Craig Edmunds picked up the £25,000 first prize after taking the 2018 Parkdean Resorts Masters crown in a challenging final on Jenny's Lake, having never fished the water before.
Craig, 37, from Bristol drew Peg 21 in Zone 4, an end peg, and with a strong wind blowing into that end of the lake, he felt there was a good chance for few carp, which dictated how he would fish the four-hour event.
“I've drawn my peg, and a few people had said that it's not the best area, but with the wind hacking down there, it 'screamed' carp to me, so I knew that having never fished the lake before, if I kept it simple and fished to my strengths, I might have a chance,” he said.
It was a mammoth ask, as the 24-angler field featured no less than 12 former finalists, which included three past Masters champions; Darren Cox, Harry Billing and Des Shipp, plus Andy Power – currently one of the county's best commercial anglers, and who regularly appeared in big-money finals.
The final also featured a new pegging format, which saw competitors drawn into six four-peg zones, on both sides of Jenny's, with the winner of each picking up a cheque for £1,000 – a new and welcomed addition to the already popular event.
Craig started on meat fished short – at five metres, where he netted a good fish in the first 30 minutes, but after things slowed down, he took the gamble to switch to a more positive feeding approach.
“It was clear that with the rain and strong winds, it was going to be a hard match, and not having seen much caught to my left, I decided to attack the peg, and start putting a lot of bait in,” said Craig. “It was a good decision and I had a good 90 minutes where I caught fish steadily – all on meat.”
Elsewhere, the action in the first hour was limited, with Jordan Hollaway on Peg 3 – at the other end of the lake, seeing the most action in Zone 1. Another early pacesetter was Chris Barley on Peg 14 in Zone 3, who’d had two good fish on the feeder.
Unlike other big-money events, the Parkdean Resorts Masters is only four hours in duration, so the competitors have to try and make something happen early to give themselves a chance of winning, and it seemed that Craig had got his tactics spot-on, especially in the middle section of the match.
However, the action on Jenny's is well known to improve, as the match goes on, and at the half-way stage it had become clear that more anglers had started to come into the picture. Scott Puddy on Peg 7 in Zone 2 had netted a few big carp, and in Zone 3, all four anglers, Chris Barley (Peg 14), James Dent (Peg 15), Dan White (Peg 16) and Harry Billing (Peg 17), had all picked up the pace and landed some good fish. Ryan Bennet on Peg 19 in Craig's Zone had also found the fish, so the pressure had ramped up!
The weigh-in started at Zone 1 with Jordan Hollaway taking the section with 25-8-0, thanks to a good first half of the match. In Zone 2, Scott Puddy claimed the £1,000 section prize with 41-3-0. The best of the action in the final hour came from Zone 3, and that saw James Dent, 46-5-0, edge out Dan White, 41-10-0, to lead the field at the half way stage of the weigh in.
All the attention was then focused on Zone 4, and Craig Edmunds. He tipped 63-8-0 onto the scales to put him in pole position, but he then had an agonising wait while the scales moved to the far-bank pegs, and to Des Shipp, who was the first to weigh-in in Zone 5. However, it quickly became clear, as Des lifted his net out of the water that he had not got enough to claim what would have been a third Masters title, and that Craig was the 2018 champion. Des' 41-5-0 won his Zone, and in Zone 6, Jon Arthur pipped Tom Edwards by two ounces, claiming the section with 9-0-0.
“I'm lost for words!” exclaimed a cold and soggy Craig, after his traditional winners dip into Jenny's lake. “To be honest, it hasn't sunk in yet. I should imagine that when I get home and think about it, it will sink in what I've achieved. It's the Parkdean Resorts Masters! It's my best achievement by far. I'm over the moon!”