The Shimano Reel It In Flathead Challenge has quickly become one of the most anticipated events on the fishing calendar in Victoria and Southern NSW. The 210 anglers that formed the 71 teams this year converged on the coastal town of Mallacoota on 19-20 November for what would be the biggest Flathead Challenge yet.
Anglers representing five different states and territories began their road trips early in the week, eager to not only take out the coveted first place but also to enjoy all that Mallacoota has to offer. Many came to have a fun relaxing weekend fishing with mates and like-minded flathead fishos.
Despite the scheduled power outage that had homes and businesses without power for large parts of the weekend, Mallacoota was spectacular. It was an unbelievable weekend of glorious sunshine, light winds for most parts of the day and plenty of fish caught.
The pre-fish day saw most teams out on the water trying to locate a few fish. It was also the day of the Kaydo Fishing World Da$h for Ca$h. This event sees the top 10 from the previous years’ Flathead Challenges plus a few invited teams battle it out for almost $4000 in cash.
Fishing times were from 7:30am-1:30pm and a team’s best five flathead photographed would decide the winners. Local family team Flat Out Fishin’, consisting of Darren, Tracy, Bowen and Laurel Joiner, took out the Da$h for Ca$h and pocketed $2200 for their troubles. What a great way to start the weekend.
Friday Afternoon saw the excitement building as teams started rolling into the Mallacoota Pub for a beer or two and a meal. They picked up their bags of goodies, consisting of their 2016 Flathead Challenge shirts and brag mats, as well as jigheads, lures, stickers, buffs and plenty more.
The briefing for the main event explained that fishing times would be from 7:30am-4:00pm on both Saturday and Sunday and that a team’s best 10 flathead over the weekend would count to overall points, with two points per 1cm awarded. All fish needed to be photographed alive on the 2016 official brag mat with the team’s keytag clearly visible.
Perfect conditions greeted the anglers at Karbethong Boat Ramp early on Saturday morning. Still chewing down bacon and egg rolls and sipping coffee from Cafe 54, the guys and girls were busy launching their boats in anticipation of the day ahead.
At 7:30am the teams were off. Many of them spread out through the bottom lake, heading over to the usual haunts like Cemetery Bight and Alan Head, while some tried their luck around the channel markers closer to town. These areas all produced fish, but the teams that managed the better fish for the day, fish in the 50-65cm range, were the teams that headed upstream.
Areas like Cape Horn through to Gypsy Point accounted for a lot of nice fish. Some teams even went further and headed up the Genoa and Wallagaraugh rivers. These areas saw some solid flathead. Flathead Challenge organizers were out and about to check in on teams and have a casual fish while they waited for the call that someone had landed a decent whopper. Not long after midday, it happened.
Phillip Dickson from the Dusky Demons had just caught and photographed a beautiful, well-conditioned fish of 86cm. The officials boat-raced over to film the fish and see the guys from Geelong. To say they were happy was an understatement. This was their first trophy-sized flathead and the boys were beaming.
That night at the pub saw hundreds of photos being judged and at the end of day one. Semi-local team from Orbost Voss Motors found themselves with the number one spot. The top five teams heading into Sunday were Voss Motors, Flat Out Fish’n, Burrinjuck Bandits, Dusky Demons and Team G.
Again, teams were greeted by perfect conditions with even lighter winds promised for the day early on Sunday morning. Once away, teams headed off into every nook and cranny searching for that fish of a lifetime. Voss Motors, who held the lead heading into day two, were a team of mechanics from Orbost. Although their captain was the only member of the team fishing with lures, all members were pulling their weight and they were the team to beat.
ABT and Vic Bream Classic regulars The Smashed Crabs had a solid day one that saw them in 6th place heading into Sunday. Although they caught plenty of fish in the bottom lake on Saturday, they decided not to play it safe and land more of the same size fish. Instead, they journeyed right up the back past Gypsy Point in search of upgrades. The gamble paid off with three nice upgrades coming in the first hour that would put them right up there.
“The old match the hatch method for soft plastics worked. We just threw colours similar to the baitfish we had seen over the past few days,” Mitch King from the team said,.
Team G was doing something different to most teams. With 5th place coming into Sunday, the boys were feeling confident with their decision to fish hardbodies over plastics. They continued this game plan heading into day two. With all four team members on the hardbodies in a variety of deep and shallow divers, the boys fished the upper reaches. While they never landed a big girl, they ended up with a solid bag with 8 of their 10 going over 50cm.
That afternoon saw the pub packed again while the photos were judged. With over $20,000 worth of prizes up for grabs, from some of the biggest brands in the industry, anticipation was high. It was the boys that went outside the square who took the biggest prize of all.
Team G, with a total of 1052 points from their best 10 fish of the weekend, scooped up the prize pool and took home almost $10,000 worth of gear, including a Shimano Stella and TCurve each, a $2000 boat wrap from Form a Sign Wraps and some great gear from Tonic eyewear, Compleat Angler and Lowrance.
They were more than stoked. Team G fished hard and had a lot of fun over the weekend, showing great humility in their win – a great bunch of guys.
Other sponsors of the event included BCF, Pro Lure, Pirtek, Nitro Tournament Rods, Kaydo Fishing World, Jigman, PFD Australia, Nautica Bar and Restaurant, Beachcomber Caravan Parks, Pelican Pete’s, and of course, The Mallacoota Hotel.
Voss Motors and The Smashed Crabs rounded out the top three teams. Interestingly, the top three teams for the weekend all had four team members, so perhaps that sacrificed room in the boat for an extra angler was worth it to have the extra lure out there.
The weekend was a great success and also raised considerable money for Beyond Blue. Teams are already looking forward to the next event in Mallacoota and the inaugural Reel It In Lake Tyers Flathead Challenge on March 25-26.
For all details of upcoming Flathead Challenges, including the Australia wide RFC Series where you can fish anywhere you want for your five best flathead, visit www.reelitinflatheadchallenge.com. – Scott Wakefield
Top 10 results
|6||Flat Out Fish’n||982|
|7||The Crusty Crab||972|
2016 Shimano Reel It In Flathead Challenge Rules
• Fishing times from 7:30am-4pm Saturday and Sunday.
• Lures only, no bait. Scent is allowed.
• Teams must consist of 2-4 anglers.
• Each team’s best 10 fish over both days will count.
• Two points are awarded per 1cm (10cm = 20 points).
• Flathead must be photographed live on the 2016 official brag mat.
• Photos judged at the Mallacoota Hotel from 5pm each night.Reads: 691