Eathan Martin – Hawkesbury River ABT Recap

First tournament of the year done and dusted. On the weekend I travelled down to the Hawkesbury river with local bass angler Peter  Phelps. Being my first ABT event and first event fishing the Hawkesbury river I was not quite sure what to expect but definitely satisfied and happy with the challenge that I faced.

During the prefish Pete and myself targeted rocky edges with beetle spins, this technique proved successful in catching small undersized fish but no legal fish seemed to be biting the beetle spinned plastics we were throwing. As the morning progressed we started fishing weeded and grassy edges looking for larger possibly legal fish. The technique proved successful in yielding larger fish but only getting the odd bite every hour or so. Once we had confirmed that we were not going to get numbers off weedy edges we decided to move back to our rock wall technique targeting small pools snd crevasses along the rock face. This continued to yield small fish with the occasional legal fish here and there. By the end of the day we wrapped up our prefish and begin to rig and prepare for the next day.
I drew Ross Cannizzaro as my first boater. This for fortunate for me as I was aware that bream fisherman would do well in this event and potentially know where to find bass or estuary perch (EP) due to their past knowledge and past experiences on this river system. Ross and I blasted up the river to a steep rock wall and targeted deep EPs and bass, my second or third cast I hooked up and my rod buckled over. I recalled Ross explaining to me earlier  that EPs don’t put up a hard fight as a bass would  and if I hooked a big one I would know about it, as I fought the fish this was in the back of my mind and as I anxiously fought the fish back to the boat I was hoping that this would be a big EP to start our session, sadly it was a bream that had engulfed my curl tail plastic. Ross and I fished the rock wall for about half a hour more with only the odd bite and big bream. Ross described that this rock wall typically fishes better on a run in tide so we made the run further up river to another rock wall. We both fished this rock wall hard and were rewarded with nothing more than small undersized EP and bass. We worked our way down to some docks and moored boats where Ross had caught big EP as bream bi catch in previous tournaments with no bites at all. We had planned to go down the river and fish a small creek that was about a 20 minute trip down.  On this weekend there was a series of ski race competitions being held at the same time as the tournaments sessions, this was hard on the anglers as boats were not permitted to travel up and down the river when a race was taking place. Our timing wasn’t optimal, we chose to make our run down the river as a race was on. Ross and I had to wait nearly 40 minutes before we could get clearance to make our run. Once we were finally cleared we took off heading for the creek, Ross turns to me and points to the rock wall and I shrugged my shoulders as I wasn’t confident in that rock wall after the mornings results, I wasn’t aware of how much tides play a role in fish and how their bite periods work on a river such as the Hawkesbury. As soon as we pull up and begin casting both Ross and myself hook up to decent fish at last some legal EPs! For the next 10-15 minutes Ross and I consistently caught a mix of undersized and bigger EPs until we had a bag limit. We race to the first sessions weigh in and weigh a bag of fish for 2.81kg which had Ross and myself sitting in around 2nd place.
Second session Ross and I headed straight back to our wall where we had caught our bag knowing that the turning tide would have the fish still biting. Sadly we realise that a race had just been held and the spot had been smashed by wake off ski boats and the fish had shut down completely. We make a move to a series of other rock walls with no luck. Heading back to the original rock wall we fished it confidently knowing it would of been rested by now. For the next half and hour or so I caught nothing but flathead and bream until finally a legal EP hits the deck, we continued to move back and fourth from that wall resting it and hitting it hard again before making our last visit to it, a barely legal EP  was the only thing the wall could yield after being fishing so heavily. With only an hour remaining in the session we made a desperate run down to the creek we had planned on fishing in session one hoping for two more legal fish to keep us up near the top of the field. The creek didn’t produce any legal fish, we were informed by a local resident that we were the 10th boat to visit the creek so we made the run back to weigh in. I was now sitting in 2nd place and keen to get get back to camp and prepare my tackle for the next session.
Session 3 I teamed up with Alan McNamara. As soon as I hopped in the boat with Al he told me that I could make most of the decisions about where we fish today as I was sitting in the position i was, this kind gesture was humbling for me and shows Alan’s class as an angler, I was very appreciative of this and after some discussion Alan and I decided to head up river to fill a bag limit to potentially get me the win and slip Alan back up the leaderboard. We take off and move up to our first spot which was a rocky edge where we caught nothing but small undersized EPs. Alan and I decided to move to a location of the river known as “Skeletons” named after the rocky and rough river bed that was obvious on the sounder. Al and myself fished the flats of skeletons surrounded by 3 or 4 other boats waiting for the bite period to open up. An hour passed with no bites but when the tide finally stopped running hard the high tide had set in. We are about to move when I hook up to a small bass on a Jackall tn60, this was a good sign that the bass would start to bite and we could possibly fill our bag now. Al ties on a Jackall and instantly hooks up to a solid legal bass, Al turns to me and says “yep it’s legal grab the net!” I stand beside Al and nervously wait for the fish to come up so I can net it. The fish looks as though it’s about to give up and just as I prepare to put the net in the water it takes a sharp turn straight back down and bang! The hooks pull straight out of the fishes mouth. Al and I both let out a sigh of disappointment and desperation. We continue to fish still disappointed from the missed opportunity but determined to get another bite. The rest of the session was spent getting small bites and enquires from fish with no hook ups. This would be the only action Al and I myself would see sadly but after hearing that a lot of other anglers did it tough we were reassured that our finish  May not be as poor as expected.
I finished the tournament in 6th position out of 22 angler non boater field. A huge thanks to Nick and Jen from Aberdeen Fishing and Outdoors, if it wasn’t for their support I would not be able to fish the events that I do! Thanks guys.