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Home » Fishing-Tips-Techniques » Offshore-Fishing » Swain Reefs Trip

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The Lighter Side of The Swains

By Jay Cottrell

The fishing stories about The Swains I heard from my Grandad growing up were filled anglers using heavy handlines and large overhead rods.

Double droppers and big hooks loaded with squid or mullet were the normal rigs used to tempt the various reef species the inhabited the shallow coral bombies. These old stories came flooding back when I received the news that I was invited to join the crew from Wilson Fishing on a Swain Reefs trip aboard a trip of a lifetime with Big Cat Reality Fishing Charters.

As you can imagine the Wilson team brought along a lot of tackle to test out. They really did mean 'you don't need to bring anything' in their trip brief. There were more rods, reels and lures then you could count. It was going to be a busy time testing out all the gear and I couldn't wait.

The tales I heard growing up were going through my head as I set about selecting some outfits to use for the coming week's fishing. We were lucky to have an amazing weather window for our trip, so I decided to forget the heavy stuff (sorry Grandad) and focus on fishing as light as possible.

I decided on a rod I was familiar with from home - the amazing 15 -40lb 7' Venom (RLFVS10) and matched this up with an ATC 5000 Valour SW loaded with 30lb braid. This would be my main combo for fishing Fish Traps, Live Shrimps and Live Flash Minnow Wrigglies.

The second outfit I settled on was a 40-60lb Venom Stick Bait rod with an ATC 10000 Valour SW loaded with 50lb braid. This combo would be used for casting Zappelin stickbaits and the like around the reef edges.

These two outfits would be the mainstays for the ensuing 6 day's fishing action.

After a 34 hour steam we were well rested and extremely well rigged up. We anchored up under fading light at East Cay towards the top end of the vast Swain Reefs system and after dinner and a few refreshments we hit the bunks dreaming of what was too come.

I had teamed up with Tim from Tackle World Bundaberg in tender #6 and excitement levels were high as we motored away from Big Cat for the first time. With the high tide early in the morning our game plan was to get up onto the shallow reef flats and cast Zerek Zappelins and Cavallas for coral trout.

We had a great morning session landing numerous dark coloured trout, but we also donated a few lures trying to extract them from their coral homes.

The call was made at lunchtime that the Big Cat would be moving to a new anchorage about 8km away. We had a bit of travel time to explore the reefs on the way over to the new spot and set off with an open mind.

With the tide dropping out it didn't take long to find a likely looking edge at which to cast lures. Out came the Venom Stickbait rod with a 160mm Zappelin tied on an 80lb leader. My very first cast our jaws dropped as a pack of 10 or more GTs in the 20-25kg range came off the edge fighting for the lure all the way to the boat. Somehow they all missed the hooks and shot off all over the place. The next cast a solid GT smashed the lure almost as it hit the water and after a fair tussle, I boated a cracking GT around 20kg.

Timmy was up next and one cast was all it took for him to hook up. After a stubborn battle on relatively light tackle he too landed an impressive GT around the same size. The next hour or so was a blur as we landed countless GTs, Spanish mackerel, dogtooth tuna and fat shark mackerel on the stick baits.

We had to get going soon after to catch up with the mother ship at the new anchorage as we still had a fair way to travel.

Back on the boat that night, over a few sherbets, there were plenty of stories coming in about how good the fishing had been. Battles had been won and lost by all boats with some impressive fish caught by all. It was easy to sleep that night as we were stuffed and it was only day 1!

Moring session day 2 saw us finding some great fish shows on the sounder not far from Big Cat in about 20m of water. We were jigging 110mm and 160mm Fish Traps that rarely made it to the bottom the fish were ravenous. We landed diamond trevally, pennant fish, goldspot trevally, dogtooth tuna, Spanish mackerel and green jobfish in a hectic session.

On the rare occasions our lures made it through these fish, we got some epic trout and red throat emperor that were feeding underneath the pelagics. What a session!

After lunch we again went hunting the reef edges with surface lures. This was to be a bit of a daily routine - trout in the mornings and trevs after lunch. We landed some amazing blue fin trevally, giant long toms and GTs in another crazy arvo session.

The night fishing off Big Cat was epic. We caught 69 big spangled emperors from about 4-7 kg with 3 and 4 guys all hooked up at once. It was chaos. I used and abused the new Live Fibre RLFSAS16 overhead rod in this session putting it through its paces trying to stop these tough fighting fish from getting back to the coral.

Again, we slept well that night

Day 3 and Big Cat was on the move again so we headed to the new reef straight away. Where we ended up was the trip's highlight for many of us - the impressive Centenary Reef system.

This reef system is made up of sand cays, blue holes and seemingly endless reef edges. We found a nice current line in about 28m loaded with fish. This session was the one dreams are made of.

First drift we had 10 double hook ups on big trout, solid red throats and parrot fish. We went back to the top of the drift and called in all the other tenders. The next hour or so was crazy with everyone hooked up at once the whole time. It will remain one of my favourite memories of the trip.

The tide stopped running and the bite slowed so we sat back and reflected on how good the morning had been. During this session Tim had caught 2 big red throats on the one lure and Clint from Wilsons had caught 2 trout on the same single hooked jighead! Crazy stuff.

The stand out lures were the 5" Zerek Live Shrimps and 130 Live Flash Minnow Wrigglies rigged on 27g Mustad Darter jigheads

The next few days went along just like the past few with us chasing bottom fish on the light rods in the mornings and casting the heavier gear along the edges in the arvos.

We didn't use bait all week in the tender and caught more trout than any other tender. Just shows what you can do with a light, powerful spin rod and a bunch of rubber lures.

Our main technique on the reefies was to keep in contact with bottom as much as possible and use a couple of short, sharp jigs of the lure. Most of the bites were on the drop or just after you jigged the lure.

Lifelong memories and friends were made on this trip and my Swains stories for my kids and grandkids will be very different to the ones I heard growing up.

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