First published on the website Against Men And Fish.
Hi Jon, I realise how incredibly busy you are, so thank you so much for agreeing to do an interview.
You’re currently a consultant for Matrix but you’ve also been group editor for Match and Pole fishing magazines, Media Coordinator for Drennan and you’re also an angling coach, so did you originally want a career in angling?
I’ve been fishing ever since I was four years old, but art and design was my original career route. While working as a designer I hand-coded my own website in my spare time and started a match blog. I must have been one of the very first match anglers to be blogging (I think it was way back in 2005) and banked up loads of match reports before finally launching a website. I told people about it via angling forums (that’s what people did before Facebook!) and was blown away by all the nice comments. Within a week Dave Harrell asked me to write a monthly diary for Match Fishing magazine called End Peg (a nickname I’ve always had, for obvious reasons!). Within six months Dave asked me to be his Deputy Editor. I didn’t hesitate to accept and that was the beginning of my career in angling!
Can you tell the readers how you first got into fishing?
Catching minnows and bullheads down the local brook with my brother and cousins is my earliest memory. We later got little glass rods and started to fish the canal, catching mostly gudgeon with self cocker floats.
We used to also fish a few small farm ponds for crucians with toffee flavoured maggots and also crudely legered luncheon meat on the River Avon for chub. My brother and I also entered a few junior matches at a local cement quarry. We won loads of shields and cups there, which was probably when the match fishing bug really hit me. I was always competitive and wanted to catch more than my dad and brother.
How did your match fishing career kick off?
We joined a small club called Malt Shovel AS, fishing all sorts of nice venues, such as Compton Verney, Canons Ashby, the Avon at Stratford, Wasperton and Hampton Lucy. The club also controlled its own exclusive stretch of the Leam and Avon rivers in Warwick and this is where I practised things like bread and hemp fishing. The canals were also popular fixtures for me, especially the Oxford Canal at Somerton and the Grand Union at Bascote.
I wasn’t too bad at football as a kid but unfortunately had two separate hamstring injuries that took a long while to mend. Each time I was recovering I fished club matches instead and that’s when I made the decision to concentrate on fishing instead of football.
I was successful as a junior and that continued when I moved up to the seniors, getting my name on almost every shield. I always wanted to push myself, so the next step had to be opens. Canals were cheap to fish and only required minimal kit, so the ideal place for me to start. There was also a number of good local evening matches at the time, so I got to fish lots of matches. When I wasn’t fishing I’d go along and watch, learnt loads and made some great friends.
Did the angling media play much of a part in your angling development?
Absolutely! I stumbled across Match Fishing magazine in a newsagent, which was a real revelation. It was terribly designed back then, mostly black and white, but full of great content. I also bought every single issue of Angling Plus and Advanced Pole Fishing Techniques when they were launched. I used to love getting the Angler’s Mail, too, as it had a proper in-depth match feature each month, plus a really interesting comic strip with Dave Coster. I also had library books on permanent loan with Dickie Carr and Kim Milsom’s being the ones I remember the most.
I used to read all these magazines and books from cover to cover and still have lots of old notebooks, which are full of notes and rig diagrams based on what I read. I never cut pages out of my precious magazines!
We also used to hire angling videos from my local tackle shop and I’d always ‘tape-to-tape’ the best ones so I could watch them again and again. Dickie Carr was a firm favourite, plus Ian Heaps, Jan Porter and Dave Harrell. There was no YouTube back then!
I was such an anorak and just wanted to watch, read and learn everything I could. It wasn’t just catching fish, it was trying new methods, rigs and baits that excited me. I suppose it was inevitable that I’d ultimately end up going down an angling career path!
Can you remember the first fish you caught?
My very first proper coarse fish was a small roach from the Grand Union Canal at Stockton on a waggler. I’ve always been proud of that fact, as most people’s first fish is a perch!
And what about your first match win?
I assume it would’ve been one of those cement works junior matches with a mixed bag. We used to catch all sorts of species in those quarries.
As a consultant for Matrix can you tell us what constitutes a typical day, if there is such a thing?
