Well a little bit of a delayed post after the 3rd Urunga Flathead Tournament, but it did go down as I expected!
The fishing was at times quite tough, which is expected with 310 anglers on the 2 rivers over the weekend, but the bites came throughout the days and plenty of fish were caught. We caught all of our flathead in the lower reaches of both the Bellinger and Kalang systems, all on soft plastics 4″ or less.
The weekend definitely didn’t start out to hard for us on board Mirag’in, we were on the water and ready to go in time for the 6am start fishing time and literally idled from the sand bar in front of the sailing club, 50m across the river to the wall that runs from Back Creek towards the mouth, sounded along it a little way against the incoming tide and then dropped the electric and started on plan A. It would seem to be a decent enough plan with Craig putting the first flathead on the deck at about 6.20. The fish was a great start at 72cm, and with boats all around us we feared the inevitable and were ready to start battling traffic… but for whatever reason, even though dozens of people just watched us boat a 70+ fish to kick off our morning, no-one stayed in the general area! I had explained to Craig earlier that I thought this might happen seeing the spot is right near the ‘start’, and not many people would think its worth fishing that area.
We managed a few other smaller fish along the wall until the tide started to slow and then we made the shift onto the next spot. We trolled hardbodies through Back Creek to get to the Bellinger arm, and despite getting fish doing this a few weeks back, we had no luck during the comp. Half way through the troll though a cracker of a lightning storm rolled over and that slowed things down.
After making our way over to the Mylstom side, we fished a combination of deeper water and shallower flats, managing a number of mid 40’s flathead to rack up some points. When the bite again slowed we travelled up the Bellinger all the way to Fernmount to see if we could find fish further up. We hit a couple of the usual spots I always fish along the way but they are very susceptible to boat traffic, and I didnt feel confident of pulling fish at these normal spots with the traffic and fishing pressure they were seeing.
Fernmount had a lot of bream, as well as some other boats and the occasional ‘Wooo-Hoooo’ off in the distance, but we pulled the pin fairly quick and headed back down the river. We fished the same spots down river in the afternoon and managed a few extra fish to add to the tally. At around 6.30, with half an hour left before we had to have our angler cards back, we hit a spot that normally produces good fish – and it did… unfortunately, as soon as Craig asked the question ‘what pound leader are you running…’ well you know how it goes.
We left that spot and made the decision to be there ready to cast at 6am Sunday morning…
Sunday morning rolled around and we were on the water with plenty of time up our sleeves, so we idled down the river nice and easy to get to our spot. We sounded along the edge of the drop off at about 5.50am and then set the spot lock right in the sweet spot.
We both had a great laugh as I watched the seconds on the sounder and counted Craig in to make the first cast ‘…4, 3, 2, 1… 6am cast cast cast!!’
Craig fired one right up across the deep water and above the drop off – bloody perfect this is a fish first cast for sure. Jig, jig, jig, whip, jiggle-jiggle… jig jig… burn, jig…
Ok Craig get the hell out of the way I’ll show you how you catch a fish first cast – I put a 4″ Smelt right in the same spot and sunk it to the bottom…
Jig, ji-BOOM!! Yep we were on!
It was all cheers and jokes as I set the hook on a tank of a fish and it peeled line off. Craig grabbed his phone and was filming while I held my watch up to look at the time – 6.01am. Doesnt get much better than that.
While we both confidently kept saying ‘Good flathead, this is gonna be a cracking flathead’, deep down I knew fairly early on what we had and just needed to see it to be sure. It was about 6.15 when we finally got it from the deep hole and out over the sand flat were we could turn its head and get a look to see what it was. Its not too often that you’ll see a meter Jew, in the estuary, on 6lb gear and say ‘damn i wish that was a flathead’.
But I said it that morning and for some stupid reason I stopped giving that fish the respect it deserved (and Im still angry at myself for that). After seeing it roll a couple of times just out of reach, I said to Craig ‘yep he’s done, get the net I’ll turn him on this pull’, I put weight on him and the leader finally let go as we watched him slide back down towards the bottom.
Craig thought his video sequence was awesome I might add – first shot of me cheering and fist pumping… second shot sitting down pouting as I re-tied my leader.
By the time we lost the fish and re-grouped, it was about 6.25 and 2 boats had pulled into the spot we had claimed early. Frustrated, I said to Craig to let them have it, and we moved on.
We went and fished the flats we had found fish on the day before, and although it was slow, we did start to get a bit of a bite and picked up fish here and there.
By Mid morning things were quiet again, the tide was just about slack and we were fishing kind of a ‘fill in’ area, just waiting. waiting for the next bite, waiting for the tide to turn and start running again, waiting for something. Im not sure what that something was, but when Craig put his lure in a tree, the heat must have been getting to me because I decided it was time for a swim to get it! 1 retrieved lure and 2 oyster cut feet later, I realised I had the Minn Kota remote on me which had been swimming also, and it decided it was done for the day. With no other means to control the electric, we started a good old flathead drift for the last hour and a half of the tournament. We dropped and few fish and I think Craig did actually manage 1 or 2 to add some points to his total, but midday soon came and we were both pretty happy with our efforts.
At the presentation Craig managed 5th overall and myself 10th. As I stood there looking at the top 10 I kept thinking ‘Craig and I are the only people up here from the same team – we could be in with a shot!’. We were in with a shot and we took out the champion 2 person team! We had to give ourselves an extra pat on the back when we saw the scores as we had actually scored higher as a 2 person team than the winning 3 person team! Definitely stoked with our efforts on the water!