Next in our top ten greatest anglers series is the maestro, Benny Ashurst. Some may never have heard of him, but for the match anglers of the 1960s and 1970s Benny was the man who all but invented sinking casters.
Starting fishing on his local ‘Fir Tree Flash’ pit, Benny put his talents to use by winning seven big open matches in 1955. Then came nine open wins in 1956 against 500 competitors on venues like the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, Stafford Canal, St Helens Canal and the Lancaster Canal. At that time Benny felt his best performance was a win in the 1949 Northern Angling Association match against 1,000 anglers on the ‘Lanky’ at Garstang.
Casters and Benny Ashurst go hand in hand. Benny was a great match angler who, through his winning performances on the northern canals and the River Trent, shot this bait to dizzy heights during the 1960s.
The sinking chrysalis
Benny worked out how to commercially produce the sinking chrysalis, the vital key that transformed this bait into the powerful feed and hook bait medium it is today.
The design of both the stick float (1956) and the peacock waggler were also attributed to Benny. Although the principle upon which the stick float worked had been established many years before. In a booklet, 'The Rudiments of Angling' written in 1912, there is a picture of a quill float with a wooden plug base. Benny tried many different materials to produce the perfect float for caster fishing, finishing up with balsa wood tops and heavy cane bases originally made using hardwood spindles from local Lancashire mills.
"Benny Ashurst – King of the Canals"
In June 1957, the Midland Angler ran a feature headed "Benny Ashurst – King of the Canals" and gave a breakdown on his tackle. Apart from the revelation that Benny used an Apollo ‘Taperflash’ steel rod, and a Mitchell fixed spool reel, there was a complete description of his special canal floats.
“His small porcupine floats are fitted with balsa wood tops attached to the line by a rubber ring at each end.”
Therefore, we have a prototype stick float fished double rubber but based around a porcupine quill stem rather than heavy cane.
Benny’s greatest ambition was to win the National Angling Championship individual title. He didn’t get the luck he deserved, but his Stoke team took the 1969 Trent National Angling Championship team title. It wasn’t much of a surprise as they had some great anglers drawn from Warrington, Manchester and Stockport. They had dominated matches on the Trent, with the fixed spool reel, stick float and caster since the early 1960s, winning a three-match series against the Nottingham centrepin anglers as early as 1963. With the increased publicity surrounding these challenge matches, news of the stick float quickly spread to the rest of the country.
With a string of top open match wins behind him, Benny won the 1971 Trent Angling Championship with a weight of 18-3-0, not on his beloved stick but on a 12-inch piece of peacock waggler. Benny’s legacy lives on in his great book 'Match Fishing with Benny Ashurst' (1968). It’s a great read.
Last date edited: 12 January 2021