Shady Camp and Coastal Round
Last weekend was the first round of the 2019 Top End Barra Series. About 110 very keen anglers were waiting with growing impatience, just like small children long for Christmas. It finally happened last weekend with competitors converging on Shady Camp, like an annual pilgrimage.
Once again, Shady didn’t disappoint, with a large number of big, Mama Barra falling to the lures of enthusiastic anglers. Participants in the TEBS were fishing far and wide, from Tommy Cutt all the way up to the Wildman. Anglers appreciated the opportunities to spread out throughout the lower Mary System. The range and quantity of data collected by TEBSies is a great way to assess the health of the system. Despite the lack of rain this year, there is no doubt that the system is still producing the goods.
Some had launched on the Friday to have the opportunity of a first raft up, or simply to pre-fish and find their honey hole. As a matter of fact, on one of these pre-fish escapades, Craig Latimore nailed a 116cm Barramundi. Not only is that a great fish which could have given an awesome fight on any given day… it was foul hooked, not very far from the end tail making it all the more challenging. Now, imagine trying to reel in a 116 cm Barramundi that you can’t turn around… Now from what I heard about raft ups, well what happens on a boat stays on a boat. But let me say that one well know Tebsie came all the way from NSW to be part of them and has since returned down south, hopefully not too impaired from the experience.
Talking about the nights slumbering aboard cherished vessels, competitors need a quick reminder to be ‘crocwise’. Rossco had a lizard spending the night either removing barnacles from its back or hoping to tenderize its dinner. Tim Bloch also had bit of a shock when going to answer a call of nature, at night, only to find a crocodile resting his head on the back pontoon.
The fishing seemed to be better all across the board on the Saturday than on the Sunday, apart from a few exceptions. Most of the fish were caught on big lures, with the large Reidy’s and Classic models doing most of the damage. In place like the mouth of Sampan and Tommy Cutt, it was at times difficult to get passed the plagues of threadfin. While they are great fun to catch, they are not the sort after prize and are sensitive about mediocre methods of catch and release.
When it comes to the winners for this first round of the year, here is an interesting little fact which might make one place a hot spot next year… The top five anglers for the round were all fishing in the vicinity of the Wildman. They might still be debating if it was better to fast troll or slow troll, but they were all there. Of the first three, there was one fish registered under 90cm (89). To understand the quality of the fishing over the weekend, you have to realise that Wade Johnson, who caught two meteries and two solid kickers, only arrive in forth position… which is frankly ridiculous. Wade, we’d feel sorry for you but it is impossible to sympathise with someone who just put two dollars in the piggy bank. It was an incredible weekend, with possibly the largest collective score in the history of our competition.
Before we chat about final placing, we’d also like to share the fact the Chris Armstrong a newbie to our competition took out the biggest fish for the round at 109cm and significantly upgraded his PB. Fantastic effort mate! There were five meteries caught in total, well done to each of the skilled anglers: Kell Ship, Wade Johnston (2), Craig Grose & Chris Armstrong. In third place for the round, we had Tim Bloch with a bag of 91, 91, 92, 92 and 93 cm. Now this is what I would call consistency. Coming second for the round was our reigning champion for 2018, Peter Cooper, with a bag of 90, 90, 91, 92 and 97 cm. It is worth noting that Peter was also fishing solo, which is a tremendous effort. The winner of the round was none other than the Shady Camp specialist himself, Craig Latimore, with a full bag of 89, 91, 93, 96 and 96cm… I don’t know about you, but for me that is definitively a weekend to be remembered. Congratulations Lats!
All eyes now turn from one favourite haunt to another. Will the Daly surprise us and deliver the goods or will it be the usual test of endurance which knocks many off their pedestals?
In the Top End Barra Series, it’ a bit like the days in life, the rounds follow each other but don’t all look alike. The first round of 2019 was a chrome overload, the second one was more on the chrome stress side of things. Very low level of water on the mighty Daly River, made her a bit of a vixen to fish. The recent rains made the river incredibly dirty, which limited trolling and the drains were competitive, over fished pieces of real estate. Although many found it hard, some stood up to the test and came back with well-deserved glory. As after all, to win without challenge, doesn’t warrant much praise.
Saturday was hot and slow for most. With boats passing each other and lamenting on the lack of fish. Or even worse, that they could see on the sounder as many as 30 big fish on a short troll run, but that pass after pass, none of them wanted to take a lure. By the end of the day, the murmurs on the river was that only a handful of fish had been boated, and a few of the TEBS participants, decided that a raft up was the only sane thing to do at this point in time.
During the night, boofing all around the boat woke many up .On three separate occasion, my skipper and I got up and flicked lures for long stretches of time sadly without any success. Fish were all around and feeding aggressively, but staying way clear of our lures. The mozzies on the other hand, found us without a problem, and were even more ferocious than the barramundi. Oh what a night!
By Sunday morning, many had decided to call it quits and the car park was steadily emptying. A few stayed on and had revenge. Over the weekend, only 71 barramundi reached point scoring length and this round will be remembered as one of the more challenging.
