'HOW TO' Win A Festival!

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Preston Star Neil McKinnon tells you exactly how he won the highly contested 2016 Larford Summer Festival below...

NM: "Having fished the previous few Larford summer festival’s I was looking forward to this year’s event. Good sport with very generous pegging ensured there would be plenty of fish caught. The format is 5 sections comprising A-E with 2 days on each of the main lakes, specie and match and a day on Arena. My draw rotation was B, E, A, C, D, starting on the match lake burr bank. Comprising sections of 9 with 1 point for a win.

Day 1 – Section B, Match Burr Bank - Peg 54

I was reasonably happy with my first day draw, though a bit concerned that the end pegs might produce some big weights. This year the pegs were well spaced out and to some extent it could take the end peg advantage away, but time would tell. I started short on pellets at 5m and caught a few early carp before this line died. An hour or so into the match I ventured out to 13m, also with pellets. Starting on the deck, I had a few carp before it began to fizz and proved very difficult to attract bites. I also tried shallow though failed to attract any bites despite persevering for 30 mins or so. Plumbing up my edge lines each side at 5m both swims looked very good with a tree stump to my right and a nice 2.5 feet tight to the bank and 18” to my left both pegs were favourable and fancied the stump peg to be best.

After 2 hours I decided to feed both swims, my thinking being that other lines were now dying fast and that to win the section would have to make the edge lines work sooner. Sonu Baits Bream Feeder and Super Crush Expander mixed 50:50 was my ground bait choice along with dead red maggots. I left the lines for a few minutes and went back on the 5m line. After ten minutes I saw a carp move down the left hand peg, GAME ON! Fishing a size 14 PR456 hook with a bunch of maggots proved deadly and proceeded to catch good carp steadily for the remainder of the match. Despite feeding the right hand edge it only produced 1 carp and the shallower LH swim was by far the better line. Rig was a 4X14 Prototype Margin float, with a 0.17mm hook length and 14 Dura Hollow elastic. By carefully easing the fish out of the swim sometimes they could be landed easily and at other rimes fought much harder. At the whistle my total weight was 72kg and good enough for a lake win. A brilliant start to the week!

Day 2 – Section E, Arena - Peg 7

Paul “Tommy” Hiller had been on this peg the day previous and had a steady, but difficult day. The peg is situated at the top end of the lake by a big Oak tree and has two big lily beds either side. The fishing was simple, a rig at 5m and the same rigs to fish left and right at 4m. Tommy had warned that the fish headed straight for the lily beds as soon as they were hooked and that it would be a battle to see had many could be landed. I don’t like this type of situation, though a job had to be done. The rigs consisted of a dobbing rig, 5m line and the edges each side at 4m. Line was 0.19mm Reflo Power direct to a Korum specimen hook with ground bait and maggots, the same as the previous day. The edges were very shallow around 1’ and carp could be seen in the edges from the start. On the whistle I had a quick look to my right on sweetcorn prior to any feeding. I had a couple of small carp quickly before it went quiet feeding both sides it was easy to attract the fish, though attracting bites was difficult. These first 2 fish were quickly subdued on 17 Hollow elastic despite the lily beds. The day turned into a very frustrating match as any fished hooked headed straight toward the lilies and it was desperate to stop them. It was at times brutal and needed to risk losing a fish rather than let them get into the lilies. The Response Power Top Kits were tested to their very limits on my Response pole and are very strong. Toward the last hour the carp fed more positively and attracted a few more bites. At the start of the match I assembled 4 rigs for the edge lines and by the last hour was down to my last rig. Despite fishing very heavy it was a real challenge to land the fish. The lake had fished very hard and managed to weigh 40kg and win the lake, with 32kg second. So, despite the losses, happy with another lake win and importantly 1 more point.

