Forces Carp Classic 2017

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This years Forces Carp Classic has recently taken place at Abbey lakes in France and by all accounts it was a record breaking trip for all anglers concerned.  We have supported the event for the last few years and decided to speak to one of the organisers, Tim Gray, to get all of the details about this years event.

So Tim what is the Forces Carp Classic all about and how did it go this year?

The FCC its a weeks competition held at Abbey lakes in France for all Serving, Ex-Serving members of all three Armed Forces & Emergency Services.  It’s held every October and has been running since 2009, although originally the first event started slightly earlier back to 2001.  In 2008 I joined up with Russ and created the Forces Carp Classic, which has run every year since.  The event ended up being a fantastic week and broke all of our records, but at the start of the week it didn’t look good and the going was extremely slow.  In fact the only lake that was really performing well and producing some great fish was Heron.

So its grown over the years then has it?

Oh yes absolutely!  We started back in 2009 at Abbey on just one lake and 12 x pairs, so that’s 24 anglers.  We now take over the entire complex and have done for the last five years, we fish all five of their lakes, with the event catering for 50 x pairs that’s 100 anglers.

You hold it at Abbey Lakes, correct? A very special place and has some stunning fish, that’s correct Tim Yes?

Yes it is and we can’t thank Sebastian and his Staff enough, they really do look after us very well.  We only signed a contract with them for 3 years back in late 2008, so that’s 2009, 2010 & 2011 but as you can see we are still going strong.  The venue really is awesome and the fish stocks, well they truly are just like UK fish – but way bigger!  We are booked well in advance now so we will be there for a few more years yet as well.  It just suits the event & competition so well, the anglers love the big fish, we love the facilities and respect we get from Abbey, its just a win win on all fronts.  A massive shout out to Abbey – Cheers guys but especially Steve & Sam.

Wow that’s great but 100 anglers at one competition, I bet that takes some organising?

Yes indeed it does, Russ Marsh (my co-organiser) and myself will have already started planning for the next event as this one finishes, it’s a full years’ worth of work especially as it’s not our main day to day job.  We do all of this in our spare time, which is a big commitment.  In fact next years event is our 10th Anniversary event and planning for that has been going on for the past 10 months as we want to make this an extra special event.

We will talk a bit about the event next year later, but what happened this year? So tell us more Tim?

Of course, the guys & girls all gathered at Abbey on the Saturday afternoon to register and walk the lakes.  We encourage that as there is quite a bit of water to look around all five lakes.  Then it was on to the BBQ and a few drinks in the early Saturday evening, the food was excellent and cooked and served by the Abbey staff, with many people saying what a great feast they’d had.  Normally there is quite a bit of social interaction especially with the Armed Forces, but this years was very quiet and most were in bed at midnight – which is highly unusually!

All anglers were up nice and early on Sunday morning though for coffee and breakfast rolls and another walk around the lakes then all back for the group photo, briefing and then the dreaded draw. 

That’s a big draw for lots of anglers, any problems?

No not this year thankfully.  Its for me, the worst time, despite checking, re-checking and re-checking again (with witnesses) I still worry about every pair and every ball within those two bags.  There is nothing worse than being last out of the draw and your ball isn’t called.!  That would be a disaster for any organiser and something we don’t ever want to happen to us.  Unfortunately, sadly someone has to be last and this year it was a pair of anglers from Germany, Ex-Forces guys Simon & Jim.  I did feel really sorry for them, especially as it was their first visit to the event but hopefully they’ll do better in the next draw.

Its then off to the swims is it?

Yep that’s right.  After the draw its off to the swims, we did have a slight delay this year, as we have two guys from BLESMA and they needed to check their swim for suitability, so they shot off to have a quick look before returning.

Please explain Tim? And what is BLESMA?

Yeah sorry I should have said, our event raises money for two charities, GOSH – Great Ormond Street Hospital & BLESMA – British Limbless Ex-Serviceman Association.  For the last three years we have had a pair of guys from BLESMA – Roger & Kelvin come over and fish the event.  Both have suffered lower leg amputations and have artificial legs, a truly pair of great guys, always laughing and full of beans.  They never ask for any special treatment, in fact they just want to join in with the lads but sometimes we just need to check that due to their situation they can actually fish the swim.

