Fishing for bass for some of us is a passion, a lifestyle. We work hard every day to be able to unwind and relax over weekends to go and pursue those that dwell in the deep. It’s not a cheap form of relaxation and the more involved you become, the higher the costs become. Once you get to tournament level, it’s a different game altogether. Unfortunately; as with any sport, there is always a certain amount of internal politics too, and between juggling work, pre-fishing for an upcoming tournament and all the planning that goes along with the sport, one has to be careful as it can be a veritable minefield.
Once you reach certain levels of competitive angling, the pressure truly builds and the fight to reach the top and remaining at the top can be a tough one. There are those that have dedicated hundreds of hours and days in their climb from bank angler to top competitive anglers, beating the odds and sometimes fishing by the seat of their pants to stay in the game. Competitive angling takes a dedicated mindset and a drive to reach specific goals – no matter what cards you’re dealt.
You could pre-fish a venue for days, and yet on tournament day, things have changed… water levels have dropped or risen, a cold front moved in, or there has been a spike in barometric pressure. There are so many variables that come into the sport of angling and nothing is ever cast in stone.
At the start of the FLW SA Championship held at Bivane Dam in KwaZulu-Natal, it was apparent that the forty-two teams that had arrived had worked through tough fishing and personal situations to be able to have the opportunity to fish this tournament. Some anglers have had personal issues, others had financial, and yet others struggled during the season with failing boat partners or failing boats and technology.
Forty-two teams; three days of competitive bass angling and in the end… two teams (four anglers) would head off to the USA to represent FLW South Africa in the Costa FLW Series Championship at international level in November on Lake Guntersville in Alabama.
They will be competing against 218 of the best FLW anglers from across the world. The top forty professionals and co-anglers from each of the five U.S. Costa FLW Series divisions, plus up to two pros and two co-anglers each from FLW China, FLW Italy, FLW Mexico, FLW Portugal, FLW South Africa and FLW Spain and up to four pros and four co-anglers may advance from FLW Canada for 2018.
With a total prize pool valued at R285,000.00 including lucky draw prizes; everyone seemed strangely relaxed on the eve of the tournament.
After spending most of the day travelling to the venue, there was still time for greeting, handshakes and smiles amongst these dedicated folks that would pull out all the stops and combat each other in skill and determination to be the winners of those prestigious slots to the USA.
Partly cloudy conditions greeted anglers on the first day of the event with a prediction of slight rain later during the afternoon. Although the barometric pressure dropped slightly overnight due to an incoming front, anglers were keen to get going. During pre-fish, some competitors had a game plan, and it now came down to making that plan work, but with so many variables, the organisers patiently waited for the results to start coming in.
Not long after the start of day one, Ian Brown brought the first fish of the tournament to the scales which tipped at 3.495kg. A solid fish, which went on to also be the biggest of the three-day tournament. With such a positive start, hopes were soon dashed when it became apparent that this venue was not going to give up its bounty very easily. Only one team had managed to catch a five-fish bag limit, and this put them clearly in the lead. At the end of the first day, many anglers had not even had a bite, while others did manage to land some fish. Most of the fish landed were of good size, and with the hope of another two days in which to make up some valuable points, most competitors opted for an early night.
Day two started overcast with wet conditions from some solid rain that had fallen during the night. The prediction was for mostly overcast conditions with some expected wind around lunchtime. The leading team from day one, Team Gel Events, hit the water running and very soon brought a fish in for weighing as they didn’t want to run the risk of it turning and then losing valuable points. Around lunchtime, word came in that George Newham and his partner had suffered boat problems and with a strong wind, it was going to be rather difficult to get these anglers back safely. Impeccable sportsmanship came into play when two different teams took time out of their fishing to render assistance and make sure no angler is left out on the water. At the end of day two, the leaderboard had shuffled with the top three spots being taken up by Team Bass Warehouse Fishtec (Bryan Leppan and Michael Cannon) in first place with two fish weighing 6.045kg. Second place was Team Never Give Up (André Pretorius and Nigel Potgieter, three fish, 5.87kg) and third, Team PG Aluminium Silver Lakes (Herman Ras & Japie Botha, three fish, 5.375kg).
Proving that it was yet another tough day out on the water, and once again… some anglers expressing their frustration at not even having had a decent bite. Optimism reigns and once again, on the final day of the tournament, anglers were chomping at the bit to get started and hopefully make up some points or at least catch a fish to avoid blanking.
Clear skies, rising barometric pressure and warm conditions greeted anglers at the start of the final day which would prove to be another nail-biting day for the event organisers as there was no clear indication of how it was going out on the water with only two fish being brought to the scale for the entire day. With this, the big wait began for the flights to arrive and bring the resulting fish for the day. As it had been very close over the last two days, none of the results were being shared and had to be kept under wraps till the prize giving function later that evening.
