Topping the table in a recent Canal pairs qualifier were Scott Doodson and partner Sam Rushton. Scott’s better known to most match anglers as a carp bagger on the commercial stillwater scene. That wasn’t always the case though, as his grassroots fishing was on natural venues.
In their Soudley heat, Scott and Sam weren't far short of emulating Simon Preece and Simon Mottram, who in 2015 both won 50-peg sections at this venue. Dropping just four points, Scott and Sam have secured their place at the Dynamite Baits Canal pairs championships final on the big Trent & Mersey Canal, with £12,000 up for grabs on the day.
We caught up with Scott to find out what inspired him to give canals another go.
Pictured: Scott (left) and his Canal pairs partner Sam
I've fished since the age of seven, after my uncle brought me back a DAM telescopic 10ft match rod from Germany, where he was posted in the army. Every week I was down at the local lake, Parker's Pool in Telford, near my house. It held crucians, tench and big wary roach, as well as a burst of gudgeon for a couple of years that I caught loads of on a 2m pole.
Getting into matches
I've fished junior matches since the age of 11. I loved the National Federation of Anglers Junior National in the 1990s, back in the old days of buses taking you to your pegs and hundreds of eager kids milling around at the draw.
With Glynwed Angling Club we fished canal matches at Knighton, Soudley and Brewood, plus lakes and rivers such as the Trent and Severn. I usually travelled with my uncle, who had come out of the army by then. I later joined Rod and Gun Angling Club, where I first fished the Angling Times winter league and also represented Lilco match group in the Drennan border counties league.
Dave Matson introduced me to the wonders of carp and soon I was invited to join Browning Wolves, aged 17 years old. The winter leagues had evolved, with two canal, two river and two carp lake venues. The size of squads was growing. Through fishing with Matson, Dave Berrow, Dave Barnard, Jason Cunningham, Dave Richards, Steve Dudley and John Hannah, my canal fishing improved in leaps and bounds.
When the Wolves team folded, I ran a Rod and Gun side for two years, getting through to the winter league semi-final on the Beeston Canal in the second year. I also snared a Division Three National winners medal on the Boston Drains in 2005 representing Telford Angling Association.
Wayne Mellings put together a new Maver Midlands team in 2009 and I joined as an all-rounder at the time. In the squad were anglers like Norman Carpenter, Stuart Ballard, Peter Plant, Jon Arthur, Jamie Hughes, Simon Richardson, Dave Brown, Dave White, Sean Barber, James Howarth, Craig Ebbrell, Adam Rumble and David Lloyd.
We had several big results, winning stacks of leagues and reaching the national winter league final. We upset some big teams along the way and became a team to be reckoned with.
Drennan North West
In 2018 I was recruited by Drennan North West, joining a squad featuring the Conroy brothers: Steve and his younger brother, former England international, Stuart Conroy.
Starting off as Highfield, Drennan North West are a famous team that I'd looked up to for many years. Thus far, I've played a part in helping the team win the local Heronbrook Angling Times winter league and coming third in the Angling Trust Commercial National. Come October, the leagues kick off and I shall be back at Heronbrook and Monkhall for a winter campaign and then probably back on the canals next spring and summer.
Commercials: the upsides and downsides
Love them or loathe them, I think commercials have revolutionised match fishing and benefitted angling over the last 25 years or so. Tackle and bait have evolved to meet the needs of the marketplace and the evolution of commercials methods and baits continues to this day. The mix of an almost guaranteed net of fish coupled with amenities close at hand gives many anglers everything they need.
The downsides for me have been brought about by fishery rules. In the worst cases this has led to cheating and pushing the limits, and at the other end of the scale the banning of too many methods and baits. The scene is very competitive now and those that don't or can't win on a regular basis are quick with their negative comments on social media regarding the success of others. There generally seems to be more friendly banter and far less griping these days on the canal circuit.
Canal fishing: the upsides and downsides
You catch as many, if not more, numbers of fish on a canal, but obviously they're generally much smaller. I do like the element of surprise in canal fishing. There are always noted pegs, but when the float sails under and it's met with a different resistance to the last 15 small fish as the elastic flies out of the pole, your heart misses a beat.
It's exciting when you know that landing a 2lb bonus fish could double your weight, or a 4lb bream or chub could even win you the match.
In a canal match, you're never quite out of it, with many having been won in the last 30 minutes. On a commercial, once you're way behind, there's little realistic prospect of pulling it back.
Change is good and I've enjoyed my time this summer going back to natural venues. I'm looking forward to the next canal match, and the social side of the canal scene for me is far better than most commercial scenes I've fished. Breakfast at the pub, fish, results over a pint, and a chat afterwards discussing what we all could have done differently. Great stuff.
The downside to canal fishing has to be the small number of uneducated waterway users who don't seem to care for others using the canal. An angler's day can pretty much be ruined in one minute by thoughtless action. Our waterways are there for all to use, walkers, boaters, anglers, cyclists and canoeists, and we must all strive to get along and understand each others' needs.
Future angling ambitions
The most important thing for me is to keep enjoying my fishing. I would love to win a big match on the canal. The upcoming Canal pairs final would be awesome, as there are not many 180-peg matches to compete in these days.
Qualifying for a Fish‘O'Mania final and being on the telly would be a dream come true. That would stay with me for life.
I also enjoy taking my kids fishing. My boy seems to prefer his football at the moment, but my daughter, Paighton (pictured), loves fishing. She's just entered the junior, cadet and youth canal angling championships and is itching for the big day to arrive.