As a passionate fisherman I get jealous when hearing Rick “Chopper” Simes, our Northern Territory Sales Manager, and Richard Fitzgerald, part of our head office management team, talk and talk about the XXXX Gold Barra Nationals. I asked Chopper to put on paper a few of his and Richards’s experiences from the Nationals and now somehow or other I have to get a trip there one year. Engel have gone from being a minor sponsor of this event to being one of the major sponsors, as we are with many competitions throughout the country and enjoy the opportunity of putting something into a sport we all love. One day I will see you there. Peter Rosentreter Manager Engel Qld TALES OF THE NATIONALS By Rick “Chopper” Simes Sales Manager for Engel in the Northern Territory In 2006, after sponsoring the XXXX Gold Barra Nationals for a few years and being envious after watching the DVD of each year’s competition, I convinced the boss to let me enter a team and of course the team name had to be TEAM ENGEL.
For the next year, I read and watched every barra DVD I could get my hands on, learnt how to tie leader knots and basically tried to learn as much as I could. I had caught a few barramundi on past trips to the Territory but was still very green when it came to understanding all there is to know regarding this great Aussie sportfish.
May 2006 arrived and so did a late cyclone into the Daly River region. It was touch and go as to whether the river would be low enough to access the Banyan Farm Tourist Park which hosts the Nationals, but luck was on our side and Team Engel arrived at Banyan Farm. Our Team is made up of myself, Engel’s Northern Territory Sales Manager and all-round fishaholic, Richard Fitzgerald, part the Engel Management Team, who also fishes several ABT events, Steve Rigney, local Darwin resident and my best mate. Steve was the only one in the team who had caught numerous barra and knew the mighty Daly well.
The cannon start on the opening day of the Barra Nationals is something to behold with 60 boats all waiting for that cannon to fire. Things have changed somewhat now with each team heading off in accordance with their team number at one minute intervals, but it is still a great morning with the film crew hovering above us in the chopper.
The river was so high, still running around the 10m mark, which made trolling difficult, so it was going to be a casting tournament. Day one we only managed a couple of average fish although we worked hard all day. That night back at the camp, as we did every night over a great feed and a few cold beers, everybody is talking tactics reliving the day and talking about where the fish were or weren’t.
Day 2 we headed down towards Clear Creek. The river was running so hard that we just drifted along casting the banks. All of a sudden Richard called out “Yeah I’m on!” All we saw was a massive boil then the little Shimano Chronarch started peeling line at a great rate. There was nothing Richy could do except let this big fish keep taking line. Once that initial run was over, the big girl got herself in the current and we could see the tail beats through the rod tip.
We had drifted a fair way when Richard decided to put some hurt on the big girl. This brought the fish up to the top and she headed close into the bank. Then it jumped and we looked at each other without saying a word but in all our minds I knew what we were thinking “Horse”!
The fish jumped 3 more times before we looked like getting a net shot. My heart was pumping as I was the net man and knew that this was a fish of a lifetime. Richard pumped the big girl to the surface and as he started to steer her closer to the net I said what we all thought: “It ain’t gonna fit in the net”.
Now be aware this was only Richard’s third barra and the first two were just legal.
Suddenly, I had my net shot and knew I had to take it. Using the Environet is different to a normal landing net and, with the river running so hard, I knew I had one shot and one shot only. As her head came towards me I lunged forward and got her head in the net, then leant forward to get some leverage. I thought, My God, it’s in the net, and then I realised that both my hands were on the net and I was getting ready to join this horse of a fish in the Daly. With that Richard grabbed me by the waist and we both fell backwards into the boat with the biggest barra I had seen up close on top of both of us. You could’ve heard the roar from our boat back at the Banyan Farm, it was so loud.
We pulled out the measuring board and laid her on it — 111cm was the magic number. After a few quick snaps, we realised that she was struggling after such a long fight and wanted to get her back into the water.
I don’t know how but I drew the short straw and was elbow deep swimming the big girl to revive her with the other two boys on croc watch. It took five minutes to revive this great fish but I can tell you it felt like a lifetime. Finally she bit down on my thumb and gave a big kick and we watched her swim off in great nick.
Now we didn’t win the biggest barra for the 2006 tournament, Richy was pipped on the last day by a 112cm fish, but that didn’t matter as we were congratulated by some of the greats of barramundi fishing, including the legend Col Cordingley.
To date, this is still our only barra over the magic metre mark. Steve has caught a metre fish but not in the Nationals. I have since hooked my metre fish at the Nationals but that’s another story.
Now five years on we are a lot more experienced than that first year. Our Darwin team mate Steve Rigney has shown both Richard and myself up in the last few years, finishing in the top 10 out of 180 anglers. He has rubbed it in over the last year and I am very lucky that I’m a good net man or my spot might have been in jeopardy. Mind you, how can Team Engel fish the Nationals without the sales manager attending? Our best overall result was in 2007 when we finished runner-up in the mixed team category and 9th overall.
But the XXXX Gold Barra Nationals are a lot more than just about where you finish on the score board or how many fish you land. I have met and become close friends with so many of the guys who fish the Nationals — nearly 200 competitors in camp and everyone of the 200 go out of their way to help each other out.
The Palmerston Game Fishing Club needs to be commended on the organisation and logistics of organising a tournament on this scale. To now have a purpose-built, enclosed verandah venue makes it such a pleasure when you arrive back in camp after a long hot day on the water to relax with great food and friends.
Wally and Kerry, owners of the Banyan Farm, need to be mentioned for the way this tournament is run and catered for — hot breakfast at 5am every morning, cold meats and salads for our sandwiches out on the water during the day and a full hot buffet dinner every night at 7pm on the dot. I must mention the benefits and coverage Engel portable fridge-freezers receive from this tournament.
Over the years, we have gone from middle-of-the-road sponsorship to, in the last three years, being one of the major sponsors of the XXXX Gold Barra Nationals. Our product is used by numerous fishermen on day trips in the boat or the planned extended fishing or camping get away. Since my involvement with the Nationals, so many of the competitors have purchased Engel and I am noticing more and more Engel fridges in the camp each year.
The biggest comment I get from new Engel customers is how long their fridge has run off their battery during their fishing or camping holidays. But I guess having the best 12 volt current draw on the market is the reason for this. At Engel we don’t talk laboratory hot box testing because nobody spends their hard-earned holidays in a laboratory, so at Engel these figures don’t mean much. Our testing is done in the field by guys who use the product. Our laboratory is the harsh outback and the northern tropics across Australia.
I could ramble on for another page about how great Engel fridge-freezers are and I guess I’m a little biased but, if you don’t believe me, ask Malcolm Douglas or the thousands of Engel owners living in the Top End, far north QLD or the Kimberley of WA and they will all tell you there is only one brand of portable fridge in Australia that will outlast anything else on the market — that’s why Engel is the legend in reliability.
Finally, if anyone has ever thought about fishing for six days on one of the best barramundi rivers in the NT, meeting great people from all over Australia and having the best week of your life, put an expression of interest forward to the Palmerston Game Fishing Club. You won’t be disappointed.
According to Team Engel, there is only one week that counts every year and you guessed it — the Nationals week.