How can you up your match fishing game?

We asked four big names what it takes to make the jump to the next level – whatever type of competition you’re entering next...

How can you up your match fishing game?

by Angling Times |

The career of a match angler follows a natural progression, from club matches into opens and team fishing. For a select few, international honours then beckon.

Moving up to the next level is no bed of roses and it can be a daunting prospect. Even the most successful match anglers had to start somewhere though, working their way up from the bottom.

We asked four anglers, with everything from World Champs gold to multiple Fish O’Mania titles to hundreds of open match wins, just what’s required

to take the next match fishing step…

Open matches - Mark Pollard

"Being familiar with venues should be the first consideration. If you fish club matches at Decoy Lakes for example, entering the opens there will be best. This way, you have a chance because you know the lakes and some of the pegs. There’s no point booking onto a match on the Old Nene at March if you’ve never fished a river before!

"Even then, you may think you are good but you’re not. Be prepared to be smashed up a lot at the scales! This is the learning curve, something that can take a few years to go through before you begin to see results. I’d begin by aiming to beat the anglers either side of me and then move on to trying for a section and even a frame place.

"Don’t expect to win straightaway because you’ll soon become disillusioned. You’ll get runs of bad matches and have to take the rough with the smooth. Even if you have a bad match, don’t go home in a mood. Stay behind, have a pint and ask questions to those who framed. I’m terrible for badgering people, but it’s all information that may just help me win next time round."

Open matches - Mark Pollard
Open matches - Mark Pollard

Big money qualifiers - Jamie Hughes

"Enjoyment goes out of the window! Your costs will increase through travel, pool and baits. With qualifiers also costing around £100, you have to be prepared to take the hit.

"You also won’t get a good day’s fishing as you would on an open or club match because room will be limited and a lot of pegs that aren’t normally used will be in the bag.

"There’s good news though in the sheer number of events to fish now, which means there should be matches on venues close to you and which you may be familiar with.

"This is always my advice – stick to a fishery you know that responds to tactics you’re confident in. The matches themselves are potluck and you will blow a lot of pegs in the quest to win outright so your mentality needs to be correct – fish to win!

"I’d always do some homework, finding out the species in the lakes, methods working and target weights. Finally, you have to be strong mentally and don’t let the poor matches get to you. It may take several attempts to win or in some cases, a few years, but a big final makes it all worthwhile."

Big money qualifiers - Jamie Hughes
Big money qualifiers - Jamie Hughes

Team fishing - Sean Ashby

"To get into a team, you need to get noticed and that comes by fishing the same open circuit as lads in teams. If your results are consistent, they’ll approach you and ask if you want to join so it’s a lot of hard work.

"However, once you join a team, never think you have the right to fish. Often, the first year may involve a lot of bankrunning and watching, learning all of the time.

"Within this, you need to make yourself available for matches, even though you might not fish and this is the hard part, especially if you are a young man with a family. A lot of time is sacrificed, often for no real reward. Pick and choose the matches you go to and you’ll soon find yourself out in the cold!

"I’d also recommend travelling or at least becoming mates with one of the team’s more experienced anglers. You’ll learn a lot from their years of team fishing. I travelled with Nigel Bull when I first joined Starlets, and he’s been one of my biggest influences.

"Another tough thing to deal with is the lack of money in team fishing compared to fishing as an individual. Even if your side wins a league or even a National, there will be little in your back pocket to show for it."

Team fishing - Sean Ashby
Team fishing - Sean Ashby

Festivals - Des Shipp

"The first two festivals I fished at White Acres I won and since then people have always asked me what my secret is!

"There isn’t one, but fishing over five days across very different lakes that need a range of baits and tactics is unique and on the face of it, daunting. My first bit of advice is not to go into a festival blind. If you can, put some practice in and maybe fish a few opens to get to grips with the fishing and ask the locals for info.

"At White Acres, the pub in the evening was where a lot of matches were won and lost from the freely flowing exchange of tactics! That’s why I’d always try and fish a festival with a few mates, so you can bounce ideas off each other. Go it alone and the job is twice as hard.

"You’re only trying to win your section, so knowing how the pegs fished the day before and the likely weights needed will help, but to my mind, judging the match is more crucial. Silverfish can play a big part and you may need to spend three hours fishing for them, so don’t be blinkered into thinking you need to catch a big weight to compete. That’s rarely the case. Also, get your bait right. Some venues have bait limits and if you take the wrong stuff to your peg, you’re dead and buried. I’d also try and treat a festival seriously – lay off the beer. You can’t think right if you get leathered every night."

Festivals - Des Shipp
Festivals - Des Shipp
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