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Big Cat Reality Swains Trip 2023 Review

Garry with his new PB gt measuring in at 123cm FL with an estimated weight of 36-38kg. Well done mate.

Introduction

We apologise that there will be no local weekly fishing report this week as our trusty scribe is away on a well-deserved break and wetting a line himself. Therefore, I (Dane) have decided to write a post trip report on our EPIC adventure out to the Swains Reef system aboard the mighty Big Cat Reality Fishing Charters. This trip idea came about due to the volume of customers that frequented the shop and had previously booked a charter not knowing who they were booking on with and having an underwhelming experience due to various factors. The idea was born to book the boat out exclusively to Fisho’s Tackle World customers. This trip is all about learning how to read the reefs based on conditions and tides (where to be and when, which is so vital even out in these remote destinations) and knowing how to target the different species, utilising various techniques and lures as even out in those waters the fish don’t just jump into the boat as many perceive. This trip was about bringing likeminded anglers together, learning along the way and in turn catching more fish whilst taking that knowledge back home and applying it to their everyday fishing. 

Day one on the reef is always the most anticipated and exciting out of the whole trip, as all of your preconceived ideas and planning are now becoming reality, which can all come unstuck once you see the reef for the first time as it can be so overwhelming. We knew prior to the trip that we were leading into a new moon, therefore we were on building tides which is great. This knowledge gave us the ability to structure our fishing for the trip and our game plan was to focus on the deeper water species and respective techniques for days 1 & 2, before incorporating more topwater fishing working both pressure edges and the flats on days 3 & 4 which then gave us days 5 & 6 to pick and choose what we wanted to do to end our trip. Let’s get into it.

Not a bad drift when you're pulling in quality table fish like this.

How is that for variety, a coronation trout, legal red, red throat and long nose emperor. Well done Cody & Paul.

Swains Reef Day 1 - Working the deep for reef species

Day one we were met with typical Swains reef weather which consisted of a 10-15knot blow from the SE, making it a little sloppy in the tenders although still very fishable. Given that we had a run out tide which pushes from the SW we chose our desired reef and headed in that direction. Upon arriving at our location, I like to take a good look at the reef and look for that crucial pressure edge which is so vital to catching big numbers of fish. Given the conditions were pleasant we located the pressure edge with ease and started sounding out the area for any sign of bait & fish life which is made quite easy nowadays by the advanced sonar and charting systems we have access to. A quick note I always opt to start out wide and fish my way into a reef edge, thus not spooking the fish up in the shallows. The reef system we were fishing had quite a few shoaly bits of bottom sitting wide of the reef edge in 25-40m of water and after sounding over the ground and marking some likely structures holding good fish life, we set up our drift to go directly over the desired structures and worked our lures over them. In this scenario we opted to choose 3 main lure types that could be fished comfortably in the conditions and at these depths. The jig rods were rigged with 80 & 100g Mustad Wingman slow pitch jigs, whilst the soft plastic outfits consisted of Zerek Live Shrimp 127mm prawn imitations & Zman 7” jerk shad soft plastics rigged to 1 1/2oz & 2oz 7/0 TT Headlocks jig heads, Zerek Fish trap 110mm and Nomad Vertrex Max 110mm & 130mm soft vibes were also part of the arsenal. 

The first drift will usually be your most productive, often producing the better quality reef fish from an area and this trip was no different, landing our better quality trout, red throat & job fish. After multiple drifts over the one area and the fish life and catch rate noticeably dropping, we determined that we would be better off spot hopping, covering fresh ground and only giving an area 2-3 drifts max. This decision dramatically increased our catch rate of better quality fish for the entire trip. Note each day’s fishing is broken into two sessions, the morning session 7am-11:30am a short break back to the Big Cat for lunch by 12 and then back on the water by 12:30pm-1pm to fish into the afternoon to 4:30-5pm. 

Dane with two solid red throat in two consecutive drops. They certainly loved this Zerek clown prawn colour.

In one particular area we found a nice patch of red throat working a deeper edge in 30-35m of water and don't these things pull.

Drop one coral trout, drop two glanced at the sounder and ripped my jig up getting slammed by this spanish mackerel. The variety is unreal.

Andrew decided to mix it up and go stealth mode with the black prawn and even it caught multiple fish before being snipped off.

