TWENTY-SIX boats gathered at Lakes Entrance, Victoria, to contest the first round of the Quintrex 2004 BREAM series. The Johnsonville boat ramp was the designated starting point with a majority of anglers staying at the nearby, and very aptly named Bream Lodge.
The tournament setting offered plenty of quality fish-holding structure: Weedy sand flats, the Metung and Paynesville jetties and huge amounts of natural structure in the Mitchell, Nicholson and Tambo River. The tide hit ebb within the first few hours of each session and the weather was warm and bright with winds below 15 knots.
The Gippsland Lakes offered plenty of challenges with over 400km of fishable water, with large, temperamental fish. The Friday pre-fish became critical for anglers to get an idea of where to find fish in the huge expanse of water. A very murky upper Tambo River quickly forced anglers out into lower reaches and into the expansive waters of the Gippsland Lakes. There were plenty of fish about but finding fish prepared to chew lures was a whole new ball game.
I was paired with Adam Royter, which made for an amusing day. Generally when you relax and have a good laugh as you fish, things tend to fall into place. Not so for our crew in the blue Polycraft (might have had something to do with being 13th boat to start off, following a pre fish day on Friday the 13th). Royter nailed a fish off the channel markers at the mouth of the Tambo on a 2” Atomic Fat Grub in the first few minutes, which gave us short-lived hope. It took a fishless trip to Paynesville before I managed a reasonable fish of 880g at the mouth of the Mitchell.
At times were amazed by the size of some of the bream we saw. Getting these fish to take our offerings was frustratingly difficult. Adam managed a second fish and dropped another more before we decided to head back to the Tambo to check out new water. The Tambo frustrated us even further with more staggeringly large fish seen patrolling the edges. I managed an undersized 27.5cm fish before we headed dejectedly back to the weigh-in.
Adam cast 2” Atomic Fat Grubs on 1/16oz jig heads all day. It was a great fishing with Adam for his insight into the tournament game and just to watch his precision casting. I used 1” Berkley Nymphs on 1/16oz heads, a technique that had worked well on the pre-fish day.
If we felt depressed on the way back to the boat ramp, we were well and truly down in the dumps as we watched some great bags weighed in. Russell Patterson, Kaj Busch, Michael Metcalfe, Steve Starling, Ryan Mumford and Kev Gleed made up the top order with Russell Patterson producing a day-one bag of 5.36kg. Allan Loftus, Morne Muller, Andrew Dibley and Mark Mangold led the non-boaters.
Strangely enough, I was 13th cab off the rank for the second day running. I remember telling Adam Royter after Day One, that I had little chance of taking out the tournament, so I was going to relax and go chasing the elusive Big Bream title. It’s uncanny how stating your intentions out loud (as ridiculous as they might be at the time!) can sometimes bring things to fruition.
I approached the second day quite differently. I knew where fish were and I decided early to trust my instincts and to just enjoy the fishing.
My non boater, Andrew Dibley, and I went straight to the mouth of the Mitchell and I put a fish in the well reasonably quickly but then things went slowly. A strengthening southerly wind soon turned us towards the sanctuary of the Tambo River in case conditions started getting nasty.
Andrew suggested hitting the snags at the river entrance. With the wind-driven chop over the timber, it looked good for some less spooky fish. It took 10 minutes to hook the first fish and then the floodgates opened. I managed to put five fish in the well and drop another three quality bream that used the timber to good effect.
One of my fish was an absolute thumper at 1.88kg and later earned me the Big Bream award for the weekend. The sight of this large fish rolling up out of its timbered home will remain in my memory for some time. Andrew also managed two large fish from the same location before it was time to head for the weigh-in.
The weigh-in produced a number of surprises, with many of the anglers who took fish on the first day then finding the going tough. The brilliance of Bushy shone through as he smashed the all-time total bag weight with an impressive 10.44kg. Bushy knows this area very well and put a lot of time into getting it right for this tournament.
Kev Gleed, with 7.26kg, continued his traditional consistent form by taking out second place over Michael Metcalf with 7.16 kg. I managed to sneak into the four to qualify for the grand final. Andrew Dibley, Mark Mangold, Morne Muller and Alan Loftus made up the non-boating qualifiers.
Most anglers observed a lot of fish but locating feeding fish was difficult. Areas that were deeper, offered more current flow, were slightly more murky or, as I encountered, wind-swept, provided feeding fish.
If I were to pick a lure that brought more fish undone through the weekend, it would be the 3” Berkley Drop Shot Minnows fished on standard 1/16oz and 1/32oz jig heads. The sight of many anglers in the pub with glitter all through their facial hair was a testament to this. Anglers using these plastics fished them hard into structure and twitched them back slowly along the bottom or used a faster, jerky retrieve to mimic a wounded baitfish.
There were a lot of prawns in the lakes so many anglers used plastic amber Atomic Fat Grubs and red Squidgy Wrigglers to good effect.
I used the 1” Berkley Nymphs that fellow angler Dave Welfare put me onto some months ago. I fished these small-profile plastics right in the structure. Casting on top of the timber and letting the lure drift down in among the fish produced solid hook-ups. When working these plastic baits, the very slightest twitches tended to produce better than when worked more quickly.Reads: 1050