That’s amazing Tim and excellent of all the guys to be so supportive of them.  I have met similar Ex-soldiers through other charities and that’s really something that I detected “a never say never attitude, no task too big, too small or big enough to stop us”. Please carry on.

Yeah they are great guys and don’t want anything special, all of our lads know where they are coming from.  Many of our anglers have lost friends & colleagues in various places and conflicts all around the world and they are just pleased Roger & Kelvin are there with them.

Anyway back to the fishing and all anglers eventually went out to their swims and started setting up.  With no major problems or boundary checks.! It was all ready for the off at 1300hrs. The hooter sounded and off they went with rods cast out.  The first fish can normally be quite quick as the water has been rested for 24hrs but it took until 1540hrs some nearly 3hrs before we got a call “Fish on the bank – Peg 40” from Kingfisher.

That call Tim “Fish on the bank – Peg 40” is that what the pairs do to let you know they have a fish?

Yes that’s right we have hand held radios which we give out to the pairs (if they don’t have any) and they give either Russ or myself a call depending on who’s “on duty”.

On Duty? What are you on about here Tim?

Yes sorry another Army term coming in.!  Both Russ and myself work 24hrs on, 18hrs off once the competition has started.  Only we weigh in all of the fish caught, that way the guys know 100% that all fish weights are correct and there is nothing untoward going on.  We also only use our scales so there is no discrepancy.  Our scales are serviced every year by Reuben Heaton, so the fished weighed are accurate, cheers Andy Race.

Wow that’s some effort you both put in there, 24 on - 24 off.  It must be hard work?

Yes it is but we are used to it now after so long and have a great system plus we work well together.  This year we were helped by having our own Admin Team – Roger, Dad, Dave, Zippy & Huggy.  They massively helped this year and made the event a lot easier for us, cheers guys.

Now you’ve got me!!, the Admin Team who’s Dad?

(Lots of laughs) Yes sorry that’ll be my Dad, Michael Wright, he’s been coming to the last four events, although missed last year due to bad health and everyone, all the anglers plus the Admin Staff, they all call him “dad” it sort of stuck.  He loves it and helps out in as many ways as possible, he’s not been in the greatest of health (although better now) so uses the event to have a rest, walk the lakes and get to know people, he just loves it.  He’s warmly welcomed by the lads which Id like to thank all the lads for and its fantastic, although I need to watch for all the “alcohol” stops the guys give him lol…

That’s fantastic.  You’ve given us some great info on the background of the event Tim, thanks, but what happened then this year?

After the wait for the first fish, it started off steady not impressive but steady and by the end of the day we’d had 16 fish caught with quite a few coming from Heron & Peg 17 – Jason & Jack who were on fire.!  Well Jack was he was having all the bites and fish from an area to the right of their swim, with nearly all the fish coming off one rod.  As we went into Monday it was clear that these were going to be the pair to catch.  Another peg on Wildboar where doing well but whilst Jack was having 30 & 40lbrs they,  on Peg 45 – Anthony & Ralph were also having a few fish but much lower weights at 15 – 25lb region.  They would certainly need a fair few of these if they were going to trouble Jason & Jack on Peg 17.

By the time Monday rolled into Tuesday both pairs were pulling away from the rest and sadly the normally prolific “kingfisher” was just not producing.  Well in a sense it was but just catfish and not carp we had 8 cats out to a best so far of some 88lbs, babies for in there but they did seem very active to say the least.

As is always the case another day rolled into the next with us waking up on Wednesday to a series of fish right up until the break.  As the horn sounded the anglers had caught 95 carp with many from Wildboar, Heron & Fox.  The others Kingfisher & Attila really weren’t fishing very well at all, I think if I remember correctly by the time the break came Kingy had only had 5 x carp caught from it and to be honest Attila wasn’t much better.  But hopefully the break would do them both good and the anglers luck would start to turn in our favour.

You mentioned a break, what’s that for?

