Whipping in the hook, life and sinker

Flamingo Vlei's Mike Bailey.

If anyone could keep you regaled with endless fishing stories, it’s Flamingo Vlei’s Mike Bailey, but he won’t spin an old wive’s yarn as his hands move ever-further away from each other, he’ll be able to tell you exactly where he was, what bait he was using, the hours he spent tussling with his catch and he’ll give you an exact weight measurement of the fish he pulled out.

He’s certainly not afraid to tango with sharks as he stands in his ankle-high gumboots, reeling away and one such fisherman’s tale was relayed to Tabletalk when we caught up with him last week.

Standing on a deserted shoreline in Lesotho, he told, he pulled out a 60kg shark. That sounds like a lot to those not versed in angling ways but won’t sound like much to proficient fishermen.

However, hauling in that shark was not the main detail of the story. At 60kg, the said shark was simply the bait. He sent it back out into the water, his line attached, waiting for yet bigger game to bite.

A traditional bass fisherman, born in Zambia, he confesses that a rod was in his hand from around the same time he held his first rattle, and with more than 20 SA caps to his name in bass fishing, he has just recently been capped for rock and surf angling and will be off to Namibia to represent SA before the end of the year.

“My sport was stimulated by my parents from a young age, with fishing being a family affair. While I was doing my military service I was lucky enough to win the SADF rock and surf competition and later got involved with competitive bass angling.

“I went on to win Western Province 10 times and received 20 Protea caps, representing SA in America and Zimbabwe.

“From there I started competitive rock and surf angling and fished in the WP A side for many years. I have won SA champs in rock and surf as well as the Super Pro League

“In the last week of January the SA Masters rock and surf champs were held in Jeffrey’s Bay. I held the lead for most of the comp but was pipped on the last day after I lost a big fish and ended in second spot overall.

“That still earned me a spot on the SA side to face Namibia in December,” he said.

Bailey has seen the world at the end of his rod, seeing countries like America, Egypt, Gabon, Seychelles, Maldives, Mozambique and Namibia and has fished country-wide at some of the best spots anglers can dream of. Part of his mission in the sport at the moment is to also give back by helping up-and-coming young fisherman reach their own goals. He has taken Melkbosstrand’s Gareth Dahl, 16, under his wing and the two fish competitively for Two Oceans Angling Club, based at Theo Marais Park in Milnerton.

“I love that this sport has taken me all around the world, meeting good people and allowing me to experience different cultures. At this level, one’s fitness is very important, with long beach walks, surf wades and long fights with big sharks. There is certainly a mental element too and you need to keep on making good decisions throughout the day and keep a positive attitude.

“As a mentor I try to impart ideals of good sportmanship, bait presentation and tackle set-ups. There are a lot of different angling techniques and safety precautions to think of as well as how to read the water and choose the best possible spots. On top of that I just really enjoy showing Gareth what he is capable of.

“My fondest memories are definitely angling with my dad and two boys and being able to pass on my experience to fellow anglers. Representing my country, catching a 108kg tarpon and hauling in over 200 sharks over 100kg are also right up there,” he said.

For Gareth, 15, fishing is also a family affair. Beginning his competitive career at the age of 10 as a bass fisherman, he went on to earn provincial colours within his first year and moved to competitive rock and surf angling at the age of 12 as he was already angling off the beach recreationally.

“The best feeling in the world is when your rod bends and you have hooked a fish. The tough parts of the sport are prepping bait the day before, dealing with extreme weather and fishing when the waves are big. It can be difficult to stay positive sometimes when everyone around you is catching and you’re not but I just try to stay focused and try even harder. When you fish nationals you’re fishing for three days in a row at eight hours a day and it can be tough to stay focused when you are tired and under pressure.

“I would like to see more juniors coming through and committing to the sport and to see more fishermen promoting marine conservation and fishing on a catch and release basis.

“My favourite spot to fish is in Struisbaai. There’s a huge variety of fish and they are big sizes too. Receiving my provincial and national colours stand out for me and catching a raggie of 180kg definitely stand out as my proudest moments,” said Gareth.