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Alex's Fishing Column 31 October 2019

Last week’s NT Billfish Classic produced mixed results for the 14 teams that competed. Given how regularly the Dundee billfish grounds have been going off with amazing sailfish and marlin action this year, it was surprising that most boats headed over to the Bathurst Island grounds. In one respect, it was a good decision because there were some mighty battles with big black marlin. Team Tackle World experienced two of those. According to skipper, Shane Compain, after they tagged a sailfish in the first hour of day two for Ashley Beckett, Shane found himself fighting a large black marlin for 3 hours and 15 minutes on 15kg line. Sadly, the big black was lost at the boat when a large shark swam into Shane’s line. “At least we closed the day with another sail for Dean,” Shane reported. “The third day, we had a large black marlin at the back of the boat trying to eat everything but once again it took the bait on the 15kg set up. “Seven hours and 30 minutes into the fight, the line snaps at the reel with the fish only 5 metres under the surface. “It was heart-breaking stuff but this is fishing and it makes me even keener to give it another crack,” Shane said. Another epic marlin encounter was had by Team Reidy’s when a big black marlin charged in behind the boat and ate everything being towed behind. At first it seemed that luck was with the team when the marlin was finally hooked on the heavy 24kg tackle and a big Pakula pusher. That’s the sort of tackle you’d expect to have a reasonable chance of landing a decent black with. But it was not to be as for no apparent reason the rod exploded into four parts, and the fish made an easy escape. In the end, it was the experienced old hands who capitalised on the money shots. Team Bill Collectors, comprised of Peter Dienhoff, David Brooks, Anthony Verkulylen and Rod Faulkner, we fished the Bathurst Trench, northern end, for most of the competition. “With strong winds forecast further north, we were just content with the Trench; as it turned out, those who ventured further north got smashed by the wind and lost a day’s fishing in the bad weather. “Brooksy lost a marlin on the way over, and another on the first day. Plus we had two more strikes that first day, so that was enough for our team to persevere with the Trench, especially as the bait was hanging on the northern end. “Rod caught a sailfish about 22-25kg on day two, and followed that up with a marlin estimated at 70kg,” Pete recounted. “Rod was rapt, and so were we, and he’d fought the fish well and got them to the boat in good time. “The last Day, Friday, saw us back at the Trench and we were getting a bit anxious with time running out. “Brooksy made a decision and rigged a skipping spotted mackerel which he trolled off the port outrigger. “This lasted hardly 30 minutes when It was crashed by a large marlin, fully breaching out of the water on the strike. “It swallowed the bait and came straight to the back of the boat, so I gunned the boat forward in an attempt to get away from the fish, but it had managed to tangle with the other lines; by the time this was sorted out, the marlin had spat the hooks. “I said to Brooksy that he was running out of ways to lose marlin, but that surely his time would come. “And come it did at 3.15pm on a large skipping oceanic queenfish on the same rigger. “This was a big fish that commanded respect, especially as Brooksy hooked it on only 15kg line. “We frantically retrieved the gear and other lines while Brooksy pumped and wound, trying to keep the big fish on the surface. “When I had the opportunity, I backed the boat down hard and had the twin Yanmar diesels screaming and throwing up water all over the back deck and the crew. “We never gave the fish a chance to go deep and got the tag shot away in 15 minutes; as soon as she felt the tag, she was off. “We had no time to grab the leader; it was very ‘green’ and nearly spooled Brooksy in one run. “We decided to set the drag to break the line, as we had tagged and photographed the fish, and there was no need to punish it – or Brooksy – any longer,” Peter explained. Results: Champion Team – Bill Collectors (Peter Dienhoff, David Brooks, Anthony Verkulylen, Rod Faulkner) 2 marlin, 1 sailfish Runner-up boat to 7.5m – Smokin’ Billies (Mat Barrett, Beau and Brenton Cartledge) 1 marlin, 1 sailfish Runner-up boat over 7.5m – Bigfish (Josh, Nat and Noah Ker, Tim Roberts) Champion Angler – Rod Faulkner 1 marlin, 1 sailfish Most Meritorious Catch – David Brooks (estimated 170kg marlin on 15kg) Total catch: 4 marlin, 8 sailfish

Brenton Cartledge from Team Smokin Billies with his tagged sailfish.

A big black marlin jumps for Team Reidy’s, only to explode the rod minutes later.

Champion Angler Rod Faulkner with his sailfish.

Tyson Sykes sailfish was a beauty.

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