Working within the angling trade and, in particular, running a successful tackle shop, will always draw attention to oneself. Then get good at match fishing and that interest will span further than just within the confines of your local angling community. Tom Bagnall comes across as not only a competent match angler with a knowledge of all things tackle related, but also very well humoured and up for a laugh. So what better a victim to fire some questions at for this month’s ‘Getting Hooked Up’ entry?

JT: So then, Tom, how long have you been fishing?

TB: Hmm, let me see… I started fishing at a very young age when I lived in the Channel Islands. I’m not sure of the exact age, but it must have been somewhere around 6. I’m 27 now so that makes it 21 years fishing. Okay, okay, I’m not exactly 27, in fact I turned 40 last year, so I guess I’ve been fishing for 34 years or so.

Well, you’re only as young as you feel!

Not every fish Tom catches abroad is small

JT: What really brought you in to fishing and who is responsible for inspiring you?

TB: I was very lucky to grow up on Herm in the Channel Islands, an amazing place to spend your childhood, no cars, no television, no computer, very little in the way of anything really so you made your entertainment outside mostly. I always joke that living on that island you were either a fisherman or an alcoholic, I was too young for the latter.

There are so many people who’ve inspired me over the years, the one that sticks out the most for me is the late great Ian Golds. When I was a teenager I loved reading his articles in Sea Angler magazine (sorry, Hookpoint wasn’t around then!) and I’d draw every nugget of detail out of each article and try and put it into practice.

I first discovered Ian when he fished the £1000 Shakespeare open staged at Southbourne back in the mid/late 90’s. Whilst everyone else would be fishing on the deck hoping for a bite in bright daylight conditions, he’d come down and catch gars and win, twice in a row if I remember correctly. I loved the way he’d think outside the box and wouldn’t simply use the same bait and rigs wherever he went like a lot of the people I fished with at the time did.

JT: Who else do you admire within the fishing community, either in the past or the present?

TB: As above, of course, but I actually admire any angler who takes the time out of their lives to help others. I love the community spirit that is within fishing, but the ever-increasing trend to keep everything secretive and lie to others about how and where you fish saddens me no end. So I look up to all those guys and gals who share their knowledge and love of the sport with others.

It's not a surprise, given his inspirations in angling, to see Tom doing well on the match scene

JT: So, I get the impression that match fishing figures heavily for you, can you tell me some more about that? 

TB: Although post-covid I have done more freelance fishing than matches, match fishing still remains my main love. The buzz you get from a good match result for me outweighs the buzz I get when I catch a large fish when freelancing (this is just my personal preference, not a matches Vs specimen comment!). Going abroad to fish, the Mediterranean mainly, is my favourite and doing some of the open competitions in Greece, Cyprus, Italy etc has meant I’ve met some amazing anglers from all over the world. I also love approaching a match on a beach I’ve never seen in a country I’ve never visited and having to figure it out from scratch, then, getting a good result is really amazing! I’ve been lucky enough to win a few trophies abroad and I display these proudly in my shop.

My first England call up was as a reserve for the Home Nations in Wales in 2016. This was an amazing experience for me despite just being a reserve, I threw myself into the role and tried to help the team as much as I could. That particular team was full of anglers I admire greatly, and I have nothing but fond memories from the week (possibly because I wasn’t fishing and the fishing was truly awful!). Said with laughter 

I then, alongside Toby, qualified to fish the Pairs World Championships in Spain, again with a great team of guys managed by one of my favourite anglers, Malcolm Stote. This was the most painful experience of my life- Having dominated the competition over the first three days, Toby and I had the peg of doom on the final day and just one fish hit the beach. We ended up with both team and individual silver medals, which is an amazing achievement, but both Toby and I still feel it was a gold lost rather than a silver won! We were just one fish away from a gold. The World Championships in South Africa the following year was far tougher and we ended up 4th as a team (again one fish away from a medal!). 

So very nearly gold, but a great performance still resulted in a medal

JT: What was the first fish you caught?

TB: I can’t honestly remember, but I suspect it was either a wrasse or a shanny. We didn’t have a lot of money when I was young so I used to go to the rock marks on the island at low tide, untangle some of the lost gear out of the rocks, knock a limpet off or dig some worms with my hands and try and catch things by hand-lining! I chuckle at this when I look at the thousands of pounds worth of gear I have now!

JT: So what motivates you to keep fishing now?

TB: Certainly my competitive edge keeps me fishing, but since the pandemic I’ve really rediscovered the wonderful therapeutic powers of freelance fishing. Just going down to the beach or river, chucking out a bait and unwinding and de-stressing has been a godsend for me over the last two years. 

