Making The Parkdean Masters
I qualified for the £25,000 Parkdean Masters at White Acres for the second year running! Here’s my rundown from a great week spent at the Cornish fishing Mecca!
What a great week down at White Acres for the Preston Festival. I had Neil McKinnon, Rob Wootton and Nick Speed for company in our lodge. Three top anglers, great company and plenty of banter flying around. The fact that Nick is a top chef is the icing on the cake. This man kept us fed with some of the nicest grub you could possibly wish for… and entertained by Tippexing naughty pictures on all of our fishing tackle by the end of the week!
There are 180 anglers on each White Acres festival and the quality competing on the Preston is always the very best of the lot. After all, there is a small matter of a 24-man £25,000 Parkdean Masters Final that everyone is desperately trying to qualify for.
There are five sections of 36 anglers and the format sees you fish each venue on rotation. I found myself in E Section which is by far my favourite rotation as it sees me (hopefully) bagging up on carp for four days before swapping all the gear over to fish for silverfish on Porth on the Friday. As always, I had some star names in my section that I would have liked to avoid. Des Shipp, Steve Sanders, Si Colclough, Brad Gibbons, Frankie Gianoncelli, Andy Leathers and lodge buddy Rob ‘The Cerebral Assassin’ Wootton to name but a few.
Here’s how my week panned out…
Day One – Bolingey
135lb 6oz, Section 2nd
I was reasonably happy with Peg 32 on Bolingey for Day One of the festival as, so long as the wind doesn’t blow, it’s one of the fairer sections on the venue where the winner could come from anywhere. I had no one of note in my section… just Des Shipp to my right, Rob Wootton to my left, Steve Sanders and Andy Leathers immediately opposite. No pressure then!
It was a very slow start but I managed one carp short on an 8mm pellet then a few long pinging 6mms. Steve was easily best after three hours with Des probably second. I needed a swim to come good and thankfully they turned up on one of my margins. Feeding negatively with meat I managed a great run of fish and felt I was winning the lake with 30 minutes to go. Unfortunately, I only managed one small carp after that while Des and Rob went into short-pole bagging overdrive. Their fish seemed much bigger, too, and by the end of the match I wasn’t sure who had come out on top.
Steve was winning with 108lb by the time the scales arrived at Des’ peg. He plonked 122lb on the scales while my smaller fish thankfully went 135lb. Rob was convinced I’d done enough but it wasn’t to be as he put a well-deserved 142lb section winning total together. It’s the last hour that always decides the outcome on this lake and fish size makes a big difference. Despite having more fish my average size wasn’t quite big enough. I was still happy with a 2nd in section for a good festival opener – and the obligatory ‘lucky’ default section prize as Rob ended up 3rd on the lake!
Day Two – Pollawyn
25lb, Section 8th
This was a nightmare of a day for me. The lake was fishing the hardest I had ever seen it and with few silvers feeding it was hard to make anything happen if you weren’t on them. I thought I was fishing against the poorer pegs to my right and felt I had blown it by not fishing for silvers enough, but my 25lb weight would have put me 3rd in that section. In fact, I should have realised that I was in with the better section where the pegs are dotted about all over the lake and my paltry weight was 8th out of nine pegs. I needed 50lb-plus for 3rd and am not sure how I could have done that on the day.
However, looking back I definitely fed way too much bait but I’ve had the most success on Pollawyn by being positive and feeding meat and casters so didn’t see any reason to change. I struggled to get anything going on meat shallow too. If I had just Kinder potted tiny amounts of meat (or pellets perhaps?) I am sure I would have caught a carp or two. I only managed one all day and that was a tiny 3lb mirror at 16 metres with 30 minutes to go. A very poor performance for me. If anything, I almost tried too hard to catch fish if that makes sense…
Day Three – Twin Oaks/Trelawney
Peg 8, Twin Oaks
73lb 7oz, Section 4th
I personally think this is the worst section at White Acres because it contains the best peg in the country in the shape of Peg 16. It means that you are almost certainly fishing for 2nd in section from the off. It had already won the section every day this week and last week and with the wind blowing that way and Rob Wootton sat on it there was only ever one winner. If you draw pegs 10, 12, 14 and 18 you still have an outside chance of beating it but after that you are clutching at straws. So, I was rather unhappy with Peg 8 but, on the plus side, at least I wasn’t sat on pegs 4 or 6. End peg 2 sometimes throws up a surprise and with Des Shipp on there anything was possible.
