With Ireland and Innsicara reservoir being the chosen venue for this years World feeder championships the pressure was on us as a team more than ever. After bronze medals in South Africa and Belgium we really needed to produce a gold! Team wise with the pressure on Tommy made a few changes to the six, myself, brother Phil, Adam Wakelin and Mick Vials all retained their places, plus Dean Barlow and Rob Wootton came into the fold.
In terms of practice nothing was left to chance, we fished 4 days at the start of June, plus another three days the week before the venue closed for the 2-week rest. On the first visit the fishing was excellent but it was all skimmers with very few other fish. On the second trip however the skimmers were still present but roach and hybrids were also starting to show up in numbers and it was obvious they couldn’t be ignored.
As a result of all the work we had already done on the venue the official practice was more a case of confirming what we thought we already knew as well as ruling a few things out. It seemed not much had changed, skimmers were present but if anything there seemed to be less than there was early June. Plus the roach and hybrids now seemed to be even more abundant to such an extent that some teams such as Ireland were fishing for them. Come Friday night we felt we had a plan, the problem is you never quite know how good your plan is until you sit in amongst other countries so whilst confident we were also apprehensive and hoping for a good start.
Our plan revolved around several things but without doubt the most important was depth. Right from our very first visit we found that a 12 count on a one-ounce bomb was the depth the skimmers wanted to sit in. It was also noticeable that we caught a much better stamp of roach and hybrids at this depth too. If you came shorter into shallow water you still caught roach but they were a lot smaller in stamp, skimmers also became few and far between. Go into deeper water and all we could catch was skimmers and eels and with eels not counting this was a non-starter. One of the great things about the magic 12 count was that it was different distances wherever we sat. This made it very hard for teams watching us to work out what we were looking for in terms of distance. Also to prove the point manager Tommy Pickering had only two people fishing the right depth each day in practice just to make sure that nothing changed.
Groundbait and making sure it behaved in the right manner was vital. If the mix was too dry or clouded it seemed to attract very small roach, however with a heavy inert mix we caught a much better stamp of fish. The mix itself was made up of 45% Sensas magic, 45% brown breadcrumb and 10% Sensas Pastoncino. To this we added a tiny amount of black dye just to take the edge off the colour but not make it black. The groundbait was then mixed very wet the night before so it had plenty of time to absorb all the excess water.
Bait choice was also extremely important, at the start of the official practice week the skimmers were really coming to chopped worms. But on Wednesday several of us started to notice that quite a few of the fish we were catching had hooks marks in them so there weren’t many if any new fish coming in. As a result of this come Thursday it became apparent that while the roach and the hybrids loved worms the skimmers just weren’t coming to them in numbers, joker was the key as far as they were concerned and the more joker you put in the more skimmers you could catch at times.
The above plan was set up for the 4 sections on the main match length. The garden centre section was very different and was left more to the individual to sort out. Being very shallow in comparison to the main part of the lake, depth went out of the window and it was all about finding a distance you were comfortable fishing.
With practice behind us and the plan in place it was now all about the draw. Personally on day 1 I found myself heading to A22 which put me just out of a big bay which I was quite happy about. The rest of the team draw seemed mixed, we felt we needed a high number at the garden centre and we had peg 7 out of 25. Also in D section Mick Vials was on a peg that had the potential to be very snaggy.
Back to my peg and set up wise I went for five 11’ Daiwa tournament quivers, all fitted with 1oz tips. These were teamed up with TDR 4012 reels loaded with 0.10 braid. I then used a short shock leader of 8lb Tournament ST monfil. As a guide to the length of the shock leader when I was in the casting position I had just two turns on the reel. As for the set up itself a simple running paternoster had been perfect in practice, it fished well yet rarely if ever tangled. Hooklength choice was then 0.148 double strength to a size 10 hook. You might be thinking a size 10 is a big hook for the size of fish but we found with the fish being wild hook size just didn’t make any difference and by using a size 10 we missed very few bites. In terms of hooklength length 50cm hanging below the feeder had been best in practice so I set up three rods at this length and two with 65cm hooklengths in case I needed to purely target small fish. Lastly feeder choice, a lot of teams fished plastic feeders but we found cage feeders a lot better. It seemed important particularly for the skimmers that they could see the bait inside the feeder. As a result of this we settled on either a 6 hole or 5 hole plastic cage in weights ranging from 28-44gram. 28 gram was used when the skimmers were in the swim and then for speed 44gram for the smaller fish.