Usually fisherfolk who venture to the Daly, do so with the expectation of finding one or more, large silver Barra mamas… Well the biggest one of the round was an 86 cm specimen hooked by Darren Heaven. A beautiful fish, yet still so far from the magic meter mark. In relative terms, it was more valuable than a Shady meterie, given the overall appalling stats. But what was a much more common size to land was the dreaded 49cm fish. To the extent that a few boats joked between themselves about the 49s Club, and how many 49s each had amassed for their Facebook albums. As a comparison, the first round of the 2019 TEBS at Shady Camp had someone with a bag of five fish at 46th place on the scoreboard. In the second round, only the top four competitors got a full bag…
It seemed that small soft plastic lures where the go to catch fish this year. Was it due to the poor wet season and the small size of the bait in the river? Some have commented that most of the fish they caught were very lean and looked rather hungry. Talking techniques, Clayton Archbold and Sonia Barnes impressed the competition, using their Garmin 8410 SSV Panoptics Telescope (supplied by Frenchy’s Marine). The pair used the s
ounder, to find active fish in the upper reaches of the Daly, place vibes in the strike zone for however long it took to entice a bite. Incredible…
In the third place came Kevin Bochow, with a bag of 54, 55, 60, 72 and 74cm. He caught all his fish on the ever reliable Reidy’s vibe. In tied first place, we had Clayton Archbold whose fish were 55, 61, 66, 74 and 79. Also in first place, we find the ever consistent Peter Cooper, last year Grand Champion, who looks like he will not give back his crown without a fight. Peter’s bag got filled with barramundi at 63, 65, 68, 68 and 72. Peter caught all his fish on rubber during the daytime. He fished the lower part of the Daly and only found a small bite window at high tide each day. Congratulations…
Well done to everybody who caught a fish and those that persisted and refused to give up. If the fishing gods were not on your side on the weekend, remember, rounds follow each other but don’t all look the same.
It was a typical dry season weekend, sunny throughout the day with the temperature plummeting at night. Anglers were spread across the billabongs, with Corroboree being the most popular, as you’d expect. At Shady Fresh, there were large numbers of juvenile fish to keep anglers entertained. Scoring fish however were virtually impossible to come by. Hardies produced a fish for a couple of anglers but pickings were slim. Corroborree was where the bulk of the scoring fish were caught but don’t pack the boat and go just yet though… For every competitor who landed a fish, there’d be at least two dozen who didn’t. Here are some sobering statistics: only nine competitors caught the seventeen scoring fish, with the bulk of these fish landed by our series leader Peter Cooper. Well done also to James Park for capturing the biggest fish for the weekend, at 83cm, trolling at night.
Can we blame the poor wet for more mediocre fishing or are the fish simply lying dormant in the cool weather? No one really knows… Despite the lack of fish caught, competitors were generally positive about the weekend and just pleased to spend time exploring these unique habitats. A special mention must be made to ‘Banana Man’ who put on an eye-blinding laser show on Saturday evening for everyone to enjoy. If anyone works for customs however, you might want to catch up with this competitor as he seemed to have a boat filled with assorted types of contraband.
After round three, the series winner from 2018, Peter Cooper, is absolutely dominating the competition. From this point, he looks virtually unstoppable. ‘Cuddles’ is proving to be a very cunning competitor with vast amounts of TEBS experience. As Regis (TEBS Journalist) is away gallivanting the globe, the rest of the report will be made up of key information gathered from the top 5 round leaders who managed to raise a scale.
(1) Peter Cooper:
Peter fished Hardies Lagoon landing a few fish dropping plastics deep in the timber. He caught one fish trolling at night another at daylight trolling in the same spot. Peter found the fish by listening for boofing fish at night and returning during day light. Late on Sunday, Peter returned to Hardies to land a final scorer in the spot from the day before after the timber had the night to rest.
Stand out lures: Rapala X Rap and Zerek Flat Shads.
Simon and his dad caught several fish between them fishing Corroboree Billabong. Most of their fish were caught peppering snags with Fuze Baits. At night, Simon jagged a scoring fish on a Strada hard body.
James launched late on Saturday arvo at Corroboree. He fished most of the night with Kel before dropping him back at the ramp to catch a flight to the Gold Coast. James landed his two scorers at night trolling a large Bomber and a custom coloured Classic.
Evan fished Shady Fresh, Hardies and Corroboree on Saturday. He caught several undersized fish at Shady casting shallow, dead weed beds with a weedless plastic. Realising Shady was a bit of a nursery, the decision was made to move on to Hardies Lagoon. After casting for a number of hours to no avail, he and his decky decided to complete the full tour of billabongs and camp in Corroboree. On sun down, Evan caught his only scorer for the weekend. The 70cm fish was caught casting dead weed beds in the cutting after traffic had died down.
Stand out lures: Castaic Jerky J 5 inch (flasher rig) and a Z-Man 3 inch Minnow
Brendan fished Hardies on Saturday. He managed a 67cm barra casting across weeds and lillies with a Z-Man Frog. He lost another two fish within the same hour.