It was that time again - the Oxwich Bay European Saltwater Championships 2016. I had 4 days booked off work and the weather was looking great. This event regularly attracts well over 100 kayak anglers, many camping for the weekend and fishing on the days either side of the competition. All was set for a fun weekend!
Anchor down and a mackerel flapper was soon heading towards the bottom some 70ft below. Bites didn't take long to come, but they weren't the solid bites from a Tope.... instead it was the tell tale pulls from a Dogfish. Bugger. A few doggies later and something heavier was on the end. It was fighting like a Huss and i wasn't wrong, a sizeable fish around 10lb was soon on the surface but once beside the kayak i could see it wasn't actually hooked and only biting onto the mackerel. One look at the sunshine and it released to return to the bottom. Ah well, at least something different took a baited feather rig.... my first Scad of the year.
I kept an eye amongst the waves and eventually saw a paddle blade, and then Glenn on his kayak as he rode over a wave. Bugger, he is in trouble. At least he was still on his kayak but it was obvious he was struggling. I raced over to Ben and told him to keep an eye on me and i would sit on the edge of the race and try to get him to paddle towards land where the current seemed to drop off.
I headed into the waves and it was messy! I was paddling with the flow at 8 knots and without paddling i was drifting at 3 knots.... great! Glenn was tiring but he managed to make it across the current into a calm area against the rocks on the headland for some much needed rest. Ben had alerted a boat that was heading around our way and they came over to see if we needed assistance. It was a family on a RIB and they reluctantly gave Glenn a tow back around into the bay, as they were in a rush!! The only rush i could see was the water flowing around the headland, and the need to get Glen back into the calmer waters of the bay.
I powered off back into the messy stuff and despite the water belting past me i made a steady 1-1.5 knots against it. 10 minutes or so later and i was back out of the danger zone. I wish i had the Go Pro running (wasn't a priority at the time) as i had a few hairy moments with waves coming side on at shoulder height and crashing over the kayak but the Rytmo performed admirably and got me through it. It was quite fun actually and i'd happily paddle in it again! An interesting half hour or so but luckily all ended well.
Back in the safety of the bay, and after a rest, it was time for a try on the wreck again. The ground around the wreck is as rough as rats so i was using a 'cheap' homemade anchor comprising of a brick wrapped in cord! It worked a treat in the calm slack water.
Saturday - Competition Day
I had a Ugly Stik Elite Spin 20-50gr rod that would be rigged with a 3 hook Sabiki rig with size 4 hooks. I class this as my heavier set up and once the hooks are tipped with Mackerel and ragworm would be used for drifting across the bottom to target Gurnards and flatfish primarily. My second rod was a Major Craft Zaltz 10-30gr that would be rigged with a 3 hook sabiki rig with size 8 hooks. This is the set up i use for targeting the majority of mini species and hopefully would find Wrasse, Pouting, Poor Cod and others once tipped with ragworm. I also had what i calls as a light set up that comprised of a HTO Rockfish Revolution ML 7-28gr rod that would be rigged with a 3 hook sabiki rig with ridiculously small size 14 hooks tipped with small pieces of ragworm. This would hopefully find the odd goby or blenny.
With a range of rigs with different hook sizes and baits i would give myself a good chance of catching several different species, and with the competition format being the most number of different species wins, this would hopefully get me on the prize board! Rules stated that hooks are not to be attached to rods whilst on the beach so the rigs are prepped and stored in the centre hatch so that i just have to tie them on when on the water.
Kayak loaded, gear and equipment meticulously placed on the deck, the next job was to go and register and collect my bait from the Mainwarings tackle shop stand. Bait was ordered a week or so in advance, with the tackle shop bringing it to the beach on the morning of the competition. You can't beat fresh bait! Ragworm and Mackerel (freshly caught the day before) would be on the menu today. The competition entry fee was £20 with proceeds going towards running the event and the designated charity on the day. A selection of tackle goodies came with the unique registration photo card upon signing onto the competition. The card would need to be displayed in photos of fish for them to count in the competition to prove that they were caught on the day. The card also had an 8cm scale marked on it. A species would need to be over this minimum size to count.
The prize table had been split into two sections for this year - 'Amateurs' and 'Pros'. The first prize in the amateur section was on display and looking good. It was a one-off special Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 in Grey and Lime Green. It was made even more special by the unique colour moulding in the rear tank well! A fantastic prize from Palm, the main sponsors on the day amongst others including Raymarine, Tronix Pro, Navionics and more, who all put up other fantastic prizes. Without such great sponsors, events like this wouldn't be possible.
I was still in two minds as where to start fishing - the wreck or the clean ground. I launched with the intention of starting on the clean ground but changed my mind half way out and headed for the wreck. It had just gone high tide meaning the wreck would be completely covered in water and invisible to those without fish finders or GPS with its position marked. Luckily i had its position marked on the Dragonfly and could use the DownVision to position myself right over it. It is not a difficult wreck to find anyway as there is a marker showing its location on the cliff face. The hoards of other kayak anglers sitting over it is another dead giveaway to those who aren't equipped with sonar or a chart plotter to find it.
The tide was flowing fairly fast over the wreck and with an ever increasing number of kayak anglers trying to position themselves around it, it became quite difficult to anchor and be clear of other kayaks. First attempt i ended up too close to another kayak but on the second attempt i managed to sit about 20ft off the stern of fellow Team No Name member Kyle. Others struggled to anchor firmly in a gap between other kayaks and some gave up after numerous attempts. It was a busy place to be!
Rigs set up on the rods, hooks baited, kayak tidied and ready for the 10am start. Someone shouted that it was time so down went a sabiki rig baited with ragworm. It wasn't long before species number 1 was on the kayak.... a Poor Cod.
I planned a drift with the wind and tide flow and found a corridor amongst other competitors to pass through. Using the Dragonflys Track feature, i could clearly see the path i was taking so i could plan subsequent drifts. I set one rod up with a single hook running ledger and baited the size 4 hook with a single ragworm. This quickly found a Dab, species number 3.
Species no. 5 was a plump Tub Gurnard...
It was just a little bit busy with at least 10 or so kayaks crammed around the Wreck. I managed to squeeze nicely onto one corner just as it was about to expose with the dropping tide. Sabikis tipped with ragworm soon found species number 8 - a Ballan Wrasse.
Back down to the kayak and Oxwich Watersports were running a quad bike and trailer shuttle back up the beach to save carrying the kayaks up the beach from the low tide mark. It would have been brilliant, but i didn't know you had to buy tickets at the morning registration... bugger! 20 minutes of arm aching kayak pulling later and i was back at the van. I wont forget to buy a ticket for a lift next year!! I packed away just in time for the results.
Next up, the Amateur section prizes. 5th place went to Michael Burnett with 9 species, taking home a £100 voucher for Mainwarings Tackle Shop. Adrian Davies took 4th place with 10 species winning him a £100 tackle bundle from Tronix Pro. Ben Wallis snuck into 3rd place with 10 species winning him a £100 Escape Watersports voucher.
The team prize went to Team No Name bagging us a bit of cash each!
Various other prizes were handed out, including best specimen which was won by Mark Crame for a big Common Goby winning him a Raymarine Dragonfly 7Pro and Navionics card!
It had been a great weekend. Plenty of fish, plenty of fun, great company and 3rd place overall (1st in the Pro section) in the European Saltwater Championships. A big well done to South Wales Kayak Anglers and all the sponsors for a top notch event and weekend. I can't wait for next year!