The ecstasy of winning a big-money matchfishing festival soon turned to agony for angler Martin Freeman last week after he saw part of his match-winning net disappear through a hole in the bottom of his keepnet costing him the £1,000 top prize.
After being in contention right up until the final whistle on day three of the Decoy Lakes Festival 2010, the Peterborough, Cambs, matchman was already planning what to do with his winnings after catching well over 100lb of fish on the last day of competition.
But when it came to the final weigh-in, Martin was faced with every match angler’s worst nightmare ¬ a hole which allowed over 20lb of barbel to escape.
The mishap not only relegated him to fourth place overall, but saw his hopes of winning the popular event for two years in a row at the Cambs-based complex vanish.
“As soon as I saw the hole in the side of my net, I knew that it had all gone horribly wrong ¬ I’ve never been so gutted. But it’s entirely my fault because I didn’t check my net at the start,” said Martin.
“This festival is the highlight of my year and I knew I’d done enough for victory because I won my lake on the first day with 270lb 2oz, took the runner-up spot on day two and fished the perfect match on the third and last day.
“I knew exactly how many fish I had in the final net and I’m usually spot-on with my weight estimations, but all my barbel escaped, which saw me finish with nine points. This was two points behind the eventual winner and only enough for fourth.
“If I’d only taken a minute to check my net at the start, I would have won the festival two years in a row and been £1,000 richer. I won’t be making that mistake ever again.” Martin did take some consolation from the festival, which was won by Peterborough angler John Wincup, in the form of the £400 cheque for his fourth-place finish.
Like hundreds of other popular commercial fisheries across the UK, Decoy Lakes insists that visiting anglers use the venue’s own keepnets and landing nets in order to protect the valuable stocks from diseases such as KHV.
Even though Pete and Di Band were sympathetic towards Martin’s misfortune, they were keen to point out that they make it clear at the start of the festival that every angler should check their keepnet before every day of competition.
“It’s entirely down to the angler to check because, as you can understand, the venue gets lots of use all year round. The fishery can’t be held responsible for unfortunate incidents like this,” said Di.