For those of you who are keen 'pleasure' anglers the next step could be to try your hand at match fishing. Initially I would suggest fishing club competitions as opposed to jumping in at the deep end and entering highly competitive open competitions. I'll now give you a few tips on how to get started.
The equipment needed to fish competitions will not differ greatly from that you already use for pleasure fishing. The following list is a minimum basic guide as to what you will need:
2 Rods & 2 Reels spare spools loaded with line Tripod Tackle box/Rucksack Bucket/Waterproof bag (for your catch !) umbrella/beach buddy, rig wallet and rigs, spare shockleader line, box of spare hooks, swivels and weights etc. lights (if fishing at night) waterproof clothing, boots, measuring stick Scissors and compass.
What you decide to purchase will obviously depend on what your budget dictates, but like most things in life you get what you pay for. A £50 Rod/Reel starter kit will not perform or last as long as a rod and reel of increased value. So what may seem a short term cheap solution may end up costing you more in the long run. An alternative is to scour the tackle shops, newspapers and magazines for quality second hand gear which can usually be obtained quite cheaply.
The next step is to visit your local tackle shop. Here you will be able to find out about local angling clubs as well as get up to date information on how the area is fishing.
Once you have joined a club and have received your membership details and a list of competition dates take yourself minus your fishing gear along to a couple of competitions to find out what's happening. By talking to anglers fishing the competition, you can glean much valuable information. Look at what type of rigs they are using, the size and type of hooks and weights, types of baits, areas and distances that are producing fish etc, etc. Most anglers are happy to assist new members but don't be too pushy and don't expect them to tell you all their secrets !
When you have made a note of the rigs that are doing the business or that just take your fancy, return to the tackle shop where you can usually find an abundance of 'ready to go' rigs. If you prefer making your own rigs purchase one of each type and make your own 'copies'. With time you will want to vary the rigs to suit your own requirements, but to be getting on with, ready tied rigs are ideal. Make sure you have a good quantity and variety of rigs with you when you fish. Different weather conditions and species of fish require different rigs, and you could loose a few along the way too on 'snags' and by 'snapping off' whilst casting.
Time is of the essence when fishing competitions, as time spent 'out of the water' is time wasted. To this end, practice your casting on a regular basis, this will improve your distance as well as your confidence. Invest in a few lessons from an expert if you are encountering difficulties or have just reached the point where you cannot cast any further.
The most important ingredient for successful match fishing is probably bait. Whether you dig/collect it yourself or purchase it, it must be fresh and secondly you must take enough. Always assume you are going to catch a bucket full of fish and judge your bait requirement accordingly.
Preparation is another key factor. Once you know where the match is going to be fished, visit the venue at low tide and make a note of the ground and potential fish holding areas. Look out for gullies, pools at the end of groynes, sand bars, rough ground etc. lf the groynes are submerged at high tide make a note of how far they go out and if they go out at an angle to the beach, this should enable you to avoid them whilst retrieving your tackle. Obviously at some venues this is not possible as the tide does not retreat very far, this requires a different approach.
Once you have arrived at your peg or chosen spot (depending on whether the competition is 'pegged' or a 'rover', rules permitting, cast out a plain lead. Reel in until the line is taut and with the rod held horizontal to the beach, pull it back, reel in the slack tine and repeat this exercise until the lead is retrieved. By doing this you can 'feel' the ground you will be fishing over and you can detect any bars and holes quite easily.
Get organised! Prior to the match starting, again rules permitting, set up a spare rod and reel. Get out three or four rigs of which at least two should be baited. Arrange your bait and accessories so that they can be reached with ease. lf you are using baits that require peeling or shelling i.e. Peeler Crabs and Shellfish, always have plenty prepared. You can never be sure when the fish are going to turn up in numbers, and when they do, you do not want to be wasting time frantically trying to peel a crab and bait up a rig that should be in the water.
Finally keep your eye on the opposition. There are no excuses for blasting a bait continuously towards the horizon when the angler next to you is pulling three fish in at a time from half the distance. Always be prepared to adapt at a moments notice.
All that remains for me to say is the best of luck and persevere when things are not going your way.
CSAC ANNUAL SPRING OPEN COMPETITION
Clacton Sea Angling Clubs' annual spring open competition was held on Sunday 18 April and, despite the late inclusion of this event, it still attracted sixty anglers from as far afield as Southampton, Deal and Gt Yarmouth. With a first prize on offer of £300, the competition was keenly fought.
In an effort to attract more anglers the club decided to cut the entry fee to £5 instead of the usual £10, this resulted in one first prize of £300 and therefore no other prizes could be generated from the entry fee. Optional section pools of £5, super pool of £3, heaviest flat fish pool of £1 and heaviest round fish pools of £1 were also available. The reactions from the majority of anglers were that they would prefer to pay the extra £5 as this would enable 'section' money to be paid out, thus allowing more anglers to receive money as the overall winner(s) are excluded from section money.
The five hour competition was fished from Holland Haven to the Queensway area of Clacton. Weather conditions on the day were less than favourable with a light North Westerly breeze and sunshine, interrupted by sudden downpours of rain. The competition commenced at 12.30 and was due to finish at 17.30. High tide was at 14.10 and it was a very high one at 4.3metres. A tide this big at Clacton, particularly on the Ebb tide, requires a 6oz lead cast well uptide to gain an adequate hold. Another point to bear in mind is that the species likely to be encountered, i.e. Pouting and Codling, are not generally caught when the tide is running at its hardest which is usually a period of two hours after high tide. The first couple of casts would therefore be very important as the end of the flood tide can produce a scattering of Pouting and an occasional Codling.
