‘Put them on commercials and we won’t fish’. That’s the reaction from several top teams this week to the exclusive news recently revealed in Angling Times that the Nationals will eventually end up on man-made heavily-stocked carp waters.
Angling Trust director of events Mick Turner made the claim in the face of dwindling numbers that saw this year attract the lowest turnout across the three divisions since 1960.
While the move might seem a shot in the arm for the event, the grumbles of discontent have already started.
“Moving Nationals on to commercials will finish a lot of the smaller teams and I think we really would struggle to get a team out if this happened,” said SPRO Lincoln Whisby’s Alan Henry.
“The beauty of having Nationals on natural venues is that they are unpredictable and can give anyone the chance to win. Look at this year’s Div 2 on the Trent. It was low and clear and that meant any team could have won it. On a commercial it’ll be fair and, yes, everyone will catch, but those better, stronger teams will catch more. There’s no element of unpredictability that can catch a team out.”
Yorkshire side Mirfield AC are an out and out river team that finished second on the Trent this summer. Their skipper Martin Highe reckons it will be a disaster when the change finally happens.
“We won’t have a team and I can tell you half a dozen clubs in my area that will be the same,” he revealed. “It really doesn’t bear thinking about if it moves to carp lakes. Where will anglers learn river and canal skills if there aren’t these sorts of matches? I’ve seen this coming, though, when you see the likes of Barnsley recruiting young commercial carp anglers at the expense of river men. If we go down the carp route, then it will kill the Nationals not save them.”
But what about the big teams? Alan Henry reckons they’ll have no problem adapting to commercials, but some still prefer natural waters. Shakespeare picked up this year’s Div 1 and AT Team Champs titles on canals and rivers and are famed for their prowess on natural venues. They would prefer to see the competition kept where it is.
“I think the event will slowly die a death if it moves to commercials,” said team man Rob Middleton. “We will still fish, of course, because it’s a match and that’s what we do, but we would much prefer to be on a river or canal than a carp lake. The big problem I can see with going on commercials is splitting sections of 60 anglers across two or three lakes. No two lakes are identical and some will hold big carp, others little stockies. That’s not a fair playing field to me.”