After tackling up the next job was to plumb the peg which revealed a very flat slope. At 21 metres I had an 11 count and at 30 metres 12. On the back of this all 5 rods were clipped up at 30m and I was ready for the off.
In terms of bait I had with me the regulation half litre of joker/hook bloodworm, a litre and a quarter of chopped worms, quarter of a litre of casters, quarter of a litre of maggots for the hook plus the final quarter made up of red worms and small dendrabenas again for hookbaits. Of course on top of this I had around 10 litres of groundbait plus a litre of corn and half a litre of hemp to keep me just under the 12-litre limit.
In the world feeder championships there is a 10-minute prebaiting period, in this I put 3 large feeders in full of chopped worms and jokers. Those around me put a lot more in and I have to admit to wondering if we had it right with a more negative feeding approach. I needn’t have worried though as first cast of the match itself produced a roach and I was off and running. Starting hookbait was a single maggot just to catch all species. Something worth mentioning though is that we hooked the maggot straight through the middle as opposed to at the blunt end. It seemed we missed a lot less bites hooking the bait in this manner, almost as though the roach and hybrids found it very hard to eject once they had sucked it in when it was hooked in this manner.
Back to the match itself my first five casts produced roach in the 50-60 gram class which were a nice nerve settler. A couple of 200-gram hybrids soon followed before the swim went quiet. This was nearly always a sign of skimmers being in the swim so I quickly switched to just putting joker in the feeder and a bunch of red worms on the hook. Sure enough I started to get a few line bites, slow half inch pulls. The key here was to take your hand off the rod and wait for a proper bite. Eventually the tip pulled round and skimmer number one was soon in the net and at around 750 gram it was a decent one. Two smaller skimmers quickly followed before the roach reappeared. This was typical of the skimmers on Innsicara as in you couldn’t hold them in your swim so it was a case of catch two or three before they moved off. This is where our plan to catch everything came into its own as rather than sitting their biteless we kept our catch rates ticking over by putting small fish in the net.
The first two hours are best described as perfect as in I put 9 skimmers plus 40 roach in the net. I then lost a skimmer going into the third hour before the swim died right off. This was something that happened a lot in practice though so I wasn’t unduly worried as I expected the fish to come back in the latter part of the fourth hour. And that’s exactly what happened as I had another burst of skimmers with 90 minutes to go before finishing the match with a good run of roach.
Word on the bank was that the section was between myself and Arnout Van de Stadt from Holland. Arnout weighed first and the call was 8 kilo 600 grams, I have to admit to having no idea what I had. I didn’t have long to wait to find out though and soon enough it was my turn. As soon as I pulled my net out I thought I had enough and so it proved as 11 kilos 130 grams was called which gave me that all important section win. Better still, news started to come through that we had done brilliantly as a team with Adam Wakelin 3rd, Phil 2nd, Dean 4th and Mick 1st to total just 11 points on day 1. That put us 12 points clear of Ireland and 13 of Holland going into day 2 which was a good lead but with 25 peg sections we knew there was plenty of work still to do!
Day 2 dawned and it was a change of scenery for me in the form of C sector and peg 4. Team wise we felt we had drawn well apart from the Garden centre sector where we had drawn even lower than day one! As for my peg I’d rather have been at the far end of the section but with no end pegs to contend with I was happy enough.
