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I made the voyage down to White Acres in Cornwall a few weeks ago for the Innovations Festival. The Innovations festival is arguably the most highly contested event in the match fishing calendar, it really is the who’s who of commercial match fishing with 180 top-flight anglers all thirsty for glory. White Acres is undoubtedly the fishing mecca for anglers all around the UK, it’s an awesome place with some brilliant fishing on offer.
The 180 anglers are split up into five 36 peg sections, which are then divided up into four 9 peg sub-sections. These sections are spread across ten different lakes, so you have to be prepared for every eventuality.
There’s also the added incentive of the Parkdean Masters Final. This Final see’s the top 24 anglers in the festival compete for a whopping £25,000.
My lodge was made up of Ben Fisk, Andy Leathers and faithful chauffeur Lee Kerry. All three had made the final last year so I have a lot to live up to.
Day 1 took me to Bolingey peg 6. This peg is located on the left hand arm of Bolingey and is usually quite fair so I was happy and couldn’t wait to start the festival.
I like to keep things simple with all of my fishing, think hard about what I think will be the best tactics on the day, have confidence in those methods and try to make them work. Short pole with meat was my main plan of attack, but I had a long pole line and an edge swim up my sleeve just in case things weren’t going to plan.
The match started well, I had 7 fish in the first hour which were made up of 2 carp, 2 small carassio’s and three grass carp which was a first for me. The next hour shot by like a flash, with the odd fish making an appearance in the section but the fishing wasn’t frantic by any stretch of the imagination. I ventured out on to the long pole as the fish sometimes back off into the middle of the lake after everyone starts short and catches a few. I had a few small carp, but bites became harder and harder to come by.
The last hour can be the make or break of your day at Bolingey, the fish just seem to switch on. It’s almost as if someone’s switched a light on. Thankfully I had 9 carp on the short pole in the last 45 minutes to boost my weight up into contention. I finished the match with 99lb for third in the section which got me off to a steady start.
This peg had won the lake the day before so I was hopeful for a bite, or two. I went down a simple approach, again. I had a lot of open water in front of me so with this in mind I wanted to give myself the best chance of building a weight. I fished a Method feeder ¾’s of the way across in the open water, a long pole line with pellets and short pole line with meat for later on in the match.
I had a lovely days fishing to be honest. I caught a few fish early pinging pellets on the long pole and then switched to the method feeder just passed it. I had a few indications on pellets but the best hook bait by a mile was a Sonubaits White Chocolate Band Um. The match just seemed to tick over nicely, I never felt like I was bagging but I consistently put fish into the net which is so important on festivals. Three late carp on the short pole meant that I finished the day with 17 carp for 114lb and a vital section win. Thankfully I had done enough to win the lake as well which was an added bonus.
Sharing partner Lee Kerry was also doing really well with two section wins as well as a lake win and a lake third so we had a nice little pot accumulating.
Pegs don’t get much worse than 2 on Twin Oaks, As soon as I pulled it out of the bag my heart sank. To do well in festivals down at White acres you need four, even five good draws that give you have half a chance. Unfortunately this peg doesn’t give you any chance of competing in the section as the bottom half of the section known as the teens dominate year on year.
I knew that today was damage limitation, finish as high as I possibly could and be the best of the rest. I had a good start considering the pegs recent form. I had 7 small carp on a small pellet feeder cast tight to the island. Not a bad start but I could already see the anglers below me sacking up! The carp didn’t stick around for too long and I was soon scratching around for roach on casters down the edge. Although I say scratching, it was one a chuck! I had an awesome days fishing, one of the best days roach fishing I’ve had this year. I had a few F1’s mixed in with the roach, as well as a few tench and skimmers. I knew that with a good last hour and maybe a few big carp late on down the edge or on my short meat line I might stand a chance of nicking a fourth or even a third.
Unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be, the carp simply weren’t there, or if they were they weren’t feeding. I finished the match with 66llb, most of which were roach. This was only good enough for fifth in the 9 peg section. As expected peg 18, 16, 14 and 12 beat me, but I couldn’t beat myself up too much. Roll on tomorrow.
This was an absolute gem of a peg, a proper flier! However they don’t jump in the net and I had some great anglers in the section. I couldn’t afford to be complacent, you never know with fishing!