By the afternoon session the wind had dropped out and we were faced with a run in tide which pushed from the NE direction. I have always found the run-in to be the less productive of the tides fishing in and around the reef edges so we opted to swing for the fences and hunt out some deeper water away from the reefs out in the paddock looking for reds and other prized reef species. Utilising our bathy charts, it was very easy to mark out some likely looking pinnacles and ridges for areas to start looking and after some sounding we managed to locate a small isolated structure holding plenty of fish life. In this scenario we were faced with 60-65m of water and a little current influence so we opted to fish heavier 150g Mustad Staggerbod jigs & Nomad Vertrex Max 130mm & Squidtrex 130mm soft vibes. On our first drift across we pulled two solid tomato cod, second drift a nice blue maori cod and then got blown away. Upon resetting the drift, we noticed that the fish life had increased and we managed to hook some quality fish however couldn’t keep the hooks in a few and the sharks that had been absent took their share. We then moved onto a larger ridge line in search of some harder reef structure which produced a few trout, job fish and we even got to watch our mate land his first ever dogtooth tuna of around 10kg. With our tail somewhat between our legs we decided to call it quits from searching in the deep and hit one pressure edge on the northern side of our home reef and target a trout with the prawn soft plastics. After 3 drifts working the 25-30m line, which on a lot of the reefs is where the reef meets the sand, we put 13 trout in the box and unfortunately we had run out of fishing time and it was time to head back to the mothership for showers, dinner and of course more fishing off the back deck of Big Cat.

The Nomad squidtrex certainly got the attention of many species of fish including this blue maori cod.

Deep water tomato cod that came off a small isolated rock whilst we were looking for reds.

Garry claimed the biggest doggie for the trip that fell victim to the Mustad wingman 100g jig.

Swains Reef Day 2 - Working the deep for reef species & we found fusiliers 

Day two we awoke to glorious conditions, the wind barely blowing 5knots from the SE and we were all amped up to hit the water and see if we could improve on the previous day’s efforts. Having a better feel for the area and understanding the tides better we opted to head back down to the same reef system which also had a few small clusters of reefs close by giving us ample country to explore and spot hop. The game plan was set and with a run out tide we were focused on working the deeper shoals and reef edges continuously moving, locating and fishing over fresh ground using jigs, soft plastics and vibes. It pays to watch your sounder closely in these areas for fish sitting higher up in the water column where you can quickly rip up your jig or plastic through the fish, in turn hooking species like Spanish mackerel, green job fish and dog tooth tuna.  Once again we encountered coral trout, red throat emperor, green job fish and Spanish mackerel and managed to put a healthy box of tasty fish together. Just a reminder that it is vital to handle these quality eating table fish with respect and care, brain spiking and bleeding immediately is crucial before getting them onto ice to chill down. 

Doubles for days, Chris and Dane with a nice pair of trout.
I'll take two thanks, the Zerek live shrimp doing the damage on these two.
Green jobfish often found lurking around the shoal country are suckers for a rapidly retrieved soft plastic or jig.

The run-out tide is my pick for fishing the reef edges and you have so many places and options to fish, hence why we try to set out a plan and stick to it. However, there is a rule on the reef when you find fusilier schools you can’t drive past them without lobbing a large stick bait or popper into it. So, we quickly deviated from our plan, happy with our efforts thus far and a full box of tasty reef fish to try and target a GT or Spanish on topwater. My personal combo of choice for this is a Shimano Stella 14000 spooled up with PE8 CAST X12 matched to a Venom pop PE8 rod. Once again, the first cast is the most important and will nine times out of ten get hit almost instantly on the first sweep of a stick bait or popper. This time was no different, I lobbed a Nashy’s 190mm floating stick bait in and first swoop the water erupted as a pack of hungry GT competed for the lure and after a few tense moments and a few more twitches of the rod tip I managed to set the hooks into a typical 20kg Swains GT. It pays to rest an area after a few missed fish or landing a fish so we moved off the pressure edge where the fusiliers were stacked up before returning for Andrew to have a crack. As usual on the first cast he had a massive blow up from a singular fish on his popper however missed the hook set and it never came back. After a few more casts we had noticed the main fusilier school had shifted around the reef with the tide so we changed position to be within casting distance and Andrew lobbed in another cast and after a few pops got drilled by a solid fish, a GT pushing the 22-25kg mark and a great fish to open his account. Now it was onto Chris for his turn and after multiple casts in for multiple strikes and missed hook sets, we had shut the edge down and it was time to head back for lunch. 

Andrew opened his gt account for the trip with this solid fish. Using Pe8 tackle they certainly can put some hurt on you.
It's always nice to land your first gt for the trip, this one falling victim to the new Nashy's 190mm floating stick bait.

