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James Howarth

G'day folks,

I recently spent a week on the Great Barrier Reef. I was lucky enough to get an offer from a school mate to stay on a very large power boat of his and I would have had to be crazy to let the offer float by.

Some very sleepless nights and a plane trip, followed by a barge and then a  one hundred plus kilometre voyage in the 'fishing boat' later and we finally made it out to square reef where we were  greeted by a much larger luxurious boat. This was our home for the next few days and I was very excited about it.

We quickly offloaded our gear and settled in. With some light left before the afternoon would be gone, we headed straight to some closer shallow reefs. Flicking plastics in 5-10m is great fun and vastly becoming my favourite form of fishing. Pulling countless reefies out with locked drags, as they try to bury you into the ominous coral bomboras, just gets the blood pumping and excitement running. The afternoon ended with numerous busts offs, while also ticking the box for a few fish on the 'bucket list', with plenty of room to upgrade. That night I found it extremely hard to sleep as I had a taste for what the next few days were going to bring.

As the days went on we found the fishing options endless, including targeting deep reefs with big plastics and jigs, high speed retrieving ZMan 5" StreakZ in Bubble Gum colour over the reef for various trevally species / mackerel, chasing flocks of birds above fizzing bait balls as they were slaughtered by all sorts of pelagic's (manly tuna), flicking the reef edge with plastics, chucking big poppers around the reef edge for MONSTER GT's and of course throwing whole fish frames for sharks. Although not a lot of shark fishing was done, we did spend a night targeting some big boys and got onto a very powerful fish that made a meal of the 20k Stella.

Most of our time was spent chasing reef fish in the shallows, casting at the enormous bomboras that popped right up to the surface in 10m of water. Target fish here were coral trout, red throat emperor, spangled emperor, tusk fish, stripey snapper and sea perch, just to name a few. Most colours and sizes worked well here, but there was a standout of course.

ZMan 5" StreakZ in Electric Chicken and Bubble Gum saw us onto most fish, although with not a lot hitting the deck due to oversized sharks and large reef patches sticking up though the water. This was the standout plastic for the trip. Following this, the newer ZMan 7" Scented Jerk ShadZ and ZMan 4" DieZel MinnowZ were close contenders. Both of the aforementioned colours worked well in both the shallow and deep in both size's and models. The ElaZtech material of the ZMan makes it one of the best soft plastics going around. Being super-strong and stretchy makes it an ideal soft plastic, not only for the reef trips but a great all round plastics whether you are chasing mackerel or bream.

Although having loads of fun fishing in the shallows, it was very hard to forget about the white water around us, from the big longtail tuna, mac tuna, yellowfin tuna, Spanish mackerel, spotty mackerel, school mackerel and the odd GT making a mess of the local baitfish.

All of the schools of longtail we came across were very finicky, which is normally the case. Especially the ones we find around my home waters of Moreton bay. The key for hooking up to them was holding off for about 5-10 seconds, waiting to see which direction they were moving in and once this was discovered we would slowly motor to about 30m in front of them, cut the motor and prepare to cast. Not long after we would find them in front of us and then seconds later all around us. Using this method was best, throwing 5" Bubble Gum StreakZ, matched up to 1/2oz 5/0 HeadlockZ HD jigheads. The Bubble Gum StreakZ would have to be one of the ultimate, all-time pelagic plastics, recognised as the 'go-to' plastic for most anglers chasing these sorts of fish.

Overall this would be close to a trip of a lifetime and I was very grateful for the opportunity.

Massive bommies in 15 metres of water that popped right up to the surface and also the reef edge were favourites of ours for the whole trip. The choices were too great and with the opportunity to fish shallow water for reefies, chase big schools of tuna, look for other pelages, jig, chuck surface over shallow reef, troll, Pop for GT's, deep reef fishing for big reds and so on, making a choice was the hardest part.

All of the above was done and we found chasing tuna and fishing shallow reefs the pick. The best fishing by far of the 5 days was the last 2 days we spent around Hamilton Island, where we did most of our diving and water sports before we headed home. We were truly blessed by the weather, and witnessed Mother Nature's best.

The stand out lures of the trip were ZMan 3.75" StreakZ and 5" StreakZ in Bubble Gum, Shiner and Electric Chicken. Gear of choice was the Nordic Stage Favourite 6- 12lb and 10-20lb. These rods are awesome, I loved how light the rod was but still with the courage and bulls it had while ripping 50-60cm coral trout out and the power it had for turning tuna over.

I hope an opportunity like this comes your way and you to get to bend some rods!

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