This story was written by Tony Bennett for a fishing magazine at the time.
On arriving home from work at 5pm, 21 May 2001, my wife mentioned that a pack of lures had arrived in the mail. Upon opening them I found 4 very smart looking lures from Dave & Judi Killalea at the Authentic Lure Co (later known as DK Lures). The pack consisted oft Ferret 10+, 1 Ferret 15+ 2 Scale Raza 20+.
It was about 5:20pm and just starting to get dark. I said to the lovely wife "I'm just going down the river to give these a quick try, I'll be home in half an hour'' . I had my outfit, a 5'6" Abu Morrum Med-Heavy Rod, Abu Ambassadeur 5600 C4 Baitcaster Reel with 50lb Spider Wire already in the Ute so I was off.
Asthe Murray River is down at the moment due to the closure of the irrigation season some very good snags are visible to cast at from the bank. I headed down to near the same spot as. where I caught a 82cm-22lb Murray Cod Tuesday week ago. Knowing where the snags were I thought the Ferret !0+ (pink yellow green blue speckled and with rattle) would be appropriate. After working the snag for 15 minutes without luck I decided to change to the other side of the river to some other good snags.
U was a quick drive over the weir bridge and then back into it .I thought I would have to be quick as it was 6pm, near dark, my half hour leave pass had run out and tea would be nearly ready.
About ten casts into a slight current coming from the power station and BINGO. It was on! The fish pulled with the power I could only equate to tying a fishing line onto a grown man and trying to stop him as he slowly walked away . The fish took about 100 meters of line until it realised something was going on. The fish stopped and it was like trying to retrieve my lure from a snag with the only difference being the snag was slowly coming in. The fight was on. I would gain some line on the fish only to have it take more from me at will. After about 15 minutes of holding the rod in one hand and winding with the other my forearms started to feel like Popeye's.
I was on my own and had no idea of the size of the fish at the other end of my line. I thought no one would ever believe me if I told them I had a fish on in excess of 50!b, that straightened the hooks on my lure, snapped 50lb Spider Wire, snagged itself or spat the lure. I had to land it.
The grip on my outfit changed to the but being held tightly into my stomach and both hands on the shaft of the rod. I was controlling the drag by the pressure I was putting on the line through my fingers and winding in line every time I managed to lift the rod to the top of it's pull. After 20 minutes I could make out from the lights of the weir a big white belly of a fish coming to the surface and rolling over and over trying to spit the lure. I still didn't have a clue of the size but I new it was a Murray Cod and I knew it was big.
The last 10 metres of the fight was unbelievable as I could nearly reach out and touch the fish but yet it was still so far from being landed. I didn't have a landing net and was standing on a small rocky ledge with the problem of how to get this fish out of the water. When I had the fish to the edge of the water it was a total adrenaline rush just to reach out and touch something you only dream about catching or hear about Joe Blogs from out of town catching as he was 30 meters from the boat ramp and ready to pack up and go home for the day.
As I practise Catch and Release I tried putting my right hand in its mouth (with no gloves) and my left arm under its belly so I didn't hurt it in any way. Bad move! Its small sharp fine teeth shredded my fingers so it was take 2. With my rod draped around my neck I grabbed hold of the sides of both gills trying not to hurt it in any way. GOTCHA. All I wanted was a photo so now I had to get it into the back of the ute and get it home ASAP as I had forgotten my camera. First I had to get it up a rocky ledge about 15meters high on about a 40 degree angle . I was holding the fish like a baby with the lure still attached, the rod around my neck and the most unbelievable buzz of all time. Halfway up the rocks the fish decided it wasn't going for the quick trip back to my place and decided to put on a bit of a show. It flipped out of my arms and in the process getting the spare trebles of the lure caught in my jumper. Here I am lying down on some rocks connected to a fish and looking like a world championship wrestler. I managed to get my jumper off and pull a pair of pliers from my pocket to cut the line. I wrapped the jumper around the fish and shoved the rod down the back of my tracksuit pants and was off again. Next thing the fish was in the back of the ute and I stood there with the heart running at a million miles an hour and not being able to believe what I had just caught.
I was driving like a mad man trying to get this fish home, get the pictures taken and then back in the water. I thought I better show someone so on the way home I called in on an old fishing legend from work to show him so someone could verify my story the next day. A quick stop at Jim's with the comment of "Bloody Hell , it's a beauty , it'll have to go over 50lb" and I was off again. Pulling into the driveway at home I was tooting the horn and carrying on like a pork chop. When the wife came out side I was yelling "get the camera hurry up I've gotta get it back in the water.
On getting the fish out of the back of the Ute it decided it wanted to have another fight with me. I couldn't hold onto it as it flipped in my arms and it went nose first into the concrete floor of my garage. The only problem with this was that it landed on the lure and broke it in half. What a great way to ruin what would have been a great promotional photo for Dave Killalea's Authentic Lures. A couple of quick photos and it wasback in the Ute and ready to go again. I ran inside and rang my fishing mate who lives near the lake and said "I've got a good fish, meet me out the front of your place in 2 minutes and bring a torch" The two kids were bundled in the Ute and off we went. We stopped and picked up Mark and then straight down to the boat ramp to let it go. A quick measure by the means of making a couple of marks on the Ute's tail gate and it was ready to go back in . I said to Mark ''pick it up, feel it's weight and put it in." This he did and it calmly swam off. I thought "I"ll never get to touch that fish again" and was a bit disappointed that I didn't release it myself.
As the lake is very clear at the moment we were watching it swim with the headlights of my Ute. It swam about 20 metres and then turned around and swam straight back to where I was standing at the edge of the Lake as if to say "thank you for letting me go.'' I turned it around gave it a rub on its side and it took off, hopefully to live the rest of its life in peace in it's new surrounds, Lake Mulwala (Australia's largest and best Murray Cod breeding ground).
When I arrived home I measured the marks we had made on the tail gate to find that the fish measured 110cm. Still on a high I rang a very well respected, ex-fishing guide of the Murray River, Mr Brian Hinson from Echuca . He has kept records of over 3000 Murray Cod he has caught with his customers in the past 10 years. On his averages and with the help of a Fisheries length/weight chart he estimated the fish to weigh approximately 66lbs.
Next phone call was to Dave Killalea to tell him of the catch and how well the Authentic Lures worked. Then it was Dad and the list goes on.....
I hope everyone out there gets their chance to catch their dream fish and enjoys it as much as I did. Just remember "TAKE A PHOTO, NOT A FILLET.
Allthe best Tony Bennett
Organizer / Promoter 2001 YAMAHA"COD OPENINGCLASSIC"
FOOTNOTE: The image below is actually a banner we had made for the Australian Tackle Show - the banner was made so that the Murray Cod was the actual size of 110cm. Pictured below: The author, Tony Bennett - unfortunately this is the closest thing to a photo of the epic Murray Cod we can show you.
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