Barra Madness
  |  First Published: October 2008

Generally as anglers we are proud of our own ability but sometimes this pride gets us into situations that seem impossible to salvage at the time.

I’ve been a victim of this pride before, hitting new water and thinking I had enough knowledge to catch fish. But the location proved tougher than I thought and I’ve headed home on a few occasions with my tail between my legs and head bowed down in failure.

So how do you stop this embarrassing situation? Simple. You get a local guide.

I’ve fished Lake Awoonga and Lake Monduran on a few occasions now and each time I slowly put together the puzzle. But, unlike some lucky anglers, I’d never managed to hook, let alone land, that magic metre-plus barramundi that you see splashed all over the pages of magazines.

Since Jason Wilhelm burst onto the barra impoundment scene he’s been a great help to my barra fishing. He’s always been free for a chat and also free with a little tip for the day whenever I’ve been barra fishing. My last trip to Awoonga was made all the more successful because of some tips from Jason that literally pointed us in the right direction.

Earlier this year Jason took the plunge from his day job into full time guiding. His business, Barra Madness, was born on the back of Jason’s helpful and insightful nature. He just loves helping people catch their first or next barramundi. As soon as Jason started up his business I knew I had to get on board and go for a run, which happened in late August. Yes that’s right August, when it was still cold and still winter.

Before we booked some dates, Jason and I spoke about what the best time was and what I wanted to achieve, something that Jason does with all prospective clients. My goal was simple; to catch a metre-plus barra on a cast lure. To meet this end Jason swore that late winter would be an ideal time to do it. Who was I to argue?

More than Expected

Barra Madness is much more than just a fishing trip.

Apart from fishing for barramundi, a strong emphasis is placed on casting techniques, finding barra, luring methods, how to fight barra, waterway etiquette, knots and rigs, strategies, strike methods, rod angles, fishing attitude, release methods, impoundment dynamics, weather effects and barramundi habits.

And it is this emphasis on teaching that stands Jason’s business above many others. Sure you will catch fish and sometimes that’s all you want to do, but if you want to learn and be able to do it yourself, then a day with Jason will be far reaching. Jason aims to improve your overall skills as an angler and fish conservationist.

This idea was perfect for me because I wanted to learn how to do it. I am always hungry to learn about the when, where’s and why’s of a new fishing style and this trip did not disappoint.

OUR days

I was lucky enough to fish with my old mate Trent Butler for two days with Jason and as we didn’t know whether we would be fishing Lake Awoonga or Monduran, we chose to stay at Willowgrove on the River at Benaraby, just a short fop from Awoonga.

As we drove up to Benaraby from Brisbane, Jason rang to let us know that we’d be fishing at Lake Monduran near Gin Gin and he’d pick us up from Willowgrove both days at about 10am. That seemed late to us, but after discussing the finer points of why, Jason revealed to us that the water needed a bit of warmth in it and the afternoon fishing was by far the best fishing.

The first day seems like a blur with Jason hooking up after six casts. And no this doesn’t mean Jason fishes while on charter, Trent and I insisted that he fish as I was up the back of the boat taking photos. His little fish got us all excited and at around 86cm it wasn’t a monster but was an indication that we were in the right spot.

We played around in that bay long enough for me to hook a 92cm barra, Jason to hook a really big barra and then Trent got into the action with a sensational 104cm barra on a 110mm Squidgy Slick Rig Pro in evil minnow colour. But the day wouldn’t have been complete without Boothy making a mess of his first metre-plus fish at the side of the boat.

The fish ate my Slick Rig in the shallows and muscled around for ages before sliding out of the depths and onto its side 3m from the boat. It was at this point the Slick Rig simply swam out of the fish’s mouth toward me and the big fish swam off. Trent was stoked with that outcome and I was just numb with adrenaline and disappointment.

Anyway that’s fishing!

The next day we followed the same pattern but we struggled with good action as the fish were very skittish. The Slick Rig Pros were spooking the fish in the shallows when they landed so Jason suggested I use a hard suspending jerkbait and sit the lure in the fish’s face. After 10 casts it worked and a feisty 70cm barra nailed the lure on the pause and it was on. And then that was it, as far as fish hooked went.

Those three hours between midday and 3pm were the most exciting fishing hours I can remember without landing a fish. The fish boiled up behind the lures, chased the lures to the boat before turning away and rampaging around the shallows giving us all heart attacks. Imagine three grown men squealing like school kids at a fair every five minutes or so as another barra showed itself without eating the lures.

Finally we’d had enough and Jason suggested we get serious and try some softer presentations and we all swapped to soft plastic frogs. We used the new Squidgy Boof Frogs and the Zoom Horny Toads when we ran out of Boof Frogs. And unlike the surface presentation, Jason advised us to fish the frogs just a little slower and below the surface. No worries.

We did this for a few minutes and the follows and boils continued before the slightest of all pecks on the line indicated I’d had an enquiry. A nano-second later the enquiry turned into a beast of a barra that stuck its angry head and shoulders out of the water and shook them at me.

This was my dream fish and I was in for a fight.

To cut a long and exciting story short, we got the big barra boatside and Jason deftly landed it in the biggest of Environets. I could hardly believe its size as it was slid onto the Brag mat and came up at 116cm. Estimated at about 27kg, this barra was big.

Even though it was cold in the water (about 19ºC), I jumped in, swam the big fish around until she bit my fingers and watched her glide off along the bank. It was totally awesome.

Do it

I’d suggest to anyone to have a crack at the big barra game. It’s powerfully addictive for anglers and a great buzz. Jason knows his quarry and knows the two lakes he guides on. He will lead you to your goal whether it is to get that big barra or to learn about barra. Give Jason a call at Barra Madness and be prepared for the time of your life.



Barra Madness sports fishing is 100% flexible to meet your requirements, but will also tailor to the best times to be fishing.

Extended charters, week-long fishing and anything in between can be catered for.

In the cooler months charters generally start at midday and complete just after dark.

In the warmer months early morning charters or lunch, mid-morning or mid-afternoon. Charter times will depend on availability.

Night fishing and full moon trips can be catered for.

If you're unsure of when the best time to go is, please contact your guide.

All budgets can be catered for, with cheap comfortable options, motel style accommodation, fully self-contained units or 5-star accommodation.

Standard Charter

Package CostsDay 1Subsequent Days
1 person$400 pp$350 pp
2 persons$350 pp$300 pp
Adult/Child (under 12yrs)$500$300

All Inclusive Extended Packages

All-inclusive packages are available for 3 or 5 day bookings

Price per Person

3 Days

1 person$1,500 pp
2 persons$1,300 pp

5 Days

1 person$2,500 pp
2 persons$2,000 pp

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