MUSWELLBROOK angler Peter Phelps is setting his sights on the 2020 World Black Bass Fishing Championships after finishing so agonisingly close in 2019.
The local man, and five other Australians, headed to the Vaal River in South Africa in February to contest the international tournament, which attracted 1000 competitors from 50 countries.
This meant a total of 190 teams vied for titles across 11 different sections, including black bass.
Phelps proudly returned home with a silver medal around his neck after placing second - and is determined to go one better in the United States in 12 months' time.
"We're [the team] really looking forward to 2020," he said.
"That will take place at Lake Murray in South Carolina.
"But, I'm over the moon with how we went [last month].
"Coming in with 44 out of 45 fish for the entire tournament, and finishing runner-up to the host nation - who claimed gold - was a mammoth effort for us.
"What makes this achievement so big, in the scheme of things, is that this was the first time Australia had sent a team to compete and target black bass, which we don't have in this country.
"So, we competed against 14 other nations - that all have black bass as their main sport fish - and regularly hone their skills at home."
Phelps praised his fellow fishos in the Aussie colours, too.
"I believe what worked so well for us was team work," he said.
"We looked into how the fish were patterned a certain way.
"So, communication was crucial as we shared areas and made sure each boat caught fish.
"Once a team had a limit of five, the next boat would move into the area.
"On a venue that was so tough, where only a team would get five-to-eight bites or opportunities per day, every fish was paramount.
"Each day, each boat would bring in their five largest fish to be weighed.
"We ended up two points shy of first place.
"And, we would've easily been in top spot if we didn't miss the last fish to be weighed.
"The host country was always going to be hard to beat fishing their home waters and having spent so much time practicing before the venue was cut off for the tournament ban."
Phelps said he didn't believe the Australian team would be such a "surprise packet" next year.
"This event was certainly an adjustment for us," he explained.
"We have all caught black bass or largemouth bass (the specific species on the Vaal River) before in other countries.
"So, we're established tournament anglers and confident in our abilities to mix it with some of the best in the world.
"However, we were also the true underdogs, as most teams gave us a fair bit of friendly slack and banter leading up to the event, saying we wouldn't be competitive.
"Nothing felt better than stepping up on stage and receiving our medals and trophy, hearing the cheers from other nations surprisingly happy with our efforts."
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