Now I‘ve been around match angling for a long time and from years of experience in fishing and watching and reporting on matches I know it takes a lot to get match anglers excited and all the best match anglers have a very calm demeanour, an un-hurriedness about them that makes them succeed when others fail – and this is what ultimately makes the elite of our sport stand out from the rest.
But now the big day was here the most seasoned match anglers even the experienced internationals who had qualified to compete in this unique event were all emotionally at the summit of the highest big dipper they had ever experienced and about to begin the ride of a lifetime.
If You Build It They Will Come
When Maver UK boss Phil Briscoe announced the Match This concept it raised a lot of eyebrows in the angling world, a payout bigger than Fish-O-Mania? A runner-up event on the same day for another £5,000? ‘No way!’ they said, ‘Impossible!’ they cried but here I am less than 12 months later at Maver Larford Lakes, Stourport just two hours to go to the start of the match that will provide the richest pay day in the history of angling.
Match This was not a dream anymore, today was reality.
The payout for the main event had settled on £50,000 a life changing sum for a number of the field and for the others a chance to cement even further their road to becoming a professional match angler.
The draw for the match, had taken place the night before at a gala meal held at the Stourport Manor Hotel, a prestigious top class venue in itself, more than fitting given the prize on offer.
All the competitors know the Match Lake at Larford well and some of the favoured pegs stuck to some well known anglers’ hands but in this field of 24 there were no novices, every angler was capable of banking that amazing £50,000.
As ever on big match days at Maver Larford Lakes first port of call is the café; a cup of tea and a bacon butty is all I ever have but the majority go for a full English – it’s as popular as the fishing and even non anglers drop in for a plate to help them on their travels.
After a few minutes swapping good natured banter with the staff I was off to have a look around as there were marquees holding a whole host of Maver products to view and the first of the matches – the £5000 runners-up event – was to start in just 90 minutes time and competitors were already at their pegs, tackling up and deciding on tactics for the ‘battle’ ahead.
Fishing Tackle Heaven
Now until you have seen a company the size of Maver lay out its entire range in front of you there is no way you can envisage the sheer volume of goods a tackle company produces.
Inside the huge marquees was quite literally an anglers’ dream world, with thousands of goods ranging from size 20 hooks to 20 metre poles, with tables of reels, racks of rods, shelves of floats, stands of clothing, lines of luggage……………….wandering around it was hard not to go crazy and grab one of everything, like an angling supermarket sweep and get it all to the car, before you suddenly woke up!
Hard as it was after an hour I dragged myself away from the tackle ‘Eldorado’ and finally started to walk around Specimen Lake, the ‘arena’ for the £5000 runner up final, if anyone thought this match was just a sideshow for the main event they were wrong.
You just had to look at the star names competing, Darren Cox, Jon Arthur, Perry Stone etc to see that this was to be extremely competitive. This match was also winner takes all and looking at the determination on the faces of the assembled field they would not have had it any other way.
There are top match anglers that have become synononomous with certain methods over the years in the match angling world and Perry Stone has without doubt built an envious reputation of winning matches on distance pellet waggler and it seems almost every year he has a run of success with the method at various fisheries around the UK. In fact as soon as I hear his name mentioned I think of a large dumpy pellet waggler! Perry is much more of an all round match angler than that of course but he has without doubt made his name on the distance pellet waggler method.
So when I saw Perry netting his first carp of the £5,000 match early doors on his favourite method out into the wide open space of peg 20 on the Specimen Lake something just told me the others were fishing for second place.
Now Perry is one of match anglings’ Mr Nice Guys and in my four or five visits to his peg not only was he willing to divulge all his tactics and secrets but he did it during the match!
Starting off on the method feeder and a 16m pole line he caught a couple of carp but a distance bomb line he had been feeding constantly with pellets glugged in Yorkshire Baits cat meat liquid suddenly burst into life on the surface with a couple of large fishing topping over the feed splashes.
Perry needed no second invitation and immediately switched to a large 16g (to cope with the very windy conditions) pellet waggler, set shallow at six feet deep, with very little weight down the line, to catch fish on the drop as they turned in and out of the feed at all levels in the water.
Almost instantly he was into good sized carp to 8lb gently lifting rather than striking into bites and carefully playing each fish his rod held low to the water to ‘guide’ them in gently to the waiting net.
The ever-growing group of spectators on the high bank behind him did nothing to stem the procession of fish and when catching slowed he switched to other lines adding yet more carp to 4lb.
