Wigan win Division 2 National

Angling Trust Division Two National 2014
Leeds-Liverpool Canal, Wigan (31 teams)

Fished on their home water, there would have been a very stern examination of what went wrong if Wigan MG hadn’t come away from this National with at the very least a team medal but the Lancashire side lived up to their pre-match favourites billing to lift the silver trophy with a 273 point score, 28 clear of Sensas North West with Middy Dams & Lock finishing with 235 points.

However, even they were aware that being armed with up to date information and bags of experience on the canal would count for nothing if the draw dealt them some of the tough pegs on the match length, which even they admitted would see them struggle to come away with decent points.

Thankfully, the bag dealt only one worrying draw and only one of the 10 man team finished outside of the top six in their sections, the Wigan scorecard including section wins for Danny Martin and Kev Clarke plus seconds for Dave Edgerley and Ant Marsden, who was the angler that has drawn that hard peg but which he made short work of!

“We put a lot of time in and know the canal like the back of our hands and we knew that we set off as favourites as all through the practice matches people were telling us we’d win no trouble at all,” said winning captain Danny Martin. “We tried to play it down a bit because I didn’t want to put too much pressure on the lads. We knew we could win it and if we got a reasonable draw we’d do fine but that was my worry because the canal has a lot of bad areas that you just can’t do anything with, no matter how well you know the place.”

“After the draw we gathered round and went through what we had and worked out whether to fish for big fish, whether to use hemp and even if eels would play a part,” Danny continued. “We had one bad peg in F section but had the right man on the peg. Ant Marsden knows the canal better than most and can catch big bonus fish when needed, which was certainly the case here. He weighed in a bream and a big perch fishing lobworm to the far bank stick ups and came second in the section, which was a brilliant result from what could have been a disaster of a peg.”

Elsewhere, Wigan broke the match length down into three distinct areas. Sections A, B and C were all about catching skimmers and bream as there were few small fish and that meant fishing breadpunch for the first half hour as this is when the better fish normally showed and then changing to caster or squatt to drain every last fish from the peg.

“The remaining sections were about small fish work with groundait, squatt, pinkie and maggot plus a hemp line for roach, which we turned into a bread line later on when the hemp went off,” Danny revealed. “We felt that sections D to H would be fine for bites but that J and K would be tough because they’d been bad in practice. The problem was that on top of three opens a week, the canal has four 100 peg practice matches on it as well and that’s a lot of pressure, which can see a venue change a lot. That’s where experience came in as we see the place change through the year and know how to adapt.”

Eels came into play on sections D and E fishing worm down the middle mainly to rest other lines, the main catching area being at 13m where two balls of groundbait were fed at the start. Small skimmer, roach and perch were the targets after an opening blast on a big piece of breadpunch to look for a bream. Hemp was then used as another option to catch a bigger stamp of fish.

“In terms of weights, each section was different and on A, B and C we agreed on 1.5 kilos a man, upped to nearer 2 kilos on the middle sections and then a kilo on J and K,” Danny added. “There were some very, very good canal teams fishing and that’s why I didn’t think we’d have it all our own way. Liverpool fish the canal all the time as do Sensas North West and Team Eclipse are an experienced canal team so I expected all of them to push us close and even win if we weren’t on our game. Winning by 30-odd points seems a lot but that’s only three points per section and that’s nothing really – an odd skimmer or perch here and there.”

Team result: 1 Wigan MG, 273pts; 2 Sensas North West, 245; 3 Middy Dams & Lock, 235; 4 Winterton AC, 221; 5 Browning Northants, 214; 6 Maver Coleman’s Bait & Tackle/Matchpack, 211; 7 Matrix Halifax, 206; 8 Team Eclipse, 201; 9 Tri-Cast Rochdale, 198; 10 Matlock AC, 196.

There was a convincing win on the individual front as Eclipse AC man Perry Follows strolled to the gold medal with 13-400 of bream from peg A5 at Seneca, almost 10 kilos clear of runner-up John Boyko and he used some local knowledge to help him on his way to victory fishing pellets rather than the more usual worms and casters.

Drawing on the same section that he’d caught just over 1lb of little fish from in practice a few weeks earlier, the Rugeley man was fearing the worst once again but as he pushed his barrow past that peg there was relief and then excitement as he arrived at A5 to find far bank lily pads and a fishy-looking peg.

“I had a chat to one of the stewards who was a local lad while I was getting ready and he told me that there were always bream living close to the pads and that I had a chance, which pepped me up no end,” Perry said. “I kicked off on the team plan fishing squatt at 5m and caught a few perch but it slowed down after 45 minutes so I went across, where I always thought I’d catch the bulk of my fish anyway. I’d put in two lines up against the pads at 13m on top of the shelf in about 2.5ft of water, one at 10 0’clock with chopped worm and caster and the other at 2 o’clock where I fed micro pellets and casters. I half thought about groundbait here but decided to play it safe to begin with.”

The chopped worm line produced a few more small perch but some bubbles on the other long pole swim prompted Perry to change and fishing a 4mm expander pellet on the hook, he connected with a bream on his first drop in, which promptly saw him off in the lily pads! That saw him pick up a heavier rig and he never looked back!

“This rig had a 6-8 elastic, 0.11mm line straight through and a size 18 hook and I never lost another fish,” Perry explained. “I’d thought about fishing worm and maggot bit the steward told me that the bream on the canal love pellets and I had some with me as we’d seen this as a team in practice. I did change to a redworm later on as the pellet seemed to go off and this gave me five fish which were a bigger stamp, up to 3lb as well.”

“I could see the fish blowing all-day and after losing the first one, there’s always the fear of having ruined the peg but on the next put in I caught a 12oz skimmer, which was a big settler,” he continued. “The first bream arrived after around 15 minutes and it then took roughly 10 minutes between fish but when a bite came, you couldn’t miss it – it sailed away! The water was painfully clear though and I could see the bream when I hooked them but the shoal stayed put throughout and only in the last hour did it go completely dead.”

By then though, Perry had done the damage with a dozen bream between 2lb and 3lb, that skimmer and the perch, runner-up John being sat further along the section on A28 where he took a more typical canal net of 4-140.

Individual result: 1 P Follows, Team Eclipse, 13-440; 2 J Boyko, Winterton AC, 4-140; 3 G Robinson, Winterton AC, 3-800; 4 S Johansen, Team Eclipse, 3-590; 5 T Foster, Middy Dams & Lock, 3-380; 6 M Derry, Middy Dams & Lock, 3-340.

Click here for more angling news...