Where did the match fishing scene go wrong?

A comment on a Forum post had me scratching my head recently. A fishery owner commented that waters are stocked to excessive levels:
“...because that’s what match anglers demand.” Is that truly the case? Do we really just want massive weights? I am not quite so sure, in fact I’ll go further than that and say it is the fisheries that keep pushing the limits on their waters, often with scant regard for their stock’s survival rates as they compete with other venues to provide mega-weights.

I may be way off-beam here and I hope you let the AT letters page know if I am, but many match anglers that I speak to want a good day’s fishing in decent surroundings and that is a very long way from mega-weights in geometric strips of water.

The last time I won a match was November 2009. I weighed in 115lb and had 19 bites, 18 fish. I used a total of one third of a bag - way under a pint - of 8mm pellets.

It reminded me of something Ray Mumford said to me once when he won the Erne Bait Festival in Ireland with 54kg of mostly roach. I asked him how much he’d fed, and he responded: “...two pints of maggots. I only give them one each.” Nineteen bites spread over five hours amounts to an average of one bite every quarter-of-an-hour or so.

As a few of those fish came to the pellet waggler I at least kept myself occupied by casting occasionally. On some matches it’s a bomb-job - sit and wait for the tip to drag round. I recall writing several years ago that one day we’d be using big-carp tactics on some matches, and that day has arrived.

To add fuel to this debate, Gold Valley owner John Raison has upped the ante by declaring that he’d prefer no pastes, pellets or additives to be allowed, in fact reverting to the stance Gold had for many years, where even groundbait could only be brown or white crumb with no additives.

That will make for more expensive fishing, there’s no doubt about that, and will offer advantages to the better anglers. The ‘heave it and leave it’ approach that now wins so many winter matches at GV and other venues where the carp have grown large has been described by Steve Ringer as ‘aquatic bingo’ and the skills developed by Steve and other wonderful anglers count for very little.

The trouble is, does that mean that the anglers who often describe themselves as ‘pools fodder’ will stay away, or go to venues where it is wall-to-wall fish and far less skill is required to win?

Perhaps it’s time for fisheries to run leagues, with promotion and relegation, so the ‘elite’ can fish against anglers of similar ability.

As for the stocking levels, I am old enough to remember when a good bag of roach and skimmers could be augmented by a bonus carp or two, maybe even a couple of tench. We could land those fish on slightly beefy roach gear and have a wonderful day’s angling.

Weighing in 50lb was a brilliant result.

There were more match anglers fishing more matches then, so where exactly has it all gone wrong?