Ollie Bassett has taken out this weekend’s Sport Fly Fishing NZ (SFFNZ) River Nationals sponsored by Manic Tackle to become the youngest winner of the event in New Zealand competition fishing history.
The 19 year-old completed a dominant display to top the podium ahead of more seasoned performers in second-placed Johnny Bell and Johannes Krill in third.
The competition was based out of Taumarunui, in the central North Island’s King Country, and fished on the Whakapapa and Whanganui rivers. It was held over two days, across four three-hour sessions - 9am-12pm and 2-5pm on both days. 16 competitors, who had qualified by virtue of their points tallies during the regular season, took part. And, after 12 hours of fishing on two beautiful but powerful rivers, there were some aching bodies come prizegiving time on Sunday evening.
Following the medal ceremony Ollie - who also won a Primal 10ft6ins 3wt from sponsors Manic Tackle - said what he had achieved hadn’t sunk in yet.
“I can’t really believe it actually if I’m honest,” he said. “I remember at my first Nationals back in 2018 I didn’t do that well and I was looking at the guys up at the top - people like Cory Scott, Johnny Gummer, Johnny Bell - and thinking one day I want that to be me. They were the type of people I wanted to fish like.
“I’ve been training pretty hard and it all came together for me really. I got quite lucky with the draw, I did get some good beats and I would like to acknowledge that, but I feel that I fished them well.”
Ollie caught the majority of his fish euro nymphing but also took some fishing dry-dropper and swinging wee wets and streamers. He described the progression of his competition.
“First session I got 22 fish out of Beat 9, the top beat on the Whanganui, which was enough to win that session, and was a good start. Then Saturday afternoon was Beat 13 which is a beat I’ve had a few times so I know it pretty well. I was targeting little fish there but also managed to get a couple of bigger ones including my biggest Whanganui rainbow at 62cms. I had 23 fish for second in the session behind Peter Scott. I was happy with that though because I’d had the same beat during the Commonwealths and I learned from a couple of mistakes I’d made then, managed the beat a bit differently, and caught more fish.
“Sunday, first up was Beat 7 on the Whakapapa, where amongst my fish I managed to get a big brown of 70cms out of a deep hole which was good fun, and I was able to win that session. So going into the fourth and final session I was pretty nervous because I knew I was in a good position. I managed a second place there, which was enough to win the competition in the end. I did lose quite a lot of fish in that session though which I wasn’t very happy about, including a really big rainbow right at the end. That kept me feeling nervous as I didn’t know if 13 fish would be enough, thankfully it was.”
Ollie thanked his parents for all their support, mentors who have helped him along the way, and controllers, organisers and sponsors for making it all possible.

Competition organiser and SFFNZ Vice President Nick Langdon said he wanted to thank a number of people including competition sponsors Manic Tackle.
“Massive thanks to Manic Tackle for sponsoring the competition and to my fellow organisers Chris Young and Billy Thrupp. Also a big shout out to Peter Scott. Every time we fish these rivers Peter puts his hand up to do the hard yards. He walked a lot of kilometres marking out the beats and then turned around and competed two days as well. Incredible effort.
“The controllers as well, for giving up their time, they were absolutely first class this weekend, fantastic, we simply can’t do what we do without them. I also understand a couple of them are thinking of having a crack at competition fishing which is great and what it’s all about.”
Nick congratulated Ollie on his win.

Nick added that creditable mentions amongst the field should also go to the three female anglers who fished Rachel McNae, Louise Stuart and Suzie Foggo.

SFFNZ will now look forward to the National Lake Championships to be held on Lake Kuratau on the 17th April which will crown not only the lake Champion but combined with the rivers results, the overall 2021 SFFNZ National Champion.



River-Nationals-2021-Winners.jpgFrom left;  Johnny Bell 2nd,   Ollie Bassett 1st,   Johannes Krill 3rd