After thirty minutes and only three small F1’s I feared the worst, but thankfully it didn’t take too long for the fish to turn up. The middle part of the match was awesome, I had an F1 a chuck on a short pole line with maggots for about an hour. The peg seemed to drift off in the last couple of hours, but I found alternating between my two edges again with maggots. This kept the fish coming until the end of the match.
I had a great day and learnt some valuable lessons. I finished the match with just under the ton mark and won the section. This was enough to win the lake as well which added another £280 to add to our kitty.
Lee was flying he had four straight section wins and had already done enough to qualify for the Final, hopefully I’d be there with him.
The Final day of the festival beckoned, I needed to come third in the section to stand a chance of making the Final. Peg 78 was my home for the day which is a good peg in a usually fair section. The only problem/spanner in the works is that on the final day at Porth a lot of anglers fish for the lakes big shoal of bream, meaning that my play it safe catch everything approach could be blown out of the water by some massive weights that are commonly caught on the feeder. However, anglers don’t always catch them, especially on the last day of a festival.
I had a lovely days fishing catching a small roach every drop in on maggots and pinkies. Things were ticking along nicely. It wasn’t solid but I kept coming back with a fish. Suddenly Ben Hart to my right panned a 4lb slab out of the blue and then followed it up by two smaller skimmers. He had me on the ropes and I knew that if he had another burst of fish like that again I’d be done and dusted!
My head was in my hands when Ben plopped 12lb 12oz on the scales, I couldn’t believe he had weighed that, I only saw him catch five or six fish and when he put his fish on I was shocked! The question preying in the back of my mind was, had I done enough? Would those tiny roach and skimmers weigh enough to beat Ben? Thankfully they were, I had pipped him by 6 ounces. I weighed 13lb 2oz which resulted in that all important section win along with a lake third.
I was over the moon, I finished the festival with 34 points dropping a fifth which guaranteed me a spot in the Final and with a bit of luck I might have sneaked into the top ten?
I couldn’t wait to find out how Lee had done, I got back to the lodge and eagerly waited for him. He had done it, he had five wins out of five, along with two lake wins and two lake thirds. He truly blitzed the festival! He fished brilliantly all week and was a well worthy winner, well done Lee.
I was really pleased when my name was read out in ninth position. I did feel a little bit deflated as three anglers also finished on 34 points but had better droppers, but like I said earlier you need five good draws at White Acres to compete at the top so I couldn’t be too disappointed and in all honesty I was just buzzing to make the Final.
The Parkdean Master’s Final is fished on Jenny’s lake which hasn’t been used in the festival, so no one really knew where the winner would come from. Everyone had their favoured areas and a few noted pegs would be favourite but there was a real buzz around the draw as you look at everyone in the line up knowing that one of us was going to walk away £25,000 better off along with the Parkdean Master’s title.
It was my turn to draw and the nerves suddenly kicked in, I had pulled out peg 16! This can be an awesome peg and unbeatable on its day. It won the Final last year and ironically both Andy Leathers and Lee Kerry (my lodge mates) had won the Final off that exact peg. Would it be my turn?
Unfortunately the answer was no. I had hundreds of carp in front of me at the start and I thought today was going to be my day but the lake fished incredibly difficult, which shocked everyone. I caught a double figure carp my second drop in and then lost two more straight after it all of which were foul hooked. The fish just weren’t feeding and after an hour or so every carp in the lake was at the opposite bank. The Final is fished over four hours and it really was a struggle, I had to scratch around for small F1’s and crucians for the remainder or the match, I didn’t see another sign of a carp. I finished the match with just short of 25lb for 11th in the final.
Although that doesn’t tell a full story, realistically there was about fifteen anglers that only needed another few bites to win the Final. So no one could say it wasn’t a fair match. Hats off to Jamie Wilde on winning the Final off unfancied peg 13 with 46lb, he fished like a hero and made every bite count. Well done Jamie.
I’ve had a fantastic week full of highs and lows but overall I thoroughly enjoyed the week. What an experience making that Final was, to fish a match for £25k was awesome, roll on next year! Our lodge had done brilliantly, three of us had made the final and Ben Fisk just narrowly missed out. Lee and myself has won nearly £5000, (thanks to Lee’s £3000 winning cheque) so we’ve had an awesome trip to say the least. I can’t wait to get back again next year, it might just be my turn to take the £25k home! Massive congratulations again to Lee Kerry and Jamie Wilde on their wins, well done lads.