Author: Evan Dixon

Top End Barra Series is somewhat of a petri dish, where fishing ‘theories’ can be tested. With a large sample of anglers, fishing the same location, patterns can emerge, and findings can be surprising. It is not often that our competition is held at the same location twice in a year, yet alone only three weeks apart. The first round of TEBS 2023 was moved from the Daly River to Shady Camp in a move to preserve the safety of our competitors. The conditions were widely considered less than ideal, with heavy monsoonal falls, 25knt winds and spring tides. Round two was in stark contrast, where we had clear skies (for the most part), 10knt winds and neap tides. You’d be forgiven for thinking round one would be a disaster, however, you’d be wrong. Surprisingly, anglers found large numbers of trophy fishing willing to feed while competitors braved the miserable weather. In round two however, with ‘prime conditions’, many competitors reported fishing to be tough and bites windows to be short.

With nice weather over the weekend, anglers were spread across the Mary River system. The major rivers (Sampan, Tommy Cutt and the Wildman) seemed to have produced most of the scoring fish. Reports from the coastal creeks were scarce. While anglers employed a large variety of techniques to successfully catch fish, including traditional casting and trolling, one more modern method again reigned supreme. Using live imaging technology to target mature, tidal fish is the technique that dominated once again. In my opinion, using this technology is the only way to be competitive in large river systems. This is supported by the list of top ten anglers, who nearly all employed varieties of this incredible technology.

 

Despite some tough fishing over the weekend, there were some incredible captures including seven fish that reached the magic metre: 117, 111, 105, 103, 101, 100, 100. These comprehensive stats (Current Results – Top End Barra Series (tebs.fish)) also include over twenty fish caught in the nineties. The largest fish at 117cm was landed by a name all too familiar to our regular report readers; Peter (Cuddles) Cooper (seven thousand times TEBS champion, knower of all that is barra and now live imaging enthusiast ?).

 

I’d like to provide my own little anecdotal tale about this capture… On Sunday afternoon, my crew and I went to farewell Cuddles and return four jerry cans he had been storing on our boat. He was fishing solo out of a small punt, and we were riding aboard the Titanic. Cuddle’s face wore the look of what I interpreted as dejection. We later found out that his expression was actually the look of frustration. We had interrupted his ‘hunt’. Cuddles had been following around this behemoth fish and our presence was somewhat of an unwanted distraction. Cuddles later reported to have spent 10 minutes floating around again only to rediscover the fish. He then enticed the round winning fish to bite after twenty minutes of persistent harassment. Ridiculous….

Many of the top 10 anglers reported seeing huge numbers of large fish in the system. It was consistently reported that these fish were tentative and enticing reactions was just a matter of persistence. Tristan Christie (3rd) reported fish following lures for large lengths and never committing. Jack Oswald and Ben Banks, who placed 1st and 2nd respectively in round one, pin balled between Sampan on the high tide and Tommy Cutt on the low. Why should you care? They again both placed in the top 5 in round two making them a force to be reckoned with.

There were also some interesting tales of bycatch over the weekend. Jack Oswald bagged himself a 125cm jewie and a Queensland grouper which took him around half an hour to subdue. Both threadfin salmon and blue salmon were thick in some places and provided some great entertainment and no doubt delicious fillets to our competitors. A proud moment was watched on by many, as Molly (5 years old) out-fished her mother, Tenielle Lockwood, and father, James Park, bagging herself several large models. And what is a TEBS tale without a catty… James Mitchell, who placed a respectable 6th this round, landed a metre long specimen. This may never have happened if he bought a Garmin Livescope instead of a Hummingbird 360. Shout out to our sponsors!!!

 

Finally, our TEBS story would not be complete without a couple of tales of mishap. On Friday evening, on the Wildman River, while rafted up enjoyed a few refreshments, Craig Latimore and Tim Bolch (TEBS Chairperson) noticed their boat taking on water. The scuppers were jammed and their boat was sinking… The quick-thinking men took off for home and got their boat ‘on the plane’ to drain the water. This was rudely interrupted in the worst place ever. At Point Stuart, in choppy conditions, the boat ran out of fuel. In some hectic moments, while the boat resumed taking on water, tanks were switched, and fuel was reprimed. A lucky escape but a disappointing story for two anglers, who would no doubt have post massive scores from their favourite river system.

Dwight our club treasurer also experienced a mishap of his own. Way up in the dead forest, on Saturday evening, he lost all power to his boat and was unable to start it. Before being eaten alive by mosquitoes, he was rescued by one of our series sponsors, Marcus Knight from Northern Propellors. Marcus managed to find a fault in the boat’s wiring and got Dwight back in the game. Dwight went on to catch several impressive fish on Sunday, placing him in 5th. Perhaps Marcus could have left him there a bit longer…

 

 

It was another great weekend on the water for our competitors; raft ups were plentiful, spirits were high and camaraderie was none less than you’d expect. All eyes now turn to Bynoe Harbour. Will live imaging still reign supreme or will experience and knowledge of this expansive habitat prevail?

 

The top end anglers for round two are listed as follows:

1st Peter Cooper

2nd Jack Oswald

3rd Tristan Christie

4th Ben Banks

5th Dwight Shepherd

6th James Mitchell

7th Jesse Rhatigan

8th Lachlan Markey

9th Benjamin Vidgen

10th Craig Grose