For Willow Tree’s Mitchell Cone, October last year at Glenbawn was both a day of heartbreak and joy. Joy that his long-time friend and camping partner Peter Phelps had just punched his ticket to the USA as the 2015 ABT BASS Pro Grand Final winner, and heartbreak as he relinquished his overnight lead, struggling to find the big bites that had come so easily in sessions one and two.
Fast forward to March 2016, and Cone has taken one back, coming from second place to dethrone Phelps and claim his maiden ABT BASS Pro victory as champion of the BassCat Lake Glenbawn BASS Pro round. Weighing a full 12/12, 11.65kg limit in the new shared-weight format, Cone’s margin of victory was over 300g.
Cone rode the deep bite all the way to the top of the podium, by targeting fish staging in 45-55ft of water inside Glenbawn’s timber ridden main basin. Cone relied on the vertical presentation of a single tail grub plastic slowly wound off the bottom to trigger active fish to bite. A 2.25” Pontoon 21 Pillo Grub and a 3” Berkley Minnow Grub were his lures of choice, matched to Bassman jigheads in 1/4oz and 1/8oz.
Cone is a big believer in finding new fish for every session, especially after his fish eluded him in the final session of the 2015 BASS Pro Grand Final. Rather than staying stationary, Cone prefers to move very slowly along the depth line he is targeting, pitching his lure ahead of his boat 20-30ft and moving over the top of the lure by the time it has sunk to the bottom.
“I think finding fresh fish was the key this weekend,” said Cone. “I’ve been caught out in the past and even a few weeks ago trying to make fish bite, when I should have kept moving and found active fish.”
Contrary to the popular theory ‘fish light – get the bite,’ Cone prefers to fish heavier to ensure every bass he hooks has maximum chance of landing into the livewell.
“I don’t think you need to go down to 3-4lb leaders to make these fish bite. I think if you were sitting over the same fish constantly it may make a difference but with the way I fish, I’m constantly over new fish, so I prefer to fish heavier to make sure I don’t lose them in the trees.”
Cone’s preferred outfit for the technique is a Millerods Finesse Freak spin rod, paired with a small 1000 size Shimano Rarenium spinning reel.
“I like the smaller 1000 size reel because it forces me to slow down,” Cone said. He opts to spool the reel with 4lb Fireline Crystal braided line and finishes it with a 6lb Gamma fluorocarbon leader.
“The key is to find fish sitting close to the bottom in 45-55ft,” said Cone, adding that getting fish to follow his lure to the bottom was usually a good indication that the fish were active and he would be able to make them bite. The technique to turn follows into bites was fairly simple, a dead slow roll off the bottom, just fast enough to make the curl tail of the plastic swim.
“The Pillo Grub swims straight out of the packet,” Cone said. “It’s got a super thin tail and it works great, the Gulp on the other hand needs a bit of work.” Mitch trims his Gulp Minnow Grubs just behind the eyes, then thins the tail out by cutting a crescent moon shape out of the inside of the curl, this allows the plastic to swim at much slower speeds, which entices more bites.
Mitchell was a fan of the new shared-weight format, saying it was rewarding to share information with his non-boaters and together maximise their chance of the biggest bag possible. He credits his non-boaters Cameron Ley and Brenden Pieschel for their assistance over the weekend. Mitchell would like to thank Searing Tackle and McKnight Signs for their support.
2015 BASS Pro Grand Final champion Peter Phelps was relegated to runner-up position after taking the lead into the final session. For Phelps, second place was as good as a win, watching good friend Mitchell Cone take the title.
Capturing a full 12/12 limit for 11.34kg Phelps took home $1,100 and continued his unbelievable record in ABT events at Glenbawn, having finished 1st, 1st, 3rd, 4th, 1st and now a 2nd in his last six ABT BASS Pro outings on the dam.
Phelps employed the same pattern as event champion Mitchell Cone, targeting fish holding close to the bottom in 50ft of water. Again like Mitchell, Phelps chose to stay in the main basin where he found the majority of his fish.
“Most of the fish seemed to be in the basin in that 50ft depth, so I just knuckled down and focused all my attention there,” said Phelps.
He relied on a Berkley 3” Minnow Grub in black colour, paired with a black 1/4oz Bassman jighead, which he pitched ahead of the boat to try to maximise his chances of being bit on the drop.
