It is that time of the year again when all of the carp fishing competitions start and as always, I’d been looking forward to the qualifying round of the BCAC (British Carp Angling Championships). After a disappointing end to our qualifier last year, when we were knocked out of the qualifying positions in the last 8 hours of the 48 hour match. This year my long term fishing partner Kevin Grout and I were chomping at the bit, eager to set things right at our chosen qualifier venue, Todber Manor’s Big Hayes Lake.

As we traditionally do with all of our comps, we had planned to practice for 48 hours the week before the match so that we would be fully prepared, focused and in tune with the water.
We set off nice and early, and arrived at the lake around 2pm after the 5 1/2 hour journey from Norfolk. On route we talked about various topics but nothing more than general fishing, competitions and carp – so when we arrived for our practice we were very keen to have a quick walk round, find a swim each and finally wet a line.

With the temperatures well above average for the time of year we were blessed with beautiful sunshine, but this only meant one thing – a very busy lake with lots of anglers present. We were fortunate enough to find a couple of swims that had just become vacant and had a bit of fish activity in, so naturally we decided they would be a good place to start.

Over the course of the next 48 hours we fished a night at either end of the lake, resulting in us landing 21 carp including a couple of 20lb+ fish each. The practice had gone very well having caught on various tactics including zigs, solid bags, method feeders and boilies. All we were hoping for now was a good draw…

Thursday afternoon we packed down the gear and made our way to CC Moore HQ to pick up some more bait for the main event, then onto the local supermarket for some shopping for the weekend and on the way back, we got showered – separately I must add!

Friday morning, and our alarm clocks sounded at 7am readying us for the busy weekend ahead. We did a couple of laps, walking around the lake, so we could put in order a list of our favourite swims.

At 9am all the competitors nervously gathered round for the draw. Dave Watson who was running the event had asked one of Todber employees to pick the first names out of the hat, it wasn’t us this time around and a few more names were pulled out – then it was us out in 5th place and we were lucky enough to choose our 2nd choice swim! The draw was soon complete then all of the anglers made their way to their swims – some happy and some not so.

Upon arriving in our swim we were feeling quietly confident, but we knew with any fishing match anything can happen. Whether you get a good draw or a bad draw, all you can do is try your best and put as much effort in as possible and hope you have done enough by the final hooter.

Our swim was positioned behind one of the islands with a lovely channel to the right hand side of the swim, where there were two sets of reeds beds which screamed out carp. The plan was for Kev to concentrate on the Island and I would fish the channel where the reeds were. During practice, solid bags and boilies seemed to be the best tactics so we had decided that I would fish solids, which were made up with CC Moore Salmon Fry Crumb, 2mm Trout pellets and Marine Pellet Powder. The hook bait were 8mm ‘Mini Bites’ pop ups. Once this was cast out about fifty 10mm Equinox boilies were catapulted over the top. Tackle wise, my set up was 12lb Pro light blend mainline with a short 25lb Mirage fluorocarbon leader, 2.5oz inline flat pear lead, 3 inches of 15lb Trickster Heavy silt hook link tied to a trusty size 10 Covert Continental Mugga.

Kev decided to fish 15mm Equinox boilies, also tipped with a 8mm Mini Bites pop up and also opted to catapult around forty baits over each rod along the island margin.

As soon as the horn sounded for the start of the match, we excitedly got our rods out ready for what we hoped would be a productive weekends fishing. Within thirty minutes, one of Kev’s rods was away and after a short battle we had the fish in the net and we were off the mark! The fish weighed in at 14lbs 7oz’s. Throughout the afternoon and evening there was a pattern emerging on Kev’s rods, he was receiving a couple of bites every two hours or so, meaning going into darkness we were sat in 2nd place with the five fish we’d landed.

Our plan was to stay up through most of the night drinking plenty of energy drinks to keep us awake, and as we went into the night we hoped the adrenaline of catching fish would keep us awake instead.

By sunrise we hadn’t slept a wink, but we had seven fish to be weighed in – a very good nights fishing I have to say. All of the other competitors seemed to be asleep by 11pm and as far as we were aware only one other fish had been caught overnight. It certainly felt like effort had equalled reward and we very much deserved to be sat in 1st place on the Saturday after the mornings weigh in.

My rods had produced the majority of the action through the darkness, then the action seemed to of slowed as the light levels increased. The open water swims started to become very productive and throughout Saturday, we could only watch the rest of the field start to catch us up. With our rods being quiet we managed to have a snooze for forty five minutes before getting up to recast. It wasn’t until late afternoon when we managed to land a couple of more fish off the island to keep us in contention going into the 2nd night.

As dusk fell, we were still positioned in 3rd place; about 40lbs behind 2nd place and 40lbs ahead of 4th. The pair behind us were situated in the middle section of the lake which hadn’t produced anything the first night, so we were praying for similar conditions again. In typical fashion, this wasn’t to be the case as we sat outside all night in -2C and it was quite possibly one of the most dreadful nights fishing. Throughout the night we had only managed two more doubles and we heard five runs through the night. Can you guess from what swim? Yes you got it, the lads who were in fourth! What are the chances, as no one else around the pond had caught during the night. All we could do was carry on fishing and hope they hadn’t caught many biggies.

At the weigh in it turned out we had fallen out of the qualification positions by 6lb! After all of our hard work we were feeling a tad frustrated, but that’s how it goes. With three hours left we got our act together and fought back with Kev landing a mid-double common. Then in the dying stages I landed a 17lb linear that took us 26lb clear of 4th place and only 10lb behind 2nd position. The final hooter sounded at midday Sunday and we were mighty relieved to have pulled the result out of the bag.

The presentation was done shortly after the match, and then we made our way home back to Norfolk very pleased with the end result. The semi final is on Brasenose 2 and we are really looking forward to this already. Hopefully I will have something good to report after that match too…