The right sort of clothing is often overlooked by sea anglers in general, and for match anglers it’s a big mistake. If you are cold and wet you won’t fish so well and you will be more tempted to pack in and go home. Beach shelters are fine, but they won’t keep you dry on the walk to your mark.
Good quality waterproofs are a must, and always remember that in cold weather several thin layers are better than one thick one. With clothing you do seem to get what you pay for, so my advice is not to skimp.
PLEASURE OR PRACTICE
I enjoy a day out fishing with my mates as much as anyone, and while they aren’t what you would call full-on practice sessions, there’s always something you can try to improve on with matches in mind, even if it’s only a good casting practice session.
Even boat trips can give opportunities to polish your match skills. I enjoy fishing light whenever possible on boats, and the fish-playing skills that you gain by doing more and more of it can really stand you in good stead. There’s always something to be learnt every time you go fishing – even if it is a real social session.
On venues that are local to you, you should enjoy a huge advantage, both through experience gained and through having up-to-the-minute information.
The days running up to a match are when you should be busiest. If at all possible visit the venue during the match hours to find out what is happening. Experience might tell you that flatfish could be important – but what if they haven’t turned up in sufficient numbers yet?
You don’t even have to be fishing yourself; if you are lucky enough to spot other anglers fishing check out what they are doing and what they are catching.
They might just be doing something a bit different from what you would have done and be catching well because of it – gold dust!
Tackle shops are a mine of information, and if you have a decent local tackle shop it makes sense to be a regular visitor. Keep an ear out for the gossip – not just on what is being caught but what the bait situation in the shop is. What are the regulars buying? It’s unlikely they will be buying it to throw away.
In the run-up to matches you can pick up really decent information on what is being caught where, and at what state of the tide.
This year’s Olympics saw the GB cycling team on top form. What’s that got to do with match fishing? Well, for the past three Olympics the team’s backroom staff have concentrated on what they call marginal improvements – tiny bits of detail that put together can mean the difference between first and second. They really do ‘sweat the small stuff’.
That’s important in match fishing too. Things like checking your hooks before you tie rigs, and also checking the quality, and quantity, of the hooks that you take with you. When making duplicate rigs try to make sure that they really are duplicates – measure them to ensure they match, use line from the same spool, tie exactly the same knots with the same number of turns every time, use the same components. By doing that you have a chance of the rigs behaving in the same way when you use them, and all catching as well as each other. Everything makes a difference.
When travelling to matches do some research beforehand. This is particularly important where bait is concerned as fish can show some really focused local preferences. By all means take your favourites as well, but do make sure that you have some of the local delicacies too – it’s what the fish are used to finding.
Sharpening stones can be handy for just adding that extra glint of sharpness on some hooks, but I tend to use mine mainly on the bigger, coarser hooks that I might use on a boat session.
Match hooks are usually smaller and finer, and to be honest they are as sharp out of the packet as you will need. On these hooks I don’t think a sharpening stone is of any benefit, and if a hook loses its point during use you won’t bring it back with a stone. Replace the hook, they are cheap as chips.
TWO HEADS ARE BETTER THAN ONE
Practice sessions with a like-minded mate can improve both your results, as you bounce ideas off each other and try different things to up your catch rates.
The object of the exercise is to find out what doesn’t work as well as what does, so make sure you take it in turns to be the one using the less favoured method. If one of you wants to be in the comfort zone and catching all the time, the partnership isn’t working.
The best thing to do is to work out a plan of what you are going to practise in advance, then stick to it.
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