“The idea behind pitching the lure ahead of the boat is to try and stop the lure spiralling as much as possible on the way down,” said Phelps. “The drag of the line on the surface pulling from the reel helps prevent the lure from spiralling. Combined with the shape of the Bassman head, it’s the perfect way to get bit on the drop.”
It also means Phelps is constantly presenting his lure to new fish, a trait he had in common with event winner Cone.
Phelps’ equipment consisted of a 2000 size Daiwa spinning reel, matched to a 13 Fishing ENVY Black 71LM rod. He spooled the reel with 8lb Amigo Plus braid and topped it with a long 6lb Gamma Fluorocarbon leader.
“I like a long leader length when I’m fishing like this,” Phelps explained, “I also like to colour the first 20ft or so of my braid from bright orange to black with a permanent marker, just to help it disappear.”
Phelps was paired with non-boater champion Joshua Higgs on day one, and fished with long time ABT BREAM Series non-boater Rebecca Fazio on day two. The new format is definitely indicative of the ‘Who Shares Wins’ motto of ABT, and Phelps proved that at the opening round by giving both his non-boaters a crash course in deep grubbing to help them all towards the biggest four fish bag possible each session.
“I definitely wouldn’t be in this position without the help of Rebecca and Joshua, and to see Josh come away with the win after our first day is just as rewarding for me as my second place finish,” said Phelps.
Joshua Higgs from Dubbo, NSW took out the non-boater title with the largest 12/12 fish limit of the whole tournament weighing an impressive 11.82kg. Fishing with Peter Phelps on day one and Brian Everingham on day two, Higgs knuckled down on the deep grub bite for the entire tournament to take home the win and an impressive bundle of swag courtesy of ABT sponsors.
“I had prepared to fish the deep grub bite coming down to Glenbawn, so I was ready when Peter and Brian said that would be our main tactic over the course of the weekend,” said Higgs. He used the ever-popular Berkley Minnow Grub (again in black) to catch fish between 45-65ft of water.
“I really committed to fishing vertical all weekend, and trying to get those fish to follow my grub to the bottom was the key, if I could do that, I knew I had a good chance of getting a bite.”
For Higgs, there was no better start to his ABT career, winning the first event he attended. With the win, Higgs secures himself a start in the BassCat BASS Pro Grand Final slated for 10-11 September.
Austackle Big Bass
Another ABT newcomer Tim Oakley bagged the Austackle Big Bass of the event with a 1.4kg brute. Oakley caught the Big Bass on a Berkley Minnow Grub rigged on a 1/4oz Bassman jighead in 50ft of water on a main basin rock wall. Oakley lent on the bass with a 13 Fishing ENVY Black 71LM rod paired with a Daiwa 2500 Freams. Oakley took home $500 cash for his efforts and ended the event in 10th place.
Rod: Millerod FinesseFreak
Reel: Shimano Rarenium 1000
Line: 4lb Fireline Crystal
Leader: 6lb Gamma Fluorocarbon Leader
Lure: Pontoon 21 Pillo Grub, Berkley Gulp Minnow Grub
Cone was always on the move, looking for active fish and fish that hadn’t been pressured. Slowly working along the 50ft contour line, Cone would pitch cast his plastic out in front of the boat allowing his boat to slowly move so that it was directly over his lure by the time it reached the bottom.
|5||Simon MARCHANT||11/12||9.76||$500+ Duffrods Big Bag|
|10||Tim OAKLEY||9/12||8.01||Austackle Big Bass $500 (1.4kg)|
|1||Joshua HIGGS||12/12||11.82||Bassman Prize Pack|
|2||Cameron LEY||12/12||10.95||Samurai Prize Pack|
|3||Paul ALDOUS||11/12||10.43||Spotters Prize Pack + OSP Rookie|
|4||Ben RANDELL||12/12||10.33||Spotters Prize Pack|
|5||Robert TILLEY||11/12||9.47||Berkley Prize Pack|
|6||Ryan JONES||11/12||9.46||Austackle Prize Pack|
|7||Brett HYDE||11/12||8.60||Prize Pack|
|8||Luke DRAPER||9/12||8.55||Prize Pack|
|9||Simon JOHNSON||10/12||8.05||Prize Pack|
|10||Brian BOCHOW||10/12||7.54||Prize Pack|