Chasing barramundi in Australia

In last week’s column I wrote about the first week of the fishing adventure that Bryan Gustafson and I took over to Australia to compete some barramundi tournaments. Barramundi are one of Australia’s most popular fish species and the ABT tournament series were having a run of four events over a week and a half span so we decided to go over and compete.

The organizers of the ABT Barra Tour made it so that all we had to do was get over there and we could fish. We were picked up at the airport, a boat was arranged for us to use, we had a place to stay and the anglers over there made sure we were using all of the same baits that they were. We were very lucky.

The first couple of competitions we fished did not go great but we had fun during every session we were on the water. During the second leg of the trip, we fished two more events. One was an “all-nighter” with tournament hours from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m. The second was a two-night finale, with fishing hours from 4 p.m. to midnight for each session. Both of these events would take place on Faust Dam.

Jeff Gustafson, with his largest barramundi from a recent trip over to Australia. This fish measured at 100 cm.

The “all-nighter” is a grind. We were given sleeping bags for having a nap in the boat, though we never ended up using them. I went last year and during the all-night sessions I can tell you that we slept for a couple of hours but this year, like most of the competition, we fished through the night, then slept when we got off the water in the morning. It was a grind because you do get tired but the fishing was pretty good so we just kept our baits in the water.

We landed a five fish limit in that event, good for 15th place out of the 45-team field. We didn’t win any money, but we did get into the prizes and won more of the lures that we were using, so it was perfect.

The final two-night event would be our last two evenings of fishing for the trip. We had our chances but were only able to land four keeper barra the first night, then only two the second night. We had our chances, losing several big fish in each session but they fight hard so you can expect to lose a few. Had we landed all of the fish we hooked up, we would have finished well.

Still, the fishing was a bit tougher in this final event so our six fish earned us a 13th place finish. We learned a little bit more each time we were on the water. We were catching a lot of the fish on small jerkbaits and the smaller hooks on these baits just make it tougher to land these 20-to-40-pound fish that go nuts, jumping and running, when you hook them.

Overall, it was an amazing trip. We met a bunch of great anglers, who shared our love for fishing, we got to see some beautiful country, some different wildlife and we ate well. A lot of the most common food in Australian is similar to what we have in North America but their coffee and fruit are much better than ours. The flight is a long haul, around 15 hours each way between Vancouver and Brisbane, but that is really the only thing that I didn’t love about the trip.

It was a project to get over there and do it but if anyone ever has the chance to go over to Australia to go fishing, I would recommend it for sure. They anglers are very good, utilizing their electronics even more than we do in North America and they do a lot of tinkering and modifications to their baits, we definitely learned a few new tricks.