This year’s team selection final was held in Somerset, giving the option of numerous potential venues for the 2 day competition. Anglers began arriving at the Taunton base mid week, and were pleased to find much of the venues looking in good shape despite recent heavy rain. Day 1
With successful practice days done across various venues on the Thursday and Friday, 21 anglers were prepped and ready for Saturdays match that was to be held on the South Drain. The venue offered some 8 miles of water, and 4 convenient drop off points spread equally along the length. With no particular known hot spots along the length, anglers spread fairly equally along the 4 start points.
Andy, Toad, Terry, Jack and Stefan all opted for the bottom section of the drain. The drain looked particularly uninviting on the downstream side, with coloured water and waves of 2ft high crashing against the road bridge. But dropping down onto the upstream match section they found some slight rest bite from the wind and relatively clear water all to themselves’. The group had separated with Jack and Stef on the south bank and the others on the north bank. With the match underway it took all of 4 casts before Andy latched into a 10lber from a small backwater just off the main drain, and swiftly followed it up with a 7lber. Wasting no time either, Jack, Toad and Terry all joined the party and got their first fish under their belts within the first 15 minutes, and so too would Stef had he not been using rubber hooks.
Elsewhere, others too were off to flying starts. Fretty and Big Wayne were the next anglers upstream and were into fish from the 2nd cast, Fretty bringing in a small fish on his second cast that was helped into the net thanks to the gale force winds. They were joined too by Ian, Simon and Declan, though chose to head downstream towards the bottom section for the chance to fish the 1 mile of water between them and the downstream group to themselves. Fretty added 2 additional fish in the first half hour to take him up to the 5lb mark.
Numerous anglers had started further upstream at the nature reserve, with Glenn latching into 4 pike within the first hour. He was joined by Darren, Joe, Midge, Lloydy, and Paul with his infamous lamprey all getting amongst the fish early on. Stu and Lou had opted for the start point of Spittles bridge and began catching steadily throughout the morning, Lou landing the pick of the bunch with a lovely 12lber. The drain seemed alive with pike and baitfish alike, and all the pre-match nerves and anticipation were soon settled.
At the downstream end, as Andy and Toad added further fish in quick succession from the mouth of the backwater, Jack watched on from the opposite bank beginning to wonder if he’d chosen the wrong side. But heading up slightly closer to the sluice gates, he fished a big roach and was instantly rewarded with a 9lber taking him back into the mix. A few casts later and he was in again, bringing a pristine 11lber to the net. He was pretty happy with the bank he was on at this point. Moving further upstream the group continued to pick up small fish from both banks, Toad landing a bonus 12lber after persevering with a bigger bait. The big fish were certainly not shy in putting in appearances; Higgy also was enjoying success further upstream landing another of 12lb.
Fretty and Big Wayne continued downstream and had found a better stamp of fish in the next field. Big Wayne opened his account for the day and the pair were into fish after fish on wobbled smelt which seemed to be the go to bait, but they they had no reason to change what they were doing! Reaching the end of the next field they had both comfortably smashed their best day 1 qualifier weights! They too enjoyed a good stamp of fish at the mouth of a minor drain, Wayne taking an 8lber and Fretty poaching 7lber as Wayne was re-baiting.
Jack too was beginning to bag up on fish at the downstream end, but endured his fair share of frustration losing 5 fish in a row. The best of which did a fantastic tail walk on the brim of the net to throw the hook, much to the amusement of those on the opposite bank. Stefan finally joined in the fun, bringing a jack to the bank to get him off the mark. He was soon into another fish but had been watching Jack too closely and duly lost it. With the number of fish about it was inevitable there would be some lost fish, and both Ian and Stu also endured their share of bad luck losing 13 fish between them. As others endured lost fish, Peter on the other hand began landing them after a quiet morning. He enjoyed a successful afternoon bringing in 5 fish to keep him in the mix.
Paul Christian was on top form as always is the way, using the same section of lamprey for the whole day he was steadily catching pike non-stop. Lloydy was kept busy signing his weigh card all day, but he also caught his fair share of fish to stay in the mix.
Paul was joined by Big Wayne at the top of the leader board who was beginning to edge the battle between him and Fretty. The pair enjoyed 3 double hook-ups throughout the day, noting that they’ve never before seen the drain so switched on! Out of nowhere Big Wayne bolted off down the drain at a rate of knots, leaving Fretty wondering whether it was the farmers bull with mad cow disease. What Fretty didn’t know was that Wayne had seen a big fish swirl by the edge of a tree and cast straight in, latching into a fish instantly. With his heart in his mouth, Wayne played a big pike in to the edge of his net when something odd happened – the pike split in two its lower half started to swim away or it seemed that way. What Big 'mad cow' Wayne didn't realise it was two pike together not his 30lber he had seen from 100 yards away!
Fretty and Wayne were within sight of the downstream party at this point, and both groups decided to head back to fish the productive areas of the morning. However, whilst the water upstream seemed to have switched off for Fretty and Wayne, the pike and baitfish were still topping at the downstream end. Both Andy and Jack were into fish right away, Andy bringing in the better fish of 7lb that gave a great account of itself.
Stef and Jack switched to lures in an attempt to hit the out of reach water immediately below the sluice gates. This brought Jack a bonus finish bang on 4pm, and was joined by Fretty who also enjoyed last cast success with a bonus 3lber sending him 3 places up the leaderboard.
That brought the end to a record first day for the qualifier, with huge bags of fish caught right along the length of the match section. A bag of 20lb over previous qualifiers would typically get you a place in the team, but on this day alone 20lb wouldn’t even have put you in a reserve spot! All of the top 10 were made up of 25lb+ weights.
