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UNFINISHED BUSINESS

By Dave Brace

As an avid barramundi angler, whether targeting them in the rusty water or within the sweetwater creeks and rivers of central and north Queensland, there is never a week that goes by whereby Dave's thinking of his next northbound adventure. However it is within the stocked barramundi impoundments of this same region where he feels most comfortable in targeting these majestic and iconic Australian natives. It is here where he revels in battles between his ability and these chrome plated, belligerent fish. Just recently Dave attended to some unfinished business at Lake Kinchant, landing the lifelong dream of a barramundi measuring 130cm in length.

Spending time on these barra impoundments is very minimal these days, organising four or five trips per year, although when Lake Monduran and Lake Awoonga were in their prime, prior to the floods of 2011, barramundi fishing exploits were almost on a fortnightly basis. It is very encouraging though that these two premier lakes are definitely recovering with every season that passes, with some fantastic fish being caught recently from both lakes thanks to the hard work and dedication of the fish stocking groups who manage these fisheries.

It's been just over a decade now since I first started fishing for these fish within these landlocked environments, whereby many trials and tribulations have been experienced, however these times are equally shared with moments of jubilation. One thing is for certain though, I have never stopped learning and will continue to learn and uncover their mysterious behaviours. More so these days I am spending more time targeting these fish from the seat of my kayak. This is for a couple of reasons, one being the stealthy approach that only these vessels can provide. The other reason is the challenge of subduing these brutes on a totally different level, which sets equality for fish and angler. Some battles you lose and some you win.

Last year, in December 2014, I came face to face on numerous occasions, eye balling fish at the end of my line in excess of 120cm in length. However, time and time again the fish gained the upper hand and I was sent home with my tail between my legs. I estimated that some of these fish were well beyond 130cm and it was only time before I headed back up there again to regain some faith in my ability to land one of these monsters.

All was not lost during that unforgettable trip, ecstatic to land a 120cm fish in open water. Not my biggest barra that I had caught, but a very exceptional fish all the same, capturing the encounter on my Contour HD camera. In this short video I explain how I target these fish throughout the dense aquatic weed that grows prolifically during the warmer months and lays flat on top of the water. I also explain what lures and equipment I use, including a short tutorial of what techniques I utilised to catch this feisty fish amongst this particular structure.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vEX4ec1YnA

For every barramundi angler, catching a fish over that magic one metre milestone is a goal that they would like to achieve. An ambition that is very achievable for enthusiastic anglers. Once this goal is reached, objectives are reassessed and set accordingly, usually in 5cm increment increases in size. The bigger the goal the harder it becomes to reach these targets, often with lengthy periods in between. Dreams and aspirations are achieved by setting goals, bucket loads of dedication, determination and a will to succeed. Obviously experience is a factor when achieving these goals, but the astute anglers who are willing to spend time on the water will soon see patterns emerge of where and when to target these fish.

So when I was invited to join a group of great mates on another northbound trip, I couldn't resist preparing for the expedition weeks in advance, vigilantly observing the dropping water levels of the lake and the weather leading up to the event. Expressing my objectives for this trip, lures were selected carefully for every occasion. My Okuma RTX Pro reels were spooled with new Platypus Platinum Plus braid, making sure to tie every knot with precision. All of my senses told me it was my time to achieve something that I have only dreamed about. With positive thoughts generating positive actions I was riding high, however I was daunted knowing what I had to do to achieve my target... spending relentless hours on the water. Personal competitiveness is what motivates me to succeed, which is explained in issue #30 of Tackle Tactics Fishing Magazine 'Onwards & Upwards'; I was prepared both mentally and physically.

