John Holder wins East Anglian Pike Championship

Crystal clear waters and bright autumn sunshine penetrating the vast Weybread Ocean Pit, whose margins were decorated by white hoar frost, were not exactly ideal conditions facing keen competitors lining up for the East Anglian Pike Championship on Sunday.

But after seven hours of honest endeavour, Suffolk angler John Holder was crowned champion after landing three fish totalling 23lbs 9ozs to be awarded the John Farrow Memorial Cup and a cash prize of �250.

This was the sort of day when the green speckled monsters would be laying low, idly digesting their overnight fodder caught easily beneath the dim glow of a waning moon.

The champion in waiting, a builder by trade, realised he would need more than a trowel and brick approach to cement foundations of success and achieve the result of his dreams against some of the most formidable opposition from the pike angling world.

The 47-year-old enthusiast had finished runner up on the Swanton Morley Fishery in 2009, so close yet so far from lifting the title.

He set out his stall at peg number 98, opting to fish with popped up mini mackerel, otherwise known as joeys.

Three hours into the session he had weighed in two fish of around 8lbs apiece, but with Diss rod Paul Elvin at peg 101 also on two fish, including the biggest of the day scaling 11lbs 8ozs, Holder knew he needed another decent catch to seal his chances.

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That vital fish accepted the bait with just 10 minutes remaining on the clock.

He was home and dry, not knowing until the result was announced that he had narrowly beaten runner-up Darren Taylor of Diss, whose three fish total of 21lbs earned him �125, while Elvin's reward was �50 plus another �30 for the specimen.

Recalling the highlights of his eventful day, the 2012 champion said: 'I knew I had hit on the correct method when I caught my first fish, but even when I had another I knew I was trailing Paul Elvin and my third fish came in just before the final whistle.

'It was not until the results were announced that I realised Darren Taylor had been my main rival all along.'

And how would be spend his winnings? A romantic candlelit dinner with the wife perhaps?

'I showed my wife the trophy but not the cash, which I plan to spend on a new pike rod,' he smiled.

Steve Roberts, chairman of the organising Norwich and District Pike Club, said a number of competitors had called off because of sickness.

'Even so we had a fair turn out, conditions were not ideal but a satisfactory number of pike were weighed in.

'We thank John Lambert of Avenue Angling Tackle for his continued sponsorship of this important competition and all others for their generous assistance.'

On the more traditional match circuit, the first round of the Haddiscoe series was close fought, with only 9ozs separating the top three. Graham Binks (Angling Direct) won with 18lb 9oz.

In a clear River Wensum, dumped supermarket trolleys and bicycle frames were visible. Even so, winner of the Dukes Colin Sadler scaled 13lb 6oz, while Earlham Silvers' best was David Gooch with 13lbs 13ozs.

The Veterans' switch of venues from lakes to the Beccles moorings produced an exceptional 5lbs tench for winner Paul Manthorpe, otherwise it was small bream, perch and roach.

On the permit lakes, the top carp at Taswood were commons and mirrors in the lower 20s for Norwich regulars Guy Sherwood and Toby Smith. At Swangey, the fish of the week was a 30lbs pike witnessed and weighed by the fishery bailiff.

• The worrying decline of coarse fishing as a leading, working-class recreation appears to have taken another twist.

For some years this issue has been rumbling on but now a top angling boss has confirmed there is a direct link between the closure of local pubs and the export of manufacturing and service industries and the disbanding of angling clubs.

Tony Gibbons, the chairman of the Norwich and District Anglers Association, declared it was now beyond dispute that the loss of pubs and industrial works in East Anglia had resulted in the loss of dozens of angling clubs and that a dramatic fall in his association club affiliations proved it.

'My association had nearly 40 affiliated clubs and now there are just three. Pub and factories provided the hub for working people to gather together and form clubs.

'Because of this downward trend, fewer holiday anglers visit the Broads and the sales of our day permits to our river banks reflect this.'

He concluded: 'The days are gone when almost every vehicle entering Norfolk on a Saturday had fishing tackle strapped to the roof rack.'