Black Bass World Cham­pi­onships Por­tu­gal 2016

SA Bass - - Sa Bass / International - >> Rudi Dreyer

The Protea Team se­lected to rep­re­sent South Africa at the Black Bass World Cham­pi­onships in Por­tu­gal had high as­pi­ra­tions and was will­ing to put in what­ever ef­fort was re­quired in terms of time and money. The team con­sisted of cap­tain Pierre van der Merwe, Justy Varke­visser, Au­gust Lig­nau, Charl­ton He­witt, Richard Eldridge, I and we had two man­agers, Mike Mil­li­gan and Hen­nie du Preez.

The venue for the World Champs was the mas­sive Alqueva Dam in Por­tu­gal. It is the largest man made dam in the whole of Europe and too big for any­one to ever dis­cover all its se­crets. Pierre, Justy, Hen­nie, Mike and I took a week of to go pre­fish. We felt that with­out this on a venue like Alqueva we could not be com­pet­i­tive. The pre-fish in it­self was very chal­leng­ing. Mike ar­ranged boat hire through the of­fi­cial chan­nels but when we ar­rived the com­pany from who we hired the boats in­sisted that we can­not get the boats with­out a Por­tuguese skip­per. This meant that we had to pre-fish with a lo­cal guy sit­ting on the boat watch­ing our ev­ery move.

The bass in Alqueva are also dif­fer­ent to our bass. I spent my first day scan­ning for off­shore honey holes and found some re­ally nice stuff that I would get very ex­cited about, but when we fished it we could only catch zan­der. We later re­alised that bass is not the top preda­tor in Alqueva and the top spots are mostly oc­cu­pied by preda­tors with sharp teeth. There is also a bait fish that was in­tro­duced to Alqueva called the com­mon bleak. This is an open wa­ter school­ing fish and the pre­ferred food source for bass in Alqueva. All of this meant that the bass are all roam­ing fish swim­ming af­ter bait­fish and any area where we found them to­day did not nec­es­sar­ily work to­mor­row or even an hour from now. We iden­ti­fied that in the main dam section wind di­rec­tion plaid a ma­jor role as the wind po­si­tions the bait­fish. We did well tar­get­ing wind­blown points and banks. We also found that when we moved into creeks where we found bait­fish, the

bass where hang­ing out on grass edges if deep wa­ter was close by. The best way to tar­get these fish was to move fast and use re­ac­tion baits like li­p­less cranks and spinner baits. Af­ter re­turn­ing home from the pre-fish we learned that one of our skip­pers was ac­tu­ally the cap­tain of the Por­tuguese team. So much for hav­ing any­thing for our­selves. But ex­cite­ment build as we pre­pared ev­ery­thing in­clud­ing tak­ing our own elec­tron­ics. Hen­nie and Justy made it pos­si­ble for us so that each boat run a Lowrance HDS-12 unit with the maps we build plus a Hum­min­bird360 on the front of the boat. With­out an elec­tronic map it is not pos­si­ble to nav­i­gate on Alqueva. It is just too big.

Fi­nally, the time came and the eight of us were on our way to the World Champs. This was one of my life am­bi­tions as South Africa did not par­tic­i­pate in World Champ events when I did art lure. We ar­rived a cou­ple of days early to get ev­ery­thing sorted and build team spirit. The first two non­fish­ing days we had three meet­ings a day un­der cap­tain Pierre and we couldn’t wait to get on the wa­ter. On the prac­tice days we dis­cov­ered that the main dam points and banks were com­mon ar­eas fre­quented by many boats and they didn’t seem to hold the right size fish. But the fish were still in the creeks as be­fore and the still ate the spin­ner­bait.

Our plan was very sim­ple - put the trolling mo­tor on max­i­mum; grab a spin­ner­bait rod, tar­get grass banks with deep wa­ter close by and cover as much wa­ter as pos­si­ble. None of the other teams were cov­er­ing wa­ter at the speed we did and be­cause the fish were roam­ing this gave us a dis­tinct ad­van­tage. Un­for­tu­nately, we all still had Por­tuguese skip­pers on our boats.

Day one fi­nally ar­rived and our 25-minute run with our 17 foot Tri­ton and 115 horse power out­board to where we wanted to start felt like for­ever. I was fish­ing

with Charl­ton, Justy with Richy and Piere with Au­gust. We used What­sup for com­mu­ni­ca­tion but also has satel­lite phone for an emer­gency. Things started slow on our boat and we strug­gled to get go­ing. We were prob­a­bly mak­ing be­tween fifty and a hun­dred cast for one bite with the spin­ner­bait but it was the only way we could tar­get bet­ter fish. Late morn­ing Charl­ton landed three 1kg plus fish in half an hour and we were look­ing good. Af­ter weigh-in Mike went to the cap­tains meet­ing and the rest of us went to a res­tau­rant for din­ner. Mike sent us the scores via Whats-up from the meet­ing. We were lead­ing af­ter day one. South Africa and Por­tu­gal had the same points but SA had higher weight and there­fore lead­ing. Sud­denly we all re­alised we could ac­tu­ally win this thing! Our boat weighed the sec­ond big­gest bag for the day.

Day two was not kind to us. We fol­lowed the same tac­tics and had our chances but things didn’t go our way. Justy lost a big fish with the spin­ner­bait break­ing in half; Charl­ton had a 2kg fish throw­ing the spin­ner­bait on the sec­ond jump and I lost a 1kg fish to­wards the end of the day. Af­ter the points were tal­lied we were seven points be­hind Por­tu­gal. The rest of the coun­tries were way be­hind so our sil­ver was se­cured but we had to put in a hu­mon­gous ef­fort to catch Por­tu­gal.

On the last day, Pierre and Au­gust put to­gether a big bag but our other two boats just didn’t run into the big fish we re­quired. My boat’s skip­per also shared one of our spots where we left some fish be­hind and I was highly up­set to find the cap­tain of Por­tu­gal on the spot when we ar­rived. Por­tu­gal also adapted our game plan for the last day. I think it is a big feather in our cap that the lo­cals that fish that dam more than a hun­dred times a year had to change to our pat­tern to try and stay ahead. I was quite dis­ap­pointed when we came of the wa­ter but was soon no­ti­fied by my team mates that it was go­ing to be very close.

At the last weigh-in things ended up so close that we could not fore­see who was go­ing to win un­til the of­fi­cials did all their fi­nal cal­cu­la­tions. Por­tu­gal won by only two points! We had the big­gest over­all weight; we won two out of the three days but still came sec­ond. South Africa won the last day by five points and was ter­ri­bly dis­ap­pointed. Make no mis­take; we are very happy win­ning sil­ver at the World Champs but it was just to close. All the odds were against us and the home team had a huge ad­van­tage but we came within two points of be­ing World Cham­pi­ons. Damn!

It is an ex­pe­ri­ence that will stay with me for the rest of my life and one that I can rec­om­mend for any bass an­gler that ever gets the op­por­tu­nity.

SA BASS and our read­ers con­grat­u­late our Protea Team on their al­most first place – but still you did us proud. Well done! – Ed.

The au­thor with a nice size keeper

O so close!

Justy Varke­visser show­ing what a high speed spin­ner­bait can do around grass banks

The South African team ready for ac­tion

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