Like all competitive sports, match fishing has no shortage of big egos. I am lucky enough to work with a wide range of different anglers, and see this first hand.
There is a big difference though between the self belief that you need to do well in the sport and arrogance. As you might expect from the sports biggest names, this more palatable trait is more commonly displayed. Afterall, these people have already made their names, and have nothing to prove to anyone.
A couple of weeks ago I was out with Steve Sanders, who in my eyes is one of the greatest ambassadors for our sport, with a wealth of experience in both angling, and managing anglers. He told me a story about how he once drew next to Alan Scotthorne at White Acres, and gave him a battering. “I fished shallow, and loosefed a lot of hemp which made loads of noise as it hit the water and really pulled the carp into my peg” Steve recounted.
“After the match, Alan asked me why I thought that I had caught and he hadn’t. I told him it was because I had made noise, while he hadn’t, and that he had fished it wrong! I remember driving home after the match, and telling myself that I probably shouldn’t have been so forward to one of the greatest anglers our country has ever produced. I only meant to come across as honest, and hoped that Alan took my comments in the spirit that they were intended.
"Two weeks later the phone rang, and I picked it up to find Alan on the other end. He told me that I was right about making noise with shallow fishing, and that he had just broken the record at Woodlands, Thirsk feeding hemp!” Steve recalled.
This story spoke volumes to me. As much as the very best anglers hate being beaten, they are quick to learn when they do. They also know that there is nothing to be gained from being arrogant or bitchy - afterall their results do the talking.
There are anglers out there who do feel the sport owes them something though. They believe that such is the level of their ability that they have a right to win, and if anyone beats them they have only been lucky. Even back in my club fishing days, I can remember such characters, and I’m sure all match anglers know someone like this.
From where I’m standing, such an attitude is largely pointless though, as no matter what level you compete at, the sport has a glorious habit of kicking you where it hurts. From my own experience, I can think of several occasions when I thought that I had a venue or method sorted, only to come crashing down and find out that I really hadn’t! By the same token, it can also give you the greatest rewards when you least expect or deserve them.
My proudest moments and most memorable match wins have come when I have rated my chances of winning as being very low – or put another way I got lucky. I would rank my greatest match win as being the Maver Pairs Final back in 2009. Things couldn’t have gone better for me, I practiced the peg next to where I drew in the match the previous day, and was given a right battering by Adam Richards off the next peg (that I ended up fishing come the final.) Fortunately, Adam was kind enough to tell me how he fished, and I put his advice to good effect. Did the fact that I had received a serious amount of help make the taste of victory any sweeter? Did it heck! I was on top of the world!
The great debate as to how you rate an angler has been at the forefront of my mind recently, as I have covered the qualifying matches for the Evesham Festival. As the sole face on the bank of the organising company DHP, several anglers have asked me why they haven’t received an invite to the August Bank Holiday weekend matches. I have had nothing to do with compiling the invite lists, and have my own opinion on who should and shouldn’t be invited, but there is a simple answer to all such queries. If you truly feel you deserve a place in the final, then why not prove that you do by qualifying?
I myself haven’t received an invite for the final days either, and as I said to one of the organisers when he told me that I wouldn’t be receiving one; “If I don’t have a ticket for the final after fishing the qualifiers, then I don’t deserve a place in it.”
If anything, knowing that I can’t rely on the security of an invite has made me try a lot harder. The first couple of matches saw us fishing a swollen river, which is unfamiliar territory to me. Opening day was a bit of a disaster, and I should have had more than the few small bleak that I managed to catch. By the second day, I felt I had more of a hang of the tactics required, and managed one (very large) bream and a few bleak for a section winning 7-3-0.
The next qualifier was the following Saturday, and I managed a default section win with 2-3-0. I was given a sound battering off the next peg though, Darran Bickerton came second in the match and qualified for the Wychavon Final with two tench for 9-13-0. I was obviously keen to know how he had caught such a good weight, and ran straight around to his peg after the match to try and find out. He told me he had caught on lobworms up to the marginal lilly bed, and as always was very helpful with the information that he imparted.
Darran has a wicked sense of humour, and as I walked away he came out with a line that I hope to be able to borrow myself at sometime soon. “It’s not as easy as I make it look you know” he said, with a smug grin spread across his face. I can't wait for the day when I draw next to him, and beat him with a flukey big fish. When this happens, I will be able to retort one of my own favourite lines. "It's better to be lucky than good!"
Tom Scholey is Pole Fishing magazine's Editorial Assistant, and a keen match angler.