When you get an invite to go to China, you’ve got to take it right?
Last year I didn’t. The invite was very last minute. It turned out I was in Holland the day before I needed to be in China, I was gutted.
This year I was ready, but wasn’t sure I would get a second chance.
Then it happened, two weeks before I headed off to the Hobie Fishing Euro’s in France. The email arrived and the panic set in. I needed a visa, but to get the visa I needed a flight booked, official invite, address of hotel, name of sponsor, sponsors ID card, oh and 10 days before I could get an appointment with the Chinese Embassy, there were 3 days of Chinese public holidays inbetween.
Never panic, it will all work out in the end if you chuck enough money at it. Visa arrived in 3 days. Hobie Euro’s complete, 2 days back at work and then I was on a plane with my team mate Ian Harris, heading for Hong Kong, then onto Chengdu.
At arrivals we were greeted by Sam who had been kind enough to invite us. The Swedes Lars and Manuel arrived on the next flight from Shangha, Team Europe was complete and we were on our way to Shengzhong for the Shengzhong Kayak Fishing Open Championship.
Team Europe was part of a larger International Team with players (competitors) from Australia, New Zealand, Phillipines, and Malaysia, 10 of us in all. There was also a team of 60 Chinese kayak fishermen who were keen to win some of the $50 USD prize money.
The opening ceremony was amazing, our kayak fishing competition was part of a much larger fishing tournament with 1000 competitors. Visitors had been pouring into the waterside ampitheatre all day. When we arrived to walk down to our seats just behind all the dignitaries we were greeted by 20,000+ spectators, this was just crazy.
Prefish came and went. We found fish on our finders, marked them and moved on, had a few bites but no fish.
Day one of the competition was a bit of a disaster for me, I was suffering with heatstroke or exhaustion, two weeks on the road had I think, taken their toll. I woke from three sleeps. Bit of a shock when your out in a kayak. Thankfully I was in a Hobie ProAngler which is very stable. A couple of bites was all the fish interest I had.
At this point I should say that each kayak had a live feed to a Chinese Fishing Channel. We were live on Chinese TV, all day during the week of the competitions… hope they didn’t go over to David Morris from Team Europe!
Back on shore we heard that a few catfish had been caught. A big surprise to everyone, two of them were caught by Ma Xiaohong of China. Think we might be going to have a new champion!
Every afternoon since our arrival we ventured into town to visit the tackle shops. The Chinese people were lovely. Always happy to see you, very chatty and always offered you a cigarette, none of them spoke any English however loud and slow you spoke to them and none of us smoked! Communication was fun to say the least, but we managed well with the three Chinese phrases that we knew, one which meant hello, another cold beer, and the third bye bye!
Day two of the comp was much better for me. First hook up was somebodies old rod and reel.
After a short shower with me wrapped up in my Bora cag, I struck into the first of two cement sacks both of which were taken to shallow water before releasing unharmed. Finally I hooked into my first Red Tail Coulter, I was on the scoreboard. About 30 minutes later another Coulter, this time a top mouth, sadly 2cm short so had to go back unregistered. Then a third fish, some kind of bream, again not on the list of fish. Then at 10:30 the fish stopped biting.
Back at the launch I took my live well and fish to the weigh-in, 27g, was that it! At least I hadn’t fallen asleep.
Lars and Ian had both had their full quoter of 5 fish and Manuel had skunked.
Another trip to the tackle shop was in order!
Next day was the awards ceremony… Lars had managed 10th place and $1500 USD prize money, he was made up. The Australian’s had 3 in the top 10, taking 2nd and 3rd places, the Americans had 1 in 5th and NZ had 2 in the top 10, the rest were Chinese competitors including Ma Xiaohong who not only won the tournament overall, he also won heaviest fish and was $15,000 USD better off!
That was it for us all, heading back to Chengdu that night, put up in a first class hotel not far from the airport… first stop was Burger King mind. We had all eaten well in Shengzhong, but we all missed a beef burger, although none of us got what we asked for and ended up with a chicken burger!