This Saturday’s Fish O’Mania final will be a very different one for Tom Pickering as the likeable match legend swaps the comfort of the Sky TV studio for a place in the £25,000 winner-takes-all event.
After winning the qualifier at Woodland Lakes just a couple of weeks ago and sealing his first ever final place,the long-standing Fish O’ pundit will instead be lining up with 15 other top matchmen for a crack at the title.
Winner of almost all there is to win in matchfishing, Preston Innovations-backed Tom claims that victory would see a long-term goal finally realised and sign off a match career that, tantalisingly, he says will go in a very different direction after Saturday’s match.
With typical Yorkshire caution Tom is remaining tight-lipped about the career change, but he can’t hide the sheer excitement he’s feeling just days before another massive match in the long and distinguished Pickering career.
He’s already been crowned World Champion, held the UK match record and won the £25,000 Parkdean Masters, but he admits he simply can’t wait for Saturday to come.
“I’m so excited now and didn’t sleep for three nights after qualifying and couldn’t think straight ¬ I was a mess!” Tom laughed.
“I always said that I wanted to fish in England and have my family and friends behind me cheering me on. It never happened during my time fishing for England but it will this weekend and that’ll be an amazing sensation, something I’ve never experienced before.” Fishing the competition rather than commenting on it will also be new territory, but Tom reckons his time alongside Keith Arthur in the studio will stand him in good stead when dealing with the crowds, cameras and pressure that many finalists find a little overwhelming.
“I’ve seen the cameras and the crowds so it’ll help, but it’ll still be a very different experience when that camera swings round on a boom above my float!” he continued.
“I actually hope the cameras stay with me all day because that’ll mean I’m doing well!
“Seriously, there will be a lot of pressure but I’ve got a good pedigree and won some amazing things in my time. I do think, though, that this year’s field is the best the competition has ever had ¬ the likes of Stu Ballard, Neil Machin, Kieron Rich and Neil McKinnon are all great anglers, so winning won’t be straightforward.” Practice on the Arena Pool has gone well, with three of the four methods Tom would like up his sleeve more or less perfected. All he needs now is a good draw.
“I’ve fished the lake several times and never had a cast without a bite!” Tom said.
“There will, though, be four or five pegs with a winning chance and you’ve just got to hope you draw one, so I’ll keep my fingers crossed.” A win would see the transformation from Tom Pickering the ‘bionic bleaker’ of River Trent fame to commercial fishery master, a change he made in 2000 when he realised his time in the England set-up was at an end. Actively fishing commercial carp waters, he set himself that target of Parkdean, UK Champs and Fish O’, and reckons glory on Saturday would finish off this stage of his career nicely.
“After Saturday I’ll be taking my fishing off in a very different direction,” he revealed. “Fish O’ will still play a big part ¬ it’s THE competition to win, and I’ve been fishing the qualifiers for 10 years so it will always be close to my heart.” With Tom’s record, no-one would bet against him being successful, whatever his next fishing move is.