This article originally featured as part of Jon Arthur’s popular End Peg column that featured in Match Fishing magazine:
End Peg – February 2005
This is my first ever article for Match Fishing. I never believed that I would ever be saying that but a lot has happened over the last few months. So who am I and why am I suddenly in this magazine? Allow me to explain…
My name is Jon and I am a 28 year old match angler from Coventry. I fish for Shimano Tipton Van den Eynde, arguably one of the top three or four teams in the Midlands. It has taken a long time for me to get to where I am now so I suppose I really need to start at the very beginning.
I have served a very typical match fishing apprenticeship. I started fishing competitively as a junior with a local club called Malt Shovel AS and the lessons I learned at Club level have always served me well. I managed to win the Club Championship in my first year as a senior and a couple of years later I was making the first tentative steps into Open matches. As a club angler I was successful on a variety of waters from rivers to lakes but trying to match that sort of diversity straight away at Open level would have been difficult. I realised pretty quickly that to do any good against the ‘cracks’ at open level I would need to concentrate on one sort of venue or method. Canal fishing offered me the perfect platform to compete. All I needed was a pole, a modest amount of bait and a Dad with a car. Living in the Midlands I was surrounded by canals like the Grand Union Canal and the Oxford Canal and, at least back then, there was a very healthy Open circuit. It isn’t something that I see very often these days, but back then match organisers like Pat O’Connor and Bob Taylor were very forward thinking. Rather than one flat entry fee for matches they utilised a stepped pools system. I could often enter the matches for just £5 rather than the £12 to £20 flat fee that is the norm today. Normal pools and Super Pools were also available but by using a stepped pools system newcomers like myself were encouraged to compete. Obviously this meant that I would not be eligible to win as much on the day but that wasn’t important – just being able to afford to fish against the top anglers in my area was the biggest reward.
During those formative years I fished every match that I could get to. I was always intimidated and in awe of the anglers that I found myself fishing against but, as I got accustomed to some of the venues, I began to start picking up section money and low frame placings. When school and part-time jobs prevented me from entering matches I would make a point of watching matches instead. By quietly sitting behind anglers and studying their every move I began to pick things up, and soon realised that I was ready to begin competing against them.
Some of these anglers were more approachable than others and I forged friendships with many of them. Anglers like Bob Taylor and Dave Armstrong, who both fished for Jet Breakers AC, along with Roger Martin and my late friend Alan Hancock were some of the most influential people that I have ever met. They went out of their way to encourage me and I will always be indebted to people like these for spurring me on. Through these anglers I was introduced to more canal specialists and as I started to frame on a regular basis people began to stand up and take notice. It’s one of the greatest feelings in fishing to have complete strangers come up to you and acknowledge you by name. The one thing that seemed to stand out above anything else was that all the top anglers fished for a team. It seemed like an impossible dream at the time but getting into a team simply had to be my next goal.
Through my newly found angling friends I was introduced to a local tackle shop where most of the top locals used to congregate on a Friday evening. The proprietor at the time was a guy called Nigel Hicks who also fished many of the same canal matches as me. He had his own shop-based squad called VMC Tackle Cellar and the day that I was asked to be a part of that team was one of the happiest days of my life. – though don’t tell the missus!
I was so excited to be part of a team. Just having team clothing and luggage was a wonderful thing in itself but actually fishing against other teams was a real eye-opener. Initially we fished small league matches but as the team expanded we entered the West Midlands division of the Angling Times Winter League. At the time it was arguably the strongest league in the country and included the likes of Shakespeare, MAP Starlets, FAPS Trinders AFS, Shimano Portway and Daiwa Gordon League. I was awestruck by the competition! I was primarily involved in the canal rounds at Rowington on the Grand Union Canal. These matches involved the use of bloodworm and joker and anglers like Starlets’ Norman Carpenter and Carl Baker were the big names to beat. I cannot lay claim to beating anglers like these off of the next peg but I still managed to do well in my section on every round. As I became more consistent I was eventually elected as canal captain, a thankless task as all team captains will tell you, and a position that I held for two seasons.
The team was getting better and better and we were starting to worry some of the more established squads. I soon noticed that there was a definite pecking order amongst the teams at this level. As soon as anyone got any good they would be head-hunted by a bigger team. This had the dual effect of strengthening their own team whilst simultaneously weakening the teams that threatened them. A team like ours was always going to be the perfect breeding ground for the more established outfits, and it was only a matter of time before I was asked to join Andy Bruce’s FAPS Trinders AFS team. I would have been a fool to turn them down!
