In what was widely discussed as the toughest Club Marine Insurance Barra Nationals ever, this great tournament is done and dusted for another year.
There was never any doubt that fishing would be incredibly challenging down the Daly last week, and some of the statistics certainly back that up: 28 of 71 teams didn’t catch a point-scoring barra and 155 of 213 anglers also scored donuts.
What was really apparent to me was that so much of the river was so shallow.
Apart from the hazardous sections – where logs and rocks stalked boat hulls with menacing intent – long stretches that were normally 4-6m deep were 2-3m deep.
Gone were so many of the deep holes that the Daly is famous for, where good barra hang out waiting for the tide change to rise and have a feed.
That really is the essence of successful fishing on the Daly River during the dry season: being Johnny-on-the-spot when the tide stops and turns, especially at the bottom of the tide.
If you position yourself right, either trolling or casting, and you’re using the lures that the barra want to eat, then it gives “luck” the opportunity to kick in.
Of course, it also helps to have a good sounder that shows you fish.
Our Team NAFA was able to capitalise a few times on the above combination.
In one instance, the tide was literally stopping to turn and come back in along one of the few deep stretches; where the Lowrance HDS Live showed up a good barra.
Our boat glided across the hole, towing biggish Green Bombers at a fast pace.
Given that there were about 15 other boats working close by, our strategic combination of sounding a fish, positional timing, lure choice and speed increased our chances of being lucky.
And lucky we were because suddenly a magnificent 90cm barra smacked Melanie Ottaway’s lure and exploded horizontally more than two metres out of the water.
It was a hard-fought contest as I manoeuvred the boat to keep Mel with nicely bent rod on the open port side, and our other team mate, Tim Pel, did a neat job with the net.
That fish was a gold nugget the size of your fist in this Barra Nationals, and it rocketed us from 10th spot to 2nd, and clearly helped Team NAFA to win Champion Mixed Team in the final wash-up.
For the second year in a row, Team Humminbird/Edge Rods (Karim De Ridder, Craig Griffiths and John Millard) was convincing in winning the overall Champion Team and Champion Interstate Team.
Karim, who also won Champion Angler, said the team changed its tactics after the Barra Classic.
“We had a bit of a surface bite in the Classic but it shut down after three days so, by the Nats, we’d switched to weedless soft plastics,” he told me.
“We found resident fish up the top of the river, but they weren’t biting, so we did better downriver when we found fair water clarity.
“The second day was our big one.
“We started above the S-bends, from the Rock-bar down working both sides, but not catching. “It was when we raced down to Harey’s that our luck changed and I caught a 97 on a weedless plastic off a log.
“That gave us grief before we landed it, even going around the electric outboard,” Karim said. “Then Griffo got an unseen snag out in the open, and told John to cast into it and he pulled an 83.
“We finished around No Fish Creek, catching some smaller ones,” Karim said. The trio caught 18 barra all up which quite simply was an awesome effort given the tough conditions.
“We like to fish the edges, but I think boat pressure and perhaps water temperature meant the fish were out a bit wider,” Karim explained.
A last-ditch effort on the final day saw Team Happy Days (Darren Kenny, Daryl Melville and Ray Goodman) blast up the leader board with Daryl’s magnificent 112cm barra and claim Champion Local Team.
I seem to write this up every year but once again Palmerston Game Fishing Club nailed the Barra Nationals.
Notwithstanding the challenging conditions and lack of fish, it was a flawless event which I think all teams thoroughly appreciated.
Well done to co-ordinator, Paul Williams, and his team, to Club Marine Insurance for its considerable ongoing sponsorship, and to Banyan Farm’s Wally and Kerry Draper who put on another top show as venue hosts.
Melanie Ottaway’s Bomber-caught 90cm barra helped Team NAFA win Champion Mixed Team and Mel claim top-scoring female and fifth overall.
Karim De Ridder’s 97cm barra helped make it a no contest for Champion Team Humminbird/Edge Rods and Champion Angler for him personally.
Tim Pel’s 73cm barra was a great start on the first day.