Knowing the afternoon session was going to be the tougher of the two fish wise and with the conditions near on as perfect as you could ask for, we opted to make the jump across the paddock to our next area. Another cluster of reef systems that would give us ample new ground to explore and fish the following day and give Big Cat another safe anchorage for the night. We fished our way across and targeted the deeper shoals easily located on the bathy charts and managed to pull a few trout & red throat on the plastics & jigs; however the fishing like the previous day was much slower on the afternoon run-in tide. We powered on to the next closest reef system and upon arrival we were greeted with packs of banana fusiliers this time aggregated in a tiny bay sheltered by a protruding reef finger, this screamed Spanish mackerel and possibly a Gt, so out came the PE 8 & 10 casting gear and our focus quickly shifted to throwing larger top water lures again, it truly is addictive. Note that although it is important to have a preconceived plan it can all change whilst on the water if you learn to stay observant, paying close attention to key details such as the change of currents and bait movements that can determine certain bites. 

It was still Chris’s turn and he opted to fish a CAST Downunder pencil popper which is kind of a hybrid, a cross over between a stick bait with a small cupped face. This makes it a very versatile lure to throw being able to change your retrieve and the lures action on various casts to entice a bite just by how aggressively you swept the rod tip and if it was a short sudden stop of the rod tip or a long draw. Chris placed a nice cast right into the pack of nervous looking banana fusiliers and just like clock work after the first few sweeps of the rod tip a GT shot up and annihilated his lure leaving nothing but white water in its tracks and being in quite shallow water Chris had his work cut out for him with near on locked drag to stop this fish from going deep. After a short but intense fight Chris subdued a nice fish similar to Andrew’s and after a quick photo sent it on its way so we could tangle with more. It was my turn again, I cast in my Nashy’s stick bait and had multiple aerial strikes from big Spanish and for those of you who have done this before you know how frustrating they can be to hook. Often shooting in excess of 2-3m in the air as they try to chomp your lure whilst floating mid-air, it's crazy stuff. After a few more casts I managed to keep one connected and landed a nice school sized fish. For the rest of the afternoon, we ran around the various reefs marking out potential areas in preparation for another hot bite the following day on that run out tide. 

Chris stoked with his first top water gt for the trip, a great fish to open his account.

High flying spano's were easy to tempt however hard to keep the hooks in. But Dane managed to keep one to stick.

Swains Reef Day 3 - Reef flats, reef edges and crazy topwater action

Day three and we truly woke up to the flattest conditions I have ever witnessed on the Swains reef, it was a proper glass out. It was going to be another fantastic day on the reef giving us the opportunity to stay mobile and move around at speed hunting out the fish. By this time in the trip, we were all itching to get up on top of the reef flats and let me tell you this is some of the most exciting fishing you can experience and one that can cause the most heart break. The gin clear waters allow you to watch everything unfold right in front of your eyes whilst taking in the true beauty of the reef, I get goose bumps whilst writing this as the fishing can be that good! I picked our flat, a rather large reef system one that had a variety of options from blue holes, massive drains to shallow consistent flats. Our arsenal of choice was the Venom V-swim 120mm & 150mm in the Iron man, trigger fish and blue spot trout patterns plus the Nashy’s 130 sinking stick bait. 

Unfortunately, as we hit the flat a random patch of cloud came over that felt like it hovered over the path of the sun for an hour however it was probably more like 20 minutes. Sun is a very important part of flats fishing success and as soon as it poked its head out of the clouds we hooked and landed our first trout. Bites were few and far between on this area of the flat so we opted to make a move in search of the massive drains that run through the edge of the flat to hopefully find a little more tidal movement and bait. Within a few casts we started to get bites and landed a few more coral trout before Andrew grunted, I’m on and was getting stuck into a very solid fish which turned out to be a sizeable trout that seemed oddly skinny and sick. The flats fishing never really picked up and with another patch of cloud cover looming and with the run out tide really starting to kick into gear we decided to burn off the flat to another small reef system and cast some large top waters around for GT, Spanish and maybe a dog tooth tuna.

Andrew with a solid flats trout that engulfed a Nashy's 120mm sinking stick bait. Bright colours certainly do damage up on the flats.
The Nashy's 130mm sinking stick bait is a deadly option for up on the reef flats when targeting the deeper channels and edges of the blue holes.

