by Matthew Hawkless
The anticipation and excitement grew as my first Bass Pro Grand Final as an amateur (non-boater) grew near. One week to go and my rods, reels and bag were packed and ready to go. A little keen, I know.
The trip down fed my hunger with the constant chat of this picturesque dam near Singleton in NSW. The conversation occasionally turning to family and jobs but always returned to fishing. The nine hour trip went fast and before we knew it, tents went up, some dinner and bed.
I was lucky enough to have a pre-fish. A pre-fish as a non boater means nothing but a good look around, maybe learn the best techniques for that particular dam but all spots fished should be forgotten as the respect that is among all of these guys is very high.
Pre fish over and the briefing was about to begin, the anglers registered and received their Grand Final vests. The Tournament Director then thanked the sponsors and highlighted the rules and angling etiquette.
With formalities over, the fun begins with boaters (pros) and non boaters paired off. Your boater for Day One introduces himself, takes you aside and discusses what tactics to start off with and how well their pre-fish went. At this stage, it’s all very overwhelming and the start time of session one could not come fast enough. Ask your assigned Pro how many rods and gear you are able to take on his/her boat, ensuring there is plenty of room for your tackle. The meeting time for the morning is discussed and off you go, rig your rods with what you have been advised and try to get some sleep.
At the conclusion of day one I had caught one legal bass in session one and two fish in session two. This had placed me in 7th position in the non-boaters division. I was wrapped.
Your boater for the next day is announced on day one. The next day began early. Going to a different spot in the dam with the second boater (pro) was exciting. We used different lures and techniques from day one. For me, a top 10 finish was possible if I could catch two fish. By 9am I had two good fish in the well. The session finished by 11am without an upgrade.
Arriving at the weigh-in, there were people everywhere, a camera crew, two aeratored live tubs for the fish and the weigh master behind the scales in the tent. With my two fish in the weight bag, I walked up to the scales. A good limit could have claimed the win, but my 2.27kg bag was good enough to grab 3rd place in my first BASS Pro Grand Final. I couldn’t believe it – to come third was just the icing on the cake. Unexpectedly, I won a 45L Engle Fridge (valued at $1200).
So, if you are thinking of joining the ABT and doing a few tournaments, do it. It will blow you away how good the guys are to you, how much you’ll learn and maybe make some good mates along the way. Since the final I have been fortunate to be sponsored by Fish ‘n’ Bits in Toowoomba using Daiwa Rods and Reels.