Heading up to Port Stephens for the 2009 Club Marine Trailer Boat Fishing Tournament the rain was so heavy I was half expecting to be passed by a few boats towing cars up the Pacific Hwy. While the rain and floods stopped a few northern anglers, almost 1100 anglers towed 430 boats to d’Albora Marina Nelson Bay this year. The Gods smiled and competitors enjoyed good weather for a top weekend of fishing and entertainment.

Thursday nights Competitor Registration, Briefing, and Lucky Draws saw the weather clear up and a lot of people took the opportunity to enjoy the fine fare offered by many of the d’Albora marinas tenants. Competitors received samples from many sponsors including Mustad hooks, Shimano Squidgies, and Wilson Lures in their Boat Bags on registration.

Imagine the surprise some lucky anglers got when they won a 3M Boat Care pack, a pair of Spotters sunglasses, a slab of Coca Cola and a Tropical Icebox, a Para-Anchors parachute anchor, a gift certificate from Club Marine Insurance or even a new Lowrance GPS/Sounder before they even went fishing early Friday morning.

Each year the Saturday BBQ is well attended and this year the catering by the Rock Lobster Restaurant was tops. Much thanks to Robyn & her team for a superb job. Many passed comment that it’s amazing that one of the very best restaurants in the area is happy to muck in and quickly feed 1000 plus hungry anglers steak & sausage sandwiches.

Even with a heavy downpour, competitors wouldn’t let the Officials cut the Saturday afternoon Lucky Draws short. Probably the only person not enjoying the afternoon was Shoal Bays Gary Miller who got to hold the 240v junction boxes for the PA system up out of the water.

d’Albora Marina took on the form of a mini boat show with Evinrude and Polycraft displays by local dealer Bay Boat Sales, Trophy Boats from Avante Marine, Shimano & Lowrance had their mobile display van there, Club Marine had personnel on hand all weekend, News Magazines had the Alpha magazine van on site, and The Love Oil Company was showing off their new range of natural insect repellents. There was even a new Hummer H3 on display.

Forming a spectacular backdrop to the area was the large Evinrude live fish tank with Dave Moss giving casting demonstrations and lessons over the weekend. Add in some live music from d’Albora’s musicians and the complex took on a festive air throughout the weekend.

Come Sunday and the anticipation was high that the Broughton Island Gang would arrive just prior to the 1200 close of fishing deadline and wipe everyone off the board. Alas, this year the hardy island campers came up short and the anglers who came home and had a comfortable sleep each night came up trumps.

This Tournament is a very sociable event, with the rules specifically designed to be easy to follow for the first time competitor (over 50% of people each year) and junior anglers while providing a challenge for the skilled anglers having a shot at being the Champion Angler.

This year, Troy Radford from Tanilba Bay was crowned Champion Angler with 12 Points by placing 2nd tag & release Marlin, 1st & 2nd place in Luderick, and 3rd place Tuna while James Yerbury from Manly was Runner Up with 8 Points with 1st & 2nd places in Tuna. All Senior & Junior Species winners won Shimano rod/reel combos as part of their prize packs.

The Junior (under 16) section was fiercely competitive with over 100 competing. William Falko from Trangie won with a convincing 17 points by placing 2nd in Bream, 1st in Flathead, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in Mulloway while Zac Mason from Corlette got 9 points for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in Drummer.

There were a number of other Juniors on 9 points including Amba Ward from Muswellbrook who got 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place in Kingfish.

Seeing so many Juniors enjoying their fishing with parents and friends augers well for the future of the sport. When you see the fish the Juniors catch, and consider that these youngsters have to hook and fight their fish without any adult assistance, there are some truly meritorious catches each year.

The smile on a childs face openly displaying their sense of self-achievement and pride is enough to warm the coldest heart.

In addition to having the Champion Angler onboard, Stephen Chrystie from Wallsend won Champion Boat with a very happy crew of 5 onboard “Critakill” from James Yerbury onboard ‘White Lighting” with a crew of 2.

This tournament is particularly hard to win because of the point system. There are 14 eligible species, with points only awarded for the best 3 fish in each species. Therefore, the winning anglers usually need to be on the board in a number of species to get on the podium.

This system also works well because, for example, once a 1.5kg Bream (live only) is in 3rd place, there is no point bringing in your fish unless it is over 1.5kg. By using this system, only around 200 fish are weighed in over the 3 days, with many of these weighed live, released into the Evinrude Big Tank, and then released back into Nelson Bay after the Tournament.

While the Bream weren’t huge this year, it was memorable for the quantity of quality fish just under 1Kg, probably due to the rain flushing the creeks. Grant Wallbridge won this species with a healthy 1.471 Kg fish. Notable captures amongst the Seniors included John Ambrose’s 16.445kg Cobia, past winner Ben Doolan’s 19.997kg Kingfish, and Ross Mayne’s 8.465kg Snapper.

Senior species 2nd place getters plus many lucky prize winners received the new RJAYZ Adjust-A-Bite Berley Cannisters in their packs.

Because a few anglers have as much chance of catching a winning fish as winning the lottery and are there mainly for a weekend away with family & friends, the lucky draws over the weekend are as eagerly anticipated as the winning fish prizes.

Over the weekend, all anglers had opportunities to win Alvey tackle, Pains Wessex 406Mhz EPIRBS and Flare kits, Flybridge Landing nets, Wilson tackle, and Zacatak Lures.

Leading up to the major lucky prize draws at the end of the prizegiving, competitors won gift certificates from Alistain and Club Marine Insurance plus accommodation prizes from local sponsors Port Stephens Beachside Holiday Parks, The Retreat, and Winning Holidays. 

We received promotional help this year from Trailer Boat magazine, Modern Fishing,, BIA of NSW, and Port Stephens Tourism.

The effort that the volunteers from Shoal Bay Fishing Club, lead by President John Ambrose and long-time Weigh-master Ted Mackay deserves special mention for their organisation and input.

A small Fishing Club by any standards, over 40 members give up a lot of personal and fishing time to make sure the tournament runs smoothly over the weekend.

This year the Tournament was proud to help support & raise funds for Port Stephens Police & Community Youth Club, Royal Volunteer Coastal Patrol, Coast Guard, and Shoal Bay Fishing Club.

Until next year

Tony Poole.