The last weekend of April saw us taking an early day on the Thursday to travel to Kent for our BCAC qualifier that was to be held at Orchard Place Farm in Kent. Myself and fishing partner Graham Mabey were joined by our good friend Martin Hancock for the weekend as he had kindly offered to fulfil the duty of ‘runner’ for us. For anyone not familiar with competition fishing you are permitted to have a ‘runner’ that can help with duties such as tying PVA bags and making cups of tea and food!
We arrived at the lake around 6pm and quickly set about on a few laps of the lake to try and find the fish and start putting our swim choices in order for the draw. We had practiced the previous weekend and learnt a lot about the lake and one key factor was that the fish followed any wind big time! Upon arriving in a windward corner of the lake, carp were clearly present in numbers and some were very big too putting on displays for us. The area was noted and we kept on looking in all other areas and deliberated options for each swim if we were to end up in it. We also made sure to have a real good look at the weather forecast for the weekend to try and work out how the fish would act during the match and try and stay one step ahead of them. After tying a few rigs and prepping a few last bits we went to bed and set an alarm for first light so that we could walk around and try and locate the carp once more in the morning.
We awoke to find the wind had changed as predicted and there were certainly plenty of fish present on the end of the fresh wind. However, upon walking in to the area where we had seen the majority of the fish yesterday, it was obvious they were still around. Although they were not launching themselves from the watery depths as they were the previous day, flat spots kept appearing along with the odd patch of bubbles. The swim was marked down as our second choice with only the swim to our left being put above it as it would suit the wind for the weekend better.
The draw came and we stood nervously as names that were not ours got read out and we were looking in a bad position for a good draw. We finally came out of the hat second to last and luckily for us our second choice swim was still available. I quickly called out peg 11 and we happily made our way over to our swim. As we were setting up we must have seen around fifteen different shows in our swim and we were full of confidence for some quick action. On the sound of the first hooter the masses set to work with marker rods and spods and we felt sure this would spook any fish in our swim so decided to bait up instead with PVA bags of maggots and a catapult. The venue is dominated by maggots and it is normally all the carp will eat so we had ensured we had enough taking ten gallons with us.
The second hooter sounded an hour later indicating the start of the match and I quickly got my first rod in an area next to an island at about 30 yards I had been baiting for the previous hour. It had been fizzing up for some time and I did not even have time to put the rod on the rests before I had the first carp of the match attached to the end of my line. The fish put up a good scrap and was soon in the net giving me the opportunity to put another rod in the area, this too followed in a similar pattern to the previous rod with a fish picking up the bait before I had a chance to put it on the rests.
The action carried on over the next few hours and we were firmly in the lead to begin with. The wind was also now pushing nicely into our corner and the bites were frequent with even a double take occurring! We kept on pinging out the PVA bags to keep the fish in the area but also to get them confident on feeding over PVA bag sized areas of maggot. The rigs were kept simple with 5ft Plummet leadcore leaders and Covert Lead Clips coupled with a size 8 Covert Kwik Lok swivel for ease of changing rigs. Attached was five inches 15lb Sink Skin rigs fished blow back style on size 8 Covert Muggas. I used a small section of Covert Shrink Tube over the eye of the hook to help keep the hair in position and rather than tie a loop in the end of my hair I attached a small Covert Rig Ring. I then threaded a small section of red Zig Rig Foam over the ring and onto the hair and proceeded to thread around twenty maggots on to some bait floss and tied them to the rig ring. The finished rig looked the nuts and certainly performed well for us with the section of Zig Rig Foam helping to counteract the weight of the hook and critically balance the whole rig.
We slowed down catching as the evening drew in and decided to check the weather forecast once more. It was not looking good for us with the wind switching direction 180 degrees for the remainder of the competition and other pairs soon started to catch. We decided we were going to stay up all night and work the swim match style by regularly spodding maggots and re-casting with fresh hookbaits and bags of free offerings. This move was a wise decision as we managed to bank around six or seven other fish throughout the hours of darkness and we were now well over the 200lb mark with only the pair in our top choice swim any ware near us. The fish seemed to have pushed from our swim in the bay to in-between the islands that were directly in front of us but not in our swim.
It was frustrating to say the least but we kept plugging away and managed the odd fish to keep our spirits high. We had managed to secure enough of a gap to finally get some rest on the Saturday night and awoke the next morning to a very fishless swim. The pair that were round to our left in our first choice swim had been catching well and now had a good lead on us with only a few hours to go but we felt confident that we were already in a secure qualifying position. We did manage a couple more fish in the last half an hour of the match as the wind swung once more and was pushing back towards us.
We finished on 398lb 1oz in second position with first place finishing on 529.03lb and third on 253.11lb. We had managed to bank no fewer than 26 fish as well as losing a few and Graham catching a couple of upper twenty pound catfish. It was a great result considering the draw and we now go through to the semi-finals at Barston in July to battle for a place in the final. Let’s hope the rest of the competition season goes as well as it has started, a decent draw wouldn’t go amiss too!!