With a forecast of cold weather and 15-20 knot southeasterly winds, the 73 competitors in the Maverick World Sooty Championship event held by MAFSA at Eungella Dam on 29-30 April were pleasantly surprised when the reality turned out to be winds of less than 5 knots on day one and less than 10 on day two.
This weather made for very comfortable boating and fishing conditions. After the briefing, competitors lined up for the start at 8:30am and boats were soon powering up the dam towards the timbered areas. The Saturday morning session proved to be hard work for the anglers and while many fish were hooked, the bite was not whole-hearted. Many fish were dropped or failed to hook up properly.
Session one finished at midday and 31 fish had been presented for measuring and scoring. Points were allocated on a point per 1mm of overall length basis. Michael Slade topped the tally with four fish, two at 440mm, a 425mm and a 330mm fish rounding out his bag.
Other notable catches included Nicholas Moore’s two fish for 803 points and the two biggest sooties from session one – a beaut 489mm fish for Geoff Newby and a solid 470mm fish for Ash Sims. During this session, 29 fish were caught by seniors and two by junior anglers. The average size for the senior anglers was 397.4mm and juniors managed a very healthy 409mm average.
A hard luck story came from Geoff Newby’s boat when his nine-year-old grandson Finn Gee hooked his first-ever sooty in his first-ever tournament, but the hooks came out just as the fish was being led to the landing net. That’s fishing!
After lunch the afternoon session started off slowly. As expected, the bite got hotter later on with several anglers returning early with their two fish then heading back out to upgrade. By close of fishing for session two at 5:30pm, the control tent was kept busy measuring and recording fish, with the scoreboard showing plenty of anglers staying in touch with the leaders.
Session two saw a total of 57 fish presented with several anglers relating that they had caught fish under 300mm, which is a pleasing sign for the future. At the tally up, the total length of fish for seniors had gone from 11527mm to 31774mm, but the average size dropped slightly to 382.8mm.
Three juniors had point scoring fish in this session to take the total length to 1875mm with their average dropping to 375mm overall. After the hard luck story from session one, Finn Gee broke through and presented his first-ever sooty grunter, a 304mm fish.
Saturday night saw some great fellowship around the campfire with MAFSA providing a three-course meal and many tales of fish hooked and lost entertaining all.
After a hearty breakfast the boats shot off at 7am and within 30 minutes, well-known angler Daniel Grech was back at the control point with two nice fish. Both fish came from fairly shallow water on a silver and purple Berkley Grub, fished on 10lb line with 8lb leader. The technique was to locate fish with the sounder and then work the plastic super slowly.
Nick Moore came in with a really solid 472mm fish that would have easily weighed 3-3.5kg, as it was very wide across the shoulders and quite a deep fish. Nick reported that the fish put up a great fight all the way to the landing net.
Other notable captures from session three included Chris Williams’ 453mm sooty, Craig Birkett’s 449mm fish, and Paul Butler’s 402mm fish. Many anglers upgraded including Daniel Grech, Ash Sims and Dan Curry. Most fish were caught early on with plastics and later with lipless crankbaits like Jackalls and Piranhas.
Traditionally, the scores from the last session are not shown until the presentation and everyone knew there were four or five anglers in with a shot at taking out the world champion title, so there was a fair bit of anticipation prior to the announcements. As it turned out, there were only 45 points between the scores for fifth and first place with the juniors scoring separately. Only two points separated first and second place.
Tournament director Tim Galletly orchestrated the proceedings with Mackay Regional Councillor Justin Englert presenting prizes and awards to the successful anglers. Justin was also very positive about the event and its ability to attract anglers to the region and the importance of supporting MAFSA’s stocking program and hatchery, which released over 80,000 sooty fingerlings into Eungella Dam the week before the event.
Daniel Grech has now registered his third World Sooty Champion title and used the AMC Custom Handcrafted Rod which he won in the 2008 event as part of his armoury for this year’s event. Daniel used Berkley Gulps in the shallows and a Daiwa hardbody vibe for fish in the deeper water between 10-25m. In the heavy timber areas, Daniel ran 20lb line with a 15lb leader and in the shallows he dropped down to 8lb mainline.
Geoff Newby caught the largest sooty, a 489mm fish, using a black and gold Piranha fished in about 6m of water along a slight drop-off. Geoff found this little spot in some standing timber and lost several other fish in the same area.
For the seniors the total length of sooties measured was 48836mm with an average just under 370mm. The juniors averaged 375.3mm over a total length of 2252mm. This is good fishing by anyone’s standards, particularly with the heavy timber that Eungella Dam is renowned for. Daniel’s six winning fish had an average length of 421.5mm
Tim Galletly thanked all the sponsors, competitors and volunteers and wished everyone a safe return journey. Every competitor has indicated a wish to return for next year’s event. The full results for the Maverick Equipment Hire World Sooty Championship for 2017 can be seen on MAFSA’s Facebook page.