Interclub 2015 - A Tasmanian Perspective

Team PENN will again be at the Interclub event held at Port Stephens and to say we are super excited is a MASSIVE understatement. To be compete in something as rich in history and prestige as the NSWGFA Interclub Tournament was a once in a lifetime dream for us.

Or so we thought…

We have been asked back this year and with the competition starting this weekend it is really starting to hit home. It’s moocho exciting and nerve wracking all at once. We had a great bout of beginners luck last year and all we hope to do is again this year is . . . . Catch one Marlin!

Once we do that the pressure will be off and we will be looking to enjoy the experience and soak up all the tricks and tips we can. We come armed with all that we picked up last year and are champing at the bit to put it in practice

The warm welcome from Garry Chenoweth and all the NSWGFA committee was fabulous and there were a number of game fishing club members that helped us immensely. We were super impressed with the locals, and other competitors, willingness to help shape what we know and do to the local conditions. We come to the event this year with new friendships and are looking to create a heap more. We will be at the Bluewater Expo all day Friday so if you are in the area call in and have a chat. We are more than keen to repay the favour and help anyone thinking of heading to try game fishing in Tasmania.



The Game Fishing mecca of Port Stephens NSW is 1500km away from our sleepy state of Tasmania. The tyranny of distance can sometimes slow the information and fishing news that reach’s us here in TAS. NOT SO the NSWGFA Interclub State Championship.

The History and prestige of the Interclub is massive. The aura and spirit of the event has carried the distance to most game fishers in Tasmania. In doing so, it is a bucket list item for most game fishermen here in Tasmania. Some of my earliest memories of fishing articles in the school library was of the Interclub and amazing fishing of the area. When Team PENN were asked

Hey , Would you guys be interested in coming up

The reply went something like this . . .

“ AHHhhh …… All four of us will camp in the one sleeping bag and eat dirt to make that happen”

Three weeks out and the excitement was really starting to build we had the Team PENN flagship booked on the TT lines Spirit of Tasmania. Hadley Deegan and his team at Deegan Marine had the Surtees Boats 6.7 Game fisher fully prepped and ready for action. One of the last things we had to do was address a couple of cuts and scrapes an angry mako shark had left on the Team boats vinyl wrap. Did we dare dream there would soon be some marlin bill scrapes up the side of her.


The day arrived to leave Tasmania and Mozz and I drove on the passenger ferry staring down the barrel of a 6 am rise and an 1100 km of nonstop transit. Climbing the stairs to our accommodation we mentioned an early night would be a good idea. . . . So after talking a lot of shop and catching up with some old motorsport cobbers, we made good our plan to get to bed early and heads hit pillows at ………….. 2 am

It is right now that I have to mention our tow package. The Transtyle all alloy trailer was an absolute delight. The Transtyle’s light weight and effortless towing on any road surface was fantastic. The super star in this venture, however, was the VW Touareg. I mean seriously !!

I know we were as excited as a kid waking up to 2 christmas’s but the 1100 km non stop journey was effortless. It was less like to fast too furious and much more like too plush too luxurious.

Nothing was a problem. The average fuel usage for the trip up was 14.6 L per hundred and I did get a little excited the other side of Sydney when we were “so close”.

There is plenty. . . . PLENTY of hammer on tap if you need it as well.

We ate the miles up with ease and Mozz became a little shirty with me as I missed the “Welcome to Port Stephens” sign. He was as keen as always to do a video blog. He wanted me to turn round, but we were off to local lure manufacturer Mario Zac’s workshop. Time with Mario was too short, but we had an appointment at the Presidents Welcome. There we met Garry Chenoweth and the skippers and crew. They were genuinely blown away we had just driven from Melbourne and must have thought us a little crazy. They felt sorry for us and shared all their finest marlin catching tips and strategies. I had Mozz take them down in shorthand ready for the competition start.

The rest of the crew Clinton and John arrived at 1am that night so we knocked a few jobs on the head to make Friday a bit easier and hit the sack at 3am.


Friday at Port Stephens was massive for us. We met the Band of Brothers guys, caught up with the committee of the New South Wales Game Fishing Association and attended the Bluewater Expo. The Expo was a great development to the interclub and it looked like the crews and public enjoyed it as much as us. We felt very welcome and everyone was super friendly.


Event briefing is something we take quite serious. We make sure at least 2 members of our team are at briefing and in this instance we all were. Very important to us that we understood the rules and regulations that may be different to our comps at home. The radio sked is another area we needed to concentrate on as it is really different to ours. The briefing to us was crazy cool given the big names being called out. Boats names and skippers we have all read about over the years as mad keen anglers.

