Semi-finalists in the forthcoming Angling Times Team Championships have breathed a sigh of relief as the Stainforth & Keadby Canal, venue for one of the Northern matches, has emerged from the cold snap in sparkling form.
Match weights to 18lb and double figures aplenty from the roach stocks around Thorne have even led those in the know to predict a terrific match come March, with Barnsley starlet Lee Kerry reckoning that almost 60 per cent of the pegs available on the big day will be capable of producing 10lb of roach.
“I’d say that there are 70 pegs out of the 120 likely to be used that will be capable of producing 10lb of roach,” said Lee. “That’s not to say 10lb will be caught, because it will depend on the angler, but it should be a fair and proper fishing match. Even in the harder areas I would expect 5lb or 6lb to be the target. The semi will produce plenty of double-figure weights.”
And Lee should know. He’s been fishing the canal either side of the cold spell and won last weekend with 18lb of roach. While he expects sport to drop slightly as the canal comes under pressure in the run-up to the semi, he can’t see it becoming a disaster.
“At the moment there are so many roach in the canal,” Lee added. “Last year the venue got better and better as we moved towards March and we were catching 10lb to 17lb in the last match of the season.
“This season has been exactly the same ¬ hopefully we’ll qualify, but we have missed out before on the ‘Stainy’. So much for a home water!”
Such is the standard of sport that Team Champs organiser Ken Wade reckons this and the Southern semi-final will be the best canal semis the competition has ever seen ¬ high praise indeed.
“I expect the Stainforth and Kennet & Avon in the south to be tremendous,” Ken said. “The cold weather has done us a favour in terms of protecting both venues from over-fishing, and the hammer that has ruined so many semi-finals.
“I know they’ll get a lot of pressure as we get nearer March, but anglers should get an enjoyable day’s fishing and fair team matches.”