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Home » Tournaments-and-Events » 2017/18 The Australian Freshwater Masters

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The Australian Freshwater Masters

This series is a three event, three location, three species series that pits anglers against our premier southern freshwater sportfish - the iconic Murray cod at Lake Mulwala, the brawling Australian bass of Lake Glenbawn and the gargantuan golden perch of Lake Windamere.

The first two rounds at Lake Windamere and Lake Glenbawn are held on the second weekend of November, with the Lake Mulwala round held over the second weekend in February, 2018.

This year we had Stephen Booth and Shane Banks fish the event for us as Team Venom and they started off their campaign at Lake Windamere chasing golden perch.

Windamere produced some sensational golden perch over the 60cm mark for some of the lucky competitors, however the leading teams averaged around the 56cm per fish for their 10 golden perch. Team Venom was right in amongst it, being one of only 9 teams to limit out (catch their 10 fish) and ending up in 7th position overall with a healthy average fish of 52.85cm.

The boys accumulated their bag by fishing the Live Fibre Blade N Tails Ultralight Elite with black grubs in the tree tops and small blades along the edges. Luckily, come Day 2, the boys had their 10 goldens and they aimed to upgrade and added three fish over 53cm to their bag on the last morning, jumping them a couple of spots on the leader boards.

The technique in the trees was to locate fish hanging on the branches and then drop grub-style plastics rigged on jigeads to the fish. You can actually see the lure on the sounder and watch the reaction of the golden perch to the lure as they follow it up and down before striking. It's fascinating stuff.

The blade fishing on the edge was very careful with long casts being made before a very slow, micro hop and drop technique was used to get the bites. Using tiny blades rigged with even tinier assist hooks meant the Blade N Tails Elite was the prefect choice with a soft tip able to keep the small and light hooks in place throughout the fight.

As they moved off to Lake Glenbawn, the competitors were enthusiastic as Glenbawn traditionally produces a lot of fish and many teams get their limit of 10 bass. The real key to success in this round is having a limit of bass that average over 38cm.

Day one was a short afternoon session and the team really struggled after a fast start with three bass over 37cm in the first hour. It wasn't until the last hour and a half that the boys saw another fish and they racked up some very quick numbers by trolling deep diving minnows in 20 foot of water. These were only small bass and the team finished the day with their bag but only with an average of 32cm - a long way off the 38cm average they were chasing.

Day two saw a change of tactics with a preparedness to fish edges that they hadn't on Day 1. This paid off immediately with Shane Banks throwing a chatterbait on the Bone Drago and hooking up in the first 10 casts to a fast running fish. Two good bass over 35cm and a stonking big golden perch (doesn't count) for Shane saw the boys a little more enthusiastic about the edge bite. It was at this point that Shane suggested to Stephen that he try a Beetle Spin rigged soft plastic - and this was the key to a great day.

The first fish for Stephen was a livewell filler (you can only have four bass in possession at any time) at just over 40cm to the fork and after the fish were measured and released, his next fish was a ripper at 432mm to the fork. This fish rattled through some thick weed on 4lb braid and 6lb leader and after the fish was landed the torn up and slashed weed looked more like a serious traffic accident than the site of a great capture. This bass would hang on to be the largest bass caught for the round.

This pattern continued for most of the day with the team slowly racking up upgrade fish, including four over the 40cm fork length mark. The last fish caught by Shane measured in at 402mm giving the team a great average fish of 39.41cm, only a small amount off the winners for the round who had an average fish of 39.80cm.

As the competition is run over three rounds, the total lengths were assigned and Team Venom jumped two places into 5th overall, about 37cm behind the leaders. At Mulwala this is less than a legal fish of 55cm so it's anyone's race as the competition heads to Lake Mulwala in February. 

As the teams arrived in Mulwala there were 7 teams within a legal Murray cod of the leaders and, with no team ever catching their 10 scorers at Mulwala in recent history, the pressure was on everyone to perform.

The Mulwala round for Team Venom was the do or die round with the team 370 points (37cm) behind the leaders. With the minimum legal size for Murray cod being 55cm (550 points), all the team really had to do was catch one more legal fish than the other competitors in the field to take out the overall win.

We'll hand over to Boothy to tell the tale.

We had a plan all tournament for all three rounds, a set of KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) for want of a better way of saying it. We'd performed above what Shane thought we might need at Round 1 and Round 2 and he said 6 legal cod will get us in the mix, 7 would be better. So with this in mind we spent way too much time thinking about what we should do come Round 3 tournament time.

