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Last weekend saw the second of the saltwater species hunting tournaments in the U.K., the Ocean Kayak Classic in Plymouth.

The format is always the same for these popular tournaments. They are catch and release events where you have to catch as many different species as you can in a set time, usually five or six hours. In the event of a tie the first person back to the registration is the winner. This means you may get a certain number of species in two hours and come in early taking a chance that no one will get more in a longer time. There is always some element of calculation and risk in whether to come in early of keep looking for another more elusive species.

These are events where I do really well. Over the years I have come to know each venue like the back of my hand, and every year by watching and asking you find out new little marks that can produce different mini species that may make all the difference.

As usual I had come down a few days early enjoying some mullet fishing as well as the inevitable social sessions in the bar. Friday was my first serious practise and after showing a friend where to find red band fish, it then became something of a disaster as I only added another four species to the tally. This became even worse when I landed and found that my fishing buddy had caught eleven species including a couple of real rarities. My confidence for Saturday was not high.

Saturday morning the car park started to fill early. Soon enough I was being handed bacon butties and coffee. I found one of the junior anglers who had struggled in a recent match and gave him a more suitable rod / reel combo that I didn’t need as well as a couple of special rigs that he was sworn to show to no body else. Hopefully this would result in some good karma for the day.

9.30 saw the usual safety briefing and at 10.00 it was a race as everyone set off to their chosen marks.

I headed straight to the red band mark and had one first drop but then was unsure where to go. The previous day I had fished the breakwater and struggled. However the tide had been in full ebb. Today I had a couple of hours of slack water so calculated that this would make the difference. It was more than a 3 mile paddle so once committed it was there or bust.


Once anchored the fish soon came on board. Goldsinney wrasse were plentiful, followed by a pout, then corkwing wrasse and a poor cod. It was going well. Suddenly my sleeper rod lurched off the rest and soon a small bull huss was also on board. That was definitely a bonus fish.

The next fish I could see coming up in the crystal clear water and it was bright red. I wasn’t sure what it was until it broke the surface where I found a stunningly coloured bright red ballan wrasse. Next was a dogfish and finally a tompot blenny. Nine species in an hour and a half – it couldn’t have gone any better. The only obvious one I was missing was a Pollock so a quick move and two casts later I had one on board.

Ten species had been my target for the day. It was only 1pm so there were three hours of the match left but I decided to gamble and head in to register. I was the second to land and took an early lead. Now it was just a waiting game…..would anyone manage the eleven species needed to beat me.

An hour later Ryan came in also with ten, then Liam, another of the favourites also with ten. It was looking good but there were still some good anglers out there. Martin managed eight, others arrived with nine’s and eight’s until there was only really Kyle left. Work was he had ten ages ago but was looking for a Corkwing Wrasse, usually one of the most abundant fish out there. Finally I saw him on the slipway, the wrasse had eluded him and he was also on ten species.

I’d done it. The gamble to come in early had paid off as there were five anglers with ten species but I was the fastest by well over an hour. That’s two of the big species events done for the year and I’ve won them both. Just one more which I’d love to win to make it a hatrick.

As always a massive thanks to the Ocean Kayak guys for organising this annual event as well as the sponsors without whom it wouldn’t happen.

I’m already looking forward to next year.