Bundaberg Sportfishing guide Jason Medcalf will be competing in most of the 2003 ABT BASS and BREAM tournaments, and in this diary reveals a behind-the-scenes look at the two series, concentrating on what he’s learned, the people he’s met and the fun he has!
THE TRIP meter of the 4x4 clocked over 4000km as I pulled back into my driveway in Bundaberg, and the kids , restless from the past five hours in the car, screamed with joy about being home. It was the end of two weeks of fun, learning and – of course – driving!
After reaching Sydney on Wednesday and setting up the wife and kids at my parent’s house, I gave my mate Trent Butler a call to see when he was going to meet me. The plan was to meet Trent, Tim Morgan and Pete Morgan on the highway south of Sydney as they passed through on the way down to Batemans Bay. When I called Trent he started yelling obscene things about Tim Morgan because he was going the wrong way through Sydney during peak-hour traffic.
I said I’d meet them at the Clyde instead.
As I descended through the range behind Batemans Bay the view was amazing. My first glimpse of the Clyde River was as I crossed it at Nelligen 15km from the mouth, and it looked very fishy with natural rock walls and plenty of fallen timber.
After meeting up with Trent, Tim and Pete we booked into the Clydeview Van Park and started unpacking all the gear. After a good hour of unpacking our unit looked more like a small tackle shop rather than our humble abode. The four of us were carrying a total of 37 rods (the Glenbawn BASS comp was the following weekend, adding to the variety of rods) and the total value of this quality collection would scare the average tackle shop owner.
On the Thursday night we had a little social drink with a few of our fellow competitors who stayed at the Coachhouse Marina Resort. After a few hours Kaj ‘Bushy’ Busch declared himself a hot favourite (I was told that’s the last thing you should do because if you don’t perform you get some serious ribbing). I managed to get most of the guys together for a photo before things got messy – and I mean messy! Jayson deForrest-Haddleton ended up wearing a bowl of pasta salad courtesy of Tim Morgan and Chris ‘Slick’ Wright. It was all good not-so-clean fun, and Jayson’s hair now has quite a shine.
Friday morning started with drenching rain, but as Trent and I prepared for our pre-fish our spirits were high. Unfortunately, Trent’s motor wouldn’t start so we put the boat back on the trailer and headed for the nearest boat shop. We waited for it to open and when the mechanic was free we rolled the boat into the shed. He popped the cowling, tried to start it and then asked Trent if he’d sprayed anything on his motor. The answer was WD40 so the mechanic kept turning over the motor until the WD wore off the starter motor clutch and then away it went.
Trent has now declared that maintenance is bad for your boat (not necessarily the view of the author or this magazine).
The pre-fish started well. I scored a good bream on the Prawnstar Shrimp and Trent got a couple on soft plastic Power Bait. After bumping into Tim and Pete (they had caught four legal bream each) we moved further upriver passing countless oyster leases and rock formations that looked very fishy. We stopped at Nilligen bridge and Trent caught his first estuary perch and some small tailor.
Pushing even further upstream, Trent started using a Prawnstar Shrimp and instantly attracted the attention of the local flathead population, including a monster that ate the lure just off the rod tip. We fished pretty hard for that whole rainy day without really cracking a constant pattern. We caught bream around the oyster racks, off snags and round rocky bottoms, so we were both pretty confident about producing fish in the rournament.
On the Friday night it was revealed that this was the largest BREAM tournament to date, which is very encouraging for the future of these events. There were some very experienced anglers amongst the large crowd, making the first-timers in for a treat. Names like Tim Morgan, Steve Starling, Kaj Bush, Chris ‘Slick Wright’ (and, of course, motor expert Trent Butler) are a big drawcard for someone who wants to learn about chasing bream on artificials. Scoring a top angler as a boater can give you an experience that cuts years off your own experimenting and guesswork.
On Day One it was still raining. After picking up my non-boater for the day, Mark Heifernan, we set off in search of our quarry. The tide was just off dead low so I worked some shallow rocky bottom near some oyster racks that were high and dry. This produced some hits for both of us, but no fish in the livewell.
We moved around the oyster racks catching a variety of species, including flathead, sole, tailor and estuary perch – all good fun but not point-scoring fish. Mark caught a good bream in the racks but it did him pretty quickly around a post.
