BCAC 2013 Success for Team Grout and Wyld

Competing in the British Carp Angling Championships has been a massively important part of both mine and Matt’s fishing over the past eight years. During this eight-year period of competing, we have achieved consistent success by qualifying for five semi-finals and four finals, even despite the fact that we didn’t qualify for the semi-final rounds in the first two years of trying.

Competing in the British Carp Angling Championships has been a massively important part of both mine and Matt’s fishing over the past eight years. During this eight-year period of competing, we have achieved consistent success by qualifying for five semi-finals and four finals, even despite the fact that we didn’t qualify for the semi-final rounds in the first two years of trying.

We achieved our best result so far in 2011 when we came second in the final at Broadlands, missing out on first place by just 20lb. Due to our consistent results within the Championships, we are currently ranked in the top 10 pairs in the country with only the likes of the Oconnors, Marsh and Merrit, and Holehouse and Huntingdon ranking higher. Our success has also resulted in us gaining sponsorships from a number of the industry’s leading companies, like CC Moore, Fox International and Carp-Talk, which, without a doubt, has aided our success considerably in recent years.

Although we always adapt the finer technicalities of our fishing methods to suit each venue we compete on, generally our approach is very similar for each match. In this article I will talk through our approach and chosen tactics that led to our successful qualification to the final of the 2013 Championships.

Qualifying Round

Todber Manor, Dorset – 5-7th April 2013

Todber Manor’s Big Hayes lake has been our chosen qualifier venue for the last four consecutive years, during which time we have qualified three times, winning two of the four matches. Although the competition is fierce at Todber, including some very good up-and-coming anglers, as well as established pairs like Jack Stamp and Kia Sanger, Todber is an ideal match venue for us for a number of reasons. Generally, the size of the lake, being six acres, and the relatively high stock levels of around 800 carp result in a very even competition, where normally angling skill determines the end results rather than the location of the fish. Todber is one of those venues that if you are willing work hard at your fishing then usually a good result should be achievable with relative ease.

As Todber Manor is around 220 miles from where I live in Norfolk, I rarely have the opportunity to practise on the venue. With this in mind, I have historically travelled to Todber on the Monday prior to the match to practise for 72 hours so I can once again get a general feel for fishing the lake. I find that practising on a venue like Todber, the week commencing a match, gives me an excellent idea of important factors like the location of the fish and their general feeding behaviour at the time.

For the 2013 qualifier, my practice session could not have been more valuable, as the behaviour of the fish was heavily influenced by unusually cold weather for the time of year. In past matches we have achieved weights in the region of 400lb using solid bags filled with 1½mm CC Moore Halibut pellets, Marine Halibut groundbait and Oily Bag Mix, which we use in conjunction with 10mm Live System boilies and, more recently, 8mm Mini Bitez pop-ups. However, as I discovered while practising for the 2013 qualifier, this was not to be the winning method this time round, so a serious rethink was required.

In previous matches at Todber we have caught a small number of fish using zig rigs, especially when bites from fishing on the bottom have slowed down considerably. In addition to our experiences of using zig rigs at Todber, we have also witnessed a number of anglers like Marsh and Merrit catching consistently using this method during match conditions.

With this in mind, I went about the remainder of my practice session trying a variety of different-length zig rigs in conjunction with different-coloured hookbaits. For the last three years or so, we have always used the same rig components for our zig rigs, which entails Fox Zig + Floater hooklink coupled with the Arma Point SSSP size 9 hooks fished with a light lead on a lead-clip system. Normally our chosen zig rig hookbaits consist of a small piece of black foam tipped with half an 8mm Hellraiser pop-up, with orange being our preferred choice of colour. However, during practice this year, I noticed a very similar response when using white foam instead of black and, as it turned out, this was to be an extremely valuable edge during the match. When it came to working out the most productive length of the zig rig we should use, I didn’t really notice any major differences between 1ft and 2ft rigs, with both being very productive.

