I was looking through previous ‘What’s the Catch?’ columns going back some years and noticed that almost every piece carried a report of a match.
Match fishing is a singular style of fishing and if truth be told not universally popular among club members, especially when they find their favourite venue closed for the day.
Fortunately, at Petworth & Bogner AC we have a variety of waters, but other clubs are less lucky.
There has always been something of an air about anglers who try to make angling a competitive sport. Eyebrows are raised by members wanting to win money from their fishing, almost in disbelief of those who would dilute the purity of the sport for financial gain. But match fishing is virtually as old as the sport itself.
Even in the 19th century matches were held, often between clubs or even between pubs, and a little wager was always made. Weirdly cash was not the main prize. If you were lucky you might win five shillings from the pool, or the winner might win some donated goods – copper kettles seemed to be popular and for one match the main prize was a pig. How they got it home was not explained.
To see how things have moved on, this year’s winner of Fishomania, an event for the best match fishman in the UK, will pocket a cool £50,000.
But the great heyday in match fishing came in the post-war years and alongside this the first superstars of fishing also arrived. Its heartland was always the midlands and the north-west.
It was not uncommon to see matches on the great rivers such as the Trent pegged for up to 600 anglers. The huge London Anglers’ Association also joined the scene with miles of the Thames pegged for a match. Indeed, some of our older members remember these matches taking place.
By the 1960s newspapers like the News of the World were reporting the results and featuring the great stars of the day like Ivan Marks and Kevin Ashurst. It was the latter who, having represented England in a world championship in Europe, came back and introduced the pole to the match scene.
Later we would see other greats like Tommy Pickering rise to fame, an angler so great that many people said that if you needed a man to catch a fish to save your life then he would be first choice.
Finally, in the 1990s the BBC got slightly concerned when its flagship programme, Sports Personality of the Year was hijacked by a concerted effort to get three times and current world champion Bob Nudd to be the winner. The reasoning was that if a man who chucks darts at a board can win, why not a fisherman?
In the end Nudd came third but the point was made – fishing was a sport, albeit not one that worked on television, which in this media-obsessed age seems to be the main driver for fame.
Our matches are a little more sedate, we’re lucky if we get more than ten or 12 people. But it’s fun, no-one really cares if you win or lose and, if you’re a novice like me, you can learn an awful lot about fishing and making things happen.
So, don’t dismiss the match boys, have a go and test your skills. You never know you might take home a pig.
* Read What's the Catch? by Petworth and Bognor Angling Club's Steve Penticost in the Chichester Observer and on this website throughout the year