Laughing all the way to the Banks
  |  First Published: September 2007

Although these days it’s tropical North Queensland and the waters out from Lucinda that I call home, there is one other fishing spot that will always hold a special place in my heart – the Sunshine Coast. This is where I got my first taste of saltwater and where I fell madly in love with fishing.

When I found out that we would be doing a feature story on one of my all time favourite fishing grounds out from Mooloolaba, I knew we were in for a good day.

Our guide, Wayne Thomsen, is a mad keen fisherman and Springwood Marine boat salesman, and had been chomping at the bit to take us out for a days fishing. In fact, this doesn’t happen too often, but I reckon he was even more anxious than me to get out on the water.

A few months back we did a story with Wayne out past a spot called Deep Tempest, east of Moreton Island, and to put it simply he had an absolute shocker. Dropping fish and missing strikes, we’ve all had one of those days, but poor Wayne was unlucky enough to have a camera on board. As a result he had been copping it left and right and centre from his mates for weeks after the story went to air, and today was about clearing his name.

We set out from Mooloolaba about 5am, dead east towards the legendary local fishing spot, the Barwon Banks. I remember as a young fella if you couldn’t catch a couple of big knobbies or pearlies, you were having a bad day. Even though they reckon it’s not as simple as that these days, the Banks is still considered to be the premier fishing spot on the Sunny Coast.

We arrived at the spot, about 70k out from the coast in about 75m of water. Before I even had time to get a line in the water, Wayne was into it.

I was half way through my opening host to the show when – whack – fish on! Wayne had been hit half way down the drop and the fight was on. You don’t get many better tee-offs than that. Being struck while the camera is rolling is the TV equivalent of a hole-in-one – it’s that rare.

Back in the day, I remember that winter at the Banks always meant snapper and pearl perch by the truckload, as both species school up in big numbers to spawn when the water temperature is down.

By the time Wayne had landed his 2kg knobby I was already on the way down, hopping to snag some of his schoolmates. For bait, we had fresh squid from the local co-op and dead yakkas loaded up in a cocktail that looked good enough to eat.

I had the snapper standard paternoster rig to get my bait to the bottom as quickly as possible. Wayne rigged up a floater, hoping to nab a few of the bigger fellas on the way down. During the cooler months the Snapper will lift off the bottom and feed in the middle of the water column and a small sinker ensures you cover all the water nice and slowly.

The hits were coming thick and fast for both of us. In about an hour we had landed half a dozen knobbies all between 2-3kg – just how I remember the banks. At one point we even had a double hook-up, another rare occurrence in TV-fishing, but one we were more than happy to take.

For me, this was the making of a great story, for Wayne it meant so much more. In just an hour he had redeemed himself and regained bragging rights amongst the boys at Springwood Marine. With the pressure off, we could just concentrate on having fun.

Again Wayne was hit on the drop, with a bit more resistance on the reel than the previous winds. Taking a punt, he called it as the first pearl perch of the day. After a few minutes hard work, we got our first glimpse of a bright silvery colour ­ it was a pearly alright. Once again both of us were on, big bucket-mouths coming in one after the other, we finished with six fish on ice in the kill tank.

With enough fish in the icebox for a feed, Wayne suggested we move onto another spot a few kilometres further out where he had bagged a few monsters on a previous fishing trip. As far as I was concerned we already had a cracker fishing story in the bag, but a nice big trophy fish would be the icing on the cake.

We arrived at the spot, chucked the parachute out the back to slow our drift down and headed straight for the seabed. After the fast and furious action of the morning, it was relatively quiet. We must have worked the drift about half a dozen times without result. Then just as we started to talk about moving on something smacked my bait and bolted for the bottom.

Straight away I knew this was big. Pulling line from my reel harder and faster than either a snapper or pearly this fish was going to fight for all 75m of water back to the boat. Slowly I was able claw back some ground bringing him up to the surface. As Wayne got ready with the gaff, we got our first flash of colour “it’s an ambo, a big amberjack” was the call. It was our trophy fish; Wayne was spot-on with the gaff bringing 10kg of your finest Barwon Banks amberjack into the boat.

The aim of the day was actually to test out the Haines Signature 600F, by putting it through the same sort of punishment a prospective buyer would want to dish out. Of course the boat passed our test with flying colours, but given the quality of fish we ended up with much more than just another boat review. This was by any reckoning a top day out and a spectacular fishing yarn.

With both my arms worn out, and Wayne’s reputation restored we decided to begin the long run home. It had been 15 years since my last trip out to the Banks, but after a day like that I can assure you, it certainly wont be that long before I’m back again.

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