March 27, 2018 4 min read

After planning a winter campaign on my syndicate this year, I was looking forward to getting stuck in. Every year however, my dad and I enter the British Carp Angling Championships and pit our wits against both the carp and some of the UK’s finest anglers. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but we really enjoy the match scene. The whole preparation and groundwork leading up to the match itself usually brings excitement, only to have a nervous wait as your fate is decided by the draw of a number. With our match this year being held at Oxlease lake at Linear fisheries in March, my winter campaign suddenly dwindled as I knew I could not afford to fish anywhere bar Oxlease in the two months preceding the match.

The practice sessions went well, with numerous fish coming to varying tactics. I started test fishing the venue two months prior to the match, trying to establish where the fish were holding up. Knowing the venue quite well, bait was kept to a minimum and I tried solid bags of Little Gemz 50/50, accompanied by a pink fruits wafter as well as some zig rigs utilising the black and yellow zig lites. I began picking the odd fish up on the solid bags, however one thing that became apparent was although the fish were clearly evident in the upper layers, I couldn’t get them to respond to zigs.

As the weather changed frequently through February, with snow and milder temperatures chopping and changing; so the fishing became erratic. One week fish would be seen and caught, indicating they were waking up, the next there would be snow and ice adorning the banks. In my last few sessions, I decided to introduce bait to the areas I had been catching from. All of a sudden this increased my catch rates. By using some hemp, corn, Little Gemz Pellet in 4mm and some chopped boilies, I upped my catch rates almost three-fold and even more so if I used high attract baits over the area. By using the added attraction of liquids and oils, this further encouraged the fish to feed and I found I was getting bites quicker.

In the week leading to the match we had snow once again, and all of a sudden, both I and other anglers began catching fish on zig rigs. The fish however, had moved from the area they had spent the majority of the winter and the draw would be critical, depending on where people picked. Arriving on the morning of the match, we had a quick walk and stood impatiently at the draw. As each name came out, anglers picked swims from where fish had been caught in the previous few days. Rightly so, their choices had been spot on and we became eager for our names to be pulled next. Our names were called fifth, and a swim I had caught 11 fish from only a week earlier was free. With conditions being very different and a fish not having been caught from that end of the lake since my hit of fish, the gamble was played and we opted for what we knew. Even more of a quandary was the fact that swims around where the fish had been caught were left free, leaving large amounts of unpressured water; an area sure to attract fish.

Setting up, we decided to start with a good amount of bait to two known spots. Using the same mix as we had practised with, two baits were kept on the deck and two on zigs at varying depths. As the match started, we despatched all four rods within 4 minutes and were sat ready to go. The advantage of knowing the water so well, was all the rods were clipped and ready to go without even putting a lead to the water. Within 30 minutes any pre-match nerves were settled as two small doubles fell to my rods. The fish were still visiting the area and it had become obvious that the morning feeding spell would require us to be on the ball and organised. By getting rods back out as soon as a fish was in the net with pre-tied rigs and bags, we capitalised on fast moving shoals. All bar one of our fish throughout the match came during the morning, and the majority came in short windows as shoals moved through the swim. It was nervous as we knew swims down the other end would be catching us up during the afternoons and evenings. We tried just about every depth of zig too, but not once did we buy a bite on them. Up the other end, almost every fish came to a zig rig; how odd is that.

In total then we managed to catch 11 fish during our 48 hours, an almost carbon copy of the previous week. It just went to show that all of the hard legwork completed in the weeks running up to the match had served us well. We finished second, one fish behind first and qualified for the next round. Very pleased, but very tired, the weekend was a testament to the hard work put in by the majority of pairs. Having been on the losing side too many times, I know how harsh match fishing can be, but also how rewarding it can prove too. If you’ve never tried it, give it a go. It helps to have your best friend in tow or someone you work well with. Luckily for me, Dad ticks both those boxes and regardless of what happens, we always have fun. I’ve got a Spring on the syndicate now before a few recce trips on our semi-final venue, due to take place in July. Wish us luck.