2021 TEBS, Round 1

The Top End Barra Series enters its eleventh yea, the “Gap Year”, with many changes in stock along with some good old continuation of traditions… because we can’t fight the charm of tradition…

The biggest change has seen our rock, our ship in the night, Rossco steeping back after so many years of practically single handedly managing the series. Rossco has well earned his reprieve from TEBS, we all wish him well as he enjoys his fishing without having to think and cater for 100+ other fishos. A new Committee has been formed to take the torch and carry it into the future. Rossco is not totally gone and forgotten, Rossco has been made a life member of the TEBS Association, a title that is his alone to hold for many years to come.

We kick off this year’s Top End Barra Series in the shadow of a Virus riddled 2020, TEBS has finally seen the back end of 2020 and opened up what can only be hoped will be a cracker 2021 season with a the latest round being held across Shady Camp & Costal Creeks.

This rounds nuanced scenario is a bit peculiar, it holds the hopes and dreams of 2020 series recognition for several anglers and yet the strenuous task of paving out the 2021 season for all anglers. Given the world events of late, the competitors have taken it all in their stride and had a cracking weekend.

Due to the Covid-19 panic that engulfed the World in 2020 the second round (Shady Camp) was postponed as the bewildering social distancing rules stipulated anglers from different households could not share the confines of the same boat. Fortunately we were unable to reschedule the round in 2020 and Mother Nature delivered the rains everyone has been yearning for…. the decision was easily made to schedule a 6th/1st round for Shady Camp.

So how was the fishing?
Well, not as good as some might have expected it to be, but still… there were three meterys caught over the weekend, and one competitor managed a bag of four fish in the 90 bracket.

Competitors were spread from Marsh Creek to the Wildman, a very vast area, in the pursuit of one single goal: Catching 5 of the biggest slabs of piscatorial chrome possible. In doing so, as often is the case, some little mishaps, or call them adventures, happened. On the bush line the rumours were that one competitor who borrowed a prop from another Tebsie, forgot the said prop, on a table, where he was supposed to pick it up… It won’t be very useful sitting on a table will it? But they had a good laugh about it, and that is the way of happy people.

Another fisho arrived on the water only to realise that his sounder was cooked and didn’t work at all anymore. So he had to do it old school just navigating and fishing from experience and managed to get on the board! There were also noises about someone’s boat having a little touch-up with a reef, or somebody else losing two very big fish with one easily over the meter mark, due to snapped braid… Showing that when fishing for Barra, you should not use rusty hooks or old weathered braid.

It seems that being ‘Johnny On The Spot’ was the key to doing well this round, as the bite windows were often short. Most of the action was found away from the crowds, with several big fish accounted for at the Wildman. We have it on good authority most were caught on Reidy’s Lures, both hard bodies and vibes enticing several big fish.

At the time of writing, the results are not official and could be subject to changes.
But, this year at Shady Camp the TEBS crew managed to catch a total of 75 Barramundi. Five competitors filled their bag with five barramundi.
Three anglers managed to crack the Metery…

So who did well, first let’s talk about the meteries:
At 100cm on the dot we have Michael Loughman.
At 109cm we have James Ballantyne, and I saw this capture. It was a fat fish if ever there was one!
And the biggest Barramundi of the round goes to Kevin Bochow, Congratulations for your 114cm fish, what a cracker.


But who stands at the top of the ladder, smiling on the round 1 podium?
In third place comes James Park, with a nice bag of 67, 71, 75, 80 and 95cm barramundi. That is a great effort and a full bag. In second we have another full bag holder with Phil Newton who bagged a 76, 76, 79, 84 and 92cm. Well worthy of a second place. Finally, in the first spot comes Tim Bolch with a 90, 90, 91 and 93cm. Now talk about consistency there, not a fish under 90cm. It was Tim first win in the TEBS since joining the comp in 2018. Well done Tim, perseverance pays, and it paid well this time. Tim said that he caught all his fish with his favourite Reidy’s Big Ass 200, as it perfectly matched the bait at the mouth of Wildman. Perhaps this is the barra god’s way of rewarding Tim for all the work he is doing for TEBS behind the scenes…

As for the 2020 series results it’s proven harder than finding the source of the Virus to compile the scores in time for the editor’s deadlines. We will have the drag the suspense of 2020 series out for a little longer. It is a tight race to the finish line, so care must be taken to conclude the 2020 series. A later announcement will come once all scores have been verified by our Measurement Panel.