 It was evident the deeper we worked into the Swains system and as the tides were still building into the moon the more life started to appear. From leaping shark mackerel feeding on the acres of summer bait and saury’s to that nervous water created by a ball of fusiliers about to be attacked, we could just tell it was going to be on. With glassy calm conditions it was made somewhat difficult to locate the exact pressure edge if it were not for the masses of bait pushed up along it. Let me tell you this edge was perfect, deep with a 20m drop straight off the edge and at the perfect stage in the tide. We worked the edge for multiple strikes from GT & aerial strikes from Spanish however we weren’t able to keep the hook in anything, it seemed they weren’t very comital and were short striking. I adjusted my retrieve to a very slow sweep and pause fishing a stick bait and bang I converted a small rat GT. Things went quiet along the edge so we decided to rest it for a half hour and come back as the potential was insane. After spending some time in the deep we moved back onto the edge where I opted to cast in a popper this time and do large pops with a long drawn out pause. First cast my lure was drilled by a large dog tooth tuna and it must have had some size as it straightened out two sets of 6/0 trebles on its first blistering run. A few casts later another doggie slashed at the lure finding the rear treble and after a short fight and almost subdued at the boat we watched the hooks pull and the fish swim away, somewhat heart broken to have lost two top water doggies I called it time to move on…….

 

Only a pump gt, however great sport nonetheless. Watching a pack attack from multiple fish of this size is very cool.

We moved across the paddock to the next reef system which had an epic pressure edge stacked with fusiliers and as we found it another one of the boats made their way over to us, we waited for their arrival and agreed to all cast in. Lobbing both stick baits and poppers into the fusiliers the water erupted straight away and a mate in the other boat was hooked up and so was Andrew after an eat from a fish that was never ever going to let that stick bait get away getting its entire body out of the water to demolish this lure and they both landed their GT’s. We decided to rest the edge moving out wider into 25-35m and started working a variety of soft plastics, jigs and vibes and got onto a serious patch of coral trout and coronation trout and within a few drifts had racked up over 20 fish. A few sharks started to move in on all of the commotion and happy with our efforts we pushed back in on the edge with the fusiliers still looking rather nervous I lobbed in one of the soon to be released Duo Fumble 230 stick baits and with the rod tip up burnt it across the top before a pack of fish homed in and one demolished the lure, landing a rat GT. The tide was starting to ebb out (bottom of the tide) so we decided to make a move and whilst driving past the backside of the reef it just looked too good not to stop and drop a plastic and we are bloody glad we did landing 11 solid trout in one drift, it was insane! Unfortunately, a few white tip sharks moved in and spoilt the opportunity of another drift so we shot down the reef edge 600 metres to the other corner of the runoff and managed to pluck a few more before it was time to call it quits for the morning session and with our box full we ventured back to Big Cat for lunch. On final count we managed 37 combined coral trout and coronation trout plus a few mixed emperor species, it truly was one of those special sessions in glamour conditions on the reef we all dream about.

A 37 trout bag for the morning, in only probably 3hrs fishing in between top water and reef flats.
This gt was never going to let Andrew's lure escape going fully airborn to eat his lure off the top.
The Duo fumble 230 is going to be a very versatile stick bait.
The trout in Chris's left hand is your typical sized fish for the swains, we managed to find a few locations holding those better than average sized fish.
Fish like this is what helped keep our average trout size up and it was great to see the reef systems so abundant with them.

The afternoon session we were meant to make a move, however we shot off as a group in the tenders to scope out the area further to the north before moving Big Cat up to find another safe anchorage. I am glad we made this move as after the first few hours of fishing and searching most of us had come up empty handed and the further north we pushed the worse the 4-6ft white tip sharks got, even eating our lures on the drop. We opted to work our way back towards Big Cat together and keep our same anchorage for another night. 

Swains Reef Day 4 - More reef flats, reef edges and insane topwater action

The morning of day four we had a slight wind increase to 5-10 knots gusting and with minimal ground swell so we still had great conditions. However, come lunchtime to mid-afternoon we were expecting a blow to move in and intensify for our final two days fishing, we knew we had to make this morning’s fishing count. With the low tide now pushing into the early afternoon we still had the last of the run-in tide for the first hour or so. We picked the closest north facing reef edge that would still have some current hitting it and quickly scooted over to find a small school of fusiliers, I cast my stick bait into the edge and no sooner than it hit the water a lovely 20kg+ GT ate it off the top, not a bad way to start the day first cast. After fighting and dealing with this fish the fusilier school had moved on and the tide had already started to slacken off so we swapped back over to the jig gear to work the same edge finding the bottom of the ledge in around 28m of water and worked a couple of different drift lines as we hopped our soft plastics and vibes. This accounted for a few trout, however no record breakers. We found ourselves at a bit of a cross road knowing that we were making quite a large jump after lunch back south to another anchorage. We were toying with whether we should stay in this area we had fished the day prior as we knew it held bait and had quality fish working the area however we would have to wait for the tide and lose fishing time having to make a longer run later as the tide got even better. So, we made the hard decision to leave early and start scoping out new reefs and locations as we worked south that way gaining maximum fishing time for the entire run out tide period. At the end of the day, that is ultimately the most exciting part exploring all of the reefs.

