The first qualifier for the 2009 Ford Ranger Series was a scorcher with 60 boats and 115 anglers attending the Australia Day weekend event. But it was Adam Ward who overcame the sweltering heat to score his maiden victory with the only full 10/10 limit taking the spoils.
Day one of the Lowrance Manning River event was not only a test of angler’s ability but also their sensibility and stamina in 40ºC+ heat. Only nine anglers achieved their limit, and Chris ‘Slick’ Wright led the field by the narrowest of margins from the reigning champ Russell Babekuhl.
A cool southerly change greeted a relieved field on Sunday, making conditions more pleasant for all. Whilst a large vocal crowd gathered to watch the weigh-in at Endeavour Park, there were some movers and shakers on the leader board. The only man to eclipse the 5kg mark was the victor Adam Ward with 10/10, 5.17kg.
Ward fished the entrance between Scotts Creek and Landsdowne for the two days of competition. His Skeeter boat powered by a 150hp E-Tec ensured he travelled quickly and safely, and also brought him the rewards of $500 thanks to the Skeeter Sponsor Bonus Program.
His tackle for the weekend consisted of a 7ft Shimano T-Curve Flight matched to a Shimano Stella 1000 spooled with 3lb Berkley Stren and 4lb Sunline Rockfish leader. With the warm water and abundance of prawns providing a top water bite, Ward’s choice of lure was the new Bassday Sugarpen. The skinny profile and longer length of the lure mimicked the fleeing bait in the shallows.
Casting tight to the banks punctuated by mangrove ledges, Ward used a constant twitch-walk retrieve to tempt the bream hunting in the weed that were distributed parallel to the shoreline. When he noted that the lure was being followed, a short pause was all that was needed for the lure to be inhaled and drag to start tearing off the reel as the bream tried to run and shake the trebles free.
“With so many prawns around, I caught all my fish on the Sugarpens. Smearing them with S-Factor to ensure they were eaten,” explained Ward.
His lure of choice scored him $1000 worth of Bassday lures, courtesy of the expanding Sponsor Bonus Program, and Sunline leader entitled him to a further $400 prize pack.
Fishing a stretch of bank, Ward would consistently move and then return at different stages of the tide to assist in the replenishment of fish. A technique that proved to be the key in achieving the only full limit for the tournament.
Runner up Chris Wright made a welcomed return to the podium, fishing top water baits in the racks and weed edges in Pelican Bay.
Needing some serious pulling power to extract the bream from their rack dwelling habitat, Slick used an Ian Miller Bass Buster matched to a 2500 Shimano Sustain spooled with 16lb Castaway braid and 12lb fluorocarbon.
Establishing a hard/soft combination between the Stiffy Top Dog in gold back clear belly and the Squidgy Bug in coral colour rigged on a resin head. Wright used a fast erratic walk-retrieve for the popper, and the bream scoffed the Stiffy lure off the surface.
The soft plastic bug required a finesse approach in the flooded racks. Working the lure across the surface allowing the tail to create a ripple, Wright would see the bream appear behind the Squidgy Bug. A momentary pause, allowing the resin head to float down, ensured the bream grabbed the bait smeared with S-Factor.
Champion non boater Phil Nix proved he can handle whatever conditions the Manning River serves up, especially after last years win in a muddy, flooded river.
Using a G.Loomis 842 IMX matched to a Daiwa SOL 2500 spooled with 3lb Berkley Crystal and 6lb Sunline fluorocarbon leader. Nix showed diversification by fishing deepwater with Darren Borg in the heat of day one and oyster racks with Aaron Horne on day two.
Employing a Tackle Craft prawn rigged on varying weights of TT jigheads from 1/4-1/16oz, the technique was a simple let-it-sink-to-the-bottom followed by several hops fishing the deep rock walls.
His limit on day two was thanks to several fish caught in Scotts Creek on slow rolled Jackall Chubbies and a Stiffy Popper worked over the oyster racks in Crokeye. With the abundance of prawns in the area, a twitch-pause retrieve was employed across the edge of the racks, with the bream inhaling the popper on the pause.
The big bream for the tournament was the only 1kg+ fish weighed in, a 1.32kg bruiser captured by Troy Van Kampen. It was Troy’s only fish for the weekend that was caught on a 2” Atomic Prong in copper flake rigged on a Gamakatsu size 4 suicide hook and skipped across the surface, which imitated the many fleeing prawns in the system.
The capture not only scored him the $500 Go-So Big Bream cheque but a new Samurai rod thanks to the Atomic Sponsor Bonus Program that rewarded the largest fish weighed in on an Atomic product.
It was a well represented field for the first BREAM Qualifier for the year, and the top four boaters and non boaters can now relax knowing they have secured their position in the Ford Ranger Grand Final to be held on the waters of Sydney Harbour later in the year.
New for 2009 was the option to upgrade to ‘Pro’ Status. Sixteen boaters backed themselves, but it was the four anglers in the top ten that were laughing all the way to the bank, including Tim Morgan, Russell Babekuhl, Darren Seckold and Michael Starkey.
Lastly, Shaun Chapman finishing in fourth place was the highest placed Mercury owner, doubling his money to $500 thanks to the Mercury/Motorguide bonus.
ABT would like to thank Jim Hickson from Manning River Marine for assisting in a successful weekend, as well as Taree Council and Dawson River Tourist Park.
The next BREAM Qualifier is the Evinrude event at Port River in SA. For more information visit www.bream.com.au or ph ABT on 07 3387 0888.
Ford Ranger BREAM Series: Lowrance Taree BREAM Qualifier Boater Results
Ford Ranger BREAM Series: Lowrance Taree BREAM Qualifier Non-Boater Results