Fishing: David Cooper enjoys spectacular end to 2022 with big win in St Serfs Xmas Open

David Cooper has enjoyed a spectacular end to 2022 with a big win in the St Serfs Xmas Open, beating a field of 131 other anglers, and four first place finishes in the inaugural Edinburgh Winter Shore League.
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The self-employed, Edinburgh-based painter and decorator pocketed £200 with two fish weighing 8lb 2oz in the St Serfs Open between St Monans and St Andrews in wild conditions. That success followed four wins in five legs in the Edinburgh-based league. His great run started on Portobello Beach in leg one in late October when he landed seven fish on an ebb tide in calm conditions.

The eight-leg competition moved onto the Western Harbour at Newhaven and Cooper landed 29 counting fish despite difficult, slippery conditions underfoot on the breakwater. Leg four saw Cooper triumph again, this time back at Portobello Beach where he again landed seven fish and he followed that up with four fish in leg five when the circuit moved to Marine Esplanade at Seafield on a freezing night. Arbroath-based Stewart Falconer, incidentally, was second with three fish and Chris Cooper, David's brother, third also with three fish.

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Barry McEwan, who made his debut for Scotland this summer, tempted the longest fish, a 32cm flounder in flat calm conditions where codling, coalfish, dab, flounder, blenny, whiting and rockling were hooked.

David Cooper, winner of the St Serfs Open and leader in the Edinburgh Winter Shore League, with cod. ContributedDavid Cooper, winner of the St Serfs Open and leader in the Edinburgh Winter Shore League, with cod. Contributed
David Cooper, winner of the St Serfs Open and leader in the Edinburgh Winter Shore League, with cod. Contributed

Cooper led the race into leg six with 39 points with his brother. Chris second on 24 points, Steven Barrett third on 23, Stevie Souter fourth with 18, Mike Kyle fifth on 16, Stuart Falconer sixth also on 16 points. The remaining

places are: 7, Stevie Burns 15; 8, Ryan Venters 14; 9, Chris Barrett 13; 10, Gordon Lyall 12.

The in-form angler puts his recent success down to one word, preparation and that's not just with rigs but also with bait, a commodity he procures himself. The tradesman, who runs D C Decorating from the East of the Capital city, catches his own mackerel during the summer and ensures that it is frozen as quickly as possible. He also digs his own lugworm and collects razor clam, peeler crab and mussels from around the coastline to ensure that his bait is really fresh.

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The 36-year-old also has contacts in the trawler industry and he collects squid from fishermen in the Forth. Cooper also spends two to three hours several nights a week making rigs to suit various conditions, giving him options on style and hook size at each venue. For example, he fished Portobello Beach in round one of the Edinburgh Winter series in flat calm. The conditions on the Fife coast for the St Serfs were wild and Cooper and his brother Chris walked for nearly 1.5miles along the wind-lashed shore before they found a likely spot.

Barry McEwan unhooking on Dunbar Harbour. By Nigel DuncanBarry McEwan unhooking on Dunbar Harbour. By Nigel Duncan
Barry McEwan unhooking on Dunbar Harbour. By Nigel Duncan

He said: "The coast was being hit by a big swell with 6ft to 7ft waves, but I knew what I was looking for. We eventually found a spot where the swell was about 2ft and it was much calmer, but the food was still holding in the spot." The tactic worked.

Brother Chris is just getting into match fishing and this was his first really big competition and David said: "We were around 30 yards apart during the match and he finished eighth overall with a bag of 5lb 6oz. That's a result."

Cooper does not seek the limelight, preferring to get on with his fishing without fuss, but he used a cocktail of peeler crab, mussels and lugworm to tempt his big fish, a 6lb cod which arrived within the first ten minutes of his first cast in the Open. His bag of two fish totalled 8lb 2oz overall and he was only 6oz off the heaviest fish prize of £1,250 won by Fife-based Rab Gallacher, a member of Scotland's world championship winning team in 1998.

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Lothians-based Cooper said: "I won the heaviest fish prize at the Amble Open in Northumberland in 2018 with around 400 competitors and would have loved to have won the St Serfs heaviest prize award." Next year, perhaps.

He added: "Preparation is the crucial factor for me. I do everything I can to make sure that I have everything I need. Some anglers make their bait up beforehand and re-freeze it, but I feel that the bait losses some scent. I make mine on the day at the location so everything is as fresh as it can be and the process is working for me right now."

The popular Amble Open in Northumberland on January 8 from 8am to noon is in his diary and it is the 45th running of the event hosted by Amble Sea Fishing Club. The entry is £12 for all classes with a heaviest bag prize of £500, heaviest fish £500 and heaviest flatfish £150.

There is also a ladies and juniors prize and a prize find of £6,000 and the boundaries are the south side of Seahouses Harbour to Cambois Pier with registration at local tackle shops from January 2 and from 6.45am on January 8 at the Radcliffe Club, Charles Road, Amble NE65 0RA or telephone 07584 251 241.

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David, whose father is a keen boat fisherman, said: "Dad goes for the bigger fish, not the smaller stuff that I catch in matches, but I go all over to fish and gain experience. I've been to Wales and Cumbria recently and match fishing is the only way to learn."

Meanwhile, Scottish international Barry McEwan won the annual Christmas Hamper match hosted by the Bass Rock Shore Angling League. Sadly, fishing was poor for the entrants who all fished the harbour wall at Dunbar and tempted loads of under-sized coalfish who hammered the bait.

Only McEwan from Port Seton weighed in two fish for 1lb 8oz, a codling and rockling, and he won both hampers, one of the heaviest fish and the other for the heaviest bag. Generous McEwan, a self-employed carpet fitter, shared out the second hamper to all anglers so everybody went home with something on the night. Round seven will be on January 4 at a venue to decided.

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