A typical sized gt for the swains reef system, however at this sized they certainly have ADHD and know how to pull.
Another trout victim to the deadly Zerek live shrimp in colour 04, it was a stand out performer.

 We motored south a few nautical miles, skipping a few reef systems that we knew had been hit by others and as we were driving, I noticed what looked like a small reef system not actually shown on the map, so we veered off towards it. Upon approaching it I could honestly say it would have to be one of the most fishy looking clusters of small reef systems I have seen. There were 5 small reef clusters all tightly packed together creating multiple pressure edges and back-eddies giving us ample fishing territory that were all loaded with fusiliers, the casting arm was certainly twitching as we approached. I fired a cast in with a floating stick bait and after a few sweeps of the rod tip I had a shadow ghosting my lure and followed it right to the boat, it was a nice blue spot trout. I put another cast in its direction and almost instantly he was back and this time didn’t hesitate smashing the lure off the top, it was very cool to watch. We then all had multiple attempts on GT’s and a doggie which followed a lure right to the boat and circled us for a minute before vanishing into the deep blue. Once again, they were still feeding strangely and short striking even after adjusting lures and techniques. We had worked over all of the pressure edges holding fusiliers so we decided to sound wide of the reef system as the charts indicated two shoals in close proximity to each. The shoals came up out of 40m of water to 25m on top and were absolutely loaded with fish life. We deployed the soft plastics and jigs once again and it was double and triple hook ups for multiple drifts, putting 25-30 trout in the boat in an hour. It was quite a sizable area which gave us the ability each drift to move our drift line across covering fresh parts of the shoal and every time we did, we plucked the better quality trout once again. The trusty Zerek & Samaki Live shrimp 127mm getting a serious hammering on this day. 

Blue spot coral trout are certainly the meanest and most aggressive of the trout family. This fish coming up out of 13m.

If its red its dead is certainly the moto out on the Swains, two solid trout from a strawberry patch we found.

The better quality fish we caught all certainly came from the pressure edge side of the reefs.

With sore arms and ribs, we made the decision to start spot hopping areas quite quickly to cover ground to make it back to the lunch time location. Fishing the SW corners targeting the pressure edges on each of the reefs we stopped on, we plucked a few more fish each time, until we honestly couldn’t fit another fish in the box, which turned out because we had 40 combined trout. I located what looked like a shoal out in the middle of nowhere on the charts and it was on the way so we ventured over and dropped a few jigs on it as I had a slight hunch that it may hold green job fish and possibly a doggie. After some sounding I found the peak of the shoal that came right up to 20m of water from down deep and it was loaded with life. We deployed the jigs and I came up tight on what felt like a solid fish, however for anyone that has caught them before doggies fight well above their class and I slung in a pup doggie that for its size went seriously hard. After that we called it and went in for lunch.

There was quite a few puppy dog's caught on the jigs this trip, however the bigger fish eluded us.

A 40 trout box, one session that we won't be forgetting for a while. It was chaos at times.

The weather had hit us and it was blowing a solid 15 knots and gusting to 20’s and with a 4nm jump across to our next reef system to call home for the night we got all the tenders together and took it super easy across, thankfully we were traveling beam into the sea rather than punching. With a solid bit of banter on the run across and all feeling a bit weathered and sore we decided to take it easy for the afternoon, grabbing a handful of pilchards, rafting up in the shallows and enjoy a beer or two whilst sharing stories from the past four days of fishing, all whilst managing to add a few trout and red throat to the box.