Briefing over – it was time for us to get back to the house in Soldiers Point and make sure we were ready to rumble.

Up to this point it was all about the promotion of the fine PENN product range for us.

In 12 hours one of the most prestigious game fishing tournaments anywhere in the world was about to start and in some fairy tale sort of scenario we were about to go head to head with Australia’s best. There was only one problem. The Surtees 6.7 Game fisher had been down sitting pride of place in front of the expo venue and we had 5 hours of packing the boat.

Why on earth would that take 5 hours I hear you say. Well we had to re rig a few lures and up spec a few things on the basis of a few tips we had picked over the last 2 days. We also had to re spool some STREN Hi Viz onto some of our reels by hand. The team went to work and by 1am we were fully sorted. Gear stowed and “rally proofed” ready for a run out to the famed car park no matter what the weather. Drags checked and double checked. All the items, we hoped we may need to put a hand on in a moment’s notice, was placed in its special place.


How good is the sail past.. Hooo weeee !

The big marlin rigs are crazy cool. We were star struck by all of the super sweet vessels taking part, not to mention the history. Loving every minute of it and taking in all the sensational vessels was an experience none of us will forget. About 3 nm away from the lead boat is roughly how far away we were when they let the field go.

“Bugger they have let them GO !” I said

“Nah there wasn’t anything on the VHF?” mentioned Howe

The massive cloud of black smoke was a dead set give away that 100 plus massive marlin rigs had been given the OK to head to the horizon. There was some serious diesel being turned into forward motion. Off they went like scalded cats for as long as their wallets would allow them. To be fair, for some of them, that was a long way !!


Clinton set a cracking pace and we reeled a few in , but the biggest concern was they all seemed to be laying down hill to the South. I started to panic that I had entered the marks for the “carpark” I was given incorrectly. 5nm from the car park we were in some water we couldn’t really drive over, so we hauled up and set a spread. The water looked sensational.

There was a bit of a bird line , but they were not feeding. There was a bit of a current line but nothing dramatic. The oily slick we drove onto we thought was a good sign , so we moved around to the starboard quarter a touch to some bait we had marked on a previous roll round.

We hadn’t been trolling for 30 minutes. Clinton had fettled the spread to a point he was happy with it. We found we had to vary the speed a touch to get the lures to waggle and pull a smoke trail, but they looked good. More to the point something agreed. zzZZZiTTtt ! and we had a touch.

Clinton and Farrell went up on the gunnels… That’s about as fancy as it gets on REEL GOLD as far as marlin towers go.


Concentration was out of control. Holes were burnt into the sounder screen as a waypoint was entered. The two on the gunnels were using every bit of their Costa 580 technology to locate what had given us a bump. A Flash from the rear of the boat with a tail fin cutting across from starboard to centre spread had us all vocal and quite excited…………. Nothing

Chatter was around it being a Dolphin fish, but I know what I saw and it was a marlin. There was some healthy discussion on the subject that had me second guessing myself.

Then POW

Team PENN – REEL GOLD were on !


Clinton had rod in hand in a flash and we motored on for a while to get a good hook set. This little Black had taken a real shine to a Zacatak Redbait and stuck himself good. Expecting a bit of a tussle we were all quite surprised when he come at us in the boat like Usain Bolt.

None more so than our team Capt. Clinton Howe.. he started to call out for gloves and get the tag pole ready… We were all like….. WHAT THE ???

Sure enough here he was grey hounding at us at a furious rate. I managed to get one glove on and Farrell had done an excellent job of un taping our tag pole from our gaffs from the packing we did from the drive up. We would normally have all the gear laid out in its “goto”spot ready for action. NOT THIS TIME

The marlin was at the corner of the boat now and Clinton and he were engaged in a nice little game of “dance around the Evinrude” Mozza was doing a sensational job on the helm and I was flat out telling Howe to “shoosh” as he was barking out orders ten to the dozen.

Fazza slotted the tag in with the long pole like he had done it before, but we didn’t have time to appreciate his efforts as it was now up to me to wrangle this feisty chap.

Now here is where we forgot all we know and didn’t do anything we had discussed and practiced. Clinton led the fish to me head first like we would do with any tuna and of course the feisty bugger did exactly what every youtube video tells you he would.

Given his penchant for coming at us hard, he kept that up and tried to enter the Surtees Game fisher for a bit of a look. We love showing people around the 6.7 Game fisher and all its great attributes, but normally when they come on board it is via the rear ladder…..and not my upper chest cavity.

