THE season’s biggest barbel so far has come out at a stonking 19 lb 4 oz to the same angler who caught the same fish on the first night of the season at 18 lb.

Publican Gary Johnson who runs the Black Horse pub in Nassington, Northamptonshire, spent many hours over four days watching and pre-baiting before finally tempting the huge whisker again from a local stretch of the River Nene.

The 50-year-old told Angler’s Mail: “I was working the morning shift at the pub then going down at night to pre-bait with a bait dropper and fish in the afternoon/evening if the swim wasn’t already taken, which on a couple of occasions it was.

“The fish was very wary and I had to try all different kinds of rigs and set ups before I eventually succeeded in tempting her using a secret bait specially mixed by John Baker.

“I also had to make sure that the road tip was hardly protruding beyond the edge of the bank.

“I would see the fish in the swim then introduce some free offerings which it would take and then leave before I introduced a rig with some more baits in a PVA bag.

“I saw her reject the baited hook on several occasions and I eventually went down to a size 16 which I had never used for barbel fishing before.

“There were so many hungry roach and dace in the swim though attacking my bait that I used an old trick from my carp fishing days of wrapping the boilie in a piece of stocking which is the same colour as the bait.

“This seems to deter the small, silver fish but doesn’t put off the barbel from taking it.

“My Mrs sometimes wonders why I have so many stockings in my kit bag but knows I have only time for the barbel.

“When I caught the same fish on opening night she was empty and I predicted she could go much bigger later in the year.

“There is still time for her to pack on more weight and its just possible she could one day break the UK record. She is a truly beautiful fish,” he concluded.

Gary’s catch was featured on the hallowed Fish of the Week page of Angler’s Mail magazine, also winning him £100 of top tackle from Korum via the magazine’s Korum Specimen Cup.

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