We brought the break in very early on in the competition as it helps with many things, not least it gives a chance that some fish may move around that may have been cornered or being caught from one particular swim.  It also gives us a chance to let the anglers go shopping, have a break, a sleep and meet up at HQ for the “big” raffle, BBQ & fundraiser for GOSH & BLESMA.  We normally have a break for 5 hours but this year decided to extend that slightly to 7 hours just to see if it made any difference.  Which it massively did as after the break it went nuts, but more of that later.

So how did the raffle & BBQ go then?

The pause went really quick as we also had a few “games” for the anglers to play (Casting Accuracy, Boilie throwing & Stick wrapping) to help raise even more money.  The food was great again and in the true spirit of things the guys throw themselves at the games & raffle.

We have to at this point “massively thank” NASH Tackle as they donate the big raffle prizes each year and have done for some time.  We wouldn’t raise as much if the prizes weren’t of a decent amount & quality, so thank you.  In total we raised £8,046.00 to be split between the two charities, so thanks guys excellent work.

Wow that’s great news and well done to everyone.!! Where there any other Prizes?

 Yes that’s correct we have a Prize for the “Most Charity Money Raised” as well as all the other goodies.  This year the winner was Mark Ashmore who raised just over £2,000.00 himself and wins a fantastic holiday for two at Moorlands Fishery in France.  Once again Keith Moors has helped us out with this prize so many thanks to him and all at Moorlands.

Did any other companies help you out?

Yes they did and again a massive set of thanks to all that helped us out, I can’t really list everyone but from yourselves here at Carpworld, Wass tackle to Tackle Box and Sticky baits to Pilgrim Baits you know who you are and thank you.

Sounds like you get some massive support for the event?

Yes we do and we’d like to thank every one of our supporters and companies that have donated over the years.  We have shy’d away from larger companies simply because we want the event to still be Russ & mine and not the Forces Carp Classic – sponsored by X or Y or Z.  We’ve had many an offer but we believe we keep it more personnel by doing it our way.  Its shown to be hugely successful this way and we are happy because if we need to change the event “we” can as its ours to change if we want to.

I can understand that Tim, and well done to you both.  So when do the guys & girls get back to fishing?

After all the shenanigans were over we re-started the competition at 1800hrs, we normally find that straight after the pause is really busy and once again it was exactly that way. Before midnight we had a further 9 fish, then for Thursday a total of 52 fish were caught.  In fact swims on Heron, Fox, Wildboar and finally Kingfisher just started to catch hand over fist..!! 

Was it all still tight at the top? What was happening there?

By the time Friday arrived there were really only three swims in it for the “Overall” title, Peg 17 on Heron, Peg 28 on Fox and Peg 45 on Wildboar.  The guys on Fox - Sam & Rich, had really took off, over the past 48 hrs pulling in some great fish with a couple of double runs but they had a long hill to climb.  The guys on Heron Jason & Jack were having a great session and landing some huge fish but had only really just started again after the dry spell in the middle of the week.  It was Anthony & Ralph who’d been steady all week that were out front and still setting the pace to all to catch them.  A further 39 fish were added on Friday taking the anglers to over 200 fish for the week, a truly awesome figure.  The only target left for Peg 45 was the magical 1000lb mark, could they do it none of our previous events had but we’d come close back in 2012 – Peg 40 on Kingfisher so the record to beat was 939lbs 15ozs for 30 fish, set then by Carl & Glenn.

So Tim it was still very busy for Russ & you right up until the end?  How do you do it?, you must both be really tired after a full week?

Yes it was and although the overall prize was being run away with the individual lakes were all still very close with plenty of trophies & prize money still available for all.  As for Russ & I well we’re used to it by now and have a great system we use.  It is very tiring but seeing all those fish and new PBs – those smiles just makes it all worth it.  We we’re helped massively this year by our Admin Team & we’d both like to thank them all.  It certainly eased the pressure on us knowing that, Zippy, Huggy, Dad, Dave and Roger were back at the admin area sorting everything else out for us. Cheers guys.

 So its all finished off then, what were the final totals & Results?