 

Round two will see TEBS competitors converge on the Daly in May… safe to say most are already keen and hopeful the river will fire this year. It’s shaping up to be a fantastic year for our relaxed ‘Gap Year’.

 

Round 2 – Daly River

Daly River The long awaited round two of the 2021 Top End Barra Series Gap Year, took place last weekend on the famous Daly River. A river famous for all the big competitions that take place on it, and the sometimes very big Barramundi caught in its waters. First let me tell you that the dry season as started in earnest, and the nights and mornings on the river, are now, really fresh! Beanies and socks are at this time of the year a welcome addition to any overnight fishing tackle bag.

The competitors were eager to get on the water and try their luck and skills in what was to become a weekend of difficult fishing. I do not know if it was due to a cold snap in the weather, or a month of intense fishing due to three big comps taking place just before the Top End Barra Series descended on the river… But big Barra were a bit shy. The offspring on the other hand were fat and keen to eat whatever swam past their noses. They may have a mouse plague down south, but we had a rats plague on the Daly. At one stage Craig Grose invited my skipper, Mark Grosser and I to join him flicking lures at the mouth of No Fish Creek… There for a little while it was not uncommon to have double or triple hook-ups. We might have pulled over twenty fish out of the mouth of this tinny creek in a very short time. Alas, the biggest one was just under 51cm. It was great fun nonetheless, as they were fat and aggressive little fish. Not fuzzy eaters either, we fished four different lures at the same time and all of us had a great success rate. This bodes well for next year.

To give you an idea of how the fishing was, last year in the Daly round, competitors recorded 81 Barramundi. This year, at the time of writing, only 42 fish have been recorded… That is a fall of about half the number of barramundi compared to one year ago… Last year six anglers had a full bag of five fish. This year only one competitor managed to get a full bag. Yes it was hard fishing, but still better than a day at the office… Yet most had a good time on the water, with time spend catching up with mates, fishing with the family, and trying to find an elusive fish.

 

By evening, the river started to fill with the smells of many on board cooking chef’s practicing mastery in the culinary act. With odours of sizzling sausages & even roast pork filling the air, the laughter becoming louder and louder at the raft-up in front of No Fish Creek it certainly had the feel of a very social competition. Yes it seems that a lot of the action took place around that little creek near the S-bends over the weekend.

One notable capture for the weekend was one made by Evan Dixon. His fourth cast after losing a fish in the 90s due to a poor hook set… his excuse was a broken hand… finally hooked on a beautiful 88cm slab of chrome, which ended up being the biggest fish of the round! All with a broken hand! Well done Evan.

And now, who won the round? Well in third position came Cameron Kahl with a nice little bag of three Barra at 65, 72 and 72 cm. In second place came Michael Henderson with a 4 fish bag of 55, 62, 72 and 72 cm. 72 seems to be the number with 4 of them in the two runner ups! Well done. The round champion is Dwight Shepherd with the only bag of five fish measuring at 54, 65, 66, 68 and 83cm. Congratulations Dwight on the round win, his first in the Top End Barra Series! The next round will be in August and take place at Bynoe Harbour. Plenty of time for every Tebsie to sharpen a few hooks and come up with a game plan to take revenge on all these pesky Barramundi and try to settle some old scores.

Round 3 – Bynoe Harbour

Over the weekend from 21st to 22nd of August the third round of the 2021 Top End Barra Series took place in Bynoe Harbour. The Bynoe Harbour round is often eagerly awaited by the TEBS competitors, as it is a chance to get a large Barramundi in a vast and well preserved harbour, not far from our Territory capital city; Darwin.

As competitors were eagerly practising their knots and preparing their boats in preparation for the round, we were once again impacted by the dreaded Virus as the Top End was thrown into a snap lockdown. With the uncertainty around the lockdown and the lifting of restrictions nobody was sure that the round would be able to take place. Thankfully, the universe aligned beautifully and with minimal Covid restrictions the event was able to go ahead.

Weather was rather good, with a slight winds in the morning tending to a stiff onshore Seabreeze in the afternoon which lead into a fresh night with a very bright moon. This should have been the perfect tides to fish the mud flats and mangrove edges. Alas the water clarity was not the same everywhere. Some found the clean water and success, others had to blindly cast in muddy water, with a much lower success rate.

The sheer size of Bynoe Harbour meant that competitors had a lot of room to move around and try to find the golden patch. To give you an idea, during the length of the weekend, the boat I was on, came across only four other boats from the TEBS. As such it was difficult to gather information on how anyone was doing… or to hear any good or bad stories about the round.

