Topwater Inviational a unique cod experience
  |  First Published: June 2017

The inaugural JJ’s Plague Topwater Invitational tournament took place from 21-23 April at Copeton Dam. The event was created by Joel Edwards, owner and operator of JJ’s Plague Lures. He is widely recognised as one of the most consistent big cod fishers in NSW.

Some of the best cod anglers in the country were among the 50 participants, including Josh Usher, Steve Starling, Jacko Davis, Stephen Booth, Adam Townsend and many more. The event was catch and release and anglers (in teams of two) were only allowed to use topwater lures during the two overnight sessions, making it a truly unique competition.

Prizes were awarded for biggest individual cod as well as a total combined length of all cod caught by each team. Competitors were given a brag mat, angler number and were asked to photograph their catch on the brag mat and then report back to the marquee to have their measurements tallied at the end of each session by Joel’s partner Shannon.

The competition started on Friday at 5pm with anglers fishing from the shore, boats and kayaks. The conditions were tough with the wind picking up throughout the afternoon session making surface fishing difficult. However, there were a few large cod caught during the first session with a 118cm beast caught by Daran Ryan proving the fish were there if anglers targeted the right parts of the dam. Many anglers opted to fish right through the night during the first session with some lamenting big misses and lost opportunities at camp the next morning.

I spent the Friday night session fishing from a kayak and it proved pretty tricky with waves throwing my Wilderness yak around, making casting difficult. I did have a follow from a big cod, which chased my lure along a bank where I wouldn’t have thought there would be a fish. For competitors who hadn’t fished the dam before, this proved to be the biggest stumbling block as the fish at Copeton do not sit in traditionally profitable structure like sunken timber and instead sit on the flats feasting on ‘bobby cod.’ These small fish are the big cod’s favourite and it was a case of finding the bait to find the cod.

During Saturday most anglers got together around the marquee to talk about the previous night’s session and it was here that Joel’s vision came to fruition with top cod anglers mingling around the fire talking all things surface fishing. Joel wanted his event to be more about the conversations than the fishing and it was great to see everyone getting along and sharing their vast knowledge with other anglers, young or old. It was during the Saturday that I learnt about fishing the barren banks of Copeton from Adam Townsend and it was great to see anglers like Steve Starling chatting to the younger generation and passing on his hints and tips.

The Saturday night session proved to be much better with most anglers getting action and a number of anglers landing good fish. The standout lures for the Saturday proved to be the JJ’s Rat, Mudeye Rattle Snake and the Jackall Pompadour. The standout team was Glen Stewart and his son Murray.

Ultimately, Daran’s 118cm fish was not beaten during the final session meaning he took out first prize for largest individual cod caught over the two days and Glen Stewart and his son Murray took out the team section with an overall length of 676cm of cod caught. Special mention must be made of this father and son effort with Glen landing his first ever metre Murray cod on the way to a big win.

In the end, 50 anglers competed in 26 separate teams with 30 cod caught by 18 anglers. This is an amazing achievement, especially considering the fishing conditions and the fact that Copeton got completely hammered the week before during the Easter long weekend.

However, this event was never meant to be about the amount of fish nor the size. Joel created the event to bring like-minded cod anglers together to share experiences and develop networks so that we can learn even more about one of our most iconic sportfish. The great atmosphere around camp coupled with the amazing positivity on the water is a testament to Joel and he is to be commended on what was a brilliant competition.

Special thanks must also go to Joel’s partner Shannon for helping to organise the event along with Brett Howie of Bash Lures who also aided Joel in getting the project off the ground. It is also important to thank all of the sponsors including Fishing Monthly, Spotters, Crashpad, Starlo’s Mad Keen, Skeleton Spinnerbaits, Water Stalker Lures, Wilson Venom, By the Gills, Outcast, Raid Japan, Heritage, Lowrance JJ’s Plague and CMap Genesis. All these sponsors contributed amazing prizes and most anglers walked away with something thanks to raffles and giveaways throughout the event.

Joel has told me that he has already started thinking about next year and plans to make it even bigger and better than this year. It’s hard to imagine, but I’m sure that Joel can make it happen. – Toby Grundy

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