Angler Michael Patton became the first Irishman to win back-to-back gold medals as part of the Home Nations Boat team. The Donegal native is now looking forward to the World Championships, which will be held in Bundoran this September.
The Home Nations Boat Championships is a two-day competition between England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Ireland won the tournament in Portrush last year and defended their title this summer. Consistently high individual scores by the five-man team saw them transform a Day One deficit of 8% into a 36% win margin. It’s been a dominant angling season for Ireland, winning the Home Nations Shore Championships in Wexford.
Q: How is the winner judged in boat angling? Is it most catches, weight, length... Do different species of fish count for more?
Different species of fish have different points. Obviously the harder they are to catch, the bigger points they are, and the easier fish to catch are worth less points. Then it’s up to you to decide on the boat what you go for: Do you go for more fish as quick as you can or sit and wait for the bigger fish? Usually you go for the smaller points and keep them coming as fast as you can.
Q: In your Home Nations victory, there was a turnaround between being behind on Day One and winning on Day Two. Was there a change in strategy or luck between the two days?
The way it works — and in this one especially — they try and favour the English on their home turf. But it just worked out that we were faster at wrasse fishing — that’s a bottom fish — than the English were, and they didn’t really judge that. Once the boat moved into that ground, we were more at home fishing the wrasse and the pollock and it helped us make up all our points. It was the last boat move of the day so they couldn’t move us out of it.
Q: How important is positioning on the boat?
You have eight anglers on each boat — two Irish, two English, two Welsh and two Scottish — and the corner positions are the key positions to be in. They give each province a corner position on one of the three boats. When you are in the positions I was in, when the boat turns, you’re fishing underneath the boat, which is much harder to fish. The way it’s scored at the end of the day is percentages: So if you had 100 fish and the next fellow had 80 fish, then you’d be 100% and he’d be 80%. I had 99.6% the first day and I had 92.3% the second day, which would have left me third overall.
Q: You were on the team that won last year as well, so was it more special first or second time around?
I’m the first person in Ireland ever to get two golds back-to-back so it’s a nice one to say. When it’s in your home turf, it puts the pressure on you that wee bit more but we were more relaxed this year. Last year you had the added pressure of saying you don’t want to get beaten at home and the English had that this year. When we came in off the boat they were not happy campers because we ended up 36% ahead of them. It was fantastic but we were that shattered after it we were hardly fit to go drinking!
Q: Will three-in-a-row be the next goal?
I actually didn’t make the team for next year, believe it or not. The way it’s done, we’d the fish-offs this year in Cork. Obviously you have fellows who only train for this. I came 10th so I was two places off the team for next year. So if somebody drops out or if somebody doesn’t go, then I’ll be fit to go. But at the minute, no, I haven’t made the team for next year. That’s just the way it is — it’d be nice to go for three-in-a-row but no.
Q: Ireland won the Home Nations Shore Championships recently too, so does that make Ireland a world power at angling now?
Ireland would be very well up there at the minute. We came fifth in the World section last year. The World Championship is being held in Bundoran this year so it’ll be a little bit handier.
Q: You work as a Fisheries Officer with Inland Fisheries Ireland. What does that role entail?
My main role would be fisheries protection, which involves checking licences, checking rivers for nets, foot patrols along the rivers and sea patrols on the boats. The past seven or eight years I’ve done quite a bit on marketing. I’ve travelled to the angling fairs in Europe and around Ireland, promoting sea angling mainly and fishing in general.
Q: Like you say, the World Boat Angling Championships will be held in your neck of the woods in September. Are you involved in the organisation of that?
I missed the team by one place but I’m helping with the coaching of the team and the organisation of it. In different areas the fish like different things and they travel at different levels in the water. So it’s more or less teaching the team where they are compared to being in Cork or wherever. If they’re anchored for instance over Sherkin Rock, you can say to them; if you cast 20 yards that way you’re on sand where you can get more variety. Or if you cast over there you can get this type of fish.
Q: Who would be expected to win?
I think there are 15 or 16 countries coming at the minute but the hot favourites for that would be the Italians. They’re on over €100,000 a year. They’re paid to fish, everything is paid for — it’s like the Formula One of the fishing world. Their job is to fish competitions. They’ll all be coming in their Armani suits and all their WAGs in tow, whereas we’d just be throwing the stuff out the boot of the car!
Q: Is there a regular training schedule involved in progression up the angling ranks?
Nearly every weekend there are fishing competitions. Two weeks ago we had a two-day event in Killybegs, which I won. We fished a Mullaghmore competition last weekend, which I won as well. Nearly every weekend there are open competitions where people would gather to fish. You have competitions all over the place that keep you fishing. Come summertime, you’re fishing nearly every weekend.
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