Prefish day was tough as we scouted around looking for likely areas to fish. With a 7½ hour session on day one and a 10 hour session on day two, there was plenty of time to get legal cod and we needed a number of areas to fish and fill the time while we 'rested' the better areas.

We fished the middle to top reaches of the lake scouting out flats and backwaters hoping to find an area where fish were congregating and feeding. We did come across a few likely areas, but a lot of areas I like to fish were killed off by rampant weed growth that had snot-like weed over the top of it.

The heavy weed is not a problem as you can pocket fish and laneway fish, but when there are large amounts of the fine filamentous snot weed floating around the weed and all over it, your lures clog up almost instantly, making the area unfishable.

The prefish day, in terms of fish, was an absolute wash out, but we did leave areas I knew had fish alone, choosing not to risk stinging them and scaring them off for the tournament days. In fact I was pretty happy that a lot of areas were unfishable as it reduced the area to concentrate on in the comp.

Day 1 of the tournament arrived and we set off from the ramp. The wind was blowing a good 20 knots and the lake was a bit messy and our decision to head upstream was easy to make. But just as we headed to the first corner after the ramp we spied a wakeboat deep in the snags with the two guys aboard waving us down. We headed in, roped them up and towed them back to the ramp - not the start we were hoping for as other competitors whizzed past us heading upstream.

After dropping off the unlucky crew at the ramp, we floored it up to our first spot, hoping none of the other boats had got to our first spot before us. Coming around the last corner we were stoked that no-one had stopped at Spot 1.

Quickly getting ready, we waited all of 30 seconds before the official start time of 12 noon and first cast - crack! My spinnerbait got smashed but the fish failed to hook up. Things were looking good.

Working our way through the backwater saw us land two legal cod in the first hour, as well as getting another couple of hits, so we were pretty happy with the start.

The day finished in fine form with Team Venom landing 4 legal cod, putting us in a good position and giving us a great start to reach Shane's KPI for Mulwala.

Day 2 was a big day with 10 hours of fishing.

We started off in one of my good spots and 10 minutes in Shane pulled the hooks on a good fish. Luckily 10 minutes later he backed it up with a legal cod of 57cm from a spot that I'd never seen a cod caught from before - we were away!

The bite really shut down after that with hordes of wakeboats, ski boats and the brilliant new craze of wake surfing all creating a maelstrom in the river and making the edges downright dangerous to fish!

We persisted and moved around a lot looking for one final bite but all we could get were golden perch - or should I say all I could get were golden perch! About 2pm I'd handed over all decision making to Shane and he suggested we head up to a submerged log we'd cast at on Day 1 for no bites. It's a good snag, totally underwater and if you didn't know it was there, you'd miss it completely. As luck would have it I hooked a good fish on the third cast that started pulling drag - but then the hooks came away. I was devastated!

We had about an hour left at this stage and I would have sworn I'd just blown it as we only had 5 legal fish for the comp.

Luckily Shane kept at it and said we should fish the little sticks - a place full of small stand up snags that produces the occasional legal fish. And sure enough, just as we started up on the little sticks a 58cm model nailed my spinnerbait and made it to the net, giving us 6 legal fish and giving us a really good shot at the title.

We headed back to the ramp happy but unsure where we would sit in the standings.

It was a nervous wait at the presentation as the awards were handed out, but we finished up performing well above our expectations.



Top Five Golden Perch Tip of Tail

Stephen Booth: 53.40cm

Shane Banks: 49.34cm

Overall Team Average 10 fish: 52.85cm

Team Position: 7th


Top Five Bass Fork Length

Stephen Booth: 40.36cm

Shane Banks: 38.10cm

Overall Team Average 10 fish: 39.41cm

Team Position: 5th


Top 5 Murray Cod Tip of Talk

Stephen Booth (3 landed): 60.3cm

Shane Banks (3 landed): 58.5cm

Overall Team Average 10 fish (6 landed): 59.4cm

Team Position: 1


Round 1 at Windamere: Bruce Braham with a 612mm total length golden perch

Round 2 at Glenbawn: Stephen Booth with a 432mm fork length bass

Round 3 at Mulwala: Chris Bird with an 860mm total length Murray cod


Stephen Booth (Team Venom) with 6,497 points


Team Venom (Shane Banks/Stephen Booth) with 12,789 points

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