Anglers are outraged that there are even fewer Fish O’Mania qualifiers in the south of the country for them to fish in 2011, following last week’s announcement of an increased prize fund of £30,000 and a new 300-peg mega qualifier.
Only three matches out of the 16 will be in that region - Monk Lakes in Kent, Somerset’s Viaduct Fishery and Devon complex Stafford Moor. Southern anglers will face journeys of hundreds miles to reach a qualifying venue - other fisheries with a tried and tested track record being overlooked.
One qualifier will be split across two separate fisheries for the first time in the competition’s history, a bold move that has divided opinion and angered some fishery owners who feel they have been overlooked when they could host a good match all on one site.
“The sad fact is that there are no venues of sufficient size in the south to host such events,” said Angling Trust competition organiser Mick Turner.
“We used to use Willinghurst but last year it was almost a complete disaster with terrible fishing. A lot of anglers said it was unfair and if there was another qualifier there, they wouldn’t fish it. As for splitting a qualifier, we were struggling for a venue in the East Midlands so decided to hold one across two venues at Holly Farm and Peatling Pools. The Midlands isn’t short of venues - we could host all 16 there!” One eastern water that had and then lost a qualifier was Norwich complex Barford Lakes, which had to cancel its qualifier at the last minute in 2010 owing to an outbreak of KHV, which made the Angling Trust reluctant to return.
“We were disappointed that we were not asked to hold a qualifier, not just for us as a business but also for local anglers who always have to travel so far to compete in Fish O’,” said Barford’s Sarah Thomson.
“Our decision to cancel wasn’t taken lightly but we couldn’t be confident of match returns at that time and felt we wouldn’t have been able to deliver value to anglers and the standard of fishing that we feel a match of this importance requires. It’s just a shame that after all the years we have worked hard with Mick and the Angling Trust to provide fair and smoothly run matches that a qualifier wasn’t awarded to Barford.” But what of the people that make the event what it is - the anglers? Milo Bordon Angling rod Miles Levy, based in Hampshire, regularly competes in Fish O’ qualifiers and he isn’t too impressed with the lack of choice in the south.
“Personally I think there should be more qualifiers in the south but I’d agree with Mick that there are a lack of venues,” he said.
“Some fisheries could accommodate such a big match but they would be very peggy. Surely if there can be a split qualifier in the Midlands then there can be one in the south? Gold Valley and Willow Park are two possibles, and I’m sure venues would be willing to negotiate peg fees.” Online entry for Fish O’Mania XVIII runs from Monday, January 17 at 9am until Monday, February 7 at 4pm. Match tickets are £25, an increase of £2 on 2010, and all entrants need to be paid up members of the Angling Trust.