Saturday September 1st witnessed the eighth annual Maver Mega Match This Grand Final at the mighty Maver Hayfield Lakes, Doncaster. After arguably the single most competitive qualifier series in the competition’s history with twenty two (22) of the twenty four (24) qualifying matches each producing over a ton of fish, including the largest ever recorded weight in any Mega Match This qualifier campaign to date, the scene was once again set for another nail biting finale befitting of the competition’s status as one of the most prestigious competitions on the UK match angling calendar today.
Qualifiers were hosted by the country’s most Premier fisheries beginning back in April at the prolific Glebe Fishery in Leicestershire and concluding mid August at the picturesque Midlands-based Barston Lakes. Come the end of a gruelling five month qualifying campaign, the stage was set with nineteen (19) of the twenty four (24) 2018 finalists making their first ever appearance on fishing’s biggest stage in a bid to lay claim to what has become the most iconic trophy in modern day match angling and to walk away with the richest prize in European match fishing.
As per previous years events, anglers drew for their pegs the night before during a special gala evening event staged at the onsite Hayfield Fishing and Shooting Lodge with all competing finalists and their guests enjoying an all expenses paid evening meal and drinks. Upon the draw being complete, many of the competing anglers were still none the wiser as to who they felt would be in with a chance of being crowned 2018 Match This Champion such is the quality of fishing on offer on Dannies (Island) Lake.
Local favourite, David Burley, considered himself out of the running after his draw as did in-form man, Jimmy Brooks; heavy hitters Jamie Hughes and Andy Power had drawn alongside one another dividing opinion as to whether it would produce a memorable battle or whether the two would cancel each other out; self-confessed club angler Simon Foster drew a fancied area and Guru rising star Sam Collett drew the very same peg that crowned 2017 Match This Champion, Rob Wootton. With some very good anglers in good areas, the 2018 Grand Final was set be a tantalising prospect!
Come the morning of the match, spectators turned out in their droves thanks largely to conditions on the day being kind and the efforts of the Hayfield Lakes staff, with outside bars, food and entertainment all contributing to a fantastic day out for supporters and bystanders. The 2018 Match This event also brought with it the introduction of numerous other activities on the day to coincide with the Grand Final itself including free angling tuition with none other than Tommy Pickering, Denis White and Ed Warren (pictured left) as well as a series of mini matches, a children’s funfair and various giveaways on the day to add to a superb family day out.
The standard of sport was, once again, fantastic with competing anglers finding fish immediately after the all in was signalled at midday. The majority of the field opted to start the match short fishing pellet with a number of anglers enjoying a good early run of fish. One such angler was local favourite, David Burley on Match This peg 1 (permanent peg 1). Despite an unfavourable draw on paper, Dave was quick to put his stamp on the day’s events and was making his presence known during the opening stages putting a good run of fish together fishing short on the pole with pellets.
Simon Foster also got off to a great start, again, fishing pellet short on the pole from Match This peg 9 (permanent peg 21) as did two time Match This finalist and new Preston Innovations recruit, Matthew Dawes from peg 12 (permanent peg 27) who found himself amongst carp and carassio. Barry Smithson was also in the running early on from Match This peg 5 (permanent peg 13) finding fish in numbers during the opening stages to keep up with the early front runners.
Bucking the trend during the opening stages of the match was Lynden Grimmett (Nightingale AC / AJ Tackle), who opted to start his match fishing the bomb to find some very big fish early on to catapult himself into early contention.
For those anglers that had drawn Match This peg numbers 13 – 24 on the ‘wood bank’, the opening first hour was a little less frantic. Steve Freeman from Peterborough managed to find odd carp during the opening hour from Match This peg 16 (permanent peg 47) with Somerset based man Ben Hagg (Guru) also putting a few fish together during the initial opening stages from peg 23 (permanent peg 61). With the sun being late to make its way round, much of the bank remained in the shade for a large part of the match with it being noticeably cooler for the twelve finalists drawn on this part of the lake.
As the match progressed and neared the halfway stage, the early front runners were still out in front adding to their weights. A few pegs down the ‘river bank’ saw Matt Dawes still catching fish at this stage, but was now having to alternate between the waggler and the bomb to keep fishing coming to the net. Dave Burley was also still catching and had, by this time, attracted the attention of the crowds with many of the opinion he was leading the field. However, the steadily increasing level of interest behind him appeared to bring a premature end to his short line forcing him to change tactics and follow the fish out on the bomb. Guru’s Sam Collett – the youngest ever Mega Match This finalist at just nineteen (19) years old – was also getting into his stride at the midway point in the match catching well on the method feeder.
One area of the lake that was attracting more attention than most was immediately behind permanent pegs 17 and 19 (Match This pegs 7 and 8) where Mega Match This heavy weights Jamie Hughes and Andy Power had drawn side by side. However, much to everyone’s disappointment, the predicted battle royale had not manifested itself leaving the door wide open for Simon Foster. Simon was still catching well on his short line, which showed very little sign of slowing up for him and was looking good going into the final third of the match.
