Cannizzaro Can Do No Wrong
Ross Cannizzaro has finished off where he started on the Bass Cat BASS Pro tournament trail, winning his third event of the season in only his fourth bass tournament since making the switch from a bream only tournament angler in 2017.
For the first time ever, the Bass Cat BASS Pro Series hit the waters of the mighty Clarence River, a venue often encountered by the Costa BREAM Series but a totally new experience for almost all of the field. What an experience it turned out to be, opening weekend of the 2017 bass season saw 26 boaters and 26 non-boaters hit the water at Grafton and the Clarence river presented hundreds of kilometres of fishable water for anglers to apply their skills. The event was brought to them courtesy of another north-coast NSW icon, Bassman Spinnerbaits. Anglers could choose to travel upriver through the numerous rock bars and shallow rapids to the boulder lined banks of the upper Clarence, or as Cannizzaro chose, make the long run downstream to the brackish waters of Lawrence and Maclean.
For Cannizzaro, it all started with Google Earth. Having fished the lower half of the system a lot for bream in previous ABT tournaments, he was familiar with the lay of the land and how wide the river is at the mouth. “The Clarence is such a massive waterway and it really shows when the current starts to move,” said Cannizzaro. “Knowing we’d be faced with a post-spawn pattern, I looked for the most obvious locations upriver from the salt where I believed the last of the spawned out fish would be transitioning on their travel up river.” Cannizzaro called it perfectly, identifying the natural bottle neck that is the Lawrence section of river, where the river narrows and funnels everything into a small channel nearby the mouth of Sportsman’s Creek and the Lawrence cable ferry.
“On official pre-fish day, I ran straight there and first cast with a bent minnow I had a 40cm fork fish in the boat. To confirm it wasn’t a fluke, I followed with my trusty 2.5” Berkley Tournament T-Tail and landed another, I knew then that this was the spot I would concentrate my efforts on during the event.” Committing to this area meant a forty-kilometre trip each way with two weigh-ins on Saturday that meant for almost 200kms in the boat to and from his go-to spot.
Saturday’s session started with Cannizzaro and non-boating partner Dylon Byron catch a quick limit on topwater, before working the steep rocky banks in the Lawrence bottleneck using the Berkley Tournament T-Tail rigged on a 1/8oz Nitro Dam Deep jighead. “I was confident of the morning bite and knew I could catch a limit, I never fished the area during the afternoon on the pre-fish day, so I was hesitant about what was going to happen, but as it turned out the bite probably got better. That was more than likely due to the increased current flow from the run out tide, funnelling the bait and creating back eddies, much like what I targeted I the Hawkesbury River event earlier in the year.”
After weighing in 4/4 3.28kg limit they headed back down, and were greeted with this increased current flow and generous bass and estuary perch willing to play the game. “It all came down to managing the fish, there were certain spots where they would congregate more than others, so it was a case of rotating through and allowing those spots to rest for 20-30 minutes before returning to try and capitalise on another few bites,” said Cannizzaro. Capitalise they did, as the pair put on a 4/4 3.47kg limit to take the lead from Mike Nelson and plant Cannizzaro firmly in the drivers seat going into Sunday’s final session of the regular Bass Cat BASS Pro Season.
Fishing Sunday with non-boating partner James Reid the pair returned to the area which had been so successful on the Saturday, and it didn’t take long to pick up where they’d left off the day before. Boating another quick bag on topwater lures, Cannizzaro again turned to the Berkley Tournament T-Tail in pumpkinseed fleck and watermelon colours fished on Abu Garcia KRX Salty Stage Light Casting rods, matched with Abu Garcia Revo ALX spinning reels spooled with Berkley Exceed and Fireline Ultra 8 braided lines.
The technique was simple, cast the bait out close to the target structure. Then allow the bait to sink and waft through the current, once it had reached the bottom Cannizzaro would hop and twitch the lure before letting it come to rest on the bottom again. “Every bite would happen on the drop, which is why you had to pay attention to your line and why a sensitive rod like the Abu Garcia made all the difference.”
