WITH a sixth sense of what lurks under the water, Kingaroy tournament angler Matthew Langford took the catch and release title in the Austackle-Bluefin Country Fishing Classics grand final.
Regularly spending time on the Bjelke-Petersen Dam, Langford has worked out the fish behaviour and how it changes with the weather as well as where they can be found.
Armed with boxes of lures he had no trouble luring fish, including a 50cm yellowbelly, to the boat.
"I caught it on a lure designed locally by Matthew Mott, called a Smako," Langford said.
"It's basically a jointed, more compact spinnerbait.
"But I caught others on spinnerbaits and soft plastics."
Hammered by rain and wind, he battled the conditions to reel in the rewards.
"We had five different rain storms," he said.
Despite the blustery conditions on Saturday morning, Langford persisted after the water began to warm following the showers.
"Because it's coming up to winter the fish are chasing the warmer water," he said.
"I think the sunlight warmed the water up.
"It started out at 23°C and ended up 27°C when we finished.
"We found the bass reacted to the warmer water."
Targeting the margins with steep rocky drop-offs where the water warms up fastest, Langford managed to catch and release dozens of fish over the competition.
While he sat on top of the leader board, he said the competition structure opened it to everyone capable of throwing a line in the water.
"Everyone competing has a chance of winning, from normal everyday bait anglers to tournament anglers, Austackle are targeting the anglers from all skill levels," Langford said.
"I'm being outdone by they young ones, a little fella like seven years old out fished me," he said.
"But it's been totally fantastic."
On the first day of the competition the weather failed to dampen his spirits but did slow his fishing.
"It's been totally hardcore, I only caught one in 10 hours," Sjaardema said.
"But when the misty rain came in from the top end I caught the bass."
He caught his bass in deep water using a 16-foot diver, which he picked up in the previous competition.
Sjaardema fished with his family using lures and bait, but just found himself in the wrong areas at the wrong time.
"I did a bit of trolling, a bit of bait bouncing and a bit of casting of lures," he said
Unable to think of an excuse as to why he caught so few fish, all he could give was this comical adage on fishing: "There's three golden rules: bait your own hooks, catch your own fish and tell your own lies".
With more than 120 entrants, the grand final of the series was a spectacle with children and seasoned anglers bringing in the odd fish or two.
Tournament director Tracey Mammen said the key focus was sustainability with the introduction of the catch and release category and a bag limit of one fish per species in the deadweight category.
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