The time had crept up on us unbelievably quick. It was the British Carp Angling Championships final time on the mega Wraysbury. A whole year had passed since our epic victory in the final on the same venue, during which time we had both extended our families. My wife had given birth to our first child, the wonderful Daisy, who was now 11 months old, and Bart became the proud father of a little boy called Rupert, who will keep his older sister Penny entertained. It had been a busy year for us both and I had recently started a new job as store manager at Angling Direct in Swindon which opened just two weeks before the final.
In all honesty, I was just looking forward to a nice chilled out weekend on Wraysbury. I had worked 17 days straight with some days up to 16 hours getting the shop setup. A chilled out weekend was exactly what the doctor ordered, but little did I know it was going to be far from that.
This year, the format of the draw had changed for the final and we were to simply pick a random peg out of the bag. In the past, it had been a watercraft draw but I was more than happy with the change. There were 16 competitors in the final and we were 13th to draw. There were 4 pegs left in the bag including Peg 1, which we had won the match from the previous year, peg 16, one that I really fancied for a top 3 finish and 2 pegs that I really didn’t fancy.
Bart stepped up and put his hand into the bag where dreams can be made or shattered in an instant. We had a 50/50 chance of drawing a good peg and out came peg 16. It was a swim I have not actually fished before, but I knew it was an area that carp like to spend time in front of and I felt it was a great swim to offer us the chance of a top three finish. The peg also had the added bonus of being right next to the car park and shower block. Double bonus!
The first hooter went at 11.30am on Friday and we were able to plumb and bait. The swim offered lots of options and plenty of water – we already had a plan of three areas we wanted to target. To the right of the swim, we knew it was very shallow and the fish get in there in the afternoons and it did not take me long to find the perfect spot. We knew there was a tennis-court sized clear spot out to the left of the swim and Bart wasted no time in getting his rods clipped up just past the weed on the edge of the clear spot.
In reality, we knew this spot was going to be hard to get a bite from and we would need the other two spots to produce if we were going to have any chance of framing. We went straight in with three or four kilos of bait on each spot. I went for my usual mix of Hemp, Sweetcorn and a scattering of 10mm Live System boilies.
We had two spots sorted and baited before the start of the match. The third spot was going to be straight out, but slightly to the right of the swim. The further right you go, the shallower the water and we had hoped to get in as shallow water as possible. However, it was solid with weed everywhere and we eventually found an awesome clear spot in between two big weedbeds at around 50 yards range. I popped the float up and it was 15 foot deep, far deeper than we had hoped to find. We spent another 30 minutes trying to find a clear spot in shallower water, but couldn’t find anything so we decided to fish the 15 foot spot.
The deeper water can be difficult to get bites from on Wraysbury at times, especially with the high pressure looming. We baited the spot and we were now around 30 minutes into the match, so I dropped two rods onto the spot. We had spent around 2 hours in total casting around the swim trying to find the perfect spots and we were fairly happy that we had mapped out the swim and had all of our options covered.
I felt our chances of an early bite had been destroyed, but with the bright sunshine and lack of wind, we both thought that early morning would bring our best chance of a bite. However, I felt that the right hand shallow spot would be out best chance of an afternoon bite, so I got Bart to wind in his left hander and I put two on the right hand spot. Excellent, so I was now fishing all 4 rods on Ronnie rigs and Bart was sat there getting the kettle on.
Hook bait wise I was using a mixture of double plastic corn and 12mm yellow Northern Special pop-ups. Much to our surprise just 15 minutes later and the rod we had just cast out was away and I was on it. Now myself and Bart have a deal in these matches. I do all the spodding and he gets to wind in all of the fish. So, I pass the rod over to Bart who did what was needed and we were off the mark with a 20 pounder just two hours into the match.
The rest of the afternoon was uneventful and it was not until 2am that out of the blue the same rod was away again and we had soon doubled our weight. We decided to stay up the rest of the night and as 4am approached we started to get liners on the middle rods on the 15ft spot. Soon as the liners had started, carp started to roll bang on the spot.
