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Preston Innovations Feeder star Mick Vials recently finished second in the seventh World Feeder Championships, in Portugal. He gives us a run-down of the whole event, running through tactics, feeding, terminal tackle and the decisions he made over the weekend. A great behind the scenes insight into the Preston backed England Feeder Team and the World Feeder Championships!
Mick Vials; “So the dust has settled on last weekend and mixed emotions is probably the most prominent feeling for me when I look at the 7th world feeder championships in Portugal and here's why,
Our Preston innovations England Feeder team spend months every year preparing for our World Championships and this year was no exception.
Tommy had previously fished the venue on feeder only competitions and had relayed important guidelines for us regarding the fish population, that was to be carp, barbel an odd carrasio and bleak, and that it was between 40 and 70 mtrs wide with depths up to 3mtrs/10'.
And it was going to be TOUGH!!! it was as simple as that.
We visited the venue twice before the official worlds practice week, firstly in April when the fishing was good (the weather was cooler and the fish were starting to get ready to spawn and were very active) then we travelled out as a squad and practiced for 4 days to practice for bleak and work out basics such as if groundbait would be important or if particles in hemp, corn and the local speciality wheat would be the right feed. We quickly realised on this second visit that it was going to be harder to catch fish than April had led us to believe as even with just us 6 anglers on the whole match length, 4 net fish (carp & barbel) was a good day. The bleak were plentiful and we caught them well on light feeders that sank slowly with a cloudy groundbait with red dye to create a cloud and took advantage of the shallow feeding shoals.
So on our return for the official practice we covered the statutory 5-day schedule which sees very team draw for boxes which is designed to give each nation the chance to cover as much of the match length as possible.
Practice week for me is probably the toughest weeks fishing an angler could ever face , picture the scene travelling partner Barlow, Wakelin, Wooton and a pair of Ringer brothers surround you and with Mr Pickering breathing down your neck in 42 degrees.... A fierce melting pot doesn't begin to describe it!!!
Day 1 was box 2(A sec) for us, followed by 21 (E sec), 6 (B sec), 17(D sec) and Friday was box 14 (D sec)
Monday was good as A section held the most fish down in the wide areas below what we called fantasy island, this section was unique in its width and head of fish and we treat this separately to to the rest. Tuesday onwards was a real rude awakening for me and mostly to the team where the top 4 sections where a real test of a strong heart with fish being difficult to catch and more importantly to land.
But as always, methods to catch fish always show through and a barbel line that Rob mastered down the middle with mainly hemp and worm became very productive which was fished over a good bed of "Bombay mix" (hemp,corn and a little wheat) and a line across to the far bank produced carp and an odd barbel on either hemp or sticky maggots in the feeder and corn or maggots on the hook, capping the feeder with terre de rivière was great for holding particles in without giving off any cloud and drawing in bleak.
With the exception of box 6 which was the early pegs in B section it was a tough week and I struggled to feel on top of the venue after Monday's good start.
We only practiced for bleak in the slow middle hours of the sessions, as we thought that it would be an important part of the weekends tactics and didn't want to give too much away, an interesting approach to team fishing where secrets are kept close in practice week.
Day 1 of the world champs saw me draw D3, one of the narrower sections and with a fairly clear far bank at 44 mtrs (although not fishy looking unlike some pegs ) it was off we go, starting across just short of the far bank on the 3 casts across team tactic , saw me get an indication on the first cast before I'd even got the rod in the rest, I picked up into something only to find me tethered to somebody else's line fixed to the far bank and no fish, a braided line I actually managed to clear 2 casts later!! One cast down the middle over the Bombay mix pre baited swim looking for sign off a barbel proved fruitless, so onto the bleak line it was. The bleak weren't up in the water, so a quick switch onto a heavier feeder to catch on the bottom it was , but they were difficult to catch and I struggled to put fish in the net, I now think that they were mid water in about 8 feet of depth and my method wasn't quite right, (I think we quickly learned at this stage that trying to keep methods under wraps away from other teams can be a dangerous gamble as it doesn't allow the anglers to perfect the method themselves, and not being bleak experts we certainly felt slow off the pace as the bleak had changed their feeding habits !!!)
The fish eventually came up in the water and Tommy appeared behind me and spotted them from his higher position on the top of the bank (he is 6'4" too), I stood up and saw the shoal and then over the next 2.5 hours put 212 in the net according to the stewards count (I’m not a multi tasker !!).
