This season has been one of the best for big-fish captures and in just a few weeks time Angling Times will reveal the winner of the uk's premier big fish competition. The winner will lift the coveted Drennan cup trophy and will pick up the £2,000 first prize.
The 2016/17 season has produced an unprecedented number of species from rivers, stillwaters and canals. The panel of judges have handed out no fewer than 133 weekly awards to a diverse mix of anglers. It's the Drennan weekly winners themselves however that will be deciding the top four for this year, so take a look at the best big-fish catches from the past 12 months. Who would get your vote?
This stunning picture and the story behind the capture of such an incredible river roach epitomises what the Drennan Cup is all about.
On a dark, cold February morning fanatical roach angler Matt Jackson was on the banks of a southern river an hour before sunrise to ensure he had the best possible chance of catching his fifth roach over the magical 3lb barrier. And he ended up doing it in style, with the biggest roach of 2017 weighing 3lb 5oz 8dr.
The key to Matt’s capture wasn’t just being in the right place at the right time. His meticulous swim preparation and the finely-balanced rig he used were also central to success. Before fishing he baitdropped a tight bed of hempseed and maggots, and then cast a maggot feeder rig over the top made from 4lb mainline, a 3lb hooklink and a size 20 hook carrying a single red maggot.
“A big roach may only feed in short spells, so as soon as it’s doing so you need to be in with a chance of the fish picking up your bait quickly,” Matt told Angling Times.
“Loosefeeding by hand or with a catapult can spread the bait all over the place because river currents can be deceiving and baits sink at different rates. A bait dropper is the most effective way, and is the secret to laying a trap for a big roach.”
An incredible brace of tench was arguably the highlight of what was a truly memorable campaign for Kent angler Iain McDonald. The 45-year-old, from Canterbury, netted two stunning fish weighing 10lb 9oz and 10lb 5oz during a manic three-hour spell at Mid-Kent Fisheries.
Originally, Iain had turned up with carp on his mind, but when he saw how busy his chosen lake was he decided to go after the tench instead and picked a swim in a deep bay which he started to feed with maggots and hemp. An hour later he spotted a group of huge tench hovering over his bait in the clear water, and the panic set in.
He said: “I realised that I didn’t have enough bait, so I ran across the complex to buy some more maggots. Luckily the fish were still there when I got back.” Iain cast out a 2oz Korum grub feeder filled with maggots and sporting a 4ins hooklength tied to a size 12 hook baited with maggots. Within 10 minutes he had banked a new personal best 10lb 5oz fish, and this was followed an hour later with the even bigger specimen.
The catch was just one of five awards earned by Iain during the season; the others were awarded for a 15lb 4oz barbel, a 1lb dace, a 4lb 3oz perch and a 2lb 10oz river roach.
Simple waggler and worm tactics provided Iain McDonald with his second specimen in a week he’ll never forget, during which he banked three PB perch, topped by a 4lb 3oz specimen. Targeting a lake owned by Mid-Kent Fisheries, Iain kicked off proceedings by catching a 3lb 4oz stripey, before following it up in the same session with fish of 4lb and 3lb 1oz.
Just a few days later, Iain returned to the venue to bag the biggest of the lot and break his best once more. All the fish fell to an insert waggler rig baited with pieces of lobworm, which he fished at close range while spraying maggots over the top.
The deadly efficiency of methods such as drop shotting and jigging have recently converted many of the nation’s top anglers, among them former Drennan Cup holder Jamie Cartwright. In February the Northamptonshire Specimen Group member showed just how devastating lure fishing for perch can be with the capture of a 4lb 6oz specimen.
Jamie tempted the thickset fish, which fell just 3oz short of being a new personal best for the species, along with four other fish over 2lb from a stretch of the River Great Ouse, where he used a 9.5cm Savage Gear shad mounted on a 7g jig head.
“My eyes were truly opened to the effectiveness of lure fishing when I caught 15 perch from a swim I had previously struggled to get bites from using conventional tactics and baits,” he said.
There have been some tremendous barbel catches in 2017. One angler who enjoyed arguably his best season ever for the species was Simon Daley. The big fish specialist from Hampshire set a new personal best back in February with a stunning 16lb 5oz monster from his local River Avon.
