“When it comes to catching fish and hunting game animals to order, it can be much harder than it sounds.”

That is exactly what six plumbers have found over the past few years as they took on the Rheem Big Six Challenge. But they had a great time in what is the ultimate ‘Boys’ Own Adventure.’

It all started when the challenge was launched as part of a promotion in 2011, and after thousands of entries went into the hat, Reece Hesketh from the Bay of Islands headed out from Hicks Bay on the first leg of his 48-hour adventure. He finished with a score of four out of a possible six – his first trout, his first stag, a hapuku and a kingfish.

The following year Matamata’s Tony Wright also bagged four after visiting White Island where he landed a bluenose, stuck his first boar in the Bay of Plenty and boated two trout at Rotorua.

Then in 2013 it was Murray Bond’s turn. He travelled from Christchurch to Kaikoura where he shot his first chamois, added a red stag and a bluenose, then managed to hook a brown trout just before the clock ran out.

Peter Illingworth, with rifle, had a wild couple of days.
Peter Illingworth, with rifle, had a wild couple of days.

In 2014 Peter Illingworth’s name was drawn and the Aucklander headed to Opotiki where he boarded a helicopter for a wild ride around the coast from Lottin Point. He finished with three – a snapper, a kahawai and a red stag. But it was a full-on couple of days which included jet-boating up the Motu River.

The 2015 winner, Mike Baker from west Auckland, also scored four out of six after driving halfway around the North Island in the rain to shoot a goat, catch two trout at Taupo and hooking a kahawai out of Tauranga.

Tony Cain, second from left, had fantastic trout fishing as he set a new record.
Tony Cain, second from left, had fantastic trout fishing as he set a new record.

So we come to last year and Wellington’s Tony Cain flew to Auckland with a mate where he jumped onto a boat at Westhaven and headed out on the Hauraki Gulf, little knowing he was about to set a new record.

Tony quickly learned from Charter boat skipper Len Rameka on how to keep in touch with the line as the six-ounce sinker plummeted to the sea bed 36 metres below. The tide was less than an hour from high and Lenny explained that the fishing would be slow until the tide turned and started flowing out.

Tony soon had half a dozen nice snapper in the box and then his line tightened and rose in the water, pulling out and up. “That’s a kahawai,” said Lenny, and when he netted the feisty fighter, Tony had ticked the first two boxes.

Then it was a fast drive to Lake Tarawera where Tony managed to catch a bin-full of trout. Four out of six boxes ticked, and on the last morning a walk in the forest in the rain proved fruitless but then, when the sun came out, hunting guide Gus Donald spotted a billy goat feeding on the edge of the forest and Tony nailed it, finishing the challenge with a score of five out of six – a new record.

The rules for the Rheem Big Six Challenge are designed to foster the spirit of sportsmanship and fair play, while retaining a level playing field. The object is to catch two saltwater fish, shoot two game animals and catch two freshwater fish within 48 hours.

The clock starts at the time of the hook-up of the first fish or the first shot is fired. Sea fish must be a species recognised for record-keeping purposes, of legal size and two different species must be caught. Game fish may be tagged and released and the boat skipper’s estimate of weight will be accepted.

Freshwater fish can be any combination of the different sport fish on the licence, including Quinnat salmon, land-locked salmon, rainbow trout, brown trout, tiger trout and brook trout.

The first challenger, Reece Hesketh (left) found a novel way of hanging up his bag.
The first challenger, Reece Hesketh (left) found a novel way of hanging up his bag.

Game animals must be hunted under recognised Fair Chase conditions and must be males of two different species; including all species of deer, chamois, thar, goats and wild pig. Helicopters and vehicles may be used to access hunting areas, but game may not be shot from them. Hunting must be done during daylight hours, and spotlights are not permitted. Weather conditions and the time of day are all factors which influence the decisions on what to do first, and where to go.

Who will be the next winner? And will they be up for it?