I always look forward to the Drennan Knockout Cup; it makes a refreshing change from the win at-all-costs mentality of other individual matches, that more often than not result in disappointment. A proportion of the field qualifies from each round, meaning that a solid and steady approach is often the way forward.
As you’ve probably heard, Round One was at Tunnel Barn Farm; an excellent choice of venue as it’s full of ‘small’ F1s. As I was staying over to fish the Woodland View Fish ‘O’ Mania the next day, my usual travelling partner Danny Grimsey and I went in separate vehicles. This proved to be fortunate as Danny’s gearbox blew up just off the M6, and meant that I could ‘rescue’ him and ensure that he got to the match! After abandoning his van we arrived slightly late and flustered for the draw.
My draw put me on High Pool Peg 43, which I have since learnt is a pretty reasonable area on the pool. My peg was very deep at about eight feet down the middle; however, I had 18 inches of depth tight across at 14.5 metres and two feet down the edge.
I began on a top kit with pellets and caught five small F1s reasonably quickly; however, Paul Bick next to me was absolutely emptying it shallow and I just had to follow suit.
At the halfway mark I had 39 F1s and fancied that I was on for my target weight of 70lb. Unfortunately just two F1s in the next hour was not the one. For the last hourand-a-half, lots of chopping and changing between the edge and long, fishing both shallow and deep, got me up to 59 F1s by the all-out. The majority had been caught on pellet shallow.
On many of the pools at Tunnel, 59 F1s would be close to 100lb; however, they are of a smaller stamp on High Pool and they totalled 64lb 3oz, slightly short of my 70lb target. This was to prove costly as Marc Roger was the last man through with 68lb. Poor Danny had weighed in 67lb 3oz and was probably the first man to be knocked out. He had the time to fully contemplate the manner of his exit while having his van towed home at 50mph.
I actually think in many ways the first round is the hardest one to get through as ‘only’ 60 out of 147 got through, which is less than half the field. Often the cut rate is 50 per cent in future rounds; annoying but just one of those things.
Last Chance Fisho Saloon
The second Coleman’s Cottage Fish ‘O’ Mania was to be my last chance of qualifying for the final. Coleman’s is a venue that I know relatively well as it’s only 15 minutes from my house and my draw of Peg 19 on Stepfield was exactly where I didn’t want to be.
Unfortunately Stepfield had suffered earlier in the year from pollution by a nearby stream and hasn’t been quite the same since. In fact my last three ‘big’ matches at Coleman’s (two Fishos and a Maver Match This) have seen me draw between pegs 12 and 19 on Stepfield each time!
each time! Anyway, you can’t beat the draw and when I arrived at my peg I found that I had two empty pegs to my left and one to my right, which I suspect was a combination of no-shows and anglers not going to their pegs.
I’m very familiar with how Stepfield fishes and as with many other F1- dominated venues you need a flying start, as in the last two hours it tends to die a death. To have any chance of achieving a low ton weight (which I felt would be needed to win), I’d probably have to catch 70 to 80lb in the first half of the match short and shallow. Unfortunately my match was over when I caught seven F1s in 10 minutes at the start, before I couldn’t then get a bite! I caught a few more by following them out longer and shallow, but that didn’t last and I soon found myself fishing 16 metres for 10 carp plus a few F1s. My final weight of 63lb 8oz was a day’s fishing but not good enough for the section, with 88lb winning it.
Jack Harness did well to win the match from Pathfield Peg 30, not a peg I would have picked before the start. Actually it was a very good match with several low tons and people in the running. My attention will now turn to a few of the more local Maver Match This qualifiers for my ‘big’ commercial matches in the remainder of the summer.
With it being the closed season as I write this it’s commercials all the way at the moment, and another local venue – Puddledock Farm – was my destination for its weekly Sunday open. I always enjoy going to Puddle as it’s a well-run 50-peg match with a friendly atmosphere and some mega golden pegs to boot. I once won £1,144 in a single match here by scooping the jackpot peg!
In fact it’s a typical commercial fishery, with the on-site Ockendon Bait and Tackle shop and an excellent café. To set the scene the match was on the 100-peg snake lake, which is generally between 13 and 15 metres wide. My draw of Peg 69 put me on a steady if unspectacular area, according to those in the know.
My summer approach to Puddle is predominantly based around a far-bank attack, as there is no doubt that the fish get pushed across here before the start of the match. Often it is relatively deep tight across and this peg was no different, with about three feet tight across. To counter the deep water, which often results in foul-hooking fish, I like to fish the Method feeder tight to the far bank at the 10 and 2 o’clock positions, and in between the two feeder lines an up in the water line on the pole tight across. A 5m meat line and a throwaway edge line round things off.
On the whistle I fed my 5m line and then chucked the Method out, which went round straightaway. Back out went the Method and I began loose feeding pellets to the island. Despite trying both Method lines and at five metres I was still on one fish after an hour. It was clearly time to change to my shallow line. However, I was concerned that I hadn’t seen any carp moving/slurping up the far bank, as past experience told me it’s best to wait until there are plenty of fish there as you’ll catch for longer.
I needn’t have worried, though, because as soon as I dropped in there were fish there and I soon had a carp on, which came off and was immediately followed by a repeat scenario.
I felt that I was probably foul hooking these fish and by shallowing up to the fishery limit of eight inches I soon began hooking fish in the mouth.
The problem I had was because the fish were coming up so shallow and I was pushing the rig right into the far bank, they were often bolting out of the peg, spooked by the pole. An obvious solution to this would be to fish a longer line between pole float and tip; however, far-bank vegetation prevented this, so I had to grin and bear it.
It never got hectic, but I kept odd carp coming and by changing to meat on the hook I felt I got quicker bites, possibly as it was a standout bait and a bit of a target when the carp arrived in the peg.
Both my 5m and my edge line yielded nothing but roach bites, so I basically stayed long and shallow all day.
My weight of 88lb 1oz put me in fourth place behind Ross Harold with 151lb and Jason Collins who was second with 130lb. This was no surprise as these two have been the best performers on my local commercial circuit in the past few years. It was an all-star top three as ex-Ipswich Town footballer Jimmy Bullard was third.
It was back to Puddle again the next week and this time I found myself on Peg 60. A good peg and close to the 50s (err, obviously!) which are always consistent. I basically fished a similar match to the previous week, but strangely there were more fish in my peg, but I ended up catching less!
As soon as I started to feed shallow there were signs of lots of fish under the surface and I must confess to thinking that my elastic was going to be ripped out all day. Fishing being fi shing, it didn’t turn out like that and initially I couldn’t get a bite, which was incredible. All I can put it down to is the fish were coming to the noise of the pellets hitting the water, but weren’t actually interested in feeding.
I also tried switching to casters to no effect and even mixed some slop up to try to cloud the water and stimulate them into having a go, which again was like flogging a dead horse! I think the conditions were poor as the fish must have been close to spawning and also the air pressure was high, culminating in a huge storm that really killed things.
Fortunately, after struggling throughout the day I had an excellent final hour and out of my 77lb 8oz I had 37lb in my last-hour net. To my surprise this beat a host of 70lb weights and got me third place, behind Ross yet again, and 120lb and miles behind Dean Swift, who won with an impressive 190lb.