“How I won Fish O’ Mania”

Harry Bignell banks a £50,000 payday at Hayfield Lakes

“How I won Fish o’Mania”

by Angling Times |

Some Fish O’Mania Finals have been close, but this year’s showpiece at Maver/Dynamite Baits Hayfield Lakes saw Harry Bignell destroy the opposition to be crowned Cazoo Fish O’Mania champion for 2021 – banking £50,000 in the process!

It was all over with a couple of hours to go as the Beverley, East Yorkshire-based 30-year-old swept to victory, finishing with a five-hour total of 85-225 – a mammoth 63kg in front of Sam Brown.

While Harry on end peg 12 on the river bank of the Island Lake was marching to victory, Sam on next-door peg 11 was fishless until the final 90 minutes. A run of fish saw him motor up the leader board into second to secure the £10,000 prize.

The day was all about Harry, though, who only qualified late on in the campaign from Makin’s Fishery. After a slow start, he found the fish and never looked back, recording what is just 10kg shy of the record weight for a Fish O’ final. Here, he explains how he won the match.

How the match unfolded

“In practice Island Lake had been fishing hard with 100lb winning and it was hard work in the clear water. Peg 12 was an end peg and I felt I had half a chance because if the fish were going to move to shallower water, they’d end up towards my end of the lake. The plan was to start on pellet short and then go long on the deck. At 14.5m there was a plateau around 5ft deep that was a point of the bank that used to have a peg on it. The bank has been straightened out, but that underwater feature remains. If the carp wanted shallow water, I hoped they’d end up there.

“It was a slow start with only one 2lb carp on pellet short and after half an hour I’d gone long onto the plateau, loosefeeding a few 6mm hard pellets and constantly lifting the rig out and laying it back in. This caught me two more carp and put me on around 3kg after an hour. It wasn’t solid, but there was an odd fish about to catch.

“Roughly halfway through hour two the peg came to life and by the end it was silly. All I did was feed, lay the rig in and get a bite! I fished a 6mm hard pellet on a size 18 KKM-B hook to an 0.14mm hooklength and a 4x14 MW Diamond float. What was important was to lay the rig out into the lake so that the pellet fell slowly across the plateau. Leaving the rig nailed on the bottom didn’t get a bite. By the end of hour two, I’d taken the lead with around 16kg.”

Harry in action on the day
Harry in action on the day

The match is won

“Hour three is when I won the match as I caught about 50lb while no one else seemed to be catching. I was surprised how the fish stayed in the peg and it seemed the more I fed, the more carp that moved in. It was simple fishing. It relaxed me a lot and I began to enjoy it. The crowd had also grown behind me and they were very loud!

“By hour four it was all going my way. Every fish was big, the bites weren’t taking long and most of the carp stayed on the hook. Nothing much was getting caught elsewhere but I was picking off carp steadily. I was pulling ahead all of the time and must have been almost 50kg in front by this point.

“Hour five was a blur. Sam started emptying it, but I was still catching. It would have been easy to let your mind wander, but my bankrunner Dale Shepherd was brilliant and kept me focused. I did take a look behind me at one point and I reckon there were 1,000 people watching. Along with the Sky TV cameras and noise, it was easy to think it wasn’t a fishing match!

Winner Harry and bankrunner Dale Shepherd
Winner Harry and bankrunner Dale Shepherd

At the end

“Every man and his dog knew I’d won, and it was an odd feeling. It’s a brilliant sensation but a strange one. I didn’t feel like I thought I would, perhaps due to a little bit of shock and slow realisation of what had happened. Looking back, I wonder how on earth I kept catching with so many people shouting and clapping behind me. It certainly makes you think about whether skylining makes any difference at all!

“What I hope winning does is makes more anglers like me have a crack at these big-money events. I’m not sponsored and not a big name, just an open angler who does okay and if this shows anything, it’s that absolutely anyone can win Fish O’.”

Harry Bignell banks a £50,000 payday at Hayfield Lakes
Harry Bignell banks a £50,000 payday at Hayfield Lakes
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