack+$50PM
9 Trent FAHEY NSW 2 1.48 Uglyfish Sunglasses+prizes+Berkley Pack+$50PM
10 Arthur HATZIPETROW Qld 3 1.44 Uglyfish Sunglasses+prizes+Berkley Pack+$50PM

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