With a large festival circuit travelling down to White Acres in Cornwall every October it’s a great learning experience, as Alan Scotthorne’s latest blog explains.
I have just took part in two festivals at White Acres in Cornwall. The first one being the Maver week and the second being the Preston Festival. This is the big one from which the top 24 anglers qualify for the Parkdean Masters £25k winner takes all final. I really enjoy these competitions and although I take them seriously I also try to relax a little after the busy summer of international fishing, when the pressure is on proper!
The 180 participants each week are split into groups of 36 anglers that rotate sections. On examining the draw for the Maver Festival I found I was probably in the hardest group with some strong opposition. You normally need to win four sections to win the festival and I knew that would be difficult.
Monday – Jenny’s & Trewaters
My first port of call was B Section, split between Jenny’s and Trewaters lakes. I drew peg 51 at the latter and with Tommy Pickering, Richie Hull and Rob Brennan in my nine-peg section I was going to have to fish well to get a good result.
For me I often seem to have a problem getting off the mark and a 5th was not the start I wanted. On reflection I could not have got it more wrong. Electing to start on the Method Feeder produced little, my short line at five metres with meat also failed and the edge line was a disaster. The only place I could catch was on a short line with casters with just a top kit and one section. I weighed 31lb and just 54lb won the section. What I should have done was fish with pellets long and at five metres. These fish had seen pellets all summer and were programmed into eating them. A big mistake on my behalf, but one I will be aware of in future festivals. There is always a point in a match that tells you what to do and when I started to feed micro pellets on my caster line I did catch some better fish because basically the fish wanted pellets.
This now meant I was up against it but with four results to count I could not make any more bad judgments or a top-10 finish was out of the window.
Tuesday – Trelawney & Twin Oaks
Tuesday was split over Trelawney and Twin Oaks lakes. I drew peg 22 on the wide at Trelawney with none other than Steve Ringer for company on 23, so another difficult day was on the cards. Steve knows this lake well and elected to fish with pellets long on the pole up and down in the water, targeting carp. With me slightly around the corner into the narrower part of the lake I decided to fish caster shallow and long on the pole to fish for F1s, as carp don’t often turn up in this narrower part of the lake.
We both set up a method feeder, 5m rigs, down the edge rigs and a straight lead to cover all possibilities. This is where some people go wrong on these lakes; not covering their options. Every day is different, so rig up everything and see how the day unfolds is the best ploy.
Steve got off to a flier, catching a carp early down the edge to a platform where he had seen carp boiling just before the start, and then an early carp long shallow on pellet put him well in front with 40lb-plus after just two hours.
I started pinging meat across to the island and started on a straight lead for just one carp and three F1s for around 12lb, before switching to caster shallow. From this point on I started to catch roach and odd F1s. I had a sneaky suspicion the carp would back off from Steve and I would close the gap, as this has happened to me before on this lake.
By swapping between the Method Feeder, pole shallow and on the bottom Steve kept nicking odd fish but my shallow line was getting better all of the time. We also both caught a late carp down the edge but neither of us knew who had won when the match finished at 5 o’clock.
When the scales arrived my 82lb was just enough with Steve’s 79lb good enough for second in the section. On reflection I fished my own match, as did Steve, and the outcome could not have been closer. I think we were both hoping to avoid each other for the rest of the week!
Wednesday – Porth Reservoir
Porth is still one of my favourite venues and with all 36 anglers on this lake it’s a better match. I drew peg 34 on the near bank and was a little disappointed to have Steve in my section again on peg 40, the end peg. This made up my mind as I felt I needed to be very positive if I had any chance to beat him on this occasion.
I set up just two 10ft Acolyte Ultra Feeder rods with light 1oz tips and small Drennan plastic groundbait cage feeders. We have waited a good while for these rods at Drennan and they have not disappointed me with ultra-thin blanks and a cracking playing action. They are just a joy to fish with.
