November and an opportunistic visit to a local mere with my good friend Ste Daley saw me being in the right place at the right time to be asked if I would light to fish a pike match they hold twice a year on one of the smaller lakes on the estate. I straight away said yes and from that point on all the way through my winter pike fishing this match in March has been smouldering away in the back of my mind.
March and I had endured one of the worst pike seasons I can remember with every trip resulting in a small jack or a blank, it had been a long hard slog and admittedly my confidence from a pike fishing point of view was at an all-time low.
The night before sorting my gear ready for the match the next morning I had some decisions to make regarding how I wanted to approach the match. I was nervous but excited at the same time it was a real surreal feeling. The match dictated a two rod rule so it mean at any one time you can only have two rods actually fishing in the water at once.
I based my set up on lessons I had learnt on the much larger mere along the road and went with a bottom ledger rig consisting of a Fox low resistance run ring, two beads to aid separation on the cast down to a buffer bead over a Fox Qwik change swivel. My plan here was to fish this rod for the entirety of the match so I had one bait constantly in the water.
My second rod was set up with a high visibility Fox 35 gram float with a bulk shot of half the weight of the float on the line down to again a buffer bead over a swivel. This rod was of course a rod I wanted to fish with on the day but it also would quickly allow me get an idea of the swim I was in as soon as I arrived at the peg. The main thing this set up gave from a fishing point of view was options, I could fish a bait on the bottom, up in the water or even if the wind was right drift a bait off any drop offs should I find that to be the case.
My third rod set up was a simple lure fishing rod by savage gear and this was simply a qwick change swivel on the end of the braid. This again gave me options as I could easily attach wire trace to fish a lure or then change over to a wire trace if I wanted to wobble a dead bait.
So that was my thinking set up wise and at this stage from a mental point of view I was going very much with the mind set of enjoying the day, if I caught I caught and if I didn’t then just enjoy a day’s fishing on a water very few get the chance to wet a line in.
Morning of the Match…
The morning of the match arrived and I was frantically checking and double checking my gear, walked out the house with no dead baits as they were still in the freezer bag in the hall, yes it was quite a morning. I pride myself on being on time with people so the fact I was in a bit of a situation was confirmed by my arrival at Stes 20 minutes late.
We arrived to a group of anglers all sharing stories of their recent trips and I have to say all where very welcoming and friendly and I soon felt at ease. I drew peg 25 and was reliably informed I was on a good area but it was pegged on a marsh, “I’ll be ok”…….I thought!
Getting to the peg was an achievement in itself and the journey made me realise I was severely in trouble in my skeet ex boots. Thankfully on the day my good mate Ste Daley was pegged 2 pegs up and with his peg quite dry he was a true gent and lent me his waders. I almost looked like an angler for a few hours!
The ground was waterlogged and very boggy and it got worse towards the water’s edge where the level was mid was mid-way up my upper leg.
Below the water the peg was I mine field of tufts, deep pot holes and thick mud but I was fishing and could at least now get a bait in the water, wobble a bait to the edge and also more importantly net a fish if I caught one.
A good half hour till the match started I got my ledger rod ready to go and set to work with the float rod. I found the margin depth to be between 3 and 5ft and then it dropped over a shelf to around 8ft. The upper margin did have a lot of the same debris as the swim but I really didn’t worry about that as looking around me I could easily imagine a pike lying in a pothole looking up for bait fish to come over the top.
Optimistic or confidently? I laid out the unhooking mat and all the apparatus to deal with a pike should I be lucky enough to be graced with one.
The all in rang around the venue and the 8am to 3.30pm match had begun. I launched a dead bait smelt as far as I could and set about working the lures close in. In no time it seemed the guy next to me had fish swirling at his feet following the fish in and he quickly connected and landed a pike of around 4lb. Ste was also getting action close in with pike following him in but my peg was really quiet.
I knew I had a good chance as I had no angler to my right at all and this did add pressure as with fish in the area I was expected to catch.
Not a Blanker…
A change over from a lure with a rattle in to a wobbled smelt I instantly felt more in my comfort zone as I rarely ever fish lures but have had a lot of fish wobbling. Twitching the smelt over the shallows I felt that unmistakeable pull on the line. I looked around for some reason expecting all the other anglers who were miles away to have noticed, don’t ask me why!! I felt the line pulling from the open spool and I knew the fish had taken the bait.
A slow count of ten, check of the drag and a hard strike, instincts had set in and I was going through the motions and it was met with the solid resistance of a pike. Please don’t come off please don’t come off ringed through my head and thankfully, despite being able to see the smelt hanging loosely from its jaws, I slid the net under my first match caught fish.
Just over 4lb she went and after a quick pic she went back as with all the fish she was a lovely dark green coloured fish with a really dark back. The weigh guy next to me returned to his peg and I set about adding to my tally. As I did a huge feeling of relief come over me, I hadn’t blanked and had caught a fish so I would at least be walking off the marsh with my head held high.
The Right Bank…
Over the next two hours I persisted with the wobbling and had no more signs but Stuart next to me landed another 4lb fish and Ste also landed a lovely 6lb fish. I guess at this stage I lacked that competitive edge as I was just happy we all had caught to be honest on our bank. I don’t actually think that thinking will ever leave me I was genuinely happy all three of us had caught.
Competitive edge peeks head…
So with Stuart on 11lb after another fish also on and ste on 10lb having caught another fish I had a screaming run on my ledgered smelt. I froze and let the fish take line and it was quite a confident run. I struck and struck into thin air!! Gutted a missed chance for sure I quickly got the bait back out.
Within seconds the rod was off again, for sure the same fish and this time there was no mistakes and another 4lb pike was on the bank.
This left me on around 9lb and all of a sudden the realisation hit me that I was actually in the mix. The average size of the pike was between 4 and 6lb so I knew one more bite and I was back in with a chance.
Having no seat to sit on helped me and I wobbled a smelt until I could wobble no more my legs where aching off having to fight to move around the peg but alas the final bell went and no more fish came.
Surprise at the Results…
So all the gear packed in we walked back to the van and as I did so I left feeling content, I had done all I could and fished my backside off. I was walking away knowing I was in the match till the very end and I had not let myself or Ste down.
At the results they read the top weights out and I had actually finished a respectable 5th out of 25 anglers. The surprise was that most of the others had qualified for the pike championship finals so being the next angler down in the weight I had automatically qualified for the pike championships
A trip I and Ste can both look forward to early in the next pike season!!
One very happy angler wishing you all tight lines