The former Wigan, Fulham and Hull jepster talks fishing with FourFourTwo in May 2007...
"It sounds a bit funny, seeing as it’s Fulham who pay my wages, but the way I’m going I’ll soon be better at fishing than I am at football.
A lot of people think I’ve only really taken it up since I did my knee in, back in September, but I actually got well into fishing as a kid. I was eight years old when my dad got me my first rod, a big old cane one, then we went down to the local lake and caught some roach. That’s where I caught the bug as well.
We had a little streamy river near us and I was always over there come the school holidays. I learned pretty quickly. Once you start fishing a river you get to know it –where the fish live, where they like to be, what they like to eat.
We used to eat at a place called Neil’s Café, down the A2, and I remember once my dad wrapped up some liver from his breakfast to use as bait. He caught such a big fish, a 20-pounder, he couldn’t get it in, his rod was bent double. Those fish were animals! They’d have eaten anything. I caught one using a Malteser, one with a Sugar Puff, one with a bit of cloth ripped off me jumper.
Dad drinks at a working men’s club and they started their own fishing club, West Lodge, when I was about 12 or 13, so I started fishing club matches with them. Club matches are like a totally different sport. The fishing I started off doing, down by the river, is quite relaxing, it takes your mind off footy. Match fishing is a lot more active – you’re up against other anglers, trying different types of feed, running around.
I’ve dedicated myself to fishing that bit more since the injury. I only really do one sport at a time – I love my golf too, but the sticks are locked away now. I get so focused, it’s like an addiction. Being injured, it helps me out in my head too, as I’m still gearing up for something at the weekends, and I like the winning.
I’ve won a couple of big matches recently. I’ve been using this new bait, the PVA, a little bag of pellets that disintegrates when you put it in water. A lot of carp fishers use it, but in match fishing, they never really got into it. The first match I tried it, there were 75 anglers and I won. I couldn’t believe it. So I came back the second time and there were a couple more using it, and I won again. Then last time I went down there, every single angler was using it. It caused a little bit of controversy, that.
The way the matches work, you go along, pay 15 or 20 quid, draw your “peg” out of a hat – the spot where you’ll fish – then catch as many fish as you can in five hours, and whoever’s got the biggest overall weight at the end wins. The prizes are worth having as well – the two I won were £800 each. Maybe a few people get the hump, this footballer coming along and taking the money, but sod ’em. I’m there to win.
All the fish go back in the lake afterwards. I never eat them – I love them! I caress them back in. Obviously they mind it because they fight against us, but it can’t harm them that much because, the places that I fish, they get caught over and over again. You’ve got to take good care of your catch because they’re what it’s all about, when you think about it.
My missus goes bonkers sometimes when I come back stinking of fish. And she gets the hump when I wake her up at half-six in the morning, rattling about, then bring my maggots in and the car’s all muddy, but she’s alright really. Some of the boys at Fulham think I’m mad – all those early starts – but a few of them are into it. Collins John wants to come down, and
Clint Dempsey’s into his bass fishing, being American, but I’m taking him to catch carp next week. Proper angling.
I’ll probably have to wait till the weather improves before I can drag anyone else down there, but I know if I took them along the banks, I could get them into it. You go to a club competition and see how seriously they’re taking it, with all their equipment – it’s proper sport. But it’s also the only sport where you can pay 20 quid and play against the world’s best. Football, you’re never going to play against Wayne Rooney, but in fishing, a kid of eight can pay his money and sit next to the world champion.
There are a few well-known anglers who I’m mates with now. Will Raison, who’s in the England team, he’s sort of the Michael Owen of angling. I do still make a prat of myself though. I’ve fallen in a few times, and I dropped my phone in the lake during one match. It stayed in there the full five hours because I just carried on fishing, then I scooped it out with the landing net and it still worked. Good phone that one.
I’ve spent a fair bit: I’ve got a pole that’s worth £2,000, although I didn’t pay that – a firm called Diawa pay for all my stuff. I’m quite a high-profile angler too I suppose, even more so now because I’ve just signed for Dorking, who are a massive fishing team, probably the best in the country. I’ve already started playing for them in competitions, but the proper league starts soon – the Superleague. It’s a bit like football: you’ve got 10 of the biggest clubs in the country and you put out your eight best anglers for each match. Obviously I won’t be picked for that yet, but if I start producing, they might get short one week, give me a shout, and I’ll make my big debut. I can’t wait!”
Bullard’s Top 5 Hauls
1) My First 100lb Bag – Lavender Hill, Kent 1997
“This was with my dad’s team. You always remember your first 100lb bag of fish.”
2) and 3) My Two Biggest Wins - Gold Valley, Kent, Jan 2007
“I’d never been in a bigger match: six matches in total and I won two. No-one’s ever done that before.”
4) Most In One Sitting– Gold Valley, Feb 2007
“I hooked 38lbs of Silverfish - roach and stuff. I had about 180 fish in there. I couldn’t stop catching.”
5) The Finest Fish - Riverside Way, Uxbridge, March 2007
“That was just this morning, a River barbel – 8lb10. The best individual fish I ever caught.”
Interview from the May 2007 issue of FourFourTwo.