As per day one I again set up five rods. Only this time when I came to plumbing up at 21 metres I only had a count of 6! At 30 metres it was just 10 so I ended up going to 33 metres to just get the important 12 count. This was a lot further out than I wanted to go but after a chat with Tommy we both agreed depth was key and if distance meant I was going to be a little bit slower then so be it. Tactics wise as you can imagine with such an impressive score we hadn’t changed anything from day one to day two. Groundbait and choice of bait limit was exactly the same.
Come the prebaiting hooter again I put three feeder fulls of chopped worm, joker and corn into the swim. Interestingly with ten minutes to feed just three feeders worth of bait we decided to let each feeder sit for three minutes before reeling in. This was to make sure the contents of the feeder had totally broken down and I wasn’t spreading bait about each time I reeled in.
My match actually started really well, although there were no skimmers about I was catching hybrids and odd roach on a regular basis. In fact at the end of hour one I had 38 fish which were mainly hybrids between 50-80 grams in weight. Feeding wise I was plugging the feeder hard with mainly finely chopped worms. As there were no skimmers around I cut right back on the joker with a view to just getting my head down on these smaller fish. The second hour was again decent with another 29 fish in the net but still no skimmers for me and word on the bank suggested that there weren’t many coming out in the whole section. With this information taken on board I decided to stay with the small fish in hour 3 and whilst it was harder going I still managed another 18. I was still feeding mainly finely chopped worms and despite alternating hookbaits there was nothing better than a single red maggot hooked through the middle.
In the fourth hour my match started to change, the hybrids were getting harder and harder to catch and odd skimmers were starting to come out. It was at this point that captain Glenn came down with the news that team gold was in the bag, all the lads were well up in their sections. On top of that with team gold assured Tommy had sent the message to go for individual gold! After a quick chat with Glenn it became apparent I was probably lying 4th in the section, to win it I needed skimmers! Bearing in mind I had fished solely for small fish for the first three and a half hours and fed a lot of choppy I had managed to hang onto most of my limit of joker. It was now time to start piling the joker in and hope to pull a few skimmers into the swim. As a guide I was now putting so much joker through the feeder that it looked red as I cast it out.
Twenty minutes later I could hardly get a bite but I was getting indications. Had the skimmers arrived? Ten bloodworm were quickly hooked on and within seconds of tightening up the tip pulled round and a 300-gram skimmer was in the net. Two more quickly followed before I lost one in a snag. This seemed to slow the swim up but by casting every ninety seconds and keeping the joker going in the skimmers soon returned and in the last hour I added another nine, despite some scary moments with snags.
When the final hooter sounded I honestly felt I could have done no more. Word on the bank suggested that the section was between me and the Dane Soren Sorenson. Being on peg 4 I was first to weigh and when the scales eventually settled a weight of 11 kilo 643g was called. Soren was on peg 11 and it seemed an eternity before they arrived at his peg. Soon enough though his fish were on the scales and a big cheer went up. I didn’t know what that meant until I saw Glenn running back towards me and I knew I had won the section. Now it was a case of waiting. News soon came through that Mick Vials was second in his section so it was now all down to the Garden centre and the German Felix Scheurermann who had won his section on day one and managed an unbelievable 280 roach for just over 17 kilo on day 2. The waiting was unbearable but eventually Felix was pushed into second by just 300 grams and I was World champion! I have to admit at this point I became a little emotional as the realization of what I had achieved started to sink in. Better still it was double gold as the team had posted just 15 points on day two to finish with 26 points for two days. Surely a score that will go down in history! Ireland were second with 62 points which shows how impressive our winning margin was. The good news didn’t stop there though as Mick had got bronze individually to cap a weekend I’ll never forget.
On a separate note it wouldn’t be right to write this without saying a few thankyou's. Tommy Pickering, he has invested his life into this team and we owe him a massive debt of gratitude for that. Finally, every good manager has a good assistant and in Glenn Lawrence Tommy has one of the best.