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Alex's Column 1 March 2024

It’s a cliché, I know, but the Top End Barra Series just keeps on keeping on.

What a fabulously successful concept TEBS has been.

I remember when it started some 11 years ago that the overriding philosophy was spirited camaraderie on the water, whilst fishing diverse locations across the Top End.

Each of the six TEBS rounds is at a different barra location.

Once again, Shady Camp was the venue for the first weekend round, and about 100 anglers were there to test this iconic barra spot.

Held the weekend before last, according to regular high-scoring TEBS competitor, Peter Cooper, the serious recent rainfall was very welcome but relatively late, causing a distinct lack of bait right throughout the Mary River system.

“Sampan Creek itself is still suffering a case of dead water hangover from fish kills at the start of the wet season,” Peter said.

“This event has caused the vast majority of fish to be focused outside of the river mouth and only coming into the system over the higher end of the tide cycle.

“The downside was that strong winds made fishing the mouth difficult and the neap tides were not strong enough to push good sea water back into the system.

“The winds and dead water also focused the angling pressure with the vast majority of anglers staying in either the mouth of Sampan or making a dash across to Tommycut Creek which had an armada of ‘scopers’ setting a ‘scope net’ at the mouth of the river,” Peter joked.

Termed “Forward Facing Sonar”, it’s now pretty well the case that, if you don’t have Active Target or similar, you’ll have no hope of winning any of the major barra comps.

Importantly though, one of the things we’ve learned from this amazing new technology is that there are a whole lot more barra out there swimming about than anyone realised, and often as not they just won’t bite.

Peter said: “I personally was a broken man trying to force feed a lure into the mouths of fish off the Active Imaging, on many occasions bumping the fish with lures for zero results.

“Come night time, however, the switch was flicked and the fish lost all inhibition and actively hunted anything moving within striking distance.

“It was a distinct and noticeable attitude change as clearly shown by the forward facing sonars.

“The technology is amazing for this sort of information,” Peter explained.

Tristan Christie won this TEBS round with his bag of five barra measuring  90cm, 89cm, 81cm, 81cm and 80cm respectively.

“Considering the conditions, it is clear he had his forward facing sonar dialed in, focusing his efforts in Tommy’s mouth and casting plastics at unsuspecting fish with deadly accuracy,” Peter said.

Mathew Bolitho was second, catching  barra measuring 81cm, 74cm, 59cm and 112cm which was the fish of the round.

Third place went to Lachlan Markey with a consistent bag of 83cm, 82cm, 79cm, 79cm and 73cm.

Peter said: “This bag was a good example of the average size of fish currently in the Mary system, and the sounders showed big numbers of fish this size in most eddies for the first couple of kilometres inside the mouth of Tommycut Creek, with the occasional monster turning up.

“The other honorable mention goes to Ben Vidgen with a 104cm boated at the mouth of Sampan Creek.

“With round one done and dusted, we now focus our eyes on the mighty Daly River.

“With one of the biggest wet seasons for a long time in this area, the river should be primed for some big bags of fish and hopefully a crack at the magic metery for all,” Peter forecast.

Tristian Christie was a worthy winner of the 2024 Top end Barra Series first round which was held at Shady Camp and coastal creeks.

Mark Bolith’s 112cm barra was the TEBS fish of the round.

Ben Vidgen’s great TEBS’s fish measured 104cm.


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