I managed to avoid being impaled by this impatient fellow and we reset and got the job done. Once I got a wrap on him and laid his head along the boat it was a simple case of grabbing him with my one gloved hand by the bill. . . . . at which point he decided to rag doll me. You may wonder why I needed to as they tag was in and we could just remove hook and release. Well this puppy wasn’t going anywhere just for the minute as it was our first ever marlin and there was a Kodak moment to be had. I grabbed him by the bottom jaw with my un gloved hand and we cradled him over the gunnel for a few quick pics.


We still had some work to do before we could celebrate, so we cradled him back and swam him for a while. Wasn’t long and he was biting on my hand and wanting to head off. Just out of sight with one last strong tail beat and the celebrations started. High fives, hoots and holler’s and just between me and you. . . . . there may have been some hugs !


1st Goal for the trip “catch one marlin” – SORTED

2nd Goal for trip “catch one each” – work to do

We set about putting our heads down and resetting the spread , clearing the deck and resetting gear back in its spot. It was good because we had time to make sure everything was now in its battle position.


The radio sched format was new to us so as we worked over the patch we sounded bait and the mark around we hooked no. 1. We had a number of strikes and managed another 1 small Black to John Farrell. The Sked started and we listened intently. We thought as we had caught two the fleet must be slaying them. Half way through and Mozz mentioned what we had all been thinking ….

“Geeezz there are a lot of Zero’s”

When the radio operator got to boat 123 Reel GOLD we were all proud as punch to watch Mozza call in 4- 2 -2 black marlin on 24kg


The rest of the day and following days fishing we made sure we went over and checked anything of interest on the surface and one eye on the sounder. The bait was there but deep and wide spread. The current on the shelf was not allowing the bait to really hold and form up. This didn’t allow those teams that are super practiced and professional in locating bait, sounding and marking marlin and then presenting a live bait to them. Combined with the rough sea conditions this allowed us to run lures to good effect. We had amazing success with a lure we had helped Mario from Zacatak lures design. The “Red Bait BUNGA” is a lure designed to mimic our prominent bait species – the redbait. This skirt is a predominant red and black colour with some silver highlights. The bunger has another little trick allowing us to run it in heavy conditions on lighter line. It has lead shot encapsulated in the head of the lure giving it much more weight. This allows the lure to hold the water much better in rough seas while still surfacing to breathe and pull down a nice smoke trail. To have some input into a lure that was head and shoulders a standout in another part of Australia was greatly satisfying but also a nice surprise.


The fishing was slow on the second day so we gave our spread some thought and it was decided to put out our little Bonga Jerk. The Bonga Jerk is a SEBILE lure that is sub surface but not a “diver” as such. The lack of a bib and its clever keel design allows it to be trolled at 12 knots plus. We decided to put it out as much as a teaser with hooks as anything. The lure has quality o rings and big trebles standard which we leave on. He had been swimming along at the back of the boat for an hour or so when a nice Striped Marlin decided the Bonga Jerk looked like afternoon tea !

Adrian Mozza Morrisby was up this time and here he was ticking off one of his life’s bucket list items and he was capital “P “PUMPED. It was a very spirited fight and we called it for a striped marlin fairly early in the battle. It was a lot bigger fish than we had encountered right on the shelf. When things went quiet in and around the shelf transition, Hooch had snuck out into some deeper water looking for a possible Blue marlin. This is where we had found this striped and he was none to pleased about being led about by the nose.

Truth be told it was the fish that was leading Mozz around and it was only when we got the harness securely on and he found some composure that we started to get some line back on the reel. Boat positioning plays a crucial role in getting a fish boat side quickly in a trailer boat. Good communication between crew and skipper allows a quick battle so not to tire the fish to the point of total exhaustion. The beads of sweat on Mozz man’s brow suggested it was an each way bet who was going to tire first.

The big man dug deep and we had the tag in and as it was a first of species for Mozz we decided to boat the fish for a picture. Mindful of the fishes’ welfare, the three of us carefully cradled the fish while we took some pictures. Quickly back into the water and swimming strongly beside the boat after 3 minutes we watched a beautiful fish swim off strongly.

Mozz actually smiled and grinned for so long into the rest of the day he damaged his face. He cramped up in the jaw and cheek muscles and looked a touch weird until the next morning.



The rest of the Interclub was a blur for us. We were so pumped to have found one fish and then come so close to one fish each. We were fishing 5 on board and we nearly claimed that goal

DIDN’T WE JOHN FARRELL !! John Fazza Farrell decided to rod hog one of the fish over the 2 weekends that left me with out a fish for the 2 competition weekends.

BUT HEY! … I am a glass half full sorta guy and this means I am first up when the Interclub starts this weekend.

The massive event kicks off on FRIDAY the 20th of February with the Bluewater Expo so if you are competing or not, just get down to Nelson Bay Wests and come say G’day.