Swains Reef Day 5 - The weather had set in & we needed to make a move

Day 5 we awoke to things singing and flapping in the wind and we knew we were in for a tough day’s fishing. After a lovely hot breakfast, we made the call to have a team meeting to decide on our plans for the day. Where we were anchored was not ideal in these locations as it was quite a jump to the reefs we really wanted to fish and we would have had to punch straight into the seas that had grown over night. After some deliberation we had come up with a solid game plan with a safe anchorage and access to many reefs in close proximity to allow us all to fish comfortably for the final two days. Andrew and Chris opted to stay on Big Cat and have a rest for the morning, so I grabbed the other Chris and twisted his arm to jump aboard. We opted to make this jump straight after breakfast to catch the last of the making tide and it wasn’t pleasant but we all stuck together and ventured across at a safe and steady pace. 

Upon arriving at our new reef system for the day, it was evident that the conditions weren’t really going to allow us to do much more than fish the flats. Which given it was the very last of the run in tide and about to turn it was perfect timing to do so. I grabbed my confidence lure the Venom V-swim 120mm in Iron man and Chris was casting around a Westin Swim 120mm. Within meters of our drift Chris hooked up and landed a nice trout and that bite was fairly consistent for the next few hours missing just as many trout as we had landed. With the tide now draining off the flat and there being enough current in the tide we opted to get the heavy top water gear out and start working pressure edges. The first few we rocked up to were scarce of fusiliers and only had patches of summer bait. 

Chris Stewart with another flats coral trout, how cool is their green or even black colourations at times from the shallows.
The Venom V-swim 120mm in Iron man certainly got some swim time and for good reasons, it gets eaten.

We made a call to move across to the next reef and it looked prime. We had a big pressure edge created by the corner of the reef which then had a slight channel before meeting back up with a tiny coral cay which created another pressure edge and an epic rip in between. It was also stacked with fusiliers and they looked nervous so I positioned the boat and got Chris to send a cast in. After a few sweeps and twitches of the rod tip to engage his stick bait it got demolished by a sizable GT however after a short tussle the hooks pulled. A few casts later he had an absolute bus leave a hole in the water behind his lure. Knowing we had stirred them up we motored off them and let it rest for 15 mins before motoring back into position and I lobbed in a cast. True to form a very sizable fish came up and had multiple attempts at the lure before disappearing back into the depths. By now the wind had intensified even more and we were getting nailed by patches of rain. We agreed to call it quits and head in early for lunch to be able to get back out to catch the last of the run out tide. As we were running back across, a mate called over the radio that he had caught an absolute beast of a GT (measuring 123cm fork length and estimated to be 36-37kg) and he was only one pressure point up from us. Having experienced what we just did in our location I was keen to have lunch and get back out. 

Wind, rain, hail or sunshine I was going back out after a quick lunch and I roped Andrew and Chris back into coming out with me. We punched it straight back to the same location and after having missed more fish on topwater than ever before Andrew and Chris allowed me to lob in the first cast and boy aren’t I glad they did. An absolute bus rose up and ate my lure with such anger that we just all looked at each other and didn’t say a word. Being in only 10m of water it took some serious drag and boat work to keep this fish out of the reef and coming in the right direction. What felt like forever however must have only been about 5 minutes. We got this fish alongside the boat and Andrew said what now? We were looking at a serious slab of fish that took both of us to lift it in as it stretched across the entire length of the front casting deck. You know it’s a big fish when you can’t fit your hand around its tail wrist. I was absolutely wrecked however so stoked to land the fish I had been chasing all trip, its always so rewarding. After a few quick happy snaps and a short swim to help revive it, we watched it swim away ever so gracefully into the depths. High fives were flowing all around and we cracked a beer to celebrate as the lads knew how bad I wanted that fish. It measured in at 125cm fork length and estimated to be around 37-38kg, my biggest from the Swains reef. We re-grouped and Andrew and Chris made a few casts for a few boils and missed opportunities just as the tide was ebbing and the rain clouds were approaching and starting to pour down on us, hence we quickly packed the boat up and called it quits for an early afternoon finish to clean up, sort the boat and re-rig the gear for our final days fishing on the reef. 

Check out the girth and tail wrist on this 125cm FL gt.
Dane was absolutely stoked to land this fish measuring in at 125cm FL with an estimated weight of 38kg+.
GT truly are the gangsters of the reef, you'd hate to be a small bait fish.

That night we got to enjoy the BIG seafood night dinner experience thanks to Kenny the chef and afterwards we shared photo’s, stories and tales of all our fishing experiences and what we all wanted to achieve on our final day. Midway through the evening the big cat crew announced to us that we had bagged the boat and crew out on trout, totalling 525 trout, so we all agreed to leave the jigging gear onboard and go topwater the next day. Not a bad problem to have, I guess.

