Well I totally missed the opening of bass season locally, but I had a half decent reason, being at the 2018 Bass Australia Nation Grand Final at Lake Glenbawn. The winner of this final (who turned out to be Alan McNamara – a legend of aussie bass tournament fishing anyway), got a ticket to the Bass Nation Championship in the US and a real shot and making the Classic or even the Elites, and in a tournament where points didn’t matter and if your weren’t first you may as well be last, I still left in 8th place feeling pretty happy with my efforts. Why? Because I learnt stuff. And learning stuff makes you better next time!
I can honestly say I had a real possibility of taking a win in this comp and getting the ticket to go to the states, but in the final session I made some decisions that in hindsight could have been thought about and made a little better. Anyhow more on that later. For now, heres a bit of a run down.
Thursday Pre-fish / Barry’s nap time
I travelled to this comp with a mate who also qualified – Craig AKA Barry Gibb. It was a late one Wednesday night arriving about midnight. So Thursdays pre-fish was a later than it should have been start of about 7.30, and combined with the fact not a single rod in my boat was rigged it was well after 8 before any type of fishing started. And the morning bite time was well and truly over by then we found out! None the less, a successful pre-fish (not that I profess to know what that actually is), doesn’t involve going out there and smashing bucket loads of fish. Its about working out patterns, locations, and setting yourself up with a sustainable game plan for the days ahead.
Well I did none of those things, and Barry helped by spending the majority of the day asleep on the back deck. From what I’d heard though, fish were coming on plastics, from the edges early and then a little deeper as the day went on, so I focussed on that technique all day and really just tried to sound fish and get some spots up my sleeve that I thought would hold fish for the coming days. Even though not a single fish came on board the boat for the entire pre-fish day, I sounded fish, hooked fish, and got dusted by fish. So I had myself a foolproof plan *cough cough* for the next day.
Friday Morning: Session 1
I started session one with my random drawn starting position of 22 and headed about half way up the dam to so some areas of rocky points with deeper water where I sounded fish during the pre-fish. I thought things were really going to swing my way when I pulled up to the first spot and my Co-Angler Bailey put a kilo fish in the boat on about his 3rd cast.
Using Nitro Dam Deep jigheads and Keitech Easy Shiners I proceeded to get bites basically every cast for about 2 hours, and not convert a single fish. Wait, I lie, I did stick one yellow belly… A lot of help in a bass comp.
I persisted in the spot as I was getting the bites but eventually frustration got me so I left and went to an area a little different to try. I had a spot back in the main basin with a shallow flat that had an deep rocky ledge to work plastics off and down the ledge. It didn’t take long at that spot and I put my first bass in the well, but it was small and I had a long way to go. As I do I persisted but didn’t get another from that area, so I made a change and headed up into the 8 knot zone up the back of the dam to fish trees where I had lost a good fish the day before in the pre-fish. I milled around in that area working the rocky edge and trees with no luck until we only had about an hour to go, still with only one fish in the well for myself, and one for my Co-Angler.
Not far from where I was though, there was a steep, solid rock bank that dropped away into deep water. I’d eyed it off in the pre-fish and thought it would be a good spot to try a jig, and with not much else to loose at that point in the session I decided to go and hit it. And I’m glad I did.
I was fishing the Geecreck Rock Jig Sniper with the new Z-Man TRD Crawz as a trailer. I pulled into the bank and first cast with the jig I got smacked, but missed it. I had a couple more bumps and eventually got the hooks into a fish, but obviously not very well as I ended up pulling the hooks. I got straight back in there and within only a few minutes I found another one keen to eat and I finally had my second fish in the boat. We stuck it out there as long as we could to try and upgrade and find my Co his second but it didn’t happen.
So I finished up session 1 with 2 fish for 1.78kg, which had me in 20th, and about 700gm away from the leaders.
