These are turbulent times that we are living in. On Saturday, I was lucky enough to be asked to sit behind Stewart Lister in the Maver Match This final at Larford Lakes.
I had a really enjoyable day, and Stewart fished a brilliant match to finish a very creditable sixth, but sadly 15 kilos short of winning. We were sat just about bang opposite the eventual winner Andy Powers, who put on an awesome display to bag the £50k jackpot.
There was a real buzz about the event, and it was nice after the match to walk around and hear only good things said about the way that the final had been run, and I must admit a small part of me regretted not entering the qualifiers in the first place.
The reason that I didn’t enter was quite simple - the cost of it! The £50 entry fee, plus pools means that you are essentially shelling out £70 before you have even thought about paying for diesel, bait, tackle, food etc. By the time you have added up all the costs, I reckon I could fish three ‘normal’ matches for the same outlay.
I did enter a few of the cheaper Fish O Mania rounds, but in the end regretted it as I never felt I was on a peg that was even remotely good enough to win. At the end of the campaign, I was left ruing my decision to even enter in the first place, and I doubt I will bother next year.
This is no criticism of the competition by the way, as it is very well run and in many ways is one of the success stories of our sport, but the nature of modern commercial fishing means that on any one of those qualifiers there are very few pegs that you can win off, and you could quite easily fish all sixteen matches without drawing even a section winning peg! You only have to look at the number of top flight anglers who enter several qualifiers a year and don’t make the final. I was talking to Match Fishing Editor Alex Bones, who got several tickets last year, travelled the length and breadth of the country, and was left feeling deflated as he never felt he had a chance.
I have only one person to blame for my Fish O Mania experience- and that is myself. A £30,000 cheque is a massive incentive to enter any competition, which is why when I was stood at Larford last week watching Andy Powers on the podium, and I started to think that next year I ought to have a go at qualifying I had to stop myself. Was I bartering a summer full of more enjoyable fishing for the very remote chance of a big fat cheque?
Fishing to win is all well and good when you are on a winning peg, but for the majority of anglers on one of these big money qualifiers it means blowing out and going home with nothing, and because they have fished so positively at a venue they may only visit once or twice a year, having learnt nothing. I for one have never left one of these big money qualifiers feeling like I have come away with a great deal.
At the other end of the spectrum to all this is team fishing. There are few big financial rewards to be had here, but in a team match you always have something to fish for, even if it is just trying to catch an extra fish to move you up a couple of places in a section. You are also surrounding yourself with like minded people and helping each other learn and develop as anglers.
Being my first season with Dynamite Fox Match Trentmen, team fishing is still pretty new to me, but already it has provided some of my most enjoyable angling experiences. Practicing for and fishing the Division One National, I never picked up a penny, but loved every minute of it and learnt a lot about a kind of fishing that I had never done before. I ended up 11th in my 59 peg section, not a fantastic result, but a good one from the area that I was in, and a sound contribution towards the team qualifying for the World Club Championship Fish Off on Newark Dyke in September. The fact that the best two teams in the country finished first and second to me proves that while the venue was peggy, angling ability and hard work in practice were rewarded.
Still, given the current state of affairs it seems that I am in the minority and team fishing in this country is in a worse state than it has been for years. I just hope that we as a sport don’t get so involved with big individual prizes that we forget that our sport is about learning how to catch fish, and there are better ways to do this than going all out for top spot in a 130 peg match.