The NT’s premier women-only fishing competition was another ripper for the host Palmerston Game Fishing Club last weekend. This was the annual Secret Women’s Business Barra Challenge, held over two days on beautiful Corroboree Billabong. There were 41 teams of three or four anglers competing and, as always, they had to fend for themselves with no assistance from the hairy-arse brigade. I reckon that’s the way it should be: if you are going to hold a female-only fishing competition, then give the girls the respect of acknowledging that they can do it as well as the blokes can. To be honest, the egos aren’t nearly as rampant in this women’s event as they are in the big male-dominated fishing competitions. That’s human nature, of course, but for me it was a delight to see the boats motoring up and down the huge billabong without any sort of showing off. Mostly the rigs were high-powered weapons, normally operated by hubbies, partners or boyfriends, and capable of high-octane, super-fast speeds. But none of that happened in this SWB; the boats were operated at safe planing speeds, and with wide, cautious berths given as teams passed each other. It was also good to see boats passed each other port to port, which is the recognised safe and golden rule on the water. Sadly though, this was a tough competition, so much so that just about every team targeted saratoga rather than barra. Barra are worth double the points of ’togas but, following the last abysmal wet season, conditions were far more suited to a robust saratoga population than to anything resembling a strong barramundi presence. It wasn’t so much that water levels were lower than normal for this time of year, but it was more the constriction evident in waterways. Talk about a good crop of lotus lilies – I hadn’t seen Corroboree so overrun with these otherwise beautiful aquatic plants since the early ‘80s. Back then, the population explosion of lilies was a backlash to the mega-eradication of water buffaloes along the Mary River system. It’s noteworthy too that saratoga were practically a non-event in Corroboree before the buffalo were removed and the lily fields blossomed as a result. Last weekend, some stretches of the big lagoon were 80% lilies and 20% navigable water. According to SWB Co-ordinator, Kris Noble, some teams were there to fish hard, some were there for the fun of it and most were there for both. “We’re proud that SWB is the only Territory all-women competition where the girls do everything for themselves,” Kris said. “Although the fishing was tough, it was another great SWB Barra Challenge.” It’s no surprise then that the top teams got right into the greenery, working soft plastics and little hard bodies through the holes and corridors of the vast lily fields. It was also not surprising that one team did it better than any other. A winner of SWB at least twice before, Team Skirts Ditch’n Work took to the ‘toga-rich aquatic forests with single-minded purpose and deadly intent. Skippered by possibly the finest female angler in the Northern Territory, Tash Rammers, on the first day Skirts Ditch’n Work plucked ‘togas from the lilies like feathers from a chook. They left the other 40 teams in their wake as they amassed an astonishing 776 points. Comprised of Tash, Melita McKinnon and Helen Stuart, Team Skirts Ditch’n Work were worthy winners of this year’s SWB Barra Challenge. Team Silver Caviar – Kelli Carroll, Anne Griffiths, Emma-Louise Harvey and Katrina Britnell – were a noteworthy Runner-up Champion Team. Tash Rammers won Champion Angler with Kelli Carroll as Champion Angler Runner-up. Once again, Corroboree Park Tavern proved to be an ideal venue, and hosts Peter and Lynda made sure everything went like clockwork, including the amazing food. Palmerston Game Fishing Club and Co-ordinator, Kristen Noble, must surely be proud of pulling off yet another great SWB Barra Challenge.
Helen Stuart, Tash Rammers and Melita McKinnon, with one of the many saratoga that helped their Skirts Ditchn’ Work team win the 2019 SWB Barra Challenge.
There’s a fish somewhere amongst the lilies in the net for Team Dirty Oars’ Mel Bowen, Mel Krollig and Jo Clark.
Leila Bartolo, Delisa Bell and Jade McGovern from Team Slippery Gypsies present one of their quality ‘toga.