It’s a cliché, I know, but when I attend the annual Australian Fishing Trade Show on the Gold Coast I am very much the proverbial “kid in the candy shop”. This year has been no different, except perhaps that there was even more candy for Top End anglers than in previous years. In the lure department, it was mainly about soft plastics, and one in particular was mesmerising: River2Sea’s Chasebaits Smash Squid. I watched it being worked up and down in a vertical fish tank and I couldn’t take my eyes off it. As it was lifted then allowed to dive down head first, not only did its legs and tentacles swim rhythmically but its body-length wings rippled and pulsated as if it was well and truly a live squid. I defy any fish that fancies a bit of cephalopod to not immediately gulp down a Smash Squid on the drop. Not surprisingly, it won Best Soft Lure in the Australian Fishing Tackle Awards. Another soft plastic which I liked was the new Squidgy Bio Tough range, especially the Flick Baits and the Fish Baits. Not only do these new softies feature Dura Stretch so they can be pulled apart like an elastic band and withstand an inordinate amount of piscatorial punishment, but they are also bio-degradable. Usually the Best Hard Lure is a barra lure of sorts but this year the winner was JM Gillies’ Bluewater Saury. Designed by legendary lure maker, Lance Butler, this big lure comes in 10 colours, including some with “LiveGlo”, and is fitted with 10/0 VMC single hooks and extra-strong rings and hardware. A new reinforced bib design and nose-wire tow point ensures the Saury swims perfectly. It should wreak havoc on Spanish mackerel and other Top End pelagics. In the reel department, the new Shimano TranX 300A matched to a Shimano Jewel Swimbait 7102 rod was a clear winner as the Best Fishing Combo. Really, this was all about the reel because the new TranX 300A and 300HG are simply amazing. This big baitcaster fills an important niche when it comes to quality tackle for for big barra. Both models hold heaps of line and the TranX 300HG retrieves at gold-medal speeds with its 7.6:1 gear ratio. I’ve been using the 300HG but have swapped the standard single power-crank handle with the twin-paddle handles that are fitted standard to the TranX 300A which has a slower 5.8:1 retrieve rate. The world needed a bigger, quality baitcasting reel that was still at home on barra water, cast well, held heaps of line and had stop-dead braking power, and the Shimano TranX 300A and 300HG fit the bill nicely. The Best Reel at the awards was another Shimano product: the Sustain 2500FI which is representative of the range of new Sustain reels that go up to the 5000 size – that and the new Sustain 4000FI are perfect for the Top End fishing scene, both for barra and for light offshore work. The new Sustain FIs feature the highest level yet of waterproofing technology, and the cold-forged Hagane Gear and X-Ship technologies combine to provide amazingly-smooth gearing with unrivalled pulling power. The Best Rod award went to Wilson’s Bone Combat Beast Travel Rod. This is a super-light four-piece rod with great pulling power and casting performance well suited to barra and blue in the Top End. You could use this versatile rod on small barra all the way up to big GTs and mackerel. It didn’t surprise one iota that a JM Gillies Plano tackle bag took out the Best Tackle Management award. This time it was the Plano KVD, a sexy black job with waterproof hard bottom and lots of places around its exterior to hang and clip accessories. With five big trays inside and a quick-access tray on top, you get the feeling that it was designed with barra fishos specifically in mind. JM Gillies also cleaned up in the fly fishing sections: Best Fly line went to the Rio Direct Core Flats Line and Best Fly Rod was the Sage Salt HD. The Marine Electronics award was a no brainer: the new Lowrance HDS Carbon TM 16 is truly space-age technology that displays fish on both structurescan and sidescan with amazing detail. The 16-inch high-definition screen provides an even bigger stage to showcase the clarity, high resolution and superior target separation of SolarMax HD technology. Setting up a four-panel split on the HDS Carbon 16 gives anglers the equivalent of four seven-inch screens on a single display. Finally, a reel that didn’t get an award only because it would have competed against another Shimano reel which won, so was not entered, is the all-new Shimano Curado 200K. This new baitcaster is built to withstand the toughest saltwater environments: it has a specially-plated pinion gear, combined with a breakwater wall and drainage port which sheds any water before it can access the reel’s internals. It comes in multiple gear ratios up to 8.5:1 and is fitted with 6+1 A-RB bearings. Silky smooth, a delight to cast and incorporating a full Hagane body, I have no doubt that Top Enders will be drawn to this reel in their droves. PHOTOS: Best Combo at the Australian Fishing Trade Show Awards was the amazing Shimano TranX 300 and Jewel rod.
The slick Shimano Sustain FI range was a winner at the awards.
Wilson’s Bone Combat Beast Travel Rod comes in four sections and is versatile plus.
The River2Sea Smash Squid smashed the Best Soft Lure award thanks to its incredible life-like swimming action.
The Lance Butler-designed JM Gillies’ Bluewater Saury lures won Best Hard Lure in a heavily-contested category.
Best Marine Electronics was a no brainer: the Lowrance HDS Carbon 16 has amazing display clarity and a huge screen as shown compared to an I-Phone.
The new super-corrosion-resistant Shimano Curado 200K will be a winner in the Top End.
The brilliant Plano KVD bag won the Best Tackle Management award.