Held from the 17th - 21st June 2015, The Home Nations Boat Angling Championships welcomed Anglers into Weymouth to compete for the Gold medal.
Team Ireland; Dave Jolly, Mike Patton, Shane Gilvarry, Liam Longmore, Dave McCormick, Martin Kennedy, Manager Liam O'Callaghan and coach Padraic Clear, have returned victorious with the Gold Medal.
The team preparation began way back in August 2014 as soon as the team had been selected in Killybegs. Having had a number of team members who had fished in Weymouth before the team felt they would have a good start to their compaign, including several team meetings to discuss species and tactics. Despite not knowing the actual date that the championships would be held, until February 2015, the team got straight to work trace building and preparing tackle.
"First job for us was to try and raise some sponsorship and funding to help cover the substantial costs of travelling early and practising on the venue, to this end, the Irish Federation of Sea Anglers covered our travel expenses and competition entry, and we ran a very successful fund raising competition out of Cobh just after Christmas which covered our extra costs, and a huge thank you goes out to everyone who took part.
We then put out feelers, looking for Angling related companies to come on board with Team Ireland. To this end Martin Kennedy of Shamrock Tackle, who travelled as our Reserve, proved to be invaluable, from sponsoring superb team jackets and polo shirts and working with potential sponsors, to supplying each team member with his range of Animal rigs in Yellow and Orange, their colours, especially the
yellow ones, proving to be irresistible to Huss, so good were they at attracting fish that all the other teams were trying to get their hands on them during, and after the competition, if you haven’t tried them - you better!
Martin also negotiated product sponsorship from various companies, First on board was Mullion who supplied each team member with their superb compact auto inflate life jackets which proved a pleasure to wear, avoiding the usual tangling and discomfort from normal Lifejackets.
Next up was the famous tackle company Cox & Rawle, who supplied each Team member with all their Booms, and a complete range of Hooks which were invaluable for all the rigs and traces we needed to make for the event, including the super sharp Tanago Match hooks which proved perfect for Wrasse and Bream, their Chinu hooks, which were Ideal for our Doggie and Huss traces, and their incomparable Uptide Extra and Meat Hooks which were ideal for the big Huss, Conger and Ray we caught. They also supplied baseball hats and lots of stickers.
Next was Ulcatch who helped us with team Jackets, and supplied each of our anglers with one of their indispensible Bait Weavers.. the best new angling product this year, which every angler should have. Also Pat O’ Shea from the Commodore Hotel in Cobh, Sean Carty from Land Sea Sports in Bundoran, and Southside Angling who provided the Team with embroidered polo shirts and other team apparel."
Having made Hundreds of traces each, the Team finally headed off on Sunday the 14th of June for a 2 hour ferry to Holyhead, followed by an 8 hour drive through England to Dorset, ready for their first practice day on Monday.
The team headed out at 8am on the Charter boat Al's Spirit, skippered by Adrian Brown, whose advice and knowledge was a huge help. The plan was to emulate the way the competition would be run over the three, two hour sessions, two at anchor, the first fishing deep in strong tides, then move inshore. The move in shore would be for the second anchor session to try for black bream and finally finish up with two hours of drifting close inshore for Pollack and Wrasse.
"On our 1st mark we tried various different methods including downtiding with up to a kilo of lead, and uptiding in the fierce tides.
Conger, ray and huss came to uptide rigs, but downtiding was more effective, catching fish at a faster rate, and we found anglers at the bow were more effective by casting downtide, and this was important to know for the competition. The Yellow Shamrock Animal rig Muppets also seemed to add to our catches, and this would be looked at more carefully the following day.
As the tide dropped off we moved inshore to a mark where we were likely to get mixed fishing, but all that turned up were some doggies and a tub gurnard, hoping we wouldn’t end up there during the competition, we moved off inshore to practise fishing for Pollack and Wrasse. This was new for us, fishing in 10 to 20 feet of water 30ms offshore, some of us opted to cast 3 delta eels above a small silver pirk right into the rocks, and fish it, sink and draw back to the boat for the Pollack. Others fished various ragworm baited traces on the bottom for Wrasse, it became apparent that the Pollack were not playing ball due to the brilliant sunshine, but the wrasse on the other hand were qeueing up to take our baits, but the shallower the water the smaller they were, and the snaggier it got. It was apparent that we would have to try get the boats to fish deeper during the event to work to our advantage."
The team, having tried everything that they wanted to that day, and deciding that they would practice for the following day, headed for port.
Dave Jolly asked the Skipper if the team could stop on the way in to try for a species of fish unique to Weymouth called, the Red Band fish. This fish is a prehistoric ribbon like fish, caught on tiny hooks tipped with ragworm, cutting up a set of sabikis and passing them around. Soon the whole team were catching these funky little fish - great fun! Back at port it was time for 4 hours of sorting tackle and modifying traces ready for the second day.
The next day and the team were on the water by 8am. The target fish this time was bream, a species that if around in numbers, would be very important to be able to catch. Padraic Clear and Liam O’Callaghan, who had both fished here in the World Championships in September led the way showing the team how to bait up, trot back the tide, and hook the elusive fish. Soon everyone was perfecting the technique, albeit with very small numbers caught. It was then time to head out deep for Conger, Rays and Huss to see if what was learnt the previous day about traces, colours, and baits worked… and it did, the shamrock Tackle Animal rigs working again.
"As before we finished off the day for wrasse and Pollack, where it became apparent that the drift session would be all about wrasse with up to 30 fish per angler being caught.
Wednesday we moved from our apartment to the Championships headquarters in the Portland Heights hotel, with magnificent views over Chesil beach.
Once in our rooms, it was all heads down for several hours to get ready for the official practice day, whilst our manager sat in on the managers meeting discussing rules, and selecting where each of our anglers would be fishing over the championships. The Boats were 2 x 8 seater boats, with 2 each Irish, English, Scottish and Welsh onboard, and one 4 seater with one of each nation onboard. Then it was the official opening ceremony and Dinner before we all headed to bed for our 5.45am alarm call.
The official practice day worked perfectly for us, and strengthened our confidence in how the fishing would be, it also became very apparent that bait management would be vital, as virtually no mackerel were being caught, and each angler would only have 1 pk of frozen mackerel, one box of frozen squid, and 1/2lb of Ragworm to last the 6hrs fishing."
Competiton Day 1
Friday morning and the whole team was up before their alarm call for the 1st day of the competition. Eager to get to their boats and start preparing baits, it was going to be a hard day with the win against the tide and temperatures in the mid 20s. Each angler gave his all, and at the pier that evening, the home team were ahead by 8%.
"...at our team meeting that evening it turned out that the fishing had gone exactly the way we thought, some teams were having problems conserving bait, and when it came to speed fishing for wrasse on the drift session, no teams could keep up with us, the experience with restricted bait and speed fishing in our fish offs selection weekends over the last number of years really showed its worth, we were fully confident that we could win the event on the 2nd day, and the last few tweaks were made to tackle and traces before getting to bed."
Competition Day 2
Saturday morning and the whole team was focused. The fishing on each boat went exactly as found in the practise and when the boats came in it was apparent that Team Ireland had taken 1st place with the two anglers on each of the eight man boats and 2nd on the four man boat.
"We had pulled up over 45% ahead of the Home team, winning by over 35% over the 2 days, winning the title for the 2nd time in a row and finally beating a superb English team at home. It was a very proud team that were presented with our Gold medals and Trophy at the closing dinner that evening"
Congratulations to the Team!
Cox & Rawle were proud to supply each team member with hooks and accessories!
Next year's event will be held in Milford Haven in July.