Steve Ringer's Blog - The UK Champs

The UK Champs is a competition that I have always wanted to win, but one that, in recent years, I have struggled in for one reason or another. This year round one was at Lindholme Lakes and if I’m honest, I hoped to get up there for a practice but other commitments prevented me from doing so. I did make a few phone calls though and the consensus was that worms were working well, with pellets as a back-up, so at least I had something to work with. The lakes to be used were Bonsai, Oasis, Willows and Laurels and with each lake being different, it meant my van literally contained the kitchen sink as all options needed covering!
At the draw all the talk was of Willows being the lake to draw but I actually quite fancied drawing Oasis, which might surprise a few people. The reason I fancied Oasis was that I had spent all last summer at Tunnel Barn Farm and Oasis is very much like the lakes at Tunnel as in it’s a snake lake with widths ranging from 13m up to 17m. I had also drawn Oasis on the recent Angling Trust winter league and recorded a valuable section win for the team. On that day, a late switch to meat had transformed my swim and although no one had really mentioned meat in the build up, I really fancied giving it another go. So, when my hand came out of the draw bag and I saw Oasis 20 I was quite happy. I would have preferred to be up on the bend, but peg 20 is at the start of what they call ‘The Narrows’ and with it being only 13.5m wide if I could catch across I would have a relatively short ship back compared to some. Stock wise, for those that don’t know, Oasis contains F1s, carp to 5lb, plus barbel along with a few other species such as tench. The target species are normally F1s ranging from 10oz right up to 4lb plus and it was these that I was hoping to catch.
On arrival at my peg it didn’t look anything special, in fact most of the pegs looked the same in terms of features. The key though, was going to be depth as my plan was to fish meat across all day and see what happened. Consequently, I set up four rigs all for fishing across. I did set up one edge rig but it was very much a token gesture and if I’m honest I hoped I wouldn’t have to pick it up. On the subject of rigs, they all featured 10x11 Mick Wilkinson F1 floats made up on 0.15 Guru N-Gauge main line to a 4-inch hooklength of 0.13 in the same material. Shotting was a tight bulk of number 11s to make the rig as positive as possible. Hook choice was then a size 16 Tubertini 808 hook.
I spent a good 15 minutes plumbing up as I knew what I was looking for in terms of depth but it was a nightmare to find it. When I say a nightmare, I could find 12 to 14 inches of water but not a nice flat area. In the end I found two areas that were something like and opted to use one as my main line and the other as a backup.
On the bait front, I had worms and pellets with me but in my head it was always going to be a meat match, so using my 6mm cutter I chopped up 7 tins to start with. This might seem like a lot of meat but when you are in and out with a big kinder pot you can soon go through it. My thinking was that if I went through the lot then I would have had a good day! Also, if meat was wrong then I could soon switch. I had Kieron Rich and Tommy Hillier either side of me and knew both were going to fish worms and casters so at least I could keep an eye on them in case worms were the bait to be on.
At the start I went straight across with a big kinder pot full of meat and a 6mm cube on the hook. This was the moment of truth as if meat was right then I would expect a bite within two minutes. Sure enough, after 45 seconds the float buried and an F1 of around a pound was soon in the net. Sport was then steady for the first 30 minutes with two carp around the 3lb mark also putting in an appearance. Every drop in I was feeding a full kinder and it seemed the more meat I put in the bigger the stamp of fish.
Sadly, on the hour mark that started to change and all of a sudden I started to pick up a lot of small barbel around the 10oz mark which, although lovely fish, weren’t really what I was after. After a slow start Kieron had started to catch shallow on casters so I felt I had a decision to make, stay or switch. My plan had always been to ship all day so I decided to go with it and keep going in the shallow water across. The next 30 minutes were good, although it was still mainly small barbel but at least I was ticking over in terms of catch rate. I then had a good run of F1s again before the swim went really funny and the fish just wouldn’t settle, no matter what I tried in terms of feeding.
We were now just over two hours in and I thought I had 50lb in the net, which was a good start but Kieron and Tommy either side were now catching well and at a faster pace, so I couldn’t rest on my laurels. With my main swim feeling like it was on its last legs, I opted to make a switch and move to my second line. One of the beauties of fishing for F1s is you can swap lines without prepping first, which is just what I did. My new line was in slightly shallower water, which I hoped might eliminate some of the silly indications I was getting. Sure enough I caught straight away upon switching and although the first five fish were barbel, at least I was putting fish in the net again. At this point I decided to up the feed and try and attract some better fish. Instead of just filling the kinder I started cramming the meat in so it the meat was heaped on top of the pot. This worked a treat and my swim suddenly became solid, so solid in fact that I could see fish with their tails out. No surprises then that this coincided with my best spell of the match with a succession of big F1s in the 3lb to 4lb bracket finding the net.
Going into the fourth hour I was now flying but as usual, good things don’t last and all of a sudden my swim went from fish everywhere to just an odd bite from small F1s. This is something that can happen in shallow water as eventually the fish become spooked. Looking around, Kieron on my left was still catching steadily shallow; I knew he had more fish than me but I was hoping that I would have a much better stamp.
Coming into the last hour there was no sign of my swim picking up and it was decision time again. Did I stay on this line and hope they return or switch back to the original line and start again? My original line was in slightly deeper water, only by two inches, but I felt that it might give the fish a little bit more confidence so I decided to switch back. I also cut right back on the feed as I felt that every fish was now vital so rather than trying to force the peg, I’d just take one fish at a time. First drop in produced a 1lb plus F1 and all of a sudden I was away again. I wasn’t bagging but the fish were good stamp with a ghost carp around 5lb putting in an appearance, plus a nice chunky mirror which looked 4lb plus. In fact, from that point on I caught steadily without ever bagging right up until the last five minutes, when for some reason I couldn’t hit a bite and as a result I went fishless for probably the longest period of the match! Don’t ask me what happened as I don’t know, but I couldn’t connect with anything and some of the bites were proper 100mph sailaways! I just hoped that mad five minutes wasn’t going to cost me, especially as Kieron had his best spell in the last half hour.
With the scales approaching, my gut instinct was that Kieron would beat me as he seemed to be catching quicker than me, although admittedly I couldn’t see how big his fish were. In my head I felt I had 120lb plus, which I was hoping would see me second. I have to admit therefore that I was a bit surprised when Kieron weighed 55 kilos and my first thought was maybe I’d overestimated. I knew I had caught for a full five hours though, with some decent fish among them, so I had to have 100lb plus didn’t I? Anyway, the moment of truth arrived and when I pulled my first net out my immediate reaction was that there was more in there than I thought. In fact there was 38 kilos. I only needed 18 kilos in my second net and as soon as I pulled the net out I knew I had that and some. After two more weighs my total weight was announced as 71 kilos, around 156lb in old money. This was enough to not only win the section but also second in the match, putting £500 in my wallet in the process! Looking back, I had a far bigger stamp of fish than both Kieron and Tommy and I put this purely down to fishing meat in the shallow water. In other words, having the courage to come up with a plan and stick to it no matter what was happening around me!
So that’s round one over and done and with and for the first time in as long as I can remember, I’ve started with a section win! Roll on round two at Viaduct fishery!