Todber Manor’s Little Hayes was the setting for mine and my girlfriend Natalie’s first UK Carp Championships qualifier as a pair. Although I had competed on Big Hayes for a number of years, I had never wet a line on Little Hayes. This was also Natalie’s first-ever qualifier, so the scene was set for what could be an exciting but very challenging weekend’s fishing.
On arrival and following our first walk round, I was very impressed with the lake. It seemed a very fair venue with all swims having a large amount of water, meaning everyone had a fair shout of qualification. This did make the swim choices a little harder to nail down, but after much consideration, we were ready for the draw. I must admit that Todber is one of those venues where I dread coming first out of the bag, simply because the venues are so fair and it is very hard to predict which swim is going to have the upper hand. Lo and behold, the inevitable happened, and our names were drawn first out and we got our first-choice swim. We just had to hope we had made the right decision!
After what seemed like hours spent setting up and readying ourselves for the match, the starter horn finally sounded and we quickly placed four rods on what looked like the productive spots. Having never fished Little Hayes, we were a little anxious about getting our tactics right. We always aim to practise prior to a match, but on this occasion it simply was not possible. Thankfully, within an hour of the match starting we had received five bites for a total of 56lb, putting us in first place, which clearly confirmed our initial tactics and approach would work.
We had opted to use a very high-quality stick mix consisting of DNA Baits Krill powder, SLK groundbait, LT Fish Meal and Mini Mix Crayfish pellets fished in PVA sticks or solid bags. Milky Malt, PB and Fruitylicious pop-ups were our chosen hookbaits, and we fed a mix of 12mm SLK and Switch boilies on to the spots. Our rigs comprised of Fox terminal tackle, including Arma Point LS hooks, 15lb Camotex Soft braided hooklinks and 25lb Illusion fluorocarbon leaders.
The next 24 hours of the match progressed very nicely for us, with flurries of action coming on a regular basis, putting us in second place on 205lb for 17 fish going into Saturday night. Quite surprisingly, the pair that we were ahead of us at this point where in a swim no one really fancied, which just goes to show that venues like Todber Manor really are very fair.
By Sunday morning we had almost managed to catch the leaders, reducing their lead to only 8lb, but with our swim fishing very slow during the morning, and a few more fish being caught by the other two qualifying pairs, we had to settle for a very respectful third place with a total weight of 284lb 15oz for 23 fish.
We were both very happy with the result, especially considering it was Nataile’s first qualifier. It has set us up nicely to tackle the semi-finals together at Barston Lakes in two months’ time.