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Drennan Knockout Cup Round Three - Little John lakes

The Drennan Knockout Cup is an event I really look forward to every year as it is the ultimate match fishing test in my opinion. At the outset one hundred anglers are invited to round one, with sixty four qualifying for round two. From this point on, half of the anglers are eliminated every round, until one remains - the winner! Each round is on a different type of venue and by the end nearly every angling skill would have been tested. The other great thing about the competition is that you can fish a sensible match. By this I mean that it is not "winner takes all", as is the case of many of the individual competitions these days.
Round three meant that there were thirty two anglers fishing for sixteen places. The match was split into sections of four anglers with the top two in each section qualifying. I had been unable to book into any of the practice matches in the weeks leading up to the event, but had heard that the fish had started to back off the method feeder and ultra long pole tactics were working. By ultra long, people were talking of twenty metres! In fact first and second in the previous days match had caught using twenty metres of carbon.
At the draw I was hoping for a peg in which I could pole to the island at a relatively short sixteen metres, unfortunately you cannot pick your peg when match fishing and I ended up with peg 5 on Robin Hood Lake. I quickly discovered that this peg was fancied as it had been second in the match the previous day. England Intermediate 3xWorld Champion Matt Godfrey had caught 150lbs on the twenty metre pole. Conditions for Matt had apparently seen very little breeze, however as I got to my peg it became apparent that a nasty stiff breeze was blowing from left to right. My first instinct was that I would not be able to hold a long pole in such conditions, especially as I am not exactly "Mr Universe!".
The other important factor to consider at this point was who I had in my 4 peg section. It turned out to be venue expert and Scotland International Jamie Masson, my fellow Browning sponsored angler and good friend Peter Thomas and last but not least Sandra Scotthorne (the wife of 4 times World Champion  and angling legend Alan Scotthorne). Sandra also had the advantage of using Alan's rigs. The words meticulous preparation just does not do the trays of rigs he'd given Sandra justice!
I had drawn next to England international Darren Cox as well. For some reason whenever I draw next to Darren I have a complete disaster. On the Kennet & Avon Canal next to him I lost both my phone and wallet before the start and at Whiteacres I drew on Twin Oaks peg 16 (widely accepted as the best peg in the World!) and he thrashed me off the next peg that day. Luckily I don't believe in omens or I would have beaten before the start!
I felt that a weight of about 100lbs would be required to qualify; therefore I kept things simple as I felt that I would need to catch on just a few lines to reach this target weight. My plan was to fish at 4 metres with meat and hemp, down the edge with chopped worm and caster and also against the island with a method feeder (using my favourite rods ever - the CC 10 foot bomb rod) or if the wind permitted the long pole with worms and casters.
As Is shipped my pole out towards the island I began to doubt the wisdom of my decision as the wind was still keen and it was a fight to get the full 18.4 metres of Z12 out there, let alone plumb the depth accurately. I was fascinated and surprised that I could reach right across to the island with 18.4 metres. Now I knew this was a "long" pole, but even I was surprised that many anglers using non Browning poles were having to fish with 20 metres when my Z12 could reach it at 18.4 metres!!
As the match began my opening gambit was to fish the short pole at 4 metres and I immediately caught a carp of about 3lbs. Unfortunately, it proved to be a one off and it became evident that I would have to venture out further to keep the fish coming. Next to me Darren Cox had begun on the feeder and had not caught a fish, this convinced me that the long pole had to be my weapon of choice. The wind had not dropped and would remain a constant nagging irritation every time I shipped the pole out. I found the easiest way to ship out was to angle my pole as far to the left as possible and this meant that I was almost shipping into the wind meaning that the wind didn't catch the side of my pole. I kept telling myself that I was using the best pole on the market that kept me in a positive frame of mind.
I was getting regular indications as soon as I was kinder cupping my mixture of worms, casters and hemp into my peg. However, my biggest challenge was connecting with the bites, as the wind dictated that I had to use a longer length of line than was ideal and my "zorro" like strike meant that I was foul hooking more fish than I should have been. As I settled into the match and accepted the conditions, I began to appreciate what a special piece of kit my Z12 was. It was still stiff at its maximum length and very fishable despite the wind. I honestly believe that in still conditions it would have been comfortable to use. Impressive, when you think I am not a particularly physically strong person!
As the match entered its later stages, I was having spells of catching 2-3 fish consecutively and then having odd quiet spells. I was missing quite a few bites still due to the conditions, which was frustrating. Even more frustrating was when my worm had wriggled off the hook at some point during the ship out to 18.4 metres! I felt like a broken man when this happened as my arms felt like they were about to drop off and the extra shipping was pure misery!
As the whistle blew I was playing a 2lb carp, the last 20 minutes had been very hectic with the fish feeding more aggressively than they had done all day. I had never been so relieved to hear the final whistle as my arms now felt like they were on fire. I had ended up with a bag consisting predominantly of carp between 8 ounces and 4lbs, plus a few ide to boot as well.
I was the second person to be weighed in and my 93lbs 8 ounces was enough to beat Sandra Scotthorne's 40lb. This meant that I now had to beat either Jamie or Peter to qualify. They were to be the last two weighed on the lake, so it was time to cross my fingers. I could not see Jamie whilst fishing as he was obscured by the island in front of me. I knew that he had caught though as there were several shouts of "c'mon Jamie" throughout the match, from what can only be described as his mini fan club! I could just about see Peter and he appeared to have caught less fish than me, but had caught most of his fish from the margins and they appeared to be bigger than mine. I had my fingers crossed that it would be myself and Peter that qualified, in the end it was very close. Jamie ended up winning the section with 96lb, my 93lb proved to be good enough for second with Peter's 83lb being third, which was a shame. I was pleased that my hard graft had paid off, it was also a bonus to hear that England had held France to a battling draw in their first Euro 2012 match. Even better news was to follow when I heard that my travelling partner Danny Grimsey had won the match and as we share winnings a handy £250 bonus was to come my way!
To summarise the day, it proved to me the value of using the best pole on the market. I never envisaged using my Z12 at 18.4 metres, however it proved that a brilliant piece of equipment can on occasions give you a serious edge. I loved my Z12 before this match and love it even more now!
Simon Colclough