Hayes rides smallest boat to biggest victory
  |  First Published: April 2017

Despite owning the smallest boat in the 61-strong field, Victorian breamer and long time ABT angler Mark Hayes brought it home to claim victory in the opening round of the 2017 Costa BREAM Series. The 2017 season kicked off with the BKK Hooks Mallacoota BREAM Qualifier, where anglers were greeted with one of the biggest fields for the past several seasons. A total of 61 of Australia’s best BREAM boaters and 56 non-boaters lined up for their shot at the perfect start to a tournament season.

A lot of ABT anglers will tell you this same story. A bad pre-fish almost always equals a good tournament, and a good pre-fish will almost always end in disaster. Call it lucky for Hayes then that his Friday pre-fish featured a sole fish catch – a 39cm fork kicker that he caught on a bent minnow fishing an area on the eastern side of the Goodwin Sands.

Starting day one on a spot that had been good to Hayes in the past, his intuition told him he needed to go back to where he’d landed his only legal the day before. It was then that his non-boater partner Doug Badrock would make the discovery that ultimately led Hayes to victory.

“There’s no doubt I wouldn’t be sitting here if it wasn’t for my non-boater Doug Badrock on day one,” said Hayes. “We turned up at the eastern side of Goodwin Sands exactly where I’d caught the big fish the day before in pre-fish and I again went to the bent minnow right up in the shallows. Doug then began fishing behind me and immediately caught a kilo fish from in the deeper water. It was then I realised I was fishing it all wrong. My first cast out into the deeper water landed me a legal and then I had it worked out. The fish were holding just off the edge of the shallows and were staging there while it was calm.”

Hayes quickly went to work and put a limit together. While it wasn’t what we’ve come to expect from Mallacoota in years past, 2017 saw the weights lower than average. So Hayes’ 5/5 3.19kg limit was good enough for third place, only 420g behind overnight leader Vukic.

For an overnight leader to improve on their day one bag and still get pipped at the post for the victory usually requires a pretty special second day bag from someone down the field, and that’s exactly what we witnessed as Mark Hayes dropped 5/5 4.23kg on the scales Sunday afternoon to leapfrog Vukic and take the win by 100g. The only 4kg bag weighed in on an uncharacteristically tough Mallacoota weekend was exactly what was needed, and Hayes delivered in spades.

Returning to his primary area after his day one success, Hayes quickly put numbers in the boat. “The wind was up in the morning on day two and the fishing was great. We caught plenty of legals and I thought I was done by 10am.”

As the morning winds died off to produce a lake surface slicker than a pane of glass, Hayes began catching the quality of fish that had eluded most of field all weekend. “We plugged away for hours in the afternoon for not many bites, but the ones we did get were the right ones. I probably caught the tournament winning fish around 1:30pm with less than an hour to go.”

Hayes’ lure of choice was one that seems to always do well when the Costa BREAM Series ventures south – the Smith DD Panish. Measuring 65mm and featuring a slim profile body, the DD Panish is a true jerkbait. Fish it with a rip and pause retrieve and watch big black bream climb all over it. Hayes’ outfit consisted of a Samaki Zing 2-4kg rod matched with a Daiwa TD Sol 2000.

This was a win for the tinny brigade and goes to show you don’t need a boat that does 100kph to win a BREAM tournament. Fishing skill and intuition will always top the flashiest gear and fastest boats!

Mario’s Mallacoota

Mario Vukic has been quietly going about his business over the last few seasons of the Costa BREAM Series, carving out his space as a serious threat when the tour travels south across the Victorian border. He proved those threats are warranted after dropping two of the biggest bags and the two most consistent bags on the scales to finish with 10/10 7.32kg.

There’s generally two ways a tournament is won. On a pattern, or on a hotspot, and there’s no doubting Vukic found a hotspot during the BKK Mallacoota BREAM Qualifier. Of his ten fish, nine were caught from one 300m section of steep rocky bank on the Genoa rockwalls.

“I think I would have fished that one section over twenty times during the tournament,” he said. “On Sunday I basically went back and forth for six hours.”

It was one of those special places that seemed to hold the quality of fish that were hard to come by elsewhere in the system, and Vukic had them worked out. Sitting 20m off the bank, Vukic would cast straight in to the wall, and work his lure down the face of the steep rock wall, but it was the ledges that ran parallel to the rock wall out from the bank that seemed to hold the fish.

“I think the key to this spot was the ledges. Nowhere else on that rock wall had ledges that ran parallel like that, and that’s where we were getting most of our bites.”