Despite seeing a carp tailing up beside my platform while tackling up I never managed a quick fish short to begin with. Moving out to 13 metres I eventually had a 3lb mirror before chucking the Method feeder and bagging three more for around 20lb.
Meat short was no good at all and despite carefully potting 8mm cubes all day I was still plagued by roach and the odd skimmer. I managed a few better bream down the edge on meat, plus a welcome 3lb F1 but my long-pole pellet pinging line was no good at all, even when I pushed out to 16 metres. I felt the edges would come good and thankfully they did in the shape of three big lumps for around 30lb in the last 40 minutes.
That rocketed me up to 4th in section with 73lb. I had beaten pegs 2, 4, 6, 10 and 14 so was very happy. Andy Leathers fished a good match to take 2nd with 117lb on the long pole and pellet and Paul Christie on end peg 18 had 98lb. Needless to say Rob won with 140lb, despite not having the tidiest of matches by his own admission. Oh, and I somehow got a treble-default section envelope!
Day Four – Trewaters/Acorn/Canal
Peg 49, Trewaters
56lb 13oz, Section 1st
Despite fish all over the place this lake completely switched off today. My peg was about 18 metres wide so I chose not to set a feeder rod up and would use a swinging ‘flick rig’ to make it. I managed an early carp, tench and a skimmer on meat short before popping out to 16 metres and promptly foul-hooking a right beast. This had my elastic like a banjo string for ages and after a full 10 minutes I finally slid the net under a 6lb mirror hooked in the belly. Trewaters carp fight unbelievably hard as it is without you foul-hooking them!
Despite feeding as carefully as possible I proceeded to foul hook two more carp at 16 metres in about 3ft of water and couldn’t catch any shallow. This seemed to be happening all over the lake. My only option was to pick up the flick rig and try tight to the island. This was the first ever outing for my home made pole waggler floats and they were absolutely spot on. I made them from 0.6g Drennan Carp 3s with the carbon stem removed and a swivel glued in there instead. They seem a much better option to a top-and-bottom arrangement others use.
A full 2.6m top kit of line was required to plop a hook bait right across and I was soon playing small commons and mirrors, feeding casters. Bites were still really finicky at times and in hindsight I should perhaps have switched to pellets. The wind really picked up after two hours making this really difficult, not to mention the sun on the ripple making it almost impossible to see the float at times. I soldiered on, though, as the only other angler I could see really catching well was peg 37 in the opposite corner. Des Shipp was on 45 and really struggling, as was Andy Leathers on 53. Reece Hearn was on 47 and also getting a few on a flick rig but no one was setting the place alight.
In the last hour the wind meant my long-lining rig was next to impossible to fish but I managed a few more carp, F1s, tench and skimmers on meat short. I also had an F1 on meat down the edge before hooking another beastie. This one shouldered out of the swim as soon as I hooked it and looked a good 6lb-plus. We’ll never know, however, as it shot down the edge and disappeared behind the fence that supposedly covers the big outlet pipes. It’s probably in a Newquay estuary by now!
It was a really frustrating day and no matter how I fed or fished I foul-hooked too many. When Clint Elliott weighed me in I was disappointed to total 56lb but didn’t realise that he had already weighed in peg 37 and I had actually done him by 2lb to take the section. Get in!
Day Five – Porth Reservoir
19lb 1oz, Section 1st, Lake 1st
This was the nail biter. I needed a section win to make the 32 points normally required to make the Parkdean Masters. A 2nd wouldn’t be good enough as my ’dropper’ was almost certainly too low if 31 points sneaked in.
