On just about any given weekend in the UK, hundreds (if not thousands) of anglers will be participating in the competitive sport of match fishing. These contests can take many forms, with some of the most competitive and exciting contests occurring on lakes and rivers during the height of summer.
Probably the most common type of match fishing is a simple single-day and single-water contest among entrants to see who brings in the biggest fish. Such matches have taken place since time immemorial, since all that is required is to line the fish up on the bank and see which one is the biggest. Usually size-matches are divided up into different classes or species of fish.
Sometimes the matches are based upon how many pounds of fish can be caught in a given amount of time, by entrants on a specific body of water. This is very common among trout and crap fishers. Also called speed-fishing, catching as many fish in a given time is gaining in popularity, especially among species that tend to be somewhat small. Species that grow very large, such as many predator fish, crap or salmon, are still often judged by the merits of a single, great fish.
Yet other fishing contests will look for the largest or longest fish of a given type in a water or collection of waters over an entire season. Such contests don't always collect entrance fees, and are often somewhat more informal in tone. Prizes are not usually as large or impressive as in the aforementioned type of short duration contests, which often have corporate sponsors and have very impressive prizes that bring in anglers from throughout the UK and EU.
Match fishing often features both a men's and women's division. As a result of generally fewer women being interested in fishing contests, the competition between entrants in that class is often not nearly as fierce ? great news if you want to come home with a trophy. There is also a children's division in many competitions, making it far more likely that whole families will sign up.
While there are entire magazines dedicated to match fishing in the UK, most anglers will simply try to have a good time and catch the biggest fish they can. Fishing matches are also a great opportunity for anglers of any age to learn some tips and tricks from some of the professionals that show up to compete for the prize money.
While many competitions make a distinction between the pros and everyone else, not all do. Depending upon the entrance charged for participating, the likelihood of just having some fun can vary considerably. It's always a good idea to get as much information about a contest as you can before signing up. Once you're out on the water, of course, the thing is to have as much fun as possible. Should you take home a prize, all the better.