Although Todber is one of the fairest match venues we have fished, the draw is still a very important part of the match and requires a great deal of consideration and thought. Having said that, we have got a historically unlucky track record in the draws at Todber, having come last out of the bag in 2010 and 2011 and second from last in 2012. So, with the odds leaning towards a good draw in 2013, we were feeling nervous but quietly confident when the first names were drawn out of the bag. However, as more and more of our competitors names were drawn from the bag before us, we soon realised that our bad luck at the draw was to continue for yet another year. Finally, our names were drawn 10th out of the bag and we claimed our ninth-choice swim, known as The Point. Slightly shocked and disappointed by yet another bad draw, we made our way round to our swim. After witnessing three different pairs struggling to catch from this swim in the previous three qualifiers, we knew that, yet again, we were up against it and we would have to fish at our best to produce a good result. The only glimmer of hope we had was that we knew a good number of fish would move into a swim known as The Monk swim, which is just to the left of The Point. We just had to hope that we could pick up a good number of fish as they quickly passed through our water.

One of our best tactics during competing is to, quite simply, be as quiet as possible and cause minimal disturbance to our swim prior to the start of the match. So, as always, we set up our tackle and sat quietly, watching the water until the casting-out horn sounded, signifying the beginning of the match. Carefully and quietly we positioned three zig rigs and one solid bag rig on our chosen spots and prepared to wait for the first signs of action. Surprisingly, we did not have to wait long as, after five minutes, the solid bag rig resulted in our first bite of the match, but our early luck was soon to disappear as quickly as it arrived when the hook pulled a minute into the fight. Then, to top off our very disappointing start, seconds later we got our second bite on one of the zig rigs, which resulted in an instant hook pull. We quickly got the rods back on the spots and sat down disappointed and tried to absorb what had just happened. At the time, we felt that in the normally unproductive Point we would have to land every fish we hooked to stand a chance of qualifying. It wasn’t until later that evening that we got our next flurry of action when we landed five fish in very quick succession, all on 1ft zig rigs coupled with a white hookbait. This flurry of action indicated to us that the fish were moving into The Monk like we expected. However, other than one fish through the night, our rods stayed very quiet. At this point we were just a couple of pounds behind the leaders and still well in the game.

We awoke around 5am on Saturday and quietly recast out rods with fresh hookbaits. Very soon after that we had another flurry of action, resulting in another three fish on zig rigs, putting us on just in excess of 100lb and ahead of the field for the first time in the match.

Once again, the rods went very quiet for a number of hours until the evening when the fish started to move across our swim and back into The Monk for the night. We managed another four fish on zig rigs in quick succession before dark, which gave us a very comfortable lead of around 60lb ahead of second place.

The night time proved to be very quiet all around the lake, with only one fish being caught between all competitors. Still leading the table by the morning, we got one final flurry of action, resulting in three more fish on zigs to put us on a total weight of 213lb 3oz for 16 fish, which happened to be 110lb ahead of second place. When the final horn sounded we were completely overjoyed with the result we had achieved in what is normally a very unproductive swim. Once again, the odds were stacked against us at Todber Manor, but with a lot of hard work and careful planning, we had achieved qualification to yet another BCAC semi-final.


Barston Lakes, West Midlands – 5-7th July

The next stage of the BCAC was held at the well-known Barston Lakes, near Birmingham. Barston is one of those lakes that fishes completely differently in match conditions compared to normal day-to-day conditions, mainly due to the significant increase in angling pressure during the matches. Due to this factor, we decided not to practise this year and use our knowledge that we have gained from previous semi-finals to help determine our swim choices and chosen tactics.

With an extremely hot weather forecast for the weekend and little to no wind, we knew that it was going to be an extremely hard match, even in the best of swims, so, as always, we put considerable thought into our list of swim choices. However, with the qualifications being determined by the winner of each section – not the top seven weights – it was even more important to which of the more capable anglers we wanted to avoid. Due to our track record in the BCAC, we knew if we came out early in the draw and claimed a good peg in a particular section, most of the top anglers would try to avoid competing against us, too.   Unfortunately, the draw did not go to plan and a number of good anglers started to claim good pegs, leaving us with minimal choice. Finally our name got drawn out the bag 20th and we decided to opt for B2, which happened to be our third-choice swim in the B section. However, both Matt and I agreed that B section was probably the fairest section on the lake in the current conditions and, to be honest, we had very few other options.

Once we were settled in our swim for the weekend and the rods were ready to go, we started to discuss how many fish we thought we would need to ensure qualification. B section is normally quite productive, achieving winning weights of around 200lb, which is an ideal pace of fishing for us, so we felt quite confident despite another disappointing draw. Once again, we sat quietly watching the water until the casting-out horn sounded. We then positioned our four rods quickly but quietly and sat back waiting for our first bite of the match.

