Ivan Marks: The People’s Champion is a collection of the best columns the match legend wrote for AnglingTimes during the 1970s. In this one, taken from the first chapter entitled ‘Match Fishing’, Ivan discusses how the crowds that gathered behind cost him even greater success.
How times have changed…
Spectators cut my match winnings by £1,500 [pub. January 9th, 1974]
I HATE to say it, but spectators who crowd around me in big matches are costing me very dearly. I am convinced that spectators have cut my winnings by as much as £1,500, as well as a goldenchance of qualifying for the Woodbine event this year. But the spectator problem is one I, and other names who attract the crowds, have got to learn to live with. It’s a real dilemma, and one which must be solved. But how this can be done escapes me.
Angling badly needs those spectators who are prepared to turn out in all weathers to watch their heroes, and I would never back any move to ban them. It would be like having a CupFinal at Wembley without crowds. It would help a great deal if spectators in the National and championship matches kept away for the first half hour or so to give anglers time to settle down on these big occasions when nerves are pretty raw. Spectators gain very little from these early minutes anyway.
I am always prepared to show them how I fished, how I fed and things like that …after the match. It will be worse than ever for this year’s Welland National, especially for myself and the Leicester Lads. We have all done well on the Welland, and crowds are sure to gather around us to see if we can win. The majority of Welland pegs are backedby a very high bank, making crowds stand out like skyscrapers. The National could well be a roach dominated match. Big crowds will kill off the chances of anyone lucky enough to draw a good bream peg.
To be honest, I would much rather have 500 people behind me and none behind the other lads, simply because I think I can take spectators better than they can. If the match was judged onweight, it would not be so bad, as I would be prepared to catch less just togive them a spectator-free pitch. But we must all get the best from each peg onthe points system and no team can afford to carry anybody.
The National and the chance of winning the Ouse Championship for four years running, are titles I badly want to achieve this summer. But I am really afraid that attention from spectators could well prevent me from winning either. To be honest I enjoyhaving spectators around me, being a bit of a showman. If they didn’t gather behind my peg, I would be really upset. They are all out for me to win.
Unfortunately theydon’t help me a bit. I love it when they clap and even tell me when tostrike. Then matches often turn into a bit of an exhibition. Because they enjoywatching the big names so much, how can you tell people to keep away or moanafterwards that they’ve cost you the match. Angling is not like any other sport in this respect. In football the crowds can shout and call you all the names under the sun without having any effect on your game. You’ve got the ball, and it’s all up to you.
I am sure in time there will be big events like the Woodbine or Gladding featuring all the top men in say a three series competition. This would really pull in the crowds and I can’t understand why it hasn’t been done already. Then we will all have to learn how to live with the crowds, and why not? They come to watch you catching big fish or lots of small ones at a fantastic rate. But the sheer fact that they are crowding behind stops you doing either. This is the real problem. Would golf addicts be prepared to watch Tony Jacklin playing golf without a ball, or watch Barbra Streisand on television with the sound switched off? I doubt it.
I would hate to seespectators roped off. This would only have the even worse effect of creating crowds not only behind the star, but also around the poor anglers at adjoining pegs, who perhaps can’t cope with spectators chatting and stamping about.
Another match I badly wanted to win but was prevented from doing so by spectators was the Middle Level National. I had taken several 20lb-plus nets in practice from the same peg I drew. In the match itself, I caught only 4lb from the close in swim. Isuppose it’s the penalty the big names must be prepared to pay.
Going back to this year’s Welland National, I could suggest that the NFA make only four access points on the lower river for spectators. This would thin the crowds outalong the bank and give every competitor a chance to get going.
Many people don’t realise that the Coronation Channel chub could easily win this National. But again, chub, which are probably the shyest fish swimming, will quickly head for home if even six spectators stand behind the angler lucky enough to draw the chub peg. I can only ask anyspectators who do want to watch either me or other anglers, to sit down and not to move about on the skyline then all of us will get the best out of these big attractions.
Ivan Marks: The People’s Champion runs 312 pages and is available from Calm Productions at a very reasonable £26 including P&P. Leather bound copies are £180 plus delivery and there’s even a VIP version of just 9 copies with all manner of extras at £400 plus P&P but I suspect these will have already been snapped up by serious collectors. Just go to the Calm Productions web site for more details or call 0845 4082606.