I always look forward to visiting White Acres - the fishing can be fantastic and it's also a chance to meet up with people that I very rarely get chance to see. The Preston festival takes place each year and this festival is a little different to the others as at the end of the week the top 24 anglers qualify for a final where the winner will walk away with a cool £25,000!
My lodge mates for the week were Neil McKinnon, Nick Speed and Jon Arthur so at least we should have a good laugh and also learn plenty even if the fishing turned out to be poor.
Day 1 – Bolingey - Peg 13 was my home for the day and to be honest I quite fancied the swim for a few fish, a gentle breeze was blowing into the peg. The peg is set right back in a corner and very rarely figures in any results but I just thought that the breeze could turn the fortunes of this area around. I was wrong! Four hours into the match I had my first carp and I managed to put several more in the net in the last hour for 57lbs. This put me well down in the section. I was very rusty but also deep down I knew that I wasn't on a pile of fish. Back at the lodge I'd found out the Neil had won the lake with 135lbs mainly in the last couple of hours - he must of really 'been on it' in that period.
Day 2 – Pollawyn - With the famous high bank producing all the large weights I was a little disappointed to have peg 19 stick to my hand at the draw. This peg is opposite the high bank and also in the same section this would mean that for maximum section points I'd probably have to win the match.
I started the match short on Dynamite luncheon meat and here I caught a few nice barbel before the peg dried up and I moved out to 14.5 meters, this line produced another run of barbel before this line also died. It wasn't until the last hour that I started to get a few more bites, my short line really produced in the closing stages with several large carp that all fell to luncheon meat. I ended the day with 75lb and 3rd in the section behind young Frankie gianocelli and Geoff Vallance, both were on the high bank and I had the pleasure of watching Frankie win the match with a sterling performance to net over 100lbs of carp.
Day 3 – Trelawney - I used to dislike Trelawney or to be precise Trelawney disliked me but with my last few results on the lake I think I've turned a corner. Peg 23 on the back bank gave me a good chance in a section where quite a few pegs could compete. A few early feeder fish on a pellet feeder helped me build a solid base and I managed to top this up with some margin fish late on using the new Swim Stim expander pellets over micro pellets in the margin. My weight of 68lb was way more than my 40lb estimate (I'm usually good with weights, honest). Steve Sanders took the section and I'd finish second by just a few pounds - I couldn't help but think that I should of done better from my peg.
Day 4 – Trewaters – Peg 21 offered me several choices but because of the strong wind and rain forecast I tried to fish a very simple match. I started at five meters with Dynamite luncheon meat and had a nice steady first hour catching F1's. The short line showed signs of slowing so I cast a small pellet feeder across and manage to catch three or four carp in the middle of the match. Everything was set up for a decent end to the day and my margin line produced several chunky F1's and carp to boost my weight further, these fish again fell to the micro pellet and Swim Stim expander combo that had worked the previous day. My 75lb was top in my section and also 2nd on the lake.
Day 5 – Porth - Peg 32 is an end peg but usually the wrong end of the far section, it's a peg I know that can produce mixed results but having caught a few here this time last year I went to the peg reasonably confident. My standard Porth tactic of a short feeder for small skimmers worked to some extent but I was always very conscious of pegs further down the section who could be catching. This meant that I started to push my short feeder line a little too much looking for bigger fish, this wrecked the peg and forced me onto my short pole line.
I'd been feeding this swim since the start of the match and expected it to be solid with roach. First drop in the float buried and I was connected to a big fish and after a couple minutes a perch of around 14 oz sat in the landing net - a great bonus but unfortunately the only bite on this line all day. My last throw of the dice was to start a line up long at 14.5metres, balls of Silver X Bream original and Swim Stim green packed with worms were cupped in a I fished small pieces of worm over the top. This worked for a few roach and by piling in the worm later on I though I might get a chance of a bigger bream or another perch. Imagine my surprise when an eel of over a pound took a liking to my bait! I won the section with 13lbs and this meant that I would finish the week with 33 points for 15th place and also a shot in the final at £25,000!!
The Final - Even now when I look back I can't think of another peg in the bag that I wanted less than the peg 12 that I drew, Jamie Wilde won the match next to me in what was a really low weight affair. Jamie fished a very simple method feeder match and did it perfectly. I fished exactly the same tactics as Jamie and managed to snare a few fish on the tactic but these were when Jamie was on his pole line.
Let me explain about the pegs for those not familiar - my peg, Jamie's peg and also Des Shipp's peg (to my left) are all in the narrows, the pegs get wider to our right and this is generally where the carp hole up. This means that the chances of us catching any carp are decreasing with every peg it also means that if I fish to the island I stop fish entering Des's peg and if Jamie fishes across he stops fish entering my peg. We all knew this to be the case and Jamie even said sorry to me for casting back out after I'd caught three carp in as many casts. After he cast out I never had another bite. I had the pleasure of watching Jamie cast and he's one if the best with every feeder landing inch perfect next to the island - a great performance, well done mate.