What is Match Fishing? (And some Tips For Beginners)

Match fishing is very popular in the UK and is a form of coarse fishing. Every weekend over 900,000 people go fishing somewhere in the UK and a lot of these people will be match fishing.

What is match fishing? Fishermen are drawn a random peg on the lake, canal, or river where the match is taking place. They then head to their peg and fish for the allotted time (usually 5 hours). When the 5 hours and it’s the end of the match, everyone has to remove their line from the water and the match officials come along to weigh in the total weight of fish you have caught. Many people think it’s all about the biggest fish, but all that matters is the total weight.

Where do the matches take place?

In the 80s and 90s, match fishing usually took place on canals and rivers but nowadays most matches take place on commercial fisheries. This does cause some debate in the fishing world that commercial fisheries are easy to catch from as they are stuffed full of fish. Some examples of the most popular commercial fisheries are Partridge Lakes, Birch House Lakes, Packington Summers, and Todbar Manor.

Where Can You Get Started With Match Fishing?

There are usually 2 ways to get started. A club match or open matches.

Club Matches

I got started with club matches and it’s something I would recommend you do if you want to start match fishing. Most clubs are very friendly and people offer advice. It’s also less competitive. I emailed a local club and asked a few questions before joining. They basically said, “no one cares where anyone comes, just come down and fish and give it a go”. I can’t say a bad word about the club I am in and there are anglers of all standards. There are some amazing anglers and some really bad anglers. I would say I am somewhere in the middle but everyone’s always willing to offer advice to each other even if they are direct rivals. I have lost count of the number of times someone told me before a match about where to fish in my peg and what tactics have worked well for them at that venue.

A good choice of venues with club matches

Club matches will release their calendar of venues in advance and they are usually a good way to fish a variety of venues. I have found some brilliant venues from fishing my club matches that I may otherwise not have found.

Open Matches

Open matches are the next step up from club matches. It’s a lot more likely that the standard of competition will be much higher as there will be a lot of good anglers. I was quite nervous for my first few open matches, and I didn’t do quite as well as I did in my club matches. There is a good chance that the people fishing these venues will have fished the open matches every week for years. They know exactly where the good spots are for every peg and it can be hard to compete with them.

You can fish next to a world champion or Fish O’Mania champion

An open match means exactly that. It’s “open” to anyone. When you think about it, it’s one of the very few sports, if not the “only” sport where you can turn up and end up fishing next to really good anglers, your fishing idol or someone who fished in world championships. In December I fished in the Partridge Lakes Christmas open match. In total, I think there was 180 fisherman in it with the likes of Andy Bennett (2 x Fish O’Mania champion). This isn’t something that can happen in golf, football, or anything similar.

Fishing the open matches is definitely a faster way to improve. Take some time to watch what the other anglers are doing as the higher quality anglers will keep trying different tactics to find where the most efficient place is to catch the fish. I have been guilty in the past (and still do it) of sitting fishing the same spot hoping something is going to happen. In the open matches, these top anglers will keep trying different tactics until they find the fish.

How long does a match generally last?

Most matches last about 5 hours. The ones that I fish in usually start at 10:30am and we fish until 3:30pm. Some start earlier, while some start later.

Some venues have summer matches evening which takes place in the evening just before it goes dark. These are generally shorter matches and will last between 3 and 4 hours.

What tackle do you need?

You don’t need any specific tackle to fish a match as long as you have keepnets to put the fish in and follow the rules. You could turn up and sit on a bucket and still win. The fish won’t know if you have fancy tackle or not. However, having the correct equipment will make your fishing easier, enable you to be more prepared, and hopefully catch more fish.

Let’s have a look at some of the fishing tackle I think you need when turning up to fish matches.

Fishing Box

This is something 99% of anglers will have. A seat box usually contains draws for all your tackle and rigs. You can also add attachments onto the legs such as a side tray to put your bait on.

Fishing Pole

This is something I use in all my matches and if you have seen any fishing match you will know it’s an essential item of fishing tackle that you can’t do without. Using a pole allows you to be accurate and improve your catch rate. If there’s a certain spot in the reeds you want to present your bait then there’s a good chance you can do that when pole fishing.

Keep Nets

Most venues require you to bring your own keep nets. The rules nowadays can be a bit crazy with some needing a minimum of 3 nets. I would advise if you are new to match fishing that you buy 3 nets as it’s likely some of the different venues on your club matches will require nets so that you split your fish equally between them.

Float Rod

This is also called a “match fishing rod” but don’t get confused by that. It’s just a generic float fishing rod that is used for waggler fishing. It’s always worth having one of these in your fishing tackle collection as it could allow you to cast to spots that you can’t reach with a pole.

Feeder Rod

I’ve fished in some matches where people haven’t even picked up the pole or done any float fishing and just used been feeder fishing for the whole length of the match. On the right venue, it can be an excellent method.

Landing Net

It goes without saying that you will need a landing net as part of your fishing tackle to safely net the fish after you have hooked them.

Other Fishing Tackle

You could just turn up with your pole, box, keep nets, landing net and baits and fish in most matches. You will of course need terminal tackle like hooks, weights, a disgorger and so on but that would make this list of tackle massive. Chances are if you have been fishing before then you already have a lot of these small essentials in your tackle box.

Some Match Fishing Rules

Each venue I go to has different rules and to be honest, it can be quite frustrating at times trying to keep up with them all to make sure you are not disqualified. Each venue can set whatever rules they like. Here are some rules that I see across a lot of fisheries that are worth noting:

  • A minimum of 2 or 3 keepnets
  • Joker and bloodworm are banned (you can read more about those here)
  • Barbless hooks only (this will apply to most places except canal or river matches)
  • There’s usually a bait limit of 8 pints of maggots
  • 2kg ground bait limit
  • There’s usually a maximum hook size. At most venues, I’ve noticed it’s about a size 14
  • All fish no matter how small must be netted with a landing net.
  • No live baits

However, each fishery will have different rules. Many nowadays don’t allow you to fish any sort of meat. This is down to leftover meat not breaking down in the water and affecting the water quality.

Some other fisheries only allow “fixed floats”. This means that you can’t fish the jigger float (a float that slides up and down the line) and you can’t fish using just a piece of line on the end of your pole. Again, I feel all fisheries in the UK should come together and decide on 1 rule for all of this to make things simpler.

Some other FAQ

Q: What’s the difference between pleasure fishing and match fishing?

A: Pleasure fishing is just turning up and fishing for fun. Match fishing takes place at a set time at a certain venue.

Q: Is carp fishing different to match fishing?

A: Yes, Carp fishing is usually where people fish with much heavier tackle and fish for a longer time to catch a few larger fish. However, in the match fishing lakes, there’s usually a lot of carp as these are the hardest to catch and what makes up the majority of a match anglers catch.

Q: What if I don’t have a pole? Can I still enter the matches?

A: Yes, you can. However, if you are just feeder fishing or using a quiver tip rod then there is. chance you won’t catch as many fish as the pole anglers, but this all depends on the weather and conditions.

Q: What are the most popular baits for match fishing?

A: Maggots and pellets are probably the best 2 all-around baits. A nice ground bait mix will work well at most venues.