Who is the best big-fish angler in the country? That’s the question which will be answered over the next few weeks as voting gets underway in this year’s Drennan Cup. After another impressive year in the specimen-hunting world, the men who made the headlines now get to decide which one of their peers deserves to pick up the most prestigious trophy in angling, plus the £2,000 winner’s cheque.
The season has been marked by some impressive individual catches, most notably Mark McKenna’s new record 22lb 9oz bream, Barry McConnell’s monster eel of 9lb 2oz, Gareth Spurgeon’s 8lb 14oz River Lea chub and Noel Jones’ 5lb 6oz Great Ouse perch. Indeed, it proved to be one of the best ever for predatory species, with a string of big zander to over 20lb banked, and an astonishing number of 30lb-plus pike coming from Chew Valley, including two ‘forties’.
However, only a few anglers managed more than one weekly award, a list headed by Julian Chidgey, the Devon-based rod who accumulated five wins for the capture of two 30lb-plus pike, a 5lb 15oz eel, an 11lb 7oz tench and a brace of 3lb-plus roach.
Apart from Julian, the other anglers with multiple awards included seven-times champ Terry Lampard, Paul Williamson and Duncan Charman, each of whom landed three weekly awards.
Bream catches dominated April 2009, headed by Dave Sharps with a 16lb 12oz specimen, and Dave Gawthorn with one just 2oz smaller. Some familiar faces got their campaigns underway in May 2009. Dorset legend and seven-times Drennan Champ Terry Lampard banked a 10lb 12oz tench, while Paul Williamson and Dai Gribble, second and third in the competition two years ago, chipped in with a 6lb 8oz eel and a 16lb 3oz bream respectively. Other catches included Mike Green’s 40lb 8oz Chew Valley pike, taken on a fly!
Early June 2009 saw the biggest tench of the season, a 12lb 4oz whacker, fall to Walsall angler Gary Mills, who targeted a Colne Valley gravel pit. A string of other huge tench were banked, including Warren Hammond’s 11lb 15oz fish and Julian Chidgey’s one of 11lb 7oz.
The big bream in rock-hard venue Startops Reservoir got on the feed in July 2009, with 16lb-plus specimens reported every week. Norfolk’s Tony Bidwell also made the headlines after tempting the nation’s biggest barbel from the River Wensum at 18lb 11oz.
National Anguilla Club officer Barry McConnell hit the headlines in August 2009 by catching a monster eel of 9lb 2oz from an undisclosed Midlands stillwater ¬ just reward for dozens of blank nights spent at the venue. Julian Chidgey strengthened his early-season push for the title by banking a 5lb 15oz eel of his own.
Carper Mark McKenna stole the limelight in September 2009 after smashing the British bream record with a monster 22lb 9oz fish from Cambs venue Ferry Lagoon. The fish obliterated James Rust’s four-year-old record by almost 3lb.
The nation’s rivers well and truly exploded into life in October 2009, with Gareth Spurgeon taking the biggest chub of the season ¬ an 8lb 14oz River Lea giant¬ and Noel Jones tempting one of the largest river perch of all time from the Ouse at 5lb 6oz. The same month Julian Chidgey took his tally to three awards with a 32lb 14oz pike from Somerset’s Chew Valley Lake.
November 2009 was the month when Mick Dolan caught the ‘zander record that never was’ ¬ his 22lb Grafham Water giant was thrown out by BRFC officials because it was weighed on a boat.
Julian Chidgey made it four awards in six months when he caught a stunning 31lb 2oz pike from the Exeter canal in December 2009. Elsewhere, massive perch were the order of the day at Tring Reservoir, with fish of 5lb 4oz and 5lb 6oz falling to Ken Brown and Steve Aley respectively.
The sub-zero temperatures saw cold-water species dominate January 2010’s catches, the pick of which was arguably Ian Carpenter’s 32lb 1oz pike from the River Wye. Further south, big chub fell from the River Colne, Hants Avon and River Lea.
It was a similar story in February 2010, with most of the nation’s stillwaters still shrouded in ice. One which remained fishable was Chew Valley, where first-time visitor Andy Charmer equalled the lake record with a monster pike of 40lb 8oz. On the rivers, seasoned specimen-hunter Adrian Busby made the headlines after taking a huge 8lb chub from the Great Ouse.
As the season drew to a close in March 2010, temperatures finally began to rise and lakes started to thaw. Julian Chidgey ended the campaign in fine style by notching his fifth award of a sensational 12 months for a brace of 3lb-plus roach from an Oxfordshire gravel pit.