Each time I attend the Cod Classic I get a greater appreciation of what the iconic Murray cod means to our native fish anglers. A huge 2825 competitors converged on Lake Mulwala and the surrounding area to compete in this year’s Yamaha Cod Classic. All were hoping to catch themselves a fish (cod, golden perch or carp) and go into the running for $150,000 worth of prizes and the chance to catch Phil the $1,000,000 tagged cod.
Although the opportunity to fish Lake Mulwala and the Murray River below the lake for cod is a large draw card for anglers, the registration and expo area gave everyone the opportunity to check out the latest lures, spinnerbaits, rods, sunglasses, fly fishing gear, boats and kayaks available. With plenty of space to sit down, enjoy a quiet ale or two, a bit of food and hash-out a plan of attack, this sociable space was appreciated by all. The expo area was the biggest I have seen in the years I’ve attended the event, and it was great to see wholesalers, manufacturers and retailers all busy talking to competitors and giving them the lowdown on their products. The organising committee also arranged for people like Rod Mackenzie to give talks to competitors gifting them with expert insight to catch themselves a Murray cod.
Saturday saw the fishing begin in earnest, with an early 6:30am start. The format of the Cod Classic was that any legal fish gave you a chance of winning a Yamaha/Quintrex boating package. This competition was clearly not just about the fast boats and flash gear. I visited a number of the measuring stations around the lake and it was great to see fathers with their sons and daughters, families and mates all enjoying what the fishing had to offer. Catching fish wasn’t restricted to fishing from a boat either. Plenty of people set themselves up on their favourite piece of bank and managed to get themselves into one of the boat draws.
I was invited by the Wilson Fishing team to get out on the water for a few hours on Saturday. Stephen Booth and Anthony Pavlou won the Cod Nationals this year, and it was great to get their insight on fishing in the lake, as I had never done this before. It seems one of the keys to success is having an enormous amount of gear on board, but then buying cod fishing tackle is addictive – I should know! We started fishing in about 3m of water, casting spinnerbaits and hardbody lures at the numerous stumps and structure that Lake Mulwala is known for. The fishing was a little slow, with only a small fish falling to my Bassman spinnerbait. We then moved further up the lake and into shallower water. Boothy’s decision to change to his beloved purple StumpJumper (winky) was the turning point. Its legendary fish catching ability was once again on display as Boothy picked up a small cod.
With the amount of lures in the boat, changing things up to get a bite was always going to be the case. At one point Pav was throwing a large, imported swim-bait. It looked amazing in the water and it was obvious the fish liked it too. Cast at a laydown, a larger cod smashed it and within seconds was off. Not because it pulled the hooks, but because it broke the rear section off the lure. There is definitely something to buying lures designed and built for Australian fish. Although disappointed, Pav regrouped and got a nice 63cm fish on one of his own spinnerbaits. Thank you to the boys for getting me on the water.
Visiting the measuring stations provided a great insight into the fishing. Fish were caught using all manner of methods. Bardi grubs, worms, shrimp, chicken or cheese baits were the main options used by bait anglers with varying success. Trolling deep diving lures along the old river and creek beds and the buoy lines were a very popular method and proved to be effective during the early morning hours of each day.
Lure casters enjoyed plenty of success with spinnerbaits resulting in about 50% of the catch, with the remaining captures predominately coming on Australian made lures. As always, there were tales of the fish that got away, but the measuring stations were kept busy by plenty of happy anglers.
Steve Hobbs from Wantirna in Melbourne caught the biggest cod for the weekend at 115.5cm long. He was fishing with his mate Andrew Suttie from their 3m tinnie, nicknamed Eddie. Steve and Andrew are more often found fishing for trout, and this was their first time fishing the Cod Classic. After some early success on Saturday, the fishing slowed and they decided to head up the lake and try some new water. With the abundance of structure in the lake it wasn’t hard to find new submerged trees to cast at and they settled into an area with about 4m of water.
Not long after arriving Andrew noticed a disturbance in some shallower water and they headed towards it, casting at any stumps as they went. As they were moving along, both men cast to a particular tree and both almost immediately saw a big cod cruising near where they had cast. Steve’s lure was a little further away than Andrew’s and he was able to guide his spinnerbait in front of the fish, which it promptly ate. The fight was not without its dramas, with the fish wrapping itself around the electric motor and being too large for their net, so after some tense moments they eventually managed to get the fish into the boat and onto a Brag Mat. At 115.5cm, it was only Steve’s second ever cod. It will be a tough one to beat, but he reckons he is up for the challenge!
He caught the fish on a Gangster Mother Frogger lure in orange and black on a Shimano 10kg rod using 30lb braid. I think it will be pretty hard to go back to trout fishing after this fish!
The kayak section of the Cod Classic has become a very popular part of the event over the last couple of years. This year, the Rogers brothers, Matt and Ian took out 1st, 2nd and 3rd. Matt ‘Spider’ Rogers took out the event champion overall. He also caught one of the six metre plus fish caught during this years Cod Classic. Fishing from a Hobie Mirage Outback kayak, he caught the fish on Saturday afternoon using a purple Bassman spinnerbait. I can only imagine what hooking a 1.02m cod out of a kayak would be like, let alone getting it onto the kayak, so congratulations to Matt for an amazing capture.
Matt cast his Bassman spinnerbait using a Venom 2-4 PE Crankbait rod, using 50lb braid and 40lb leader. He and his brother got some quality fish over the weekend, showing that yak fishing for cod is well worth a try.
The Wilson Fishing Junior Cod Classic runs in conjunction with the main event. All junior anglers received a Wilson Fishing lure and a Bassman spinnerbait with their registration. Add to that the opportunity to win one of the many lucky door prizes or go into the junior prize boat draw
The junior champion angler was Thomas Clark who caught 5 cod with the average size of nearly 61cm. The longest cod was caught by Flynn Docking at 97cm. A fantastic catch by any standards.
Lake Mulwala would have been a much quieter place after 2pm on 6 December as all the various competitors headed home, seven of those with a new Quintrex/Yamaha boating package in tow. In total 1,673 legal fish were caught during the event, unfortunately Phil the $1,000,000 cod was not one of them. I am sure at some point during the event a lure or bait would have been somewhere near him. Maybe next year.
If you haven’t considered taking part in the Cod Classic, I recommend it. The reward is a really good weekend, with a great atmosphere, and the prospect of winning part of a $150,000 prize pool. I love the fact that it is not about catching the most fish or the biggest fish, it is simply to catch a fish. This means everybody has an equal chance.
Congratulations to Tony Bennett and his team for running a great event and I look forward to being involved in 2016.
|Friday entrants||Lachlan Spencer|
|Early entry||Linda Harding|
|Cod catch and release||Chris Addlington|
|Carp boat||Bruce Woodfall|
|Adult lucky door||Jason Tonna|
|Junior lucky door||Christopher Sviler|
Fish caught and winners
|European carp||570 (Approximately 750kg removed from the lake and given to Charlie Carp for processing)|
|Longest cod adult||Steve Hobbs,||115.5|
|Longest cod junior||Flynn Docking||97|
|Longest golden perch adult||Matthew King||60|
|Junior golden perch||Alex Hawke||49|
|Longest carp (open section)||David Taylor||90|
|Overall Junior Champion Angler||Thomas Clark|
Murray cod capture statistics
|Caught and released||869|
Most Productive Methods
|Unidentified bait or lure||482|
|Size (cm)||Number of fish|