Lake Kinchant Yak Barra Muster with Steve "Tenpin" Bolin, YHQLD

Steve "Tenpin" Bolin

Steve has the honour of being the first Yak Hunter in the country to submit an article after the open request was made for submission.  Good on you for being the first Steve, we certainly appreciate your Tale From the Big Blue!

I'm yet to get onto a barra but it is certainly on the list, so thanks for sending this through mate, I got to live a little vicariously through the write up and the pics.

The Editor

Since early march when Dave revealed the dates for our fishing club's social outings I have been counting down the months, days, and hours for this epic adventure to begin. 

Friday had finally ticked over and just after midnight we all met up at the Sunshine Coast's Forest Glen Servo on the Bruce Highway for our trip 900km north to Kinchant Dam which is about ½ an hour west of Mackay.  Myself, Grant & Connor were in the one 4wd towing a trailer with the yaks and all our gear, and Dave and his dad John were in another "4b" with 3 yaks on board as Tim was flying up from Canberra and meeting us up there in a couple of days. 

Connor had driven up to the Sunny Coast from Sydney the day before and was as keen as the rest of us for the adventure ahead albeit a bit tired from the trip north, but his Irish eyes were definitely smiling through the redness. Ten hours later and the final few k's traversing though the sugarcane plantations, we finally arrived.  

My anticipation was in overdrive as the dam was revealed in all its glory glistening under the midday sun.

Dave & John arrived there ½ an hour before us and already had their camp set as we had stopped at Sarina to stock up on supplies. 

Dave has been here several times previously and had booked us the prime camp spot a stone’s throw from the water, and another stone’s throw behind us to the office/pub/restaurant. A short while later we were set up with marquees, tents, and swags erected and tables, chairs, bbq, and eskies all in place and...(drumroll)...we have power! 

Kinchant Waters Holiday Park has everything you need for a fantastic stay. New clean amenities block, café/ restaurant with nightly meal specials if you get sick of cooking yourself, live music on Friday & Saturday nights, and, as an added bonus it is a licensed venue to boot. 

Pure luxury I thought to myself with a smile, not a bad way to spend a week following my yak fishing dreams.
The fleet at rest!

The yaks were unloaded and a serious atmosphere quickly engulfed the camp with rods and reels assembled, leaders tied on, knots triple checked, and plastics chosen for the first session we had planned once the sun disappeared behind the Great Dividing Range to our west. 

After a 5 star restaurant feed cooked up by me & Grant the night was upon us and we readied ourselves for our first foray chasing these impoundment Barramundi. 

It was hot up here, bloody hot.  At 8pm it was still 32 degrees and I was sweating like a pig, a mixture of emotions had me champing at the bit to catch one of these lake monsters and the nerves were hard to keep controlled. The stories from the others who had been here previous years with 40 + fish being caught in a few days last year had me on edge. 

I told myself and whoever else would listen that as long as I caught one fish I would be happy and by all reports by the boys it mustn’t be that hard to land a trophy fish up here. Boy was I wrong! 

After rigging up with 6” Z-Man Swimmerz on 8/0 weedless Sharp Point Jigheads custom football jigs with an added squid skirt protecting the knot from the heavy weed that is present in this dam I joined the others and we slid our yaks into the water and started our first session.

Headlamps ablaze we followed the edge of one of the weed beds which was literally at our doorstep and I asked Dave how I should present my lure. He said “just chuck it out behind you a few yards and that will be sweet“, the Barra will smash it right behind you so be ready, once you get a hit paddle like a madman to set the hook then be prepared to fight dirty. 

They often just head straight back into the weed and it’s twice as hard to get them to the yak, that’s why we run 30lb line and 60 -80lb leader on glass ugly stick style rods so as you can drag them out if the need arises. After about 50 yards of paddling I had my first hit!

After hearing the Barra feeding around us with a sound like crack/boof/splash I was ready (or so I thought), my rod bent over and I lost several yards of line as the fish jumped and then it was gone, spat the hook, and kicked me in the arse before I knew it. 

I didn’t even have time to get the rod out of the rod holder and I was devastated. My first big Barra and I lost it, gone in a blink of an eye.

After calming down and telling everyone what had happened I threw out again and continued a slow troll along the weed edge. 

Connor had caught a small Barra around the 45 cm mark and said to me that it didn’t count but a Barra is a Barra and he was on the board, first fish for the trip, and he and Grant had said last year they both got metre + fish from this exact same area.  So with that reassurance my hopes were still sky high. 

