That was the reaction from all 44 entrants in the inaugural World Sooty Championship series Barra Pro event, held on April 18 at Eungella Dam.
Run by MAFSA in conjunction with ABT and sponsored by Barra Pro Mackay, this event was a litmus test to see whether northern anglers would embrace the type of tournament now common on the BASS and BREAM circuits. The feedback questionnaire filled out by every competitor proved there’s a potentially large following in North Queensland for a sooty series, with all anglers wanting more of the same.
The tournament was run on a slightly different format from the BASS and BREAM series in that there was a continuous live weigh-in throughout the morning. At the close of fishing, each angler’s four heaviest fish were tallied up to decide the winners and grinners – although everybody seemed to be grinning, even the crowd of spectators. All fish weighed were held in a wading pool at the control area, providing an extra point of interest at the weigh-in site.
Progress scores were posted up as fish were weighed and everyone was keen to see how the opposition were going. There were several little side competitions going on between mates but everyone was in good spirits and enjoyed themselves immensely, even those who failed to worry the weighmaster Tim Galletly.
The event started with a 5:30am briefing when all competitors were given a quick run through the rules and presented with their tournament bag, which contained sets of rules, a lure, various stickers as well as a Barra Pro measuring sticker, so there was no excuse for presenting undersize fish. Noel Matsen from Barra Pro was really pleased to get his bag as he had forgotten to bring along a tape measure.
At 6am the boats roared off in search of the mother lode of sooties that would get a win outright. The officials had just settled down to a cup of coffee when we were disturbed by an approaching boat. Sure enough, in came John and Anne Trigg to weigh in two fish for John. Those two fish briefly gave John the lead and also the Heaviest Sooty at 1.12kg and 380mm long.
Shortly after, John’s nephew Nathan rolled in with two fish, which took him to the lead with a total weight of 2.36kg and Heaviest Sooty at 1.74kg. Next in was Wade Inskip with two small fish and then, just as we were getting coffee again, Rodney Collins and partner Sam Bradford came cruising in with grins from ear to ear.
Sam’s fish weighed in at 1.38kg and 450mm, but the big mover was Rodney with a great fish at 1.88kg and 460mm. Heaviest fish to Rodney, and off they went in search of more sooties.
There was a procession of fish weighed in with no change in the lead or heaviest fish for a while. John Trigg weighed in another two fish to consolidate his overall lead, but he was being shadowed by Clay Dale fishing out of the AFC Suzuki boat, that he had towed over from Glenden.
Fishing stopped at 11:15, and for the last hour or so the weigh-in slowed until Wade Inskip returned with another two fish, as did John Trigg. It looked like being a two-horse race for a time but then, in the last 30 minutes, Wade picked up another two good fish – one a snodger of 2.86kg and 500mm long to again take the lead.
Then, right near the death, Clay Dale turned up with two good fish at 1.04kg and 1.24kg to make it a three-way tussle for first place. None of the top three could get another fish in the little fishing time left, and it was an anxious wait to see what the others were bringing in.
Progress scores were recorded on the board and the laptop then calculated the heaviest four fish for each angler and there were smiles all round.
The presentation went off smoothly and Wade Inskip accepted first prize of a $500 open order at Barra Pro, with Clay Dale and John Trigg filling positions two and three. All prizes were presented by Noel Matsen of Barra Pro, and all anglers in the top 10 places received an open order.
The final award was for the Heaviest Sooty, and Wade Inskip gratefully accepted his brand new Strudwick 4-6kg baitcaster for his 2.86kg fish. This rod was donated by Strudwick and, judging by the favourable comments among the competitors, these rods are destined to do battle with many a sooty or barra in our area.
Most fish were caught on hard-bodied lures. Wade Inskip started off with a medium Rattlin’ Spot as he found fish hanging down around 5-10m in the timbered areas. Most fish were caught on the drop using a Loomis C663 and CVX Millionaire reel loaded with 10kg Bionic Braid and 10kg nylon leader.
Later in the morning Wade noticed fish showing up on the sounder near the 2-3m mark so, after snagging and busting off his silver Spot, he used a 50mm blue Rapala Fat Rap and caught his last two fish on that, including the horse that won him the money and the rod.
Clay Dale used a different approach and fished with plastics for the morning. A Loomis Crankbait rod and Shimano Chronarch reel loaded with braid and 20kg leader delivered the plastics to the fish, and Clay’s best lure was a Berkley 3” Minnow grub. This was fished on worm hooks with a couple of small splitshot pinched on the line or hook. All of Clay’s larger fish hit in the top 3m of water although one smaller fish was hooked about 5m down.
John Trigg used his favourite Rattlin’ Spots to good advantage, and proved why he is one of the best sooty anglers around. John had weighed in four fish within 90 minutes of start time and had a couple of smaller ones that didn’t make the length of 300mm. John related a similar story to Wade, saying that the fish were deeper to begin with and then, when the wind dropped off and the sun got properly on the water, the fish came closer to the surface.
There were many hard luck stories of course, with bust offs, failed hookups and so forth, but the best story goes to Bill McGarry. Bill fished with Rob Foot, who has just bought a new boat and has apparently not yet got around to fitting it out properly. That’s his story anyway, when explaining why he didn’t have a landing net in the boat when Bill hooked a fish they estimate at 550mm, which was lost while Bill was trying to swing it into the boat. I’m led to believe Bill was not impressed but they both had a laugh about it at the weigh-in (and maybe a bit of a cry as well).
Overall, the tournament was a big success. Competitors travelled from as far away as Mission Beach in the north and Emerald in the south, and all are looking forward to the next round. All fish were released in good condition back into the dam by Mackay Area Fishing Stocking Association (MAFSA).
As a final wind-up for the day, MAFSA had its transport trailer on hand complete with 1500 sooties that had been raised in its hatchery. All the kids had a ball releasing the little fingerlings into the dam. A tournament-winning fish may one day come from that lot. What a great thought!
The continuous weigh-in and progress scoring was a definite plus and is set to stay as part of the Sooty Series program. Tournament 2 will be held within a few months at either Kinchant or Teemburra dam, so watch this space. You’ll read it first in QFM Tournament News. – Keith Day
1) MAFSA provided much of the equipment used to measure and weigh the fish during the tournament.
2) Big black sooty grunter were the order of the day in the Inaugural World Sooty Fishing Championships.
3) Anglers were ranked on their best four fish, however they were able to bring up to six fish to the weighmaster.Reads: 3658