ABT Non Boater – it’s not all about catching fish

By Doug Badrock

Growing up fishing as a child and now into my early thirties, I never would of thought I would have ended up knee deep in the world of tournament. And that’s exactly what I’m doing, and I love it.

A few years I started competing in the Vic BREAM Series and I thoroughly enjoy it. A couple of good mates suggested at the end of 2015 that I should enter the 2016 Costa BREAM Series as a non-boater, and while I was a little apprehensive I took the leap into the big leagues. Working around work and family commitments I pencilled in the Mallacoota, Metung, Clarence River (Yamba), and Gold Coast rounds to fish.

Let’s Go

Leading into the first event of the year at Mallacoota I was filled with excitement as I has fished there many times and was confident of catching my limit both both days. However this was my first event as a non-boater and I didn’t really know what the nonboater experience would be like.

After the first day of catching only three legal fish and getting quite frustrated I soon realized that there is a whole new set of challenges as a non-boater to deal with. Catching my limit on day two was a great achievement however I walked away feeling disappointed about the final results.

We left Mallacoota and head to the next event at Metung round, and again I was confident of a good result. I felt like I knew the area and what it would take to do well. On day one my boater took me up the Mitchell River, I location I had never fished before. Unfortunately the day didn’t go as I hoped, and I went fishless. Day two proved better fishing on the flats and I finished the tournament with three fish to my name.

Get Ready

After the first two rounds I was struggling with the concept as a non-boater. I called a good friend of mine and he said to me that the key to fishing as a non-boater is to adapt to the boater.

On the Gold Coast round I was expecting to fish canals for both days and I ended up fishing flats and the deep water of the Nerang River. I prefished the canals and threw topwaters and worked out a plan and how to fish. When it came to day one we spent all day out in the open fishing flats. Something I wasn’t prepared for. Day two we fished most of the day fishing the middle of the Nerang River fishing deep with 1/8 – 1/8oz jigheads. Once again something that I hadn’t prepared for. This was a big lesson in being ready for the unexpected, and being ready to adapt.

Tackle Ready
After my first year as a nonboater I realized that having quality tackle is paramount. I generally went to each event with four rod setups. All four outfits were different brands and different levels of quality. This lack of continuity in my gear I found to be a real hinderance, and swapping between outfits of varying levels of quality and performance made it hard to fish with any real consistency. What I saw with experienced boaters is that their outfits are all very similar, making it easy and seamless to swap from one rod to another.

Having enough lures for each particular competition comes down to extensive venue research. This is something that I think will go a long way to success. Google Maps, fishing reports, local knowledge and most of all talking to fellow anglers can be one of the best ways to learn new areas, and identifying the lures needed to best fish them.

Boater Up

After getting all sorts of boaters this year I can definitely say getting a experienced and skilled boater is by far the biggest influence on a good day on the water. Some people may argue with this however as a nonboater we have to look at ourselves as apprentices, and being able to spend a day on the water with a quality boater allows you learn first hand from the best in the business. Fishing with a skilled boater helps you improve your fishing on all levels.

Unwritten Rules

When talking to your boater you can never remember, or perhaps most importantly mention, where you went the day before. Regardless of what you caught or what happened it’s not cool to go back with your new boater to where you caught your fish the day before.

Money Up
After all, these boaters have towed their boat possibly half way across the country to get to these events, as non-boaters i think the general rule would be to offer a minimum $20 at the end of the day.

Also when jumping on board at the start of the day I ask straight away if they need anything done. Also I like to check they are happy with me to net there fish and vice versa.  Also I like to check where it is appropriate to cast from. Some boaters will be more than happy for you to come up the front, however it’s always polite to check.  I like to get all these questions sorted before we start fishing, saving any confusion if and when we start to catch fish.

When the boater hooks a fish and says “net”. It is important (if you don’t have a fish on as well) to reel in your lure ASAP and grab the net and assist the boater however possible. I learnt a great technique from a boater and it was to have the net in the water ready and let the boater bring the fish to the net. Having the net in the water deters the fish from going under the boat.

Keeping your tackle, rods and personal belongings together neat and tidy, it shows that you respect the boaters space.

When casting make sure that you aren’t casting over the boater’s line or within a few meters of their cast. This would result in the bream being spooked. Tangled lines aren’t something that both fisherman have time for. When I have a lure snagged, depending on the lure, I’ll politely ask the boater to electric motor over so I can de-snag it. If it’s a jighead I’ll just break it off. Pretty much if the lure was worth over $20 I’ll ask the boater to help. Most boaters are more than happy to do so.

Know your Knots
It wasn’t until the final round in 2016 year I learnt the FG knot. I can say this is probably the most important thing to learn as a non-boater. Having to re tie leaders on a boat is nearly impossible. I’ve burnt so much time in comps trying to re tie leader knots it’s not funny.  This goes down as a 1%er. Going into the Gold Coast round with crisp FG knots I didn’t break a single leader for the entire competition.

After spending time on the road with old and new mates, it has really made competitive fishing a really enjoyable experience. Staying with some of the best bream fisherman in the country at the Clarence River and Gold Coast rounds, I have been overwhelmed with how accommodating they have been when it comes to sharing their knowledge.

When I received my invitation in the mail to the 2016 ABT Grand Final it was a bitter sweet moment. Knowing that I made the cut in my first year as a non boater, but also knowing that I would be unavailable to fish it due to the birth of my second daughter. After watching the Grand Final on social media it has made me even more determined and excited for the 2017 season. All I can say is that if you like your recreational fishing and are looking to take it to the next level the ABT is one of the best experiences I’ve had out on the water.



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