Trolling around and casting for several hours I didn’t get another touch.  Dejected I paddled back to camp with my tail between my legs and crashed for the night. 

A few hours later at around 3am Dave & John were heading out again and I dragged myself out of the tent and wasn’t far behind. 

Jeez these blokes are keen I thought to myself and that was when I realised that is why 10% of fisherman catch 90% of the fish. 

Dedication, Planning and hours upon hours on the water honing your skills and learning from others just makes you a better fisherman.

The morning sun had risen and we were down near the dam wall, we had changed our rigs to deep divers, and were trolling about 40 yards out from the wall in about 40ft of water. 

Bait schools were showing on the sounders and the occasional big arch was in amongst them at the 25ft mark. Still no hits for me and the others but then I heard Dave yell out that he was on , he was trolling a Storm Deep diver and after a few minutes he had the fish subdued and yak side.  Not a big fish, around the 80 cm I recall, but still a Barra and good to see they were on the bite.  

Good stuff, finally one of us caught a decent one. A few pics and it was released in good health. 

A couple more hours of trolling and still nothing for the rest of us so we all headed back to camp for lunch and a rest and decided what tactics were we going to use for the night session ahead. I rigged up a weighted 8/0 SharpPoint hook and loaded on a Z-Man white frog. My plan was that I would cast on top of the lillies and hop the frog along and drop it into the clear areas between the lilly pads and hopefully entice a bite. After an hour and a hundred casts and not a touch I conceited defeat, hearing the Barra boofin all around I was certain of a hookup and after talking to the others who also didn’t catch any, we all agreed that the fish were off the bite, at least on our presentations anyway. 

We all wondered why and blamed the water level/moon phase/temperature/wind etc etc but it could have been anything, that’s fishing!

Tomorrow was another day and after a few beers we hit the cots and crashed. 

Monday I was up at 4am, Dave & John had already paddled off and I grabbed a few supplies and followed them down to the far end of the lake, about 4-5 k's away. 

I had rigged up a Pontoon 21 Greedy Guts 125mm deep diver in a light brown colour and was trolling slowly at 1.5kts between the massive weed beds that were as big as a few footy fields. I heard a gigantic splash right behind me then my reel started to scream and my rod bent over. I’m on, yeeharrr!!!

After several spectacular jumps and runs the fish had dragged me around 360 degrees, a few minutes later I had it by the yak and then the chromed up beast jumped a few more times right beside the yak . What a spectacle!

It looked beat and then it flared its gills and with a mighty kick of its tail it launched itself fully out of the water trying to dislodge the hook then it did it again a few seconds later. I had completely forgot the advice Dave gave me about keeping the rod down low when they jump but luckily it was well hooked.  My first big Barra yak side and my lip grips were locked onto its bottom jaw.

What a fish, what a bloody fish! 

I was stoked, shaking like a leaf in the breeze I just sat there staring at this chrome plated beauty for a minute in admiration. 

I’d travelled nearly a thousand k's for this and paddled 75 ks in the last few days and finally caught one. 

Dave paddled over and with a gigantic smile on his face he congratulated and high fived me. He said to me “now you got the barra bug Stevo “and I yelled sh&t yeah, sure have!"  

Getting the lure out of its gob I noticed the trebles were all bent out of shape and it was also crushed and taking in water. Showing Dave the lure he was gobsmacked that the fish didn’t escape and words like lucky bastard were used in jest. 

I was just happy as, a few (several) pics were taken and the fish was measured then released, slowly swimming off with a flick of its tail.  

It went 92cm, no metery, yet but we still had 3 days and nights fishing to go. 

When I first heard the drag scream, I flicked on the video camera I had set up on top of my sounder in the same motion when going for my rod from the rod holder and the footage turned out a treat. Maybe a new career? 

I had in mind…nah just lucky this time that the fished jumped exactly where I had the camera pointed. After the adrenalin rush had subsided and the blood flow slowed I was buggered.  It was just after sunrise and at least 30 degrees and I paddled back the 4k's back to camp for breakfast and a rest before the wind got up which arrived every day from the east at around 9am.

Dave had caught 1 or 2 around the same area as well but the others had missed out. 

Over the next few days several more Barras were caught & released in the 80-95 mark and also a monster catfish that went nearly a metre. 

I even caught a 80cm Barra on a 40mm Sebille Flat Shad I tied on just for shitz and giggles in the middle of the day just out from camp! 

A fantastic trip and I can’t wait to get up there again…maybe a YAK HUNTERS trip is on the cards ??? 

Cheers all Steve B (Tenpin)
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