Chasing Records

Craig Rist is one of our regular writers. He has a burning desire to capture a World Record, but for the time being he is looking at Australian Records as a way forward. The following account is generally about Australian GFAA records.
Two fish that have potential as World Record captures in Tasmania are mako shark and southern bluefin tuna.

Gamefishing Clubs
Gamefishing clubs offer many opportunities to the angler. The many game fishing tournaments held throughout the year gives anglers a chance to fish amongst like-minded people and to win some great prizes along the way. By rubbing shoulders with some of the more experienced members at these events, it gives the newcomer to the sport a great way to pick up on some helpful tips. Most members are only too happy to steer the newcomer in the right direction. A game fishing club also promotes a more sporting aspect to game fishing with the many different line classes used to capture fish. By targeting fish well over your line class the angler obtains a greater sense of achievement, going beyond merely putting food on the table.
A game fishing club that is affiliated with the "Game fishing Association of Australian" (GFAA) also gives you the opportunity to set or break the current State, Australian or World game fishing records. These records (including fly fishing) are gained by abiding to the current GFAA and International Game Fishing Association (IGFA) rules and regulations. To view the current Australian game fishing records you can use the GFAA web site or the latest Australian Game fishing Journal.
Ed. To qualify for a World Record anglers do not need to be a member of any club, nor the IGFA. Anglers do need to comply with all regulations however, and club membership gives good access to this information.

2009 Early Bird Competition
The game fishing season kicked off with the Mountain Designs Devonport Early Bird Competition. This competition caters for both inshore and offshore anglers with prizes for both scalefish and sharks. The event is run with the help of the Mersey River Yacht Club. The Yacht Club makes an ideal all day venue for an event such as this. With egg and bacon sandwiches available to those who have missed breakfast, followed by the briefing at 6:30 am to run through the rules and safety precautions of the day.
With the briefing over, the competition was under way. Captains and their crews hastily made their way down to their boats tied along side the Yacht Club's jetty. With a 5 knot speed limit enforced in the river, the urge to get out to their chosen destination as fast as possible had to be suppressed until past the the mouth of the river.
As each boat passed the 5 knot limit, the throttle went down as a progression of boats fanned out into Bass Strait. Each boat wanting to start their berley trail as quickly as possible in the hope of raising a mako or blue whaler shark before the designated finish time at 2pm.
Ashley Artis and I were aboard Steve Hambleton's boat "Wahoo", a six-metre centre console powered by a 130 HP Honda. We soon had our berley slick doing its thing. We settled into a bit of bottom bouncing while we waited for the sight of the first shark to approach the boat. When fishing for sharks we prefer to have hookless baits in the water until we have estimated the size of the fish alongside the boat.
To us, it would be a wasted opportunity if a 50 or 60 kg shark took a bait on 24 kg line class. It's far better to sight the fish first and then decide what line class best suits its size. In the Australian Game Fishing Journal there are graphs for mako and tiger sharks to help gauge the weight of a fish by its length. When a shark is swimming hard up along side your boat it's not too hard to estimate its length and then refer to the graph, before throwing a bait or fly into the water.
Although there wasn't a fly fishing category in this competition we always have a fly rod on board just in case the opportunity presents itself. When we go shark fishing we rotate the opportunities and all know who is next in line to present the bait. The rest of the crew standby ready to assist in any way they can. On this occasion it was my turn, and given the chance, it was a fly that was going to hit the water first.
As the hours passed we caught squid, couta, flathead and the unwanted gurnard perch and those spiky little dog sharks. With only half an hour to go before the designated end of fishing time, Steve caught a glimpse of a mako as it circled the boat in search of the source of the berley. In an instant everyone jumped into gear, all the bottom bouncing rigs were quickly wound in. This mako appeared to be between 45 and 50 kg-too small to be weighed in for the competition with the minimum weight of 60 kg set for the day, but it would still be eligible for the vacant Australian fly rod record on 15 kg class tippet. Fifteen kilo line may sound heavy for a fish of this size but it is the one metre maximum allowable length of wire trace that has the odds with the shark. With the class tippet being so close to the fish it only needs to make contact with a fin under load or get tail wrapped and the 15kg line will break like cotton.
The mako cautiously returned to the boat staying well clear of the teaser bait. A few chunks of bait were thrown into the water, but they were ignored, not a good sign at this point. The mako edged closer and closer to the teaser bait gaining confidence with every minute. As always, Steve had his under water video in hand filming the shark as it swam around the boat. The footage from this camera gives you a greater appreciation of these magnificent game fish, with the sun beams filtering through the waves lighting up the mako's back with beams of light. Eventually the temptation was too great as the mako grabbed hold of the teaser bait. The bait was pulled from the shark's mouth leaving only half of the couta we were using as the teaser. This usually gets them fired up a bit but this time the shark disappeared, spooking off after the short tug-of-war.
Ten minutes had passed with no signs of it returning, so Steve decided to clean the fish we had caught, throwing the frames over the side in the hope of luring the shark back to the boat. A short time later the same shark had returned. It was time to have a shot with the fly. Ashley had the teaser rope while Steve operated the under water camera to see if we could get the mako taking the fly on film. The mako approached the teaser bait obviously intent on eating it. Ashley slowly pulled the bait towards the boat with the shark in close pursuit before it took hold of the bait. It shook its head violently as it tore off another chunk of the couta. This time the shark looked ready for the fly as it circled to find the bait. This was my chance. Out went the fly into the path of the mako. As it sank the mako slowly swam over to the fly. Was it going to take the fly or simply glide straight past? I watched the fly disappear into its mouth holding onto the fly line as it came up tight pulling the fly into the corner of its mouth. A couple of low strikes with the rod made sure the hook was firmly imbedded into the jaw bone. At this stage I had very little pressure on the fish so it would not panic and take off in an uncontrolled run, before we had cleared the deck of all the rods and bags that had been scattered around the boat when the shark had first shown up in the berley trail. With the deck cleared I locked up the reel with my hand and laid back into the fish with as much pressure as I dared. Now the shark knew it was hooked and started to take line. Steve got the boat fired up and was continually manoeuvering to keep the class tippet away from the sharks" body.
Half an hour later the mako started to tire and was getting close for a gaff shot. Because Steve has had more experience gaffing sharks, Ashley took control of the boat while Steve waited for a clean gaff shot. Ashley did a great job of controlling the boat with directions coming from both Steve and myself as the closing minutes of the fight felt like they were nearing to an end. Ashley opened up the throttle in an attempt to turn the boat around, and get alongside the shark that was now at the surface. Suddenly the shark took off and within seconds had left the water in a spectacular jump. With my heart in my mouth I watched the mako land back in the water, clear of the class tippet. After that last run I pumped the mako back up to the side of the boat where Steve hit the gaff shot on his first attempt. It was all over. We had finally done it.