After trying every likely tactic I could think of, I ran out of time and I, like many other anglers, went back skunked. I had enjoyed the day despite the weather and my zero score; the company was great and the scenery was sensational.
I wasn’t surprised to see Tim Morgan’s name at the top of the leader board, nor to see that Trent was coming in a close second. Fortunately for me, these two explained their successful methods to me and anyone else who asked, including the crowd gathered at the weigh-in.
Tim’s technique was similar to mine (other than the fact that it worked for him): working around oyster racks with 1/16oz Gamakatsu jigheads loaded with an Atomic 2” Fat Grub in the brown Crawdad colour. Tim said it was vital to get the plastic as close as possible and keep contact with it; the bream were grabbing it on the way down and you had to be ready. He also fished a plastic rigged to run on the surface, and used this when the tide had risen over the racks. This enticed the bream that were ambushing their prey from through the racks.
Trent used a different approach, travelling many kilometres upriver. He worked the shallow side of the banks and picked fish up around the submerged snags that lay just covered by water. He used his own jigheads with Lunker City Fin-S Shadsplastic and dead sticked them on the bottom. He said the bream would follow his bait then, as it lay motionless on the bottom, they would pick it up then it was game on.
I had dinner that night at the Starfish Cafe with Jay Morgan, Steve Booth, Steve Morgan, Pete Morgan, Trent Butler and Dave Moss from the reef science tank. It was a great meal with a lot of laughs. As we left we passed another group of happy competitors coming in to dine – something that shows the kind of financial benefits these tournaments provide to the hosting towns.
Still raining. Armed with a renewed enthusiasm, thanks to the encouragement my housemates gave me, I decided that this was the day to score big. After talking to my fishing partner, Trent Short from Motorama Springwood Marine, we decided to try where he fished the day before.
‘Young Trent’ (so as not to confuse you with Trent Butler) had fished not far from were I had, but had pushed further into the creek and found some willing fish with his local boater. Young Trent was third on the leader board with three fish, and said that he had also been done by a few good ones in the racks.
In the first ten minutes of the second day’s session I had my Fat Grub slammed and I was stitched up by a nice bream in the racks. I picked up my Black Diamond Bream Reaper and rigged a 1/16oz head on it, determined not to be done again. Soon after, a nice little 27cm fish grabbed my plastic on the drop and I ripped the fish out and into the well (this was a great relief to someone who just travelled 2000km). I was on the board and having a ball!
The was full of oyster racks and we moved around catching a few undersized fish and flathead. Young Trent was trying his best to get a legal bream, and amongst the racks he finally pulled out a nice fish. I changed my presentation to a small plastic, the same as Trent Butler was using, and tried the dead sticking technique. This pulled another 27cm fish and a just-legal one that brought my tally to three.
My most memorable moment was when I cast between two racks just wider than my boat and my plastic got hammered. I hit the fish with everything I had and got it straight to the surface. Young Trent, who was standing on the deck next to me, called it for an kilo-plus bream. Just as he dived for the landing net the bream dived for the rack next to me and made it – and then every boat in that creek heard what I thought of that fish. Unfortunately, young Trent didn’t land a keeper that day but he came close and didn’t give up the whole session.
If you read the tournament results in this issue you’ll see that Trent Butler won his first event, beating his good friend Tim Morgan. These guys are still best of mates and are looking forward to the head-to-head battle at Lake Glenbawn.
Trent Short still finished with a great prize pack worth over $200, and finished in the top 20 which, after the first day, I didn’t think I would make. Overall, I learnt a lot about fishing oyster racks (no racks in Bundaberg) and had a great time with a great bunch of people. If you’re thinking about entering a BREAM event, just do it – you can’t help but learn and there are always people who are happy to give advice.
Next up is Lake Glenbawn. Here I come!
1) Champion Trent Butler overtook Tim Morgan in the last session to secure his first BREAM tournament win.
2) Tim Morgan, Peter Morgan and Trent Butler displaying part of the 37 rods they took with them to the Clyde River event.
3) Tournament Director Steve Morgan interviews Trent about his successful techniques.Reads: 1221