Just short of 400 anglers participated in this year's River to Reef Fishing Classic, sharing in over $30,000 in prizes.
The major junior draw was a two man Viking kayak with an electric motor and the seniors had a chance to win a 4.5m aluminium boat with a 40hp Yamaha outboard from Sundown Marine on a Belco trailer all proudly supplied by Australian Master Marine (AMM).
For the first time the River to Reef joined forces with the North Coast International Boat Show, which was a union of two very successful events. Visitors to the Boat Show enjoyed seeing all the anglers compete at the weigh-ins and the variety of fish on offer. Fish were not the only attraction with Thomo the bush cook giving lessons on simple cooking techniques, lure making workshops, casting schools and a truck load of boats and great ideas that would make anyone drool.
One of the best features of this type of tournament is the endless number of characters who participate to both win and support the Recreation Association for the Disabled (RAD) each year. It is pleasure to watch ordinary people stepping up on stage and watch their reactions when handed the winning or consolation prize. Anglers socialised all weekend, swapping stories and completing unfinished yarns from last year.
The number of prizes that were given away not to mention the freebies and vouchers was incredible. Nearly everyone who entered received a prize of some description and that’s what makes a good tournament. The River to Reef allows anglers to fish between Noosa and Bribie offering 12 specialist species and prizes for other species and live weigh-ins. The number of live weigh-ins was way up on last year and the tournament organisers were pleased to see so many different varieties.
The first day saw some shocking 20 knot north easterlies roll in during the early hours of the morning along with a 1.5m swell stopping short attempts to head out wide to the reefs. The estuary anglers certainly had the upper hand on day one with a couple of elbow slapping whiting being weighed-in long before most anglers had even packed their gear for the tournament. The few anglers who made the trip out to the closer reefs don’t remember the last time they where thrown about so much or felt so sick.
A good bag of mixed reefies and some good cobia were the highlight of the deep sea weigh-in during the first session. The first cobia came in just over 13kg; we believed it was the one to beat. It was smashed out of contention by a 32.62kg monster later in day 2 of the competition.
Day 2 started with similar conditions to day 1 but by this time the competitive nature of anglers kicks in and it becomes a now or never situation. I surfaced at 2am and it was not long before I was back in bed. At 6am I received a phone call to say that things were improving so off we went. We punched on out to the Barwon Banks to a couple of my favourite spots with high expectations. The trip for all who made it took in excess of 1 hour due to the conditions but it was worth it.
First bait and about the next 30 after that, all produced some great pearl perch. We kept four alive at a time to swap for bigger ones as they came on board two by two. Eventually we moved spots trying to get away from the pearlies, which were all around 2-3kg. It was mid-afternoon before we saw the first change to the pearly run with a small pigfish breaking the surface. I must say that both Noel and myself have never been happier to see a different species even though it was a piggy. The winds increased to 20 knots and the seas rolled a little harder making the fishing uncomfortable, so not long after I landed the winning jew (trag) we set for home.
Surprisingly, the size and number of snapper caught was way down considering the brilliant season we have just had. To win a tournament on a fish under 6kg amazed everyone.
Day three saw the last of the fish bought through the gate only seconds before the weigh-in officially closed. The leader board was still seesawing particularly on bream, snapper and flathead most of which went down to the wire. Mixed reefies, pelagics and estuary species dominated the weigh-ins and by the time the judges had made their decisions hundreds of hopeful anglers had packed the main tent awaiting the announcements.
I would personally like to give three cheers to the main organisers of the event Greg Balfour and Mark Scheimer who put in some extraordinary hours over the last six months, away from their friends and families to make this happen. The dedication that these blokes and others show towards the disabled kids and the success of the tournament is outstanding.
Barton and Matthew Thomas, the owners of Australian Master Marine, were so thrilled with the tournament and the number of people that it attracts; they have already pledged their support for next year.
The tournament organisers would like to thank all sponsors for the tournament in particular AMM, Viking Kayaks, Wilson, Smorgon Steel & Aluminium, Belco, Navman, Australian Capital, Sundown Marine plus many others, along with all the anglers that participated who without, the tournament would not have got off the ground.
Beach and Estuary