2008 South African National Championship Sodwana Bay 19 - 23 May - Gyula Plaganyi

A report from Southern KZN Team.

Sodwana Bay is a Marine Reserve on the North East tip of South Africa. It is semi tropical and only gamefish were allowed. 15 teams of 3 divers each competed . Thank you to the boys from Cape Town that drove more than 2 000km Northwards, Rules were simple – one per species per diver with bottom limit 2 kilograms gutted. Top limit was 8 kg.


This day was allocated as an open Individual day. Since my team only arrived the previous evening we decided to pace ourselves and use the day as a learning experience. We had a brand new sponsored boat that had just been built. Thank you to Ryan Hanson who also acted as our skipper during the comp. We had no idea how many fish would be a good score.

The competition area was about 50 km long and divided into 2 zones. Northern zone today. We headed to a mark on Allan Fraser AKA Moo’s GPS. His dad gave him the mark of a giant green coral in 20 metres off 9 mile reef. .  Moo rushed like mad , got to the tree first closely followed by Brent Borstlap (S A Underwater hockey Captain). Up came a nice 5kg Dusky Amberjack.

The viz was 30 metres but after an hour in the area and no more fish we decided to move. Where was the big question ?
 Carl Werner from our “B” team had given me a mark in 45 metres of water further north (in fact 20 km away). He had scouted the spot and assured me that the fish were within range. The look on Moo and Brent’s faces was priceless when I sounded in 150 feet of water in the middle of nowhere and found a little bump with a reading.

We were 4 km offshore in a very flat area. There was a patch of reef about 50 metres by 50 metres surrounded by sand. Upon entering the water all one could see was bottomless blue. We had used 2 of our allocated 6 hours so far. I took a deep breath and dived. This is the area where living coelocanth’s were found last year. What other monsters might be below me. At 30 metre down I was mobbed by about 30 very large Blood Snappers. To my left was a shoal of very surprised Slinger. I could just make the bottom out in 45 metres and saw 2 large Potatoe Bass of about 100 kg each.
A couple more dives but no gamefish. Moo and Brent had chased some Cuda and Kaakap but they were out of range. Time to go but Moo wanted one more drift.

I was feeling more comfortable now and dived to about 35 metres and levelled out. A school of Yellowtail kingfish were on the bottom. I intercepted them another 5 metres down and plugged the closest one. I was happy to have a fish on my spear but was not happy about the depth I was at. Without hesitation I ditched my belt and made it safely to the surface fish in hand. 3 hours gone and only 2 fish on the boat.

Next spot was Inshore at a place called Island Rock. Brent immediately landed a 3kg baby Ignoblis Kingfish and Moo collided with a 3kg Fulve Kingie. I hid in a cave under the breakers and ambushed a nice 5kg blue spotted kingfish.A short while later I bagged a 5kg Big Eye Kingie. At this point I had the feeling that all those divers that went shallow were going to clean us up for the day.

So with our 6 fish on the boat we were off to the weigh in. Out of 45 divers I could only see about 30 fish presented at the weigh in. Top fish included   a nice 28kg Ignoblis Kingie by Ian Ewing. John little had one of 15kg and Garrick Morris had a Cuda of 10kg. Graham Carlile had 5 little Kingies of 3kg each.

Individual Results Day 1.

1. Graham Carlile        18.44
2. Garrick Morris         18.34
3. Ian Ewing                 17.44
4. John Little                 17.24
5. Gyula Plaganyi          17.16
6.John Girzda                11.42
7. Gregg Audie              10.34
8. Andrew Henwood      10.16
9.Allen Fraser                  8.56
10. Craig Heslop              7.84

Clean water or not this was not going to be an easy competition. The next 3 days were set aside for the team event.

Team Event Day One.

This was held in the Southern Zone. As soon as the competition started all the boats scattered. The meeting place for the boats was an area known as The Canyon. Our strategy was to remain here as we didn’t know any other good spots. It is basically a deep hole of 40 metres surrounded by a reef in 30 metres.

Brent was the first down and had an Ignoblis of 15 kg firmly on his spear. Upon surfacing he told Moo about a big amberjack circling his fish. Amberjack tipped the scales at 12kg. A short while later I bagged a  nice 10 kg Fulvie Kingfish. Doing a deep dive with a drop weight resulted in a smallish jobfish for me.

With a good start we now had confidence to go exploring. Most teams had gone South (actually 27km south) so we went to look for them. Our happy faces soon disapeared  when we found them. The Midlands team were all busy fighting fish. Andrew Henwood had a Wahoo on in excess of 30 kg. Danie also had a smaller Wahoo on .Greg Bisset had just landed a cuda. Natal A were also in the area and John Girzda was boating a 25kg wahoo.

