I’m Rupe, my mate is Michael ‘Foxy’ Fox, and we’re both advertising sales reps for Fishing Monthly. The only difference is that he’s a seasoned veteran from Qld and I’m a young whipper snapper from NSW. Our recent fishing battle was the latest chapter in that age-old story about the old bull up against the young bull, with the added spice of state vs state and bait vs bait!
This whole thing started on a typical day visiting clients in the Fishing Monthly Triton. There we were, in a well-known tackle store (who offer a selection of fresh baits) talking about the best bait to catch whiting. Foxy said that the best bait he’d ever used was bloodworms, and then I piped up and said no way old man, yabbies are better then bloodworms. My reply apparently amounted to serious fighting words, and it was on like Donkey Kong.
We decided the only way to settle it once and for all was to have a competition – bloodworms versus yabbies and this is how the story goes…
The competition kicked off by picking up the bloodworms from Melissa at Gem Bait & Tackle on the Stapylton Jacobs Well Road, which is conveniently placed on the way to our battlefield – the Nerang River on the sunny Gold Coast. We had pre-booked $20 worth, which is about five worms in total. This might not sound like a lot of bait, but you only need a small amount on the hook each time. Gem Bait & Tackle also sell fresh yabbies, but we decided to pump our own, local baits.
It wasn’t long before we were launching the boat and headed to the western side of Wave Break Island to pump some yabbies.
The yabbies were easy to find and were perfect specimens, with great size and colour and nice, firm bodies. If you’ve ever fished with yabbies before you’ll know these things are important, because these little crustaceans can be quite easy to lose with just one attack from a predator.
The worms, on the other hand had great staying power – something Foxy said he could relate to. I doubted this.
Just 15 minutes later it was on for young and old.
We had a game plan of ‘sure-fire’ spots to visit in the search of not only big whiting, but the more important prize of bragging rights around the Fishing Monthly office. Each spot had similar characteristics: a sandy bottom, flowing water and any sort of drop-off we could find. That’s what you should look for if you want to catch a feed of whiting, and if you can find a weed bed that will only help your cause.
At all locations we anchored into the current and let the baits sit naturally in the flowing tide. Side by side, and let the fish decide.
A simple and all-too-common puffing of chests between two big mouths had lead us to this point. Who would come out the winner?
The competition was to be split into four main categories: First Fish, Biggest Fish, Most Fish and Most Species.
I was on the board early with a barely legal whiting, but it was enough to take out the first category. We were then set upon by a swarm of undersized bream, toadies and even a stingray, so a move was on the cards.
Spot number two saw Foxy get off to a flyer and nail his first whiting on the worm, and the banter began to ramp up. Still, although legal and just undersized whiting were easy to come across, no big fish were found on either bait yet.
At this time I started to notice that the wily old Fox was finding it easier to hook and land fish on his set-up, which we put down to the very long and soft rod he used with the new Shogun Ice Blue 6lb fine mono main line. I was using a shorter, stiffer rod with 6lb Daiwa braid running over it and a short, 6lb fluoro leader. Without the ‘give’ of the mono, my braid was pulling a few hooks from lips. A loosened drag soon corrected the problem though.
With the southerly wind becoming a problem, we didn’t get to hit our main target area, and retreated further up the river to a very well known whiting hangout amongst Gold Coast locals.
On arrival at spot number three we were hidden from the wind but had to deal with other, much faster and louder problems: the growing Gold Coast jet ski crew. They are a persistent bunch who can read the horsepower on their craft but struggle to interpret the 6 knot zone signage.
Once again, we found plenty of fish but nothing to write home about at first. It wasn’t until the sun began to drop in the sky and the tide changed direction and begun running upstream that we found some real fish. As it is most fishing situations, the old adage of ‘no run, no fun’ held true.
This time of day also coincided with Foxy using the last of his worm baits, and jumping the fence to Team Yabby. One yabby bait, and he had an elbow-slapper on deck and promptly into the icy slurry inside the esky.
“Things are looking up, young Rupert,” he proclaimed. Interestingly, he didn’t say anther word about his theory of worms being better than yabbies.
With the setting of the sun, the jetskis finally retreated to the boat ramp and the safety of Daddy’s million dollar mansions, but the bream squad moved in and decimated our yabby stocks. A move was required if we were to find the Holy Grail of whiting fishing – anything over 40cm.
We made a quick spurt up the Nerang River to reach our final fishing destination for the night. We were greeted with calm water on a sweeping bend in the river, with all the ingredients we were after to create a perfect whiting haven.
First bait, missed hook set. Damn. I rebaited and was soon hooked up to something that felt a bit more substantial. While I initially called it for yet another Gold Coast bream, who often think they are a lot tougher than they really are, a quick look with Foxy’s military grade head torch and we were scrambling for the landing net and high fiving with the arrival of a monster.
The stakes were now even. I had the First Fish and Biggest Fish in the bag, while Michael had claimed the title of Most Fish, and was also far ahead in the Most Species category.
When it came to bait, yabbies were streaking ahead in both numbers of whiting caught and also in the average size. Although the worms caught everything – eight species in total – our old mate the Sillago ciliata had a clear preference for yabbies. If we were going to have fish to eat on Good Friday then it was going to be with the help of our orange, nipping crustaceans.
Over the course of the next hour or so many more fish were hooked, landed and released before it was time to head to the ramp, clean the trusty Quintrex Hornet and be home for dinner with our wives.
Cleaning the catch is fairly easy to do. The shape of the whiting lends itself to easy scaling, filleting and skinning. Combine this with the clean, sweet tasting flesh and it’s easy to see why this is such a popular table fish, even with people who might not always like to eat seafood.
The next time you’re in a fish and chip shop or co-op, you’ll notice that whiting fillets can set you back as much as $40/kg. While this might be a convenient way to get your fish, it’s nowhere near as fun! Spending an afternoon on the water with a good mate, a bucket of bait and a couple of packets of chips is definitely the way to go.
From our time on the water, the amount of fish caught were evenly split between both baits. However, if your focus is on whiting, as ours was, we must report that the humble yabby came out on top and continues to reign supreme.
When it comes to the winner of state vs state, it’s currently a tie. Extra time is required, which is what we were hoping for all along.
Weight: 95kg but claims it’s all muscle
Position: Qld Fishing Monthly advertising rep
Weight: 80kg when he was 18
Position: NSW Fishing Monthly advertising rep
DOB: less old