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Last weekend saw the first of the UK’s big tournaments, the Swanage Classic sponsored by Hobie, Daiwa and others.

This is a species hunting event where the idea is to catch as many distinct species as possible, big and small in the allowed time. This can be anything from 20lb ray to 1oz gobies and involves constantly changing tackle and tactics to find those different fish. It’s a style of fishing that I have done well at and despite the ever-increasing competition as friends and competitors refine their tactics I still always hope to be able to get to the podium.

On the Saturday moning it wasn’t long before the green was filling up with a whole variety of kayaks and soon enough 78 people were listening to the safety briefing. The wind was forecast to get up and the organizers made the correct call to pull the boundaries right in. This would mean all of the banks were out of bounds so it was going to be a small fish match. It also meant that all of my reef marks were out of bounds so I would be making it up as I went along.

All the kayaks congregated on the water waiting for the starting gun. When it sounded all but three of us started paddling out to the reef. I’d noticed something interesting the day before, that there were thousands of bass congregated in the shallows, in fact right under the massed kayaks starting position. Obviously only a couple of others had seen them as well and as the area cleared I flicked out a jig and had a hit right away. Species number one was in the bag. Now to head out to the reef.

This is where in nearly went downhill. I anchored up and quickly had three types of wrasse and a garfish. Five species in an hour was a great start. However then I dropped a pouting when lifting it aboard. I was fuming at myself and then it got worse. A dinghy had capsized behind me and the wind was pushing it at a rate of knots towards me. The dinghy clobbered the back of my Kraken 15 and the rudder snagged in the sail rigging. As the dinghy pulled me round I had resigned myself to capsizing but then fortunately the rudder freed itself and the dinghy bumped along the side of my yak.

It was time for a move. At the new spot I wasn’t completely happy with my position on the reef but was catching fish, despite them being the same species. However I then noticed another competitor come drifting past my left side just a couple of feet from my yak. In minutes his lines were in my anchor line. As I tried to free them he continued to drift ad the pressure pinged his rigs free embedding a hook in my hand. That was swiftly removed but he was still drifting and attached to my lines. After instructing him to paddle towards me to relieve some pressure I eventually took a knife to his lines freeing the tangles, but my rigs were shot. I had to start again.

My confidence was low at this point, everything that could go wrong was doing so, but I know from experience that these species matches can turn in an instant. I decided on another move and this time spent twenty minute anchoring and re anchoring until I was exactly happy with my position. The results were instant as pouting and poor cod came to the yak. This gave me 7 species which was over my target. I decided to head in, so I dropped the rods back down whilst I cleared the decks and put things away. On bringing in the right hand rod I found a tompot blenny hanging on….bonus, that was eight species. I couldn’t believe it when I brought in the left hand rod and found a tiny rock goby attached. That was nine species and had to put me in with a shout of winning.

After a slog of a paddle back to shore I registered my catch and took an early lead on the board. Now it was a waiting game as friends and competitors made their way back to register their catches.

Finally the results were announced and I had done it again winning a fantastic price of a Hobie Revo 16.

Its great to get my first win of the year under the belt. Next weekend its off to the Lake District for a freshwater predator tournament, something I usually struggle at.