My Friday post this week was originally going to be ‘The Perfect Match?’ (it’s written and ready to go, so I’ll publish it next week instead) but something cropped up and I think it’s a worthy subject for discussion. In all the years I’ve been writing the blog (12 years and counting), I’ve received loads of feedback with the overwhelming majority of it positive and from places as far and wide as Canada and the Philippines but it was disappointing that a relatively small amount of negativity was coming from closer to home! Of course not everybody is going to like what I do and I’ve always welcomed feedback, good or bad, as long as it’s constructive, but over the last year or so I’ve heard the odd grumbling and from more than one person that it’s ‘all about the money’. Now, at first, I was quite hurt as I’m a sensitive little soul but the more I thought about it, the more I thought it’s worth investigating in more detail.
Firstly, lets get it out there,
‘Do I fish for money?’
Yes of course I do, we all do, or else we wouldn’t fish matches, we’d go pleasure fishing instead!
‘Is that the only reason I match fish?’
No of course not, it’s only a small part of it, from meeting up with mates at breakfast (often the best part of the day!) to the banter on the bank and then there’s the fishing itself, I love my fishing and still get an incredible buzz from watching the float go under and the adrenaline hit when you’re playing a possible match winning fish, still leaves me shaking after almost 40 years of doing it. And then there’s the obligatory £1 side bets to be fished for that give you bragging rights for a week. Fishing has always been my release and has got me through some tough times over the last few years, I always look forward to my Sundays and it’s a chance to get away from the stresses of everyday life and forget your worries for a few hours.
‘Why even mention the money then?’
Why not? Does it really offend that much? It’s part and parcel of the match scene like the numerous side bets that take place every weekend! To be honest, I keep track of my winnings so I can compare how I’m doing with the previous years in the same way I have records of how many matches I’ve won or my biggest fish or match weight. I just like keeping records, which is a bit anal and not for everyone, but I enjoy doing it. I’ve always been competitive in everything I’ve done from swimming and judo in my younger days through to darts, skittles and pool up the pub. I always want to win (who doesn’t?) and if I pick up some money from framing or winning my section, then I feel like I’ve had a good day.
Somebody, once said to me ‘You don’t win bugger all’ and they are quite right, we don’t, if it was purely about money, we’d go to work and earn double time on a Sunday or do a car boot sale, you certainly don’t go fishing to get rich!
Let’s look at a few facts and figures to put things in perspective,
The average cost of a club match,
Breakfast – £5
Fuel – £5
Bait – £8.50
Pools (including £2 peg fee) – £15
Super pool – £5
Total – £38.50
Now that’s before you even factor in what you spend on tackle, club licences, EA licence etc. So based on ten anglers fishing, you would have £130 in the pools (£150 minus £20 pegging fees) plus £50 in the super pool, typically this would be paid out as follows,
1st – £75 (including £25 from the super pool)
2nd – £45 (including £15 from the super pool)
3rd – £30 (including £10 from the super pool)
Sections – 2 x £15
So really, unless you win the match, you’re lucky to break even if you finish second and out of pocket if you come third or win your section but then again, with ten anglers fishing and five taking home an envelope, you’ve got a 50:50 chance of recouping some of your costs. If we scale this up, given you are only going to actually win a handful of matches in a year, then you are going to be well out of pocket!
If you fish commercials, it’s even worse!
Breakfast – £5
Fuel – £5
Bait – £8.50
Pools (including £7 day ticket) – £20
Total – £38.50
So again based on ten anglers fishing, the pools are £130 (£200 minus £70 day tickets) and this would be paid out something like this,
1st – £49
2nd – £30
3rd – £11
1st – £26
2nd – £14
Again, half the field pick up some money but this time even if you finish second you don’t break even and if, like me, you fish for the silvers, you’re always going to be in the red, so why do I do it then? Simple, it’s because I enjoy the fishing, it’s certainly not about the money!
Going back to when I first started fishing junior matches, I remember taking home £1.10 after winning a twenty pegger down Ilminster Canal! It was all about winning trophies and it was the same when I started fishing the senior matches, I remember competing for the Club Cup, Points and Ounces Shield and trying to win the fabled Gudgeon Bowl (I never did get my name etched on that one!) and the pools money was nominal, I won some sizeable club matches and can recall taking home £24.50 for winning one (where did the 50p come from?!).
A club’s presentation evening was always a big deal with people getting dressed up for a night out with your fishing mates and you would be called up to shake the chairman’s hand and collect your trophy to display for a year, you would also receive a miniature which was yours to keep and the local press were usually there to take a photo of all the winners. I have really fond memories of those days and I displayed all my trophies in a cabinet for many years but now they are all in a box up in the loft, as I suspect are those of most match anglers who have been around a while.
