LOMBARD, IL – While match fishing is hugely popular throughout Europe, the uniquely foreign sport and its seemingly bizarre tactics can leave even the most experienced American anglers scratching their heads. But don’t confuse something merely unfamiliar with a sport that’s in any way simple or unsophisticated. To the contrary, a quick search of the Internet or trip to the library will reveal an entirely new world of highly evolved angling complexity.
Match fishing competitions find participants confined to small areas, or pegs, along a bank, with the goal of catching the heaviest combined weight of fish during a prescribed time period. Equipment and tactics are highly advanced, and vary depending on the venue and available species. Top competitors catch six fish or even more per minute over a three-hour period – all the while managing delicate tackle, adjusting presentations and continually metering precise quantities of ground bait into the water to attract fish and keep them feeding. Adding to the apparent madness, competitors often employ tiny size 16-20 hooks to target fish less than four-inches long, but must be ready to battle larger fish like carp on the same gear.
Six accomplished female anglers will represent the United States at the 24th Annual Ladies’ Match Fishing World Championships in Szolnok, Hungary on August 26 and 27 of this year. The first-ever ladies team has been assembled by the United States Angling Confederation (USAC), a non-profit organization granted authority to host and participate in World Championship Sport Fishing events through a varied network of international partnerships.
The team consists of Barb Carey, Hannah Stonehouse Hudson and Kristen Monroe of Wisconsin, Elise De Villiers and Penelope Smit of Florida, and Shelly Holland of Minnesota. De Villiers and Smit are veteran match anglers, while Carey, Holland, Hudson, and Monroe will be competing in Hungary for the first time.
“Each of these outstanding women were selected for the team on their unique, individual merits,” says USAC’s U.S. Freshwater Fishing Sports Director, Mike McNett. “These are all skilled anglers, and Barb, Hannah, Kristen and Shelly are also established fishing industry professionals, which is a great help when it comes to generating the industry interest and support necessary for a new team. Elise and Penny have a good deal of competition experience, and will be a tremendous help to the other ladies in shortening their learning curve and getting them ready to compete.”
“We don’t expect miracles,” says Team Coach, Attila Agh, a lifelong match angler from Hungary who moved to the United States 17 years ago and has since become a U.S. citizen. “Our competition has been fishing in this way for their entire lives. But I am very encouraged by the spirit our ladies are showing, their angling ability and their competitive nature. They are learning the necessary skills that are new to them, and progressing quickly,” adds Agh, who warns the international competition not to count the American ladies out.
The team agrees.
“It’s a real treat and privilege to be learning this new style of fishing with the goal of competing on an international stage,” says Barb Carey, founder of WI Women Fish, who has, herself, been teaching people to fish for many years. “I guess the shoe’s on the other foot now! We really want to be competitive, so we’re learning and practicing our new skills almost every day.”
De Villiers, who started her match-fishing career in the U.S. nearly 20 years ago, coached and fished on South Africa’s ladies team in the FIPSed World Championships in 2012 and 2013. “I’m very excited that the U.S.A. will have a team competing in Hungary this summer,” she says. “I’m enjoying getting to know these other wonderful ladies and helping to prepare them however I can. I’m extremely proud to be representing Team USA.”
In addition to maintaining a rigorous training schedule, the USA Ladies’ Match Fishing Team is raising money to offset equipment, training, travel and competition costs leading up to the competition in August. Individuals and businesses interested in helping financially are invited to make tax-deductible donations of any amount at www.gofundme.com/team-usa-ladies-match-fishing.
Bronze ($500), Silver ($1,000) and Gold ($2,000) level sponsorships providing sponsor logo placement and other various forms of recognition are also being offered. Visit www.teamusafishing.org for more information, or join the conversation on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TeamUSALadiesMatchFishing/.