Stuart Ballard (Maver Midlands Dynamite), a Construction based Manager from Walsall was crowned the winner from the Fish ‘O’ Mania qualifier held at Willinghurst Fishery, Guildford, Surrey on Wednesday 16th June. Stuart drew peg 7 on the unfancied Cherry tree Lake, so had to work hard, pole fishing paste at 13m and 14m in 5 different areas to catch bream and carp to 6lb sporadically through the match.
Stuart caught his first carp, a 4 lb fish, after twelve minutes with his catch rate steady throughout, although he did have a lean spell mid match. Stuart went on to catch fourteen carp, the best being 6 lbs and around 12 lbs of skimmers to 2 lb to win with 68-4-0, which proved to be enough to finally win a place in the Fish ‘O’ Mania final after years of trying.
While the venue undoubtedly fished hard it did make for a close finish, and looked as though Darren Cox (Kamasan Starlets/Garbolino) was well on his way to a place in the final this time around after so many near misses. Darren drew on the ‘point’ of the New Lake and made a brisk start catching newly stocked small carp on poled pellet. Everything was plain sailing for him, but in the fourth hour the wind took a turn for the worst, and he struggled to keep in touch with the shoal ending up an agonising thirteen ounces short of victory with 67-7-0. Third place went to Alan Tuck from Woodbridge who also drew unfancied peg 5 on Oak Lake and pole fished corn and pellet to take carp up to 9lb for 62-10-0. Team match anglers Tim Drabowa (Fox Match Stanjay) and Paul Goldstraw (Fox Match Stanjay) were fourth and fifth respectively with 60-0-0 and 57-4-0.
Unfortunately the fourteenth Fish ‘O’ Mania qualifier at Willinghurst Fishery left its mark for some of the wrong reasons, because thirty anglers failed to turn up on the day, which left those that did turn out, and the Angling Trust organisers, with several logistical problems. It led to too many vacant pegs, of which nine were considered to be potential match winners. Thirteen anglers from the reserve list boosted the turnout to one hundred and thirteen but that still left a shortfall of seventeen on the day.
The stiff breeze made it difficult to control long poles on some of the lakes, which may have had a bearing on the overall result. The big weights of previous Fish ‘O’ Mania qualifiers held at Willinghurst just did not materialise, and only 52 anglers troubled the scalesmen and one whole section also failed to weigh in.