So is class actually permanent? This is the shortened version of a question one of my friends asked over Facebook. It just seems to be assumed by everyone that if an angler is a class act, they will always be a class act.
Just look at Bob Nudd; despite his dating profile stating 21 he is in fact over 70 years old, but draw next to him sat knee deep in an Irish lough in a gale with 300 roach to be caught at 14 metres and there is still more than a good chance he will batter you! He may now prefer a cup of cocoa and his slippers after a match than a pint of Guinness, but he is still a class act!
However, there are many anglers out there who 10, 20 or 30 years ago used to catch obscene amounts of fish from a lot of venues using many different methods, who you just don’t see in the media any more. Some have given up and some have health problems that limit their fishing. Many, however, are still in the prime fishing age range of 40 to 60 years old and are still out every week but just don’t win any more. If they don’t have the excuse of age or health, what happened? Why isn’t class permanent?
In my opinion, the very stiffest pole, quickest reactions, best eyesight and physical strength and coordination aren’t the most important things. If they were then the sport would be dominated by 22-year-olds, and like many footballers, our careers would be over by around 35.
Being able to hit lightning-fast bites, feed accurately and cast into an egg cup at 30 yards are all things most people can do with a huge amount of practice, yet they will still get beaten by the very best. The reason for that is you still need the X factor… the sixth sense that tells you what to do next… the divine intervention that guides star anglers to cut back on the feed slightly or just put a little more line on the deck… the sip of magic potion that inspires them to cast the method over the pole line or drop the waggler short of the feed, that results in that vital winning fish.
I’ve been fortunate enough to watch some class anglers in my time and when they handle a pole, they look no tidier than you or I, yet the fish they put on the scales at the end are consistently more. That’s why age doesn’t matter, but the decisions you make do.
So now I’ve got my skills, how do I keep them? How would I know? I’m just a lad who has fished at a high level for a long time and captains a successful team! That’s the conclusion one angling celebrity came to after reading what I’d written on Facebook! The angler in question knows a lot about match fishing, despite not fishing a match this side of the millennium, and is highly famed for… well, actually I don’t think anyone knows any more, but he is certainly very vocal on his opinions!
Anyway, back to the point. The reason I think that class isn’t permanent is the fact that match fishing is nothing like riding a bike. It is, however, just like trying to stay at the top of any other sport, which means hard work and training. People who were once class acts and have now fallen by the wayside have commonly lost their passion or their free time to go fishing! Wives and girlfriends across the country will be frustrated to learn that fishing once a week just won’t cut the mustard!
To further back my claims, I have another example. In my youth, I’ve fished against several anglers who were utterly useless. Pools fodder only goes part way to describing how little chance they had of winning. A young me used to regularly bash up these poor unfortunates. Move on 10 to 14 years and a couple of these anglers are now immensely good and I dread drawing anywhere near them! They now fish a variety of venues and are dangerous on them all, and as far as I can see, there is only one major thing that has changed; the time they put into their fishing!
In the same way as a marathon runner stops winning when they stop training, an angler stops winning when they stop being able to put as much time into practice and preparation.
With this in mind, becoming a class act might not be as far out of reach as many anglers think. Early retirement or a drop to working just four days a week might see all sorts of superstars appear from unexpected places. Or maybe just a bit more pools fodder for the midweek opens!
Bob Nudd is a legend in every sense of the word – and wins as much now as he ever has.
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