Sean Conlon from Team Wilson with 68cm flathead, winning 2nd place at 2015 Gold Coast Flathead Classic

Trials and Tribulations from the Flathead Classic

CHRISTMAS is just around the corner and the weather is starting to heat up.

Hopefully the warmer weather will bring plenty of pelagics to southern Moreton Bay over the coming months.

Recently I was lucky enough to again fish the Gold Coast Flathead Classic with the boys from Wilson Fishing, and we had a fantastic time. The Wilson guys run two teams and we were in the Zerek team, which consisted of Troy Dixon, Adam Meredith and me.

The other team comprised Robbie Payne, Kord Lucas and Scotty Fleming, and these fishos were the runners-up in last year’s Flathead Classic.

We all got to the Classic on the Wednesday to set up the Wilson tent and get everything sorted in the competition area. Then we got our registrations and everything sorted, sat down for a nice dinner that was provided in the competition entry, found out all the rules and regulations, had a few drinks and then headed home for a good night’s rest to be ready for the next day.

Competition rules state no lines can go in the water until 6.30am and all lines have to be out of the water by 4pm. You then need to have all the scoresheets handed in by 6pm. We got up at 4am, picked up fuel and ice for the day and were on the water by 5am to get to our areas and check out water clarity and places where we’d like to start fishing at 6.30am.

The first day brought very dirty water around the Gold Coast, so we headed towards Jumpinpin to cast lures for those fish holding in the deep. Adam and Troy both picked up some decent flathead around the 70cm mark using this technique, and then as the tide turned to run out the water dirtied up and we went in search of cleaner water. We did a bit of trolling after that, catching a number of fish from 45-50cm, which are really good scoring fish in this competition.

For the first day we picked up 947 points.

We headed back to the competition site for another great dinner and to see how the other teams went. We didn’t think we were doing too well with that amount of points but it was enough to put us in ninth place, and we were quite happy to be in the top 10.

The next morning we were up again at 4am with the same routine of heading out to check water clarity and figure out where we were going to start our day’s fishing. Water clarity wasn’t great but we thought we’d give it a go and do a bit of trolling along the edge of a bank. Well I admit we were not quite ready for what happened next.

Before we knew it, fish in the 40-55cm range were flying into the boat one after another. I have seen flathead bites before but I’ve never seen anything quite like this. At some stages we had double and triple hook-ups, all while trying to do paperwork, take photos and release fish unharmed.

Man it was all happening. This all occurred on a bank no more than 200m long with just 1m of water covering it. This chaos went on for about two hours until the bite slowed. Then the same thing as the day before happened.

The tide was getting towards the bottom, the water had really dirtied up, a bit of a breeze was blowing and it became quite tough to catch fish. So we headed to the deep water to try to find some clear stuff to fish in. We found another area where the Whyte boys and Ross McCubbin were fishing and spent about an hour there.

Well we had no results right up until we decided to make sandwiches for lunch and Troy hooked up to a 74cm fish that we landed, took photos of and quickly released unharmed.

We then moved towards Crusoe Island where on the second drop Adam hooked up and landed a lovely 71cm flatty in deep water before the bite stopped again. Next we headed south and tried to do a bit more trolling but found absolutely nothing. By this stage the water was looking fairly ordinary and we only had about an hour until the end of the session.

A lot of boats were heading in but the idea of this competition is to fish right up until 4pm because you never know what could happen. So we headed back out towards the Pin Bar to try to find some more clean water. The drive paid off, with a few more fish in the 50cm range coming in and Troy hooked another 74cm flathead. It was now 4pm, which meant lines in and back to the competition area to see how we went.

We finished up with 1043 points for the day, which kept us in ninth place after the second day and we were quite happy to still be in the top 10. Over dinner we decided that on the last day we were just going to troll because of the water clarity on the run-out tide. We wouldn’t even attempt casting in the deep water.

The next morning everything was looking reasonably good, so we sat on our spot and got our lines in at 6.30am. What we weren’t ready for was the other 10 boats that arrived about 6.45am and started trolling on the same line as us. I have never seen anything like it and thought there would be no way in the world the fish would bite with the amount of boat traffic going over the top of them.

Amazingly the fish chewed their heads off and we were into the same number of fish as the day before. For the next two hours the fish were continuously coming over the side and without being huge they were even better quality than the day before. We hooked so many 45-55cm fish again with double and triple hook-ups. All the while we made sure we took the photos, filled out the paperwork correctly and released the fish unharmed as quickly as we could. It was fantastic fun.

Then just like the previous two days the water became very dirty, the tide slowed and the fish went off the chew.