Vukic relied on ZMan 2.5” GrubZ in motor oil colour, and he would vary his jighead weight from 1/12 to 1/16 depending on the current and the wind to keep contact with the lure as it sank to the bottom. His outfit of choice was a G Loomis GLX SR842-2 rod paired with Daiwa Steez and Exist reels, spooled with 10lb Sunline Castaway and topped with a 4lb Sunline FC Rock fluorocarbon leader.

“I was worried I’d fished it too hard on the Saturday for it to hold up going into Sunday, but they seemed to replenish quickly in the deep water,” Vukic commented. “It’s hard to have regrets when your bag weight goes up on day two, and it took something special from Mark Hayes to knock me off first place. I really couldn’t be happier.”

Vukic pocketed almost $2000 for the runner-up position as well as a brand new pair of Costa 580 sunglasses. After his success at the Gippsland Lakes BREAM Qualifier the week after Mallacoota, Mario is now also jointly leading the Power Pole BREAM Angler of the Year race after the first two rounds.

Bowen Joiner bides his time

You don’t get a much better start than winning your first ever ABT event, and that’s exactly what Bowen Joiner did as he won the non-boater title at the BKK Hooks Mallacoota BREAM Qualifier. “I’ve been wanting to fish tournaments since I can remember, growing up watching guys like Bushy and Starlo on AFC. I couldn’t wait until I turned 16 and to win my first one is just an awesome feeling.”

Joiner didn’t just win the tournament, he won by almost a kilo to his nearest rival Clint Voss. To make it even more memorable, his day two bag came entirely on unweighted Ecogear Grass Minnows pink grubbing in under 2ft of water.

Day one saw Joiner fish the deep water around the rock walls of Genoa. He opted for arguably the go-to plastic for bream fishing in 2017, the ever-faithful ZMan 2.5” GrubZ in a variety of colours rigged on a 1/12oz jighead. Targeting the same secondary drop as event runner-up Mario Vukic, Joiner was able to quickly put together the second biggest bag for the non-boaters sitting second overnight.

Day two saw Joiner venture upriver with his boating partner, where they located a school of fish in shallow water. This is where the pink grub was deployed and just as quickly engulfed, as Joiner went to work in the shallows bagging up a 5/5 2.40kg limit, which on a normal Mallcoota weekend might see you midfield. On a glass calm Sunday it was more than enough to hold off a fast finishing Clint Voss.

Joiner is definitely one to watch as he climbs through the ranks of the ABT pathway, and judging by the company he keeps, he’s got a mature head on those young shoulders. Joiner thanked his sponsors Tackleworld Merimbula, Millerods, Humminbird and Minn Kota and his long-time fishing buddy Dean Gamble for the guidance over the last few years. Joiner walked away the proud new owner of a brand new pair of Costa 580 sunglasses and a prize pack bulging with the very best from all of ABT’s sponsors.

Big Bream

Brian Everingham made the long journey to Mallacoota from his home in Taree, NSW and was rewarded with the $500 Big Bream. He just needed a few more of his mates to make a run up the leaderboard.

Duffrods Big Bag

Mark Hayes claims the Duffrods Big Bag thanks to his hefty day two 4.24kg bag. Hayes now receives a personally crafted Duffrods, custom designed to fish the waters of Mallacoota where it was won. With many of ABT’s top anglers relying on Duffrods as their fishing rod of choice, there’s no doubt we’ll see this stick aboard the tinny on Hayes’ next fishing adventure.

Winning Tackle

Hayes’ winning rod was a Samaki Zing 2-4kg rod matched with a Daiwa TD Sol 2000 reel. His lure of choice was a 65mm DD Panish jerkbait. – ABT


1Mark Hayes107.42$3750 + $250 1st Mercury Bonus + Costa Sunglasses + Duffrods Big Bag (4.23kg)
2Mario Vukic107.32$1800 + Costa Sunglasses
3Warren Carter106.34$1300 + $150 2nd Mercury Bonus
4Tom Slater106.03$1100 + $300 1st Yamaha Bonus
5Brad Hodges105.86$1000+ $100 3rd Mercury Bonus
6Charlie Saykao95.49$1,000
7Wal Balzan105.46$750
8Cameron Whittam105.38$750
9Jason Mayberry105.24$600
10Ben Phayer95.18$600
1Bowan Joiner105.66Costa Sunglasses + Prize Pack + $100 1st Hobie Bonus
2Clint Voss84.88Costa Sunglasses + Prize Pack + $50 2nd Hobie Bonus
3Allan Murray74.56JML Alliance Rod & Prize Pack
4Jesse Rotin84.45Prize Pack
5Ross Lamotte74.42Prize Pack
6Grayson Fong74.33Prize Pack
7Scott Wilson74.18Prize Pack
8Mark Young84.09Prize Pack + $35 3rd Hobie Bonus
9Joel Corrie83.89Prize Pack
10Stuart Walker53.76Prize Pack
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