Over on the far side, Steve Freeman remained one of few that had found his rhythm and was catching well. The ‘wood bank’ was proving to be a little more than challenging for most with no one really able to turn indications into positive bites. Experienced Match This finalists Matt Higgins and Andy Bennett, who between them have fished four finals, like many were struggling to find the fish from pegs 21 and 24 (permanent pegs 57 and 63 respectively). The story wasn’t much different at the opposite end of the bank either with the likes of Wayne Shepherd, Damien Beggs and local rod Paul Wright all struggling to get themselves amongst the action.
Going into the final third of the match, it was still local favourite Dave Burley who was doing just enough to stay out in front catching odd fish. However, his swim was visibly beginning to show signs of failing him, which suddenly became a very real possibility when Dave lost a double figure fish at the net. This would no doubt had been a turning point in the match for Dave if it were not for the actions of his bank runner, Mark Price, who was quick to recognise the potential change in Dave’s state of mind. After a quick talking to, Dave was back on his box but had to endure a long anxious final home straight whilst the remainder of the field continued to close the distance.
Simon Foster and Ben Hagg were the likely challengers on Dave’s lead with both of them continuing to catch well going into the final throws of the match. Simon was still catching on his short line and by now was enjoying a great run of fish which was beginning to make Dave’s slender lead look very fragile indeed.
Over on the far bank, Ben Hagg continued to catch steadily on the bomb with anglers on pegs 14 – 22 now starting to catch down their edge. Local rods Damien Beggs and Mick Brownell had by now managed to find some late bonus fish along with Cresta / Gamakatsu rod, Ray King, who managed to land a 20lb plus specimen to leap frog several places going into the final thirty minutes of the match. Unfortunately for Steve Freeman, his challenge had lost its momentum somewhat with his edge fish showing a reluctance to feed confidently, which saw him fall down the leader board.
With just fifteen minutes to go, David Burley looked as though he was going to hang on to the slimmest of advantages before Simon Foster staged a late charge landing three good-sized fish in a very short period of time. Upon the final hooter sounding, it was Simon Foster who had the final say with a decent-sized carp gracing his net within the allowed fifteen minute time limit. It was genuinely too close to call at the end of five hours with opinion on the bank divided as to who had done enough at the end of another thrilling finale involving three Mega Match This debut finalists, all of whom were looking to cement their place in the history books. Social media was alive with predictions and hypotheses following live updates from Andy Kinder and Emma Pickering, but nobody knew who had done enough.
Upon the scales making their way round, it was Dave who would be first to weigh in. After a brief but tense wait, Dave’s official weight after three weighs was confirmed at 41.100 kilos, which was enough to confirm his overall lead for the following three pegs with Craig Ebbrell, Jimmy Brooks and Chris Weeder (jnr) all weighing less than half Dave’s total. Next angler to weigh in was Barry Smithson on Match This peg 5 (permanent peg 13) who confirmed a decent effort weighing in 25.550kg to top Lynden Grimmett’s 23.325kg. Andy Power came out on top of the much anticipated head to head with Jamie Hughes weighing in 28.350 kilos to Jamie’s 21.225kg to take second place overall midway down the ‘river bank’ just moments before Simon Foster was due to weigh in.
Simon, who had enjoyed a strong finish to the match, was tipped by many as being in with a chance of toppling David Burley’s lead at this stage and, after two weighs, had a cumulative weigh of 39.675 kilos. It would all depend on how much he had in his final net. Fortunately for Dave, Simon’s final net was next to empty holding just 250g to result in a final weight at the end of five hours of 39.925kg, which placed Simon second after nine (9) pegs.
Sam Collett and Colin Horwood (Match This pegs 10 and 11 respectively) were not able to worry Simon’s 39.925kg with Sam weighing in 21.475 kilos compared to Colin’s 15.950kg leaving just Matthew Dawes to weigh in before the scales made their way round to the opposite bank. The newly recruited Preston Innovations man and two times Mega Match This finalist had been in contention throughout the match and was considered another front runner who could dash the hopes and dreams of what would be a fairy tale end for Maver Hayfield Lakes. Matt offered two weighs to the scales giving the young Shropshire-based rod a total of 30.575kg putting him in third place.
All eyes were now on the ‘wood bank’, where only one angler was rumoured to be in with a chance of cutting Dave’s celebrations short. Damien Begg’s late run of edge fish gave him a total of 24.590 kilos, which remained the best overall weight on that side of the lake up until the scales arrived with Ben Hagg confirming just how hard it had been on that side of the lake.
Ben was the last remaining front runner who was in with a realistic possibility of topping Dave’s 41.100kg confirmed what now seemed like an eternity ago! After a tense few moments, not just for David but the majority of the crowd following the scales, Ben’s weight was confirmed back to the main stage at 35.625kg. It was at this point, Dave knew for sure he had done enough with the final angler to weigh in, three times former Match This finalist Matt Higgins, opting to bow out gracefully. The crowd immediately erupted relieving what must have been an unbearable amount of tension that had been building as the scales made their way round to the opposite side of the lake.