For Cannizzaro, the 2017 Bass Cat BASS Pro Series couldn’t have gone much better. Finishing the year on 395/400 possible points he also claimed the coveted Costa BASS Pro Angler of the Year award and won almost $10,000 in the process. He’ll now look to make it four from five when the Bass Cat BASS Pro Series returns to a river for the season-ending Bass Pro Grand Final held on the Richmond River out of Coraki during October.
Nelson goes for quality over quantity
Mike Nelson had never fished an ABT BASS Pro event before turning up to the banks of the Clarence River for the Bassman Spinnerbaits Clarence River BASS Pro. He left the event with some money in his pocket, and a ticket to the biggest show in ABT BASS fishing, a qualification for the season ending Bass Cat BASS Pro Grand Final on the Richmond River in October.
Nelson’s 10/12 10.39kg limit was only sixty grams shy of spoiling the Cannizzaro party, with Nelson’s technique for targeting quality over quantity working almost perfectly. As it turned out, one more bite of any size would have secured the victory as he fell agonizingly short of victory in his first BASS Pro event.
Nelson is no stranger to wild river bass fishing, living on the central coast of NSW, Nelson regularly fishes the Manning River as well as others and has spent countless hours honing his skills on these waterways. It was this experience on tidal fisheries that Nelson leaned on to produce a go-to technique for the weekend. “During pre-fish I covered approximately 100km of river trying to locate a solid congregation of fish. I settled on an area well upstream of Grafton through some of the shallow rocky sections almost all the way to Copmanhurst,” said Nelson.
Session one started slowly for Nelson and his non-boating partner Nigel White. The pair targeted any crevice or overhanging tree with lightly weighted soft plastics and watched for the tell tale tick in the line as a bass ate the plastic on the sink. “Once the sun came out the fishing heated up, I think it helped position the bass closer in to the boulders and shade lines, and that meant we were putting it right in their faces as we sank the lures down into the zone.”
Weighing in a session-best 4/4 3.51kg limit, Nelson was in the lead heading into session two. Unfortunately, this would ultimately be the session that cost him victory. With the pair failing to bring in a 4 fish limit, weighing a 2/4 2.95kg limit showcasing the quality of fish Nelson was consistently bringing to the scales. “That second session hurt me, I had another solid fish in the mid 40s hooked and battled it for a few seconds before it fell off, that would have easily sealed the win for me but that’s fishing and you can never land them all.”
Dropping back to 5th after session two, Nelson was determined to fill a bag on Saunday’s final session. Committing to again travel up the rapids to his chosen area, Nelson and non-boating partner Tani Konsul again targeted the same structure but this time with a lot more success. “The day started thick and fast, we had a limit early and then went to work upgrading throughout the day.” Placing his bag on the scales, Nelson and Konsul pulled the scales down to an astonishing 4/4 3.93kg limit, almost a kilo average and the second biggest bag of the whole event.
Keeghan Painter claims victory and Costa AOY
The bearded singing fisherman, also known as Keeghan Painter put the finishing touches on a remarkable first year on the Bass Cat BASS Pro Series as a non-boater. Winning the final event of the season was just enough to pip stalwart Peter Morgan for the coveted Costa BASS Pro Angler of the Year award in the non-boater section, a goal Painter was thrilled to accomplish in only his first year competing.
“It feels pretty surreal to not only win the last event of the year but to take out AOY as well I really couldn’t ask for anything more. Every event throughout the year was a great learning experience and I got to share the boat with some amazing anglers who each taught me something new. That’s one of the best things about the ABT BASS tournaments is the shared weight format, it gets me on the front decks of these boats shoulder to shoulder with guys like Kris Hickson, you couldn’t buy a better learning experience than that as far as I’m concerned.”