There is no typical day. I regularly get asked what it’s like to go fishing every day, which makes me chuckle. That would be a nice luxury! I have an 18-month daughter and looking after her is my biggest commitment when she’s not at nursery. I also have regular monthly commitments with Matrix plus some freelance projects that take up the bulk of my spare time. I do more writing, filming, editing and photographing than actual fishing. However, before my angling coaching kicks back into full swing in Spring I’d really like to try and squeeze in a midweek open match or two.
Are there any exciting new Matrix products we should be looking out for this year?
I’ve watched quite a few of your videos (which are excellent by the way) and it’s safe to say you’re not a ‘one trick pony’ with river matches, big match qualifiers on commercials, silverfish matches and you do a bit of drop shotting as well. Have you got a favourite style of fishin
I like getting bites, working hard and catching fish, so anything that keeps me busy. Any kind of float fishing has to be number one for me. I get bored if I have to wait longer than five minutes for a bite.
I also love my light lure fishing at this time of year, but that’s just a bit of fun whenever I can grab an hour or two for a quick fix.
Your favourite species?
Tench and crucians.
Where is your favourite venue?
It changes regularly, but I do like scenic and quiet places. There are some very good fishing venues I know but sadly all you can hear is a motorway or you’ve got thousands of people whizzing behind you, so these are my least favourite. I think White Acres in Cornwall offers the most varied and challenging fishing, so I do like it down there.
Have you any angling heroes or anyone who has inspired you?
Kim Milsom’s articles were the ones I used to look forward to reading the most. It’s sad that he gave match fishing up as he was such a good all rounder and penned some really inspiring articles.
Closer to home, anglers like Dave Armstrong and the late Bob Taylor and late Alan Hancock each helped me no end as a junior and I will always be indebted to them. Of course, I have to thank my mum and dad, too, as they both took me fishing and ignited the spark. And my brother, who still thinks he’s better than me. He’s not, by the way!
What’s your biggest fish in the UK? And abroad?
I think it’s a 24lb carp at Viaduct Fishery. That day I had 18 fish on Spring Lake for 255lb and qualified for Fish’O’Mania!
I’ve never really done lots of fishing overseas. I did catch some nice big catfish to about 8lb on the Arno while fishing with Italian international Jacopo Falsini, which is a day I’ll never forget. I rarely go fishing when I’m on holiday as it’s nice to have a complete break from it – plus I haven’t got the stomach for sea fishing. I would definitely like to try a spot of bonefishing in Cuba one day. Bass fishing in America looks fun too.
A lot of people say commercial fisheries have been the saviour of match fishing, especially with the decline of the rivers, but more recently there seems to have been a swing away from carp back towards silverfish matches and rivers. Where do you think the future of fishing lies?
I think people these days crave choice and variety, and that’s not just in fishing. Back when I started there was much less choice. Now it’s a lot more fragmented. I’m not sure there really has been such a big sway back to rivers or silverfish. I think that’s just the way the media like to portray it. I think there’s a hardcore of top anglers that like silverfish, rivers, canals, feeder-only matches or whatever, but the vast majority of people (especially club and pleasure anglers) are still on commercials where easy access and the chances of a successful day’s fishing is far greater.
I still like doing a bit of everything, which means I’m always swapping kit over, but a lot of anglers simply haven’t got the time or inclination to do that, which I completely understand.
The average age of anglers these days seems to be a little on the high side. How do we get more youngsters into fishing, or do we just accept our numbers are dwindling?
There is more choice than ever in life, so every sport or hobby will only grab a small percentage of people. The only way to bring more kids into fishing is to promote how enjoyable, exciting, fun and easy it is. It’s the parents as much as the kids that need convincing. Social media is absolutely vital. Kids watch stuff like YouTube and Netflix more than terrestrial TV these days and I don’t really see anyone tapping into that. It needs someone young in charge or up front with the right enthusiasm and motivation to engage with a younger audience.
I’m struggling to think of anything high-profile out there right now that successfully targets and engages young anglers on a national scale. There is the Talent Pathway, perhaps, but that seems more about nurturing existing juniors than introducing youngsters into fishing.
I think sitting beside a commercial fishery with an elasticated whip and some maggots is a great way to get kids started. If they’d rather fish a canal or river then give them a lure rod. Drop shotting and jig head fishing has to be one of the cheapest, fun and most accessible ways for anyone to get into fishing.
