The months of February through to April sees an influx of eager group members plying their trade and sharing their successes. Barra are right at the top of the list for all and as the anticipation prior to the opening of the season for QLD members slowly builds, members ready themselves to put their 3 months of closed season planning into practice.
We are fortunate enough to be continually reminded and taunted by our Northern counterparts, who enjoy the luxury of a more open season all year round, of just what we’ve been missing out on. But for most members, it merely whets the appetite and encourages the Eastern states preparedness.
For those without an insight into the groups, every post can be likened to adding a coin to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The knowledge base continually evolves, and you can always be assured that no matter what you bring to the table, the opportunity to learn and develop is immense.
Buried within the pot of gold, are always the hidden gems. One of the standout members of recent months is Chris Ballard. Chris is a Mackay based angler and prior to the course, I had known Mackay to be a somewhat difficult area to target Barra. It just goes to show that you can’t always buy in to the perception of what appears to be “popular” opinion among the broader fishing community and also a HUGE credit to Ryan and the platform he has created within the private study groups.
Not only has Chris been successful in many of Ryan’s more generic techniques, he has gained enough confidence to start experimenting further with lure presentations. The end result, Chris has found himself completely in a league of his own chasing topwater Barra! I’m sure we’ve all seen the videos circulating social media and understand the challenge it presents, but day or night, Chris has it dialled in and has openly shared his ideas and results within the private group.
This is what you can come to expect once a member of any of Ryan’s private study groups and as per usual, members like Chris are always on hand to assist, encourage and allow other members to grow, taking their own fishing to that next level.
Chris Ballard- Topwater Barra Tamer
Not only has Ryan rewarded his former charter clients with over 2000 meter plus saltwater Barra through his courses, but he’s also continued to see that number grow through his students. It’s always pleasing to see eager new students ready to ply the trade but what can be even more pleasing is to see how members have grown and improved their fishing over a number of years.
So this time around, I’ve asked one of those students to share his story.
Angler Insight- Written by Chris Ballard
I’ve always had the Barra fishing bug since my teenage years. I’d spent almost 30 years chasing them with a less than 10% success rate. Many people asked the question that most Barra fisho’s get asked: “Why do you spend so much time chasing a fish that you don’t catch many of?” Well, I thought that the more often I went, eventually I’d work them out. The problem was that after many years my catch rate wasn’t improving. I read many articles and in later years watched YouTube clips. All providing plenty of ‘expert’ information but quite often the info was contradictory. I later worked out many articles were written by people that had limited knowledge or YouTubers that just wanted a piece of perceived fame.
In early 2017 I decided to enrol in Barra Basics. I hesitated for some time trying to justify the cost but eventually justified it to myself and bit the bullet. After all, I’d spent many thousands of dollars over the years compensating for lack of knowledge by purchasing more and more fishing gear. I had all the gear with basically no idea. The decision to enrol in Barra Basics was the best investment I ever made for a few reasons.
The course had so much content covering almost every Barra fishing aspect but essentially the most important was it gave me the knowledge of Barramundi habits. This was vital to my development. Understanding where they hang out on different tidal movements, why they hang out in those places, how they feed and why they feed that way were the solid pillars of where to start. This was the solid foundation that I could build my knowledge base from.
Live baiting was my starting point. At that point in time, I enjoyed that style of fishing the most. Unknowingly at the time, it would provide me with invaluable knowledge about certain habits of theirs. It allowed me to sit back and observe four main influential factors. Variations of tidal movements and what impact that had on feeding. Bait movements and the relationship to that and how active the Barra were. Water depth and clarity and where/when they would be in a certain depth of water. Weather conditions and how that impacted their feeding. Things I may have missed if I was constantly casting a lure and concentrating on where I needed to land it. Within the first 12-18 months my catch rate had improved considerably to be at least 60-70% of trips would result in at least 1 Barra being caught.
The progression from live bait to lure fishing evolved through a couple of different factors. Chasing live bait was sometimes hard work and could potentially take anywhere up to 3 hours to get the right baits. Then the dreaded boat cleaning afterwards. I wasn’t getting any younger so my back would get sore from throwing the cast net. The main factor though was the addictive nature of getting a Barra strike on a lure and the anticipation of that strike. Once I’d experienced it a few times I just wanted more. So that’s where the lure fishing addiction morphed from. This comes in two different parts for me. Boat and land-based fishing. I love them both, but the land-based is definitely more satisfying.
Lure casting opened a whole new level of trying to understand different factors which impact a potential bite. It gave other opportunities that live baiting didn’t give but I had to learn (and I still have a lot to learn) and develop a whole new different mindset and skillset. Interpreting their movements in the water column, their moods, feeding habits and then add the potential of enticing a reaction bite out of a fish that isn’t feeding. I gained a lot of knowledge of moods and movements from my Garmin sounder with Livescope. Having the ability to observe underwater, what their movements, moods and reactions to lures were, was invaluable.
Prior to seeing it, I would’ve bet my house on that if I dragged a lure past a Barra’s nose, it couldn’t resist eating it. That mindset couldn’t be any further from the truth. So now there’s a whole new challenge of interpreting their movements and coming up with a plan and technique to entice a bite. Land-based fishing is different again because there’s no advantage of a sounder telling you where the fish are and what they’re doing. You have to be able to read the water and develop an understanding of where they are, when and why they’ll likely feed. That’s much more satisfying to catch them because you haven’t had any assistance of technology. It’s purely you against the fish.
The biggest win for me from enrolling in Barra Basics and developing my skills has been maintaining good mental health. I have a constant drive and passion to learn to be a more consistent Barra fisherman. The more effort and energy that I put into it, the more satisfaction I get back from improved results and the more I focus on developing further skills. I go fishing with a plan, but I don’t take any expectations of catching fish. I focus on the plan and my surroundings in the clean fresh air and that’s where I can zone out from any pressures of life and clear my head. If I don’t catch fish, I still learn something so it’s never a bad trip. Barra fishing for me is all about personal development. I don’t do it to impress anybody and I’m certainly not a gun at it. I’m not even that good at it but I strive to continue to improve while still enjoying it.
CHRIS BALLARD- LANDBASED BARRA, NO BOAT REQUIRED!!!