Cannizzaro conquers the river
  |  First Published: June 2017

Ross Cannizzaro has claimed victory at the ABT BASS Pro Series round presented by Bass Cat Boats on the banks of the upper Hawkesbury River. This event marked the first time an ABT BASS Pro event has been run on the Hawkesbury River and a keen group of almost 50 anglers registered to have their shot at taming the tides of the mighty Hawkesbury.

For most of the regular anglers on the Bass Cat BASS Pro Series, tidal fisheries are totally new. Usually confined to the stocked impoundments of the Hunter Valley and South Burnett, wild bass fishing in rivers is a new challenge and brings with it a wealth of new opposition.

Anglers familiar with the ABT Costa BREAM Series have been fishing rivers and systems like the Hawkesbury River since ABT’s inception in 1999. To them, tides and the perplexities of river fishing are never far from their minds, and it was indeed an angler with a background in bream that came out on top after final bag was weighed.

The other important thing to note with this tournament was the inclusion of estuary perch to the allowable species. estuary perch and Australian bass co-inhabit the Hawkesbury River, and would both play a part in making this a truly unique event.

Cannizzaro has left his mark on the ABT BREAM Series, winning multiple events and stamping his name as one of the sport’s best. His entry into the Hawkesbury River BASS Pro was the first dive into the deep end that is bass tournaments, and his victory was a testament to angling talent and the transference of skills learnt over years of tournament bream fishing.

His 10/12 6.41kg limit was more than enough to secure victory, claiming the win by over a kilo from his nearest rival Jason Harlock. Cannizzaro targeted predominantly estuary perch within 2km of the start at Wisemans Ferry and looked to find fish sitting wide off the bank in 15-20ft of water tucked in behind boulders or drop-offs that sheltered them from the strong currents.

For all sessions Cannizzaro started at his primary location, a rock wall upstream of Wisemans Ferry where he had found a congregation of estuary perch sitting just behind a drop where the wall plummeted from 10ft down to 20ft. The estuary perch were using this straight drop as a current break, where they could conserve energy out of the strong current, and also wait for any baitfish to be washed over their heads past the drop-off.

Cannizzaro used his extensive repertoire of bream techniques and modified the specific lure to target the fish to put them in the boat. A 1/8oz Nitro Dam deep jighead fitted with a new Berkley Tournament Series T-Tail minnow in pumpkinseed fleck was the lure of choice. Cannizzaro commented it perfectly replicated the small prawns and baitfish that were prevalent in the area. He’d cast the offering up into the shallower water of the tapering rock wall, paying close attention to hit the ‘sweet spot’ of the drop-off where he was getting all of his fish.

“It was a matter of metres in converting one of the fish to react. If I didn’t quite hit the mark, I wouldn’t get bit. I had one boulder that if I could feel it and hop my bait off the back edge, I knew it was in the zone and a bite was likely.”

His outfit of choice was an Abu Garcia Salty Stage light spinning rod, paired with the newly released Abu Garcia Revo ALX spinning reel. “Abu Garcia have been supporting me for a long time and this outfit is the best I’ve ever used. Light in the hand with power to burn – it’s my go-to outfit for both bream and bass fishing and I couldn’t imagine using anything else.”

Cannizzaro spooled the ALX with Berkley Fireline Exceed 4.4lb and topped it with a 4lb fluorocarbon leader, much lighter than what most of the field was using.

It was Cannizzaro’s strong morning sessions on both Saturday and Sunday that ultimately proved the turning point in winning him the title. A tougher afternoon session on Saturday produced only two fish, but it was still enough to stem the charges from down the field and claim his first ABT BASS Pro Victory.

Now Cannizzaro’s attention turns to his new Bass Cat Sabre FTD and Evinrude G2 boat and motor package that just landed in the country and to the remainder of the Costa BREAM Series for 2017.

Harlock Holds On For Second

Another BREAM Series regular Jason Harlock finished in runner-up position after leading for the first two sessions. It was again a case of the BREAM techniques being adapted to a new species as Harlock proved the foray into rivers for the Bass Cat BASS Pro Series is opening plenty of doors for growth.

“It was my first-ever BASS tournament,” said Harlock. “I just approached it exactly how I’d approach a bream tournament. I imagined I was fishing for bream and it was just a matter of taking the lure and making a small adjustment to really trigger those bites from the estuary perch and bass.”

Harlock’s pre-fish began slow and he struggled to find consistent bites. The turbid water conditions sparked an idea to add some vibration and flash to the small soft plastic he had been throwing all morning. It was then that Harlock added a beetle-spin arm to his soft plastic and enjoyed almost immediate success with estuary perch and bass hammering his offering. “After I had confidence in the beetle-spin and soft plastic combo it was just a matter of finding a few key areas and to do that I looked for eddies and areas those fish could relax out of the strong currents.”

Harlock keyed in on a rockwall upstream of Wisemans Ferry that was located on a bend in the river. The sharp bend of the river swirled the current, and the backside of the rockwall had far less current pushing over it and featured plenty of sunken boulders for fish to hide behind in ambush.

