If you’ve ever wondered why match anglers surround them-selves with such a panoply of expensive equipment, here’s an appraisal of the purposes and merits of ‘standard’ match tackle.
What tackle does a freshwater match angler need? The answer depends to a high degree on the kind of water he fishes.
Take rods first. The matchman’s basic tool is the 12ft or 13ft match rod which can be used anywhere —canals, rivers, lakes or reservoirs. This will be in any matchman’s holdall, preferably in duplicate so that two different rigs can be quickly available, one rod tackled up with a stick float, the other with a waggler. Another piece of equipment that is almost universal is a ledger rod of 8ft, 9ft or 10ft, with a top ring threaded to take a standard swing-tip or quivertip.
If the angler plans to do an appreciable amount of quivertipping then a ‘donkey-top’ rod—one with a built-in flexible tip—is probably necessary. The angler could, however, get away with using a spare top length for the ledger rod with the quivertip spliced in. Not so long ago this would have been enough but with the appearance of the swimfeeder and pole tackle requirements have changed.
To use a swimfeeder effectively, a stepped-up carp rod is advisable. This is particularly necessary on the Severn where tremendous strain is imposed on a swimfeeder.
A pole must be ultra-stiff. Any floppiness will mean that it cannot do the job for which it is intended—to present a bait perfectly in difficult conditions. Imagine the effect of a high wind on a 25ft rod.
How the pole can help
In a recent match on the Ribble, I was faced with a rising river and a slack separated from the near bank by a stretch of fast water. By using a conventional rod and line the angler next to me was severely handicapped, missing bite after bite. With a 26ft pole, however, I was able to eliminate the effect of the fast water on the line, to present the bait naturally in the slack—and weigh in over 10lb of dace.
To use the pole properly it is essential to carry a wide range—setting them up with different rigs, and to duplicate the same rigs to save time. Incidentally, except in the shorter lengths, telescopic poles are not particularly useful. The take-apart type usually proves to be far more versatile.
Reels are much simpler. The standard fixed-spool reel, the obvious all-rounder, is the most reliable standby. At least two of these are needed and care should be taken when choosing the model because it has to last a long time.
There is no point in carrying different models which involves having to purchase different spare spools. Choose a reputable make then buy two of the same kind with about six spare spools.
A closed-face reel, such as the ABU 506 or Shakespeare International, is better than the standard fixed-spool in only one situation—when fishing into a gale. In such circumstances the closed-faced reel can cut out the tangles caused when line is blown back to the handle or bale-arm of a fixed-spool reel.
Where the centrepin wins
The centrepin is unrivalled in two sets of circumstances: in water where the fishing is virtually under the rod end and there are likely to be big fish which go off at high speed, such as carp or tench; and where the fishing is close-in.
The centrepin scores in both conditions for the same reason—the perfect control which can be exercised by the thumb on the drum of the reel. A point in favour of this method is that the alternative—using the slipping clutch of a fixed-spool reel—was not designed for use with the fine lines normally used.
A range of reel lines from 2 to 8lb is advisable. Not so long ago 4lb or 5lb was the maximum required, but the swimfeeder requires heavy line to stand up to the wear and tear imposed by it. Fishing a light reel line with the swimfeeder is inviting disaster. The 2lb line is ideal for canal fishing, while 2.7lb is useful because of the strain a line is subjected to when ledgering or slider float fishing. Lines of 4 or 5lb are, however, an advantage when fishing for big bream, tench or carp, which require plenty of pressure to bring the fish quickly to the net. Load the spools at home, marking them with the b.s. For quick identification.
The angler now has his rods, reels and lines. A traditional basket is probably most appropriate to carry them in—one obviously big enough for everything, and well-varnished. Do not use polyurethane varnish—it is too hard and will crack with constant flexing. Buy a good quality traditional yacht varnish and put on three or four coats. A roll-up type of holdall fitted with lightweight plastic rod tubes is ideal for carrying rods. It will cut down possible damage to rods, particularly in preventing the rings from being bent and broken.
Up until only three or four years ago the vast majority of match anglers in the Midlands and North used this traditional basket until the Brennan and Hickman glassfibre version came on the market. Its rise in popularity has been meteoric and now several companies produce a superb range in various glassfibre and resin compounds.
In the south of the country, rather more complex and sophisticated plywood boxes are in evidence, each bos containing built-in drawers with tackle compartments. The idea may be novel but their usefulness is limited, particularly when there is a need to half submerge the box in water to provide a stable surface when a shallow peg is drawn.
Useful additions to any match-man’s armoury are the two important catapults. The smaller version is designed to loose feed the swim with either maggots or casters while the bigger, more robust weapon is used to propel balls of groundbait for anything up to 60 yards. It is only in the last few years that the match fishing bodies in Britain have seen the wisdom of allowing catapults and so reducing wasted groundbait.
Another rather novel item of tackle produced commercially over the last three to four years is the bait stand cum maggot box. Made of light weight wire, the stands allow up to four maggot containers to be fitted. A normal bank stick screws into the stand and a more useful invention you couldn’t wish to find, particularly if you are wading out into the stream. Alternatively a simple bait apron may be used.