As we found in practice, the last 75 minutes was a real magic time for bigger fish feeding and it was at this point that the bleak start to fade and it was time to go searching across for carp and barbel. Tommy informed me that the team was having a tough time and we all had to pull the rabbit out of the hat and fish for these bigger fish.
I was blessed, as first cast back across it went round and a 1.5kg barbel was a welcome sight, another 3 before the end of the match was a dream ending and pushed me right up to 2nd in section with 6.259kg beaten with 6.919kg from future champion Marius Bodea winning the section. With some really tough pegs in our draw England had a tough day with two 18 point scores a 13 and Phil leading the way with a win from E section, putting us 10th on the first leg.
After our team meeting that night, Tommy felt that we had to go all out for a win on the day if we were to get on the podium so a method of big fish tactics it was, that, with his and the rest of the teams blessing gave me and Phil the perfect platform to fish aggressively and add to our low scores and hope for an individual medal along the way, typical England lion style from our fearless Captain.
I was in C section on peg 7 on day 2, a peg that had seen a net of bleak with one carp for 1.727kg the previous day from Germany's Felix 'machine gun' Schumann on day one.
The start across was fruitless for me for the first 15 minutes and the bleak were even more conspicuous as the sky was over cast and the bleak shut down and laid low to the bottom, I quickly realised that this wasn't going to give me a chance of good points so I went over my middle barbel line with worm on the hook (size 12 -0.19 Reflo Power) with a semi blockend feeder containing hemp corn and wheat capped with the terre de rivière, round it went and surprisingly a carp of 750grms got me out of the starting blocks, it was quickly followed by a barbel, that like most of my fish became stuck in the bottom growing weed, that although being a great fish holder was actually a real test to land these fish that pull really hard. I played most of my fish stood on my box and even had to go to the edges of my taped zone to get enough of an angle to free the fish from weed. I had after my April visit decided to just use one rod for all my swims, a Dutch Master 12'8 Feeder, with 8lb (dia 0.26mm) new Preston Sinking Feeder Mono as mainline and at this stage was pleased I had!!!
After topping up the peg with more of the Bombay mix I rested it with a visit to the far bank which got me a small barbel, changing between these 2 lines gave me 5 barbel and 4 carp (3 fish on sticky mag) for a 10.324kg total. Confusion reigned for the next 20 minutes or so as I had to wait for the complete weigh in of my section and while this agonising wait continued, I was informed that the Romanian in D section may possibly win his section, so along with his win from day one he was the one to watch.
And his team mate at the top end of my section had caught and was also sitting on a section win from day one, Will Freeman, our man on the bank who always knows every detail had worked out that I needed to beat him by 2.5kg to tie on points and succeed on weight...it was a long wait...
Radu Prisacuria the Romanian in my section weighed 4.491kg and from a short moment we thought that gold could be on its way, but, it was very short lived as quickly the news came through that Bodea had also won his section with just 3.054kg!! The lowest winning section weight of the whole weekend. But it was enough to earn him the crown, and Prisacuria a Bronze. Romania as a team finished in second so they quite clearly had the tactics right and took 3 medals back with them, so fair play.
Our team points were coming through slowly with Adam Wakelin and Phil Ringer coming 3rd and 4th respectively it was starting to sound positive for us, but for the second day running in B section we didn't have a clear far bank to fish to and dean struggled for points, Steve had been in the tough D section just up from my day one draw and saved some points and returned an 8th, testament to the difficulty of this venue when an angler of his pure class struggled for 2 days!!!!
So we returned 37 points on day 2 for a 89 point total which saw us finish out of the medals in 8th position for the first time in 5 years, a real heart-breaking feeling for us.
A silver was my reward for the 3 points and 16.583kg total, although we always live and die as a team and our 8th put a real shadow on the whole camp, I'm obviously proud of my result and the whole team were brilliant in their support for me on the Sunday evening, thanks lads.
Looking back there's always thing you could do differently, and as a team we should have given the bleak more respect as the Italian team did with great results winning their first World Championships, no other team has come further than Italy in this competition and we are all really pleased for them, well done guys.
It was good to see Serbia on the podium too for a bronze, a nice bunch of guys. So, another world champs in the bag and even more lessons learned and experienced gained.
Personally I would like to thank Preston Innovations for their continued support of the England Feeder team and their backing of myself, all this wouldn't be possible without them, I would also like to thank the amazing squad that Tommy has built around this team over the last few years with Glen, Will, Eddie and Jamie and the tea ladies, Ernie, Geoff and Tom Meertens who all make this magic happen.
Have a great season and Tight Lines”.