Tom Slater secured his maiden ABT BREAM Qualifier victory almost 12 months after leading the BREAM Grand Final on the very same waterway.
Wind back the clock to last year’s grand final and Slater lead on the Clarence after day 1, but failed to find limits over the next two days and finished well down the field. Slater got his revenge this time. After sitting 4th overnight, Slater sacked up the heaviest five fish limit of the tournament at 3.2kg to relegate good friend Tristan Taylor to 2nd place.
There’s no doubting Slater was on the right fish throughout the weekend, managing to claim victory despite only catching 4/5 on the first day of competition. His 9/10 6.14kg limit was 130g clear of Taylor and one of only two limits above 6kg.
“I really love the Clarence River as a venue for a BREAM Qualifier,” explained Slater, “It’s got everything you could ever want in a tournament venue. This was the venue of my first ever ABT event as a non-boater, so it’s probably quite fitting that this be the place where I notch my first victory.”
Arriving early Friday morning, Slater launched his boat and made his first stop on the upper end of Middle Wall.
“I caught a 32 forker on my first cast on pre-fish day on Middle Wall on a Gomoku Crank. After that I went in tight and spooked some more, so I thought ‘that’ll do’ and moved on.”
After checking Middle Reef and seeing a fleet of boats already fishing, Slater turned around and went upstream, to catch the last of the run-in tide at Browns Rocks. His first cast there played out exactly the same as his first cast at Middle Wall.
“Those first two fish being above 30 told me I knew what I needed to do, I don’t try and complicate things at the Clarence, I know where they live and I’ve spent a long time ironing out every little detail of how to catch them, so unless something crazy is happening upriver, I generally stay down the front.”
Day 1 saw Slater with an early boat draw, and like the pre-fish, his first stop was the upper end of Middle Wall. Fishing a Storm Gomoku Crank in BG colour tight to the wall on 3lb straight through fluorocarbon, Slater put two fish in the boat early before a professional fisher moved in on the stretch Slater was fishing.
“The technique was really straight forward, I just got in tight to the wall and threw the crank as far as I could and used a slow roll back to the boat, the lure would bump over the rocks at the base of the wall. This is why I like that Gomoku crank, it’s got quite a square bib, so it deflects really well. I usually hooked up just after it deflected.”
After a few fruitless stops on other walls in the front of the system, Slater made the run up to Browns Rocks to attempt to fill his bag.
“I generally prefer Browns Rocks on a run-out tide, but this tournament we had a run-in almost all session,” said Slater. “The difference between catching them at Browns and not catching them can be as simple as not paying attention. I cannot stress how hard I concentrate on each and every cast, ensuring I have the perfect amount of line out, the perfect boat speed and the perfect cast so that my lure gets to the bottom and I can feel it straight away. You’re not going to catch one if you can’t feel it bite!”
Opting for the ever-reliable Heavy Cranka Crab in a variety of colours, Slater’s technique was one that’s easy to assume less of, as he would essentially ‘drag’ the crab over the bottom.
“It’s much more than just casting it out and letting it hit the bottom and bounce over a few rocks. I pay really close attention to what my lure is doing and try to ‘hover’ the crab just above the rocks, to try and avoid snagging. Then it’s a case of waiting to feel a bite, and if they miss, I quickly slow the boat with the electric and open the bail arm to try and let the crab sit on the bottom and stop drifting.”
With two more legals in the boat before midday, Slater felt great about the bag he had built.
“Every fish I had on the first day was over 30cm to the fork, I had one 35cm that weighed 910g and the rest must have been about 700g apiece. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get that fifth one, which goes to show how tough it was over the weekend. To not catch five off Brown’s Rocks definitely shows it was a tough bite.”
The added size of Slater’s four fish kept him in the hunt, sitting in 4th place overnight.
Heading out on day 2, Slater was adamant to not fall into the same hole that swallowed him in the 2015 BREAM Grand Final.
“I got way too spun out in last year’s grand final, I weighed a huge bag day 1 from the North Wall. Then the seas died and I should have known the walls weren’t going to be as good, but I wasted way too much time and got flustered, then when I went to Browns Rocks and I fished too quickly.”
Starting again on Middle Wall, Slater could see the fish, but there was no way he could convince them to eat a crankbait.
“I could see them on the wall, so I threw an assortment of cranks and couldn’t get a reaction, so I went to an unweighted Ecogear Aqua Bream Prawn and let it drift over the wall. I managed one solid keeper doing that before it shut down.”
