The weekend of the 19 and 20 March saw 37 teams head to Warrnambool on the Hopkins River for the Shimano BCF Bream Classic. This was the first time the Atomic Vic Bream Classic Series had headed to the Hopkins in March, and all anglers were very eager to see what kind of fishing the river would produce at this time of year.
Team ‘Warm and Safe Australia’ (Mario Vukic and Paul Conn) had an angling weekend others have only dreamt of. By the end of the competition they had accomplished something that no other team in the history of the Vic Bream Classic Series has ever done.
Confidence was high among anglers as they checked in on Day 1. Terrible weather on Friday’s pre-fish produced some excellent fishing, and with the weather settling down for the first day of competition, anglers predicted the river would fire. Unfortunately, for the majority of the field the bream had other ideas, and after their aggressive feeding on Friday, the majority of the river shut down on Day 1 and only smaller fish were landed. Team ‘Warm and Safe Australia’ found that the fish they caught on pre-fish were nowhere to be found.
“After a successful pre-fish, we decided to fish the flats on the left hand side after the ski zone. It turned out the fish had moved, and at 9.30am we went in search of our first fish upstream. We mainly fished flats and edges with SX40’s in colours 310 and 500 and OSP Dunks in colour GF76 – it took until 12pm for Paul to land our first legal, a whopping 29.5cm tipper, off the dreaded donut.” Paul said.
They managed to catch another similar sized fish, and headed to the key tag area at 1.45pm. They decided to throw a VX35 in colour 445 in front of the restaurant jetty for the last few minutes and Paul somehow pinned a 30cm tipper.
“What an important fish it turned out to be,” Mario said. This couldn’t have been closer to the truth for Mario and Paul. With only three fish on Day 1, they pulled up in front of the Warrnambool BCF store for the weigh-in and weighed a modest 1.19kg, which had them sitting in 21st spot and a long way off the lead.
Isaac Primer and Morgan Flook from team ‘Keeping It Reel’ produced a great bag considering the conditions and had the lead with 5/5 bream for 3.14kg, including a solid 1.29kg beast holding the JML Anglers Alliance Big Bream on Day 1.
The weather improved for Day 2, which had anglers worried the Hopkins River could slow down even further. For team ‘Warm and Safe Australia,’ the idea of winning the tournament hadn’t even crossed their minds. Using a combination of G-Loomis SR842-2GLX, G Loomis SR842-2GLX and Daiwa Saegake rods matched to Diawa Steez 2508 and Exists 2506 and Shimano Stella reels spooled with Sunline Castway braid tied to 4lb FC Rock fluorocarbon leaders, the boys worked to improve their position.
“We decided to do exactly the same thing on Day 2. We didn't want to lob on the leaders upstream, so fished the same flat for two hours for the same result – nothing. Again, we worked edges upstream until at about 11am Paul suggested the Hens and Chicken Reef, where we found fish during the pre-fish and I agreed. We managed a 29.5cm tipper on a VX35 vibe but then lost about four lures to the reef. Paul noticed that we were always on top of the reef so we stayed off the reef upwind and cast to it. We changed lures to the light Cranka Crab in olive and brown, which we had not thrown all tournament. These little gems are a lot more snag proof than people give them credit for. This was a great choice as on the first cast I pulled the hooks on something big. Although disappointed, it did give us the confidence to stick at it. A few casts later I landed the JML Anglers Alliance Big Bream of the tournament at 1.37kg. Paul decided that it was far more beneficial if he worked the electric motor while I fished. This was the ultimate sacrifice for the team, as by keeping the boat in the right spot, switching to Cranka Crabs and working together, we managed to land a further 1.36kg, 1.04kg and two more fish of around 700g.” Mario said.
The icing on the cake of their session was when Paul, after not fishing for hours finally hooked an upgrade for them at the end of the session of about 20g.
Heading to the weigh-in the guys knew they had a great bag but just assumed the rest of the river would have fired also and the rest of the field would have found a hot bite, but that wasn’t the case. Bag after bag of just legal fish kept hitting the scales and with whispers starting to emerge that Mario and Paul had something special in their bag the excitement was building. When they finally arrived at the Warrnambool BCF store drive by weigh-in, all in attendance were eagerly waiting. As the cracking bag of bream hit the scales and settled the crowd erupted, and even at that point everyone knew they’d taken out the Maria Lures Best Bag with 5.05kg, along with ever popular Graeme Taylor Memorial Trophy for the heaviest Day 2 bag, the JML Anglers Alliance Big Bream with 1.37kg, and also the Hurricane Monster Movers Prize as no one expected what would happen when the final scores were calculated.
“As I entered the scores into the computer to sort and ‘Warm and Safe Australia’ jumped to first place my jaw dropped and I had to double check the score I couldn’t believe it.” Bill Hartshorne, Tournament Director said. ‘Warm and Safe Australia’s’ Mario Vukic and Paul Conn had done the unthinkable, and moved up twenty positions to come from 21st position to claim victory by 4g and take out every prize category for the weekend, writing a new page in the record books of the Vic Bream Classic Series.
“We just couldn’t believe we won, and were both over the moon. We would like to thank the two boats either side of us (Aaron Bickery was one) who gave us our space and let us capitalise on the bite we managed to find. Also the people who have helped us along the way – Warm and Safe Australia and Aussie Angler Fishing Tackle,” Mario said.
After such an exciting event, the Atomic Vic Bream Classic Series will now head to Mallacoota for the Bayford Volkswagon Bream Classic. Be sure to check out the June issue of Victorian Fishing Monthly for all the action in the tournament report. –Vic Bream Classic
|Place||Team||Total Fish||Total Weight (Kg)|
|1||Warm & Safe Australia||8/10||6.24|
|2||Keeping It Reel||10/10||6.20|
|4||Colac Tackle – Samurai Rods||10/10||5.60|
|10||ZMan Tackle Tactics||10/10||4.60|