Doing it tough at Awoonga
  |  First Published: December 2004

The vast waters of Awoonga Dam, just south of Gladstone and about six hours’ drive from Brisbane, hold plenty of barra.

I recently had a few days up there, and having a mate as switched-on as Gary Fitzgerald made it a pleasure to fish the lake. His persistence, knowledge and lightning-fast reflexes whenever someone hooked up made for a great time on the water. We tended to feed off each other’s suggestions to find theories and game plans that worked.

Fitzy and I were part of the Penn Pro Fishing Team, with Jack Erskine and Rod Harrison, in an invitational competition on Awoonga to raise money for the regional hospital’s oncology unit and the Cancer Research Foundation.

With conditions taking a turn for the worse on the weekend, we all knew it would be an achievement to even turn a scale, especially with competition like Paul Dolan and Matthew Mott, among others.

But, to shorten the story, we were lucky and stayed connected to a couple of metre-plus fish while our fellow competitors had some bad luck with fish jumping off and monumental bust-offs. We knew any of us could have suffered Murphy’s Law but, thankfully, we managed to stay connected to two of our strikes.

The successful method was to cast Halco 120 Laser Pros in tight to cover in about a metre of water at the lake edge and give it a couple of quick cranks to get it down at the edge of the drop-off ambush point.

Fitzy was using the deep version but it’s a mystery to me why the colour he was using was so effective – white body with head and body stripes of bright orange, not red. It’s only a new colour I saw in Perth a couple of months ago when Mike Roenfeldt knocked over a 24kg samsonfish off Rottnest Island on it. It just goes to show that we don’t know what turns fish on sometimes, but its worth experimenting with something different.

My metre fish for the comp was taken on ‘old faithful’, a 125 Scorpion in green back with gold holographic sides. It got crunched several times and both of us had big boiling strikes that just never connected.

The comp was well-organised and congratulations go to caravan park and cabins proprietors Merv and Meg. They organised a live band and heaps of entertainment, all for a gold coin donation at the gate. And believe it or not, there were still a couple of tight-arses who refused to donate a coin to support a fundraiser!

I was lucky enough to have a few days to fish before the comp and the guys I met in the caravan park were hilarious, great fun and top anglers. They nailed a couple of thumper fish, generally right on dark, and a few smaller ones. The Wollongong boys made the trip for a couple of weeks’ relaxation and they all achieved their goal of nailing a barra (and the constant supply of redclaw was greatly appreciated!)

The rangers who busted their butts fighting bushfires in shocking conditions, and who still showed up to look after us and compete in the comp, also deserve a big rap.

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