It's big-match time for Jon Arthur as he looks forward to 2012's Fish 'O' Mania and Maver Match This qualifiers.
Well the Fish 'O' Mania draw for ticket allocation has now been made and the annual fuss and nonsense that goes with it can now begin!
I normally apply for all 16 qualifiers to give myself a better chance but this year I'm perhaps not quite so eager and only went for three quarters of them. Knowing there are equally good Match This qualifiers on similar dates has played a big part, I guess. That's also a big reason why I'm not that bothered that I only got four out of 12 tickets this year. Last year's final was a bit of an anticlimax for me and it just felt that if you were out of it you were out of it and there was nothing you could possibly do to win. The fact that it's a 100 per cent winner-takes-all competition makes things very difficult for the majority of people that are out of the race – but it's nevertheless a great experience being there and I'm very fortunate to have done it three times now! I personally prefer the Match This format but I'm actually not bothered which one I win first – hopefully both, mwa ha!
I have to feel for some of the people who received no tickets at all. Take my old mate Michael Buchwalder, for instance, who applied for seven and got none. He's not even very high on the reserve lists! With so many other things going on I actually expected the take up of Fisho qualifiers would be down this year but one look at the various angling forums suggests they are not. I'm really surprised to see that it seems like most people have got less than 50 per cent of what they applied for. The fact that the draw is random has to be applauded but when some people get no tickets at all, it does make you think if things could be done a bit different? Perhaps randomly allocate one ticket to every person that applies and then make the rest of it completely random after that? I bet that'd be a ball-ache to sort, though!
Perhaps now is the time to readdress the so-called 'veterans club' that I and most others think is a bit bizarre, too? I wholeheartedly agree that former Fisho champions should get to pick a handful of qualifiers as a reward. I definitely don't think there should be some sort of select club for others, however. The premise is that it is because these people have supported the comp from the outset. Come on guys, that was well over a decade ago and things move on! The comp was a bit of a 'in the know' event back then as it was all before the digital/online entry process. It was done on a first-come-first-served basis and some were applying for tickets before the general public ever knew anything about it, and that cannot be right! It may only be 30 or so extra tickets thrown into the pot (It might be a lot more) but it's still a fairer deal and would give those that don't get any tickets one less thing to blame. Obviously just my thoughts but I know I'm in the majority with them...
So, this year my tickets are Viaduct, Lake View, Makins and Messingham. I'm really happy with these as one is on my doorstep (although it's also on my anniversary – oh dear!), one is a new venue I've never seen before and two of them have been VERY kind to me already. I qualified for my first ever Fisho Final from Lake View near Melton Mowbray. It was a very tight finish where the top five all came off different lakes and I was one of the last lakes to weigh in. I had a great day on caster shallow to bag around 70lb of carp if memory serves me correct. I even shed a tear when I found out I'd done it, as it really meant so much to me at the time!
Last year I won the first qualifier of the year from Cary Lake at Viaduct in Somerset with a day I know I will never ever be lucky enough to repeat – breaking the Fisho qualifier record with 250lb-plus of carp, including a few 20lbers no less! My head hurt so much from all the grinning I did on the way home! Interestingly, both of these times I was not on an end peg – and that's something of a rarity when you look at how most qualifiers are won. The fact that my nickname is End Peg makes that fact even more curious!
I'm also really high up on the reserve list for Barford and Larford so that's two more potential qualifiers I can fish, and Woodland View has an outside chance for me getting on that one too. Fingers crossed I will have already qualified by then...
That just leaves plenty of Match This qualifiers to enter now. I was in the Runners-Up Final last year and ended up third. This year I want to be in the big one itself and come first (like everyone else, I guess!).
The great thing about Fisho and Match This qualifiers is the banter and anticipation before the draw and then the feeling you get during the match IF you feel you are still in with a chance. I still get a big tingle the night before, while driving to a venue and when I'm stood in that draw queue. If you see me on a qualifier this year, why not say hello? It would be even nicer if you decided not to go to your peg to give me a nice fat empty peg advantage, ha ha! Hopefully see you in one of the big finals this year.
Jon Arthur is the editor of Pole Fishing and loves being part of big events like Fish 'O' Mania and Match This.