FLATHEAD KING: Seven-year-old Xavier Kelly, of Ballina, with grandad David Sommerville at the North Coast Fishing Bonanza in Ballina on Saturday. Xavier hauled in a 51cm flathead on Friday to take out the junior category that day.
FLATHEAD KING: Seven-year-old Xavier Kelly, of Ballina, with grandad David Sommerville at the North Coast Fishing Bonanza in Ballina on Saturday. Xavier hauled in a 51cm flathead on Friday to take out the junior category that day. Hamish Broome

Fishing bonanza in Ballina

LEGENDARY lure fisherman and Australian casting champion David Hodge, AKA The Barefoot Fisherman, reckons the fishing around Ballina is "phenomenal”.

Visiting the North Coast Fishing Bonanza over the long weekend, Hodge managed to reel in three large flathead just behind Fawcett Park - in the middle of the CBD.

One was a whopping 85cm long.

"The fishing round here is phenomenal for somewhere so close to Brisbane,” he said.

The skilled lure man now tours Australian fishing competitions to impart his encyclopaedic knowledge of the trade, developed over a lifetime.

BAREFOOT DAVE: Celebrity lure man David Hodge AKA the Barefoot Fisherman at the North Coast Fishing Bonanza in Ballina on Saturday.
BAREFOOT DAVE: Celebrity lure man David Hodge AKA the Barefoot Fisherman at the North Coast Fishing Bonanza in Ballina on Saturday. Hamish Broome

He entertained the crowd on the weekend with a casting display that saw him hit airborne aluminium cans with a 5cm lure from 10m away.

"I've been fishing since I can remember... it's one of those things if you do something enough you get good at it,” Hodge said.

The four day Fishing Bonanza had over 360 entrants this year, with some visiting families from as far away as Armidale.

Organiser Michael Starkey said the event's was simple: To encourage families to get out fishing and have fun.

"This year we have $60,000 worth of random draw prizes, and $20,000 fishing specific prizes,” he said.

Mr Starkey said there was some "solid fish” being hauled in, including a 43cm whiting, 46cm bream, and a whopper jewfish of 1.2m.

One eager entrant was local boy Xavier Kelly, 7, who managed to hook a 51cm flathead in Fisheries Creek on Friday - and achievement which took out the junior category for that day.

"He's only got into it seriously this year,” grandad David Sommerville said.

"Now he's out fishing whenever he can.”

Xavier almost lost the "flattie” when it detached itself from the hook on the edge of the water, but he managed to race down the mud flats and scoops it up just in time.

He caught his biggest ever fish for his efforts.

The Bonanza will wrap up today with the major prize draw at 3.30pm. Anyone can enter - whether you catch fish or not.



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