Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary

The New Year is a great time to start match fishing, not only because most angling clubs restart their evening club match series, but because lots of anglers try their hand at the opens and entry numbers soar for the first couple of months of the year. OK, if you are not interested in competitive fishing and prefer to concentrate your efforts on catching bigger fish, then move down the page, if you are then here is some advice for those starting out.

Match fishing has become more and more competitive over the years, especially at open match level. Match fishing tackle, techniques and anglers have improved enormously and just as in most sports, winning is not quite as easy as in years past. This means that the novice or beginner starting out in competitions should really avoid the open events, especially the smaller open matches organised by matchmen for matchmen. If you want to fish opens then try the giant biggest fish contests where a greater element of luck is involved. For the beginner it is far better to start out at club level because with the thousands of angling clubs around the British Isles there is a lot of choice and many of the smaller clubs offer entry level angling. By that I mean competitions that contain anglers of an equal ability. Club fishing is more of a social occasions at many local angling clubs, competitive yes, but anglers are more likely to share knowledge or their fishing spot, a great place to learn the ropes.

Perhaps most important of all the skills required to be successful in competitions is knowing the venue and really only experience can teach you what is around at a given tide, time of year etc. Joining a club and concentrating your efforts on one venue will open your eyes to what is involved in solving the problems of fishing just one venue, let alone different ones. Undoubtedly learning to be successful will cost you money and its wiser to spend the smaller entry fees to club events to learn that spending a fortune on the more expensive opens. There will come a time when you think you are ready to compete in an open, especially one on a venue you have fished regularly.


Staying with competition fishing this month’s favourite terminal rig has to be scratching booms. I am a big fan of the very fine wire Continental style booms that allow the angler to use light line snoods and small baits without them tangling. It’s a case of horses for courses and fishing for what’s around rather than a whole Calamari on a 4/0 Pennel rig. Booms allow the delicate presentation of small baits for small-mouthed species and that’s the key. Flatties and the many of the other species have a greater liking for small wriggly worms etc and these can be fished more efficiently on a small hook and light line so they appear as natural as possible to entice the smaller fish. Of course the element of strength has to be retained in rigs and gear so that should a bigger fish come along you can land it, but overall finesse is a vital tactic to catch the smaller fish at this time of year.

For those that soldier on regardless of season in the hunt for the bigger, better quality fish and don’t want to turn to match fishing then the alternative is to travel. Access to better fishing is far easier nowadays and it really is possible if you are willing to travel to find better fishing, even around the UK.

Most years one or two regions will offer bigger codling for the first few months of the year. These are where the year class of the codling is second, third or fourth year fish. This year Cumbria has a good head of bigger codling at the time of writing and that may be the place to head. Last year it was South Wales and the Bristol Channel, although there the codling have reached breeding size and moved away completely. Alternatively take to the boats because some of the far off wrecks around the UK will produce some giant fish in late winter, through February – My tip for a real lunker are the wrecks in the English Channel with the charter boats out of Eastbourne, Brighton and Newhaven the ports to head for.

A TIP FOR WOULD BE COD CATCHERS: The fast track to catching a giant cod is to take a trip to Norway this spring or summer to catch that lunker. North Norway offers the chance of a 40lb plus cod, plus giant coalfish, haddock and more to even the greenest novice, simply because they are there to catch. Contact Ian Peacock who organises fishing in Norway with Dintur

E Mail:

Tel: 0191 4472363


My annual trip to Gambia is looming. I am fishing the Gambian Beach Championships on the 11th to 14th April 2013. Unfortunately if you have not already booked a place you may be unlucky. Contact Bernard Westgarth on Tel 01325 720113 or E Mail:


The event and the days fishing around it are my chance of a catching a bigger fish with captain fish and cassava the two species that are most likely to show. But my chances are not done after that because I have some big English and French carp to fish for later in the year and if that fails there is always a large lake rainbow or a bass later in the summer.

Yes I hedge my bets with the bigger fish during the year and don’t pin my hopes on cod alone. If you are struggling to land a biggy you should try it!

Wishing you all a Happy New Year.

Alan Yates.


Alan with a 3lb codling, typical New Year size. He caught it to win the Folkestone SAA pier Christmas competition.

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Alan Yates

About Alan Yates

Born in the channel port of Dover, Alan Yates spent his boyhood bass fishing from boat and shore. After a highly successful match fishing career, during which he competed for England 15 times, twice winning gold, Alan went on to become a full time angling journalist. While writing for, among other titles, Angling Times and Improve your Sea Angling, Alan also wrote his seminal work, Sea Fishing. Founder of the Sea Angler’s Match Federation, Alan fought for catch and release in match fishing and sea fishing more generally.