When I joined AFS they were a very well respected all-round team who could boast anglers of the calibre of Pete Rice, Mick Hatchard, Rob Quinn, Jim Keeling, Tony Skinner and Tom Pargetter amongst their ranks. I felt very privileged to be fishing in the same team as these anglers, many of whom now fish with the mighty Shakespeare and Starlets teams of today. When I was with AFS we were a very serious threat to the more nationally recognised outfits, and did consistently well in both the Superleague and Winter League Divisions at the time. Our best ever performance, at least when I was with them, was pipping Starlets to the last qualifying place for the Winter League Semi-Finals. That season our team had fished superbly well on some difficult venues and rightfully deserved a Semi-Final place on the Grand Union Canal at Milton Keynes. I will never forget that match. There were about eighteen teams involved and I had done really well to end up fifth in the section after Dorking’s Simon Willsmore just pipped me off the next peg. Despite being such an important match we struggled to field our strongest squad on the day and were unlucky to end up the first team off qualifying for the final. That anticlimactic end to the season was the catalyst for big upheavals within the squad. Despite doing so well that season, and being on the verge of even bigger things, several anglers were lured away to greener pastures. The team was very close-knit and so there was a huge knock-on effect. With many of my friends preparing to leave I feared the worst and was not prepared to stay on a sinking ship. A few months earlier I had been approached by Paul Turner of Fosters Tipton Van den Eynde and the next season I found myself in a new team. It was an extremely difficult decision for me that played on my conscience for a long time afterwards but four seasons on I can honestly say it was the right thing to do.
My first full season with Tipton saw us win the Division Five National on the Basingstoke Canal. Since then we have also won a National team silver and a team bronze. We have been promoted every year since then and next year will be our first season in Division One. On top of that we have made the Drennan Super League Final at Whiteacres the last two years plus the Angling Times Winter League Final twice as well. We also won last year’s first ever Builder Centre Final at Whiteacres. This season has been a lot poorer by comparison. We haven’t done particularly well in the Super League but we are currently lying comfortably at the top of our Winter League division with two rounds to go.
Now that I have grown in experience I am once again fishing a variety of waters, not just the canals that I began with. Team commitments often prevent me from fishing as an individual but last season I still managed to get 17 Kamasan Points. I regularly score over a dozen points each season but I have always fallen short of the magical twenty.
When team commitments die down one of the venues I like to fish is a carp venue called Tunnel Barn Farm. I have got an enviable record on this venue and have won more money here than anywhere else I fish. At one stage I won six matches on the trot and was getting decent headlines in the weeklies. The biggest acknowledgement I could ever get was having one very well known angler openly tell me that he refused to fish the venue if I was going to be there. Apparently he never fished for second place. Attendances began to drop and the match organisers were all blaming me for it! In many ways this was a compliment but I was also upset by the resentment aimed towards me. It taught me a lot about the thoughts and motivations of some of the anglers that I fish against. This season I have only managed four visits to Tunnel Barn but two wins, a second and a third have proved that I’ve still got it.
A decent run at Tunnel Barn last year was also enough to win me a Midland Angler Matchman of the Month award. I fished the Matchman of the Year Final earlier this season and a psychotic 10lb carp that jumped out of my landing net may have cost me the overall title. That match taught me a lot and proves that I am still a long way behind the very best in the sport. Knowing this is one of the things that drives me on. I don’t see any point in sitting on a couple of familiar venues every season. I like new challenges and I want to better myself. I want to fish against the very best anglers out there. I will never fish for England but I regularly fish against internationals with my fair share of successes and failures. I hope that one day I will also be regarded as a big name angler. At the moment I am a long way off that dream.
So now you know who I am but that still doesn’t explain why I am writing in this magazine. Last year I was thinking to myself that I really should start to keep track of my own match performances. Since April 2004 I have been recording my match results in the form of a diary. I am a graphic designer and web designer by trade and so I created my own website to store this information. I have been writing my online diary (or Blog in Internet terms) ever since without telling anyone about it. In September 2004 I finally took the plunge and launched Endpeg.com. I didn’t make a huge fuss about it. All I did was email two people that I respected and posted a message on the Total-Fishing.com website. I launched the site before leaving for work at 7:45am on a Wednesday morning. Within three or four hours I was inundated with positive feedback and by lunchtime the same day I had an email from Dave Harrell asking me to write for his magazine. It really did happen that fast and I still cannot believe it!
Now you know how my match fishing career has evolved, who I am, why I’m here and where I want to go. I never ever anticipated that I would be where I am today, let alone being given the opportunity to write about it. I haven’t got a crystal ball so I haven’t a clue what‘s in store for me from this point on. Whatever happens, good or bad, I will try and relate my experiences through this magazine. I hope that you will enjoy what I have to say. It’s all down to the drawbag from here…