After five months and 24 qualifiers, the Angling Trust RiverFest 2015 competition reached its climax as 72 anglers descended upon Hereford to compete for the title.
The prestigious final was held on Hereford & District Angling Association's stretch of the River Wye, with a prize pool of over £34,000 and a top prize of £12,000 up for grabs.
After months of low water the Wye received some welcome rain in the week leading up to the final, resulting in fluctuating levels right up to and including the weekend of the final.
As was the case in 2014, the forecast was showing heavy rain but conditions on Day One were good with 6ft showing on the gauge and the river carrying a little colour. Anglers were more concerned about water temperature which had dropped almost two degrees in the few days leading up to the final.
Tom Lane with his winner's trophy
Day One started and continued in constant rain and competitors soon adopted a variety of tactics with some opting to target bleak on whips while others searched for perch, dace or roach on running line and the pole.
The match length was split into A and B sections located above and below the old railway bridge. Catches were evenly split between both sections and it was Welsh International Lee Edwards who led the way after the first day with a weight of 23lb 9oz from peg 97 in B section.
Paul Hardy on peg 79 in B section and Simon Willsmore on peg 75 A section targeted bleak and weighed 21lb 7oz and 21lb 5oz respectively to finish second and third. Results showed that it was still an open competition as less than 6lb separated the top 10.
The heavy rain that fell to the west of the catchment on Saturday resulted in anglers being welcomed by a swollen and rising river on Day Two, which peaked at 11ft around mid-day. For many anglers this would mean a big fish day or bust while some anglers fished slack water close in.
A section provided the most reliable fishing in these conditions as 12 anglers recorded 10lb plus but it was peg 98 in B section that would provide the winner.
Tom Lane provided a scintillating performance that saw him storm through the field and rise from 62nd on Day One to first place by the close of play on Day Two to take the title of RiverFest Champion 2015 and a cheque for £12,000! The 24 year-old grandson of match fishing legend Billy Lane landed nine barbel weighing 43lb fishing lobworms or halibut pellets as hookbait with a 4oz feeder packed with 4mm halibut pellets as feed.
Ben Thompson, Angling Trust's Senior Competitions & Talent Manager, said: “Another fantastic final in challenging conditions and all credit to Tom for his fantastic performance after enduring a difficult first day and many congratulations to him.
"It was a close run thing as Richard Tomala on peg 41 could have sneaked it with a few more fish and Alistair Ogilvie continued his fine year with another excellent performance and result.
“The Angling Trust would like to thank all those who have contributed to RiverFest 2015 from the local organisers running qualifiers to Hereford & District Angling Association for hosting the final, match referee Tony Birt who did a fantastic job of officiating and our sponsors Thames Water, Severn Trent Water and Bait-Tech.”
Planning for RiverFest 2016 will begin soon and information will be available early in 2016.
1. Lee Edwards - 23lbs 9ozs
2. Paul Hardy - 21lbs 7ozs
3. Simon Wilsmore - 21lbs 5ozs
4. Frederick Prudham - 19lbs 6ozs
5. Clive Branson - 19lbs 5ozs
6. Bob Brown - 19lbs 3ozs
7. Richard Hoskins - 18lbs 12ozs
8. Richard Tomala - 18lbs 9ozs
9. Alistair Oglivie - 18lbs 2ozs
10. Ian Ward - 18lbs 0ozs
1. Tom Lane - 43lbs 0ozs
2. Richard Tomala 23lbs 7ozs
3. Alistair Oglivie - 18lbs 6ozs
4. John Summerson - 13lbs 2ozs
5. Ian Dawson - 12lbs 14ozs
6. Sean Ashby - 12lbs 7ozs
7. Michael Buchwalder - 12lbs 2ozs
8. Michael Haskell - 11lbs 9ozs
= Bob Brown - 11lbs 9ozs
10. Steve Maher - 11lbs 7ozs
1. Tom Lane - 44lbs 10ozs
2. Richard Tomala - 42lbs 0ozs
3. Alistair Oglivie - 36lbs 8ozs
4. Lee Edwards - 34lbs 8ozs
5. Bob Brown - 30lbs 12ozs
6. Michael Buchwalder - 29lbs 8ozs
7. Ian Ward - 29lbs 4ozs
8. Ian Dawson - 29lbs 2ozs
9. Richard Hoskins - 28lbs 15ozs
10. Simon Wilsmore - 28lbs 13ozs