If you had a time machine is there one moment in fishing you wished you could go back and change? ie. a dream fish coming off at the net or a decision in a match that’s cost you a title?
I once tied with Andy Power in a Match This Qualifier at Makins Fishery. He was on Lake 3 and I was on Crater. Everyone expected Lake 3 to dominate, so I was surprised no one caught 100lb+ on there and was told my 93lb 8oz had tied for 1st place. In fact, I caught 94lb that day, but had my weight knocked back as I was 8oz over the keepnet limit! I don’t think I’ve ever gone over a net limit before and completely underestimated the size of my fish!
Andy was at one end of this huge fishery and I was at the other, so it took forever to work out what had happened. There didn’t seem to be any rules or precedent for this at the time, but after many phone calls we were forced to re-tackle up and have an hour’s fish off to decide who would go through to the Match This Final.
It was daft really. Looking back, our pegs were so different that I don’t think I stood much of a chance. Andy’s lake was full of hungry stockies down the edge while 40+ anglers had just clattered right past my peg to get to the car park! We should have just fished evenly matched pegs on another lake or organised a proper fish-off in the week. Better still, they could’ve just put 25 anglers in the Final instead of 24.
The whole thing was bonkers and it always surprises me how the media never picked up on the story, but that’s the way things are now I suppose…
However, all was made up for later that year as I went and won the UK Champs for a third time. That unforgettable match at Makins really gave me the drive to succeed!
You have an enviable list of honours to your name, is there one that eludes you that you would dearly love to have your name on?
I’d love to win a White Acres Festival. I’ve had plenty of top 10 finishes and was Runner Up in the Winter Festival two years ago, but an outright win would be nice.
Winning Fisho or Match This would be most welcome too! I was 3rd in my first Fisho Final, but I still got £2,500 for the biggest fish that year.
Have you got one piece of advice that will help the readers put more fish in their nets?
Have lots of hooklengths and don’t be afraid to cut one off and put a new one on. Something as simple as a bigger or smaller hook, or lighter or stronger line can definitely put more fish in your net. Or simply swapping to a fresh, sharp hook can make all the difference.
Match fishing has steadily become more professional with anglers smartening up their appearance, big money televised events and more and more sponsored anglers, but there are still only a handful of full-time anglers. Do you think there will ever be a time when match angling can become a viable career, like say professional footballers?
Not without professional events with big sponsorship. I’ve always thought there could be a manufacturer driven team event that could be really big. Not with your Barnsley Blacks, Starlets or Trentmen, but with proper manufacturer-based teams. Imagine if there was a proper Team Matrix, Team Garbolino, Team Guru, Team Daiwa, Team Dynamite and so on, pinning star-studded teams of three, four or five against each other and each team chipping into the prize pot. That could be really exciting and lucrative!
I don’t think match fishing is spectator friendly in its current format, either. Five hours is way too long, even for me to watch. Maybe something like 20/20 cricket is the answer – not that I know anything about cricket!
If any of the readers wanted to pursue a career in angling, have you got any tips you could give them?
Good luck! Work hard and put the time in. Always ask yourself what you can do for a company, not the other way around.
Well thank you for giving up your time but before I let you go, here’s a few more quick-fire questions:
What’s your favourite drink?
Dark rum or Guinness
Do you support a football team?
I don’t have time, but I used to be a Spurs fan, way back in the Hoddle and Waddle era.
Fantasy films and comedies, so anything from Lord Of The Rings and Star Wars to Monty Python And The Holy Grail and Shaun Of The Dead.
Game Of Thrones, Taskmaster, Family Guy, Landscape/Portrait Artist Of The Year. Oh, and my daughter and I also like watching Hey Duggee!
What music do you listen to?
People are normally surprised to learn I used to go to lots of raves! I still like listening to drum and bass, jungle, dubstep, reggae, dub and all that kind of stuff, but I’ve got quite eclectic tastes really.
Favourite bit of fishing tackle?
My Matrix MTX4 pole and Horizon XS Slim feeder rods
What’s your idea of a perfect day?
Waking up with a smile and going to bed with an even bigger one!
Many thanks again Jon, from Against Men And Fish.