“Angling is a poor man’s sport... so I’m trying to raise its profile further”
We talk to fishery owner and match organiser Phil Briscoe as he reveals details of another big event
SINCE his departure from the UK tackle industry last year, Phil Briscoe has been running his Larford Lakes complex and created two massive national match events – Golden Reel and the feederonly Golden Rod, as announced this week’s in Angling Times.
Phil knows what people want, as seen from his development of Maver into a leading brand in the UK and Larford, which is now one of the country’s premier fisheries.
But what drives him to take a punt on brand new big-money national events in an already saturated match calendar and where will it all end?
Q: Why create big events such as Golden Reel in the first place? A: I have always said that angling is a poor man’s sport when placed up against others, so I’m trying to raise the profile further with more TV coverage and raising the awareness of the skill that match fishing requires, and I’m enjoying doing it! Golden Reel and Golden Rod are both giving anglers big money events that grab the attention and get them talking and travelling.
Q: How much of a gamble are they financially? A: A huge gamble! In the first year, a competition often needs subsidising but once the anglers see that it works and we do what we said we’d do, life becomes so much easier financially. Within a few years, the event should begin to pay for itself. You have to hold on tight and ride out those first few years, believing that the event will become self-sufficient. Q: How would you rate the success of Golden Reel? A: I’ve been very, very pleased although the theft of Toby Pepper’s gear from his car at the gala evening the night before the final really upset me – what should have been a great weekend of celebration was tainted so badly. Moving on, though, I know there are areas of the event that need to be polished but I’ve already booked the fisheries for 2018 and Golden Reel will be back better than before!
Q: What decides the venues that you pick for qualifiers? A: First, the venue needs to have enough comfortable pegs so when a water says they have 120 pegs, these need to offer anglers enough space to fish the tactics they want without getting in the way of those around them. Second, I want professional venues and third, the fishing must be good so you never know where the winner is going to come from and more importantly, everyone catches a few fish and can feel like they can compete.
Q: With the launch of Golden Rod, is there room in the match calendar for anything else? A: Watch this space! I always believe that another big event is possible and I’m trying to corner the market. Golden Rod offers something that currently isn’t there in the UK calendar, namely a big winter event. Provided there is a gap in the market and the demand, there’s no reason why a new competition shouldn’t work.
Q: What is the appeal of these events to anglers? A: I suppose it’s the fact that anyone can get through to the final and win massive money. This year’s Golden Reel winner Stu Fotheringham isn’t a bloke who is a household name so it just goes to show. Golden Rod will be better because three zone winners from each match go through to the final, so you only need to win your 20-peg section. The thirst for big money matches among anglers is at a level never before seen in the UK.
Q: You own Larford Lakes – was taking on a fishery always a dream that you had? A: I’ve been in charge for 22 years and yes, every angler would love their own lake to fish – but deciding to open your venue commercially brings with it a lot of challenges, a lot of heartache and a lot of hassle! Much goes on behind the scenes, from stocking, grounds maintenance, monitoring water quality, ensuring harmony between match and pleasure anglers, running accommodation and so on. At Larford we provide as much as we possibly can, but running a fishery isn’t easy.
Q: Match or pleasure anglers – which are easier to deal with? A: Larford values the support of all anglers – as a business we
have to! Pleasure anglers are no trouble at all but club anglers, I would say, can be trouble because they don’t always take on board advice that they’re given. An open match angler will draw a peg, ask for advice and take it on board whereas a club angler doesn’t always and then comes off the bank slagging the lakes off, ranting that they need stocking with more fish. You can only smile, and by and large, they’re good as gold.
Q: You famously moved away from stocking F1s in Larford a decade ago – any regrets? A: Well, there are still plenty in the Match Lake but it is really a carp water. The reason I stopped stocking F1s was because of the problems I had with them getting dropsy, but I am starting to bow to a bit of pressure now and am seriously thinking about stocking some this winter, simply because in the colder months they ensure bites when the carp might not be feeding. I’m not saying that the lake will be like it was 12 years ago, when you could catch 100lb on your top kit, but there will be more F1s at Larford in the not too distant future.
Q: What next in the varied career of Phil Briscoe? A: Colmic wants me to run its UK operation, and having the company back Golden Reel and Golden Rod were the first steps towards this. The Colmic brand is enormous in Europe and it has a massive portfolio of products but in the UK, anglers are largely unaware of this. My job will be to promote this and get the Colmic word out there and get the tackle into the shops. Over the years Colmic hasn’t had the infrastructure to do this properly, but I have the background in the tackle industry to make it work.
Larford shows how a fishery should be run.
MORE INFORMATION FOR details of Phil’s new Golden Rod competition, turn to pages 62&63.
Golden Reel winner Stu Fotheringham.