A rousing last hour in one of the most exciting Fish O’ finals of recent years saw Neil McKinnon snatch the trophy from the grasp of Tommy Pickering and pocket the £25,000 winner takes all prize.
Former world champ Tommy had led the 16-peg shootout from around halfway and with just 30 minutes remaining was a convincing 6kg in front of Neil and seemingly odds on to record one of the biggest wins in his illustrious career.
That was until Shakespeare/Dynamite Baits-backed Neil finally caught shallow, piling over 10kg of carp into the net to overtake Tommy and record his name in the annals of Fish O’ history, watched by hundreds of spectators behind him.
Neil’s 29-980 final weight proved over 6kg too good for Tommy with Andy Benwell taking third on 20-270, Andy North picking up the big fish prize worth £2,500 with a 6-080 carp but the day belonged to Neil, a former finalist who rated that appearance in the 2007 final as the greatest regret in his career as he failed to do himself justice.
“The win was all about having faith in a method,” Neil said. “I’d rate fishing shallow as one of my strengths and I thought that if the barbel didn’t feed on the deck, I’d have a chance of winning with carp shallow although when I drew my peg and got to it, I wasn’t happy. The wind was blowing into me at a 45 degree angle and they’re the worst conditions you can have for trying to catch shallow.”
Peg 4 was Neil’s draw and as the end pegs failed to produce, the match became a slugfest between Tommy on peg 12 and Neil in that last 60 minutes, Tommy’s Method feeder attack failing to catch a fish while Neil’s shallow skills saw him unable to get a bait into the peg quick enough!
“I started on the feeder to the island by after 15 minutes I knew I wasn’t going to catch there so I scrapped it and went out to 14m where I’d fed worm and caster,” Neil explained. “I caught a couple of barbel, a small chub and a few bits on small pieces of worm, but had been feeding pellet over it with a view to catching shallow.
On my last day of practice I cottoned on to the fact that you could catch shallow where the peg was fizzing and that’s been the case today.”
A banded 6mm hard pellet was his hookbait, feeding 6mm offerings although he varied the amount to see how the fish reacted. A frugal approach worked for a few fish before piling it in picked off a few more, the bulk of his fish caught at 2ft deep as the carp refused to feed any higher in the water.
“After an hour I caught my first carp shallow but I knew it wasn’t right out there,” Neil added. “It became a line to keep dropping in on to see if they were there. With an hour to go I thought I wasn’t going to win as Tommy was a long way in front but the fish turned up and had a go.”
“Fish O’ finals don’t come around that often and you can’t get carried away by what others are doing,” he continued.
“I kept concentrated on catching shallow and was helped immensely by Jon Arthur sitting behind me who was my eyes and ears and kept me on my toes. I never worry about what I’ve got in my net as I’m more concerned about catching the next fish and that was my blinkered approach in that last 30 minutes. I never even knew Andy North on my right had caught that 12lb carp as I was so focused.”
Neil fished a 4x12 float with a bristle to battle the windy conditions, the rest of his winning rig consisting of 0.13mm Powerline straight through to a size 16 PR26 hook and Preston Innovations grade 13h elastic, lifting and dropping the rig in all the time rather than slapping it on the surface to make noise.
“I feel this is a bit of vindication after the Parkdean Masters when Tommy won it,” Neil said. “I lost a huge fish under my feet that I’m adamant would have won me the £25,000! The title and prestige are more important than the cash – I even said the night before the match that they could keep the money, all I wanted was the trophy and title!”
1 N McKinnon, 29-980
2 T Pickering, 23-880
3 A Benwell, 20-270
4 R Hayward, 16-710
5 R Wootton, 16-370
6 A North, 14-870
7 N Machin, 14-750
8 T Bull, 13-870
9 K Rich, 12-620
10 S Ballard, 11-020;
11 S Seabourne, 10-990
12 S Huggins, 9-850
13 L Bamford, 9-250
14 R Hoskins, 8-070
15 B Emery, 5-990
16 S Bamford, 5-360
Biggest fish winner
Andy North, 6-080 carp (wins £2,500)