During this trip I had approximately hooked up to 45 barramundi, landing 90% of fish, with many being over that magic metre mark. Continually fuelling my body throughout the day, for every stroke of the paddle was paramount, running on about three hours sleep per day, fishing the night time bite and resting up during the heat of the day. Rain was definitely not a deterrent either. I was sitting in my kayak at 2:30am on one particular morning during a storm, with my feet embedded in a weed bed either side of my kayak to hold me in place, while the wind and rain pelted down, arms crossed and head forward with my Akubra wearing the brunt, similar to the cattle beside me on the bank trying to seek shelter. The wind was enough to blow a dog off a chain but between the squalls I witnessed active barramundi feeding in small pockets of water between the weed beds, their red eyes sheening a reflection from my head lamp. This was enough to keep me very interested. After a couple of nights, observing, analysing and taking mental notes, a pattern emerged and soon enough selective bite periods were targeted with great results, predominantly fishing moon set leading up to the full moon.

My lures of choice were ZMan 6" SwimmerZ rigged on a 1/4oz TT Lures 8/0 SnakelockZ jighead and smeared with Pro-Cure Garlic Plus Super Gel Scent. The colours of the SwimmerZ that I had most success on throughout this expedition ranged from Pearl and Golden Boy to Red Shad and Houdini, however I had a very special preference for the Smokey Shad colour, which represented the baitfish quite noticeable that were swimming throughout the weed during daylight hours. The type of terrain and structure I was fishing was in open water, above pockets of weed, in two metres or less of water, however I knew that the bigger fish were to come in tighter, more condensed weed structure.

On the water at three o'clock, I had already landed a few fish in quick concession, waiting for the sun to rise to warm my core. It was still dark; glancing at my watch noticing it had just turned 4:30am as I began to troll my lure, stealthily and closely behind my kayak, up a very small creek about seventy-five metres in length and no more than ten metres wide at the mouth. As I approached a rise of submerged weed mid-stream in the creek, I instinctively had a strong gut feeling that there was a fish on the other side waiting in an ambush mode. I took three strong paddles and glided stealthily over the weed, waiting in anticipation for my lure to reach the strike zone. Right on que, my rod tip ripped back and loaded up alerting me of a fish strike. I immediately took another three strong paddles up this skinny creek to set the hooks, prior to lifting the rod from the rod holder and vividly hearing the fish jump as I did, instantly knowing it was a good fish from the splash it made on re-entry. Yet to set my eyes on the beast, I knew I had to keep this fish on a very short lead. The kayak was immediately ripped around towards the fish, which was still uncontrollably jumping as I fought gallantly with low rod angles. Remarkably I kept very calm and collective, trying to wear and tire the fish, turning its head every time it approached the weed edges of this narrow creek and using the paddle to my advantage, switching the rod in either hand to do so, steering the fish up the creek.

Now within close proximity, it launched again within arm's reach and it was only then I got my first glance at the enormity of this particular fish as it breached the surface on a couple of occasions, using its large caudal fin to displace as much water as it possibly could to evade capture. Swimming under the kayak time and time again there was little I could do but hang on and steer the kayak as best I could, back paddling when time allowed to give me the upper hand on this aggressive fish. At times I noticed my rod bent around the kayak with every guide knocking the side, line stretched tight and I was hoping it wouldn't fray on any attachments. By now I knew the lure was embedded deep within the fish's mouth and after an intense five minute battle I was confident, yet concerned, about the 60lb Platypus Game Leader rubbing on its raspy, armour plated jaw line. I was hoping that it would just hold up for a few more passes yakside, prior to subduing the fish and claiming victory over this spirited barramundi. It wasn't until I had the lip grips in its mouth that reality kicked in as a shot of adrenaline found its way through my body. I couldn't believe it; I was in total awe of the incredible size of this fish, as my hands shook profusely.

These thoughts soon turned to the welfare of this fish and I immediately rang two mates, Aaran Denschel and Dean Mather, who were fishing nearby in their boat. They assisted me in swimming the fish for a healthy release, but not before a few photos were taken and a quick measure on a brag mat in the water to capture this memorable occasion. It was fantastic to see this incredible barramundi swim away strongly and to share this moment with two mates who also got to witness such a fish. Absolutely bewildered after the event, I sat there retying a new leader for almost an hour, taking it all in and glancing at the calmness of the water which was now like a mirror as the sun rose over the horizon, giving light to a brand new day.  

Never give up on your dreams!!!

Bracey..... 

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THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2017