It was a specimen that was tempted on a homemade boilie used in conjunction with a simple leger rig with 10lb mainline, a braided hooklength and size 8 hook. The barbel saw Simon beat his previous PB of 15lb 8oz, a fish he caught from the same waterway earlier in the campaign and one he also won a weekly award for.
He also won awards for a river record Itchen barbel of 15lb 10oz along with a 7lb 9oz chub from the Hampshire Avon to make it four for the season.
A 30-year quest to land a giant bream finally came to fruition for Bob Pickering when he won a richly-deserved weekly Drennan Cup Award for a 21lb monster from a north-west stillwater. This competition awards dedication and the specialist, from Stoke-on-Trent, showed he has this in abundance when he fished a 90-acre mere that he had been targeting in search of its elusive bream for three decades.
It’s well documented that bream favour feeding over clear areas of lakebed, and Bob stuck to the textbook by locating and baiting up a suitable area 60 yards from the bank. The bite he’d been waiting for finally came after he legered a 6mm pellet on a 15lb braided hooklink and a size 10 hook.
A legered bleak hookbait fished just a few yards from the bank accounted for a massive 18lb 13oz zander for James Benfield. The impressive predator was landed by current British record holder James Benfield when he fished a stretch of the River Severn. Low-resistence rigs are absolutely key when it comes to presenting baits for zander, and James connected with the hugely-mpressive specimen after noticing the slightest tap on his rod tip.
“I use my 1.5lb test curve rod like a quiver tip, and strike at any movement. If I’d been relying on a bite alarm the fish might have ejected the bait before I’d even known about it,” he said. It was a catch that came nine years after the big-fish hunter, from Malvern, Worcs, made history by banking a 21lb 5oz British best from the same venue.
There’s little to beat catching fish on the float, and that’s exactly what Gary Norton used to compile this astonishing haul of big chub.
Using simple waggler tactics, Gary caught five fish in a dream session, topped by a 7lb 15oz specimen, from the River Lea Navigation in Herts. He kept the bites coming by continually feeding casters and fishing the same bait on a size 18 Drennan Super Specialist hook tied to a 2.6lb hooklink.
The mighty Chew Valley Reservoir has had one of its best-ever seasons, with an incredible number of big pike for visiting anglers. It produced seven weekly Drennan Awards in total, one of the best being Derek Beagley’s sensational 40lb 2oz predator.
The Londoner battled for over 20 minutes with the huge fish after tempting it using a fly. The 59-year-old, who broke his previous best by nearly 20lb with the capture, said: “I was twitching the small bait along the bottom in around 8ft of water when a huge fished grabbed it and everything went scarily solid.
“When it broke the surface, me and my boat partner just looked at each other like we had seen a ghost!”
Jamie Martin proved the merits of doing your homework before setting out to go fishing when he used the Angling Times to help him land an award-winning 4lb 1oz rudd. The Ely-based angler scoured AT’s match pages in order to help him locate some big rudd after previously spending years trying to beat his previous best for the species, which stood at 2lb 10oz.
The big-fish specialist finally achieved his ambition after pinpointing a fishery in the Fens which held rudd to over 3lb. Jamie fished a pink mini dumbell boilie alongside a small feeder packed with liquidised bread, but started to wonder if he had made the right decision after receiving no bites during daylight hours.
As night fell, however, his swim came alive and an aggressive take soon saw him playing a fish he had long dreamed of: “It gave me an epic fight and I was convinced I was into a tench but when I saw the big bar of gold close to the surface my legs turned to jelly. “When I finally got the fish in the net I knew I had cracked it!”
The Method feeder is a deadly tactic for crucian carp, and this was proved by specimen all-rounder Adam Perna (33) when he made a catch many can only dream of. The Oxfordshire angler raised eyebrows back in April when he banked no fewer than seven fish over 3lb, topped by a monster 4lb 2oz specimen, which all fell to the devastating feeder tactic.
Fishing a two-night session at a southern stillwater, Adam adopted a minimalist feeding approach, using a 35g Method feeder alongside a single fake white caster hair-rigged to a size 16 hook. Despite seeing other anglers spodding out lots of feed, Adam opted to just use fishmeal groundbait and 2mm pellets on his feeder to land all of his fish. Later in the season Adam earned another Drennan Weekly Award with the capture of a stunning 3lb 2oz grayling.