I also rigged two 13ft Acolyte Ultra Waggler rods to cover the feeder line with 3.5g Insert Crystal Wagglers on to fish shallow . Starting the match loose feeding casters as far as I could with a strong catapult I fished right on the far edge of the bait with the groundbait feeder and chopped worms, clipping up on about 22 metres. I had a great match, just loose feeding caster when bites faded, and catching small skimmers for a really enjoyable day.
When the scales arrived Steve had already weighed and I knew it would be close as he had put 24lb on the scales. My 22lb fell short of his total, but was easily second in section and 3rd on the lake. I don’t honestly see how I could have caught any more, just the stamp of fish were a little smaller than Steve’s, but still great fishing.
Thursday – Bolingey
Next day I found myself driving to Bolingey and for once I managed to avoid Steve. I managed to win the section on peg six on the first arm but also won the full 36-peg lake. I have drawn this lake a few times and although the consensus was that pellet was working best I decided to fish meat and hemp as this has always worked well for me on this arm.
I set up an array of rigs but also duplicated each rig as the strain of these big carp can take its toll. Starting at five sections of my Acolyte pole I cupped in just eight cubes of meat and a small amount of hemp with a separate cupping kit and waited for a bite. Here I used an AS2 0.3g rig to 0.18mm Supplex and a 0.16mm hooklength to a size 16 Kamasan B911. Baiting withing a cube of meat I had to wait 20 minutes for the first dip before a hefty 10lb fish was in the pan!
Feeding to bites I caught steadily for the first one and a half hours before I had to go longer to 15 metres to keep catching. Here I used a slightly heavier 0.4g AS2 float but everything else was the same both rig wise and feed wise. I kept bites coming until the last 90 minutes when I came back short. I was now feeding here by hand with six or seven pieces of meat every 90 seconds.
For most of the match I had used Drennan Yellow Carp Bungee, but for the latter stages of the match a switch to stronger pink Bungee meant I could land fish a little quicker to speed things up when the fish started feeding better.
I had noticed some fish also coming into the loose feed shallow and did nick four fish with a shallow Crystal Dibber rig over the top of my 5m swim, again with meat on the hook. This is an area these fish don’t get caught in too often.
I weighed 141lb 12oz, winning the lake with just 2oz to spare! Importantly another section win gave me a chance on the last day to make the top 10 overall.
Friday – Pollawyn (Match Lake)
Friday I was on Match Lake, back on the White Acres complex. This lake was difficult all week and a good draw was a must. Peg 12 stuck to my hand which I was not too disappointed with, until Steve Ringer appeared on 13, which is probably the best section winning peg in Cornwall! This is due to the fact it’s in open water with a spare peg on 14 while peg 12 round to peg 1 is in the narrows where the fish don’t often go to play.
To cut a long story short I caught three carp long, fishing ‘deep shallow’ on meat and a few skimmers on a light AS3 0.2g strung out rig, pinging meat, plus one carp down the edge for 38lb and 2nd in the section. Steve fished similar and caught 105lb for 2nd on the lake catching bigger skimmers and eight big carp. The interesting thing was I completely stopped catching when the sun went behind the trees on the island while Steve’s peg was in the sun all match. Food for thought, I think.
Although I had only dropped two points and finished with 34 points, dropping a 5th, I just sneaked in to 10th position, such is the strength of the field down on these festivals. Well done to John Whincup for winning the week.
Preston Festival & Parkdean Masters
Again I was in the strongest group for the Preston the following week, with 13 former festival winners to contend with. I had a good week, posting a 32-point score to make the Parkdean Final, but never really felt I had a chance on the day after drawing in the narrows on Jenny’s Lake.
Matt Godfrey put in a great performance to win the Preston Festival and kept up his stunning run of form this year. Well done Matt!
Andy Geldart also proved again that he is the man for the big occasion on the Parkdean Masters, stealing the show and £25k richer with a brilliant 80lb-plus weight in four hours. Well done mate!