My journey to the World Carp Classic started earlier this year when myself and Graham fished in a Dutch qualifier at the fantastic Resort Du Der run by Hans Sissingh in France. It was a bit of a last minute decision to fish the competition, but as our luck turned out we managed to win it after a tough week and qualified through to the World Carp Classic 2014. We had won a space to fish with Hans and his team and would be representing Carp Connections whilst doing so and we couldn’t wait!
We made the decision to ship all of our equipment over with a logistics company Ross Honey, the event organiser, was using to send all of his equipment with. This meant we would not have to make a twenty four hour journey across Europe cooped up inside the van and would hopefully mean we felt fresh upon arrival. Everything was checked, double checked and checked again before loading on to the lorry and we could spend the next few weeks building up excitement and watching videos from previous year’s events. Something new was introduced to the event this year and meant we could register an extra team member that could do everything we could and would also allow two people to go out in the boat together leaving the third on the bank to deal with a take if it occurred.
The day finally came and myself, Graham Mabey and Alan ‘Longshank’ Pagett were sat with a smug grin as we flew in to Rome airport, but it didn’t take long for that to get wiped off! We had arranged and paid for an estate hire car with a company and I was to be the named driver, however when we got there they wanted a credit card to hold on the system. I don’t own a credit card and only had my debit card and no matter how hard we pleaded our case they wouldn’t budge even after we offered them 1000 euros in cash to hold for a week! This was a massive buzz kill but after a quick call to Ross Honey we headed to the train station and after two changes we arrived around twenty minutes from Bolsena in a local town. Our team captain and all around good bloke Hans had kindly come and picked us up and after around ten minutes we finally caught our first glimpse of the stunning and truly massive Lake Bolsena before arriving in bivvy city.
We were tired, stressed and all we wanted to do was register our trio and get to our hotel for the night for some rest, but I was soon roped in to the gladiator games and our night was heading in a different direction. The gladiator games saw me donning a pair of chest waders and running into the lake from the beach and filling them up before trying to run 50m back to my two team mates who tipped me upside down to fill a bucket. I got drenched but our team won our heat and after drying of we all enjoyed a nice bottle of red wine on the beach and just took in our surroundings and what lay ahead of us. We joined the rest of the team shortly after and an amazing Jaeger bomb fuelled party commenced and went on until the small hours when we eventually checked in at our hotel. The following morning we were all a bit worse for wear, so after breakfast and sorting some logistics we went for a swim from the beach at Bolsena to freshen up before getting ready for the opening ceremony and peg draw.
The opening parade was incredible the atmosphere was electric as 300+ carp anglers marched down the narrow streets of Bolsena and up the pilgrim’s path before entering the theatre for the peg draw. The marching band was amazing and really helped build suspense as we all waited for Ross to make his way to the stage. We were due to be the 50th team to draw and it was a tense build up but we eventually made our way on stage and drew peg 79 in the CC Moore Section near a town called Marta. It seemed a good area from our research and we were pleased with our draw, so we joined the rest of the Carp Connections team for a nice meal before getting an early night.
The following morning some of the marshals helped us by doing several trips in their tiny Fiat 500 cars to get us and all of our equipment to our swim. We had until 2pm before we could go out in the boat and start fishing, so we spent ages setting up base camp and making sure everything was perfect for the week ahead. Two o’clock soon came and with the sound of the fireworks and air horns we launched the boat for the first time armed with an eco-sounder and aqua-scope along with the large H Block Markers from Gardner Tackle. We spent a good few hours in the boat mapping out our whole swim and settled on four really nice looking spots with the two outside rods being positioned around 100m out in channels in the weed. We had around 16ft-18 foot depth on these two spots and they looked bang on through the aqua-scope. The other two rods were positioned around 220m out on a feature we had found where it went from 23ft to 21ft before sloping of to 25ft after around a rod length. It was also showing this small area was the only clean bit free of weed along the entire length of the feature, so one rod was fished in the 23ft bit and the other at the top in 21ft. It was late by the time everything was done that first night, but we were finally fishing this incredible volcanic lake and we all enjoyed a few glasses of wine before retiring for the night with dreams of big long commons!
We awoke at first light and nothing had happened overnight for us or our surrounding pegs but everyone had the same thought that until a wind blew in our direction it would be a real struggle as these nomadic fish always followed the wind. With it being virtually flat calm in our area of the lake we spent the day searching our swim to make sure we had picked the right areas and once we were happy we positioned the rods bang on for the following night. We were using simple rigs tied using around 12 inches of Gardner Trick-Link in 25lb and a size 6 Covert Continental Mugga fished knotless knot style but with a supple hair made with 15lb Trickster Heavy and a small 3mm section of XT Covert Silicone Tubing opposite the barb to trap the hair. Attached to the hair was a snowman hookbait comprising of an 18mm Carp Company Icelandic Red with Caviar and Cranberry bottom bait and homemade 14mm yellow or white pop-up. Attached to the CamFlex Leadcore leaders fished with Covert Lead Clips and Tail Rubbers were 8oz Grappler Leads also from Gardner. The weather could turn in an instant on Lake Bolsena and smaller leads would simply not hold bottom in those conditions, so we fished with them from the off. I was using Pro XM on my spools with 30lb Sure Flow leaders of around 20 feet for when we were trying to pull them out of the weed – if we were lucky enough to catch one!
