“‘COME to Tropical North Queensland’ – yeah, right…” I muttered into my zipped-up jacket, wishing I’d also brought my insulated Goretex ski gloves. Lake Tinaroo? I’ve been warmer on Lake bloody Eucumbene!
I could barely hear the idling Suzuki 30 but I just couldn’t feel my fingers on the twist-grip throttle – or move them. Up forward in the Blue Fin 4.3 Estuary, Trent ‘B&B’ (let’s call it Bream ’n’ Bass) Butler mumbled something into his fleece about bumping his lure onto the snaggy bottom once too often, while Big ‘Excited’ Kev Ward masked his feelings with a balaclava and sunglasses. Come to think of it, he didn’t look too excited and may indeed have gone back to sleep. I kinda wished I’d stayed under a peaceful doona back at Tinaroo Terraces myself.
It was 6.40am on the Saturday of the fourth annual Tinaroo Barra Bash. We’d spent the six hours to midnight the previous evening shivering in an icy gale on a dam none of us had been on before. We’d dragged the boat through a forest of flooded trees under a frosted moon, casting lures the size of fence posts on line the thickness of fencing wire in search of brutal beasts of barramundi we were almost too scared to hook up. Not that we’d had to worry about that.
I think I can safely blame Barra Bash major sponsor Rick Castino.
Rick, of Tablelands Marine and Outdoors, had generously invited a team from QFM to enter the corporate section of the Barra Bash.
Excited and B&B are QFM sales execs, so they were shoo-ins, but there must have been some secret drawing of a short straw in my absence back in the Brisbane office for me, Editor of NSWFM, to end up here. Whatever – I loved it.
Rick wanted us to get us a taste of competitive fishing in Tropical North Queensland. But he didn’t want us to do too well, so he cannily avoided installing a sounder in the new boat he had so kindly provided. Rick skilfully evaded our avalanche of hints, some as subtle as a sailor on a six-hour pass, about surely being able to lay his hands on a sounder, given that he has veritable aviaries of Humminbirds in his stores in Cairns, Karumba and nearby Tolga.
At least we’d been cunning enough to carry a hand-held GPS so that we didn’t end up frozen corpses in an icy forest of dead trees come daybreak. At more than 700 metres above sea level with 20 knots of south-easter gnawing away, it was cold. But we tried, as did 592 adults and 176 juniors, in a lake at only 30% capacity and with barra that were mostly very trying,– hunkered down in deep water with severe lockjaw.
At daybreak we were trolling near the dam wall, having snatched a few hours’ sleep after our cooling enthusiasm had been warmed by the sight around midnight of the first few fish weighed in. Horses by any other standard, weighmaster Errol Taske reckoned those fish, around 14kg, were Tinaroo ‘standards’ and a fish would need to be around 30kg to win.
B&B’s lure bumped another stump and then Excited’s rod tip went down, but the expected snag shot to the surface and turned silver and gold in the morning light. We were on!
I won’t bore you with the three opposing lists of orders that roared around the boat, nor with a detailed description of the battle, with how well the knots were tied or how skilfully the boat was driven, nor even how QFM Editor Steve Booth’s custom barra rod – due for a trip to Weipa only days later – ended up in two bits on the floor of the boat. The main thing is that Excited put us on the board with a beautiful 15kg barra. And, a week later, he’s still painfully excited!
Ben Richardson, of Townsville, is also still excited after winning the $18,300 Blue Fin 4.5 Warrior and 50hp Tohatsu that was the major prize draw.
Tinaroo legend and world barra record-holder Dave Powell’s team won the corporate section, with the Tinaroo Lures team second and QFM a gallant third. A member of Dave’s team was busted up on six hook-ups out of seven, so I guess you could say the barra mostly won, too. Tinaroo Dam won as well, because now I have to go back when it’s full and experience a surface bite on a warm evening on a full dam with those horses of barra.
And a whole heap of other people won at the Sunday presentation, amid a crowd of close to 2000. Kids won lures, category winners walked away with rich prizes, hard-luck yarn-spinners won prodigious amounts of tackle and the businesses which sponsored the event or donated prizes won kudos big-time.
The Tablelands Fish Stocking Society won in its major fundraising effort for the year. QDPI also won some interesting catch information. The 32 barra were weighed, measured and sampled to help manage this pioneer barra impoundment and to prevent them from eating the 1000 30cm tagged barra which were stocked recently. These should double in length by Summer’s end. If you catch one, note all the details and contact QDPI with the tag and info.
And it’ll all be on again next year. Just don’t forget your jacket, gloves and balaclava!
• Many thanks to Rick Castino and staff, the Tablelands Fish Stocking Society, Tinaroo Terraces, Erroll and Suzy Taske and all the other wonderful people who made our weekend such fun.
Tinaroo Barra Bash results
592 adults, 176 juniors entered
32 barra, 20 sooty grunter caught
Junior heaviest barra
DETAILS TO COME
Big ‘Excited’ Kev Ward doffs his balaclava to pose with the 15kg Tinaroo Dam barra that dragged the QFM team into third place in the corporate section of the Barra Bash.