The Rocky Barra Bounty has become an institution amongst southern and central Queensland barra anglers. It started only six years ago and got off to a shaky start, with the first event being flooded out. But since then the Bounty has gone ahead in leaps and bounds and is a must-visit tournament for anglers keen on catching wild barramundi.
The 2004 event experienced some impressive renovations over previous years, the most important being the beneficial linking with The Fitzroy Motor Boat Club. Their facilities just to the east of town were the ideal place for the Thursday night briefing, tournament headquarters and, for many, launch and retrieve area for the entire tournament.
Another notable addition to this year’s line-up was the film crew from WIN television’s Fishing Australia program, who filmed the entire event and captured some great footage of the competitors and the capture of a magnificent 94cm barramundi.
We at Qld Fishing Monthly also decided it was time to check out the changes and development of the Bounty, as it had been a while since we had been represented at the tournament. Steve Morgan fished the Bounty back in 1999, finishing in 6th place for lure casting, and the pressure was on for Team GoSo’s Shayne McKee and I to better that performance. If we didn’t, we were in for some serious ribbing back at the office.
Briefings are a necessary evil in tournaments, due to the risk of litigation and people unable to take responsibility for their own actions. The idea is to get the messages across on safety, rules and session times, while ensuring every competitor enjoys the couple of hours and can catch up with people they know.
A BBQ meal, competitor gift packs, general rev-up and a free drink went a long way to ensuring all these goals were met, and it gave us new guys a chance to meet some of the more experienced Bounty anglers. Everyone we met that night was enthusiastic about the event and just loved the social atmosphere. With the major prizes all random draw, most of the anglers were just fishing to have a good time.
After the BBQ, Kim Martin – the compere and one of the chief organisers – laid down the laws, wished everyone well and left it at that. Short, simple and left everyone ready to get out there the next morning at 5am.
Shayne and I had a great pre-fish day – we caught absolutely nothing, so our spirits were a little low as we launched at the boat club. But like all anglers we hit the water with enthusiasm, and within 20 minutes had our first little barra flapping around in the Environet. At 40cm it wasn’t a monster, but it did take us off the dreaded donut (zero) score.
Half an hour later Shayne landed a slightly bigger barra (42cm) and we were super confident. As we rung the score in, we were placed in fifth place.
The scoring system at the Bounty is in real time. You ring the fish through, tag it and snap a pic, and by the time you’ve had another cast, Bill Sawynok and Kim Martin have entered the details into the competition database. This info is then transferred to the scoreboard and everyone can see what other competitors are catching.
The rest of the day for us consisted of one big hook-up and loss, a small gold-spot cod and plenty of casting. We pulled back into our start area a little early and caught up with who was catching what.
Without any further fish we had dropped back in the field, but were still on the leader board and it became apparent that the baitfishers were cleaning up when compared to the lure casters.
The leaders had landed about 15 fish in the bait section and the lure section was being headed by a couple of young locals who were into their third Bounty, with nine fish.
The second day was hot and we hit some really good looking banks in the first three hours for one small jumped-off barra that must have thought it could cuddle up to the lure, and one flathead of 45cm. Shayne, fresh from the Flathead Classic on the Gold Coast, caught the flatty and copped a bagging for bringing his flathead tactics up north to chase barra.
As the tide dropped we decided to troll around a few ledges and rocky areas and amassed quite a few gold-spot cod and a couple of ripper catfish that had us calling for the winner’s cheque before their whiskery mouths popped to the surface.
We didn’t land a barra on day two, but we had a lot of fun. On making it back to the tournament headquarters we were talking about separating the tie for the biggest barra. Two anglers had landed 94cm fish and the organisers were a little baffled on how to handle it. As they almost reached a decision a call came in from a very excited Richard Dunkley, saying he’d just landed a monster. Measured at 116cm, this was a magnificent barra that is still swimming around the Fitzroy River somewhere.
So the tie was settled and the results were impressive, with 200 barramundi being tagged and a host of other species tagged as well. This was the most successful Barra Bounty ever, with the most barra ever tagged and the longest length of barra tagged, so all credit has to be extended to the organisers and their hard-working volunteer team.
While we didn’t trouble the scorers too much, Shayne and I, in our bright orange Team GoSo shirts, had a great time and met a heap of great people. The Rocky Barra Bounty is an event not to be missed. It’s not too serious, there are plenty of fishing options, the fishing can be good (if you know how) and the presentation dinner is a fantastic way to wrap up the event.
Beer and Barra Boys
Local boys Quintin Maclean (26) and Clayton Walker (27) used their wealth of experience to take out the lure section of the 2004 Rocky Barra Bounty. Using local knowledge and a passion for the Fitzroy’s barra, the two anglers measured 10 barra for 5.53m of fish. This easily beat second-placed Prop Right by 80cm of fish.
Using two lures for the tournament – an Elton John coloured Richo and a pink Reidy’s Aqua Rat that had their hooks upgraded with Owner ST-66 Stinger hooks – the boys measured nine fish on Day One and only one fish on the tough second day.
