Fish O’Mania is to undergo the biggest revamp in its history after organisers revealed new plans that will see the winner scoop £50,000.
Every element of match fishing’s premier event – now in its 23rd year – is set to be transformed, but a change in the format of the final is arguably the most significant of them all.
Next year, a semi-final on the Friday will see 32 qualifiers fish against each other, with the top 16 going through to the final the day after to compete for a first prize that has been increased from £30,000 to a massive £50,000.
And in a bold move, the traditional final draw will be replaced by a rover format with the semi-final winner getting first choice of pegs, the runner-up second choice, and so on.
Organisers the Angling Trust has also announced that 28 heats will be held at fisheries throughout the UK in 2016, with 32 qualifying anglers going through to a ‘finals weekend’.
The increase in qualifiers will have a big impact on the number of spaces available, with 4,380 tickets being put on sale – an increase of almost 80 per cent compared to the 2,450 up for grabs this year.
Every applicant looks set to be guaranteed at least one ticket, with the Angling Trust currently working on a system to make that possible.
Matchroom Sport own Fish O’, and its boss Barry Hearn has played a major part in the changes. He said: “The number of applications that Fish O’Mania receives each year keeps going up and in the current format that leads to a lot of disappointed people who don’t get a ticket.
“But the new system will drastically increase every angler’s chances of getting on to a qualifier and having a shot at reaching finals weekend.
“The new finals weekend will increase the excitement for both competitors and spectators, with the £50,000 first prize helping cement Fish O’Mania as match fishing’s number one tournament for decades to come,” he added.
No announcement has yet been made about where the qualifiers will be staged, although a spokesperson revealed that they would ‘provide variety and choice’ which has led to suggestions that rivers and canals could be used for some heats.
Over 220,000 viewers watched this year’s final on Sky Sports and the broadcaster is set to show all the action live again, with Staffordshire’s Cudmore Fisheries expected to host finals weekend.
Discussions are ongoing to determine whether the semi-final will be screened, with a highlights package show the likely outcome.
The new-look format has been welcomed by anglers across the country and current champion Jamie Hughes is among those who believe the overhaul will enhance the tournament. He said: “I’m very impressed with the changes. I think the revamp has come at the right time.
“The increase in tickets and qualifiers is fantastic, as it will guarantee everybody who applies an opportunity to compete.
“Everybody I have spoken to is excited by the new format. I cannot wait for things to get under way next year and have a shot at becoming the first man to win the tournament three times.”