The Codfather – Peter Kaye

Humble Estuary Cod, a trophy fish? No I hear you say? Well read this it might just change your mind! These cave dwelling critters have had me obsessed from my first encounter.  Feeling the power of these super sized Cod in under 3m of water, well feelings of inadequacy and intimidation enter your mind.

Now, being busted up by a big fish is something most fishermen have a story about,  and for me has been the driving force to keep chasing these brutes. Having lost big cod  maybe 15 times in the last few years, I was really eager to meet my arch-nemesis.  Broken line, poor knots, straightened hooks, snapped hooks, torn split rings, I was fast becoming an expert in losing these guys, in every possible way. I have seen my mates been smashed in the same ways, and one friend who even had his whole combo torn out of the boat by one of these cod.

Catching these fish  to 60cm around shallow reefs, marinas, rock bars etc is fairly easy, but to land these bigger models every bit of gear must be spot on. Once hooked they head straight back to their barnacle encrusted  lair, flaring  their gills they effectively lock their  bodies into the reef. The learning curve was steep over the last few years.

I have thrown expensive lures, and cheap lures, they all work but the Norman DD22 crank bait has become my best friend, with a beautiful slow wobbling action, a large bib to bounce over structure without snagging, and a larger profile to lodge in their mouths  and hopefully interrupt their streamlined swimming,  by jamming their  mouth open. This lure is perfect, action, size and price, but it’s downfall , soft hooks! Made for the American freshwater market the hooks needed upgrades and as I’ve found split ring upgrades too.

Now starting with 20lb baitcasting gear I had to upgrade the line from 30lb to 40lb and eventually to 50lb. I knew my Black Hole Ones C-672 MH was up to the task, landing me other trophy species in the past. The baitcasting reels aren’t renowned  for their drag usually, but talking to the boys at the tackleshop, they put  me onto the Concept 13 baitcaster with a whopping 10kg of drag. Only a very small spool once the 50lb was installed, but I didn’t need the distance these battles were won and lost in the first  10-20 seconds.

I must be getting close, perfect combo setup, line, leader knots perfect, new lure with appropriate upgrades. Now let’s go catch that fish!   Not that easy! Casting  distance has been compromised by the heavy line! Lure movement has been hindered by heavy leader and heavier hooks!  Needing a few things in my favour like wind direction for casting distance and drift, the right phase of the tide, water clarity, lure colour and a fair amount of luck.

This sort of fishing is more like hunting, where you need to stalk the prey quietly. With ideal conditions forecast! The diary was cleared. Day 1: Hook a cracker only to be bricked instantly. Day 2: Crank, crank, pause, bang I’m on, wrestle him into the open, just about boat side and the hooks pull. Arghhhh, enter a few colourful words of your choice, they all came out that morning.

Day 3: and quite possibly the biggest obstacle we fisherman face!! The missus “are you going fishing again?”  Anyway after trying to explain all of the above, I was deckhand on my good mate Anthony’s boat. Having narrowed a nice cod down to a 15m radius on the past few trips we set out, trying a few spots along the way before hitting a very small spot X at just the right time.

The planets were aligned, literally with Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Mars, Saturn  and the moon all appearing in the pre dawn sky, this has to be a sign. Everything was perfect! Light  breeze on the back! Drifting slowly in just the right direction.

 A few casts in and bang, instantly the rod loaded, and I knew I had hooked a big one. All I could do was lift the rod and hold the pressure on it. I felt the 60lb leader rubbing on the structure below, not a bit of slip from the drag, and some massive beats of this tail. There was inches in this battle and even the quickest pump and wind would have seen this battle end in another loss! Anthony instantly on the electric motor and driving us away from danger. All I could do was hang on and stay connected. Astonished this gear could hold up to this pressure. A minute later and I guide this cod into the net accompanied by a few howls of delight, high fives and what must have been a massive smile.

Trebles bent, leader frayed and lips torn, my enemy was revealed. The culmination of a thousand casts, this massive cod was definitely  trophy worthy.  Adrenalin pumping and in near disbelief, the  euphoric feeling lasted all day. Not the most exotic or revered fish I’ve landed, but this was personal, and and a memory I shall cherish.

Without the discussions and advice of some close friends, I may be still out there casting. Thanks!