“We fished the lures in all the spots up Gavial Creek we’d caught barra before, using a short, jerky retrieve,” Quintin Walker said. “There was nothing special about the retrieve – it was the classic barra-style retrieve used everywhere.
“The important thing is to fish the last two hours of the run-out and the first two hours of the run-in tide. We’ve always done best during this period in the Fitzroy and its creeks.”
Bait dominated the catches in the Rocky Barra Bounty, and finishing at the head of the pack were Colin Brett and Daniel Powell from Barra Pimps, a couple of local lads who really know their barra fishing.
The Barra Pimps used their knowledge of the waterways and lagoons to amass a staggering 25 barra for a total length of 12.055m of barra, but Colin Brett said having the livebait ready to go was the secret.
“We had collected live prawns and perch before the tournament and kept them in fish tanks. It meant we could fish without worrying about bait being around and I reckon it made a difference,” Colin said.
“On Day One we hadn’t turned a scale until about 2pm, then it went off with 17 barra caught in 40 minutes. We fished lightly weighted prawns behind rocks where eddies were forming, in the mouths of drains and along colour changes. The barra were very keen during that period.
“Day Two saw us fishing the river again, but we thought we should try Woolwash Lagoon so we picked up the boat, carried it across land to the lagoon and fished unweighted perch into the lagoon. This is where we caught our biggest barra, with a couple nudging 80cm.”
Using standard baitcasting tackle with 30lb Bionic Braid, the Barra Pimps were surprised by the lack of king salmon, but were rapt to have won the bait section of the tournament.
Richard Dunkley, a Rocky local fishing his third Bounty, caught the biggest barra for the event with a magnificent 1.16m Fitzroy beast. Caught in the last couple of hours of the competition, the barra earned Richard quite an ovation at the presentation dinner.
The big fish was caught while Richard and team mate Jason Stanfield were taking a break from lure casting. Earlier they’d fished in the town reaches with lures and then headed down to the middle reaches where a few really good barra were jumped off or busted off on cast lures. After a couple of near misses the boys decided to take a break and anchored at the front of a drain with a bit of structure out the front of it. With a few live prawns on board, this was the choice bait and the boys cast out without high hopes.
“I had just cast out, picked up my drink and had a mouthful when I felt the bait get inhaled,” Richard said. “I struck and all hell broke loose as the fish raced off.
“I managed to get her up to the surface and she rolled and gave us an indication of her size before powering off on a long run. My drag was a bit sticky, I was running out of line and I jokingly said to Jason to pull the anchor as I applied thumb pressure to the line to slow her down. But she slowed down, came in half way and then took off again.
“Twenty minutes later I had her in the net, photographed and released. She was the fish of a lifetime and I am stoked to have been able to tag and release her.”
|Species||No. caught||Average length|
|Gold spot estuary cod||21||326mm|
|Black spot estuary cod||1||310mm|
44 (90%) of the 52 teams tagged at least 1 fish
80 (77%) of the104 fishers tagged at least 1 fish
Largest Barra1.16m (Richard Dunkley)
Barra on lures
|1 Beer And Barra Boys||10 barra for 5.53m|
|2 Prop Rite||9 barra for 4.755m|
|3 Meals On Reels||6 barra for 4.68m|
Barra on bait
|1 Barra Pimps||25 barra for 12.055m|
|2 2 Boofheads||22 barra for 11.625m|
|3 Tica Terrible Twins||11 barra for 5.553m|
|1 Michael Powell||15 barra for 8.14m|
|2 Colin Brett||17 barra for 7.715m|
|3 Mitch Lester||10 barra for 5.138m|
|1 David Fleming||6 fish for 2.85m|
|2 Michael Powell||4 fish for 1.53m|
|3 Colin Brett||4 fish for 1.255m|
1. Not only did the Hookers catch the biggest barra of the comp, they also landed this magnificent king threadfin.
2. Now that’s a serious barra. Richard Dunkley reckons this 1.16m fish is the catch of a lifetime, and many would agree.
3. The Beer and Barra Boys caught more barra on lures than anyone else. This specimen is typical of the fish they encountered.
4. The Two Kings caught a few barra over the tournament. Using a wet towel helps protect the fish from damage when they are measured and tagged before release.
5. The 2 Boofheads landed this impressive barra, one of 22 they landed on bait for the tournament, coming in a close second to the Barra Pimps in the bait section.
6. Kim Martin and Bill Sawynok (on the computer) input the data of the competition as it comes in. Their tireless efforts over the weekend, along with all the other volunteers, makes the Rocky Barra Bounty a great event.
7. Team GoSo’s Shayne McKee firing off a cast towards the rocky banks near the abattoir. This was one of the locations Team GoSo caught a barra.
8. The scoreboard is live and kept up to date. Every 10 minutes or so the leader board changes as anglers call in their catches.
9. Not a monster but it got us on the board. Shayne McKee caught this 42cm barra on Day One in the middle reaches of the Fitzroy while casting to bankside snags.