It was that time of year to kick off with the competition fishing and up first was the Southern Carp Cup Qualifier event at Sandhurst Lake in Hampshire. our build up to the event was excellent we had fished the British Championships there last year so had a good handle on the pegs and tactics needed.

One of my friends Liam Gingell had starred in Carp Talk the week previous fishing the tricky venue, so he was picked apart for information. His final tally totalled an astounding seven fish above thirty pounds to 37.2, twenty four twenty plus fish and three back up doubles. Throughout the session Liam used just shy of 70kg of Vita-lac boilie, topping the spot up after each bite to keep the fish coming, safe to say the hard work and effort of getting the rods back on the spot well and truly paid off! A cracking result to say the least and well deserved from such a determined angler.

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After a few messages with Liam, we wasn’t that far off but felt that we should increase the amount of bait we were taking, from 5kg to 10kg spod mix. The mix was crushed Manilla boilies, Hempseed and sweetcorn, all dosed with Cloudy Manilla Liquid. The mix was prepared the night before so when lifting the lid on the buck, the smell was awesome and the bait was good enough to eat.

The Spod Mix

It was while discussing the mix on the drive down, that we decided rather than use lake water to juice up the mix prior to spodding, that we would use our old trick of Coconut milk and Carnation Milk. We have used this before in spod mixes to gain the most amount of attraction. The milky cloud the two milks give off is amazing and more than anything else on the market. The trick is to only add the milk an hour or so before spodding as you don’t want to dilute the flavours you have already impregnated into your boilies and hemp.

We have arrived at the lake the wind was horrible, very cold and pretty gusty pushing from the west straight down the lake. We went for a walk around before the draw and it was like the lake was split into two hemispheres. At the western end (peg 1 in the match) it was flat calm and although cold was pretty sheltered from the wind. At the other end it was freezing and very much in the teeth of the blustery cold blasts that were peppering the lake. Fishing down this end would be very uncomfortable, but would the fish be there? That was the 50 million dollar question.

Peg 1 on the back of the wind

The draw came and went, and typically we were 2nd-last out of it. How the laws of probability work in these scenarios I have no idea, but we always come late out of the bag. Only once in our 9 year match history have we come out first and once 2nd, most are towards the bottom. To be fair we had summed up the going swims pretty well and as the island and bailiffs came out 1st and 2nd we knew we had it something right. Both pipe swims, secret, carpark and peg 1 left us with no real other choice than the middle road bank peg 3 (13 in normal fishing). This was 2 pegs away from Liam’s amazing session, but we were fishing totally different water, facing the Bailiffs peg.

How we lined up

Luckily for us the lads opposite decided not to fish in the middle facing us, but split left and right meaning that the water body in front was available. Another bonus was that peg 2 next door was spare so we could come a little left, as much as the huge birch tree in our swim would allow. We have studied the map and more or less in middle of the lake is a channel which has depths to 8 feet, with steep banks up to 6 feet. This had to be our feature, so we set about finding it and getting our distances marked on our rods. The distance to the edge was 19.5 wraps (78yds) and felt clear, although a couple of rod lengths shorter was a huge fresh weed bed. We knew this as every time we retrieved if you didn’t pump it up immediately, you had a slog bringing in a ball of the green stuff.

How we fished

We immediately introduced about 50 spods all over the area. I would be lying if I said a few didn’t go wayward but the cross-wind was proving tricky. Rig-wise vinny started with his traditional PVA bags, which he has honed over years of practice. The use of PVA bags early in the match provides a little breathing space to get other things ready, when you know that your bags a being presented perfectly. Vinnvy moved over to stiff-hinge rigs later in the day. I started with wafters presented over a helicopter secured coated braid rig. The rig kicks away beautifully and when a PVA stick is also added, brings the attraction levels right up but reduces any tangling that may occur.

The first rig I tried

The match started slowly and there were only a few paid introducing bait, most were sitting back and let things develop. We saw a couple of fish to our right hand boundary, probably over the shallower plateau. We continued to spod right up to dark, when we cast for the night. We would have continued through but the weather was wild and now the rain had started getting things accurate would have been near impossible. We got our heads down and I was continually woke with the sounds of the trees creaking and cracking above.

