Australia’s BREAM tournament calendar has been missing one very prestigious event in years past. This year saw that event return in spectacular fashion both on the water and online, streamed to tens of thousands of keen observers.
The Franklins BREAM Australian Open paid tribute to its fallen mate and fellow angler Greg Lee, with Steve Morgan from Queensland taking home the Greg Lee Memorial Trophy after the three competition days.
The BREAM Australian Open is easily the toughest test of BREAM tournament fishing ABT can serve up. Three days across two venues and fishing with no co-angler in the boat means it’s all down to the angler, the fish, the venue and the decisions.
This year’s event saw a multi-venue format implemented, testing anglers across the perplexing waterways of both Sydney Harbour and the Hawkesbury River. Anglers fished the first and third days on the harbour, mixing it up with a day on the Hawkesbury in between. The prizes on offer were fitting for a tournament of such stature with $5000 rewarded for first place, $3000 for second and paying down to fifth spot.
In the end it was in-form BREAMer Steve Morgan who stormed home on the final day, weighing the biggest bag of the day to jump from seventh to first and hoist the Greg Lee Memorial Trophy. “I started fishing the open back in 2004 and I realised pretty quickly that to be successful over three days you needed to fish new ground,” he said. “If you hit the same spots each day, you definitely wore the fish out.”
With favourable weather during the first day of the event, Morgan concentrated on fishing the tightest structure he could find. Beginning his day throwing a crankbait at the Iron Cove Bridge, Morgan paid no attention to the myth that catching a fish on the first cast is bad luck, bagging a solid fish straight away. From there it was structure fishing 101 from the Open champ, as Morgan rotated through moored boats, pylons, jetties and any other tight structure to put together a 3.6kg limit.
Morgan targeted the structure with a two-prong approach of a Heavy Cranka Crab in olive colour, and an Ecogear Aqua Bream Prawn 50mm in salt and pepper colour. “The crab is good for when the fish are sitting deeper on the structure, like underneath a large boat hull or on the base of pylons. The Aqua really excels when the fish are suspended or sitting up high and you don’t want the lure to sink past them too quickly. It’s also the ideal lure to skip into places you might not be able to get to with a crab.”
The second day on the Hawkesbury River began at a much slower pace, and it wasn’t until the last few hours of the session that Morgan began to put a bag together. After having spent the morning fishing outside of Pittwater, Morgan returned to catch the rising tide and went to work winding back the clock to a time when stick minnows dominated tournaments all over Australia.
“It was old-school stick minnow fishing, back to 2lb straight through fluorocarbon line, my old GLoomis SR842-2 ultra light rods and a Tiemco Stick Minnow or Austackle Shinku fitted with #16 barbless trebles.”
Morgan is probably the best proponent of this technique on the BREAM tournament scene and it all revolves around line management.
“The Stick Minnow’s action is all to do with the sink. That subtle shimmy is what the bream love, but you’ve got to be careful of any pressure being applied to the nose of the lure through your line. If you pull the lure away from the structure it’s not going to shimmy properly, and you’re less likely to have a fish follow it,” Morgan commented.
“You need to mend your line much like a stream fisher mends his fly line as it floats down the river. I do this by moving my rod to straighten the line at just the right moment so as to avoid moving the lure away from the structure at the same time.”
Once the lure reached its target, Morgan would let the lure sink until it hit the bottom before commencing a series of 3-4 sharp rips off the bottom to make the lure dart up in the water column so it could begin its seductive shimmy all over again.
“Every bite will come on the drop. Sometimes you feel it and other times you’d go to rip it up again and there would be weight on the line,” explained Morgan.
Salvaging the day with an over 3kg bag had Morgan within striking distance moving back to Sydney Harbour for the final day.
“The third day is when you win or lose the Open; you can lose it on the first two days but today’s the day you can win the whole thing.” That was the quote at the beginning of Morgan’s day three livestream video and it rang true as viewers were taken through a crash course of topwater bream fishing in Middle Harbour.
With a forecast of increasing gusty winds rolling through Morgan knew it would be prime conditions for a consistent topwater bite. Making the run to Middle Harbour Morgan concentrated on natural banks lined with rocks and boulders. The fish were up high and active as he tempted them with a combination of OSP Bent Minnow 76 and OSP Bent Minnow 86 topwater lures.
“The final day was nothing like the first two. The fish really responded to the topwater on the final day, and there’s no better way to catch a big bag and run down the leaders than on surface in Middle Harbour.”
Morgan’s topwater approach was one suitable for the masses, turning to the cheapest outfit on board his boat a Daiwa Spellbinder rod matched with a Daiwa Sweepfire reel spooled with 15lb braid and 10lb leader.
In the end it turned out to be the closest weigh-in in ABT history, with Morgan claiming honours by the smallest measureable margin of 10g over Kris Hickson, who beat out Mark Healey also by 10g. To have the top three anglers only separated by 20g over 15 bream and three days of intense tournament fishing just goes to show the quality of the anglers the ABT tournament system is producing year-in, year-out.
What weighs 10g and costs $2000? That’s the margin between Kris Hickson’s three-day total at the Franklin’s BREAM Australian Open and event champion Steve Morgan’s. When Hickson presented 3.38kg to the scales on the final day it was the opening Morgan needed to swoop home to victory.
For Hickson, it was not his first close call on Sydney Harbour or the Hawkesbury River and in the end it came down to a few key lost fish that would have turned the tables on the last day.
“Lost fish will always hurt, but they hurt a whole lot more when you end up losing by such a small margin. I left a few fish out there today that would have helped my cause no doubt, but that’s fishing and it’s hard to win big tournaments with this calibre of field when you’re plagued by lost fish.”
Hickson’s tournament pattern revolved around a number of different outfits, baits and tactics. But his go-to technique was fishing a Cranka Crab on tight structure during the first and third days, and fishing flats in the Hawkesbury River on day two.
He presented the lure on a combination of Daiwa outfits. It was mainly a Luvias and Black Label V2 combo spooled with Evo 8 braid and 4 and 6lb fluorocarbon leaders. Watch out for Kris Hickson’s full Franklins Australian Open coverage on an upcoming episode of The Next Level broadcast on Channel 7 later this year.
Steve Morgan’s live videos were viewed by over 50,000 people come tournament’s end, broadcasting tournament fishing to more people in Australia than ever before. To watch each day’s highlight videos, you can head to the Fishing Monthly YouTube channel.
Attention now turns to the upcoming BASS Australian Open, which will be held for the first time in Queensland later this year. For all the information on upcoming ABT tournaments you can head to www.abt.org.au. – ABT
Bent Minnow Outfit
Daiwa Spellbinder rod matched with a Daiwa Sweepfire reel spooled with 15lb braid and 10lb leader.
Stick Minnow Outfit
GLoomis SR842-2 and 2lb straight-through fluorocarbon.
Atomic Crank 38 Deep in GGB colour, Cranka Heavy Cranka Crab in olive colour, Ecogearaqua Bream Prawn 50mm in salt and pepper, Tiemco Stick Minnow or Austackle Shinku colour fitted with #16 barbless trebles, OSP Bent Minnow 76 and OSP Bent Minnow 86.