Alex's Fishing Column 28 November 2019

It seems weird to be writing that I just returned from a barra fishing trip in PNG. I mean, why would you fly to Cairns, then fly to Port Moresby in PNG, and then drive for several hours over the worst road I’ve ever been on?

Ostensibly, this was supposed to be a black bass trip, but our destination – Terapo Lodge – is better known for the number and size of big barra it produces. Catches of 130cm-plus barra are quite the norm when the estuary maze accessed by Sport Fishing PNG from Terapo Lodge fires up. Unbelievably, the biggest barra landed there measured 149cm. As expected, black bass were a bit thin on the ground; there were about a dozen caught between a group of six. I dare say more would have been landed if the boats stayed up in the freshwater longer but, with massive barra a menu option, most of us chose to hang down near the estuary mouths where the big girls patrolled. I did hook one really huge bass where salt met fresh. With locked drag on a Shimano TranX 300 loaded with 65lb braid, combined with the big fish being hooked on the troll, I had the beast coming away nicely from the snags. But then with an audible “crack” the braid parted for no apparent reason. It was only later that we realised the submerged snags in that part of the world come decorated with a white-coloured oyster. Just banging a lure through the snags would sometimes result in the leader parting and the lure floating unattached to the surface; it meant we were constantly checking, trimming and replacing leaders and even main line. That bruiser of a black bass smashed a Classic 200, and we discussed that it was one hell of a lure to be swimming around with it hanging from your gob… hopefully the bass discarded it and there was a happy ending. But it wasn’t for the black bass that I brought along a few Classic 200s; it was for the big barra, and it was lucky that I did. It transpired that the second and third of five days of fishing were when the bigger barra made their presence felt. The area we fished reminded me of the mouth of Leaders Creek, but about twice as wide. Mainly we trolled a kilometre of a deep stretch on one side, spotting fish on both the Lowrance HDS Gen3 downscan and sidescan. The local guides tended to wander a bit with their troll lines, but they were attentive when I set up their Lowrance units with full-screen-width downscan and sidescan, split evenly one above the other, and they quickly adapted to moving onto fish. On the first good barra fishing day, the biggest landed was nudging 120cm. It came from one of the other boats, but the boat I was in landed some 90s and then I hooked a whopper on the incoming tide. A slow-shaking ponderous head rose from the water, literally dwarfing the big 20cm Classic 200 clinging to the side of its face. We moved boat and fish slowly into open water, and it was only a matter of time before the big girl would come to the boat. It was then that I noticed our boat driver demonstrating a level of anxiousness that made me uncomfortable. As the fish neared the boat, he had the big landing net out as far as he could reach with it on extended arms. “Keep the net out of the water until the fish is ready near the boat,” I told him. He did that but, oh so sadly, when the fish came within range, he lunged out and successfully netted the lure with only the big barra’s head inside the net perimeter. I reckon it was laughing as it tore loose and swam away… and I was crying, gutted to say the least. Luckily, I had a second chance the next day. Old mate Roger Gentle was my fishing partner and he was having a good day, landing three barra from 90cm to 105cm during a one-hour bite window. My turn came with a 115cm fish which, though smaller than the one I lost, certainly put the smile back on my face. As a side note, we discovered that not only big barra were attracted to the Classic 200s, but Queensland groper also smacked them big time. I reckon we caught eight up to 12kg on the 200s, and a couple of them disgorged whole mud crabs on the deck.

Roger Gentle’s thumping big metrey barra was a sucker for the new Classic 200.

AJ’s 115cm barra on a Classic 200 was consolation for a bigger one lost.

The Classic 200 works a treat with 5/0, 4/0 and 3/0 trebles head to tail.

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