Back at the Yacht Club, hundreds of people had turned out for the weigh in and the presentation of the trophies and prizes. The certified scales had been left up to weigh our shark and with the help of Clinton Howe and Michael Hay of the Northern Game Fishing Club the paper work for the record claim was completed along with the required photos for the submission. The Mako weighed in at 51.5 kg. After going through the procedure of a record application I could see how a person could miss out on a potential record claim if they had not fully understood what was needed to accompany a claim. My capture is now a pending Australian record. Whether it passes all of the requirements is now a waiting game.

Team Work
Most game fish captures involve more than one person to assist the capture of a big fish. When it comes to qualifying for a record, only one person can hook and play out a fish. No other person can assist the angler by taking turns with the rod, fighting the fish, or even touch the rod, while the fish is being fought. This doesn't mean the crew on board have nothing to do with landing that fish, far from it. The driver of the boat has the job of positioning the boat to maintain the best possible fighting angle between fish and angler. This in itself takes skill and experience and can greatly increase or decrease the angler's chances of a successful capture. When it comes time to gaff, tail rope or tag a big fish, the driver of the boat or another person on board can assist the angler by using one of these methods. Again the experience and skill of the person involved plays a major part in the final seconds of landing a fish. Many fish have been lost at this stage with a misplaced gaff shot.
There are, however, anglers out there who have single handedly hooked and landed big game fish from a boat. When you see what is involved in a capture with the help of a driver and a person to gaff the fish, you really have to take you hat off to these anglers and what they have achieved.

Fair Play
The rules and regulations put in place by the Game Fishing Association of Australian have been made to promote a sportsman like aspect to angling and to give a uniform and fair approach when it comes to participating in tournaments and record applications. Anglers who submit record claims where the fish has not fought or has not been given the chance to fight such as a hook and gaff approach do not truly deserve the recognition, nor does it reflect the skill and achievement of an angler or crew.

Record Categories - GFFA

  • Saltwater
  • Freshwater
  • Saltwater Fly
  • Freshwater Fly
  • Saltwater land Based
  • All tackle Records

All these categories have a separate category for men, women and juniors (under 16 years of age)

Line Class categories
With the exception of the fly rod category, line class records are recorded in 1kg, 2kg, 3kg, 4kg, 6kg, 8kg, 10kg, 15kg, 24 kg, 37kg and 60kg.

Chasing Records
Line class records for fly-fishing are 1kg, 2kg, 3kg, 4kg, 6kg, 8kg, 10kg and 15kg. The 15kg tippet category is for shark and marlin only and is only recognised by the Game Fishing Association of Australia. No World Record claims can be made using 15kg tippet at this stage. 10kg is the maximum World Record line class for fly rod.

Preparing for a record-breaking capture
Once you have become a member of a game fishing club affiliated with the GFAA, you need to get hold of the current Australian Game Fishing Journal or log onto to familiarise yourself and crew with the GFAA angling rules and regulations. Look up the Australian game fishing record claim form and go through the check list so that on the day of the capture everything will be in order for a successful record claim.

IGFA pre-tested lines are a must if you are attempting to break a certain line class record. When the line you have submitted with your claim is tested, it must break at, or below, the specified breaking strain. If it doesn't, all your hard work is lost.

The type of knot you use to make up your leader or tie on your hook, trace or lure can drastically reduce the breaking strain of your line. Knots that claim to have 100 percent knot strength still need to be tested before they are put in use. The type and hardness of the line you use, as well as how you tie the knot in the first place, can affect its knot strength.
Test the knot strength of the line you are using at home with a set of scales, or fill a bucket with water to the weight of the breaking strain you want to test. You may well be surprised at how little weight it takes to break a knot that is not suitable for that particular line. By experimenting with the amount of twists or turns can increase or decrease the breaking point of a knot. The main point I am trying to make is, be prepared and know what limits you are fishing with.

Photo Evidence
Photos to be submitted with your catch need to show the scales and the weight of the fish at the time of the weighing, a full length photo of the fish, showing dorsal fin and pectoral fins and tackle used to catch the fish. If a lure is not going to be submitted a photo of it, with the length noted on the back, will be required. In the case of sharks a photo of the shark's teeth is needed to help positively identify the species.

Certified scales are needed to weigh your catch and knowing their location, and who to contact, is very important prior to attempting a record-breaking capture. On the many game fishing tournaments held throughout the year, certified scales are used at the weigh-in. With this in mind there is no better time to have a go at a state, Australian or even a World Record.

Craig Rist

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