DARREN COX enjoyed the birthday of a lifetime winning the White Acres Skol
masters 12-angler grand final in a dramatic end to clinch the winner-takes-all  £25,000 big prize cheque!
Lake on the Cornish holiday park provided a thrilling and evenly poised fishing match in which the identity of the winner was in doubt until the final hooter and in Darren’s case after the whistle.
The UK Garbolino product development manager, 37-years-old on the day, hooked his biggest carp with 15 minutes of the four hour contest left on the clock and endured a heart-thumping twenty minute scrap with the fighting fit 8lb ghostie before landing it  five minutes after the all out to the cheers of the crowd.
“We play fish like that every day, but I knew it was important so I had to get it in,” said Darren who let his feelings show when he shouted ‘Yes!’ as the fish slid into the landing net.
The late fish proved decisive, giving him 50-6-0, less than the 8lb that ghostie provided above the 43-1-0 effort of runner-up Steve Ringer.
“It’s an absolutely unbelievable feeling – what a birthday!” said Darren speaking immediately after the result was confirmed.
“I can’t believe it,” he said as he cuddled daughter Charlotte and was joined by wife Julie.
“It’s up to Julie what happens to the money, I’m in it for the prestige,” added Darren, who revealed that Julie is expecting their second child.
The money spinning win – the joint biggest in the sport along with Fish O Mania, caps a superb season for Darren. His successes include winning the Kamasan British Open, being capped for
England at Six Nations level and now adding the Skol Masters title.
However, his match didn’t go exactly to plan and it was an inspired change of tactics that paved the way for the win.
At the start of the match Darren fed a blend of liquidised meat and Sensas Crazy Bait Gold topping up regularly and fishing punched Plumrose garlic meat on the hook, but despite plenty of signs of feeding fish in the peg, he struggled to catch at full depth.
Changing to a shallower rig and presenting the hook bait at half depth sorted out a succession of brown goldfish averaging around the 1lb mark to keep him in contact with the front runners.
Moving into the last hour he turned up the heat adding a couple of 2lb carp before the crucial ghostie came along. 
The twelve finalists fought out a true battle royal in a real fishing match with plenty of bites mostly from the smaller carp and hybrids in Jenny’s lake (named after actress Jenny Agutter) to keep the watching crowd entertained to the end.
Making the final for an incredible third consecutive time were 2000 champion Alex Murray and Daiwa Dorking’s skipper Steve Sanders while Shakespeare grouped Mark Warren and Preston Innovations and Sensas backed Des Shipp were there for a second consecutive year. 
Daiwa Dorking skipper Steve made a strong bid on the pole, landing some quality carp on the pole from peg 19 ending with 36-2-0 in fourth place.Murray’s 21-14-0 ended in sixth place while Mark Warren’s
20-2-0 was eighth. Des Shipp from 15 conjured up 32-0-0 but counted the cost of an estimated 13lb ghost carp he lost after playing for several minutes early in the match and he had to settle for fifth place.
Debutants Kevin Arathoon and Wayne Mellings proved that it’s not only the big names who make it to the final and while Coca Cola backed Kevin found peg 5 tough, ending with
13-8-0  for tenth place, dog handler Wayne’s magnificent 41-9-0 effort on the feeder from peg 6 took third place.
Runner up, former Fish’O’Mania champion Steve Ringer had built an early lead on the feeder at peg five but his 43-1-0 total was edged out by that dramatic last gasp carp for Darren Cox.
The field was completed by Drennan backed Paul Yates ninth on 15-3-0 from the unfancied peg 12, Tricast Mosella’s Kieron Rich seventh with 21-10-0 off peg 9, and Keenets Northwest duo Paul Keeley and Gary Powell 12th and 11th respectively with 7-0-0 and 10-9-0 from pegs 21 and 22.
The Skol Masters will be back next year once again as the officials from the events joint backers St Austell Brewery, Skol and White Acres announced that the original three year deal would be extended to next year. A full picture report on the final will appear in next month’s Midland Angler magazine.

1 Darren Cox, MAP Garbolino Starlets, 50-6-0, peg 16; 2 Steve Ringer, Shimano Van Den Eynde, 43-1-0, peg 8; 3 Wayne Mellings, Fosters Tipton Van den Eynde, 41-9-0, peg 6; 4 Steve Sanders, Daiwa Dorking, 36-2-0, peg 19; 5 Des Shipp, Daiwa Dorking, 32-0-0, peg 15; 6 Alex Murray, Carbotec Sillybait, 21-14-0, peg 18; 7 Kieron Rich, Tricast Mosella, 21-10-0, peg 9; 8 Mark Warren, Shakespeare, 20-2-0, peg 13; 9 Paul Yates, Drennan Van den Eynde, 15-3-0, peg 12; 10 Kevin Arathoon, Coca Cola, 13-8-0, peg 5; 11 Gary Powell, Keenets Northwest, 10-9-0, peg 22; 12 Paul Keeley, Keenets Northwest, 7-0-0, peg 21.