I think I’ll have a root around and see if I can find them, there are a few I’m really proud of and I’ve got some nice pewter tankards and plates. You do see some fantastic trophies in the big matches, crystal glass vases and glasses always look really nice and I think medals are a lovely memento of a win.
The thing is, there always used to be a quite clearly defined pathway, you would normally begin your angling ‘career’ as a junior and then when you reached 16, you moved up to the seniors and when you started doing well in your club matches it was time to hit the ‘Open’ circuit. I suppose you could say the club matches were a more social affair where everybody knew everybody and it was a bit of a laugh between mates whereas the open scene was a bit more serious and, dare I say it, the standard of angling was higher. Back then, there were nowhere near the number of matches there are now so they were well attended with hundreds of anglers and good prize money so people would travel all over to fish these events.
These days, the lines are much more blurred since the arrival of commercials and there are dozens of local ‘opens’ every week and most anglers don’t have to travel very far to fish one. The sport has become very fragmented and an attendance of 30 is seen as a big match with 15-20 more the norm at most venues with club fixtures attracting a similar number. You regularly see a mid-week open attended by less than ten anglers and club matches fished by more than twenty! Also walk the banks of any fishery and the amount of top-end kit on display is frightening, Rive boxes, Airity poles and Tournament rods aplenty and that’s just to fish an eight peg match!
There have always been big money matches like the Nationals where you could win thousands of pounds if you won it individually (there was always a bookie on site so you could have flutter on yourself or one of the fancied anglers) and events like the Evesham Festival among others. Then in more recent times, Fish O’ Mania paved the way for loads of events with up to £50,000 for the winner, there’s the Golden Reel, Feeder Masters, Parkdean Masters, Riverfest along with dozens of festivals in Ireland and Cornwall so there’s obviously an appetite for it!
There are now more and more mini-festivals springing up, usually two or three day events and although the prize money is very good, they’re not cheap to enter, I saw a three dayer recently and it was £100 to enter and there was also an optional £20 super pool each day as well, so that’s £160 plus around at least another £60 for food, fuel and bait over the three days (more if you include accommodation), so they’re certainly not cheap to enter.
When we stopped fishing for trophies, I can’t remember what the pools were but I know they were £15 for a very long time, we’ve recently introduced a fiver super pool which I think is a great idea as it makes a match worth winning (there he goes talking about money again!). The key word is optional although I can see that some people feel obligated to enter it, I think most people at one time or another haven’t gone in a super pool and then framed so they tend to do it after that (I know I did).
Another popular way of bumping up the prize money is the golden peg, where everybody pays in to a pot (usually a pound) and if somebody wins off a golden peg they take home a nice bonus. If it isn’t won, it rolls over and can build up into a tidy sum, there are a couple of ways of doing it, just let it keep growing although there is the danger it could get huge and then the world and his wife start trying to win it which can cause resentment among the regulars who have paid in the majority of the cash. The other way, which I think is a brilliant idea, is to cap it, at say £100, and then start another golden peg so if it goes, somebody will have a nice bonus and there’s another one building up and sometimes you can end up with several golden pegs in a match.
Quite a few commercials now hold ‘All Winners Finals’ where people pay in a pound every match and all the match winners and silvers winners throughout the year go into two finals with big prize funds. Another really good idea and it can create a real buzz as people try to qualify for the various finals.
The trouble with money is that it can bring out the worst in people, from jealously to bending the rules and in some cases, outright cheating, you hear of numerous cases of draw fixing, people starting early and finishing late, anglers combining their catches and at the weigh in, you see rocks that have been used to weigh a keepnet down find their way into the weigh sling along with lumps of weed and you’d be amazed at the quantities of hemp and casters that find their way into keepnets!
As I touched on earlier, it costs around £40 to fish a match so if you fish every Sunday that’s £2080 a year so taking last year as an example, I won approx £1400 (which was my second best year ever), so I’m £600 down and that’s before I’ve even bought any floats, line, elastic or hooks and lets not even talk about rods, poles and luggage! So I’m certainly not in it for the money and I do it because I love it but that still doesn’t stop me wanting to win every week! As most anglers (me included) only win a handful of matches in a year, I think it’s great if people take home a big fat envelope containing £100 rather than five bob and a packet of Werther’s Originals!
I suppose it’s all relative, you could pay £5 pools to fish a match with the winner taking home £25 or what about £50 entry with first place taking home £250? To be honest I probably wouldn’t fish a match with the first option and I couldn’t really afford the second option so I think £20 is about right for club matches.
What do other people think? Do we pay enough? Not enough? Would you rather fish for trophies? I’d be interested to hear what people think.