A final waggler-caught carp in the last five minutes sealed the victory and added another £5,000 to the prize monies Perry has won over the years from his mastery of the pellet waggler method.
Fantastic performances by Andy May and Jon Arthur and saw them finish 3kg and 4kg respectively behind Perry’s winning weight of 38-280.
On my travels around the complex, I was attempting to report on both matches and with the runners-up final on the Specimen Lake and the £50,000 final on the Match Lake those of you that know the size of the Maver Larford complex will know what that meant and I had to walk it completely at least five times!
All proved to be worthwhile though, as the drama unfolding on the £50,000 match was worth walking one hundred miles for.
Power Top One
The Match Lake wasn’t on form and some of the most wanted pegs with star anglers on board were proving stubborn and would not give up those fabulous weights of fish the whole of the Match Lake is noted for.
Amazingly in the previous two weeks, despite the wind blowing down to the café end, the better weights had come from the opposite island end, not the norm on any lake, and anglers were hoping for a draw up near the island on one of the form pegs.
From the start to the two hour mark a steady supply of fish was coming to all 24 keepnets and this set the tone for the match, it looked as if weights were going to be very even and very close! In fact at the halfway stage I’d have sworn there were no more than ten pounds between all of the anglers, it was that tight!
The Dash to the Finish
Guessing, which I am well known for being rubbish at, I’d say at the four hour mark the lead had probably changed 10 times as each angler all around the pool got to grips with his peg.
The match was like a giant chess game, with 24 players and a lake as a board then a few pegs improved for an hour and that’s all that was needed for some of those star match anglers to attempt to get their noses in front of the rest. You have to remember a five hour match is a marathon not a sprint but coming in with the lightning finish were Jaimie Hughes of Maver/Bag Em Baits who had fished a steady patient match but was now pushing his peg to the limit to try to get over the finishing line, Grant Albutt of Garbolino/Bait Tech storming through on an inside line to the lily beds and Andy Power of Preston Innovations/Thatchers who as he was tucked away behind a large rush bed and hadn’t had the microphone commentators giving away details of him catching a large number of fish.
Andy was going on the run of his life with better sized carp falling to punched polony meat.
Jamie’s fish were small! Grant lost a big carp to the lilies and broke his pole! Andy leaned forward and dropped a carp into his net! The hooter went – they had all crossed the line together but WHO had won the biggest prize ever to be paid out in match fishing history?
The weigh in was followed by a huge crowd and as each angler was weighed in the tension got progressively higher.
The first of the front runners to weigh in was Andy Power and a superb on the day total of 39kg 420g was met with a disappointed grimace as he thought it would take much more than that to win the prize.
Grant Albutt was next up and even with his phenomenal efforts in the last hour he was not convinced he had done it either and a total of 37-100 put him in second place – by the margin of less than the weight of that last minute lost fish.
Jaimie Hughes was convinced he didn’t have anywhere near those two totals but following his weigh he was short, but closer than he thought with 34-440.
A Reality Cheque?
Even with a large swarm of spectators following them the Larford weighers, as always, did their job quickly and efficiently, passing along the bank and giving out each angler’s weight accurately and even up to the last section no one knew who had won.
However, as the last entrant was weighed it suddenly dawned on 23-year -old Andy Power that he was indeed the winner of the 2011 Maver Match This £50,000 final and an impromptu leap off the bank into the lake had every one else assembled there realising that he was the winner of this remarkable match.
Andy was then treated to the winning ceremony to end all winning ceremonies with DHP owner David Hall, boxing legend Richie Woodhall and finally Maver Boss Phil Briscoe, all presenting him the trophy and the huge cheque and he duly obliged by posing for hundreds of photographs being taken by all assembled there (I did help him out by taking much longer than normal over the pic of the two Daily Mirror promotion girls kissing him though!)
Fireworks were let off, handshakes all round, stories of what might have been, broken poles, lost fish, running out of bait, bad draws, etc etc etc were filling the evening air.
As I packed up for the day everyone, including an experienced match reporter like myself, went home convinced we had experienced the birth of a match competition that will grow as the years go by; an event that started with one and ended with two men fulfilling a match angling dream.
Maver Match This £50,000 Final Placings
1. Andy Power, Preston Innovations/Thatchers: 39-420
2. Grant Albutt, Garbolino/Bait Tech: 37-100
3. Jaimie Hughes, Maver/Bag Em Baits: 34-440.