Tired and frustrated anglers took their boats off the water, had time to shower and relax a little before the official prize giving and announcements of the winners of the 2018 FLW South African Championship.
At the end of day three the top ten teams were:
1 Team Gamakatsu Outdoors 365 (KZN): Neels Beneke & Robert Olivier, seven fish, 10.48kg
2 Team Gel Events (GP): Shaun John & Peet van der Schyff, 9 fish, 10.38kg
3 Team Beli VC (LP): Justy Varkevisser & Reed Eastman, 6 fish, 10.23kg
4 Team Bass Warehouse Fishtec (KZN): Michael Cannon & Bryan Leppan, 5 fish, 9.23kg
5 Team Never Give Up (NW): André Pretorius & Nigel Potgieter, 5 fish, 8.335kg
6 Team Ranger (GP): Gordon Brown & Ian Brown, 4 fish, 6.73kg
7 Team PG Aluminium Silver Lakes (GP): Japie Botha & Herman Ras, 3 fish, 5.415kg
8 Team Fear no Fish (LP): Stefan Badenhorst & Alexis Kuisis, 2 fish, 5.31kg
9 Team Greens² (NW): Vikesh Parbhoo & Johann Zwarts, 2 fish, 4.605kg
10 Team Cobat Transport (GP): Troy Batty & Bryn Batty, 2 fish, 4.23kg
Angling, in general, can be tough and given the circumstances during the tournament, it was only with sheer determination that success had been achieved. The team that came in second with Shaun and Peet had pulled up their trolling motor and had made their last casts. As anglers usually do, while his partner was packing rods away for the haul to the weigh station, Shaun made that one cast after the last cast and this resulted in a healthy fish to boost their total points and in the end, putting them at second and ensuring a trip to the USA. Prize giving was broadcast live on social media and viewed by over 6,000 viewers, sharing the tears of joy when the winners were announced. They say; cowboys don’t cry, but fishermen do when they are overwhelmed.
Only three fish under 1kg were brought to the scales, and the average weight per fish weighed was 1.552kg. The heaviest bags during the event were:
Day one: Team Gel Events: Shaun John & Peet van der Schyff, 5 fish, 5.885kg
Day two: Team Bass Warehouse Fishtec: Bryan Leppan & Michael Cannon, 2 fish, 6.045kg
Day three: Team Beli VC, Justy Varkevisser & Reed Eastman, 2 fish, 3.395kg
Just to show how difficult the competition was, here are the top five team’s scores:
Team Region Fish Day-1 Fish Day-2 Fish Day-3 Fish Total
Team Gamakatsu Outdoors 365 KZN 2 3.355 4 5.245 1 1.880 7 10.480
Team Gel Events GP 5 5.885 2 2.180 2 2.315 9 10.380
Team Beli VC LP 3 5.185 1 1.650 2 3.395 6 10.230
Team Bass Warehouse Fishtec KZN 0 0.000 2 6.045 3 3.145 5 9.230
Team Never Give Up NW 2 2.425 3 5.870 0 0.000 5 8.335
Bivane is a difficult dam, and yet, its location and stunning setting still draw anglers with many vowing to return someday, while others would rather choose to forget the three days of torture they had endured. This tournament had proven the tenacity of bass anglers yet again, to continue fighting and fishing right up to the very last minute. It proved sportsmanship where anglers freely helped one another with camping arrangements and charging of boat batteries. It proved dedication to fish an entire season with various problems and still do what it takes to make it and fish in the final. New friends were made, and old friendship bonds strengthened for the upcoming season. This tournament also proved beyond doubt what this sport is all about and that is to go out and never give up, never stop having fun and to give it your all. It also proved that the size of your boat or the value of your tackle or gadgetry only plays a small role in the hunt for success and using the tools at your disposal would ultimately ensure a win.
Without our sponsors, this event would not have been possible and a big thank you has to go out to:
Garmin South Africa, Alpha Laboria in Pretoria, Yamaha Distributors SA, Pure Fishing, Thornveld Angling Tackle Distributors, Hillbilly Poisen, LK’s COBB Cooking, Brentoni Eyewear, Club Marine Insurance, Mastercars Wonderboom, and SA BASS Magazine
A special thanks to the event and regional organisers, Darryn Brooks (our official photographer) and the staff at Bivane Dam.
Our qualifying rounds for the next season starts end of September. Please visit our website www.flwsouthafrica.com for more details regarding regions, dates, venues and contact persons.
>> Text: Johan Badenhorst*
>> Images: Darryn Brooks