Despite fantastic last minute efforts from both Simon Foster and Ben Hagg, Dave Burley held his nerve and stuck to his game plan and emerged victorious topping what many regarded before the final as being the most unpredictale and level field of twenty four (24) anglers ever in a Mega Match This final.
Upon being confirmed the eighth Mega Match This Champion in as many years, Dave was soon swarmed by the angling press just moments after receiving the iconic trophy and soaking the crowd with a nice vintage. A huge congratulations to Dave, who now cements his place in angling history as being the third Mega Match This Champion crowned at Maver Hayfield Lakes and receiving £60,000 alongside previous Champions Andy Power, Les Thompson, Zac Brown, Chris Cameron, Peter Upperton, Jon Whincup and Rob Wootton.
However, perhaps what makes David’s win all the more special is the manner in which it was won. Dave, a local rod from Rossington, has been fishing at Maver Hayfield Lakes since the age of 12. In fact, the very first time David visited Maver Hayfield Lakes was with his grandfather seventeen (17) years ago, with the pair fishing from the very same peg his daughter Evie drew for him ahead of the 2018 Maver Mega Match This final. A truly magical touch to an unbelievable finale at Maver Hayfield Lakes – the only commerial venue to ever host two of angling’s most prestigious Grand Finals back to back.
Shortly after being confirmed Champion, Dave commented:
“After drawing peg 1 the night before, I think everyone knew I wasn’t that happy with it. Obviously I know the venue pretty well being a local lad and had been practising hard over the previous weeks“.
“On Saturday morning I took a walk round and when I got to have a look at peg 1, which is the far bottom end of the main lake, I started to think more positively. The wind was blowing that way and I had plenty of room with no pegs opposite me“.
“My main lines of attack were short pole and bomb but I set up to cover all eventualities, but these were my banker methods for the day. All of the lines were based around hard pellets, fishing a hair rigged hard pellet on the hook. On both the pole and bomb I fished Gamakatsu Power Carp Eyed hooks in size 14, which I have absolute faith in as a hook. For this type of fishing in my eyes it has no equal“.
“I fed hard pellets on the pole line and had four (4) or five (5) fish after the first hour. The fish were big and I was now thinking I was in with a shout as I had a good view of the other anglers on the opposite bank and obviously I was getting plenty of information about what was being caught. I think after the first couple of hours I was well up there“.
“The short line eventually died and I was forced onto the bomb. Thankfully, I started to pick up a few fish on it, which kept me confident as I didn’t have to go chasing fish on other methods. I fed around ten (10) pints of pellets on the bomb and kept picking off odd fish. They were a good size also and I knew I was in with a shout“.
“The last twenty minutes was the most nerve racking as I could see Ben Hagg catching and I knew Simon Foster was catching, but this was where my bank runner, Mark Price, helped me keep my head and keep focused“.
“At the end of the match I knew it was close and, being first to weigh, I then had to watch every other angler weigh in after. I weighed 41kg, which consisted of fourteen (14) carp and two (2) skimmers.
When I got to Simon Foster’s peg he said he’d had a fish on the whistle and I thought that would be enough to beat me but luckily for me, not for Simon, he had 39kg 925g, so from what I knew it was just me and Ben Hagg“.
“A lot of people were saying he had this weight and that weight but I just had to wait and when his second net was pulled out I knew he didn’t have enough and I was the winner. An incredible feeling and one to be fair I am still letting sink in. It was made all the more incredible that I could share it there and then with my family and all my mates, who if you have watched some of the facebook live footage, were going mental, which was brilliant“.
“Everyone always wants to know what you are going to do with the money. To us as a young family, £60,000 is life changing. We plan to upgrade on the house and move to a bigger property, the kids are getting some invested for them and I am taking my fantastic wife and kids on a well earned holiday“.
“I’d like to thank all who have helped me this year and throughout the years. I won’t single anyone out as they all know who they are“.
- David Burley, (peg 1), 41.100kg
- Simon Foster, (peg 9), 39.925kg
- Ben Hagg, (peg 23), 35.625kg
- Matthew Dawes, (peg 12), 30.575kg
- Andy Power, (peg 8), 28.350kg
- Barry Smithson, (peg 5), 25.550kg
- Damien Beggs, (peg 14), 24.590kg
- Mick Brownell, (peg 19), 24.200kg
- Steve Freeman, (peg 16), 23.650kg
- Lynden Grimmett, (peg 6), 23.325kg
- Sam Collett, (peg 10), 21.475kg
- Ray King, (peg 22), 21.400kg
- Jamie Hughes, (peg 7), 21.225kg
- Paul Wright, (peg 15), 19.450kg
- Colin Horwood, (peg 11), 15.950kg
- Craig Ebbrell, (peg 2), 15.000kg
- Jimmy Brooks, (peg 3), 12.850kg
- Trevor Wyse, (peg 18), 11.275kg
- Chris Weeder jnr (peg 4), 10.975kg
- Nick Houghton, (peg 17), 10.650kg
- Andy Bennett, (peg 21), 9.450kg
- Wayne Shepherd, (peg 13), 6.560kg
- Paul Homer, (peg 20), 3.675kg
- Matthew Higgins, (peg 24), DNW