I hate the ball-ache of getting all your kit to and from Porth but it’s a great venue when you are finally there and set up. The way the carp lakes were fishing, Porth was actually the best lake sportwise. I was a bit apprehensive after pulling out Peg 72. It was a great area for bream and being the last day I knew a lot of people would be fishing for them. End peg 71 was to my right and had won the section the last few days with a couple of big slabs. When they average 4-6lb apiece they soon cancel out a couple of hours of silver bashing!
Still, I was in too good a position to ‘one-rod’ it and fancied a days roach and skimmer fishing. I therefore fed a skimmer line with groundbait casters and worms at 13 metres and a short-pole line with maggots and casters at around six metres. I then emptied a few feeders full of micro pellets at 60 turns, just in case, and a small 4-hole cage feeder full of worms, dead maggots and groundbait on a short-chuck 25-turn feeder swim.
A very quick look close on the pole brought a tiny roach then nothing so I was quickly out on to the short-range feeder. This was really slow going with just five or six small skimmers and five tiny roach to show after 40 minutes.
I then came back onto the short pole and managed to plunder roach all day for the rest of the match. I even had a few on a top kit to hand. I had a couple of quick looks on the longer skimmer pole line but there just didn’t seem to be a head of skimmers in the area today. I therefore plundered those close-in roach til the end and popped a very satisfying 19lb 1oz bag on the scales. That was enough to win the section and the lake. I have had a 23lb and a 24lb weight of roach from Porth in the past but this was easily still the most enjoyable days roach fishing I’ve had on the venue. I hit most of the bites, never had a single pike on and never needed to change a hook all day. Further down the section Si Colclough was 2nd with 16lb of small fish plus a bonus hybrid. Steve Sanders won the 80s with 16lb, Des won the first meadow with 17lb and Rob was 2nd on the lake with 18lb on the tip. So, I had managed my 32-point target and qualified for the Final with a nice lake win, rounding off a great week’s fishing.
I must add a very big well done to Matt Godfrey for winning the festival. This is the hardest competition in the country to win and for Matt to do it at such a young age speaks volumes. This man really is world class and makes catching fish look effortless. He was a very popular winner and everyone knows that this is just the start of what this lad is capable of. Well done mate!
The Parkdean Masters Final
This was sadly a very anti-climatic day for me. I half fancied end peg 0 when I pulled it out (and no one was surprised when it stuck to my hand!) but while I was setting up I never saw a single carp move in the area.
A very low 46lb weight was needed for Jamie Wilde to win last year and I was 6th with 30lb of silvers. However, with milder weather we all felt 60-70lb would be needed this time and with no prizes for 2nd it was an all-out positive approach on a peg like this that was required this year.
Lee Kerry and James Dent were on fancied pegs 7 and 8 with Rob Wootton on 15 and Steve Ringer on 23, but I really couldn’t see anyone topping Andy Power on 16, the peg everyone wanted. However, it was a cool easterly wind blowing that way and with not a ripple at my end of the lake the fish ‘could’ be sat there sheltering. My plan therefore was hoping a few carp would ruck up in front of me but with nothing showing as I set up and no island chuck it wasn’t looking great.
To be honest, I fished a really poor match. I had all the best intentions of fishing corn and meat at 15 metres in front and down my margins for carp but as soon as I felt the fish weren’t about I gambled and started to big pot casters and worms. That was hopeless! I chucked a small method right down the peg towards some reeds for one skimmer before plopping it right over the other side of the lake a metre short of the next platform. That produced a nice 10lb fish and that was about it. It was very unlike me but I fished a very half-hearted match, filled it in without much thought and never felt like I was making anything happen.
I still had the pleasure of watching Matt Godfrey, Paul Holland, Andy Geldart and Callum Dicks on the next pegs putting on good displays. Surprisingly, the pegs in the teens all really struggled and the better fish seemed to be sat in the bowl between pegs 3 and 4. Andy showed his awesome class to plunder the carp with a very tidy Method feeder approach to put over 80lb on the scales. A great weight in just four hours and a very deserving winner. Hopefully it will be me next year!