Bailing from the front before 10am, Slater headed to Browns Rocks and found his fortunes much better than the day prior.
“I had my limit filled by lunch time, then it was a matter of finding a few upgrades,” explained Slater. With an hour to go in the session, the tide had stopped, the bite was off, and nothing much was happening. Slater decided to move in shallow and look for an upgrade, casting an OSP Dunk 48 crankbait to the shallow part of Browns.
“The decision to move shallow won me this tournament, and I upgraded a 26 for a 27, then not 10-minutes later upgraded that 27 for a 33cm fork. That was the 130g that got me over the line.”
For this win, Slater pocketed $2,400 plus the $300 Yamaha Bonus Cheque for the highest placed boater with a Yamaha on the back, which by all accounts, is going straight towards a new tow vehicle.
Tristan Taylor was relegated to bridesmaid position again, after two consecutive days on the front of the system produced a 10/10 6.01kg limit. Not making it to Clarence until the Friday afternoon, Taylor didn’t get a chance to pre-fish. Instead, he relied on his previous experience and knowledge of the waterway to get him by.
Taylor spent his entire tournament fishing the bottom end of Middle Wall, a popular spot on the Clarence River that produces bream throughout the entire year. Taylor however, approached it differently to the other boats also fishing the area.
“I actually started the morning of day 1 in close as I would normally do at Middle Wall, but I noticed fish staging underneath the boat on the sounder. So I cast out the opposite side, away from the wall and quickly hooked a solid 30cm fork fish. I followed that with three more, all over 30 in about five casts. That’s what really set me up for this weekend.”
There’s no doubt Taylor’s fish were in good condition, even with him failing to get one of the kicker bites you so often need to finish up the pointy end of the field. Taylor’s consistent 3kg average bags were put together by limits of bream all around 30cm to the fork. The fish were sitting on the sand, off the edge of Middle Wall where Taylor believes they were still spawning, which would contribute to his better than average bag weight.
His technique was one that has become somewhat synonymous with the Clarence River, fishing deep with a Cranka Crab. The floating claws of the Cranka Crab make it the ultimate deepwater lure for Taylor and many others, reducing snags and increasing hook-ups. It’s a combination of the ultra-realistic finish and clever features that make the Clarence arguably the most successful venue for fishing popular lures.
Taylor’s equipment consisted of a Samurai Reaction 201 rod, Daiwa Freams 2500 spin reel, loaded with 10lb Unitika Aorikira braid, topped with a 6lb Unitika Aiger fluorocarbon leader. He fished two different coloured Cranka Crabs throughout the weekend, olive and cockle.
Taylor won $1200 for second place as well as the $375 first place pro cheque, which he got from backing himself at the briefing on Friday night. Unfortunately, Taylor won’t be able to make the Costa BREAM Grand Final at St Georges Basin in December, but he and David Mackenzie will be the team to watch for the upcoming Spotters QLD BREAM Open in September.
Stuart Walker continued his domination of the non-boater side of the Costa BREAM Series by claiming his 3rd victory this season. The only non-boater to weigh a full 10/10 limit, Walker claimed the win by over a kilo from Rodney O’Sullivan.
Pre-fishing with Todd Riches, the pair had a look at the vast majority of the river from Maclean to the mouth, catching fish almost everywhere they stopped but lacking size. Walker used the pre-fish day to identify key lures and techniques that were likely to dominate his weekend.
Day 1 saw Walker paired with QLD BREAMer Peter Cashman. A veteran of bream fishing, Cashman is no slouch on the waters of the Clarence. The plan for the day was simple, Middle Reef right between the two seaway walls.
The fishing was hot to start, with Walker achieving a full limit and two upgrades by 11am. Opting to fish a ZMan 2.5” GrubZ in motor oil colour on 1/4oz TT Jigheads, Walker worked the lure off the bottom with short sharp hops, quickly setting the hooks when he felt a bite in the deep water.
“Fishing the deep, fast flowing water like that really made me appreciate the quality of the gear I was using, those Daiwa Silverwolf Z rods are just so sensitive,” Walker said.
By 11am, the bite had slowed to the point where Cashman and Walker were simply wasting time, the pair both had respectable limits and waited for the clock to run out.
Weighing 5/5 for 2.79kg, Walker was well and truly in the driver’s seat of this tournament.
