I attended my first sea fishing match last weekend. I was excited but also nervous. What would it be like? How much space will I have? Would my casting be awful? Will I catch any fish at all? These are just some of the questions and worries that went through my head in the run up to the match. I wanted to experience a fishing match to see if it is something I might enjoy and whether I wish to take competitive fishing further or stick with what I know and love.
I did not want to attend the match being completely unfamiliar with what to do. Thinking of how far removed our usual style of fishing is – night time fishing with the beach virtually to ourselves, stress-free, unhurried, spotting shooting stars, putting the world to rights and hopefully catching a few fish along the way – I decided I was in need of some tips and so met up with the legendary Ian Golds, England International Shore Angler, for a lesson on match fishing.
Meeting up with Ian a week before the match, he went through the type of rigs I might need to make, bait preparation, baiting up, and other tips and tricks to improve speed and maximise the fishing time. He told me that with match fishing, it is about maximising the amount of time you have baits in the water; you won’t catch fish if you don’t have bait in the water. It is also about timing how long your baits stay in the water. If you are bringing in triple-shots of fish, then you can shorten the length of time you leave a rig out, but if you bring in only one or zero fish, then you can leave it a little longer. That may seem like common sense to experienced matchmen, but believe me to a newbie it was an invaluable tip! I made sure I took a watch to the match, as time flies when fishing and 15 minutes would pass in the blink of an eye.
The match I attended was the Bells of Hythe Sports Fishing Open, held on 8 December at Magazine Lane in Southampton . This match appealed to me as it was ‘catch and release’, which meant that you measured the length of the fish and had the angler next to you witness and sign your score card, then your fish was released back into the water. To me, this is a much more conservation-minded way of running a fishing match. In addition to this, the match had a restricted bait pack of ragworm, lug and a mackerel, so each competitor was fishing with the same bait.
There was time between registration and the start of the match to allow for gear to be set up and tested and bait and rigs prepared. I was a little slow setting up (I’m sure with practice I will speed up) but this meant I did not have a baited rig ready for the start of the match. Ooops! Already I was learning from my ‘mistakes’. Casting a fair distance was key to getting into the deeper water at the venue and also to avoid the sloping rocks laid as a sea defence infront of the sea wall. It was a close distance between anglers’ pegs, something I am not used to, so I knew I had to try my very best to cast as straight as possible so as not to tangle other angler’s lines. As a result of my focus, I don’t think I’ve ever cast as straight before in my life! I also really focussed on my bait presentation so, once I had one spare rig ready to go, I could focus on presenting small worm and mackerel baits ensuring that they did not mask the hook point or barb. Unfortunately it was a venue with many snags and I lost 3 sets of gear and shockleader, but I managed to replace the shockleader fairly quickly as I had been practising my knots for the past few weeks. I have been fishing for 3 years and up until now have not been able to tie a shockleader (my ever-obliging husband was doing them). I had to learn due to the match and practiced, practiced, practiced, so I that I was able to retie it when I lost my gear.
The end of the 4 hour match seemed to come round so fast; I had been kept busy and on my feet for the whole time which was quite surprising – no time for sitting around like on our night trips! In total 291 fish were caught, mostly whiting and pout. I placed 14th out of 19 with a fish length of 131cm.
I was really pleased with how I had faired for my first ever match and I have been mulling over what I learnt and what I need to remember to do next time to try to improve my catch rate. You may have heard of the 5 P’s (Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance), well I have come up with my own 5 P’s as tips for anyone thinking of or just getting into match fishing. There are plenty of other tips, tricks and tactics, but here are some starters. Again, common sense to matchmen and women, but not always so to the newbie like me.
Before the match day:
- Planning – research the venue, construct suitable rigs (and enough of them!), check or retie shockleaders, pack a spare reel and a spare rod and a selection of weights, keep an eye on the weather forecast.
- Practice – for me it was casting and knot tying. Whatever needs work, then practice. Lots. It will help you to fish faster on the day and not get flustered if anything goes wrong.
On the day:
- Preparation -set up your fishing area so things are to hand, unravel and hang rigs from rodstand if possible, cast out with just a sinker to check the tide run and decide on the weight to use, prepare your bait by sorting/filleting it, and remember to have baited rigs ready for the match start.
- Performance – time yourself so you know how long bait is in the water, divide up bait if restricted, have two spare rigs ready baited, be flexible – you may have to change hook sizes or weights as conditions dictate.
- Personality – introduce yourself to those fishing near you, chat to other anglers for more tips (most are willing to oblige), focus on what you are doing, and speak to the organisers at the end to see how you did. Most importantly, try to relax and enjoy yourself!
I was more than happy with my 14th place in my first match. I have decided I would like to try to improve upon that position, so I will attend some more. Until then,
Tight Lines and Stay Lucky,
Loraine ‘Lolly’ Perry