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The Oxwich Bay tournament is one of my favourite events of the year. The fact that I have fished it twice and won it twice helps but it is really the social side of the event that makes it a highlight as Ed and the SWKA boys go out of their way to make everyone feel welcome.

This year was no exception and on the day 141 kayak anglers came to take part in the competition making it the largest event of the year so far.

I was here to defend my title but knew that others were picking up tricks and tips at every event and the level of competition would be greater than ever before. Many of the local guys had been fishing the venue every weekend and they knew it like the back of their hand.

Myself and Martin Collinson arranged to head down on the Thursday before the event to have a couple of days practise and as it soon became apparent that the fish weren’t there in the numbers of previous years. We managed plenty of species but you had to really search for them and on the day with a huge number of kayaks on the water we knew it would be a different ball game to having the bay to ourselves.

After fishing the Friday and arriving back at the camp site, I couldn’t believe how busy it was. A small town of tents and kayaks had appeared in the field and it wasn’t long before the barbecues started and the beer began to flow.

Saturday morning everyone was up early and heading down to the beach. After a safety briefing we all launched into the bay. I immediately headed to the sand where I had caught plenty of the larger species in the previous few days. One large bait went down for smooth hound or ray and on the other rod three small baits for anything that may be passing…..the problem was that nothing seemed to be passing. All around me I could see the odd fish coming up but I couldn’t get a bite despite changing rigs and baits several times.

After an hour I knew I needed a change of scene and a fish just to get my confidence back. I headed to the wreck area where Ian Pickering of the OK team told me he had seven species already. I didn’t need telling twice and dropped anchor. Immediately I started catching fish, small poor cod, pouting, and black bream were coming up one after the other. Other anglers soon cottoned on and the wreck became a mass of kayaks. After pulling up a tompot blenny I decided to try the sand again for the larger species. This time I managed a few bites and had a grey gurnard and a mackerel. However all of the banker species, like dogfish, dabs, smooth hound and ray evaded me.

On six species I knew I would be well down the rankings so headed back to the rough ground to try for a wrasse. On the previous days I had caught three species of wrasse with no problem but today I could only manage a Corkwing. Then a Rock Goby came up, my first this year which was a bonus giving me eight species. Eight is usually enough to get you in the top ten and I was toying with the idea of heading in and chancing an early registration. I decided on having half an hour around the moorings to try for a flatfish but despite a couple of small bites didn’t add to my tally and decided to head for the shore.

I wasn’t aware but Keith Ward of the OK team was just 50 feet behind me on his Ultra and thinking we both had the same number of species was digging in trying to overtake me but the Cuda 14 happily had enough speed to keep ahead and I was the first to register with 8 species, Keith coming in right behind with the same number.

There was already a nine on the scoreboard and I expected many more to come in so thought I would be lucky to hit the top ten. In the end though, fewer people registered big numbers than I thought, so I finished 5th in a field of 141, which I was more than happy with and went home with a Werner Camano Hooked paddle. Martin had ten species and came in second which he was over the moon with and the winner was John Fannon, another good friend who had 11 species. John fished it perfectly on the day intending to avoid the crowds he invested time paddling to a feature on the other side of the bay which he had to himself and it paid off big time in his results.
In the team event I had joined up with Mark Crame and Martin Collinson and we managed second place which was also a great result.

That evening the real highlight of the weekend took place. SWKA always put on a communal barbecue around the central tent providing burgers and hotdogs until well into the night. There was the usual raffle to raise money for the RNLI and a great time was had by everyone there. After a late night, getting up at 6.30 for another days fishing I was greeted by the sight of Snapper barbecuing his breakfast on the still hot coals and Chicky not quite having managed to get to bed enjoying an early morning livener, most people having drifted away around 3 in the morning.

As always, a massive thank you to Ed and the SWKA team. He spends nearly a year organising this event and it is greatly appreciated by all who attend. Every year it gets larger and larger and has raised many thousands of pounds for the RNLI and Heroes on the Water so long may it continue. I will certainly be there next year to try and get my title back.