In previous matches on Barston we have caught on both zig rigs and bottom bait rigs, so we decided to start with two rods on the bottom and two on zig rigs. We use very simple bottom-bait rigs at Barston, which consist of size 8 Arma Point SSC hooks and 15lb Cortex hooklengths tied with a knotless knot. CC Moore’s Live System and Equinox were our chosen boilies, which we planned to use in conjunction with small PVA bags filled with crushed boilies and pellets. Over the years we have learnt that, although the fish in Barston love lots of bait, you do have to be careful not to over-bait your swim before you start catching. With this in mind, we planned to trickle small numbers of boilies into our swim on a regular basis to try and build up the feeding activity and hopefully increase our overall catch rate.

The zig rigs we planned to use at Barston were exactly the same we used at Todber Manor. Again, we started with black foam tipped with half an 8mm Hellraiser pop-up presented around 1ft below the surface of the water. Surprisingly, other than a few irritating bites from unweighable F1s, our rods stayed very quiet, as did everyone’s in our section, with only three weighable fish caught in total before dark. It was looking like it was going to be a gruelling match, with very little action to be had.

We fished extremely hard throughout the night, recasting and trickling bait on to our chosen spots on a regular basis. Thankfully, by the morning, we had managed to catch two fish, putting us in third place in our section, 4lb behind the leaders.

The Saturday of the semi-final turned out to be one of the hottest days of the year, which was far from ideal for fishing at Barston. By around 1pm, only one other fish had been caught in our section and we started to get quite worried and restless – we had to try something different. Normally on Barston zigs are most productive fished as single hookbaits, but you can sometimes get a few extra bites by spodding cloudy groundbait over the top of the rig when the fishing is slow. With this in mind, Matt decided to try this method over one of his rods.

Surprisingly, after only three spods of cloudy groundbait carefully positioned over the zig rig, Matt’s rod rattled off and we were into another fish. Once we had carefully landed the fish and weighed in the much-needed extra pounds, we placed two zig rigs on the same spot and continued to spod cloudy groundbait over them on a regular basis. At this point I thought we had cracked it and were going to start developing a decent lead on the remainder of our section. However, after four hours of trying we failed to achieve another bite on this method; in fact, our next bite was to come from a bottom-bait rig that had been undisturbed for around five hours. This fish was a much better stamp of around 10lb and really got us thinking about our approach for night time.

As the fish seemed surprisingly cautious of bait being trickled on to our spots, we decided to scatter around 4kg of Live System boilies over a larger area directly in front of our swim. We then placed four bottom-bait rigs armed with Live System boilies around the baited area: two in the centre and the other two on the edge. Once the rigs were presented perfectly on the spots we sat back quietly and left them undisturbed. Thankfully our plan worked, resulting in another capture during the night to put us just 6oz behind the leaders in our section.

Sunrise soon came around after our capture, but little did we know that another fish had been caught in our section, leaving us 5lb behind the leaders. Then, very worryingly, with around an hour to go, another pair in our section caught a fish, leaving us even further away from qualifying. At this point we had to do something, so, with an hour to go, we decided to recast all the rods with fresh hookbaits over the baited area. After 35 minutes had passed, we started to think that our chances of qualifying for the 2013 BCAC final had diminished, when all of a sudden the bobbin on Matt’s right-hand rod slowly started to lift and we were in again. At this point I cannot tell you have nervous I was; it could have been the most valuable fish we had ever hooked. Slowly but calmly, Matt led the fish to the net and, at the first opportunity, I quickly slipped the net under the fish. I knew that we needed 9lb or more to put us in first place and, if I’m honest, my first thought was that the fish was too small. However, the marshal soon confirmed that the fish weighed 11lb 2oz and we had moved into first place with 15 minutes to go. Finally the horn sounded to signify the end of the match. I could not believe it – we had qualified for another BCAC final!

Although we have reached a number of finals in the past, I personally feel we really deserved our success this year, especially when you consider our bad luck in the draws and the high-pressured situations we were faced with. Keeping your nerve and sticking to what you know is a massively important part of being consistently successful in competition angling, and I feel Matt and I have once again shown that we have the passion, knowledge and skills required to become worthy British champions.

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