This year’s Waterways Ireland Classic finished with a cliffhanger on the windswept waters of Fermanagh's River and Lough Erne, with local angler John Potters, from Lisbellaw, taking the £5,000 top prize and crystal chalice with 46-120. That was a mere 290g ahead of 1978 Classic Winner and former world champ Kevin Ashurst!
John held a slender lead in the 252-peg contest going into the final day, with five festival regulars in close contention just behind in this weight-only three-day event.
He held his nerve and took 15-170 from the Manor House section to keep his nose in front and make him the 36th Classic champion. ‘Big Kev’ had to be content with £2,000 and a crystal sports trophy for his runner-up spot in front of Hot Rods Irish festival regular Andy Leathers on 35-160.
“I started on the Erne at Derrychara for Day 1 and won my section with a little over 8kg made up of mainly hybrids all caught on a groundbait feeder with maggot and worm,” the 47-year-old revealed.
Wednesday saw John, in his 17th Classic, draw end peg 1 on the Broadmeadow section of the Erne in front of Enniskillen Castle. Said to be a plum draw, he fished groundbait feeder. Casting 40m with braid, he started on small redworms but switched to two or three red maggots on a size 14 hook to land one proper 5lb bream, five skimmers and roach/bream hybrids to 2lb.
“That gave me 16-830, enough to win the day and put me right in contention, but it would all be for nothing if I struggled on Friday,” he said.
“The draw bag gave me peg 8 on Manor House on the lower lough. Peg 9 had performed well a few days before so I was hoping for a few fish. Again, I fished the groundbait feeder at 50 turns with Van Den Eynde Gold Pro Bream, Black Turbo and brown crumb carrying three pints of caster and 0.5kg of chopped worm, fishing worm and red maggot on a size 14 hook.”
“It was deep out there and not great for the early part of the match, with only a few perch. Then I started to pick off hybrids, with one decent bream turning up mid-match. I then struggled for the last few hours with just a few perch and hoped I’d done enough with 15-170. I had, but it was close!” he added.
1 J Potters, Lisbellaw, 46-120
2 K Ashurst, Irvinestown, 45-830
3 A Leathers, Browning Hot Rods, 35-610
4 J Messner, Durham, 35-550;
5 M Wright, Matlock AC, 34-860
6 R Wakenshaw, SPRO Lincoln Whisby AS, 31-870
1 Van Den Eynde (Bob Nudd, Barry Smith, Kevin Ashurst and Gary Whalley).