Session 2 was meant to happen Friday afternoon but with some pretty hectic winds that had picked up, they made a very good decision to postpone session 2. I was pretty happy about that because it gave Barry Gibb and I a chance to rebuild our campsite that had been completely destroyed by the wind…
Saturday Morning: Session 2
So with the friday arvo session postponed they planned to just move everything forward, run session 2 saturday morning and the final co-angler session saturday arvo, but as it turned out some of the co’s had planned to leave after the morning session so they finished up the co-anglers after the saturday morning session. and then the Pro’s went out alone for the arvo session.
So, in the morning, my plan was now to stick with the jig in the area I had found. I went straight there and no-one was in the spot so I hit it. There was 2 key rocky points within about 30m of each other on this bank and by 7am, each one of those points had produced a kilo plus fish for me. So with over 2kg in the well I was pretty happy. Now this is where my final day decisions that bit me started, I just didn’t know it at that stage.
We worked along that bank a little further and my co-angler got a good fish of about a kilo as well. We continued to work around that area for some time but didn’t put any more fish in the boat. I really should have been using that time to search for more areas like the points that had produced my 2 fish, but for some reason that wasn’t in my mind at the time.
I finished up the Saturday morning session with 2 fish for 2.23kg, which gave me a nice bump up the ladder into 9th.
Saturday Afternoon: Session 3
Session 3 was a Pro only session and was the make or break session for everyone. Only the top 12 Pro’s would continue on to fish the final session on Sunday so if I wanted to have a shot at taking this I had to keep up a 2kg average bag to stay above the cut. Heading out in 9th, I decided to go straight back to my jig spot and see if the fish had replenished. And they certainly had! The exact same 2 points that had produced 2 good fish in the morning, produced another 2 solid bass within the first 45 minutes of the session. So before 2pm I had about an 850 and 900 gram fish in the well. I was telling myself I needed 2 kegs so I kept fishing the area and after about 2 hours I pulled another 900g fish off a tree leaning on that same bank, not far from where the other 2 came from. This fish was a small upgrade for me, but without realising at the time, it had also set me up for failure, which I’ll explain very soon. I continued to work that area, missed a couple more fish and also managed my PB carp of about 80cm!
Even though I had 2 good fish in the well, I didn’t use the rest of the session to search for more similar spots. Why? I can’t say, for some reason I just didn’t think to. A bad decision as I would later find out.
At the end of session 3 I returned with my 2 fish for a 1.93kg bag – which I was pleasantly surprised about seeing I had estimated my 2 fish at 900gm each… my scales must be a little out. Well as long as they read lighter than true I guess! Session 3 over and I was in 7th.
Sunday Morning: Session 4 – Top 12
‘So here it is, final day, final session. Im sitting in 7th place about 700grams from the leader. And I actually had a really good shot at this. You know why? because we had a 4 fish limit. Yep, a 4 fish limit for the final session, and I had a spot up my sleeve that had been producing kilo fish for me. Im 700grams off the lead, all these other guys are fishing plastics and getting 900gram average fish. All I have to do is come back with 4kg plus and I could very well take this. And this spot I’ve found can do it. It is going to do it. I can make this happen.’
Yep thats what was in my head, I really felt like that could happen and I felt like I was on a technique and a spot that could do it…
But as I found out, I hadn’t paid attention to a couple of signs…
So I take off in 7th and head for the spot. There was only one other angler who I knew would be fishing the area – Paul Aldous, and as the gentleman he is and knowing I’d also been fishing the area, he let me know where he would be starting and that he would leave a bit of space between where he will start and the area I had been fishing. True sportsmanship between anglers competing against each other for a pretty big prize.
Paul pulled up further up the bank, just as he said he would, leaving my spot free, so I pulled up and got to work.
Sure enough, I came up on the first point, and less than half an hour into the session and a couple of casts at the point, a 900 gram fish was in the boat.
‘Yep they are here again, 4 of these puppies, and maybe some upgrades and we’ll be set.’
30m along and about 10 minutes later, BAM 900gram fish number 2 hits the deck!