It really did end up being a fantastic year with all (well nearly) of our records broken, which is fantastic angling to all those that attended.  The final stats were:

Total Fish:  215 (new record), Total Weight:  6,179:08 (new record), 149 Mirrors / 66 Common and 11 cats to 118lbs.  The guys caught 215 fish broken down into – 59 x others, 59 x 20lbs, 57 x 30lbs, 27 x 40lbs, 12 x 50lbs and 1 x 60lbs.

The Lake Positions were as follows:


The Overall Teams positions were as follows:

3rd  KES – Sam / Richard / Les / Tony with 452.13

2nd RNRMAA 1 – Jason / Jack / Nick / Callum with 453.05

1st  Carpaholics Anonymous – Matt / Kevin / Anthony / Ralph with 1,325.12 (new record)

The Overall Pairs positions were as follows:

3rd Place – Sam Fisher & Richard Dust with 12 fish for 452.13 (fox)

2nd Place – Jason Beynon & Lee Horner with 13 fish for 453.05 (heron)

But FCC Champions for the year 2017 are:

1st Place – Anthony Fox & Ralph Reedy with 44 fish for 965.07 (wildboar) New Record..!!

Wow Tim that’s a massive haul of fish for the guys, and some terrific new records both you & Russ must be very happy?

Yes we are it takes lots of hard work but the anglers really do make it and each year is so different.  If you’d asked me at the start of the week how it was going to go I think both of us would of said, slowly..!!!!  But as always fishing never ceases to amaze us all and we have broken all our standing records since 2009.  The only record to break now is can anyone break through the 1000lb mark, we shall see?

That’s great news and now guys, what’s in the future?

Well firstly Russ & I will take a long hard break and catch up with some much deserved sleep.  Sadly then its back to work for both of us and our 9-5 jobs.  We’ve already been planning for our next event in Oct 2018 as its our 10th Anniversary one, so we shall keep going all through the year with our plans to make that event really one you don’t want to miss.

You mentioned at the start Tim that there are some differences next year, what are they?

By way of a “thank-you” to all those anglers that have supported us in the past nine years we are ‘inviting’ anglers to attend next years event, and that’s only by invitation can anyone fish next year.  We also are very proud to say that we have 98% of ALL the Winners from past years coming back to fish next year.  They will also fish the “Champions of Champions” event inside the normal event and that shows terrific support, which we are very pleased about.

Also once all anglers have either accepted or not the invitation to fish next year we will be holding a Reserve List as per normal.  But there are lots of things planned for next year so we hope you’ll all enjoy it. 

That’s been really great, but is there any way to contact you etc to find out more details?

Yes please do contact us via email at or via Facebook – Forces Carp Classic (FCC), please be careful there as there is also a different but very close site to ours, via Twitter & Instagram just search for forcescarpclass.

There’s just two thing’s Id like to add and that’s to all of our Sponsors / Supporters.  A massive thank-you because without you we would have the event we do have.  Thank you seems so small a word but from all of us here at the FCC & Admin team – Thank you.

And secondly to Dave Hill – Photographer who did a fantastic job with many of the pictures you see, we are definitely booking him for next year, cheers Dave.  You can find him on Instrgram on dave_hill9 if you need a fantastic photographer, he’s your man and comes “highly” recommended.

Well thanks Tim & Russ of course for a great insight into what is a truly magnificent event & the work these two guys do is amazing.  Well done to the anglers for raising a staggering amount of money for Charity – GOSH & BLESMA. 

 Tight lines and remember if you are Forces or Ex, Emergency Services or Ex then get in touch with these guys & fish the event.  I can assure you, you will not be disappointed.

Thank you’s:

Abbey Lakes, NASH Tackle, Wass Tackle, Moorlands Fishery, Carpworld, Tackle Box, Pilgrim Baits, Sticky Baits, Solar Baits, VR Baits and Dave Hill – Photography.

FCC Pairs Champions Anthony Fox and Ralph Reedy.

FCC Pairs Champions Anthony Fox and Ralph Reedy.

Team winners - Carpaholics

Team winners - Carpaholics

Admin Team - L-R Dave, Tim, Huggy, Dad, Roger, Russ, Zippy

Admin Team - L-R Dave, Tim, Huggy, Dad, Roger, Russ, Zippy

Group Shot

Group Shot



Mick Clifford