Day 3 – Section A, Match Lake Grass Bank - Peg 19

Having fished this peg before, I knew that one of the best lines was to fish the method at 45 degrees to the far edge of each lily bed. Starting at 6m I caught 4 carp on the pellet with a 0.3g Prototype All Round float and 18 PR36 hook to 0.13mm hook length. Conditions were very windy ruling out any longer pole lines. The 6m line died after the first hour and then went on the method with Sonubaits Match Method Mix and fishery micros mixed together 50:50. Lose feeding 8mm pellets over this line at 30m attracted the odd carp, though was clear looking around the lake that the fishing had become difficult. Going into the last 2 hours the edge lines were fed with the GB mix and maggot though conscious that these lines had been poor for most on the previous day. With this in mind decided the method to the lilies would be best loose feeding corn over the top. As the match drew to a close the fish began to switch on and started to catch well on the method, rescuing the rod and a few occasions, in an attempt to prevent the fish entering the lily beds. At the weight had 46kg for second in the section with a 55kg wining.

Day 4, Section C, Specie Burr Bank - Peg 10

Peg 10 was my home for the day and glancing at the section weights from the previous day could see that the section was won with 99kg and lots of bigger back up weights. Plan of attack was method feeder at 30m and 7m loose feeding 8mm pellets at 30 m and corn at 7m. Two identical edge rigs were also assembled to 0.19mm and PR456 hook size 14 maggot and GB same as day 1. The plan was to catch the large head of skimmers with carp as a bonus on the same lines swapping between the 7 and 30m lines. Starting on the 7m line there are often bonus carp to be caught early in the first few minutes and sure enough after about 15mins the reel clutch screamed off and managed to land a 14lb beauty. Bait was again Match Method mix with micros using a band um as hook bait. The rod was the ever reliable 10-6” Mini Plus rod combined with a 4000 PXR Pro reel to 6lb Reflo Power Max line to a Large method feeder. At the half way point I’d manages to land 5 carp and plenty of skimmers mainly at 7m with the odd look on the 30m line when it went quiet short.

Going in to the last hour I’d caught another 2 carp and was a little disappointed not to have caught more carp in the last hour finishing with 9 carp and a good bag of skimmers. Despite seeing the odd sign down the edge and a quick look, never had a bite on this line. I weighed 72kg for another lake win, including 24kg of skimmers, proving my plan of targeting the skimmers with carp as a bonus. Hence it was important to fish with strong hook lengths ensuring all carp were landed. With the carp averaging 10lb each, plus the very important skimmer bag (worth 5 carp!) it was a great day, with plenty of bites.

Day 5 - Section D, Specie Chalet Bank - Peg 68

I was hoping to draw in the middle of the section around 64 and when I drew 68 was more than happy. What was clear was that the wind had dropped significantly and may require a different approach. Set up was the same as the previous day with the pellet waggler additional. The start was slow though and began to pick up the odd better skimmer mixed in with some small ones. In contrast the to the previous day were few fish were lost, some were coming off as you lifted into them, most frustrating. I was also worried that few carp were being caught and after 2.5 hours had not hooked a carp. At this point I hooked a carp as soon as the method hit the bottom on the short line and carefully played it to the net at 14lb was worth a lot of skimmers. Another slightly smaller soon followed.

Going in to last hour I tried under a bush to my left having been loose feeding corn sparingly. A big skimmer and a small 4lb carp followed. I was now a little worried that I need to catch more carp. I tried down the side with the method to my right and with 15 mins remaining hooked and landed another. 4 carp would not be enough and with 5 minutes left the rod wrenched round hooking my final carp, only to be broken almost straight way. Previously I had hooked a snag and managed to pull the rig free, not realising the damage to the rig. On the whistle I was really annoyed at losing the carp and thought that would be very costly. At the weigh there had been a 59kg and 2 off 40kg weights my skimmers weighed 19.5kg and my 4 carp including the small one 20kg gaining me 39.5kg total and 4th in the section. Another 1kg would have made me second, hopefully it wouldn't cost me?

I slowly packed up before heading back for the results. On arrival my disappointment soon abated as I was informed that with 9 points total I had won, with other front runners also having a poor day. I was then delighted to have been confirmed overall winner and had a great week including over 270kg total weight. This would have been about 5th on weight and indicates how well the venue fished throughout the week. With Preston star Andy Power 2nd it was a 1, 2 for team Preston Innovations. Thanks to Phil Briscoe, Julian, Sheila and Martin for a great weeks festival and already looking forward to next year!!!