Madness Down Under

No laughing matter. The brute force of giant trevally is for real. Here, from the left, Capt. Tim Baker, proud angler Dave Foyle of the United Kingdom and lure manufacturer Patrick Sebile enjoy the morning's first GT. This typical 50- to 60-pounder struck a big Sebile Splasher.
Bommie edges at sea level. Dave Foyle lets fly a popper. The ever-clear water and often large size of fish makes it easy to see big predators loom behind a lure, following it or rushing it in an attack, and hook-up or not, can leave an angler's hands shaking and heart thumping.
The Maori wrasse is one of the more colorful and unusual predators of Coral Sea reefs. It will attack both surface and diving lures. This little 30-pounder was released; they can reach more than 200 pounds (when they develop a protuberant forehead or "bump head") and may be violently turquoise blue.
One of the most abundant predators of bommies and reefs, coral trout can reach well over 60 pounds. In fact they're members of the grouper family. To see one of these fast-moving grouper barreling in to snatch a topwater, like this Sebile Splasher, is memorable.
Top of a large bommie. These massive coral heads dot the Coral Sea, particularly inside the Great Barrier Reef. Drifting around the perimeter and casting big poppers or minnow plugs in to the upper edge pays off in action from slashing strikes of red "bass" (snapper) and coral trout to massive Maori wrasse and GT.
"Abundant habitat" is a gross understatement when seemingly endless coral reefs like these are seen from the air, flying over the northern Coral Sea in water so many shades of blue only a photo can do them justice. I snapped this shot from the small prop plane that flew us from Cairns to Lizard Island where we'd meet the Nomad boats.
Ready and waiting. At its Lizard Island anchorage sits the Odyssey, an 80-foot live-aboard custom cat with a convertible and express visible; on the port side are a 25-foot aluminum center console and a 27-foot fiberglass (Contender) center console, all providing plenty of fish-boat firepower.
Fine-tuning for rugged running. Master lure builder Patrick Sebile early in the trip spends time on the upper deck of Odyssey changing out hooks from trebles to singles, in keeping with Nomad's policy, aimed at both safety for anglers and conservation for (easy release of) fish.
Let's go fishin'! Anglers filter onto various fishing boats from the Odyssey, at anchor near Jewell Reef, north of Lizard Island. Which boat one will fish from generally depends upon what style of fishing an angler wants to pursue - throwing poppers on the reef, jigging, trolling around reef passes or fishing for monster marlin offshore, to name a few popular options.
For dogtooth tuna and large trevally, 80-pound braid is realistically a minimum to avoid either being reefed or spooled. Here, Patrick Sebile puts the full-body press on a big fish.
Anglers work the edge of a bommie. Nearly all such fishing is done with large spinners (Nomad favors 20000 Stellas) filled with 50- to 100-pound braid.
Portrait in silver and red. Nice double for Dave Foyle and Patrick Sebile, the latter holding a good red bass. These are actually a particularly abundant snapper (Lutjanus bohar) of shallow reefs throughout the Indo-Pacific that eagerly take just about any sort of lure at any depth, including on top.
All in a day -- a roundup of some game fish we caught around Jewell Reef: Bluefin trevally I caught on a Stick Shadd - one of the world's prettiest members of the jack family.
What we call a houndfish - Down Under a longtom or garfish. This one went about 4 feet; they get longer.
50 pounds of GT comes up boatside for a look at a lure -and a potentially arm-ripping strike.
Capt. Tim Baker hefts 65 pounds of GT for a quick shot before its release. The brute couldn't resist one of Sebile's jointed Magic Swimmers.
Another red bass. Although light tackle has its risks in this hostile world of tough, hungry fish, I brought my little Stella with 10-pound braid and Shimano three piece travel rod and managed to catch a few (and lose a few!).
Two monster trevally fighting each other to swallow your lure may be one of sport-fishing's most exciting moments.
I had a heck of a time getting this nice grouper away from the coral - one of many species collectively called "cod" in Australia. It came up from 30 feet or so to strike a Stick Shadd fished just under the surface.
GT territory. Giant trevally like to prowl the outer reef - i.e. THE Great Barrier Reef - and the rougher the conditions the better. Here, Patrick Sebile and Dave Foyle cast poppers with the 20- to 30-knot sustained winds helping the lures soar.
My, Grandma, what a long snout you have. Emperors, found throughout the Indo-Pacific, generally live on or near sandy areas between reefs. Bait's best but they'll readily hit lures as well.