From illegal tactics to outright dishonesty, a minority of anglers have always indulged in skulduggery to get ahead. But which examples really take the biscuit?
A streak of sheer desperation from the winter match scene, this ruse involves using a fine-meshed net to scrape precious ounces at the weigh-in. Rather than use rod and line, offenders have been known to bait landing nets, before scooping up “pairs of eyes” at intervals. Desperate or what?
Faced with marginal swims about as even as a skate park, some match anglers have been tempted to make their own modifications. What could be more even than a paving slab, sneakily lowered into the edge while you set up? We’re not even joking!
Talking of pushing the boundaries, another practice that’s getting more common each season is the anti-social stitching up of a fishery’s best swims. Is it strictly against the rules? Even where long stays are banned, conspirators can go straight in when their mates pack up, thus hogging the hotspots for days on end. Very annoying!
One from the old-school match cheat’s book, certain desperadoes were reputed to have brought their own fish to matches, craftily concealed. Tiddlers like gudgeon would fit in a thermos, while eels might be contained in pole sections. The mind boggles.
It must be the hormones…
The search for the ultimate bait additive has probably been going on since Jesus said to his disciples: “Fishing’s a bit slow today, isn’t it lads?” However, there’s a big difference between trying a dash of turmeric and raiding a science lab. Allegedly, one such experiment involved the use of an illegal hormone, which caused fish to go both randy as hell and eager for any bait going.
Black magic at the weigh-in
Another vintage favourite from evening matches, one or two scoundrels became known to match organisers for chucking a load of hempseed into their keepnets. Easily lost amid the roach, the bait would provide extra clout at the weigh-in, when it would presumably be too dark to spot those little dark seeds.
If uneven depths can prove a bit of a headache, other anglers became obsessed with clearing their swims of potential hazards. Never mind snipping off the odd bramble, some of them may as well have brought Alan Titchmarsh with them. Fishery owners weren’t best pleased, swiftly issuing “no gardening” rules.
No fishing area? No problem!
From great big signs to roped-off areas, it’s remarkable how often anglers will conveniently ignore warnings about “no fishing” zones. Not content with casting within a cigarette paper away, extra-dastardly anglers will just ignore all limits. “Oh, this area is a nature reserve? Really? I had no idea.”
Contraband pike baits
There are corners of the predator fishing world that make Strangeways look like a church fete. From insurance scams to blatant poaching, somebody has done it at some point. One of the most timeless cheats, however, is smuggling livebaits. Whether it’s ornamental fishery stock or whatever you could get from a river 100 miles away, it’s no laughing matter with diseases and parasites at stake. You’d risk the health of an entire fishery to notch up another catch? Words fail us…