The old story of the one that got away rang true for Simon Skelton as he missed the UK’s most sought-after angling prize by a handful of kilos.
The Melton angler left a host of full-time professionals and internationals trailing in his wake to land second spot at the Fish‘O’Mania grand final on Saturday.
A high-calibre 24-man field lined up for the five-hour match, but it turned into an almighty scrap between Skelton and Andy Bennett for the title, all played out live on Sky Sports.
The pair, drawn on neighbouring pegs, both favoured, were locked together throughout the five-hour match, and were neck-and-neck going into the final half-hour.
But Bennett sealed the highly-prized title and £50,00 top prize with two late fish.
His haul of 52.5kg was just 7kg better than Skelton who had the considerable consolation of a £10,000 runners-up prize as well as marking himself out as one of the country’s top anglers.
“Straight after the match I was a bit gutted because I was there or thereabouts,” he said.
“But then it sinks in - you have come second in what’s probably the most prestigious event in the country so you’ve done alright.
“All of the top six apart from me were professional anglers – that’s their job.”
Skelton has achieved what he has in angling while juggling the responsibilities of running a plumbing and heating business.
Unlike the full-time pros and internationals he was up against at Hayfield Lakes on Saturday, he is without major sponsors, but is looked after by Melton Angling, and Cotgrave-based Dynamite Baits.
“When the odds first came out I was 29-1 and one of the outsiders,” he added.
“But within a few hours I was down to 14-1 and went into the match as fifth-favourite.
“It was a great experience to be competing with the best and to be right up there with them.
“Andy is an awesome angler and it was an intense match between us both.
“He was beating me by 2 kilos into the last half-hour and I hooked one but lost it.
“Then I hooked another, but as soon as the cheers went up for that, he caught another and we were even.
“Then he got two more fish for 7 kilos and that was the difference between us.
“I’m happy looking at it now, but you always think, what if I’d done that differently. I only needed two big fish to have won it, maybe one.”
Skelton, as always, had his brother keeping him up to speed with the match situation, but there were new experiences to deal with, namely live television cameras and a huge crowd.
“There were 7,000 on the bank and most of them ended up behind me and Andy,” he explained
“The cameras didn’t faze me at all - I wasn’t aware of them filming because I was so focussed on the fish.
“The only time I noticed it was when they were interviewing my mum and (wife) Jenni. I looked across and caught them on the big screen.
“I was nervous at the start, but once I got the rod in the water that was it – I knew I had a job to do.
“I loved every minute of it. The day went so quick.”
While Skelton was making his Fish’O’Mania final debut, he has become a regular face at major national finals in recent years.
He has twice finished third in the final of Maver Match This, which offers the biggest prize of all in British angling, and expects to be in line for more this season.
“I’ve had two third places and a second out of five big finals, but Saturday was the closest I’ve been,” he said.
“To come so close three times just makes you want to win it even more.”