The latest Fish ‘O’ Mania qualifying match was fished at The Oaks complex in North Yorkshire, using 6 of its lakes on Saturday 9th May 2015.
Local information favoured the newer lakes Ash, Beech and Sycamore, but the cold wind and heavy cloud cover (now familiar weather conditions for the northern qualifiers!) would mean that fish would seek the warmer water and need some persuading to feed.
A flurry of phone calls to the tackle shop at the site caused some concern, because the M62 over the Pennines was closed and several competitors were stuck in a huge traffic jam. As news unfolded, a decision was made to delay the start for half an hour to give these anglers a chance to make it.
An early casualty was the unlucky Macauley Pearson, who suffered a badly cut finger when opening a tin of luncheon meat and had to dash to Northallerton for the inevitable long wait in A&E for treatment.
Early reports confirmed some anglers were catching from the off with Lee Riley on Maple 67 and Chris Hodgson on Sycamore 22 getting off to good starts. Quite a few anglers on Maple were struggling for bites, as were those on Alders, fancied for its head of bigger carp, though Kerry Kirkwood on peg 38 was catching.
As the match progressed, it was difficult to predict the winner as several anglers were slowly building up a modest weight, and it seemed unlikely that the recent high weights from the fishery would be repeated.
Reports came in that Andy May and Neil Machin were catching on Cedar and Lee Riley and Sean Huggins on Maple continued a steady catch rate.
On Sycamore, Chris Hodgson, Chris Kendall and Jamie Hughes who were pegged together were having a battle and switching between method feeder and pole, but the carp were not big. It was clear as the match drew to a close that the finish would be very tight and that fish caught in the last half hour could be crucial.
Meanwhile Kerry Kirkwood continued catching carp on dobbed meat to finish with 24 carp to 7lb to emerge a worthy winner with 39.250 kg. Kerry, a meter reader from Irlam, Manchester was eternally grateful that the start had been delayed as he was one of those stuck on the motorway, and nearly turned back! He now has an easier trip down the road to Cudmore for the 2015 Fish ‘O’ Mania final in July.
Runner up was Matthew Higgins who caught F1’s and carp to 4lb on 4mm hard pellet from peg 27 on Cedar, switching between the far bank and close in to weigh 37.700kg. Matthew finished third at Boldings last year and hopes to maintain his improvement to win a place in the grand final next time.
Lee Riley finished hot on Matthew’s heels to weigh in 37.400kg from Maple 67, and was left cursing his luck when he lost a 15 minute fight with a carp estimated at 10lb, and then pulled out of a smaller fish just before the all out. Lee switched between 4mm pellet across and meat down the edge.
Sean Huggins on peg 3 Maple was also close with 37.250kg for fourth place, Greg Cooper was 2 pegs away from Matthew on Cedar 24, but could not quite match his weight, finishing fifth with 34.300kg. Andy May took top weight on Cedar to finish sixth with 32.200kg.
All in all a great match with a very close finish, great joy, some broken hearts, frayed nerves watching the hours pass stuck in traffic and A&E; a great job done by Tom and his family at The Oaks and in the end even the rain held off!