Following the high drama of the Fish O’Mania XVII final 24 hours earlier on the Arena Pool, few of the hundreds of spectators watching this special £10,000 winner-takes-all event could have foreseen a repeat performance with the final 30 minutes deciding the destination of that handsome cheque ¬ but that’s exactly what they got.
With only half-an-hour remaining, any one of four former Fish O’ champions were in with a shout of glory but, just as Neil McKinnon did on the Saturday, so Nathan Watson came to the fore, dealing with the pressure admirably to be crowned champion of champions and earn his place in Fish O’ immortality.
After a slow start, a great mid-match spell on the Method feeder cast to the far bank from end peg 1 put the Louth angler, champion in 2002, right in contention with Steve Ringer, Matt Hall and Dave Pimlott, and while those challengers either fell by the wayside or lagged just a fish or so behind, Nathan kept the landing net going out to net vital carp in the closing stages and keep the rest at bay.
His 35-180 final tally was less than a kilo-and-a-half in front of double champion Matt Hall, leaving Dave Pimlott to take third after a great late run of big carp. But few could match Nathan’s consistency as he matched every fish caught by his rivals.
“For the first hour or so I caught very little and thought it wasn’t going to be my day,” Nathan said.
“I knew Dave Pimlott was catching well and had something like 11 kilos in half-an-hour. It wasn’t really until two hours in that the peg came to life a little and I was catching two or three carp every half-hour. Some were only small, around 1lb 8oz, but some were proper ones up to 9lb and they were vital fish.”
Casting a Method feeder packed with micro pellets into the far-bank grass against the island, Nathan took a few fish on a banded 6mm pellet but it was only when he changed to a piece of cubed meat as a change bait that things started to happen and from a fish every so often, the swim started producing more regularly.
“I’d planned to fish worm and caster on the deck and down the edge on the pole, but the stopper angler on my right spent much of the match on the pole so I figured that fishing the feeder would give me that line all to myself,” Nathan explained. “I still wasn’t 100 per cent sure what I’d fish, though. I’d had a quick look at the match the day before and had planned on the feeder and pole shallow but it was windy and cool and I didn’t think shallow pellet would work. That made the Method my main line.”
Nathan’s margin line did produce a couple of barbel in the closing stages, though ¬ valuable fish although, as he pointed out, the feeder line could have had a 10lb carp sat waiting to be caught while he was on the pole.
“Every fish was important, especially in that last hour,” said Nathan. “I still wasn’t sure I could win as I wasn’t really bagging, but my runner Dean Smith was adamant I’d win it. It’s hard to keep an eye on what’s going on in your peg and around you but those three fish in the last half-hour went a long way towards winning it ¬ one was around 9lb and the other around 5lb.
“The money is nice but the kudos is even better, to be crowned champion of champions,” Nathan added. “It’s also nice to be able to silence a few knockers after last year’s final!”