Have you ever organised a twenty four hour carp match? No, I hadn’t either until this week…
I’m now engaged in some work for Go-Outdoors in Stoke-on-Trent who recently offered thirty five anglers the chance to fish at prestigious Baden Hall Fisheries for free, in an effort to land a £1000 bounty! Realistically, preparations started some time ago, with customers to the store invited to register their details for a proposed match over the course of two weeks, until we chose to randomly draw the lucky anglers out a hat; easy so far. Once those anglers had been selected, we then had to contact each one individually, either by email or telephone call, (thanks Deb!) and confirm each was able to fish.
The venue wasn’t tricky to choose. Baden Hall Fishery in Staffordshire (www.badenhall.com) offers some superb sport, is well looked after, has enough pegs on one pool to provide each competitor with plenty of room, and as we wanted everyone to catch, it just remained to negotiate a price with Jamie Goucher, the owner at Baden Hall. Once agreed, arrangements had to be made for payment, and when confirmed, we could go ahead with our match… simple!
Except it wasn’t… The twenty four hours was to begin at 0800 on Saturday morning, meaning all anglers had to be present for a 0700 draw, so poor old Deb (thanks again!) had to recontact them all to confirm schedules and attendance, then we had to promulgate on social media, then we had to arrange closure of the pool with signage and web notification, and then we had to try and get enough marshals together to ensure smooth running…. Who said it was going to be easy?
But that’s not all; marshals need feeding, so food has to be bought, sufficient drinks must be supplied, a bivvy headquarters had to be sourced, and a couple of bedchairs provided and associated camera kit had to be considered. Then we had to get our team to the venue! It’s a good job I have a big van….
On the day before the event, several members of the team had to travel to the venue and walk around the ten acre pool with Head Bailiff Roy Russell to confirm all the correct pegs, the basecamp, and the after match proceedings; GO-Outdoors Health and Safety officers visited, insurance was arranged, and we were finally good to go! Fingers crossed….
Saturday morning came bright and warm. Our intrepid anglers gathered expectantly, and the draw was made before they all rushed off to find their chosen spot. At 0800, the whistle sounded the ‘All In!” and we were finally off and running! The weather was gloriously hot, a cloudless sky and warm breeze making conditions very pleasant for our entrants, but unfortunately, not so good for the fishing. A fairly quiet day followed, until early evening brought a glut of fish and some progress was made by three anglers who started to pull away from the pack…
In the early hours of Sunday morning, after over eighteen hours on the bank, it started to rain… the drizzle gave way to bigger drops, and by daybreak, it was pouring. Not ideal for the marshals dotted around the lake, crouched under the trees in a desperate attempt to stay dry, or moving between pegs to weigh and return fish in the darkness, but much better for the fishing which started to improve with several anglers landing fish, and several more unfortunately losing them; the importance of which would soon be apparent!
By 0700, it was obvious that one or two fish separated three anglers, who at one point, were all within just 3lbs of each other…just 3lbs between them and £1000! Andy Greensmith lost three fish in quick succession, Rob Hamilton’s swim went quiet, but Andy Bashford on the far bank continued to pick up fish and sneak ahead of the opposition. The lead had changed a couple of times, but as Andy Bashford continued to catch, the others fell behind with a series of lost fish and missed bites. Marshals continued to keep a running total, and furtive phone calls kept the result secret as the ‘All Out!’ approached, but, barring a monster, Andy Bashford looked a worthy winner.
And so it proved. Andy weighed in 137lb 4oz off peg 28, closely followed by Andy Greensmith on 58 with 119lb 2oz (I told you those lost fish made a difference) and Rob Hamilton took third spot with around 105lb. It was soon time to retire to the clubhouse to reveal the winner, and our happy band all grabbed mugs of tea and pulled up a chair to await the result. After the required thanks were passed to attendees, GO staff Deb, Rosie, Michael and Tom for marshalling, and Peter Aske (budget holder…important chap!) by store manager Dave Rawlings, it fell to me to acknowledge the winning anglers, appropriately in reverse order. Initially billed as ‘Winner takes all’, a hasty decision was made to award GO vouchers of £50 and £100 to the runners up, and a bucket filled with bait and a combined bag/unhooking mat was offered to the captor of the biggest fish. In the event, it was Jonathan Robbins who claimed it with a chubby mirror of just under 20lb.
That just left the clearing up, loading the van with sopping equipment, and the return home for a shower and some much needed sleep. The marshals had almost no rest during a busy twenty four hours fishing, and after our day had begun at 0400 the previous day, we were all happy to depart at around 0930… an arduous twenty nine hours later!
All anglers seemed to enjoy it, in fact the feedback we have had subsequently has been very positive, and we were pleased to see anglers making new friends, offering each other ideas, and generally relaxing on the bank. Was it a success? Yes, I believe it was; it reflected well on the company, the fishery and the staff, our anglers enjoyed it, and some of them indeed did very well out of it! All enjoyed a twenty four hour session at our expense, caught fish, registered new personal bests, and hopefully had fun, so when I was asked if I’d help do it all again, there is only one answer….
….of course I would!