Day 1 Standings
1. Wayne Lees 64lb 06oz
2. Paul Christian 61lb 06oz
3. Andy Waller 46lb 06oz
4. Jack Park 41lb 08oz
5. Mike Fretwell 38lb 08oz
6. Mark Lloyd 37lb 14oz
7. Simon Huitson 36lb 05oz
8. Paul Higginson 28lb 13oz
9. Louise Hunns 25lb 02oz
10. Darren Knowles 25lb 01oz Day 2
With much talk about the state of Sunday’s venue, most anglers set off early with plenty of time to check out the 3 drop off points along the length of the drain. They were greeted by heavily coloured water at the 2 downstream sections that was pushing through at some rate, though much more favourable conditions at the top section with a good few feet of visibility. Understandably, all but 4 anglers opted for this drop off spot, which gave the option of 8 miles of water downstream and 1/2 mile upstream.
Fretty and Wayne liked the idea of fishing some water to themselves, and headed down to the middle section, joined by Paul Christian and Lloydy. Knowing that water at the upstream section was clear, Fretty and Wayne had the idea of walking up a few miles in an attempt to find the clear water – but of course, they didn’t know where the water was coming from! They put in a good few miles before fishing but water didn’t improve. Fretty dropped his smelt in the water and couldn’t even see the bait from the end of his trace. The two began fishing half-heartedly, and prayed that those upstream didn’t enjoy the same success as yesterday!
At the top section, anglers spread equally across the banks up and downstream, with some choosing to put some distance between them and the car park before fishing.
With the match underway, Jack continued his day 1 form and was into a fish very first cast to the disbelief of neighbouring Stefan who added yet another signature to Jack's weigh card. Returning the fish though he duly got stuck in the mud up to his waist and had to be rescued! Joined also by Stu, the trio headed on downstream as Jack added a further 2 jacks in the first hour. The water here was shallow and very weedy, with plenty of features across the river to aim for and with a few feet of visibilty.
Sat outside the day 1 top 10, Brooky had some catching up to do and was also off to a flier having headed upstream of the bridge. He latched into an 8lber immediately, and followed this up with 4 more in the first hour to take him right back into the mix. He was joined by Higgy, Simon and Ian, also bringing several fish to the bank on the upstream section that few had decided to fish.
On the north bank downstream of the car park, both Terry and Andy also latched into jacks early on with a fish apiece. Having walked on further downstream, Darren and Joe were enjoying early success with 2 fish each, though Glenn was having rotten luck, losing 2 fish including a good double that powered off downstream at a rate of knots before throwing the hook. It didn’t take too long for both Stef and Stu on the South bank to also open their accounts for the day, both adding fish of 4lb respectively.
With plenty of early action, no one was betting against another bumper day like the previous day, and no ones position seemed guaranteed!
Downstream meanwhile, Fretty and Wayne had opted to sit behind a float in an area renowned for big 20s – with the water so coloured they were left with no other option. But despite the dire conditions, Wayne picked up a bonus fish in the margins against the odds.
Back upstream, Stu and Jack were eager to get downstream to a spot where 2 side drains join in, an area that has produced big bags of fish in the past. Though joined by Midge, Andy, Toad and Terry on the opposite bank they discovered that one of the side drains resembled a chocolatey torrent pumping out all manor of debris into the main channel. It would explain the coloured water seen at the 2 drop off points further downstream - and posed an issue for those who had hoped to carry on to the vast amounts of water downstream as they were forced to double back onto the mile of water they had just covered.
Undeterred, Stef wasted no time and latched onto a good double on the edge of an overhanging tree. Nightmare struck though as it powered under the branches forcing Stef to go in after it. A tense tussle ensued only for the fish to emerge victorious, throwing the hook and into the tree much to the disappointment of a soaked Stefan. Not to be outdone though, Stu also hooked and lost a fish in the adjacent swim, before slipping majestically as if in slow motion into the river and over his waders!
Fishing back up towards the start point, the action dried up. It was noted that the sluice gate at the top of the section had opened slightly, allowing more flow down the drain and colouring the water somewhat. Further downstream it was also noted the drain rose some 3 foot over the course of the match, but that didn’t deter Paul Christian from adding another fish to his tally.
A few anglers gathered at the upstream car park and targeted below the road bridge, an area black with baitfish on the surface that also drew several pike strikes. Though much to their annoyance, the pike were uninterested in any offerings and were seemingly preoccupied with the baitfish.
The match came to an end, bring a close to the 2 day qualifier. Those who had enjoyed success on the first day knew that their position was likely safe, though with the weights tallied up there was 1 change from the day 1 top 10. Brooky’s 5 fish in the first hour were enough to take him into 9th place at the expense of Lou. A fantastic weekend which saw 155 pike landed at over 680lb!
At the results presentation and prize giving, all raised a glass to Roy Rushbrook who sadly passed away over the weekend on 02/11/19. Final Standings
1. Paul Christian 68lb 07oz
2. Wayne Lees 66lb 14oz
3. Jack Park 53lb 04oz
4. Andy Waller 51lb 09oz
5. Simon Huitson 49lb 09oz
6. Paul Higginson 43lb 13oz
7. Mike Fretwell 38lb 14oz
8. Mark Lloyd 37lb 14oz
9. Chris Brookshaw 36lb 15oz
10. Darren Knowles 32lb 12oz
11. Louise Hunns 27lb 00oz
12. Ian Huitson 24lb 10oz
Last edited by Parky
on Wed Nov 20, 2019 10:02 am, edited 1 time in total.