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2023 DDAS Juniors Season Review

As the Sun sets on another great year of juniors, it's time to reflect on the past year of fishing achievements.

(Yes I know this is a sun rise, but we don't fish into sun set!)

This is the second draft of the 2023 Junior Year review. The other one was way too long because of the year we have had gave me plenty to write about. So, to keep any friends that I’ve made in the past, I will condense it down further to make it more human friendly.

At the end of Christmas match in November, those present would have seen me get quite choked up and unable to speak. This is because it is tough to let go of something that has, not only been a big part of your life for the last twelve months but has also turned out to be so successful. A vast part of why we volunteer to coach these juniors is to help them learn a sport that we all love. There is another percentage that measures the amount of self-satisfaction we get from doing it. I’m sure it was the same for the other coaches but, for me that feeling has never been higher. We all invest a lot of ourselves, and it takes a lot too. But the reward is priceless.

Coaching: After a poll taken in 2022, the balance of event type shifted towards more matches for 2023. It would be typical then that we would see a large influx of interest due to the increase in public access from open days and media reports. Both of which we had not had in the past. There is no doubt that the Open Day at Revels in early June certainly widened our reach to Yeovil and even to Salisbury. Most people had no idea that we existed despite being around for a number of years, so it was clear that there was still some work to do. The Open Day was a great success. Some of those that came went on to purchase a membership, for the rest it was a day spent doing something new and obviously quite fun.

Offering an ‘opt out’ for those that did not want to take part in the competitive events did not work out as well as I would have hoped. Few took the opportunity to do so saying that their preference would have been to attend a dedicated coaching session instead. This will be addressed for 2024. With the increased interest from newer juniors, we ran a series of coaching sessions throughout the summer holidays that received a varying amount of interest. Attendance swung from only two, up to twelve, with the usual number being five or six. But they were great fun to do even on the days when the coaches outnumbered the juniors!

Without doubt the best coaching day was at Whitemoor when we had the pleasure to welcome special guest coaches Paul and Callum Dicks from Bristol. They had agreed to visit us after a conversation at the Pole Open Day at Todber Manor. The former world champion did not disappoint and was quickly engaged with juniors, parents, and coaches alike. No one left without feeling that they had gained something from the experience, and we hope to repeat it again next year. Overall I feel that we delivered a reasonable year of coaching, although there needed to be more standalone coaching sessions. Again, this is something that will be remedied next year.

Matches: Our year began way back in March with one of the four planned trips to the river Stour that, in the end, never happened. The weather and misunderstanding were the two main reasons that we failed. But we will be back to pit our wits with the weather again next year.

Our flagship event was the Todber Manor Pole Open Day. A change in the calendar made it possible for our juniors to spend the day with some of the best anglers in the business, and to even use some of their equipment. Some household angling names showed a great deal of interest in what we are doing, and some useful contacts were made. It is difficult to single out highlights from the day because of how many there were, and how generous these anglers were with their time and tackle. Des Shipp (Preston Innovations) in particular gave Jack Copp some of his personal pole rigs, and Jack Cryer even got to use his margin pole! Nick Speed (Shimano) handed out some caps, and Mark Harper (England/Preston Innovations) was kind enough to send down some Sonubaits ground bait. Des kindly handed out the prizes to our winners which brought to an end a memorable day for everyone.

We had twelve points matches throughout the year at a variety of venues like Revels, Whitemoor, Sharnhill, Luckfield, Harbourbridge, and the amazing Todber Manor. Each with their own unique characteristics and techniques to flex the junior’s skill muscles.

Harry Cryer took an early lead in the championship, swapping wins with Jack Copp. But the junior having the season of his life this year would be Austin Scott-Kennedy. There would be a win for former champ Oliver Smith, and two for Josiah Wells-Parkes, but the winningest junior was Jack Copp with five wins, and he would need every one of them. I want to give special mention to two outstanding achievements this season. The first is to Jack Copp for his fine effort in catching 198lbs 15ozs at Todber Manor in the summer, So close to that magic double ton barrier. But Jack Cryer is the junior who kicked that door down with a blistering 200lbs 7ozs in the Christmas match in late November! Outstanding angling from both.

Overall, there was a noticeable improvement from most of the juniors this year. But three stood out from the rest. Austin Scott-Kennedy has been improving since joining the juniors and no other junior can match his thirst for knowledge. His enthusiasm drives him to write to ask questions most weeks, something that I heartily encourage. His results have been outstanding this year finishing in the top three in all but three of the matches in 2023. Sadly, his form dipped at the worst time for his championship chances, and he deserved more than the third place that the records will show in the future. He should be proud of his efforts this season, and I look forward to his challenge again next year. Josiah Wells-Parkes has been quietly gaining ground on his fellow juniors, and you can mark on the calendar when he made the biggest step forward. From all of the juniors present, there is no doubt that Jo showed the most noticeable improvement after the visit from Callum Dicks. Adjusting your natural style to that of someone else’s is not an overnight event, but he is making great strides to doing so. He took his first win this year with Si Wagner in the S/J pairs match, followed up by his first solo win a week later. Another win put him right back in the chase with one to go, and a narrow second in the last match enabled him to jump Austin for second in the championship. Jack Copp already had one championship in his pocket, but there were occasions when he felt that a second may have been a little out of reach. A new pole vastly helped Jack to sharpen his pole fishing skills, and there is no doubt that this helped him to claw back the deficit on his competitors. Jack is another junior with endless enthusiasm, and always comes to matches ‘with a plan’. It is Jack’s ability to think his way out of trouble when ‘the plan’ does not work that has set him apart from the others this year. I would have liked to have put a fresh name on the cup this year, but I am equally as happy to give it to a junior who deserves it as much as Jack Copp does this year. Great job Jack, well done!

