The Broverton Invitational is probably one of the biggest fishing tournaments you’ve never heard of. Unless you’re from Whangarei, where this annual event has achieved a sort of cult legendary status among fishos there. I was honoured to be among just 100-or-so people invited to fish the tournament after meeting co-founder John Overton through work.

John’s a ‘sheety’ by trade, although after 16 years of service at Ross Insulation and Sheet Metal on Port Road, he’s moved from the shop floor to a more comfortable chair upstairs, where he spends much of his time creating CAD designs for sheet metal projects.

The Broverton came about as many Kiwi success stories do, as something of a backyard idea between mates. About seven years ago, John and his twin brother Andrew Overton – together the ‘Brovertons’ – decided they’d rather go fishing for their birthday than celebrate it with the usual malarkey in town. So together with about 20 of their mates, they fished and stayed the weekend at Whangaruru, north of Whangarei, and the Broverton was born.

These days the Broverton – although still fiercely competitive – is a real family affair. The event regularly draws a crowd of 150 or more keen fishermen, partners, kids, dogs, caravans and everything else including the kitchen sink. John says it was a natural progression for the Broverton, now that he and Andrew and most of their mates have kids. As much as he loves the blokey element of the fishing comp itself, and “giving it a good nudge on Saturday night”, as is tradition, it’s catching up with family and friends for a BBQ on the Saturday afternoon that he really looks forward to nowadays.

I fished the Broverton for the first time in 2017, when a typical mid- October norwester cut off many of the options. But my teammate and I determinedly fished through the night, and she managed to land a half decent snapper, which at 72cm was enough to take out first place in the women’s section.

It says a lot about the Broverton that there is now a women’s section, along with a soon-to-be kids section, and even a best salad section, in what began as a boys weekend away. But the tournament has evolved in many ways over the years. One of the most significant changes being the move to measuring fish rather than weighing.

Perhaps even more so now that he has kids of his own, it made perfect sense to John tomake the switch to measuring, allowing folks to release the big ones if they want. They now use the DB Fishing Comp rules and measures – complete with a unique Broverton sticker handed out before start fishing time – and encourage everyone to enter their fish in the DB competition as well. That’s paid off nicely for competitors in recent years, including this writer, who took out the DB grand prize last year with a very average 53cm snapper caught in the 2017 Broverton.

John says he prefers to release the big ones, but also admits he’s never actually come close to winning the Broverton himself. This year’s winning fish was released though – a whopping 30lb model that set the bar for the biggest landed in the comp’s history. So if you were thinking this friendly mates comp would be a walkover, think again. There are some very serious fishermen with their eyes on the trophies. And once you’ve seen the beautifully crafted, hand carved wooden snapper and kingfish trophies, along with the significant prize pool donated by local businesses, it’s easy to understand why.

The snapper trophy – with its plasma cut sheet metal fins – gives a subtle hint to John’s other passion, and his creative side. Sheet metal just happens to be a medium that’s freely available to him, and one he’s developed into both a hobby and a successful sideline for his company.

When work quietened off one November, John sat down at his desk and drew a couple of CAD designs for outdoor braziers. It was a fun project, and something to keep the guys busy while work was slow. When the finished braziers were ready, he posted a few pictures on the company’s Facebook page, which promptly went viral. People loved the designs and wanted to buy them, so he designed some more.

Now they offer four designs, in three different sizes. John says it’s a great way to train their young guys, who get to put all their apprenticeship skills into practice – from CAD design and plasma cutting, to rolling, folding and welding – to create a finished piece they can be proud of, and that’s a saleable item for the company.

They also create a range of wall art, cut from corten steel which weathers nicely outdoors. John says they can create just about anything you can dream of in sheet metal – from the most practical, to the most artistic.

Practical and artistic might at first seem to be contradictory adjectives, but they both apply equally to John. His love of boating, camping and good old catch-ups around the fire have been the driving force behind many of his creative projects, which all seem to have a practical purpose at heart.

He’s spent many hours creating purposeful yet beautiful additions to the family boat, a 5.5m modified Stabicraft called ‘The Dogbox’. But these days it’s rebuilding retro caravans that takes up most of John’s spare time. Having a caravan do-up project in the shed – or more accurately, four caravans – lets him stay close to his family whilst doing something practical he enjoys.

As with the Broverton Invitational, and his ‘Broziers’ (as the braziers are affectionately known at work), John has used Facebook to create an enthusiastic community around his caravan hobby. The ‘Northland Carnies’ Facebook group – initially a bit of a joke between mates, a place for them to share their caravan projects – has now surprised even John with its following of over 100 members.

But John is someone who seems to take success – whether in the real world or the digital – in his stride. And it’s easy to see he’s not one to take life too seriously. “It’s just a bit of fun”, he says about his many and varied projects. “I’ve always been a ‘tutu’.”

Article by: Helen Horrocks