The 2004 Gold Coast Sportsfishing Club Flathead Classic was run from September 30 to October 2 during conditions that proved to be the toughest Classic yet. Those anglers who braved the conditions managed to land 1671 flathead, well below the previous year but still a great effort considering the rough conditions.
Team Mean Green (named after my Polycraft The Mean Green Fishing Machine) consisted of my eldest son, 11-year-old Josh and myself. We also brought along my middle son, seven-year-old Jacob who wasn’t competing but had been cleared by the committee to join us on the last day. For us, this fun family fishing event had all the hype and build-up of something like Indy.
Flathead are easy to catch, even for the little ones, and the kids have their own lucky draw that has heaps of cool prizes including a little Stessl with a 4hp Johnson outboard. The Gold Coast Sportsfishing Club has always promoted the Classic as a family fishing event and the juniors have always been very well catered for. I compete in quite a few completive events during the year so it’s good to be able to fish one that’s more laid back. I also see guys like David Green and his son Michael who are now two of the best flathead anglers in the country, fuelled by their involvement in the Flattie Classic.
My boys and I have a long way to go before we are competitive with Greenie and his crew but we had a ball just the same.
The tackle that we chose for the event were two Daiwa Procaster Z rods with 1500 Capricorn spinning reels, a Procaster X with a Laguna spinning reel and a Procaster V with a Daiwa 103HSD overhead reel. We also had around 100 hard-bodied lures on board but, being soft plastic junkies, it was always unlikely that these would get wet. The line is 6lb Fireline and 8lb Vanish fluorocarbon leader. The light jigheads were homemade, and for jigging shads we used McCubbins.
0620hrs: The Mean Green Fishing Machine is launched and we head straight to Jumpinpin. There’s a stiff northerly blowing that is due to strengthen during the course of the day.
0700hrs: Fishing starts. We have selected Kalinga Bank to kick things off. As I expected, we almost had to reserve a seat as there were quite a few boats fishing the bank.
0721hrs: First flattie is in the boat but is undersized. Josh has gone for the 4” Power Bait Bass Minnow in Glow and I am using a 4” Pumpkinseed.
0754hrs: After moving off Kalinga Bank and heading over to Crusoe Island, we are back on the scoreboard with another flattie.
0815hrs: Out comes the camera for the first time. All fish that are over 40cm have to be photographed so no doubt can be raised about the winners. Our first photo fish is 48cm.
0840hrs: Another undersized fish landed after a change to the 3” pumpkinseed Berkley Gulp.
0850hrs: Another flattie on the Gulp as well as quite a bit of interest from the resident pike.
0920hrs: Was thinking about getting the bigger overhead gear out with a 5” plastic but am having too much fun with the Gulp and light tackle to bother. One of the boats close to us has just landed an 82cm flattie (I did give them the thumbs-up to congratulate them but I was spewin’ it wasn’t in our landing net).
0950hrs: Just landed a tiny bar-tailed flathead. Talking to the other competitors gives me the impression that the wind is making it hard going for everyone.
1005hrs: The northerlies are getting too strong so we decide to move the a sheltered little spot I know near McKenzie’s Channel. First cast and I’m onto another little flattie.
1006hrs: Second cast in the new spot and I’m on again. Still using the 3” Gulp and having a ball.
1140hrs: The run-out tide has made the water warm and dirty and fish are proving harder to find. Twitching a 4” Berkley out of some seagrass beds saw a 35cm bream slam it but it was becoming obvious that the lack of fish and the 25 knot northerly had started to get to my junior fishing partner, so we headed for the boat ramp.
0640hrs: The forecast was for 35-knot northerlies and thunderstorms so the boat went in at Paradise Point and we stayed close to home base.
0704hrs: First fish of the day – a 48cm flattie. I was a little optimistic after landing it as the water temperature was just over 23 degrees and I was thinking it might be a little too warm for them until the tide comes in a little more.
0805hrs: Not another bite since our early success and we are now fishing in a howling northerly that’s just too much to put up with. Water was still a little warm so I suggest to Josh that we pop into Nana’s, who is on the water at Runaway Bay.
1120hrs: Over three hours at Nana’s and, as we expected, no improvement in the weather. We decide to have a quick fish for a mangrove jack before pulling the boat out of the water.
1135hrs: Hooked up and almost managed to pull what felt every bit like a big jack out of a little rock bar. I was just getting the fish clear by driving it out of the rocks with the electric motor before it woke up and bricked me on a channel marker. Bugger.
1150hrs: One more small flathead, a bream and a pike and we are done for the day. Less than two hours’ fishing on Day Two is unlike me but it’s no good keeping the little ones out if there aren’t fish hitting the net.
0700hrs: Was supposed to start fishing but find myself driving all over the Broadwater looking for some cooler water. I had the biggest bream for the comp after Day One so I decide to spin for some flathead and bream on some of the flats that have worked for me in the lead-up to the Classic. We were facing 15-knot westerlies that were due to swing northwest by mid-morning.
0724hrs: The bream are biting but still a little too warm for flatties.
0810hrs: Decided to leave my bream hole after landing five more bream with two of them equalling my first day fish of 35cm. I didn’t think a 35cm fish would hold up but I wanted to catch more flathead so we moved on.
0850hrs: Josh lands a good flattie straight after dropping a nice fish.
0935hrs: Doing it very hard on the flathead side of things but still managing a bream here and there.
1020hrs: Two more small flat fish in succession as well as landing a little whiting before we decide to call it a day.
We returned to the comp site to see the team and individual prizes being awarded as well as the drawing of the senior and junior boats. All the boys put a huge roar for the crowning of the first ever Miss Flathead who was crowned with a tiara made up of some fine looking hard-bodied lures.
Terrible conditions but a great event that is perfect for the serious flattie fisho as well as guys like me who are keen to show their kids what catch and release tournament fishing is all about. Congratulations to Ross McCubbin as Champion Angler, and to Greenie senior and junior in the Champion team. All major prizes, as usual, were all given away in the afternoon’s lucky draw.
For the amount of time that we spent on the water, Team Mean Green managed to keep a fairly constant catch rate up. Out of all the Classics that I have fished this one was the hardest, but the kids had a ball and I spent three days fishing, meeting anglers and talking flathead. – Mark Ward
1) Joshua Ward with a couple of the fish that we landed during the Classic.
2) Some big pike were hitting lures meant for mangrove jack.Reads: 749