Not that we had noted it but 2014 signalled 20 years since my brother Craig who was 16 and myself at 11 had fished our first Interclub tournament back in 1994. Back then the fishing was very different to the way people fish today. Most trolled lures and wandered the ocean looking for surface signs of fish and activity. Our only goal in 1994 was to land a fish and preferably our first marlin from our family’s boat Murrifin a slow 30ft Plywood Hartley that my father built from scratch. We saw one Marlin but did not succeed in landing it.

Fast forward to the 2004 Interclub Tournament and we were now in our 3rd year of running our new faster 39ft Murrifin. We had gained a lot of experience in the 10years of fishing and competing with members from Broken Bay game fishing club, add to this Craig and I were at an age where we fished every weekend the weather was good. We finished that tournament 3rd overall on a count back to 2nd and 1st with us all finishing on 8 Marlin. All fish were caught live baiting bait schools with the prominent fish finding device being the Simrad sounder.

Fast forward to the start of the 2014 Interclub where after a few absent years while we refitted the boat we were entering with minimal fishing on the Port Stephens grounds prior to the tournament commencing. Most of the top boats are run very professionally at this point of the season and are now fishing a huge amount of time, with the top boats having already released 20-40 Marlin prior to the tournament season starting and all are in good form.  All of these boats run a bait program of skip baits and live baits locating areas with their sounders to fish on the grounds off Port Stephens known as the car park. These boats are extremely hard to beat in this style of fishing and competing against them with minimal fishing prior really feels like you are playing in a grand final without having played the season.

The first day started with us following the pack out to the car park grounds and we started fishing the Skip bait program. The current was pushing hard on the shelf spreading the fish and bait over a large area. By days end we had released one Black Marlin with the lead boat on three.  One thing we noted was the number of good boats that did not get a bite and the number of boats lure fishing over the general area that were right up there at the top of the field.

The second day after looking at the sea surface charts we made a decision to fish a totally different area to most. The area of slow water inside the raging current that was offshore also had a nice hard temperature break to concentrate our fishing on. We decided to pull lures and missed two marlin for the day and encountered all sorts of by catch from Wahoo to Dolphin Fish and small Yellow fin Tuna. The lead boat had only increased to four marlin total as the fishing on the standard grounds spread even further. At days end we were frustrated.  We as a boat had not done a lot of straight lure fishing for a long time and felt we had missed a golden opportunity to put ourselves right up there on the leader board.

On Monday I rang Peter Pakula to replace a lure we had lost to a Wahoo and told him of our scenario and how we were currently planning to fish the second weekend should the conditions stay the same.  Peter offered a huge amount of clarity to what was wrong with our current hook rigs and why we should try his new range of hooks and skirt colours. Peter kindly offered to replace our one lost lure with a fully rigged spread that he personally put together. We agreed as long as we got some extra rigs to test and destroy as rigging is something normally only left for Craig and I to stuff up.  After testing we were impressed with the strength of the light leader. The hooks were so sharp they felt dangerous to handle. The lures and skirts colours were very bright and vivid compared to our old washed out versions we had been trolling previously.

Friday before the second weekend dawned and we put to sea on Murrifin with the idea of checking the conditions on the shelf to see if they were still the same as the previous weekend. The weather was foul but with our fishing time limited these days we persisted and went with our original plan for the next day as the current was strong and the bait was spread out.

The third day of the tournament are what dreams are made of for us fishing an inshore area all by ourselves away from the 130 boat fleet we went 3 from 3 for the day and with two great 60kg and 80kg Striped Marlin on 10kg along with a small Black Marlin. All on lures and all clean bites and hook ups.  This propelled us into the lead as the fishing on the shelf got even tougher.

The final day dawned and from the outset it was apparent we would not have the area to ourselves as some of the sport’s biggest names followed us to our fishing spot and we went about trolling our spread of Pakula’s. We only managed the one bite on the final day for the tag and release of 70kg Striped Marlin on 10kg line. 

We ended up finishing the Interclub in second place narrowly to local charter boat Freedom run by Captain Scott Thornington. Scott spends more days on the water than any other in this area and thoroughly deserves his victory also helps he is an all-round top bloke.

Our crew was a little disappointed coming so close to winning what is one of the hardest competed tournaments in the world, but the way we fished and the results we got made it one of the most enjoyable results I have been involved with and Peter Pakula played a huge part in that result. From the start of our game fishing career to the present day Peter keeps asking the questions or giving you the answers that keep you thinking and evolving as a fisherman and for that I have to thank him and will keep endorsing his product and advice for years to come.

Rod Findlay Murrifin.

Australia, Brisbane
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