For many years I had been wanting to compete in the Bundaberg Family fishing classic but finding the time had been an issue in the past so this year we committed ourselves to do it with no excuses. The weather leading up to the classic was fantastic but was predicted to get ugly Saturday lunch time. The classic started Friday morning at 6am so this would give us at least a day and night to fish in reasonable conditions.
We left Brisbane Thursday night arriving at the Burnett Heads boat ramp around 1am where we had a sleep ready for an early departure at first light. I headed towards an area SE of Lady Elliot Island on the western side of the Breaksea Spit. We punched into a slightly uncomfortable NE chop before arriving in the first area of interest. I came across a nice bait school on a rubble bottom and decided to have a drop. I was lowering a pilchard down using a 10 ball sinker when line peeled off the spool. I quickly pushed the drag lever up and connecting to a solid fish. After a short battle I had a nice snapper flopping around on the deck and couldn’t be happier with my first fish of the trip. Knowing the winning weights of snapper caught in previous years we thought it might have a chance. We quickly changed rigs and went with more lightly weighted pilchards to suit the snapper but after using various weights and line sizes we couldn’t find another snapper so moved on.
I fished some more flat rubble country that was holding bait and a few years ago we hit a patch of reds at this location and pulled some cracking reds with 5 of them going between 15.1kg and 17.9 kg. It’s a scattered area and the first spot had a fair few estuary cod on it and I also managed a nice blue maori cod as well. The next show looked good but the hussar were thick and picking our baits to pieces so we kept going back drift after drift hoping for better fish to find the baits. Finally the patience paid off and we had a couple reds around 8kg coming over the side and macca pitched in with a nice large mouth nannygai just under 10kg. Foxy was next to hook up and after a solid battle had a good sized blue maori cod on the surface and into the net.
I pulled a couple more reds but they were extremely shy and I found myself having to make sure there was slack line so the bait had no tension on it at all. I was using a running 10 ball sinker straight on to the hooks and had stepped my leader back from 80lb to 55lb. It was working well but there is an issue when using this technique that can catch any fishermen out. The problem is when running heavy ball sinkers and trying to give a bit of slack line the line can get wrapped up on the smallest pieces of rock/coral. You will feel the fish take the bait and when you go to strike it can easily pop the line on the reef in seconds.
Although we were fishing virtually flat rubble bottom I was still finding my line rubbing on the smallest of bottom structure that was down there. I had to replace a section of my leader every time I pulled a red and I was worried what might happen if I hooked a red over 10kg. After a few more fish I connected to a very solid fish but felt that my line was wrapped up on the bottom and quickly went into free spool before it popped. I paused for a few seconds and applied the pressure again to find the line was free from the bottom. It felt like a good red and I had troubles gaining some line and I backed the drag off as I was worried it might break the damaged leader. Just as I backed the drag off it had another solid run and the line broke. I was spewing as I had done everything to avoid losing this fish yet it still got the better of me. That’s fishing I guess but it doesn’t make you feel any better at the time. After that I decided to step the leader back up to 80lb just in case the same thing happened. My catch rate decreased a little but we were still picking up the odd good fish and soon had 10 nice reds and a good mixed bag of other species.
By late afternoon the fishing had slowed up and apart from the old man catching a nice 5kg grassy sweetlip it was time to try something different so I went searching towards the very tip of the Breaksea Spit out of the green zone.
After a couple hours searching with no luck I decided to head for the eastern side of the Breaksea Spit and try our luck there. I passed by the Breaksea light taking a couple pictures for interest sake and continuing onto my desired area out of the green zone.
Just as the sun went down we started fishing a heap of marks I had in the area but the fishing was still very slow and the worst I had experienced in this area. We fished well into the night picking up the odd nice fish before finding a nice pinnacle on the top edge of the shelf which produced red emperor, green job fish, hussar, spangled and red throat emperor. The fishing went quiet around 10pm so I anchored on another nice show a bit closer in to try get out of the current.
It ended up being a rough night and also bucketed down rain in the early hours before sun up. By 7am the wind had dropped right out and we came across 20 or so sailfish smashing their way through some bait. As we approached I switched the engine off to check out the action. Out of nowhere a bait fish starts jumping towards the boat from 50mtrs away and just as it reaches the boat a sailfish nails it less than a meter from the boat. It was an awesome sight and one not to be forgotten in a hurry. The sailfish disappeared fast and after 10 minutes of trolling the area with skirted pushes I continued to another spot close by. By now the wind had dropped completely out and we pulled some more mixed reef species including a red and another blue maori cod but the fishing was still very slow. The saying “calm before the storm” could not have been any truer when 25 plus knots of SW came up in minutes. The change was predicted for around midday to late afternoon but it wasn’t to be and we made our way back to Burnett Heads with our tails between our legs. Heading directly back into 25 plus knots wasn’t much fun but the Riptide handled it well and 4 hours later we were back at the ramp.
We headed to the comp site which is located at the VMR base at Burnett Heads. The VMR organise and run this classic which is a huge task and they should be commended for their efforts. After we weighed some fish in the VMR crew happily gave us a tour of the base and I was surprised to find out the size of the area this VMR services. The area runs from approximately Lady Musgrave Island to Waddy Point Fraser Island and half the inside of Fraser Island/Hervey Bay. The Bundaberg family fishing classic is exactly that. Family orientated and caters for a vast array of both dead and live species. There are 1st and 2nd places for all fish categories which also includes a junior division as well. There was a record amount of entries this year with just under 1400 participants joining in the fun and even though the weather was miserable on Saturday and Sunday it still turned out to be a very successful fishing classic.
I was lucky enough to take out the biggest snapper with a 7.6kg fish and we came close with some other species as well. I donated the snapper to VMR where it was raffled off and raised close to $500 which was fantastic. A special thanks to VMR for their great hospitality and fantastic run fishing classic.
Kevin Sergiacomi with the winning Red Emperor weighing 11.54kg
Stanley Belan won the Cobia category with this 26.57kg fish