The Cornish Lure Festival is a competition split into two dates, the festival is organised by Ben Field from the Art of Fishing which is a tackle shop in Wadebridge, there is a bass competition and a species hunt competition. It has taken various formats over the years but in its current incarnation it sees the species hunt run separately to the bass event. They are both social events that see people travel from across the UK and in pre-Covid times from across Europe to fish.
The species hunt is a simple format, catch as many species as you can on artificial lure, Isome and Gulp! are permitted. Gobies apart from leopard spotted are counted as 1 specie and the rest of the species are 1 point each; in the event of a tie each species caught is designated it's own point score based on scarcity.
The event runs for 48 hours, you can travel anywhere in Cornwall and there is no restrictions on time or distance so you can fish as little or as much as you choose, it's not uncommon for anglers to fish for 24hrs without a break!
CLF - Species 2021
I arrived at the AoF for 11:55am on the Friday and was greeted by some familiar faces, the headcount of anglers at the start was down on previous years due to Covid, there were also a couple starting later due to work commitments (Ben Bassett and Matt Drake)
These events are a big date on the calendar for most of us and are as much about socialising with like minded anglers and friends as they are competing. Chat surrounded mostly tactics, targets, tackle and a bit of banter, it was lovely to see familiar faces after so long apart.
Once we'd booked in, received our cards we all scurried off with our own objectives, I had not prepared for the event and wasn't ready for the set of tides we'd had, I had a rough idea what my fishing would look like but hadn't looked at it any further, this was set to be undoing later in the event.
I got to the first mark and was met by Rich Salter, Joe Mole, Danny Hill and Matt Barnsley. We'd all had the same idea to tick off a bunch of species from a harbour on the north coast close to Wadebridge. The harbour is gated and has water in it regardless of state of tide.
Within the first couple of casts we'd all ticked off the goby, an easy one but one you can easily forget to do at times.
I saw some fish just below the surface soon after and quickly changed approach to see what they were, they happened to be sand smelt.
The lads around me were into Tub Gurnard, whilst they were doing that I nabbed a bonus early flounder on Isome, I knew there were a few flounder around from previous years and was happy to see this pop up early.
The harbour we were fishing was a pain as the gobies were hitting everything, a quick change up to a drop shot rig produced this Gurnard on the first cast, happy with 4 in the short space of time. The rest of the lads were also doing well, with only Rich Salter wanting a Gurnard it wasn't long until his rod was hooped over, a smile beamed from his face as it was duly netted.
At this point the group were twitchy and ready to make a move to the next spot. i had made a strong start and it was time to make the most of location and state of tide so we headed off, on the way back to the car I noticed a small fish darting in and out of the kelp on a slipway so had a quick re-rig and promptly caught it, a little shanny (common blenny)
We split off and I agreed to meet Joe and Rich in Newquay, it was relatively uneventful although I managed a sandeel on a Major Craft Jigpara metal and was plagued by weever whilst trying to find a turbot.
These really are annoying.
All in all it was going well, I was on 7 species, Joe and a Rich were catching mackerel and scad and despite me naievly not sticking it out and fishing for mackerel I was happy although this was a decision i'd later regret.
We decided to head West to see the rest of daylight in another spot, specific venue knowledge and watercraft gained from years of fishing is undeniably crucial in putting together good hauls of species in these events, making solid decisions to move also plat a big part.
The move paid off for all, I added more species as did Rich and Joe with Rich benefitting from a lovely bonus plaice, his first ever of the species.
First up for me was a corkwing wrasse followed by a goldsinney wrasse and then finally a tompot blenny.
'If I get to 15 by midnight I'll be happy'
I never went into CLF with a target of winning, I feel local knowledge is massive in this and I was lacking in confidence with the rarer species as I'd had so long out but I wanted to hit a personal target of 20, I knew if I got to 15 by midnight I'd be well on track for that target.
I peeled off to check into my hotel, linked up with Matt Drake and started the evening session.
When I arrived to Fowey the evening destination of choice it was pitch black, we bumped into Josh Fletcher, Johnny Lerfer, Will Pender fishing for small flatfish, Rich Salter, Ben Bassett, Joe Mole, Danny and Matt were also around somewhere- the quality of angler around was off the scale and it was set to be a great evening.
Focusing on my own fishing I quickly ticked off the bass, scad and pollock
The bass evaded a few of the lads but I had experienced this already in August on this spot and had a trick which saw me catch one quickly, it involved fishing a 2" Keitech Easy Shiner on a 0.5g jighead quickly just below the surface, getting more than one bass chasing was key here.
Last up was the pollock, these were a pain.
We changed spots and I ticked off another two with a thumping bite off a scorpion fish which was followed by a few more and then a poor cod.
15 species by midnight, I was happy with that return.
We changed spot again and I managed to catch a pouting after a few words with a drunk local who wasn't too happy with us.
I'd had enough by this point so headed back to the hotel for a sleep.
Whilst I was sleeping Drakey nabbed a topknot, his second in a month after never catching one before, well done Matt.
Saturday - South Coast
We woke around 7am, I headed to the first mark in search of garfish and mackerel, there was little to no wind, the sea was beautiful, after a coffee we started to fish.
