Cannizzaro conquers the Manning
  |  First Published: July 2017

Ross Cannizzaro can do no wrong it seems as the Sydney-based angler took out consecutive ABT Qualifiers across two different species in the space of three weeks.

Wind back the clock to the end of April and Cannizzaro sealed the deal on the upper Hawkesbury River at the BassCat BASS Pro Qualifier. Now just three weeks later and a few hundred kilometres north, he’s proven to be one of the sport’s greatest with a convincing win at the Mercury Manning River BREAM Qualifier.

The Mercury Manning River BREAM Qualifier was the first time the Costa BREAM Series had been to the central coast estuary in six years. In the lead up to the event, much speculation surrounded the state of the fishery, but Cannizzaro smashed those thoughts out of the water with a breakthrough 4.56kg bag on Saturday’s first session.

“I knew the fish of that calibre lived in this river, but you don’t expect to get a bag of them in one day,” said Cannizzaro during his interview with ABT Tournament Director Simon Goldsmith after collecting his trophy and $3300 winner’s cheque.

Saturday set it up for Cannizzaro but it all started during Friday’s all-important pre-fish day where he located better than average sized fish on the seaway walls at the mouth of the river. “I actually bumped into Warren Carter on the pre-fish day and he was fishing the walls and I asked if I could jump in and have a look.

He obliged and immediately I caught a solid fish, then I boated another two 800g fish within a few hundred metres and I knew then that this was the area I was going to focus on.” Having identified his primary location, Cannizzaro looked to work it thoroughly to extract the big bream from the rock walls lining the mouth of the Manning River.

His go-to technique for the day was to slow roll a crankbait in the form of a Berkley 3B Fat Dog deep along the walls, paralleling the rocks so that his lure was always in the strike zone. “That bait was definitely key in getting me the bites I got during this tournament. It dives quick and deflects brilliantly off cover and that’s quite often when I’d hook up, just as the bait hit a rock and deflected to the side.”

Once hooked, Cannizzaro was up to the challenge of extracting the powerful fish from the wall. “These fish are absolute athletes; they fight so hard in the clean running water of the seaway mouths. I relied upon a slightly faster retrieve ratio spinning reel to get line back quickly. Cranking with the current means you need to work hard to keep up with your lure, and the new Abu Garcia ALX spinning reel was definitely a game changer for me in that department.”

Bringing 4.56kg to the scale was always going to stand Cannizzaro in good stead of leading after Saturday’s first session. With almost 500g separating him from second place angler Ross Lamonte after day one, Cannizzaro put the pressure on himself to back up his performance from the previous day. “I think today I backed it up, no one really expected someone to pull 4kg out of this river and for two people to do it shows how strong this river actually is.”

There was never any doubt with Cannizzaro again bringing one of the biggest bags of the day to the scales and smashing the field by over 2kg. “I think weighing over 3.5kg on Sunday showed that this was by far the dominating pattern over the weekend,” said Cannizzaro.

The outfit of choice was, as typical for Cannizzaro, a complement of Abu Garcia and Berkley products. He used the Abu Salty Fighter Origin combined with the new Abu Revo ALX spinning reel. Cannizzaro spooled the outfit with Berkley Exceed Braid and Sensei Fluorocarbon Leader.

Babekuhl Back in the Racks

Taree local and pre-tournament favourite Russell Babekuhl again proved why he’s one of the best at structure fishing as he rode an Oyster Rack pattern to runner-up position with a 10/10 tournament limit weighing 6.18kg.

For Babekuhl, it all revolved around one set of floating oyster leases he found on Thursday night on a late night Google Earth reconnaissance. “I found one set of floaters that I thought may get overlooked in such a big field of 51 boats. They’re tucked away in a little backwater that is 4 knots to get into and I thought not many would put the effort into actually going back there to check it out,” Babekuhl explained.

It was the right call, with the Taree BREAMer catching two solid fish along with three upgrades late in Saturday’s first session when he finally entered the area.

“Sunday I went straight back in and caught fish almost at will as the tide drained out of the leases. I would target the individual poles of each lease and try to get my lure tight to the structure on the down current side of the pole where the fish would be sitting in the eddy.”

Babekuhl employed his tried and trusted structure fishing bait to tempt the bream. His go-to bait was the Berkley Gulp Crabby, in camo colour. “I worked out quite quickly these fish were pretty leader shy. The water was clear and we had fairly calm conditions at times, so I dropped back to 4lb Berkley Vanish Fluorocarbon Leader and that definitely made a difference to the bites I was getting.”

