Max Palmer is from Tackle Trader
Over the last 15 years coarse fishing has seen many changes, not just in the south west but as a whole. Match angling is no exception, in fact it has probably changed more than any other area of the sport, but why?
There are some things that will never change. Man versus fish for one and a competitive spirit and determination to do better than others is another. These two ingredients are the main reasons that match fishing continues to be so popular, from the grass roots club level right through to international level. The way matches are run has also changed little over the years. Booking your place, turning up on the day and signing in, paying pools, drawing pegs, fishing the match and gathering with great anticipation to await the results. These basics are, however, where any similarities between modern match fishing and the sport of old come to an end.
There are two major contributing factors to coarse angling that have brought about this change. Firstly, the emergence of heavily stocked commercial fisheries and secondly, the massive changes in the fishing tackle industry, fuelled by the rapid development in technology which have given todays fishermen a huge head start on anglers of just 15 years ago.
There is a general consensus that numbers of match anglers have declined over recent years, and many theories as to why. In truth, there has probably been a minor decline in terms of numbers. But with so many 'commercial' fisheries offering almost guaranteed sport, there are now maybe three times as many matches taking place each week, with far fewer anglers in each. Gone are the days where 'open' matches on our canals and rivers, saw weekly attendances of 100 plus, consisting of anglers from a wide area, all travelling to the same venue! If a comparison is possible, 80% of the anglers of today would split down into 4 matches of between 15 and 30 anglers on a familiar venue, that is generally a well stocked commercial, and that is much closer to home. Who can blame them!!
We are fortunate enough in the South West to have many such waters offering the kind of sport to which todays angler has become accustomed, the vast majority of which are present in this publication. With waters like Andy Seery's Stafford Moor, we also have a high quality match venue capable of holding events with 100 plus anglers and offering an incredible standard of angling at all times of the year! Something that the rivers and canals of our region, and other regions, simply cannot provide. Coupled with the changes in fishing habits and venues frequented, the quality and price of fishing tackle available today also has a major bearing on peoples attitudes towards match fishing. It is now an option for all anglers to obtain quality tackle at affordable prices, not least when it comes to poles. (although some poles can cost the equivalent of a decent car!!)
There are very few match anglers who do not own a pole. It is regarded as an essential part of a match anglers' armoury. Ten years ago, £200 worth of 10 or 11 metre pole resulted, for many, in a hernia or back ache! Today, for similar money, a fishable pole of 12 or 13 metres is widely available. This means the average match angler, using average priced tackle, is able to cope with 95% of match situations. In the past if you didn't break the bank, very often you where unable to compete. These facts mean that more anglers than ever before can enter matches in the knowledge that they have a chance, without being handicapped by inferior tackle and if, arguably the biggest factor in all fishing, LUCK decides to grace them on that given day, everyone can have their moment of glory.
I am positive that given the gradual decline of some of our natural waterways and canals, if it wasn't for the modern style of fishery, match fishing would have suffered a similar decline decline, and for myself and many others, that would be simply unthinkable. One thing is for certain. Getting up early on a Sunday morning, drawing a peg that you detest, giving 100% for the duration, regardless of the elements, and coming back week after week, sets a match angler apart as one of the most dedicated and enthusiastic participants of angling!
Man versus fish to the extreme?