There were a few changes to this year’s Junior Knockout series, mainly to level the field a bit. Last year, the series became dominated by the method feeder. Which was good for some, but not for others. To avoid that happening again, the rules were changed to only allow for fishing with a bait suspended beneath a float. This would cancel out any feeder fishing and steer the participants back to catching the smaller species as quickly as they could.
The Stock Pond at Revels had not changed much over the winter except for the excess foliage that has been growing wildly everywhere after a soggy March and an even soggier July. What was interesting though was the number of baby Carp that were being caught over the qualifying rounds. A good sign for the future of the fishery.
The format for the Knockout is simple. Juniors get three chances to qualify for a final showdown in September by winning one of the rounds. The junior with the highest weight second place from the rounds would also go through to take the fourth place in the final. The winner would take away a £30 voucher to spend on goodies in the Revels tackle shop.
Round 1: Friday 16th June: A full lake of six juniors competed in round one to claim the first place in the final. Junior regulars in the shape of Jack Cryer, Harry Cryer, Jack Copp, Ollie Smith, Josiah Wells-Parkes, and the very rare Jake Taylor, thrashed the water to a foam catching the Stock Pond’s very colourful inhabitants. The warm summer sun kissed us all on a beautiful summers evening. With all the matches in the Knockout only lasting for two hours, it was action right from the whistle leaving my lips. A few small Carp showed up for Jake who put up a determined fight from a favoured peg two, But it would be Ollie who would get the chance to throw his towel on the first finalists sun lounger. Top three were: Oliver Smith: 8lbs 13ozs Jake Taylor: 8lbs 0ozs Josiah Wells-Parkes: 7lbs 5ozs
Round 2: Friday 21st July: Considering the amount of rain that fell from the skies during July, we were lucky to find a window in the weather and some breezy sunshine. With Ollie not needing to return and Jack Copp away on a birthday session at Coking Farm, we were down to four juniors for round two. Returning were the Cryer brothers, Josiah, and newcomer Kit Freeman. The two end pegs from round one were left out for round two, but the fishing was just as intense as before. The small Carp again made the difference, but this time from previous peg two. Josiah became the first junior in the series to break double figures and join Ollie by claiming his place in the final. Top three were: Josiah Wells-Parkes: 12lbs 0ozs Kit Freeman: 4lbs 15ozs Jack Cryer: 3lbs 12ozs
Round 3: Friday 11th August: The last chance saloon was on the horizon for anyone that wanted to claim the Knockout trophy for 2023. Even so, only three juniors would attend the final qualifying round. We were three for three when it came to the weather. The sun, shining as it was, bathing us all in its warmth. The sun wasn’t the only thing shining though. Jack Copp was on fire, and fishing like a maniac for most of the two-hour match. Top three were: Jack Copp 9lbs 12ozs Jack Cryer 6lbs 9ozs Harry Cryer 3lbs 13ozs
The finalists were set as Oliver Smith, Josiah Wells-Parkes, Jack Copp, and Jake Taylor. First reserve would be Jack Cryer if anyone could not make it.
Friday 1st September:
Gloomy clouds were the order of most of the day in the hours leading up to kick-off for the final match in this year’s knockout competition. It was so dark the night before that I took measures to get everyone there a little earlier than the time stated to make sure we got the weigh in done without the need for floodlights!
With Jack, Ollie, and Josiah busily setting up their equipment, Gentle Jon Bass and myself stared down the track waiting for Jake to arrive like two expectant fathers in a maternity waiting room. I’m not very good at waiting for people. I get really tense and with three eager competitors straining at the leash to get going, the pressure was on.
I received a message from Glenn saying he was close. So Annamama, Dave, Jon and I positioned ourselves at the open gate like a poorly organised Formula One pit crew. As soon as their wheels had become motionless, the back doors were ripped open, and the contents of the car were decanted to the spot that was Jake’s home for the night.
