The vast waters of Awoonga Dam, just south of Gladstone and about six hours’ drive from Brisbane, hold plenty of barra.
I recently had a few days up there and having a mate as switched on as Gary Fitzgerald makes it a pleasure to fish these waters. His persistence, knowledge and lightning-fast reflexes when someone hooks up make for a great time on the water. We tend to feed off each other’s suggestions to find a theory and game plan that usually works. Fitzy also has a most informative and creditable fishing website, sweetwaterfishing.com, full of techniques and tips that make the fishing puzzle easier to piece together. The term guru should be saved for people such as Jack Erskine, Laurie Woodridge, Lindsay Dobe and Jason from Proserpine bait and tackle, among others.
Fitzy and I were part of the Penn Pro Fishing Team (also comprising Jack Erskine and Rod Harrison) in an invitational competition on Awoonga to raise money for the regional hospital’s oncology unit and the Cancer Research Foundation.
With conditions taking a turn for the worse on the weekend, we all knew it would be an achievement to even turn a scale, especially with competition like Paul Dolan and Matthew Mott, among others.
But, to shorten the story, we lucked out and stayed connected to a couple of metre-plus fish while our fellow competitors had some bad luck with fish jumped off and monumental bust-offs. We all know any of us could have suffered Murphy’s law but we lucked out and stayed connected to two of our strikes.
The successful method was to cast Halco 120 Laser Pros in tight to cover in about a metre of water at the lake edge and give it a couple of quick cranks to get it down at the edge of the drop-off ambush point.
Fitzy was using the deep version but it’s a mystery to me why the colour he was using was so effective – white body with head and body stripes of bright orange, not red. It’s only a new colour I saw in Perth a couple of months ago when Mike Roenfeldt knocked over a 24kg samson fish off Rottnest Island on it. It just goes to show that we don’t know what turns fish on sometimes, but its worth experimenting with something different.
My metre fish for the comp was taken on ‘old faithful’, a 125 Scorpion in green back with gold holographic sides. It got crunched several times and both of us had big boiling strikes that just never connected.
The comp was well-organised and congratulations go to caravan park and cabins proprietors Merv and Meg. They organised a live band and heaps of entertainment, all for a gold coin donation at the gate. And believe it or not, there were still a couple of tight-arses who refused to donate a coin to support a fundraiser.
I was lucky enough to have a few days to fish before the comp and the guys I met in the caravan park were hilarious, great fun and top anglers. They nailed a couple of thumper fish, generally right on dark, and a few smaller ones. The Wollongong boys made the trip for a couple of weeks’ relaxation and they all achieved their goal of nailing a barra (and the constant supply of Redclaw was greatly appreciated!)
Apart from Merv and Meg, the rangers who busted their butts fighting bushfires in shocking conditions, and who still showed up to look after us and compete in the comp, deserve a big wrap.
Gary Fitzgerald with one of the winning fish at the Awoonga charity invitational.Reads: 806