Fishing with Kris Hickson on day one, Painter found himself running and gunning. Starting the session heading upriver from the start line, the pair would eventually work their way down all the way to Lawrence and back again. Hitting spots quickly and thoroughly on route to posting day one bags of 4/4 3.03 and 4/4 3.59kg limits to be sitting in 2nd place behind Dylon Byron heading into Sunday’s final session.
Fishing on Sunday with Adrian Melchior, the pair also did some miles, but concentrated on the areas upriver from the start line. “Adrian is really comfortable in the upper sections of these north coast rivers and that’s what he wanted to concentrate on. So we targeted the boulders and overhanging trees on steeper banks upriver from Grafton,” commented Painter.
A solid 4/4 3.31kg limit during the final session was enough to edge out a fast finishing James Browning and claim his first victory and enough points to close out the Costa Angler of the Year award as well.
Painter relied on a mixture of techniques throughout the weekend but the finesse approach from fishing aboard Kris Hickson’s boat was his predominant technique. “I really just used techniques that are normally more suited to the bream tournaments, cut down small plastics rigged on 1/16th jigheads flicked into any shade pocket or piece of structure I could find,” said Painter. His plastic of choice was a Keitech Easy Shiner and Swing Impact. He fished the offering on a JML Anglers Alliance perfection series rods, spooled with Yamatoyo braid and Harris Fighter leader.
Painter now turns his attention to the Bass Cat BASS Pro Grand Final which will be held on another tidal fishery, the Richmond River out of Coraki October 14-15th where the winner will walk away with a Bass Cat Margay, Mercury boat motor and trailer package valued over $50,000.
Matt Cameron claimed the Big Bass Prize at the Clarence with the Grafton angler securing the $500 cheque for his day two kicker fish, a 1.81kg bass that he caught on a 50mm silver shadow coloured Atomic Metalz on a 35 feet deep rockbar at Eatonsville.
Rod- Abu Garcia KRX Salty Stage Light Casting rods
Reel- Abu Garcia Revo ALX spinning reels
Line- Berkley Exceed and Fireline Ultra 8
Leader- 4 and 6lb Berkley Vanish
Lure- 2.5” Berkley Tournament T-Tail (pumpkinseed fleck and watermelon colours) rigged on a 1/8oz Nitro Dam Deep jighead
Duffrods Big Bag
Armidale bass gun Mark Lennox secure the Duffrods Big Bag with the former Bass Cat BASS Pro Grand Final Champion catching his winning bag (4.09kg) on the final day.
BASS Pro: Bassman Spinnerbaits Clarence River BREAM Boater Results
|4||Mark LENNOX||NSW||4||2.98||4||2.61||4||4.09||12||9.68||$650 + Duffrods Big Bag|
BASS Pro: Bassman Spinnerbaits Clarence River BREAM Nonboater Results
|1||Keeghan PAINTER||QLD||4||3.03||4||3.59||4||3.31||12||9.93||Westin Rod and Prize Pack|
|2||James BROWNING||NSW||4||2.99||4||3.03||4||3.77||12||9.79||Bassman Prize Pack|
|3||Nigel WHITE||NSW||4||3.51||2||2.95||4||2.94||10||9.4||Prize Pack|
|4||Elliot FOOKS||Qld||4||2.61||4||2.98||4||3.46||12||9.05||Prize Pack|
|5||Tanya KONSUL||ACT||4||2.9||3||2||4||3.93||11||8.83||Prize Pack|
|6||Lochie RUTHERFORD||NSW||2||1.78||4||3.41||4||3.42||10||8.61||Prize Pack|
|7||Dylan BYRON||QLD||4||3.28||4||3.47||2||1.79||10||8.54||Prize Pack|
|8||James REID||QLD||2||1.26||4||2.83||4||3.7||10||7.79||Prize Pack|
|9||David SIMMONS||QLD||4||2.6||4||3||3||2.19||11||7.79||Prize Pack|
|10||James HICKSON||NSW||4||2.87||4||4.09||8||6.96||Prize Pack|
|21||Mathew CAMERON||NSW||2||1.19||3||3.26||5||4.45||$500 Big Bass (1.81kg)|