Jake graciously allowed the match to start before he was ready to fish, for us to be weighed in before darkness fell. I blew the whistle at 5:32 and they were off.
As the evening passed, it looked to be a close race between Ollie, Jo, and Jack with fish being plucked from the water at an eye-opening pace. Jake, who didn’t seem that bothered that he was starting a little later, was also catching well under the guidance of Mr Bass.
The odd small Carp made an appearance to all of the participants in amongst the colourful mixture of Roach, Tench and bright orange Goldfish, some of whom were incredibly pretty.
Jack was displaying his usual speed that he has developed this year. A skill that will hugely benefit his fishing career. Jo was having a bit more of a problem with handling the fish. Skin that can be very sensitive at times was beginning to show itself by making his hands feel sore. For this reason, it was understandable that James was helping with the unhooking.
Ollie was fishing like he used to, which was good to see after his rather surprising lack of form at the start of the season. Even a lost rig due to an elastic connector breaking didn’t stop his progress. I had a feeling that it was going to be Ollies night, but it was going to be close.
Decisions in any match can make or break your result. With only 30-minutes to go it was neck and neck for the top three. Jake was expected to struggle on peg four, mainly because of the lack of form of that peg from previous rounds, but also because Jake is understandably rusty compared to the others. We all love seeing Jake at our events, and I wish that he could be with us more often. But life gets in the way sometimes and even fishing must take a back seat. Jake had more fish that I thought at the end. A fantastic bag of mixed species weighing 5lbs 14ozs was Jakes reward for his efforts this evening. It was great to see both Jake and Glenn and I look forward to the next time they can fish with us again.
Jack was flying through most part of the match, demonstrating his devastating speed with a pole. The fish had drastically reduced in size for him, and I imagine that is why he felt the need to go long with his pole to catch some better fish. Whatever the reason, moving away from the short line may have been responsible for the deficit to Ollie at the end. Jack wasn’t pleased with his 9lbs 9ozs, but it was a good effort, and he displayed some serious skills. We’ve all made decisions that shaped the match we were fishing in that we can look back on as inspired or as a mistake. They can be a gamble, or they can be forced on us. Either way, we must learn from them and move on.
Jo was doing well despite his handicap of sore hands. The water in his peg was bubbling like jacuzzi from the micros he was feeding. He was feeding them dry, and I can’t help feeling that if he had wetted them to squeeze into small balls of bait, the fish would not have been so spread over his fishing area. We talked about this at the end, and like Jack, he had to put it down to experience to be learned from. I didn’t see Jo lose any fish, but if he did, he will be thinking about them because they may have made the difference between second or third place. He weighed 9lbs 6ozs, just three ounces behind Jack in the next peg.
Ollie weighed 10lbs 6ozs at the end and was therefore crowned with and retained the title of Junior Knockout Champion for 2023. Old form had returned, and he was fishing like a demon. There are not many adult anglers that have the presence of mind to feed whilst they are playing a fish, a skill far easier with Carp. I challenge anyone reading this to try to feed whilst they are swinging in a small fish on a whip… Ollie fished with a level head even though he squarely blamed me for him not getting the peg that he wanted. I squarely blamed M’Lady because she did the draw! But, he wasn’t complaining at the end… All the juniors deserved to win for different reasons, but Ollie had earned it the most. He walked away with the title and vouchers to spend in Revels shop to the value of £30…
Another Knockout series was complete and consigned to the history books. We’ll do it again next year but, maybe a little earlier so we don’t have to weigh in by torchlight!
Thank you to both Jon Bass and Andy Hawkins for their coaching contributions throughout the series.
Thank you to Jason Fricker and the staff at Revels for their continued support for our juniors, and for allowing us to use the lakes for free…
Our next match is the big one at Todber Manor for the Senior/Junior pairs match. The event is sold out for this year, but keep in mind to get organised early if you want to compete in next years event. I am expecting it to be a big day for both seniors and juniors alike…