Though fishing is generally a contemplative sport, many people have a competitive nature. This has evolved into a branch of coarse angling called Match Fishing. This adds another exciting and social dimension to the sport that for some is addictive. Match Fishing offers competition for all ages and levels of ability from friendly club events to national level open matches to the high-pressure world of International competition.
About match fishing in Scotland
So what does it involve? Competitors draw lots for numbered fishing spots or 'pegs'. Each angler must only fish from their peg and everyone fishes at the same time, usually for 5 hours. All fish caught are kept alive in long keepnets. The fish are weighed at the end of the match and returned to the water alive and well. The winner is the one with the biggest total weight of fish, which could be a few big ones or many small ones.
That sounds straightforward but the constraints of having to fish a peg means that many different methods and techniques often need to be adopted to catch the biggest weight. Also 'groundbaiting', or feeding the fish amounts of bait to entice them to feed, has become a science as well as an art. You are competing against the other anglers as well as the fish. Though some pegs may contain more fish than others it's not all about luck of the draw and the best anglers use their skills and experience to chose the right approach to win. Fine lines, small hooks and long carbon fibre poles (up to 16 meters long) are important parts of the matchman's armoury, but a great variety of other tackle can be used to help make the most of the many different waters and species of fish encountered.
Waters used for the bigger matches in Scotland include Magiscroft near Cumbernauld, Loch Ken in New Galloway, the River Endrick near Loch Lomond and the Forth & Clyde and Union canals.
The key national open events in Scotland are the Scottish League, the Scottish National Championships, the Federation Cup, the Access Open, the Endrick Cup and the Scottish Junior National. These and other events are included in the SFCA Match Calendar available on the SFCA Website along with the SFCA match rules. The website is also a great source of information about national and International match fishing. SFCA member club websites also hold lots of useful information.
How to get involved
A good start is to join a club that offers club trips, coaching and matches. You will learn so much more in the company of experienced anglers. Often, when you are starting out in match fishing, it is better to watch a match than to take part. Watching good anglers fish is a great way to learn. Even better if you talk to them and try to understand what they are doing and why they do it. Then go and try out what you learned. Practice makes perfect.
There is lots of other good information on match fishing methods and tactics in magazines and books but remember that this is no substitute for practice and experience. Match anglers often carry a bewildering array of tackle. This is usually built up over years so don't be intimidated since everyone has to start somewhere. Take advice from experienced anglers in your club and buy large items second-hand if money is tight. Match fishing can seem very complicated but the best anglers make it look easy and that's the best way to approach it, keep it simple.