One of the notable mentions for the weekend was when Tim Bolch hooked a very sizeable Barra which proceeded to make short work of a brand new rod as it broke on the strike! To add insult to injury, on the following jump, the big girl pulled the rear treble straight out of the lure. We all feel for you Tim!

 

Another funny remark was from the 2020 Junior Angler of the year; Tore Rudduck, who after fishing all weekend with his father said: “ I beat Dad again. He only got doughnuts.” It’s great to see the next generation of fisho’s on the water and doing well.

For the round there were only 42 Barramundi over 50cm recorded this year. In comparison 2020 saw 74 fish recorded. By no means does this reflect the health of the system, many anglers reported large schools of fish holding in the system but not being able to entice a bite. Anglers also reported good by catch numbers of Blue & Threadfin Salmon, Grunter, Goldies, Jacks, Trevally & Queenies.

Now for the numbers; Five anglers managed a full bag of five scoring fish. Yet nobody managed to get a fish above 80cm, which was surprising for Bynoe Harbour. The biggest Barramundi of the round was only 77 cm which succumb to an offering from Tim Bolch. This fish was just a pup in comparison to the one broke his rod, well done on landing this one Tim! Marg Grosser managed the next biggest, at 76cm it was close but no cigar, one cm is sometimes all it takes to win.

 

Cameron Kahl had a good round with a bag of five at 57, 65, 68, 69 and 71 cm to take out third position for the round. Second on the podium is John Keirs with five fish again going 55, 65, 65 70 and 74cm. Nice effort, well done. And finally for the round champion we have Dwight Shepherd, with a bag of 56, 62, 72, 73 and 75cm. Congratulations Dwight!

Dwight said that he fished in the vicinity of Turnbull Bay, focusing on feeder creeks and mangrove edges on the dropping tide. Sight casting small soft plastics to Barra on the flats. Once the tides had dropped, he said that the sounder came in handy to find the schools of fish, but that they were not always hungry mentioning he spent several hours targeting one school of fish to extract just one Barra out of it. Persistence persistence… Now I know what I will do next time that I go to Bynoe.

Next round is on the Adelaide estuary, in early October, this should leave plenty of time to sharpen some hooks and come up with some mavericks fishing plans for all the TEBSies . See you all in October!

 

 

Round 4 – Adelaide River Estuary

The fourth round of the Top End Barra Series took place last weekend, in the Adelaide River Estuary. This place always offers the possibility of hooking on a big fish. So was the fishing good this year? Oh yes it was, for some…

The boundaries for this round were from Jack Creek to the western tip of the Glyde Point. The upstream boundary was Castle Creek. Such a large expanse of water offered the many anglers the possibility to either join one of the famous TEBS raft ups, or fishing in one of the many the discrete creeks away from prying eyes. The barramundi were not fussy this round, hard bodies, soft plastics or vibes, they all worked to great effect. Most were able to use their favourite technique, with fish succumbing to trolling, casting drains and even vibing snags and deeper holes. Yep the fishing was good!

This round however wasn’t without incident with a couple of rods broken on account of fish and overzealous techniques more likely. There were electrical issues that saw a boat stranded up a creek for several hours… with two sparkies onboard, before finding a solution to get them home. The most notable incident seems to be a crew who on Sunday were a long… long way up a Wilshire creek and encountered a problem with the outboard’s fuel pump. On the return journey to Salt Water Arm boat ramp, one of them had to sit at the back of the boat, and every thirty seconds manually pump fuel to keep the outboard going. Word is he has now a hand that looks more like The Hulk.

Back to the fishing, Nick Hall was a not so lucky angler who hooked an enormous fish tipped to be well over the meter mark in a small creek less than a meter deep. The big girl came very close to the boat but he could not turn her head and in the end it was lost to a pulled hook. Needless to say Nick was a shattered man. Both anglers in the boat could not believe that such a big fish had been in such a small creek.

What are the stats you say…. A lot of fish were submitted, 77 of them. However, many anglers reported catching a lot more than their 5 fish bag limit. Compared to the 41 from last year, this is a very nice increase and tends to prove that the fishing is getting better this year. The fish were in great condition, which is a good indicator of a very healthy system.

