Is this the best-ever time for match fishing?

Last month saw fishing’s first-ever £100k match payout crown a season offering more cash prizes than ever before. But is it good for our sport?

Is this the best-ever time for match fishing?

by Angling Times |

MODERN-DAY match angling is awash with money, with more events than ever offering eye-watering prize funds.

The recent establishment of the Fishing Association Super Cup – and the record-breaking £100,000 winner’s cheque it carries – adds yet another mega-money event to the equation.

In recent years these competitions have been dominated by a new breed of ‘professional matchmen’, who fish full-time and are able to supplement their winnings with sponsors’ money and coaching fees.

But although pros like Andy Bennett, Jamie Hughes and Andy Power are regulars at many big matches, there are still a few relative unknowns stepping on to the podium each year and flying the flag for the amateur. But for how much longer?

With more money on offer, and a growing number of full-timers chasing the prize pots, some fear that the gulf between amateur and pro has never been greater, and that, in turn, could impact on entries and the size of future payouts in big-money events.

We spoke to three top match anglers who span the generations to get their take on the current situation...

Match angling is awash with money, with more events than ever offering eye-watering prize funds
Match angling is awash with money, with more events than ever offering eye-watering prize funds

“I expect to win one each year” - Jamie Hughes – Winner of Match This, Golden Reel and Fish O’Mania

“These big matches have become a potential income and are the goal for an angler like me. You can’t make a living out of just fishing matches. The reality is that you have good and bad years, and the outgoings are ridiculous. I’d reckon on spending £130 per qualifier on entry, travel, and other bits and bobs, and I often fish 20 in a year, so it all soon adds up, but is easily paid back if you win one. It also pays off in other ways, in my case with coaching days, which really took off after my first Fish O’ win.

“Things have gone to the next level, professionally, and the big events are all that the likes of myself, Andy Power and Andy Bennett concentrate on.

“As a result, we’re in tune with the venues and the methods through fishing them several times a year, unlike the angler who buys one ticket and turns up.

“I also expect to win one, and am disappointed if I don’t, whereas for some lads, winning a section is a big deal. My goal is to get to one final a year, but you still need a lot of luck – I reckon Andy Power and I have been in over 50 finals and won only seven of them between us.

“I fished my first Fish O’ qualifier at Tunnel Barn Farm in 2006/7 and finally won in 2013, so it took a long time to get there.

“It’s even harder now. There are fewer pegs capable of winning because of the standard of the anglers fishing. More people have more of a chance now.”

“I expect to win one  each year” - Jamie Hughes – Winner of Match This, Golden Reel and Fish O’Mania
“I expect to win one each year” - Jamie Hughes – Winner of Match This, Golden Reel and Fish O’Mania

“It’s like Spin the Wheel at the fair”- Harry Bignell – Reigning Fish O’Mania champion

“It is possible for anyone to win Fish O’Mania, but when you look at the statistics, it just doesn’t happen. I’d say only a handful of former winners aren’t ‘names’ in fishing, and when you think that more than 2,000 anglers buy tickets, only 50 or 60 of them are properly sponsored.

“Why don’t more everyday anglers win? I think a big part of it is psychological. In your head, you always feel as if you’re at a disadvantage simply because of money. If you get tackle and bait for free, you can justify buying more rods, extra top kits and so on, whereas if that kit needs to come out of your wages, there’s extra pressure.

“To practise properly involves taking time off work or using holiday allowance, and unless your boss is understanding, that might not always be possible.

“If you’re moving from club fishing to qualifiers, it’s going to be like playing Spin The Wheel at the fair. You may not win your section for years but can then suddenly get four good pegs and four chances in a row and then have the ability to take that chance.

“I reckon I’ve fished 35 qualifiers in the last four years and won one and been second in another so, immediately, you can see just how hard it is.”

“It’s like Spin the Wheel at the fair”-  Harry Bignell – Reigning Fish O’Mania champion
“It’s like Spin the Wheel at the fair”- Harry Bignell – Reigning Fish O’Mania champion

“It’s better now than it was in my day” - Roy Marlow - Former Leicester Likely Lad and England star

“I don’t think there’s ever been a better time to be a match angler in the UK. In the early 1970s I remember winning £1,000 in one year, which paid for a third of the deposit on my house, so you can see how it was a lot of money!

“On big matches such as the Welland Champs, the presence of a bookmaker helped swell any winnings, and £200 was a good pick-up back then, when weekly wages were only around £20.

“Prize money today is greater, and there are so many big events offering serious amounts to those who win or frame, but there’s a hardcore of 500 or 600 anglers who chase these matches, and within that group there’s the cream. Add commercials into the mix, and the number of pegs that can potentially win, and that’s the reason we keep seeing the same names qualify. Give a good angler a good peg and nine times out of 10, they’ll win.”

“It’s better now than it was in my day” - Roy Marlow - Former Leicester Likely Lad and England star
“It’s better now than it was in my day” - Roy Marlow - Former Leicester Likely Lad and England star

MATCH FISHING’S BIG MONEY EVENTS

First prize payouts at our top matches…

Fishing Association Super Cup – £100,000

Maver Match This – £60,000

Fish O’Mania – £50,000

Golden Reel Angling Champs – £50,000

Parkdean Masters – £30,000

Angling Trust RiverFest – £14,000

Preston Innovations Feedermasters – £12,000

SG Petch Fish North – £12,000

NuFish FeederKing – £10,000

Golden Rod Angling Champs – £10,000

Dynamite Baits in the Mix – £10,000

ABC Baits Midlands Rivers Masters – £8,000

Total: £356,000

Maver Match This has a whopping £60,000 payout
Maver Match This has a whopping £60,000 payout

ANGLING'S TOP EARNERS

Who has won the most (2019 - 2021)

Andy Bennett – £112,000

Jamie Hughes – £110,000

Zac Brown – £100,00

Simon Fry – £60,000

Harry Bignell – £50,000

Stu Fotheringham – £50,000

Tony Coates – £50,000

Lee Kerry – £34,000

Brad Hancock – £30,000

Des Shipp – £30,000

Steve Ringer – £20,000

John Lock – £14,000

Andy Bennett is one of the sports top earners in recent years
Andy Bennett is one of the sports top earners in recent years
Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us