Unfortunately, my Drennan Knockout Cup dream for 2012 is over. My last blog focussed on how happy I was with my fishing, and how I felt that putting the effort in and practicing had paid off in style in the first round of the competition at Woodland View.
I still don’t regret my decision to do the same when it came to the second round on the Birmingham & Fazely Canal, as I really enjoyed all four of my practice sessions. The first saw me sat on my own at the top of the match length, and after around three hours fishing I had a nice net of small fish- and more importantly a fair impression of the venue so I could go away and tie a few rigs up. Once again, I picked the brains of Jon Arthur, who gave me a good idea of the rigs and baits I would need, and what to expect form the different parts of the 80 peg match length.
I returned with my colleague Joe Carass in the week leading up to the match, and we sat on what I was told were a couple of good pegs above the bridge on the Forge Lane section. Again, we only fished for three hours, but we both absolutely emptied it with me ending up with around 12lb of quality skimmers, and Joe with a mixed bag of about 8lb. It was a really enjoyable evening, I caught most of my fish on a caster line down the central track, a swim that I hoped would prove a good fish catching area come the day of the race.
Matt Godfrey joined me for a practice on the weekend leading up to the big day. On the Saturday I also asked my friend Tommy Boyce to come and help us practice, and he bought one of his friends Dan Jones along for the day too. We decided on a four peg knock up for the princely sum of £5 a man, though in hindsight me and Matt should have really known better than to get drawn in to fishing against two canal experts!
I caught a few fish on bread and squatts, and one good roach on caster to end the day with 3-10-0. Sadly, this was only enough to beat Matt’s 2-15-0 effort, Tommy next to me had a good skimmer and some roach for 4-8-0, but it was Dan who won the day with 4-10-0, again with a nice skimmer included in his catch. They say you pay to learn, and to be fair we did just that as both Tommy and Dan caught their bonus fish on bread across to the far bank cover, a line that neither me or Matt fished. I must admit, I did feel slightly sorry for Dan though, as he was good enough to buy a round of drinks with his £15 winnings, and duly spent them all!
The following day we weren’t allowed to fish on the match length, so we sat above it, and were joined by Adam Richards and Ashley Clements. Once again, the fishing seemed tough, and it was only when Alan Scotthorne came to sit behind me that I managed to catch a few fish. I’m sure that Alan has some kind of fish attracting aura, as I was only catching the occasional small fish but when he arrived behind me and the float buried a 1 ½ lb roach came to the net!
I ended the session with between 4lb and 5lb, and felt I was managing to build a fair picture of what to expect come the big day.
To be fair, I was quite happy with my draw when I pulled it from the bag. It was three pegs round from where I had sat on my evening session with Joe. I was sure that big fish were going to be the target, and based on the lessons that I had learnt from practice I felt I had a good idea of how to catch them.
My peg looked good for it too, and though it was one of the narrowest pegs in the section the fact that it had some rather attractive looking tree roots to fish up to made me think that some big fish may just hang around in the area. The only downside was that I didn’t feel I could have drawn a tougher section, as it contained Chris Vandervleit, Richie Hull, Simon Willsmore, Ian Didcote, Darren Davies and Danny Grimsey. Despite this, I felt that the practice that I had put in would give me a good chance of qualifying. My plan was to fish two caster lines across, two down the middle, a squatt line halfway up the far shelf and a bread line down the central track. One of the key lessons that I had learnt from practice was that if you sat on any line for two long you wouldn’t get a bite, so it was vital to give yourself plenty of places to go.
It would cause me too much pain to relive the match again by writing about it, but needless to say the big fish didn’t feed for me. Myself, Darren Davies and Ian Didcote all recorded 2lb odd, and were soundly thrashed by the wider pegs at the other side of the bridge, and by Danny Grimsey on the end peg to my right. The number of boats that we had on the day was far more than we expected, and this played into the hands of the wider pegs in my opinion. Darren and I stood reflecting on events after of the match, and neither of us felt that we had done anything particularly wrong, it was just a case of circumstances being against us. Matt had a similar situation where he drew in the early pegs, so there were a few glum faces sat around our table at the presentation
All in all, it was a cracking match for a narrow canal though, with Andy Benwell winning on the day with a massive 30-4-14 net of skimmers. As with all events, you will always get a few wingers, but it is impossible to create a totally fair match, especially when external factors like boats come into play. I was particularly impressed with the fact that I was weighed in with beam scales- a first for me. I was intrigued to watch how they worked, and they certainly looked a lot more accurate than the conventional dial scales. If they weren’t about £700 a set, I might even have invested in some myself!
I felt very deflated as I drove home, as I had hoped that by working hard me and Matt would go far in this prestigious competition this year. Still, you should never count your chickens before they have hatched, and if the likes of Alan Scotthorne, Gary Miller, Mark Pollard and Darren Davies can be knocked out, then so can me and Matt!
Tom Scholey is Pole Fishing magazine's Editorial Assistant, and a keen match angler.