In an age where team fishing is declining, the Wigan area seems to be bucking the trend with regular 50-peg opens and a division of the AT Team Champs boasting 14 teams of 10 - and what’s more remarkable is that they’re all taking place on our much-maligned canals!
Down south you can’t find a decent canal match, but up in Lancashire the hard work of the Wigan DAA club has resulted in a healthy open match scene that keeps the anglers coming back every week, offering varied fishing across 26 miles of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal, coupled with good payouts that make all the effort worthwhile.
The Team Champs in particular has been a success story, its numbers bettered only by the 15 teams fishing a decade ago. Wigan’s match secretary and Team Champs organiser Trevor Smith reckons things on his patch are almost back to as they were in the golden era of the 1970s and 1980s.
“I’m not saying we’re going to see the days of the 800-peg matches on the Lancaster Canal and Warrington waters, but the interest and turnouts on our matches, even the midweek opens, is really pleasing to see,” Trevor said.
“I think some of it stems from the repetitive nature of commercials where the fishing becomes very samey. On the canals we use different sections all the time, and that means using different methods and baits and often fishing for different fish, so each week there’s always something different to look forward to rather than knowing you’re going back to the bad section you were on the previous week.” Hard work is of course a key ingredient, and Trevor spends a lot of time advertising his matches and getting fliers out to tackle shops and clubs.
The reward is in seeing the same teams and anglers book on each year, with the forthcoming Christmas Bottle match on the canal already having 100 anglers booked on it.
“The payouts are good because we’ve got the numbers, with £30 for every section and close to £200 for the winner,” Trevor added. “It’s a cheap day because pools are only £10, of which Wigan takes just 60 pence for the peg fee. With breadpunch being the main bait it’s cheap on that front as well, and what is perhaps more encouraging for me is that the age range of anglers fishing runs from mid-20s to men in their 70s. The interest is there from everyone, and even the teams that don’t know the canal are keen to keep coming back, put in the work and improve.”
“In fact, my biggest problem is finding a pub that will open on a Sunday morning and do 100 breakfasts!”