A nice flathead from Jumpinpin.
A nice flathead from Jumpinpin.
This 68cm fish was caught on a trolled Zerek Tango Shad.
This 68cm fish was caught on a trolled Zerek Tango Shad.
Troy with a cracker flathead caught in 9m of water.
Troy with a cracker flathead caught in 9m of water.
Troy and flathead fishing by-catch.
Troy and flathead fishing by-catch.
Jesse is a young fisherman with a lot of potential and a passion for the sport.
Jesse is a young fisherman with a lot of potential and a passion for the sport.
Young Jesse was the junior runner-up in his first Flathead Classic. Great effort mate and well done.
Young Jesse was the junior runner-up in his first Flathead Classic. Great effort mate and well done.
Adam took a quality flathead by fishing lures in the deep.
Adam took a quality flathead by fishing lures in the deep.
The bulk of the fish caught by team Zerek during the comp were hooked on Zerek Tango Shads, just like this one was.
The bulk of the fish caught by team Zerek during the comp were hooked on Zerek Tango Shads, just like this one was.
However we needed to find more fish. We checked a few different areas but the water clarity was fairly ordinary. And being the Gold Coast on a Saturday, the boat traffic was thick too.

Eventually we found an area where the traffic wasn’t too bad and the water clarity was reasonable. We started trolling with small hard-bodies and it wasn’t long before Troy picked up a 55cm fish. Not too long after that, Adam and Troy picked up a couple of fish about the same size in a double hook-up.

As I said earlier, the idea of this competition is to start fishing at 6.30am and not stop right up until the buzzer. On the Saturday the rules stated fishing stopped at 2pm. Well it was now about 1pm and the competition was drawing to a close.

I must admit on the last day I was struggling a bit and did not catch as many fish as the other boys. In fact I had not caught a reasonable size fish for the whole competition. Most of my fish were 45-50cm long but as I’ve made clear, you’ve got to fish right to the end. All of a sudden my rod loaded up and I was onto a quality fish.

This fish gave me plenty on my light 6lb line and after a few tense moments around the net the big girl came off the bottom and Adam netted a 68cm flatty. The funny thing about competition fishing is I’ve caught plenty of big flathead before but that fish so late in the competition when I hadn’t done very well throughout the day had the old knees trembling and hands shaking.

We got the boat on the trailer, tallied up the sheets and found we had 1343 points for the day, so headed back to see how we went. We were fairly confident that score would keep us in the top 10 and if we stayed in there we would be rapt. Upon arriving at the competition site we were talking to a number of anglers and they said we did fairly well.

Apparently some of the top 10 teams found it tough to find fish on the last day, so we were in with a chance. We had another great meal and a few drinks and before long the scores were read out. As it turned out, we had moved up to fifth place, the other Wilson team was in second and the Lowrance Whyte Boyz were first.

What a great result and a fantastic effort by all for a big three days of fishing. After a few drinks, everybody went home for a good night’s rest. Except the winners, who probably partied on a little longer. The next morning we got up early, headed down, tidied up the Wilson tent and went home. You’d probably expect this to be the end of my article, but later that afternoon Troy Dixon rang me to say there was a bit of a muddle up with the scores.

The Flathead Classic guys had a few power outages in the last night and Adam Meredith’s 366 final day points had not been added to our total tally. So in actual fact, when the scores were added up properly we were the runners-up. As fantastic as this news was, it was a bittersweet moment because we did not get to stand up on stage in front of 550 of our peers and receive our trophies for the hard work we put into the competition.

Unfortunately we are all only human and these things happen. Luckily the Flathead Classic team picked it up and it was all resolved because we did not think we came anywhere close to second.

It was a fantastic comp and a fantastic outcome for Wilson Fishing, with both teams finishing in the top three. Next year we’re just going to have to work harder and catch more fish to get a chance to stand up on that podium.

With this competition you have to fish from start to finish, get all the paperwork right, have all your knots and gear set up properly, get every fish in the net and in the boat and not make any mistakes. We were lucky to put all these things together, catch plenty of fish and get the results. For the whole comp I didn’t even land one fish while casting. All my fish and the bulk of the fish we boated were hooked by trolling Zerek Tango Shads in about a metre of water and connecting to fish in the 40-55cm range.

We still caught some fish while casting in the deep and they tended to be the better-quality ones but after five years of fishing this comp I’ve seen that trolling racks up a lot of points. So if you want my advice, do a bit of trolling throughout the Flathead Classic because it will put points on the board for you.

I have to say a really big thank you to my teammates Troy and Adam. Their knowledge of the area is fantastic and helped us catch a lot of our fish. I’d also like to thank Wilson Fishing for having me in one of its teams. The company supplies and does everything for the weekend and I can’t thank those involved enough. Hopefully I am invited back next year because fishing and hanging out with the Wilson fellers is a pleasure.

And to the organisers at the Flathead Classic, it was a great event as always and I know the little power outage hiccups will be sorted for next year. It was a great event and I can’t wait to get back there. The other standout team in the comp for me was the Bonza 2 team, which consisted of my other skipper Colin, his son Jesse and Matty, who used my small cross country vessel to fish the Classic.

They came 24th overall and third in the mixed aged teams section in their first-ever Flathead Classic, which was a great effort. Young Jesse also came second in the junior section, which was an outstanding result for his first-ever Classic. If you would like to join me on a charter, phone 0433 732 310, check out www.moretonbaycharters.com.au or head to the Moreton Bay Charters Facebook page.

Until next month, stay safe on the water.

 

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