Another night passed without event for us and our surrounding pegs, however we heard the good news that our team mates Hans, Ferry and Mattie were doing very well and were in the top three after having caught a few fish. The weather was still calm and all we could do was carry on as we were and wait for the predicted weather change that was due for the early hours of Thursday morning. We had run into another problem both of the leisure batteries we had borrowed, charged and tested were now dead and would not charge. Our good battery was flat so we had to make the decision to try and buy one somewhere, so myself and Graham set of on a half hour trek to the nearest town to then be sent a further few kilometres on a wild goose chase. As we decided to give up and head back the sky turned black and a storm began in front of our eyes, which was strengthening all the time. We ducked in to a bar by the marina when it was at its worst with lightning bolts hitting the floor all over the place and 10ft waves lapping in at the shore. We tried our best to explain our situation to the barman and with the help of another local they got the idea and kindly drove us to pick up a battery before we returned to our swim once the storm died down.
On our return we found out that our neighbouring peg had one of their rods struck by lightning during the storm, but luckily Pagett had lowered all of the tips on ours before the storm started! After drying off and having some food we did our final preparations for the night and turned in for some rest. Pagett’s rod signalled a fast take around 2am and after Graham initially picked up the rod Pagett took over as we prepared the boat and got life jackets on. Pagett wasn’t sure if there was a fish on still as he was just pumping and winding back towards himself with little effort or resistance. We made a group decision to just keep playing it from the bank as it was coming so easily and once it got to around twenty five yards out it suddenly burst in to life and started to charge around holding its ground. The strong waves were helping wash the fish towards the shore and it was soon only ten yards out in shallow water. Graham grabbed the net and ran it to try and get it and despite netting it twice it got out both times as the waves washed over the cord of the net almost collapsing it each time. On the third attempt he held the arms of the net rather than the pole and once the fish was in he held the arms high to stop the carp being washed out.
A beautiful, perfectly proportioned and mint condition common lay on the Pro Mat as we all looked and giggled like excited school children. The marshals were prompt to arrive and did a great job weighing our fish which weighed 11.4kg which is around 23/24lb. We soon had the rod back in position with another couple of kilos of bait around it, so I made the effort before going back to sleep knocking up another batch of our mix. We were making up big balls of scaled pellet consisting of Hinders Pellet Combo, 6mm Halibut Pellets, Little Gemz, A-Mix, Sweet Prepared Tiger Nuts, Fish Pro and Tiger Slime. We also added some chopped and whole Carp Company Icelandic red with Caviar and Cranberry boilies that we had jazzed up a bit to boost attraction further soaking them in the Fish Pro Liquid, then adding Atlantic Krill Powder also from Carp Company and allowed them time to absorb it all shaking them periodically. We scattered the jazzed up boilies in a wide area over the spots around the size of a tennis court then lowered in a few of the scalded pellet balls bang on the spot in a tighter area and this was the tactic that had caught our fish.
We had also positioned that rod right on our boundary in slightly deeper water as we had spoken to Hans and he said they could only get bites in 8m of water and the deepest we had was 7.5m on our boundary, so needless to say the short rods were both moved out long on the same tactics. On Friday morning the media team arrived in our swim and wanted to do some interviews and stuff so just as we had all been lined up and the camera had started rolling Graham’s rod we had moved long tore off at an alarming rate! I put on mine and Graham’s life jacket whilst Pagett prepared the boat and net before we climbed in and Pagett gave us a big push out in to the fierce waves that were crashing in. I lowered the prop and as I started it all hell broke loose as a big wave swept us in to my two lines which were now all tangled around the prop. I had to cut the lines and hand them to Pagett on the bank so he could pull them in whilst I tried to untangle the line from the prop. To do this I had to undo the cap and take the propeller off whilst Graham was slowly reeling us out to the fish and as a massive wave nearly knocked me overboard I dropped the screw cap that held on the propeller! I was really angry and frustrated by this point, but I tried to stay focused and pulled up the outboard and started rowing like my life depended on it to get us out above the fish. Around 100m from the bank our line was stuck in a weedbed but the fish was still the other side of it and the line wouldn’t budge despite our best efforts. Before long the fish was also in the weed below the boat and we were pretty sure it was a very big fish possibly over 20kg. The fish and weed was now inch by inch slowly coming when all of a sudden the leader went on what we think was a sharp snail in the weed.
To say we were gutted was an understatement and the media team made a swift exit to let us try and pick ourselves back up and get the carnage that had unfolded put back in order. After having to re-spool, tie on new shock leaders etc. We eventually had all of our rods back out bang on for the final night hoping the new long are was going to do another bite. It was a tense last night as our team was in the top three in the team event which was extremely tight and Hans and his team were in the top two on the leader board with one fish in it at all times. I don’t think any of us slept that well and it didn’t seem like long before I was awoken to the waves crashing in on the shore and felt a little disappointed nothing had occurred during the night. The final hooters went off at 8am and we were made up for Hans and his team who finished a very close second overall and our team had also finished second in the team event, so we would have the privilege of going on stage in the prize giving and closing ceremony held in the theatre again.
After re-packing all of our gear back on to the lorry we headed to the theatre and joined the rest of the Carp Connections team for the prize giving. We were sat right near the front so we could see everything and again it’s difficult to actually describe the atmosphere that was surrounding us. It was a great feeling being called on stage to receive a plaque and sharing in the buzz with of all the other competitors. The whole trip was amazing and until you have been and done it you won’t quite understand what I mean. A massive thank you to Hans Sissingh for sponsoring us in his team (and well done again Hans, Ferry, Mattie and Dorie second place!!) Carp Connections it was great fishing with everyone and sharing in the buzz! Also a huge thanks to FLE for backing us in many ways and of course my loyal sponsors Gardner Tackle, Carp Company and Hinders for their help and support in the qualifier and main event. We can’t wait to have another crack next year on Lac Madine in France and as soon as my gear arrives back its time to try and muscle in on all this autumn feeding spell everyone seems to be experiencing at present!