The Ford Ranger BREAM Grand Final was the culmination of the 13 qualifiers held around Australia in 2007. 104 anglers came together at Rafferty's Resort on Lake Macquarie in New South Wales with the same goal, to win the highest award in tournament fishing, the ABT BREAM Grand Final and earn a spot on AFC Tournament Fishing TV.
Glorious weather greeted persisted across the three day event, but come the Sunday Shootout only four anglers would make the cut and head out in the Quintrex 450 Hornet Trophy boats fitted with 60hp Mercury and Evinrude outboards.
Stephen Wheeler, a late qualifier at the Port River round, AFC Champ Scott Towner, 2007 Vic AOY winner Cameron Whittam and the Club Marine Gold Coast Super Series winner Ben Godfrey were the survivors.
When interviewed before heading out on the final day, Wheeler said, "I have a few nerves, I am not a sponsored angler but feel confident fishing out of the Hornets as I have the same boat".
Towner, the only one to have experienced a cameraman on-board before, said "The fishing will be tough, and the shut down bite needs the wind to change. I scored my spot on AFC making the top five a few years ago, now it's time to win".
Whittam had experienced this pressure before, being an accomplished tournament caster.
"Yesterday I pulled off my spots because of the boat pressure, I didn't get my limit. If the wind changes direction I am confident of making a bag," he said.
Godfrey, as a first year boater said "I am keen to back up my Gold Coast win, less boats means my spots should fish better”.
Heading out in first place, Steve Wheeler used a Daiwa Procaster Z 6'10" matched to a Daiwa SOL 2000 spooled with 4lb Berkley Crystal Fireline and a long Berkley Vanish leader. Finding his limit on day one seemed easy while fishing a Berkley 2” Shrimp in lime tiger and mango ripple around the Swansea Bridge. He then headed out to some moored boats and scored several upgrades.
Day two, he headed straight to the bridge to only lure a solitary bream on a 3” Berkley Minnow in mouldy cheese colour. The remainder of his fish came off the flats on a clear, shallow running Jackall Chubby worked with a slow roll retrieve.
The final day saw more of the same flats fishing, but with no fish early his nerves were building. Moving to the bridge to see 20 plus people cheering he knew he was fishing a tournament and the pressure was getting to him.
Whittam has had a good year getting a first and second placing in the Victorian ABT BREAM rounds. He used a G.Loomis dropshot rods matched to Daiwa Certate Finesse and Steez 2500 reels. He choose 4lb Berkley Crystal and Sunline V-Hard leader in 4 and 6lb ratings.
The first day Whittam moved to the sand flats to work deep diving Chubbies and Lucky Craft Sammies on the surface. Spending some time a Forster during the week it was an introduction to catching yellowfin bream on surface lures and the kicker fish for his first day bag was an impressive 36cm to the fork.
The second day he headed to the same flats and worked a Lucky Craft Bevy Pop S and a shallow Bassday Kangoku Crankbait only to pop-off a kilo fish at 1pm and only weigh in three bream.
The final day he tried the same flats but choose a smaller version of the Sammy in the Lucky Craft Pencil. Completing his milk run for the third day he found himself with no legals. He moved to Lucys Well where he found a fish and then to the Swansea Channel where he found a second but knew his bag was not enough.
The experienced Towner used a Berkley Pro Tactic 2-4kg rod and Abu Garcia Cardinal 802 rod spooled with 4lb Stren Microfuse and 6lb Stren Magnathin mono leader for the top water bite.
Finding fish on the shallow weed beds was not a problem on day one using a Lucky Craft Pencil with a walk the dog retrieve and switching to an unweighted Berkley Shrimp when necessary.
Not having many spots up his sleeve, Towner headed to the same spots on day two. Tough fishing and losing a kilo-plus fish hurt his chances but he had made it through to the final day.
Continuing to target the flats area he raised a few fish early on the final day only to find the bite to switch off like a light switch. Three days of boats hitting the shallows with the same pattern had pressured the bream and his day was not to be.
In contrast Ben Godfrey was the only competitor in the Sunday Shootout who had caught his full limit. He used G.Loomis Dropshot rods matched to Daiwa SOLs, one with 2lb Crystal Fireline and 3lb Sunline Rock leader, the other with 1lb Crystal Fireline and 2lb leader.
He chose to fish the Swansea bridge on the bottom of the runout on day one with a 1/8oz TT Lures jighead size 1 hook rigged with Berkley 2” Shrimp in molting and new penny. A long cast was the key finding the back of the pylons and holding the boat in the current while the plastic drifted 30-40 metres behind into the deep eddies. Day one saw Godfrey with his bag by 7.45am and three upgrades by 9am.
The second day meant more of the same, however there was more run. This was fine with him as it suited his deep water style. Starting with a 1/8oz TT Lures jighead and changing constantly to a lighter weight as the tide slowed was the key. As the competitors moved in on him he fished deeper in the eddies and finally moved to the Swansea flats where he upgraded his bag with 29 and 30cm specimens caught on a shallow Jackall Chubby.
Starting the last day in 4th place, Godfrey stuck to his game plan of fishing the bridge. He found the fish were smaller in size, but switching to a 1/6oz TT Lures jighead and throwing closer to structure. This brought out the bigger fish and he was content when he had his bag by 8.30am. Moving to the flats, he found the weekend boat traffic too much. Was his bag enough to contend with the experienced Towner?
It was always going to be close but the result was clear, 15/15, 6.89kg, Godfrey had enough to take out the Quintrex boat package and score an invitation onto AFC next season.
As a first year boater and clinching the biggest win of what could well be a lengthy career in tournament fishing, Godfrey is adamant the win will not sink in for days to come.
"Lake Macquarie proved to be a tough arena. I am over the moon about AFC, but it will be tough work to keep up with calibre of those boys," Godfrey said.
"As a young bream angler I am keen to give it to those big names," he said.
The Non-Boater battled proved tough but a clear cut leader at the end of the two days was Drew Rhodes of Newcastle with 10/10 fish for 5.41kg.
He used a custom built Samurai rod with recoil guides matched to a Shimano Biomaster 2000 reel spooled with 4lb PE Braid and 4lb Yamatoyo leader.
Fishing with Nigel Webster on Day 1 meant working the flats with 1/40oz fine wire jigheads rigged with Berkley Minnows in pumpkinseed and mouldy cheese colours. Casting the plastic out and giving it a light shake as the current took the bait lured several good sizes bream.
Day two saw Drew heading out with Tim Morgan working the flats with surface lures (Smith Towadis) and unweighted 3" Berkley Jigging Grubs.
"I thought I was a good chance of winning the boat, but didn't want to get too disappointed," he said.
"I don't want to sit in that hot seat again, it really gets your stress levels going," he joked.
Drew qualified as a non-boater at the Clarence and will use the Quintrex package to fish a few more tournaments next year, but first things on the cards is a family holiday to Ballina towing the new prize.
That concludes another year in the ABT BREAM tournament angling calendar. With the 2008 dates soon to be released it will mean another excited year of tribulations and sob stories. Stay tuned to www.bream.com.au for further information. – ABT
|Quintrex 450 Hornet Trophy/60 hp Mercury/Lowrance sounders/Minn Kota Riptide
|35L Engel fridge
Total Fish All Anglers:275 for 145.44kg
|Quintrex 450 Hornet Trophy/60 hp E-Tec/Humminbird sounders/Minn Kota Riptide
|35 litre Engel fridge