World Feeder Championships Bloemhof Dam, South Africa

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In 2013, the Innovations England Feeder Team went on the trip of a lifetime to South Africa, the venue was the Bloemhof Dam which is four hours south of the capital Johannesburg. The dam was opened in the 1970’s and holds a phenomenal 1,269,000,000 cubic meters of water! The team consisting of captain Tommy Pickering, Adam Wakelin, Mick Vials, Phil Ringer, Steve Ringer and Grant Albutt would be targeting carp from 500 grams to 7 kilos, as well as yellow fish which appeared to be a cross between a barbel and a carp.

This year was very different to normal World Championships, logistically, as the team would be flying out, so a container was sent out to South Africa four months before the event with tackle for each angler. This left the lads to take their own personal terminal tackle, rods and of course clothes! They were allowed two 23 kilo suitcases, 10 kilos of hand luggage and a Bazooka rod case to fit everything in! Anything overweight had to be paid extra for and most left clothes behind to ensure every item of tackle was accounted for.

The trip started with a ten hour overnight flight to Johannesburg, landing in the early hours of the morning to be met by Captain Tommy Pickering’s personal friend Adrian Van Der Heever with a VW van for the tackle and another to pick up the lads, both emblazoned with the Team England logo! After refuelling with food and loading the vans, the team made their way to Bloemhof driving on one straight road through shanty towns and seeing some sights that you would find hard to believe. Upon arriving and being met by the owners of the Riverside Lodge the lads settled in ready for a hard but tremendous two weeks of fishing. 

In the first week, the lads quickly adapted to the venue regarding tackle, rigs and bait. It was looking like eight to twelve fish was a good average with fourteen to twenty winning the daily practise sessions.

When the official practice week started with a draw for practice sectors, the lads got a good rotation that saw them cover the whole of the match length. It was also a great chance to see the other teams in practice to give the team a good idea of who was doing what. During the week it was obvious that fish were coming to lots of particle baits and there were definitely little tricks that could be applied during the match to catch an extra fish or two. 

Sprits were high and a plan had formed that would hopefully allow the team to take home the gold.

The bait was prepared early and the team had a fair wait for coach Glenn Lawrence to come back from the draw with the pegs, we already knew the sections as they were drawn on the Friday afternoon. I was in A section which was where I had won the practice session on Friday, so in my head anywhere around there would do! As the captain came to the team with the draw he handed me my bib and I was on the next peg to where I was twelve hours previously, as you can imagine, I was well chuffed!

Throughout the practice eight to twelve fish per day was good and the day before I had fourteen, so I was happy. I decided not to change anything and fished at 45m setting up tackle to cast further if needed. The kit used for the 45m swim were 12’8” Dutch Master rods with PC-R 6000 reels loaded with 8lb Reflo Power Max and a 10lb shock leader of same material. For the longer cast I used 13’8” Dutch Masters with PC-R 6000 reels and 6lb Power Max reel line with a 10lb shock leader of same material. All had a running swivel running down to a large Quick Change Bead with a large Cage Feeder attached and hooklengths were all 50cm long 0.21mm Reflo Power to a size 14 PR 39 hook.

At the start of the pre-baiting period I put three feeders full in at 45m with mainly corn and hemp plugged with groundbait. At the all-in, I cast out with a single grain of corn and it was two minutes in that I had my first carp in the net of around 2 kilos. The next two casts produced two more fish and after the first hour there were six in the net, all of a similar size. The Spanish angler to my right had one and the Belgian to my left had three. 

The second and third hours produced fish of 500 grams to 1 kilo in size that looked like ‘stockies’; these fish had not been seen all practice and word came down the bank that they were around the whole of the match! I caught fifteen of them in two hours and then the 4th hour I put another nine in the net. The wind then dropped and everything went dead. I only caught one in the last hour giving me a total of thirty one fish and to be honest I didn’t have a clue what they would weigh as we hadn’t seen them before! 

The scales eventually got to me and the South African was winning the section from A8 with 34 kilos, second place was 23 kilos. I had the call to take my fish up the bank and when I lifted them I thought there was more than twenty kilos there. I put them on the scales and after what felt like an hour they called my weight as 25 kilos 745 grams which was enough for second, I was made up! Word came down the bank that South Africa had done as well as England, we had two 2nd’s and three 4th’s for 16 points and they had three 1st’s, one 3rd and a 9th, so they had 15 points and we were in the lead by a point after day one.

Day two’s draw on paper seemed quite good in our eyes. I was in D section, peg 11 where the day before the Italian had 15 kilos and lost as many, so I was feeling confident. Same plan of attack as Saturday and to hype it up some more, I had the same South African angler in my section as on Saturday, he was on the next peg to me. On my right was the Czech angler who had done well in practice, so my main goal was to smash them both up. At the start of the pre-baiting, I decided to put four feeders full in with the same content as Saturday, all other countries put more in just as they did on Saturday. At the start of the match, I started in the same way hoping for one first chuck again. It took fifty minutes for a bite but he was in the net and I was off the mark. It was at this point that I thought that Sunday was going to be completely different. 

The second hour I caught another five, giving me three average fish and three ‘stockies’, I caught two more in the third hour and was shaping up well until I had a bite-less last two hours. Gutted doesn’t come close, all the little tricks that we had worked out to line up a bite were tried and nothing came good. The Czech angler caught steady all match and the South African had a total of nine fish.

At the weigh in, the early numbers of the section had caught. The South African had nine kilos, I had seven and a half kilos and the Czech had thirteen kilos. Both the South African and I couldn’t believe it, from 1st and 2nd on Saturday we had dropped to 11th and 12th. He knew the water like the back of his hand, so I can only presume that there weren’t enough fish there. 

Our second day scores were 2nd, 4th, 5th, 9th and 12th and the South Africans were 1st, 1st, 3rd, 8th and 11th giving them 39 points in total. We had tied with Hungary who had made a massive come back from Saturday with 48 points, and worked out that they had beaten us on weight by just under six kilos! So we ended up with bronze, not the result that any of us wanted but it was better than fourth.