Earlier on in the year when I first heard Tusses Lure Division would be running a league on my local waters I was very keen to take part. However it wasn't until I started looking at the calender and at the upcoming matches I wanted to fish combined with other fishing targets for the year that I concluded it was going to be too much of a commitment for me to make. But even though I was unable to commit I decided that I would still like to be involved even in a much smaller capacity if possible. So I put it out amongst the people I knew that were fishing that I would be more than happy to be a substitute if anyone needed one. Low and behold it turned out that Greg Bafia from Team Realistic shad was going to miss the first match and his partner, my old friend David Warren, soon asked me to fill in.
Considering I live very close to the stretch this first match was to be on I really don't fish it at all. This is largely to do with it being a bit of a rough urban stretch that is notoriously clear and snaggy. I have done a little bit though here and there and already knew this was by no means going to be an easy event. With little time available my only chance to get out for a practice was for a very short pre-work session the week before the match and surprisingly things went very well...
Practice - 1 Hour Basin match stretch
The basin itself proved rather fruitless for me even though it did look good for a few hits, but it wasn't until I went walkies outside it that I found myself a couple of hungry predators. The first was a spawned out young female pike which I found lurking close to the edge and the second was a nice match sized zander which was lingering close to a brick wall. Ninety five centimetres in under and hour was a bit of a shock to be honest, but things would be very different in the match with thirty plus other lure anglers jockeying for position.
Tusses Freestyle League round one.
The morning of the match the car park on Leicester row near the basin was full of anglers when I arrived. I recognised most of them from various competitions and events and seeing them all, knowing this stretch to be a hard water thought this was going be a beast of an urban competition. Myself and David had already discussed a rough plan and after the complimentary bacon butties were eaten the event began with a staggered start. Even though we had drawn an early number we were the last team off as David was officiating and that meant we were the last ones away.
As predicted it was a torridly hard affair and we searched so much water in vain, catching very little for our efforts. The fish were very cagey all round; the few small perch we winkled out were really on the small side, the bigger ones near impossible to catch as they were still to spawn. My idea to gamble on taking a pike outfit turned out to be a bad decision as the only pike our team encountered came to David's rod, biting him off in an instant and as for my heavy rig, it pulled nothing but large branches out of the canal. Along with that pike bite off I had one better perch follow my lure right to the surface before turning off and we had handful of very unfruitful nibbles.
The saviour of our match had to be David's spectacular final capture where he dropped a lure straight onto what was obviously a nesting zander which in a savage act of defence tore into the lure and proceeded to jump out of the water like a tarpon. Once landed it was the most magnificent dark fish you're likely to see.
At 44cm this fish was very close to turning the biggest zed prize into a three way tie. Even missing out on that it still served to add vital species points to our score just before the sheets had to be handed in.
Total + species bonuses = 138cm
|1st place - Steve Wilson and Derek Homes (No wasps) = 277cm|
|2nd place - Phil Kenny and Jacob Stone (Bennett Pred pro team) = 258cm|
|3rd place - Slawomir Mikolajczak and Daniel Osinski = 254cm|
Personally I think I made a big mistake in taking along that second rod as I feel it distracted me far too much and should I have levelled that concentration on just fishing the light outfit I feel sure we could have added a couple of valuable fish to the score which may have made quite a difference to Team realistic shad rankings (Sorry David and Greg). However I already may have my opportunity at redemption in the Freestyle league after being recruited straight away to fill in for another team in round two - the all female Lure Witches team.