We tried in the zone but with no success. How many other fish did they have before we arrived. Only the weigh in would tell .  Luckily for us the only other good fish at the weigh in was a 12kg Cuda by Garrett Staarts. We had arrived right in the middle of the only action for the day.
Team results day 1.

1. Southern Kwa Zulu Natal       33.98
2. Midlands B                              26.90
3. Midlavds A                              25 62
4. Natal A                                     19.72
5 Southern Kwa Zulu B               19.60

Team event Day 2.

This was held in the Northern area again . The area was extended even further North.  We had heard about a patch of reef called Elusive that  would not be easy to find. Phoned around, got the gps co-ord, dived the spot- nothing.

Brent tried the shallows and dropped a 10kg queenfish on his way back to the boat.  Moo also missed a nice sea pike.  I dropped a rat of a cuda at max range. 3 chances but no fish on the boat.

Back to the deep spot. We tied a weight on a 30 metre line with a float. Turned into a deep diving contest I thought. Up , down over and over with no luck. Decided to calm down and try another plan. Pulled the weight up, added another one , took two off my belt and dived down holding the marker buoy weights. Next minute I was at 30 metres without much effort and minus a weightbelt.  Another 8 metres down I spined a 9kg Green Jobfish. Had a muzzle wrap, nearly threw reel gun away but Brent was there for back up. Easy swim back to surface using buoyancy of wetsuit.

All the commotion attracted a whole shoal of jobfish and we all landed another 2 each. Called our “B “ team over who also managed to land one each. Moo bagged a 5kg Yellowtail from the same shoal I had seen 3 days earlier. On our way back Moo landed a small Amberjack on a spot called Solitaire that a Scuba friend of mine gave us. Little did we know that our “c “ team had dived the spot earlier and landed 2 Ignoblis plus a Pike on this one little rock in 27 metres.

With 15 minutes to go Brent landed a nice 5kg Big eye kingfish from a huge moving shoal. Off to the weigh in to see how the other teams had done. The results showed that it was a very big scratch for the other teams. The 4 Natal Central teams could only manage 10.46 points total amongst themselves.

Team results Day 2.

1. Southern KZN           42.00
2. Southern KZN “ B “     28.98
3. Southern KZN “D”       26.14
4. Midlands A                13.16
5.Midlands  B                  9.00

The new Union from down South was working like a well oiled machine.

Team Event Day 3. 

Last day with a nice lead we took it easy. Nearly cost us the competition though..

We started in Canyon again. Moo speared an 8kg Green Jobfish at 36 metres on his first dive. He had a bit of a wobbly when his reelgun jammed after pulling the trigger. Luckily he had a back up reel on his belt that saved the day. I managed to spear a small Ignoblis from a shoal following a large Zambezi shark. Brent had a nice Fulvie eaten by the resident Potatoe Bass. Two hours and only 2 fish on the boat. Time to see what our B team was up to.

We found them on a small strip of reef in 30 metres. They had 6 large kingfish and 3 jobfish on the boat. Desperately we tried the reef they had flattened. I lucked the last remaining Fulvie and Moo landed a baby Prodigal Son. This fish just missed the cut off weight and slipped him into second place individually behind the eventual overall winner. None of the other teams found much fish.

Team results Day 3.

1. Southern KZN  B      44.56
2. Southern KZN  A      21.22
3. Midlands A               20.82
4. Natal C                      18.00
5. Southern KZN C        12.16

This was a remarkable achievement from our B side. They showed me their diving watches that all showed dives in excess of 36 metres. Their Captain Carl Werner had won the day individually with 16.24 points.

Overall our team had narrowly won, closely followed by our B team and then Midlands A.

Top Individual results during Team Event.

1. Garreth Staats            South KZN B        41.06
2. Allen Fraser               South KZN A       39.46
3. Gyula Plaganyi          South KZN A       31.74
4. Carl Werner               South KZN B       30.84
5. Simon Summerton     South KZN C       28.26
6. Brent Borstlap            South KZN A       26.08
7. Andrew Henwood      Midlands A           24.58
8. Danie Van Huyssteen Midlands B           24.04
9. Paul Putter                  South KZN B        21.22
10. John Little                 Midlands A           20.44
11. Garrick Morris          Natal C                  19.66
12. Graham Carlile         Natal A                   16.52

Overall a great competition that was well organised. Thanks to Midlands who were the host on a job well done. Particular thanks to Hanson Boats who sponsored our boat for the competition. This boat made the vast distances seem much closer.

Nationals next year will be in Durban (beginning May) and will include Bottom fish.