Junior champion 2019: Ben Keeling

This year’s Angling Direct Canal angling junior champion, Ben Keeling, enjoyed the experience so much he sent us this account of the most memorable day in his fishing career to date.

Ben Keeling and my brother, Cameron Pitman, junior pairs winners 2019 Ben Keeling and Cameron Pitman, junior pairs winners 2019

Looking forward to the day

The Junior Canal Championship has been a competition I have wanted to win for the past couple of years. I booked my ticket nice and early as I would advise everyone to do. For the more people who have entered, and as news gets around, the more kids that will be encouraged to enter, if that makes sense. And this year proved to be a good championship match, with over 90 contestants booked on to battle out to win the three individual titles (Cadet, junior and youth) on offer. It was going to be a match to remember.

Match morning

I got to the venue early and ready for the draw. The atmosphere was great and most importantly everyone had a smile on their face. I registered myself in and put myself and Cameron Pitman’s name forward for the pairs section of the competition. 

As the draw was called, I put my hand in the bag and drew Peg 52 backing onto the farm on the opposite side. I was very happy with my draw as this is rumoured to be a peg where you can catch some big bream if they show up. Near are some overhead powerlines crossing the canal at this point and my peg was 30 yards away from those. This is also an area of the canal where I had practiced and there were some good weights of fish caught around there at last year’s event.

To my peg

We steadily arrived at the parking field and were kindly directed to a parking spot by the Let’s Fish! steward. I unloaded my gear onto my barrow and wandered off down to my peg. The maps that were provided gave us anglers great help in getting to our correct parking spots and pegs without any confusion. As I got to my peg I was feeling quietly confident. I set up all my gear and got my bait prepared ready for the all in at noon. Then Stuart Conroy one of the stewards and ex England Team member came and spoke to me about the peg and how it was a good area for bream as well as the normal small roach, perch and gudgeon typical of the Shropshire Union Canal. Level 2 Let’s Fish! coach Simon Mottram said something similar when we briefly chatted not long into the match.

Juniors and parents line the towpath 2019 Juniors and parents line the towpath 2019

Opening tactics

As the whistle blew I was hopeful of catching some fish. I set up three lines. One 13 metres out to my left, over chopped worm and caster. Another 13-metre line to my right again intending to use caster. The third line was close in on squatt and groundbait. Fishing this near side line is what every kid who turns up at a Let’s Fish! event is taught first. For some reason some adults seem to forget about how many fish can be caught on this near bank area of the canal. I was catching steadily for the first 45 minutes on my inside line with plenty of bites from the obliging roach, perch and gudgeon.

Far bank joy

I then saw others on their long line starting to catch some better sized fish, so I gave that a bash and ended up alternating between my left and right long lines till the end of the match. Luckily these lines produced for me with better sized fish such as skimmers plus two decent sized bream caught on worms. Luck of the draw does help in fishing for if there are none of these bonus fish likely to be in your peg, there is not much point is spending way too long trying to catch them. It’s probably better in those sorts of pegs to try and catch as many roach, perch and gudgeon as you possibly can.

Weigh-in

The all-out whistle blew and the weighing in quickly began. I packed up my gear with a sense of pride and happiness that I fished to the best of my ability on that day. As the scales arrived, the steward announced that the weights were not the very best the venue can produce. So far, it had been bags of little fish being weighed in. As I pulled my net out, voices in the crowd murmured that this was a good net of fish. I tipped the scales to record an encouraging weight of 4.310kgs. News arrived that young Lauren Stevens from Dawley Junior Club had landed an impressive chub which observers reckoned about 3 or 4 pounds.

Results time

After the match, nearly 100 contestants and at least as many parents gathered back outside the pub for the results. While the stewards were sorting the scores we all got a drink and had a chat with other anglers who had competed. John Ellis called for us all and the results were announced. I honestly couldn’t believe how many people competed in this year’s event and neither could John, for he lost his voice by the end. There was a goodie bag kindly sponsored to each individual angler by Angling Direct plus a medal awarded to each angler and trophies supplied by Canal & River Trust.

Junior national championships: prize presentation Junior national championships: prize presentation
Junior angling championships 2019 trophy desk Junior angling championships 2019 trophy desk

Winners

It turns out that my weight was enough to win the match altogether. I was over the moon as this is a match victory I wanted to have achieved on my angling CV. There was an extra bonus. Not only have I won the match as an individual, me and my partner Cameron, the brother of Billy had won the pairs together (great angling Cameron!).

Post-match reflections

I would like to say a massive well done to all the competitors who fished; the dry weather was a godsend to us and for the rest of the autumn it seems to do nothing but rain. A big thank you to the sponsors of the event (Angling Direct, Angling Trust and Canal & River Trust) plus my junior pairs partner Cameron Pitman and mostly importantly, all the Let’s Fish! volunteer marshals. The event couldn’t have been run without them.

Looking forward to 2020

I am already look forward to next year’s event which will be held again on the Shropshire Union Canal near Church Eaton in Staffordshire on Saturday 19 September. I think there will be even more people fishing the event from all over the country, perhaps as many as 120 or even 150. 

The age of the cadet section has been changed to cover from 7 to 10-year-old on the day which I think is the right move as is making the youth section for ages 16 to 20 inclusive. It was great to see so many passionate juniors enjoying what they do best. If you are a young person who goes fishing, why not give it a go and be a part of the country’s largest celebration of fishing and young people. And if you are new to canals, book on to some Let’s Fish! sessions, you will be surprised how much you will learn about fishing.

Last date edited: 7 November 2019

About this blog

The fisheries & angling team

The team undertake a diverse range of work including looking after the Trust's £40 million worth of fish stocks, managing agreements with over 250 different angling clubs and helping more people, especially youngsters, take up angling on the canal. Follow this blog to keep updated with the thoughts and work of the team.

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