But things were about to come to a halt for me, and I still hadn’t realised my mistake.
So now that I’m sitting here, having analysed the crap out of my performance across the weekend, I can tell you what I did wrong. I fooled myself into thinking I had found some miracle spot that I was going to pull 4 of these decent fish from in a single session. The problem was, it was a small section of bank, that had a couple of key spots that fish were coming from. 2 key spots to be precise. The last 3 sessions I had hit these spots and pulled a fish from each one on the first pass, but then didn’t get fish off them again during that session. The 2 Saturday sessions had me fooled the most because in the morning I went there and got 2 fish straight up, then in the arvo went back there and got 2 fish straight up again. That had me believing that the spots where replenishing quickly. But I didn’t think about it well enough. The Saturday morning I got the 2 fish, then kept working along the bank, and didn’t hit those 2 exact points again. So they had several hours to rest and have more fish move onto them before I went back at the start of the arvo session. In the afternoon, I got 2 more fish of those 2 key points and didn’t get any more. The upgrade that I got came from the same area, but not off those points. So yes the spot was replenishing, but not as quickly as I thought. So in this final session when I went there I had put all my eggs into one basket so to speak, thinking I would get 2 fish off the 2 points, work along the bank a little way then by the time I went back to the points I’d get a couple more. But it didn’t happen like that. I got the 2 straight up but then did’t get more. And in hindsight, I actually worked the area too much without giving it the chance to rest as I should.
Now that I’ve had the time to look at it, I should have hit the spot and after getting the 2 fish I should have left it and fished elsewhere and not hit it again until the end of the session giving it the maximum rest time I could, but I thought that if I just worked it over and over eventually I’d get the bites, and seeing it was the last session I wasn’t worried about hitting it too hard. But the bites weren’t coming.
I eventually realised my mistakes and moved away from the spot, but it was too late, the damage had been done – I was running very short on time, had only 2 fish in the well, and had over exerted my spot to the point that it became apparent it wasn’t going to produce the 2 more fish I needed. I fished away from the area as long as time allowed and headed back to give it another crack. The larger of the 2 points finally did produce another fish but at about 650 grams it wasn’t going to cut it and I was still 1 short, and I was out of time.
I headed back in with a 3/4 limit that came to 2.54kg. I weighed in about 4th in the line and for a very short time, this put me in the hot seat holding down first place, but I knew it wouldn’t last. And of course it didn’t, and I soon found myself bumped further and further down until I settled in 8th.
The finish was actually a real nail biter between Alan McNamara and Dean Silvester. As it turns out, majority of the final 12 didn’t manage to fill their 4 fish limit that day with only a few who did. Dean ended up with only 3 as well but Alan had found his 4. And Alan took the win.
The winning weight was 10/10 fish for 10.27kg, my bag was 9/10 fish for 8.48kg. a hair under 1.8kg off. So my thoughts at the start of the day were spot on, I needed 4kg+ in that final session to take it. 4.34kg to be exact is what I needed, and I had 2.53. So that 650 grammer I had needed to be a 1.1, so did the other 2 900’s I had as well as the 4th fish that I didn’t have. The spot I fished I feel had the potential, as it had produced 3 fish of that size for me already throughout the previous sessions. But I didn’t manage it, and I learnt a valuable lesson about managing my spots better, and resting my spots if I want to hit them session after session!
USA will have to wait till next year.
Thanks to Craig/Barry Gibb for being my travel/pre-fish buddy this trip, it always makes it a little easier to share some travel expenses with another angler.
Also Rybell Images @rybellimages for taking great shots as always throughout the event!
And a big shout out to Sam at North Coast Boating Centre in Urunga, the guys there got the big Suzuki serviced and ready to go in time for the comp, as well as tracking down a last minute part after one of my cowling cover retaining clips broke a couple of days before heading off. I trust these guys to no end with my boat and its good to have the confidence to head off after a service and run the boat hard for days on end and know it will perform as it should!