Your list of winners for this year are: 2023 Junior Champion – Jack Copp 2023 Championship runner-up – Josiah Wells-Parkes 2023 Silverfish Champion – Jack Copp 2023 Junior Knockout Champion – Oliver Smith Specimen Award – TBA Junior Pairs Champions – Austin Scott-Kennedy & Oliver Smith Senior/Junior Pairs Champions – Josiah Wells-Parkes & Si Wagner Alan Hilton cup – Harry Cryer Martin Vine Memorial Cup – Jack Copp Junior Christmas Match winner – Jack Cryer Revels Cup (Most Improved Newcomer) – TBA

2024: Next season will see a few changes most noticeable in the calendar fixtures. There will be a balance of coaching to match events to better cater for those that may feel uncomfortable in a competitive atmosphere, and to deliver a better program for 2024. There will be tighter rules regarding the amount of assistance juniors are allowed during match events. It needs to be fun, but it also needs to be fair. This is yet to be hammered out at the time of writing, but there will be a ‘Warning, yellow card, red card’ system in place to stop the balance of assistance from swinging too far.

There has been an increase this year of abuse for Re-Gen tackle items. As from next season, Re-Gen items will need to be signed for with an agreement that any items broken will be replaced with a similar item, or a mutual financial agreement is reached. Hopefully this will not be necessary, but as each item is broken or damaged, less options are available to give to any new juniors in the future.

There will, hopefully, be some new venues on the calendar to further expand the fishing skills of our juniors. Various stretches of river, newer bigger still waters, as well as the old favourites will be available in next year’s events.

No promises can be made but, every effort will be made to offer more ‘Special Guest’ coaching sessions. If it all works out, we could have some more angling superstars to share their knowledge in 2024.

2023 has been incredible compared to where we were just three short years ago. If it wasn’t for a number of people, none of it would have happened. We should all give praise to the following: Jerry Bracey for being my right-hand man and for doing more behind the scenes than many of you know. Jon Bass for always being around, even when I haven’t asked him to be! His gentle way and experience are a big hit with the juniors. Si Wagner who has taken on the Re-Gen and made it into the very thing that I tried and failed to turn it into. With his help we have kitted out over 40 juniors to give them a start into our sport. Chris Ward who has soldiered on through a bit of ill health this year. He has the furthest to come and is always around when needed. Tim Broughton makes himself available when he can, juggling home family and Carp fishing with junior events. He is a valuable member of the coaching team. Neil Haine who has only recently joined the team but has quickly fitted in and has fast become a regular attendee of the events. Andy Hawkins who is a great help with the Junior Knockout events. Richard Butler who has not only helped on occasions at junior events, but who is also my ‘go to guy’ for help with the pre-match reports for how venues are fishing and what tac-tics to use. There is a long list of people that have helped out from time to time during the year. You know who you are, and my thanks go to all of you. Without the above people, we would have had none of the success we have enjoyed this year, and you all have my deepest thanks and gratitude.

The club’s Committee have been staunch supporters of what we are trying to achieve. Mostly I am given free rein to do what I want, and they have supported everything I have done. I hope we are doing the club proud.

I must thank the Angling Trust who have supported us financially since the start and continue to do so. I hope to be working with them more often in the future with more Get Fishing days ahead.

The fisheries we visit are always happy to help us with anything they can. Reduced fishing costs or even free fishing, just so our juniors can practice and enjoy their sport. I would like to thank the owners and staff at the following venues for their help and support this year: Revels fishery and tackle shop Whitemoor Lakes Todber Manor fishery Harbourbridge Lakes. After all, what is fishing without lakes?

Our local tackle shops are a vital part of the future of fishing. Without their support, and without us supporting them, we are all going to have to take up golf. We changed the prize system from medals to vouchers to encourage our juniors to use these outlets, and to encourage a move away from online shopping that threatens to see an end to high street tackle shops. You only truly miss something when it’s gone. Let’s not let that happen and support these shops while we can so we don’t have to miss them. My deepest gratitude goes out to Alan Winsper of Alan’s Angling, Jason Fricker and staff at Revels fishery and tackle shop, and to John Candy and staff at Todber Manor fishery.

Our juniors are obviously the focus of everything we do. They are the ones who will, hopefully, go on to be future club members and some may even be committee members who will run their own junior events. What they are now are ambassadors to our club. They have a fantastic reputation with all the venues that allow us to host events on their waters. If they didn’t, we would not be so welcomed each year. They have been a pleasure to coach and to share in this most exceptional season. I am proud of you all, and I thank you for your interest in our sport.

I usually save the juniors until last. But this year I thought the final honour should go to the parents. They drive out to some obscure places, to sit in driving rain, blistering sunshine, or get blown inside out by the wind. They get shouted at by me for helping too much, and tutted at if they don’t help enough. They get verbally pushed and pulled by their offspring, (humorously) abused in the Coaches Blog, and regularly wound up by our coaches. Yet still they return. They are the unsung heroes of our fishing family and I salute your dedication and devotion to helping us make the juniors the success it is. To you all I give my gratitude.

There are some evening classes in the pipeline coming soon, but for now I will sign off by wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy and prosperous New Year. Tight Lines,


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