How I won the Maver Larford Silver Fest 2015
Wed 04 March 15
Jamie Harrison – Guru / Bait-Tech
This festival is the first major festival of it’s kind of the year and attracts a fair mix of anglers from all over the country who descend on the prestigious Maver Larford Lakes complex. Going into this event the holder of the title was none other than former World Champion and England Feeder Team Manager Tom Pickering who topped this event and it was notable that he won the event using the feeder. This for me was the big draw to this event and whilst I know pole fishing here for the resident roach and skimmers can be unbeatable under the right conditions, I expected the weather to push fish further out into the lake which would enable the feeder to dominate. As it turned out, this is exactly what happened…
Open Practice Match (Sunday)
This 4 day event runs from Monday through until Thursday and is decided on section points with anglers rotating through 4 sections which were all to be on Specimen Lake. However, my travelling wingman Richard Vaughn and I decided it would be best to fish the open match on the Sunday in order to get a feel for how it was fishing and to hopefully formulate a game plan. We had an idea as regards the best range to fish, feed, groundbait and the tackle we required so we put them to the test. The wind was blustery and it rained for the entire match which, as expected, hindered the pole anglers and our ‘skimmer’ approach earned my 2nd overall in the match and Richard came 3rd! The only weight to beat us included a 16lb carp and with this festival to be based around silver fish, we were confident our approach was right.
The far end of Burr Bank in ‘B’ section was mine and whilst I was confident the approach was right, I wasn’t sure if this end of the lake would produce the skimmers required to top the section. A 2 line feeder approach was the order of the day. A 15m line and a 30m metre line and these would be tackled with either a 20g Guru open-ended feeder or if the bottom was very silty, a Drennan 15g flat-bottomed cage would be used. Both rods were Team Daiwa’s with a 10ft version selected for the shorter line and the 11ft version for the 30m line and both were fitted with the softest White tips. Reels were both TDR 3012 and crucially these were loaded with 0.08 Matrix Submerge braid. Bites were delicate and braid would give us the edge as regards registering and reading bites. Paternoster rigs were found to be best and a starting hooklength was to be 0.11 N-Gauge to a size 18 Guru LWG hook. Starting length would be 40cm but this would be shortened or lengthened depending on bites.
In a nutshell, it was really a match of two halves. The early pegs to our left caught fish early and at our end of the section we had to wait 2 hours until we started to get indications. Having said that, the biggest problem I had here was finding a feeder light enough to rest properly on the very silty bottom at 30m. I finished with 12 skimmers for 10lb 6oz which was just enough to top the section which was shared with Matt Pilly who did well to claw himself back into the match after a blank first 2 hours. I’ve got to totally admit that my ‘bottle’ almost wavered as the anglers towards the middle of Burr Bank got off to a flying start. I chased it a little and it didn’t work. Leaving the feeder in for longer periods hoping fish would find the bait simply wasn’t the way to go. Thankfully, I realised in enough time to make changes and catch a few towards the end.
Section A was my draw for the day and my destination was the middle of Burr Bank. This area had been quite productive on the previous 2 days so I knew there should be some fish in the area. I’d also drawn next to venue expert and one of the favourites Matt Blackmore so it would be interesting to see how our styles and approaches would compare. As with Day One, other anglers in the section caught early whilst my tip remained motionless. Matt went ahead with 4 early skimmers and once again I had to restrain myself not to deviate from the plan. Then after almost 2 hours, I began to get indications and gradually I caught the odd fish to claw my way back up the section. By the final hour my swim got stronger and by the end of the match I’d won the section with 18 skimmers for just over 18lb. Surprisingly, Matt finished on just 6 fish for 6lb odd which got him second in the section. To win the section by such a margin after such a bad start really cemented in my mind that the approach was right especially as the 2 anglers to my left had both blanked! By keeping tiny amounts of groundbait going in through a small cage feeder very regularly I was able to keep picking off ‘roaming’ skimmers as they passed through the swim and followed the feeder down when they were sitting at half depth.
This was to be the real test as regards my approach as I drew next to my wingman and travelling partner Richard Vaughn. He was using the same groundbait, same feeders, same braid and even the same hooks so it would be interesting to see if the similarity in our approach when pegged next to each other would cancel out any advantages we had. We were in D section which had been very poor the first 2 days with 10lb needed to win and weights as low as 5lb for very good points. I kicked off at 30m but it was 55 minutes before I got an indication which resulted in a 1lb skimmer. Everyone in the section seemed to have had a very slow first hour and once again it would have been easy to get dragged into sitting and waiting for the fish to find the bait on 15-20 minutes casts. Everyone was doing this and it simply wasn’t working. I stepped back up to 2 minute casts and within 10 minutes I was getting indications again. Richard had caught 6 small skimmers by half way but he was a couple of fish behind me. The frequency in casting really got me back on track and it had gone un-noticed. By the last hour however it had died and I couldn’t create any other bites. With 45 minutes to go, I went 2 metres past my feed and this got me 3 extra skimmers. By the end I really had no idea how I’d faired as you can’t see the other anglers around in this section. My 18 skimmers for 17lb was enough to top the section again with Richard finishing with a 16 skimmers for 13lb. Obviously Richard’s fish had been a smaller stamp and unfortunately I guess we’ll never know the reason why. Richard’s solid performance had put up to second overall in the festival with a brilliant 6 points total behind myself who was now leading with 3 points.
I was off to section C and this had proven very patchy the previous day. Most people thought it would be hard for the leading pack to catch my points total but as we all know anything can happen in fishing! I’d gone to bed early the previous night and got to my peg early as I didn’t want to leave anything to chance. I’m glad I did as the weather was horrendous with a very strong blustery wind hitting us right in the face. This would certainly affect my light feeder approach but more importantly it would hinder the anglers who expected to try and catch on the pole. Four of the anglers in the chasing pack were to compete against each other in the same section on this final day and with Richard also in that section, all I could do was ignore their battle and concentrate on the job in hand and try and keep in touch with what was happening in my section. Once again, a few people caught very early on only for their swims to dry up and leave them struggling after the first hour. I had to constantly change feeders as the conditions and wind strength changed and by the end of the match I’d used 7 different feeders. The bottom in this section is incredibly soft and you could feel the feeder going into the silt when it landed which obviously hindered presentation. I had a blank 2 hour period in the middle of the match which was horrible. In the final hour I switch to a 30g cage which was way too heavy for the soft bottom but was the only weight I could reach the target spot properly with but I knew it wasn’t right. My first 5 skimmers had all been caught within 30 seconds of the feeder hitting bottom. Realising this was probably the only way I was going to catch, I increased the length of my hooklegnth to 50cm and re-cast every 90 seconds. After 4 casts I was rewarded with a 1lb skimmer and I finished with 10 skimmers for just over 10lb. This was enough to top the section again giving me a total of 4 points and the festival title. Richard had actually had a brilliant match but he missed out on the section win by just 3oz which put him 3rd overall in the festival behind Dave Smiddy.
I’d come to this event hoping to dominate on the feeder and whilst the basic approach was just right, it was amazing how often we had to make little changes and tweaks each day to get those extra vital few bites. On matches like this, simply changing the feeder and even how much pressure you put on filling the feeder can make a massive difference but all in all it was an extremely well run event so a big well done goes to Maver and the team at the Larford complex for running a great event and I’m sure we’ll all be back next year.
1st Jamie Harrison Guru / Bait-Tech 4pts
2nd Dave Smiddy Maver Newmann Scott 7pts
3rd Richard Vaughn Daiwa Dons 8pts
4th C Bradney Maver 8pts
5th M Jones Tredegar AC 9pts
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