Swains Reef Day 6 - All or nothing top water mission

Day 6 although met by some wind it had eased overnight and as the sun was coming up over the horizon the rain clouds started to move off. The final day on the reef is often filled with mixed emotions, you are extremely tired and sore, discovering muscles you never knew you had before, however with only one day left you still want to fish hard. We had a morning run in tide with the change around 9am and with sunny skies we decided to hit the reef flats and enjoy the scenery. All casting the Venom V-swims in the 120mm & 150mm we managed to tangle with trout (which we released), red throat emperor and yellowtail emperor that provided so much sport in those shallow waters. With the wind continuing to drop out we decided to leave the comfort of our home reef and utilise that slack tide period to punch across to the next reef that hadn’t been fished as yet. Unfortunately, with the large rolling swell pushing through it made that smaller reef unfishable and we moved down to the next big reef that should provide more protection, which it did. We moved into a slight bay created in the reef with multiple tight channels winding back up onto the flat. Casting in tight to these channels and slowly twitching and pausing our lures to allow them to shimmy down deep into them we got onto a patch of solid red throat that provided some sport for a short period before we had worked the area over. 

On our final day we found an incredible flat with many channels in the reef that was loaded with red throat.
Dane with a flats red throat that couldn't resist the Venom V-swim 120mm in blue spot trout.

By now there was enough movement in the run out tide to start spot hopping pressure edges in search of our final GT’s for the trip. We radioed into Big Cat that we’d skip lunch to allow us maximum fishing time for the run out period to maximise our chances. We started spot hopping pressure edges and the first two we pulled up to were absent of any bait and life. I made a call to push back west and fish another cluster of reefs that were close by to the ones we had success on the day prior and I’m glad we did, as the first edge we pulled up to looked unreal in the full sunlight. Andrew fired in a cast and after a few sweeps of his stick bait he raised a solid fish which ate the lure close to the boat. Chris was up next and after a few casts and missed opportunities he called it quits with a sore elbow, this style of fishing isn’t easy on the body. With time running out I jumped up the front and running on pure adrenalin I made cast after cast missing a few sloppy eats from GT’s, before a XOS Spanish went aerial getting some serious air time and cutting me off in the process. Bummed having lost my lure that caught the big fish the previous day I re-tied and we moved to another edge.

Andrew with another solid gt that annihilated his CAST Down Under pencil popper off the top.

It too looked unreal and was one I had fished quite a few times, after a few casts I came up tight to a nice fish to end the trip on a solid fish in its mid 20kgs. with time running out and wanting to give everyone the ability to fish we moved right in on the edge and this edge is insane with massive channels, caves and undercuts with large plate coral and bommies. We got towelled up more times than we landed fish but the visual aspect of this style of fishing is truly incredible and we managed to add a few more red throat and yellowtail emperor to the box and released a few more trout.

Not a bad way to end the trip with another solid topwater banger.

With our final day coming to an end as we counted down the clock, we made a last-minute decision to catch the last of the ebbing tide and make our way closer to home reef where we were instructed to be collected and hit the corner that my big fish had come from the afternoon prior. Chris and I were absolutely spent so we sent Andrew up the front deck to fire casts in at the nervous looking fusiliers sitting just where they should be and in 10 casts I think Andrew had follows every cast and pulled hooks out of three fish that committed to the lure after short fight times. It truly was a trip for missed and dropped fish like none other I had experienced before, however that is what keeps you coming back for more next year. Happy with our efforts we rafted up along side another one of the boats who were also spent after a day on the GT’s and enjoyed a beer and took in the scenery knowing we were steaming home in only a matter of hours. 

I apologise for the long winded write up however after experiencing what was an incredible 6 days of fishing on the Swains reef there were so many EPIC experiences and sessions to cover and I still didn’t have time or room to fit them all in. It was a fantastic trip with a great bunch of blokes who all fished hard, shared info daily which saw many firsts and PB’s broken and that is what these trips are all about. Big Cat and the crew were honestly flawless all week and made our time on the reef a truly memorable one. Until next year, bring on the Fisho’s Tackle world Hervey Bay trip 2024. If you are interested in joining one of these trips, enquire with the shop and we will see if we can add you to a trip or put your name to the waiting list. 

