John Turnbull was close to hanging up his rods before a chance conversation with Frank Warwick led him to Bluebell Lakes and the capture of the venue’s biggest fish on his first visit.
Fed up with the lack of big-fish waters near his Southport home and southern “closed shops”, John was on the verge of giving up before being told about the stock at the Northamptonshire day-ticket complex. After enduring five-hour Friday journey, the company director banked the mirror known as Dave at 54lb 5oz from Swan Lake during a weekend session.
“The fish is special to me in so many ways,” said the 31-year-old. “I was about to sell all my gear. Living up north and having done the ‘circuit’ since I was 12 I was losing the will to live.
“But a chance conversation got me talking to Frank Warwick who told me to get myself on to Swan Lake.”
After battling the M6, John arrived late in the evening to find the lake packed. He positioned himself in the middle of three available pegs on the far bank but decided to keep his lines out of the water overnight.
“At 4 am I got up, put a brew on and watched the water like a hawk while every other person was sleeping. The weed was horrendous; I’ve never seen anything like it. The fish had definitely been pushed into my water as they were rolling off the back of the weed at about 60 yards.”
John used solid PVA bags to combat the weed and baited with 10kg of Nash Scopex Squid Red over an area the size of a tennis court. After an aborted take at noon, another 5kg was added to the swim and John dozed off.
“I was woken by a screaming take. I struck into the fish, it took about 3ft of line then went solid into the weed.”
Having laid the rod down and opened the bail arm, John and another angler considered getting a boat. “While we were deciding what to do the line moved just a little so I went back into the fish,” he said, “ I couldn’t really feel anything but I striped off and got into the lake. I had a weed ball about the size of a Mini at my feet – I started to pull weed off the leader, then I saw it, ‘pass me the net, I’ve got something massive on here’ was all I could shout!”