Saturday was an amazing day for all the finalists and spectators, the atmosphere was electric, with £50,000 up for grabs I could sense the nerves when I spoke to the competitors. A large crowd added to the excitement and with Phil Briscoe and Andy Kinder on the PA system, it all added to a great day, even though you needed a translator to understand Andy, lol.
There was a lot of speculation before the start as to where you wanted to draw and who had the 'fancied' peg, but this was going to be a hard one to call. During practice matches, you had to draw an end peg, but with 4 blockers on each end peg this was going to make it very interesting, the blockers fished their own little match for £100, and did a great job.
'The belly from the telly' a bookmaker, made the day even more interesting and with the uncertainty about how the venue would fish the odds were changing all the time, when he closed the book Les Thompson was favourite at 2 to 1. There was a lot of money placed on Barry Mason, so the bookie was praying that he didnt win.
Les had drawn peg 12 on the day, end peg next to a blocker, about permanent peg 28. The wind was blowing down towards the clubhouse end of the lake but there was an awful lot of fish in front of him and across to the far side, an area of the lake that wasnt pegged.
Most anglers started there match fishing short, a normal approach on this lake, but with all the activity on the bank it was a slow start for most of the them and the first hour was quite slow, but then things started to liven up as the fish started to feed shallow, Andy Power and Grant Albutt had drawn next to each other, just as they did in the final last year, and they were both catching well, James Hawkins had a good start as did Miles Levy at the clubhouse end of the lake. Les Thompson was also catching well fishing pellet on the bottom at 13m, 2 hours into the match and it was hard to call as 5 or 6 anglers were in with a chance. At the half way stage things started to change and most anglers experienced the mid match 'blues' and things slowed up, some were left wondering where the next bite was coming from.
Les Thompson was now well into his stride and was catching steady and things were looking good, some people were even saying that the match was all over, but the last hour can be very good on this lake as big carp start to feed down the edge.
Three and a half hours into the match, things really slowed down for Les, and he must have been wondering if he had done enough. Into the last hour and the bigger carp started to show down the edge, the middle of the burr bank was the place to be as 4 anglers in a line started to catch carp averaging 5-6lb. Ian Giddins was one of them, he had caught steady most of the match but was really having a 'golden' last hour and with Les just catching the odd fish things were getting very exciting, nobody could be sure who was going to win. At the final 'hooter' Ian was playing a big fish, which he landed, and things were going right to the the wire.
The scales started at peg 1 and Miles Levy took an early lead with 32kgs, by the time the scales reached Les Thompson a huge crowd was waiting and the Sky cameras were there to record the action, Les had 5 weighs for 56kgs, he now had a tense wait while the other half of the match was weighed in. Andy Power put 40kgs on the scales, but everyone was waiting to see what Ian Giddins would weigh. When the scales eventually reached Ian, it must have seemed like a lifetime for Les, he had 5 weighs for 46kgs and the £50,000 cheque was going home to Dudley, just in time for his wedding in 2 weeks time and a very good honeymoon, nodoubt.
Les is a really nice bloke and a worthy winner, I first met him at Woodlands view about 10 years ago, when I was 13 and just starting to fish the midlands commercial circuit and he was a great help to me, a lot of the advice he gave me at the time I still remember and use to this day, it was also a great day for his sponsor Matrix, and Ricky Teale was there to share in the proud moment. Matrix has sponsored the winner of Fish'o' and this match, this year, so if you want to win £30,000 or £50,000 you had better talk nicely to Ricky Teale.
The winner went for his customary 'dip' after the match and the award ceremony, where Phil Briscoe handed out the cheques was more like a Formula 1 ceremony, champagne, fireworks and loud music really finished off a very exciting day, I left the lake wishing that I had made the final and determined to try even harder next year.
Finally a big well done to Phil Briscoe and the Maver team for making such a great occasion happen.