The technique for garfish was simple, fish metals high in the water and get them competing for it, I quickly lost one, the tell tail pull and roll on the surface letting me know it was a gar, a couple of casts later i catch my fish and tick off this hard to find species, I tried again for mackerel but couldn't find any so cut my losses and headed to Mevagissey for a ballan wrasse and a dragonet.
The tactic for the dragonet was simple, a 2g Tungsten Cheb, a small hook holding the larger worm and a Tanago hook holding a small 2-3mm piece of Isome.
Next target was a ballan wrasse, a quick re-rig to a Texas rig constructed of a 3g Tungsten Bullet Weight, Nogales Light Game size 4 weedless hook and 2" piece of Gulp! Camo, this rig is absolutely irresistible for wrasse and I had a bite instantly followed by another which I hooked and landed.
From here my lack of sleep, lack of studying the tides and general exhaustion meant I made some odd calls.
We went to a beach to fish the rock pools for montagu blennies to find it under water so we headed north to Newquay.
The Mackerel and the Seal
I arrived at Newquay and focused in on getting the mackerel i so desperately needed, we bumped into Ben Bassett and had a nice catch up but I'd got my eye on the fish and really wanted to get it done whilst we had the tide, long story short Matt had one, Ben one, the lads throwing feathers had one or two but also the seal had a few.
I cast behind where Matt had had one, hooked a fish and gingerly reeled it in, mid way back to me I saw this big dark shadow appear, assuming shark or something else I was quite nervous, I needed to be as no sooner i saw it the bloody thing was on my mackerel.
A fight ensued as it stripped line before it let go, it had managed to chew down to the fishes gill and left me with just the head.
Not long after I hooked another and it suffered the same fate only this time it took the lure with it.
If ever there were an endorsement for the Major Craft 0-15g Aji Do, 12lb Dangan X4 braid and 10lb leader though!
I fished on but as the tide ebbed more seals arrived and the fish moved on, I never managed my mackerel after all that.
From here we returned to another north shore harbour.
We arrived early in anticipation of whiting, whilst mooching around I noticed a red mullet grazing on algae, I'm familiar with the shape and feeding habits from fishing in Crete for them, i knew just how to tempt one so set about doing it.
I fished in the same way I did for the dragonet but this time with the lightest weight.
It wasn't long until I found a shoal of them, I encouraged one off the wall and hooked it immediately, the realisation set in, I whipped it up without reeling but Matt wasn't paying attention as he was rigging up, my line wrapped around his rod 3 times with the tip and the fish flew off, back into the water with my hopes.
By this time we'd garnered a lot of attention and had quite a crowd watching, I lay down on the harbour side trying to coax another fish, it wasn't long until I'd hooked another, I whipped this up again and as I went to grab hold of the fish it managed to roll the hook and plop back in. My heart was broken by this point.
After sharing my woe with anyone who'd listen I went again and managed to hook a fish that stayed on, I cheered, the onlookers cheered and I punched the air in delight. My first UK Red Mullet was landed.
The rest of the day was bizarre and a bit of a blur, I spent 3-4 hours trying to convince 4 topknots that I'd found to bite, I fished for turbot and saw two but couldn't trick and we'd driven for 2 hours to try and trick some eels in a tidal pool we knew, before you knew it I was back at the hotel, it was 3am.
Final Day Rues and Blues
The final day went too quick, I got to Newquay for a final shot of the mackerel and instantly realised I'd messed up, the tide was ebbing fast, I spent a while chasing two turbot that id seen and toyed with the idea of a LONG south coast jaunt for a banker mullet or rockpooling for a montagu's or other species. I messed up here, I done neither as I couldn't face the drive or the walk so went back to chasing turbot a decision that ultimately cost me at the end.
I headed back to Wadebridge about 11am, grabbed a coffee and waited for the lads to come back.
Once in the shop we shared tales of lost fish, wrong decisions, epic successes and perused the tackle on offer.
After some frantic counting, re-counting and photo sharing the results were revealed.
It came with no surprise that Will Pender knocked it out the park with 25 species, his final day rock pooling setting him apart from the rest of the field.
Joe Mole aka Mr Gurnard came in second with 21 species but had a more exotic species tally than mine and i narrowly pipped Rich Salter to 3rd with 21 species.
I'm also claiming best visitor although due to fewer entries I think I was only
competing against 5 from outside Devon and Cornwall.
The quality of angler who attended was right up there with the very best and whilst this was a social event more than anything competition was still there and I think it's testament to the people present that we managed to put together such high tallies with each angler pushed to find something else with great efficiency each time they heard of another catching something that they hadn't got.
Efficiency is a key takeaway, it's ok knowing something is there, catching it as quickly as possible is another thing, the tides, the distance between marks and the weather all being huge factors in being successful and that's not to mention luck. I love the challenge of it and I'm happy with my return although I already know how I could've done better, food for thought if we get to fish this format again!
Thanks to Ben for putting the event on, big shout out to Rich, Ben, Joe, Matt D, Matt B, Danny, Johnny, Josh and anyone else who fished, was amazing to see you all.
Until next time!