Temperatures soared and records tumbled during the inaugural Gippsland Lakes BREAM Challenge (Qualifier #1 of the Quintrex National BREAM Series) over the weekend (14-15 February).
In an event which saw the all-time Big Bream record broken several times, 53 year-old Pambula (NSW) angler Kaj Busch blitzed the field and finished in first place with a massive 10.44kg (10/10) bag, setting a new winning weight record and cementing himself a place in the 2004 BREAM Grand Final in the process.
‘Bushy’ was followed by Kevin Gleed (NSW), 9/10 7.26kg, in second place; Michael Metcalfe (QLD), 8/10 7.16kg, in third place; and Nigel Webster (NSW), 6/10 6.76kg, who join him in immediately qualifying (as boaters) for the Grand Final.
Excited by his convincing win, but taking it in all his stride, Bushy said he travelled 50km from starting point at Johnsonville, on the Tambo River, to Holland’s Landing, on the McLennan Straits, during each of the two sessions, where he compiled his record-breaking, winning limit.
“I mainly fished snags along the edge of the Straits, using two types of lures – No.2 and No.3 Squidgy Wrigglers (Bloodworm) and 3” watermelon stickbaits – rigged on very lightweight Squidgy Finesse jigheads,” Bushy said.
“I fished the Wrigglers deep into the snags and gently lifted the rod so the tail of the plastic was going pretty hard, and the fish just darted out and hammered it.
“I saw a lot of the fish eat the lure… it was pretty good fishing!
“With the stickbaits, I just tweaked and flicked it, so it looked like a wounded baitfish.”
Bushy’s primary outfit was a 6’9” Millerrods Bream Buster Brawler and Shimano Stella 1000 spooled with 10lb Squidgy Braid. Although significantly heavier than the traditional 4lb or 6lb line used by most tournament anglers, it obviously didn’t hinder his success.
“I knew the fish in this area were big, and they can really give you hard time, so I wasn’t going to muck around!”
Bushy caught around 40 legal fish during the first session and over 20 in the second. With the size limit for black bream in the Gippsland Lakes having been recently increased to 28cm (fork-length for ABT tournaments), it was a big effort – in more ways than one.
In the non-boater division, Brunswick (VIC) angler Andrew Dibley finished with a 5.20kg (5/10) bag.
“Fishing the Raymond Island jetties with Angelo San Giorgio on Saturday morning I caught a decent (40cm+) fish on a soft plastic, but I had the most success over the weekend on hard-bodied lures,” Dibley said.
“A shallow-diving DK Lures’ minnow in a whitebait pattern proved the standout.
“I got a couple of good fish at the snags at the mouth of the Tambo River later during the Saturday session, then on Sunday with Nigel Webster – after fishing areas in the Mitchell River – returned to the mouth of the Tambo and took a couple more nice bream, although that time on a Knoll’s Lures’ Native.
“Both of my boater anglers were great to fish with, which contributed to making the weekend so enjoyable – I’m looking forward to the Grand Final!”
Dibley’s outfits consisted of a 6’6” Shimano Stella rod with a Daiwa Emblem S 1500 reel, with 6lb Berkley Fireline and 10lb Berkley Vanish leader (hard-body outfit), while for soft plastics his preferred outfit was a 6’6” Innovator Nitro Ultralight Spin rod with a Daiwa Laguna 1500, with 4lb Berkley Fireline and 7lb leader.
For Dibley’s second session boater, Parkes (NSW) resident Nigel Webster, Sunday proved a big bream bonanza! Webster scored a record 1.88kg bream fishing the snags just outside the mouth of the Tambo River.
“It was pretty windy, so Andrew and I decided it was worth a shot to give the area a few casts,” Webster said.
“Using a Berkley Power Nymph rigged on a 1/16oz jighead, I was just fluttering the lure down over the timber and quite a few big fish came out from under the timber and I saw them suck it in.
“After a few decent fish, the big one did the same thing!”
Webster’s outfit was a custom-built rod by George Louden (Dubbo, NSW), teamed with a Shimano Sedona 2000 spooled with 4lb Berkley Fireline and 8lb Berkley Vanish leader.
The 2004 ABT Quintrex National BREAM Series has kicked-off to a great start, and the precedent has been set to what will hopefully be a year of big bags and big fish!
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