adrianmelchiorAdrian Melchior well remembers his first deep-sea fishing outing.

His dad, well-known Lismore fisherman Americo, took Adrian deep-sea fishing off Evans Head as a seven-year-old, when he experienced his first dose of seasickness.

“I got as sick as a dog,” he said.

But he kept going back — the South Ballina resident was hooked on fishing!

These days, Adrian’s skills with rod and reel have reached the point where he was named 2008 Queensland Australian Bass Angler of the Year, and he was runner-up to Carl Jocumsen in the Australian title.

Adrian also competes with success on the increasingly lucrative bream circuit.

The bass and bream competition anglers all practice catch and release.

In fact, they are deducted points if fish cannot escape quickly once being released.

And competition rules strictly enforce their own bag limits. Bass competitors are allowed to have only two of their catches assessed for points allocation, while for bream competitors the limit is five fish.

Adrian’s success came after a series of tournaments around New South Wales and Queensland, and Adrian also competes locally in bass and bream events, which he says are becoming increasingly popular.

He says that Richmond Valley Sports Fishing Club bass tournaments held near Coraki and Lismore now attract 30 to 40 boats per tournament.

In a further emphasis on being environmentally aware, all tournaments stipulate that only lures and flies be used. Bait is a no-no.

The key to catching fish on lures and flies is to check out the conditions on the day.

“You suss out what’s in the water,” Adrian says, explaining that if, for example, dark-coloured small fish or insects are in the water, you use a dark-coloured lure or fly.

Adrian jokes that some anglers go ‘overboard’ in purchasing huge numbers of lures — “Lures catch fishermen,” he says with a laugh — when in fact you could compete successfully with about a dozen lures.

Inland anglers are having to abide by increasingly stricter regulations on outboard emissions, with some dams even being electric motor-only fishing spots.

“It’s all about getting emissions down to a basic level,” Adrian said. “If the water’s clean, there will always be fish there.”

Adrian works at Ballina Marineland, where he says he gets a lot of support from the business’s owners, Ken and Kim Fitzgibbon, who allow him time off to compete.

Ken also has taken up the challenge of competitive fishing, and now he, Adrian and fellow employee Mitch Bailey enter competitions as a Ballina Marineland team.

There may be a competitive edge to the competitions, but there is also a social side.

“You get to meet guys from all around the country, from all types of occupations,” Adrian said.

For some competitors, the competition is a sideline to a family camping outing.

Most competitions are cheap to enter, but there can be big rewards, with some ‘Super Series’ competitions offering up to $10,000.

The bass competition season is about to get into full swing, and Adrian will be there chasing the national title.

Fast facts:

Adrian Melchior says you don’t have to spend a fortune to get into bass and bream competitive fishing. Here’s a few estimates from the Ballina Marineland employee:

  • Boat, motor, trailer, boat registration: About $8400. You could spend much more, but Adrian says you can fish out of any style of boat.
  • Rod and reel: You can buy a combo for as little as $100, or you could spend thousands on top-of-the-range gear.
  • Lures (hard-body and soft plastics): From $5 up to $35. Adrian says a dozen lures can get you through a comp, but advises that you build up a collection.

PICTURE: The Ballina Marineland fishing team, from left, Mitch Bailey, Adrian Melchior and Ken Fitzgibbon. Adrian is holding his Queensland Bass Angler of the Year trophy.