“I would cast my lure close the edge of the rock wall. I was getting the odd fish up shallow, but most of my bites would come in water deeper than 10ft. I’d slowly work my bait down the face of the wall, trying to keep the bait banging the boulders that protrude out into the current. I’d find almost all of my bites would come just after my bait had struck a rock, so those fish were definitely using those rocks as a hideaway from the current and to ambush the prey.”

Harlock relied on a Millerods Control Freak spin rod fitted with a Daiwa Caldia reel spooled with 6lb J-Braid and finished with a combination of 4 and 6lb leaders. The specifics of his lure shared similarities with tournament champion Ross Cannizzaro, as the pair both relied on a Berkley Tournament T-Tail minnow as their go-to bait of choice.

Harlock heaped praise on the river’s fishery and shared weight format of the ABT BASS Pro events. His day one non-boater Dane Pryce took top honours for the event, winning the non-boater section in a tightly fought race.

Harlock thanked his sponsors Costa Sunglasses and Hobie Fishing Australia for the support over the last few seasons. Harlock now qualifies for the season ending BASS Pro Grand Final, which is also slated for a tidal river fisher,y the Richmond River at Coraki in NSW in September.

Pryce PULLS OFF Perfect Start

Dane Pryce couldn’t have wished for a better first taste of tournament fishing, taking top honours at the Bass Cat BASS Pro event on the Hawkesbury River in his first-ever tournament. Fishing day one with Jason Harlock and day two with Wayne Robinson, Pryce was treated to the dream start, leading after sessions one and two thanks to his and his partner Jason Harlock’s fantastic day one bags.

The non-boater section was tightly contested, with first to fifth separated by just over 500g, a stark contrast to the boater division. In the end Pryce’s 1/4 0.53kg fish bag on Sunday’s final session was just enough to hold off a fast-finishing Peter Morgan.

Fishing Saturday with Jason Harlock, Pryce also relied on a beetle-spin rigged soft plastic presentation to tame both the local estuary perch and Australian bass. A 1/8oz jighead was the preferred weight to sink the bait down in the strong current to the desired depth of 20ft where they’d located the majority of the fish. A simple slow roll retrieve was all that was needed, just fast enough to ensure the blade was spinning and creating turbulence and flash in the dirty post-flood conditions.

Sunday’s morning session was a lot tougher on the newcomer, weighing only a single fish for the session, but it was enough to claim the victory and qualify Pryce for the season ending Bass Cat BASS Pro Grand Final on the Richmond River later this year.

Pryce was full of praise for his two boating partners over the weekend saying the shared weight format promoted teamwork and the sharing of knowledge perfectly fit ABT’s motto, ‘Who shares, wins.’ Pryce walked away with a prize pack jam-packed with ABT sponsor products and a beautiful trophy courtesy of Joseph Urquhart at Casino Outdoors and Disposal.

The Bass Cat BASS Pro Series now turns it attention north to the picturesque impoundments of Cania Dam and Boondooma Dam for the Queensland double-header bass road trip in June. If you’re looking to get a taste of tournament bass fishing then there’s arguably no two dams better to give you a taste than these two. Trophy-sized bass and plenty of rod-bending action are sure to await anglers when they hit the water in a few weeks. To keep up with the tour, head to www.abt.org.au.

Big Bass

James Reid claimed the Big Bass Prize at the Hawkesbury BASS Pro, with the bass junky picking up the $500 fish on day one fishing with Warren Carter. His 1.16kg kicker fish was a caught on a TBA?

Duffrods Big Bag

Kris Hickson secured the Duffrods Big Bag at the opening round of the 2017 BASS Pro Series, with the current BASS Pro Angler of the Year bouncing back in session two after a quiet session one, weighing in the heaviest limit for the tournament (3.19kg) to head home from the event with a new Duffrod to his name. – ABT

Winning Tackle

Rod6’10 Abu Garcia Salty Stage light spinning rod
ReelAbu Garcia Revo ALX
Line4.4lb Berkley Fireline Tournament Exceed
Leader4lb flurocarbon
LureBerkley Tournament Series T-Tail minnow (pumpkinseed fleck) rigged on a 1/8oz Berkley Nitro Dam Deep jighead


PlaceAnglerTFTW (kg)Payout
1Ross Cannizzaro10/126.41$2,000
2Jason Harlock8/125.39$1,300
3Daniel Bonaccorso8/124.75$850
4Greg Beattie6/123.81$500
5Kristoffer Hickson5/123.75Duffrods Big Bag (3.19kg)
6Brian Everingham5/123.73
7Tom Slater5/123.69
8Warren Carter4/123.49
9Peter Phelps4/123.08
10Steve Morgan4/122.83
PlaceAnglerTFTW (kg)Payout
1Dane Pryce7/124.57Bassman Prize Pack
2Peter Morgan6/124.49Prize Pack
3James Reid5/124.37Prize Pack + Big Bass (1.16kg)
4Keeghan Painter6/124.22Prize Pack
5Lochie Rutherford7/124.01Prize Pack
6Eathan Martin6/123.81Prize Pack
7Rebecca Fazio5/123.77Prize Pack
8Tony Khouri5/123.41Prize Pack
9Orton Marchant5/123.28Prize Pack
10James Hickson4/123.08Prize Pack
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