26 years ago big commons were thin on the ground, so teenager Damian Clarke’s capture of the Snake Pit Common in 1991 set the big-carp grapevine buzzing.
- Rods: Daiwa 12ft AKN12H Amorphous 2.75lb test curve
- Reels: Daiwa SS3000
- Line: 11lb Sylcast
- Hooks: Size 6 Drennan Boilie hooks
- Hooklink: 25lb Nash Gamma Braid
- Bait: Mainline fishmeal pop-up
THIS week we take a look back to June 1991, when an unassuming 19-year-old Colchester lad hit the headlines by landing the country’s biggest authenticated common carp.
Although relatively unknown at the time, the angler in question was none other than Damian Clarke – now operations director at tackle giant Korda – and the 45lb 12oz carp he landed was the Snake Pit Common, a fish which would later be targeted by many of the biggest names in carp angling.
Damian caught the iconic fish on his second season at the rock-hard Essex venue, having landed just one fish (weighing 31lb 4oz) during his first.
Prior to beginning his second campaign, Damian spotted his target fish during several closed-season scouting trips, and at the time thought it looked a lot bigger than the 41lb 8oz it recorded at its last known capture almost two years earlier.
Damian blanked on his first night of the new season, but after doing several laps of the lake the following morning he found the big common basking just under the surface in an area known as the ‘car park snags’.
He predicted that the fish would ultimately head over to the heavily weeded area to the right of the snags, but with two anglers already set up close by, Damian was forced to wait until the following day to move into the swim nearest to the spot.
Once plotted up, he plumbed the water out in front and found a weed-free gravel area to present his baits over.
He then fired out 100 Zenon Bojko Liver and Marine Mix boilies to cover the spot.
Putting the same baits on his size 6 Drennan Boilie hooks, he cast out a pair of helicopter rigs complete with 3oz leads to the baited area.
At 11pm a short bleep on one of his alarms signalled a take, and Damian immediately struck into a heavy fish.
When the carp became embedded in a weedbed, Damian climbed the high bank behind him to exert maximum pressure from above. After his initial efforts failed to move the fish, he then chose a different approach, as he explained to Angling Times a few days after the capture.
“I opted to give the fish a completely slack line,” said Damian. “I then held the line between my fingers and after what felt like a lifetime it twitched. I then closed the bail-arm on the reel and exerted as much pressure as I could.
“My heart was pounding in my chest as the fish rolled on the surface and I realised for the first time that my goal was in sight.”
The mighty fish measured 35ins from its nose to the fork of its tail, with a near 31-ins girth. It comfortably beat Dick Walker’s long-standing 44lb Redmire fish (caught way back in 1952) as the country’s biggest authenticated common.
Two years before Damain’s memorable capture, a common carp weighing 48lb had been reported by an angler called Martin Gay. However, with the captor refusing to name the venue and with no additional details forthcoming, the authorities had chosen not to recognise the fish.