We could hear the slosh of carp after carp rolling over the bait breaking the silence of a still, Wraysbury night. We sat there willing the rods to rip off as the liners became more frequent, both bobbins dancing together every few seconds. This went on for over two hours as the night turned into day. There was a break in the liners for around 10 minutes at 6am followed by the shrill tone of a screaming NTXR.
We were in and it felt a good fish from the off. The fish was on the top rolling in the mist and we both knew it was a good one. It fought like a demon and took a fair while before we go the better of it and I slipped the net under a proper Wraysbury unit. If felt big, very big in fact. Bart dealt with the fish as I got the rod back out and baited with another seven or eight Spombs.
Rupert and the marshals came down to weigh and photograph the fish and it was confirmed as a rare visitor to the bank and an incredible carp called The Long Sutton. We knew she normally weighs around 37lb and were all incredibly excited when the needle settled at 42lb 8oz. It looked massive and was as black as the ace of spades. I had not fished Wraysbury since last year’s final but during the two previous years I had fished the venue on and off in search of one of Wraysbury’s finest and we were now cradling one in the BCAC final. It was an incredible moment for both myself and Bart and put us straight up into first place. Rupert did an amazing job with the camera and we were soon back in the zone and concentrating at the job in hand.
A couple of hours later we had a 23 pounder off the same spot and followed it up with a fish of similar size an hour later before all went quiet. It was now around 1pm and we felt like a fruitful bite time had come and passed. We decided to get the Ridgemonkey out and have a late breakfast and whilst we were halfway through our breakfast wraps, the same rod melted off.
Bart was on it and as it came closer to the net in the crystal clear water I turned round to inform him that it was a proper chunk.
Everything went to plan and we were soon hoisting out our 6th fish of the final up onto the scales. It was a fish known as Not Mikes Pet. The needle settled on 39lb 11oz and we had banked two of Wraysbury’s finest in a few hours. Moments after we had slipped her back and the right hander in the shallow water was away. Sadly this one weeded us up and the hook came out. However, we were now sitting on 6 fish for 172lb and had amassed a lead of 96lb.
At this point we felt like just one more fish would secure the victory for us but little did we know the events of the next 24 hours were going to unravel a crescendo that was going to make for one of the tightest finishes.
The afternoon was quiet for most whilst Wayne Mansford and Ryan Need started to get something going and started to piece together an impressive run of fish. From nowhere, they crept up the leaderboard and by first light Sunday morning they had closed the gap on us to just a few fish. We had received mental liners from 2am all the way up until 6am and must have had 100 shows over the bait in that period, yet all of the action dried up at first light and we were left wondering how on earth we had not had a bite. We decided to re-cast and re-bait at 6.30am as we felt like we should have had a bite. From that moment, we never received another liner nor had a single fish show over the bait. It seemed like our chances of a bite had blown and the title was slipping out of our hands. Wayne and Ryan had banked a few more and by 10am, they were just 8lb behind us.
We were both nervous, gibbering wrecks and needed a bite more than anything. That bite did came at just after 10am with just 2.5 hours of the match to go. Then, the unthinkable happened and the hook pulled whilst the fish was rolling on the surface just 30 yards out. We were both totally gutted, but quickly put a fresh rig on and got the rod back on the spot and re-baited. At this point, we felt like we had blown our chance, but we did not have to wait long until our next bite from the same spot. This time there was no mistake and we landed a 24 pounder. This gave us a narrow lead going into the last hour.
Our nerves were shattered as we heard that Wayne and Ryan had hooked a fish with just 30 minutes to go. Thankfully, just moments later we had a bite too and we both landed the fish. We knew that time was running out and news filtered back that Wayne’s fish was a low twenty and ours had tipped the scales at 26lb, which had in fact extended our lead to 29lb with 15 minutes to go.
As the seconds counted down, our dream of winning back to back British Championships was soon becoming a reality and we both felt the relief when the final hooter sounded. It was an epic match which some incredible fish making an appearance. We hoisted that trophy up high at the presentation and savoured the moment. Now I guess we better start making plans for next year. Could we make it three in a row?!!
Tight lines, Kev Hewitt
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