That's what these trips are all about, mateship and epic fishing experiences. Garry and Cody with a nice spano.
Garry with one of the larger spanish mackerel from the trip that he managed to keep the hooks into.
Cody absolutely stoked with his first ever gt off the top. Not bad for a yellow belly fisherman.
Hayden with his PB banger for the trip, well done mate.
Fusilier patterned stick baits and poppers certainly were the flavour the gt's were after.
Garry couldn't get sick of the surface strikes from these awesome fish.
Garry with a typical sized Swains gt that smashed his stick bait cast into the middle of a fusilier school.
Jake with his first top water spano that went aerial to eat this BUKU fast sink 100g stickbait.
Jake with his first topwater gt that took a liking to the BUKU fast sink 100g.
Double hook ups weren't uncommon for the lads on this school of job fish. The radio was running hot with action.
Double hook ups weren't uncommon. Jeremy with a nice spanish and Kenneth with a long nose emperor.
Jeremy christened his new Ocea Venom jig outfit on this solid cobia and was blown away by its pulling power for such a small combo.
Christian with a pigeon pair of trout plucked from the deep whilst hoping soft plastics.
Another nice red throat victim to the zerek live shrimp in clown prawn colour.
Double drop, Chris landed two trout in two drops. It wasn't uncommon when you got onto a good drift line.
Twitch, twitch boom! Its addictive this flats stick baiting business and Hayden couldn't get enough of it.
Dane with a solid deep water coronation trout, often very distinguishable from the fight. After a solid strike they just open their mouths and come up.
Another trout victim to the Venom V-swim 120mm in Iron man colour, Jakes new favourite.
The Westin Swim's certainly got some runs on the board this trip, Kenneth with a nice red throat.
A very cool however protected species - barramundi cod. After a quick photo it went straight back to swim another day.
SHO
Jeremy was dedicated to learning more about lure fishing this trip and he certainly picked it up. Scoring some great trout on the prawn soft plastics.
Hayden with an typical sized flats trout, even at this size in 1.5-2m of water they certainly know how to pull.
Hayden giving the Westin Swims 120mm a run and it certainly did some damage up on the flats.
Chris with another solid coral trout that came from one of the intense trouting missions.
The soft plastic prawns were a stand out amongst the trout fisho's, Jake with a nice fish for the box.

Gear used:

  • Main soft plastic outfit – Shimano Stella 6000, spooled with Ocean PE3 braid and matched to a Venom RLFVS12 7’ 15-50lb rod.
  • Heavy soft plastic outfit/light flats stick bait outfit – Shimano Stella 6000, spooled with CAST X12 PE3 braid and matched to a Venom RLFVS14 7’ 20-60lb rod. 
  • Heavy flats stick bait outfit – Stella 8000, spooled with Varivas PE4 braid and matched to a Venom RLFVST2 7’11’’ 40-60lb rod. 
  • Heavy top water outfit 1 – Stella 14000, spooled with CAST X12 PE8 braid and matched to a Venom RLFSSTXVP8 rod.
  • Heavy top water outfit 2 – Stella 18000, spooled with CAST X12 PE10 braid and matched to a venom RLFSSTXVP8 rod.
  • Light jig outfit – Ocea Jigger 1500HG, spooled with Nomad Ammonite PE2 braid and matched to a Bone Ocean Thug power 3 rod.
  • Medium jig outfit – Ocea Jigger custom F 2000, spooled with PE3 braid and matched to a Venom Ocean Warrior RVSF2 rod.
  • Heavy jig outfit – Ocean Jigger custom F 3000, spooled with PE4 braid and matched to a Venom Ocean Warrior RVSF5 rod. 

Stand Out Lures:

  • Zerek Live Shrimp 127mm in colours 04 & clown prawn.
  • Samaki Live shrimp 127mm in colour golden carrot.
  • Zman 7” Jerk Shads in smokey shad, bubble gum pink and pearl.
  • McCarthy 7” Jerk Shads in hot orange and pink pearl.
  • TT Jig heads to suit the above soft plastics 1 1/2oz & 2oz 7/0’s. 
  • Mustad Wingman slow fall jigs 80 & 100g in colours LPK & PKC.
  • Mustad Staggerbod slow fall jigs 150g in colours LPK & PKC.
  • Zerek Fish Trap 110mm in orange biscuit and tusk fish.
  • Nomad Vertrex Max 110mm & 130mm in disco bits & coral trout.
  • Nomad Squidtrex 110mm & 130mm in whatever colour went down.
  • Venom V-swim 120mm & 150mm in iron man, trigger fish and blue spot trout.
  • Nashy’s 130mm sinking & 190mm floating stick bait in fusilier patterns.
  • CAST Down Under 120g diving stick bait in ether.
  • Duo Realis Fumble 230 floating stick bait. 


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