As any remnants of Saturday’s blustery conditions vanished halfway through Sunday’s session, Babekuhl swallowed his pride and went down the front of the system, to target fish in the deeper water around the mouth of the river. Changing to a Berkley Gulp 3” Nemesis soft plastic, Babekuhl targeted the fish on the deeper rock walls and managed a few critical upgrades to end his tournament and complete a climb up the leader board to runner-up position.

Like tournament champion Cannizzaro, Babekuhl relied on the new Abu Garcia REVO ALX spinning reel on a number of different matching Abu Garcia Salty Stage light rods. Like Cannizzaro, these were also spooled with Berkley Exceed Braid and matching Berkley Vanish Fluorocarbon Leader. As always, Babekuhl rigged his plastics with the latest and greatest jigheads from Nitro.

For his efforts, Babekuhl walked away with the almost $1800 runner-up cheque and an automatic qualification into this year’s Costa BREAM Grand Final on Lake Macquarie in December.

Wilson Comeback one of the best!

After weighing only one fish on Saturday’s first session, Simon Wilson conjured a comeback of epic proportions after bringing a 5/5, 3.2kg bag to Sunday’s final weigh-in to be crowned champion by almost a kilo to cap off one of the most comprehensive comebacks in ABT non-boater history.

Sunday’s stars aligned for Wilson, starting his session towards the mouth of the river fishing heavy Cranka Crabs on the deeper rock walls and submerged reefs that scatter the system. After catching three solid fish for the morning. Wilson and his boating partner moved up slightly. While his boating partner was re-rigging some rods, Wilson took full advantage and filled his bag with two quick fish to have him happily on a 5/5 limit on day two.

“After I got five I felt a lot better, but I knew I had one fish in the bag that was just barely big enough and I really wanted to upgrade it. Late in the session I hooked a fish and actually thought it was a mulloway, but as it came up it was the right shape and turned out to be my kicker fish, a 34cm fork bream that really gave me the leg up in what was a brutally tough weekend of tournament fishing for most of the non-boaters.”

Wilson relied on one of the new JML Perfection series of high-performance graphite rods and couldn’t sing anymore praise for his new favourite rods. “I’m just in love with these rods, the model I used mainly was the cranking and twitching model. I like the softer action for the treble hooks of the Cranka Crabs; it helps to avoid pulling hooks and the sensitivity is fantastic.”

Wilson secured his place in the Costa BREAM Grand Final on Lake Macquarie later in the year along with a host of prizes from ABT’s amazing list of premier sponsors.

Now all attention turns to Ballina and the Richmond River for the next round of the Costa BREAM Series in mid July. For more information on the series, head to www.abt.org.au.

Big Bass

Mike Nelson secured the Big Bass prize at the Manning and the $500 payday with his 1.48kg day one kicker fish. Caught in the TBA the fish fell to a TBA.

Duffrods Big Bag

Event winner Ross Cannizzaro added value to his event winnings by claiming the Duffrods Big Bag for the tournament. The prize is for the heaviest limit for the event and Ross took the prize with his 4.56kg limit caught on day one. – ABT

Winning Tackle

RodAbu Salty Fighter
ReelAbu Revo ALX
Line4.4lb Berkley Exceed Braid

Leader4lb Berkley Sensei Flurocarbon

LureDeep Berkley 3B Fat Dog (red eye express colour), 3lb Berkley Gulp Minnow Grub (camo colour) rigged on 1/8th Berkley Dam Deep jighead (camo colour).


1Ross CANNIZZARO10/108.23$3300 + Duffrods Big Bag (4.56kg)
2Russell BABEKUHL10/106.18$1800 + 1st Mercury Bonus ($250)
3Mark HEALEY10/105.94$1,300
4Peter MACOR10/105.86$1,100
5Ross LAMOTTE8/105.72$850 + 2nd Mercury Bonus ($150)
6Todd RICHES10/105.69$850+ 3rd Mercury Bonus ($100)
7Kristoffer HICKSON10/105.64$650
8Craig SIMMONS10/105.02$650
9Jamie MCKEOWN10/104.94$500
10Neil CHEGWIDDEN8/104.85$500
1Simon WILSON6/103.7Costa Sunglasses & Prize Pack, 1st Hobie Bonus ($100)
2Glen STURROCK5/102.73Costa Sunglasses & Prize Pack, 1st Pro ($400)
3Michael THOMPSON5/102.55JML Alliance Rod & Prize Pack, 2nd Hobie Bonus ($50)
4Jeff BRUNSDON5/102.49Prize Pack
5Jonathan THOMPSON4/102.46Prize Pack, 3rd Hobie Bonus ($35)
6Jason MARTIN3/102.39Prize Pack
7Mark KING4/102.37Prize Pack
8James HICKSON4/102.3Prize Pack
9Stuart WALKER4/102.19Prize Pack
10Tanya KONSUL4/102.18Prize Pack
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