This round last year had only three anglers who got a full bag of five fish, this year 11 anglers delivered a full bag! What a difference a year makes. With such stiff competition at the top only a solid bag of fish saw you in the placings. In third place we have James Park with five Barramundi going 63, 64, 66, 70 and 77cm. Nice effort James! James caught most of is fish with Reidy’s B52’s, 3 hook Bombers or soft vibes. In the second position, we have Dwight Shepherd a regular in the top 3, with five fish of 67, 68, 70, 73 and 74 cm. Well done Dwight. Dwight picked up his fish either with 3 hook green Bombers, or with the 4 inch Z-Man soft plastics. Proof that mixed technic can be rewarding. And now on the highest step of the podium comes Kel Payne. Kel delivered a great bag of  five fish with one breaking the magic metre mark. Kel was said to have landed a 105cm fish on a FOW (Fishing and Outdoor World)  “counter special” vibe. Now that’s a nice fish to land solo on a $4 vibe! Kel filled the rest of his bag with a 63, 68, 74, & a 78. Congratulation on such a great win, and more than any thing else, his first meterie. Amazing effort and well deserved first place.

We have a very short turnaround before the next round which is at Corroboree at the end of the month. Last year three barramundi over a meter were caught in the Corroboree round, and many big fish lost. What this year will bring is anyone’s guess, but I sure know a few people who are already etching plans to catch the big swampy mamas…

Round 5 – Nice and warm on the Billabongs

Last weekend was the fifth round of the 2021 Top End Barra Series.

The round took place on the billabongs, which included Corrobboree, Hardies, Mary River Bridge Lagoon, & Shady Fresh. Competitors were thrown a curve ball last week with the announcement of the Corrobboree Boat Ramp closure to allow the much needed repairs to be undertaken.

Luckily the cutting between Rock Hole and the main billabong was accessible, albeit very shallow & narrow, which allowed Corroboree to still be the billabong of choice for many. Even with the extended drive to launch at Rock Hole, Corrobboree is a picture perfect location, which is worth the trip just for the scenery, with fishing as a bonus.

So, how was the weather on the bongs at this time of the year? Well it was more than nice and warm, it was scorching hot! That is to be expected in the Build Up, and so is a good Storm. All who stayed on the water overnight on Saturday had the pleasure to witness a light show nearly as good as the fireworks on Territory Day! The unfortunate thing about magnificent lightning displays in the Build Up is that the rain is often just as intense. The Storm the rolled through was no exception with many anglers enduring the wild storm and wishing they had a houseboat for the weekend.

This year, the fishing hours of the competition had been slightly changed as a test. With the best fishing often being at night on the billabongs, the fishing hours were extended to commence on the Friday at 6:00pm through to Sunday 6:00pm. This allowed two full nights of fishing, which seems to have been liked by most of the competitors on the round. The TEBS Committee will now discuss at its next meeting if this will become the norm for the billabong round.

This year also saw for the first time a BBQ boat being used for the TEBS competitors to drop in for a sausage and a bit of a chin wag, and more importantly to keep the good camaraderie of this friendly competition going on. The BBQ boat was a success too.

Among the good stories of the weekend, was Mark Grosser, casting a lure deep in the lilies, and hooking on a strange kind of snag… Mark, managed to get his lure back, but it was tangled in a long piece of fishing line. Pulling the line by hand, hoping to find a lure at the end of it, Mark couldn’t believe his eyes, when a full combo, rod and reel came to the water surface!

Now, back to our most precious consideration: how was the fishing?

Well, it was pretty tough, the ones who got fish really had to work hard for it. Or in my case, just be plain lucky. To give you an idea, 15 anglers registered 30 fish this year, versus 21 anglers registering 52 fish last year.

Last year, 5 anglers managed to get a full bag of 5 Barramundi, this year, only one angler scored 5 fish. Last year, three Barra over the meter were caught, this year the biggest fish went 85cm. This year, a large part of the fish were caught at night, trolling large hard body lures, like the Reidy’s Big B52.

So who did well in this round?

The biggest fish was caught on the troll at night by Regis Martin  and it went 85cm. This was the second time Regis has landed the biggest fish of a TEBS round, however the first was way back in the Inaugural Top End Barra Series in 2010/2011.

In third place for the round, we have Jeff Dawson with a catch of 53, 54, 70 and 74 cm. Well done Jeff a nice and consistent bag.

In the second step of the ladder we found James Park, who is doing very well this year and on this round bagged a 64, 67 and 76cm Barramundi.

And the round Winner is the only person to have bagged five fish in the round, Ben Judd with a bag made of 58, 60, 62, 73 and 75cm fish! This is a great effort and shows what persistence can achieve, congratulations Ben!

Yes, it was a hard round enduring the Sun, Heat & Rain, but many laughs and good memories were had. And now we are waiting with anticipation for the last round of the season, on our very own Darwin Harbour, to see who will reign Supreme in the Top End Barra Series Gap Year!

Round 6

2021 Series