Saturday, 24 May 2014

The Competitive Element

Last year I entered the 6th Carnivorous Artificial Baits Boat World Championships in Northern Ireland. We didn't do well, we came 12th out of 14 nations but when you consider that we entered the competition very late, we had no sponsorship to speak of and we only had two days practice (some of the other teams had two weeks!) we were up against it. One of the consequences of entering a team so late was that there was no time to stage qualifying rounds in order to select the best team. The team manager had to advertise for applicants and then select a team based on their CV.

Things were different this year, England will be entering a team again but we have much more time to get ourselves sorted and there was time too to stage qualifying rounds. That meant that if I was going to go to Lac Bourget in France to represent my country I was going to have to fight for my place first. Two preliminary rounds were organised at venues at opposite ends of the country, Esthwaite Water in Cumbria and Bewl water in Kent and the best anglers from those events went forward to a final qualifier which was held at Llangorse Lake in south Wales.

As an existing team member I didn't have to fish the preliminaries but I did have to fish the weekend on Llangorse and this time I fished with fellow team member Evaldas Skablauskas. Ev and I didn't want to leave anything to chance so we spent two days there together, fishing from my own boat, about a week before the qualifier. We caught pike, although Ev caught a lot more than me, and we identified areas where the fish were as well as areas where the fish weren't - each equally as important as the other on a fact finding mission like this one. We spent a lot of time on the drift, fishing over deep water and shallow, weedy water and clear and every time we caught a pike or had a hit or a follow we marked the spot on the GPS.

After two days we had formed a good mental image of the lake and most importantly, we had a plan but come the day of the qualifier, things were very different. Ev and I had had wet and windy weather for our practice days but now, when it mattered, the sky was clear blue with little wind to ruffle the surface of the lake, desperate conditions for catching pike, nevertheless, we had a plan so we put it into action. The first couple of spots we tried produced nothing. and we started to become anxious as time ticked away, others were struggling too however and that gave us heart. In time we moved into our third place and started to cast our five inch shads. That produced two fish quite quickly, getting us both off the mark and so we stayed around in this area for the whole day. Fish came steadily with each of us matching the other until well into the afternoon. Things moved in my direction for the last hour though and I finished the day with eight pike to Ev's six. Mine were the bigger fish too and since it was length that counted for points rather than weight, long skinny fish brought more points than short fat ones.

At the end of the day, when the team manager totted up everyone's points we were in a good position. I was leading with 876 points, 40 points clear of the second placed man, while Ev was in fourth position. Day two was windier and a little cloudier, better conditions for sure but now things were different. Other competitors had learned from their mistakes on day one and they were all soon into fish. Ev and I stuck to our successful strategy of the previous day but we found it harder, the fish were falling off the hooks regularly and we were catching smaller pike than the previous day. For a time I forged ahead, catching far more than Ev and he became despondant. When it reached 6:2 to me I sat in the boat for a while and let Ev catch up. I was fairly confident that I had done enough to get in the team by this time and I really wanted him to be there with me but had I known what was happening in the other boats I would have carried on lashing the water to a foam!

Ev caught up a little and by the end of the day I had caught nine pike to his seven, more fish but fewer points than day 1 because my fish were much smaller. The return to the dock at the end of the day revealed the awful truth - other competitors had done very well indeed with one angler catching sixteen pike, was my place in the team under threat? I needn't have worried, once the points were added up and bonus points added for good measure I had finished in third place overall, easily enough to get me a place in Team England. Ev was in the top five also but sadly he didn't make the squad since only one non-national is allowed to enter for each team and another non-national finished one place ahead of him.

So it was that the English squad was announced as follows:

Gary Palmer (Capt.), Sam Edmonds, Eric Edwards, Dan Brackley, Rikki Cooper and Gary Edmonds. The team reserves are Evaldas Skablauskas and Ron Dalton and team manager is Mike Skipper

See you in France in October :-)

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