Walker found himself aboard ABT rookie Brandon Gosbell’s boat for Day 2. Walker had seen Gosbell fishing nearby him on day 1, so he was confident they were going to be around fish again. Gosbell was out of the blocks quickly, fishing the end tip of Middle Wall. Walker took a little while to get the hang of fishing the popular spot. With two fish by mid-morning, and Gosbell looking for more, the pair made the quick move to the pontoons right next to the Yamba Tavern, and it was here Walker went to work on filling out his full tournament limit.
Fishing a heavy Cranka Crab around the pontoons and poles, Walker put three more fish in the boat. The pair then returned back to Middle Wall and both managed a few upgrades, and although it was a smaller bag than the previous day’s catch, it was still more than enough get him over the line.
With three wins in the 2016 Costa BREAM Series, Walker was the red-hot favorite going into the final event on the calendar at the Gold Coast, where he would look to secure the Power-Pole BREAM Angler of the Year title.
Walker’s gear consisted of Daiwa Silverwolf 2004 reels, matched with Silverwolf Z ShiShi-Ou and Sei-Ryuu rods spooled with 6lb Daiwa Evo 8 braid and 4lb Sunline Bream Special fluorocarbon leader. Walker wished to thank Manning River Marine, and Otto’s Tackleworld for the help with his equipment. He also thanked his workplace Construction Control and his lovely partner for allowing him to get away, and lastly to the ABT crew for another standout event.
James Morgan claimed the $500 Austackle Big BREAM with a 1.25kg stud. Morgan caught the fish along Middle Wall, fishing a Cranka Crab deep at the base of the rocks. Morgan took home a huge prize bag courtesy of Austackle to go along with the $500 cash.
Brandon Gosbell won the OSP Rookie Award in his first ever ABT BREAM Qualifier. Gosbell put together two great days on the Clarence to finish the tournament in 6th place with a 10/10 5.23kg limit. Gosbell fished the front of Middle Wall both days to place in the money in his first ABT event, and took home a great prize bag full of OSP product for his efforts.
|1||Tom SLATER||QLD||9||6.14||$2400 + Yamaha Bonus ($300) + Duffrods Big Bag|
|2||Tristan TAYLOR||Qld||10||6.01||$1200 + 1st Pro ($375)|
|3||Matthew FINNEY||NSW||10||5.72||$1000 + 1st Mercury Bonus|
|4||Taigan HEATH||NSW||10||5.64||$750 + 2nd Mercury Bonus|
|5||Russell BABEKUHL||NSW||10||5.35||$650 + 3rd Mercury Bonus|
|6||Brandon GOSBELL||QLD||10||5.23||$525 + OSP Rookie|
|8||Warren CARTER||Vic||10||4.73||$450 + 2nd Pro ($125)|
|1||Stuart WALKER||NSW||10||4.97||Costa & Prize Pack +1st Hobie Bonus|
|2||Rodney O'SULLIVAN||NSW||8||3.82||Samurai Rod + Prize Pack|
|3||Luke SLAVIN||QLD||7||3.47||Berkley Prize Pack|
|4||Simon WILSON||NSW||7||3.27||Spotters Sunglasses + Prize Pack + 2nd Hobie Bonus|
|5||Clint VOSS||VIC||8||3.24||Tonic Sunglasses + Prize Pack + 3rd Hobie Bonus|
|6||Clint NORTHCOTT||VIC||7||3.15||Prize Pack|
|7||Russell WINTERS||NSW||6||3.08||Prize Pack|
|8||Andrew HARTCHER||NSW||7||3.07||Prize Pack|
|9||Shaun EGAN||NSW||7||3.05||Prize Pack|
|10||Brett PENPRASE||NSW||6||2.94||Prize Pack|
Adjusting with the tides was Slater’s key to success on the Clarence. Hitting Middle Wall with just the right amount of tidal flow and then moving shallow on the second day at Browns Rocks when the tide slowed proved invaluable to secure the final upgrade to the biggest bag of the tournament.
|Rod||13 Fishing MUSE Gold 72L 2-6lb|
|Reel||One 3 Creed GT 2000|
|Line||3lb Gamma Touch Fluorocarbon|
|Lure||OSP Dunk P43, Storm Gomoku Crank BG|
|Rod||13 Fishing ENVY Black 71LM 2-8lb|
|Reel||One 3 Creed GT 2000|
|Line||Sufix Nanobraid 8lb|
|Leader||Gamma 6lb Fluorocarbon|
|Lure||Heavy Cranka Crab, Olive Crab, Brown Crab, Cockle Crab|