The local rays keep a bend in Tom's rod when he's not fishing a match

JT: Where is your favourite place to fish?

TB: Definitely fishing the Med. I can’t describe why, and people think I’m mad for wanting to travel somewhere abroad to catch (usually) small fish, but the Med has a magical draw to it that I just can’t explain in words! 

JT: The UK in January…. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to head for the Med right now!

TB: I Know, right?!

JT: From your portfolio of catches, which fish do you feel is your biggest achievement and why?

TB: There’s one fish that stands out for me and that was a gilthead bream caught in Sardinia. It wasn’t particularly huge by gilthead standards, but it was the how, where, when etc. I was fishing the Magrini competition for the second time and was pegged next to Italian legend Roberto Accardi. He is a phenomenal angler and I have huge respect for his ability to catch well on his home beaches. There’s something about fishing next to a great angler that really makes you raise your game and I was very fired up. When my rod pulled over on my first cast and I beached a cracking gilthead I was absolutely buzzing. I proceeded to catch another gilthead and several sargo throughout the match to not only beat Roberto, but to win the day.

JT: What would you rate as your stand out UK caught fish then?

TB: This is mildly underwhelming as so much of my fishing over the years has been match fishing, so there aren’t many large fish to shout about. I’ve done well with the rays on my local beaches recently and did set a new small eyed ray personal best of 11lb 1oz, I also have an 18lb 2oz undulate to my name, but I’m struggling to remember many others of note.

JT: What is your current choice of tackle?

TB: Well, being a tackle dealer (and tart) I have quite a selection of gear! My choice of reels are the Shimano Super Aero Fliegen 35 (not the new one, the previous version) for my light line work and Shimano Bull’s Eye 9100 for everything else. Rods are nearly all Verets, of course. I’ve been using them for years now and love them as much today as I did when I first got them. Because I fish so many different ways and different locations there’s not one set up I’d be without so picking one or two rods out of the range is an impossible question for me!

This gilt head bream is remembered fondly by Tom

JT: As a match angler you’ll hate this one, but If you could only fish with one bait, what would it be?

TB: I do hate these sorts of questions. I love the variety of fish species and fishing styles and these require a lot of different baits of course, but if I was forced to choose I think I’d go with mackerel. You can do quite a lot with it and there aren’t many fish that won’t eat a bit of mackerel!

JT: What are your thoughts on social media?

TB: Despite the fact I use social media myself I do have quite a hatred for it! I spend so much time in the shop trying to help people who’ve been fed misinformation online by people they don’t know but have decided to listen to anyway, whether it be bad advice on rods and reels, or simply the wrong hook and bait to use in a given situation. I appreciate it can be a great platform for sharing help and advice, but I see far too much bad advice given out by people who really shouldn’t be giving it out! Don’t get me started on those “Can anyone ID this fish for me” posts on Facebook…. Grrrrr!

JT: What are your pet hates in fishing?

TB: Seeing as we’ve just mentioned social media I’ll start with that. One of my pet hates is the trend to put a photo up of a fish with a blurred out background. Here’s an idea, if you want to keep something secret don’t share it on the internet, unless you’re really that desperate for ‘likes’! I really can’t understand the mentality behind that!

 


I live in an area of ever-increasing dog ownership, this shouldn’t be a problem, but people don’t seem to train their dogs anymore, very few come to the call and this leads to so many arguments and has resulted in large areas of our beaches being un-fishable in the day time. I have no issue with dogs and I would be devastated if one got injured because it swallowed a hook, but surely the emphasis should be on the owner to have control of their dog around other beach users? I realise it’s not all dogs, so if you are a dog owner please accept my apology if this sounded like a generalisation, as it’s not meant to be.

After a long wait, Tom recently secured his double figure small eyed ray

JT: Tell me an amusing story from yesteryear that might spring to mind?

TB: I did rather embarrassingly turn up to the Swanage open with no bait as it was still sat in the shop! The abuse I got when I had to pop in to the shop there and buy a box of squid (I think that’s all they had left, or were they winding me up!) was relentless, I managed to come 3rd (I think?) out of 70+ anglers and the guys calling out the names and doing the prizes were quick to tell everyone there what I’d done and how clearly Swanage Angling bait was better than Christchurch Angling bait (fair play to them, I’d have done the same).

Only a couple of weeks later I’d turned up to a match with all of my rods in my roof box on my car… and no key for the box! I ended up fishing for gars with a Zzippy, not the ideal tool given the length of my rigs and the rig body being 0.40mm! 

JT: Thanks for getting involved today, Tom.

TB: My pleasure mate.

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