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WHITSUNDAY WANDERINGS

Dane Radosevic

One boat, 600 litres of fuel and three good mates on a 900km adventure up the Australian eastern coastline.

Jamie, Garry and I set out on a seven day exploratory trip amongst the islands of the Whitsundays and with hundreds of kilometres of fish rich water to discover, the trouble was deciding where to start? We decided we would base ourselves on Hook Island as it allowed us to fish the other surrounding islands nearby, should the weather prevent us from heading wide. The goal of the trip was to make our way another 30 nautical miles off the island itself, with the intention of exploring some of the less pressured and more untouched reefs... as we all knew this is where memories would be made and trophy fish would be hooked and hopefully landed.

Unfortunately the weather had different plans for us. The first three days really tested our angling ability and willpower to keep fishing. From the onset of day one, we found ourselves idling over in rough seas, with torrential rain that drenched all our camping equipment... swags included. The bilge pump got more than its fair share of a workout! Our willpower outlasted that of the pump, which gave out, blowing two fuses and cutting all power to the electronics! Although all odds were against us, we should have paid more attention to the signs and headed back to shore... but we didn't and persisted on. Things began to look up, fuses were easily replaced and our gear began to dry. We were finally ready for our first day of fishing...

We awoke to the sound of bellowing gusts of wind, howling through the hills surrounding the campsite. We all knew that our options were going to be limited... travelling great distances was not an option. Our first priority was to re-energise ourselves with a much needed hot coffee and bacon and egg sandwich, while we began scoping out a few locations on the local map. The main areas we wanted to target were rocky points and headlands around the high tide period. The intention was to find nice pressure edges forming as these generally hold larger quantities of bait, in turn drawing in GT and Spanish mackerel that we could cast a few larger soft plastics and poppers at. Then, on the slack tide, we intended to move onto the shallow reef flats to cast a few ZMan soft plastics and stickbaits around targeting red throat, trevally and coral trout.

Our intentions were good, we had a solid game plan and we fished hard from dawn until dusk for three days straight, yet our efforts went unrewarded, with a lack of quality fish. We were kept busy with ridiculous quantities of undersized coral trout and small mixed reef species, only managing to raise two GT and one Spanish mackerel. Things were looking dismal, however there was one vital clue that explained our poor result... the bait... it was non-existent in the areas that we were fishing. No matter how far and wide we searched we couldn't find it.

With weather predicted to improve we decided to take a gamble. Really... what else could go wrong? We headed out wide on the fourth day and decided to play it by ear and see how the conditions would pan out. FINALLY, something went our way! It turned out to be a glassed out day, with minimal swell and we happily drifted over the tops of reef flats in 2 to 4 metres of water. Perfect for flicking the ZMan 5" StreakZ and ZMan 5" Scented Jerk ShadZ in the many brighter coloured variations. The proven performers were any plastics from the above mentioned range in chartreuse or red colours and a little added Pro-Cure Bloody Tuna Super Gel scent.

We had these rigged on 1/2oz 5/0 TT Lures HeadlockZ HD jigheads and were working them quickly and erratically over the flats. This caught the attention of both coral trout and red throat emperor that struck the presentations with no hesitation. As the tide slowed, so to did the fishing. We opted for a change of tact and began to flick some weighted strip baits around using the same TT jigheads. This is a very effective technique for fishing this country as it provides direct contact to the bait and allows the bait to be consistently on the bottom, in the strike zone.

Although this made for a very enjoyable day and helped to fill the esky, we did not manage to land any trophy fish. The decent fish we did hook were just too powerful in the shallow country so close to cover. That night we sat down and reflected on our day. We made a few key changes to the game plan, changing location to a reef further south. We were anticipating this change would provide us with more current and bait as the water was much deeper close to the reefs edge.

Day five greeted us with conditions that were ideal for heading wide and we were confident that some intense fishing was imminent. As we approached the reef edge we were pleased to see showers of baitfish breaking the surface. Our hopes and dreams were finally becoming a reality. After a solid hour of prospecting around the reef I decided on our first location, a large elongated reef flat, sitting at 10 feet and covering approximately 80 metres, with a small channel separating it from the next patch of reef sitting at 30 feet.

The incoming tide created the ideal pressure edge, holding masses of bait. We popped for 3 hours, raising numerous GT ranging from 10kg to 30kg, landing seven and losing another five. This was finally the session that would create some lasting memories for all of us and won't be forgotten.

After the tide peaked and began to recede we opted to drop ZMan 7" Scented Jerk ShadZ plastics in Nuked Chicken Glow and Coconut Ice Glow colours, rigged on TT Lures 3/4oz 7/0 jigheads, resulting in three trout over 3kg in one drift. The added depth brought with it the better quality fish as we had anticipated. We continued to drift the edge of the reef flat, mixing it up between ZMan soft plastics and 1oz TT Switchblade HD vibes, picking up more trout, red throat emperor and Spanish flag, whilst donating many lures to larger unstoppable predators.

Unfortunately all good things must come to an end and as the weather was due to change again for the worse this was to be our last day fishing. After all of our hard work and effort, to finally be rewarded with a day's fishing like that in new territory, it certainly made the whole experience worth while. We experienced a new adventure, explored some awesome waters, crossed off a few firsts for the boys and set a few PB's. This trip was definitely a very big learning curve and some important lessons were learnt by us all, which I for one can't wait to implement on the next trip. Until then tight lines and fish hard!

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THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2017