Patience and perseverance paid off as angler Simon Skelton booked a highly-coveted ticket to the sport’s most prestigious final.
Skelton will fish in front of the Sky Sports TV cameras for a £50,000 prize in July after qualifying for the Fish’O’Mania final for the first time.
The Melton angler overcame a slow start and found a rich seam of carp to rack up an unlikely 114lb total and finish top of an 110-strong field by less than six pounds.
“The venue was fishing hard and 100lb was going to be a mega weight so I set my stall out to catch 70 to 80lb,” he said.
“I thought I had between 95 and 100lb at the end and when it was weighed at 114lb I knew that was going to be there or thereabouts.
Skelton added: “Halfway through the match I probably had 25lb to 30lb and some people were packing up, but I put a bit of bait down the edge and in 15 minutes I saw the tails coming out of the water.
“I took 80lb in the last two-and-a-half hours. Never give up, that’s my motto.”
Skelton has plenty of experience of big events, having qualified for the big-money Maver Match This final four times.
And while that boasts angling’s biggest prize, Fish’O’Mania is considered the match every angler wants to contest.
“It’s the most prestigious event and the one that’s been around the longest,” he added.
“It’s massive. I have qualified for Maver Match This a few times which is a major final and you feel on top of the world, but to get into Fish’O’Mania, I’m absolutely buzzing.
“I tried to qualify years ago and fell out of it, but I’ve tried again over the last couple of years.
“I enter about half the qualifiers and I’ve come second and third, but never before had the luck you need to win one.”
Fate certainly seemed to be on his side at the Woodland View qualifier, but Skelton, who is backed by Melton Angling and Cotgrave-based Dynamite Baits, felt it was overdue.
“I had a carp of 6lb in my net at the finish and that was the difference,” he said.
“But that made up for the Golden Rod final where I lost a fish which cost me £12,000.
“I ended up seventh overall, but that one fish would have won the section and the whole thing.”
Skelton had a relatively quiet 2018, narrowly missing out on more major finals, with a runners-up finish at the British Pole Championships the high point.
But he has hit the ground running in 2019 and believes the choice of Hayfield Lakes as venue for the final could also plays into his hands come July.
“I have had good results at Hayfield and finished third there in Maver Match This final a few years ago and wasn’t far away,” he said.
“It suits my style of fishing and I’ve win a few trophies there so I’m excited to be up there and might even be one of the favourites.
“I’ve won my last three matches and finished in the top 10 in every match over the winter so I’m going into the season with great confidence.”
But if Skelton is to take the biggest prize of his career he will have to beat the best, with three-time champions Jamie Hughes having also bagged one of the 24 prized final berths.
“You are going up against a lot of good anglers so you need a little bit of luck and a bit of edge knowing the venue,” he explained.
“This will be my fifth major final so I won’t feel nerves.
“When it’s your first one you do get a bit panicky because there is a lot of money up for grabs.”