The drizzle continued in to the morning, but we were still up at first light trying to scan for an signs of my carp doing their dance. We added more bait and recast to freshen things up. It was at this point that we thought that wafters weren’t getting us the right presentation we needed. The weed coverage seemed to extend over our area and we brought back hook and lead covered every cast. I then switched to a naked chod rigs on both rods. I had used this tactic on Thorney Weir to great success when the weed coverage was similar in my swim that session.

There had only been one fish out to Father and Son team, Stuart and Terry Boardman in Pipes (peg 9) a nice 23lb 12oz.

Stuart & Terry Boardman, 23lb 12oz.

The day was a lot colder but the wind had calmed a little, but we never seen any firm carp sightings We had heard rumours that the lads in the pipes had piled in the bait over to the margin. Whether this was true or not we couldn’t confirm as we never spoke to them directly.

It was late afternoon before we caught sight of a fish bosh out again on the right hand boundary. The decision was made to move Vinny’s rod over to my pod and put a solid PVA bag on the plateau. It couldn’t have landed more than a foot away from the splash it made and we knew for sure that we were on the fish. This tactic has paid off for us many times in the past, all the way back to when we fished Grey Mist in Warrington back in the 90’s. If you see a fish, plop a rod on it’s head. At least you know that a fish has visited that area recently. It was nearly dark and we spotted another fish to our right, further out this time, so I reeled in my chod rig and flicked it over to it’s direction. I never changed bait or messed around with clips, so it couldn’t be more than a couple of minutes from sight to casting in.

We heard news that one of the lake’s A-Team had been caught and would you believe it, it was down to the lads in 2nd pipes (peg 10) who had baited heavily earlier. 40lb 4oz for Cliff Baker and Peter Hale of Team CV Tackle. This will be a contender for this years Biggest Fish contest I am sure.

Cliff Baker & Peter Hale, 40lb 4oz

We kept baiting into the night and by the time we went to bed about 9kg of bait had gone on our area, all pretty accurate and loads of attraction. We decided to leave this now until the finish, the rigs were right on the money, so if they wanted it then one would trip up I am sure.

Early morning in dark, I had a funny occurrence on my speculator rod cast to the right boundary. The bobbin moved to the alarm and the reel was slowly clicking. I picked it up and bent into nothing! No resistance or hook pull or anything. Very strange. It was later in the morning that we had heard others had suffered similar occurrences from possible fish trailing lines, giving false indication. Who knows for sure, but I recast back out and left until the morning light.

As only 2 fish had been caught, I ended up doing a cast off the last morning for the 3rd spot. The rules are simple, a line is marked on the floor and across the car park at 29 metres is a metre square, which you have to hit. Any leads landing inside would count, those who rack up the best out of 3 casts wins. I made the mistake of using my marker float rod, which had braid on it. The wind was still blowing across the car park and the bow in the line was tricky to judge distance. I failed miserable and landed none in the square. Nathan Crowder managed to land 2 successfully on the money, meaning that if no other fish were caught before the final hooter, then he had secured the last qualifying spot. Cast-offs are a lottery and on another day who knows. We all agreed that it was fair and toddled off back to our swims for the last hour.

Vinny did a last cast of his bag to the plateau and we began to pack up our equipment. The weather was still playing silly buggers, it had started to drizzle. We managed to secure all of our gear in the van before it came down however, so no harm done.

There you go our 2017 competition calendar has started. Over to Todber Manor next time for a different match all together.

In Hindsight…

Location

So what would we have done differently? Well we never really had any choice of swim other than down the other end near carpark, so we were happy with where we were. We did see fish so no excuses in that department, given we were 2nd to last out of the draw.

Baiting Stategy

I think we should have introduced the bait more slowly, probably 3 spods at a time. building the swim gradually. I am being over critical here though as we never saw any activity in our baited area throughout the session.

Presentation

The rigs were spot-on and I believe we were presenting them correctly. We were not allowed to use zigs as they are banned, but given the weather perhaps these wouldn’t have been appropriate anyway.