The match started and an angler on a low peg reeled in a 'treble shot' of sizeable Pouting on his first cast using ragworm he surely must have thought it was going to be his lucky day. Several other anglers also caught early Pouting using mostly lugworm and ragworm baits presented on three hook rigs clipped down to gain a little extra distance. After the first hour the bites and fish became few and far between. An hour either side of high tide at Clacton is traditionally a lean time and it is therefore wise to employ a three hook rig closer in for small fish.
Just before high tide local angler Richard Burt on peg 32 caught a Codling of about a pound followed by a Pouting which at this stage of the match was quite good. Further up on peg 47 Mark Gooch from Lowestoft had caught an Eel, two Pouting and a large Scorpion fish. Mark, using a huge backcaster, was utilising a three hook rig baited with Peeler Crab, cast at a distance of about 100 yards.
A little after 2pm the tide turned and it ran like the proverbial clappers. With the tide galloping through, a lot of competitors fished in closer on the edge of the run in order to hold bottom better and hopefully pick up the odd fish. A few more Pouting began to show and two local anglers Trevor Williams and Martin Englefield, fishing pegs 30 and 41, both caught a Dogfish each of around 1.25lb. Dogfish at Clacton are something of a rarity but more than welcome all the same. Meanwhile Mark Gooch had added a further Pouting and an Eel to his catch and three pegs down fellow Lowestoft angler Mark Sharman had caught six Pouting in quick succession.
Breakthrough! 3.pm heralded the arrival of the first decent fish, a Codling of 2.75lb. It fell to local angler Steve Markham-Lee, fishing on peg 39, who had also caught two Pouting. Steve caught the Codling on a two hook 'Clacton' rig cast at distance with Peeler Crab being the bait. With the tide run easing slightly the remaining two hours should see plenty of fish landed.
Two pegs down from Steve was another Clacton angler Alan Goddard who had in his bucket two 'borderline' Codling and two Pouting, caught using similar tactics to that of Steve.
During the next hour dozens of Pouting were caught. As I approached the lower pegs, the majority of anglers had four or five Pouting and the odd small Codling. Richard Holgate on peg 19 had just landed a Codling of 2lb much to the annoyance of Andy Thornton who was fishing a 'double' with Richard, and prior to the arrival of the Codling, Andy was six Pouting to one ahead !.
Ex national champion Mark Pinder of Ipswich was fishing from peg 17 and had two codling of around 1.25lb each and a small Pouting. As I chatted to him his rod tip arched over and promptly sprung back dropping the line slack. Mark picked up the rod and began to reel in the slack line whilst walking 'uptide'. Once the connection was made, it was evident that this was a better fish. After a brief tussle a pristine 4lb 4oz Codling emerged from the breakers and was swiftly dragged up the beach. Whilst most anglers fished three hooks at varying distances catching small fish, Mark persevered with a single hook rig baited with Peeler Crab cast in excess of 140 yds. It obviously paid dividends.
At the opposite end of the venue on peg 67, Felixstowe angler Richard Marjoram produced a late surge with two Codling around 1.5lb and two Pouting from an otherwise barren stretch
With less than 30 minutes left Mark Sharman had continued to catch and now had nine Pouting and an Eel, while Mark Gooch had caught a small Dogfish and another Pouting to bring his total to eight.
Most anglers returned to the weigh in and appeared to have enjoyed themselves. For once the fish were in an obliging mood with most anglers weighing in four or more fish. The results are as follows:
OVERALL WINNER MARK PINDER IPSWICH 6lb10oz £300
SECTION A 1st MARK PINDER IPSWICH 6lb10z £85 SECTION A 2nd ALAN GODDARD CLACTON 3lb15oz £40 SECTION A 3rd TREVOR WILLIAMS CLACTON 3lb11oz £15
SECTION B 1st RICHARD MARJORAM FELIXSTOWE 4lb 7oz £80 SECTION B 2nd STEVE-M-LEE CLACTON 3lb6oz £40 SECTION B 3rd MARK GOOCH LOWESTOFT 3lb1oz £15
SUPER POOL MARK PINDER IPSWICH 6lb10oz £159
HEAVIEST FLAT FISH LENNY SPENCE IPSWICH FLOUNDER 6oz £55
HEAVIEST ROUND FISH MARK PINDER IPSWICH CODLING 4lb4oz £54 There were two qualifiers for the SAMF finals being fished at Hythe this winter they are O.MEEKS and R.MARJORAM.
In conclusion, the competition was a success with many fish of many species caught.
From what I saw the best tactics to employ would have been to fish a three hook clipped down rig baited with ragworm and tipped off with peeler crab for the first couple of hours or so. Initially the rig would be cast around 120 yards, and dropping in closer to the edge of the tide run once the tide had turned and had started to ebb. Once the tide run had started to ease, an all out assault on Codling should be made in the form of a one hook or wishbone rig baited with a good sized Peeler Crab and cast as far as possible.
It is a difficult decision to make, whether or not to gamble and fish at distance with a single bait in the hope of a decent sized Codling, especially when many Pouting are being caught closer in, but all the prize winners had at least one Codling in their bag. You would need to catch about seven or eight Pouting to beat the average Codling caught. CSAC will be holding their annual summer open soon probably in June where good numbers of Eels and the odd Bass are usually caught. Details will be available soon.