Two top match anglers. One single species challenge. Who will pick the right tactics to come out on top?
Two of the UK’s best match anglers go head to head in a crucian carp battle royale. We thought we’d put the challenge to Andy Power and Neil McKinnon.
Between them they have won a huge number of matches and big-money finals. To make the challenge more interesting we’ve doctored the rules; only one species counts – the crucian carp. The relatively small, incredibly hard fighting bar of gold is a firm favourite of many anglers around the country, so what better species to test these two match wizards.
Crucian carp are the most common fish nowadays, but with the incredible ability of these two anglers they’ve got to stand a reasonable chance of catching some finicky crucians. We've chosen Jenny's Lake at the famous White Acre's Fisheries in Cornwall which is home to thousands of these little bars of gold.
We’ve put two pegs, 15 and 16, into the drawbag and asked each angler to pick their peg. Neil is first up drawing Peg 16. “That’s a good peg, the short platform puts me a little further out into the water making fishing in close a very easy task. I’m looking forward to targeting some of the crucians in the lake, they’re a shy biting species and can be finicky feeders at the best of times but I’ll give it my best shot,” smiles Neil as he loads the rest of his tackle onto his barrow.
This leaves Andy with Peg 15, covering a large amount of open water and clear margins. Both anglers proceed to their pegs and start setting up their tackle for the day.
Both Andy and Neil have chosen to target a number of different lines to maximise their chances of keeping the fish coming all day. Andy looks incredibly well prepared before the challenge starts at 10.30.
“I like to set up a number of rigs. Five hours of fishing can take a toll on your rigs and if I catch a lot of fish they might get damaged. With tough competition, I set up duplicates of my rigs in case of any breakages,” explains Andy as he plumbs up his 11m swim.
Andy likes to have several rig options and duplicates on EVERY match he fishes!
The ‘all-in’ is called and the bait is introduced into the swim. Neil has chosen to prime his swims with groundbait laced with corn.
“I’ve mixed up a bag of Sonubaits Match Method Mix
. This groundbait contains a high fishmeal content and is a light brown colour. The fine particles shouldn’t fill up the fish too much, but the smell and flavour will hopefully hold them in the swim. The corn is very visual and easy for the fish to see. I’ll start by putting in 20 grains of Sonubaits F1 Corn
along with two small balls of groundbait into each swim.”
Neil loves Match Method Mix for a wide variety of his fishing!
Andy has a different selection of bait on his side tray. Along with 2mm fishery pellets the Somerset rod also has dead maggots, Sonubaits F1 Corn
and a bag of worms.
Neil has managed to slip the net under four crucians, all on single grains of corn as hookbaits. His 0.4g float is dotted down to a pimple. Neil explains that crucian carp can be very shy biting fish and by dotting the float down so that only a tiny amount is sticking out of the water you will see a lot more indications.
“I use a big plummet to make sure that I’m 100% certain on my depth. By plumbing up so that only the float’s bristle is showing, I know that I will be fishing just on the bottom. I’ve also used the plummet to find out what the bottom is like. Crucians love to feed on the harder gravel spots and this also makes presenting your bait much easier. On soft slit patches when the fish are feeding on groundbait on the bottom they can make a lot of disturbance. It creates a big cloud of slit and hinders the fish finding your hookbait. On the hard gravel the fish find it easier to find the bigger bits of feed,” explains Neil as he drops his rig into the water.
“I’ve chosen a PB Inter 2
Float in 0.4g. When dotted down, this float is ideal for this sort of fishing. I’m using a fine 0.11mm Reflo Power
for my hooklengths, as I like to make the bait look as natural as possible. With small hooks and light line I’m chosen a soft 10 Dura Hollo
elastic, perfect for these crucians.”
A light 0.4g PB Inter 2 float proved to be the perfect float for those shy biting crucians!
Andy thinks he has around 8 fish; putting him just behind Neil who is admitting to 10, but it’s still early days and all to play for.
“I’m only just behind, but I’ve got a trick up my sleeve that I think could make all the difference. I’ve noticed that Neil is throwing his loose feed in by hand, so I’ve attached a small Soft CAD Pot
to my tip to introduce my feed incredibly accurately. These soft, flexible pots will fit on all of my top kits too! Into the pot I’m placing a small ball of dampened pellets and a couple of grains of corn. This should be enough to hold the fish in the swim,’ states Andy.
The Soft CAD Pots are super flexible and fit a wide vairety of poles
Andy had caught up to Neil’s 10 fish and the match is now neck-and-neck. Neil tops up each of his swims with a ball of groundbait the size of a golf ball. Introducing another ball of groundbait when the swim might be starting to die off can kick-start new fish into feeding and keep his catch rate up.
Meanwhile, Andy is plugging away feeding small balls of pellets via the pole cup. A switch to a small worm section sees him slip the net under a string of small tench that unfortunately won’t count today.
He quickly changes to a short line and immediately latches into another crucian, putting him one fish ahead of Neil.
The weather is not helping the fishing, with bright sunshine beaming down onto the lake both anglers are having to work hard for bites. Neil has been feeding a very short line, only a top kit’s distance out in front of his keepnet since the start of the match.
A short line right by Neil's keepnet winkled out a few golden beauties!
“It’s really hard gravel at only a top kit’s length out in front of me. The crucians love feeding on this harder spot. I’ve been keeping this swim as quiet as possible, it can often be a banker that lots of people ignore,” smiles a confident Neil as he lowers his corn hookbait just past his keepnet.
Within half an hour, Neil has had eight more crucian carp from his short line, all caught using sweetcorn hookbaits. Andy has only had four fish to take his tally to fifteen crucians.
“I don’t like to use heavy rigs for crucians. These shy biting fish can be extremely rig shy. I’ve tied my rigs using 0.13mm Reflo Power
, down to a hooklength of 0.10mm Precision Power
. The hook is a size 18 PR 478
. I’m also using a light 0.3g PB Inter 1
float to show up the delicate bites,” explains Andy as he hooks into another fish.
Andy chose a slimmer pattern to Neil but both anglers dotted their tips down to a pimple!
With only half an hour left of the match Andy looks to be making a charge, a switch to his third swim that he has been resting all day produces a string of bigger crucian carp that could just put him ahead of Neil. There are fish being caught regularly by both anglers, both now loose feeding grains of corn to make some noise and trying to draw more fish into their swims.
Andy started to pile on the pressure in the later stages of the match!
The End Result
Both Neil and Andy are admitting to around 30lb in their nets, it’s going to be close. By feeding groundbait Neil has managed to steadily catch throughout, while Andy’s pellet approach has seen waves of fish, hit the net. Both anglers weigh in with 32lb of crucian carp. It’s a tie!
“What a day’s fishing! I’ve put back over 40lb of other species today, along with this cracking net of little gold crucians. I’ve really enjoyed fishing head to head with Andy, it just shows how two different methods can end up with the same result! Get out and target some crucians, but don’t forget to dot your float down and strike at the smallest of dips,” smiles Neil as he shakes Andy’s hand.