Luck might win you the occasional prize but consistent success in shore competitions requires planning and preparation, writes south coast star Tony Kirrage.
Fancy a spot of beach match fishing? Then be careful, because it can become a habit, particularly if— as happens to quite a few beginners — you reap early success.
It’s tempting at the start to dive straight in and enter the first Open match you find out about, but a far wiser course is to join a club first and fish half a dozen or so club matches.
1. Tripod More stable and versatile than a monopod.
2. Holdall For carrying rods, brolly and tripod.
3. Seat box Keeps tackle clean and dry and makes a fairly comfortable seat.
4. Brolly To protect you, your tackle and your bait from the elements.
5. Bucket with lid For keeping your catch in.
6. Spare bucket Fill with sand or stones and use to secure your brolly.
7. Towel To wipe your hands with before casting.
1. Sharp scissors for cutting up baits.
2. Nail clippers for trimming line.
3. Fish measuring stick.
4. Tide table.
5. Quick-change swivels and standard swivels.
6. Assorted hooks.
7. Rig wallet with rigs.
First class bait and plenty of it is what you need in the highly competitive world of beach match fishing. Most top shore match anglers spend as much time collecting and digging baits as they do actually fishing.
Alan Yates with the sort of catch that wins matches. Along with eels, pouting and whiting, flounders like these are usually the beach match angler’s main target.
The weigh-in is when you find out if all your hard work before and during the match has paid off. This fish is a real bonus – a big wrasse from a rock mark.
The club scene
Club matches are usually fished over about three hours in the evening. Because the fields are smaller and the general standard of angling lower than in Opens, your chances of success are much higher.
More importantly, fishing club matches is the ideal way to get to know local anglers, which apart from anything else widens your network of fishing friends.
Do your homework
Only after a few club matches should you go for the big one, an Open. Aim for a pegged match – preferably on a familiar venue. A rover – where competitors can choose where to fish – unfairly favours locals.
Believe it or not, most matches are won at home beforehand, by finding out as much as possible about the venue – the target species, the range at which they are caught, the baits and rigs needed, and the times and states of the tides.
Your strategy in most matches should be to catch as many fish as possible rather than sit it out hoping for a big fish. You should regard big fish as a bonus only.
Check the weather forecast the night before the match to get an idea of likely sea conditions, then prepare your rigs accordingly. On most venues it is standard to fish three Aberdeen hooks up the line in calm conditions, when you are usually scratching for a few flounders, eels, pouting or whiting.
In rough seas, when bigger fish such as codling and bass are more likely to be about, it pays to cut down to two stronger hooks -Uptides, usually – on shorter, less tangle-prone traces.
Come match day
Arrive early at the match headquarters so you have time after you have drawn to find out from local anglers what to expect and so you are not in a fearful rush to get to your peg and tackle up.
The average Open match lasts five or six hours – plenty of time to get bored. Instead of just going through the motions, try to keep concentrating throughout, especially if the action is slow. You might only get one bite so you can’t afford a moment’s lapse in concentration.
On average, leave your bait out for about 12 minutes between casts (that’s five casts an hour). If there are lots of crabs around stripping your bait, though, you must reel in more frequently.
When the match starts, keep an eye on the anglers either side of you. If one starts to catch, wander over and see what bait he is ,,_ using and watch what distance he is casting. If you cannot cast as far, cut down to one hook for extra distance. This might result in your catching only the odd fish, but at least it keeps you in touch. The fish might move in closer later on and enable you to catch up.
The golden rule is never to give up. It’s amazing how often you can go biteless until the last hour then catch fish on each of your final three or four casts.
At the end of the match, find one of the anglers who has done well and listen to how he caught. Did he fish at short or long range? What baits did he catch on? What rig did he use? Don’t be afraid to ask. Most anglers are flattered to be questioned so and are only too happy to respond.
It goes without saying you should have lots of spare hooks, weights, swivels and so on, but there are other less obvious items you can’t really afford to be without. Measuring stick An absolute must for checking if fish are an acceptable size (size limits are usually printed on your match card). Bucket For keeping your fish in. Get a big one with a handle and a lid. It’s a good idea to paint your name clearly on the side as buckets have a habit of disappearing after the weigh-in!
Fill the bucket with water at the start of the match and change the water regularly to keep your fish alive. If you are catching eels, keep the lid on at all times as they escape given half a chance. Empty the water out just before approaching the scales, otherwise the scalesmen’s job becomes a nightmare, with water and fish all over the place.
Scissors A must for cutting up crab baits. Get a good quality, very sharp pair. Clippers Useful for trimming knots. Quick-change swivels Don’t be without plenty of these. Essential for two-patting (unclipping one rig and replacing it with another, ready baited, to save time). Rig wallet A really handy item. Get one with plenty of pockets for all your bits and pieces like swivels, clippers and scissors -as well as rigs, of course. Rags or towel You can’t hope to cast properly with slippery, slimy hands. Rod rest A tripod is best. It’s more stable than a monopod and has the great advantage that you can use it on impenetrable ground. Make sure it has a clip near the top for hanging a spare, baited trace. Brolly A must to protect you and your tackle and bait from the elements. Get a good quality one with storm flaps and secure it with a spare bucket filled with sand, shingle or rocks. Holdall For carrying your rods, brolly and tripod safely to the match. Also, having one makes a big difference when you have a long walk to your peg.
Seat box Keeps all your reels and bits and pieces clean and dry, and is a lot more comfortable to sit on than the ground. Get one with a padded shoulder strap. Tide table Easily overlooked but perhaps the most essential item of all. Low and high water times help you plan bait digging and collecting sessions, while the size of the tide gives you an idea of how well a venue might fish – in general, the bigger the tide, the better the fishing.