Chris Kennedy takes an expert look at the new Rapala landing mat and weigh sling

I’m a sea angler; that’s my passion. But my work means I also need to have a fairly decent knowledge and understanding of the freshwater fishing world. They do a tremendous job in how they land, handle and return fish; there is a lot of care and thought put into it. Generally speaking, they have a much easier environment to achieve this high standard. It’s obvious that on a surf beach or open sea venue, we can’t replicate the netting of fish in all but the calmest of summer days. Where we certainly can do better is in weighing fish and how we put them back, something at which carp anglers excel. I believe that any angler who fishes in saltwater and freshwater will agree with me.

If you’re wondering what I am talking about, it’s anglers hanging fish on the scales hook and not using any sort of sling. I think to the non-angling public who only come in contact with sea anglers on beaches and piers generally, it’s sure to get their backs up or stigmatise us as villains or careless. We are at a time when animal rights protester types are on our backs in many parts of the country, seeking the closure of venues to anglers. I am certain we can all raise our game and do better.

I know there is no formal education in terms of being sea anglers; we very much follow the herd or make it up as we go. None of us is perfect, but there is room for improvement. I don’t know about you, but if I release a fish, I certainly want to give it the best chance possible of survival and reduce any possibility of serious injury if I can. If we have the attitude that “it’s just a fish”, then we are in trouble. Fish are arguably the most important thing in our sport, hobby or pastime. If you want this wonderful thing that we do to be here in the future for your children or grandchildren, it’s up to us to set a great example.

Whilst our saltwater species often have robust, scaly exteriors to protect them from contact with rocks of caustic undersea features. I am pretty certain that laying fish on dry rock, a concrete pier or a stony beach doesn’t do the fish a lot of good. This kind of thing could often be avoided by popping them on a landing mat whilst weight or photography is done. I have to say, some of my fellow sea anglers are already doing a great job of this. They may place fish in a bucket of seawater briefly or use an IKEA-type bag to weigh their fish, and they also handle it with a wet tea towel. This sets a much better example and stops us from getting stick.

A year or so back, I was very pleased to see that Rapala VMC had identified that something was needed to enable better fish care for saltwater anglers. Rapala designed a robust, ergonomic weigh sling and release mat. This is such a self-explanatory item that I need to do a very little explaining to you guys.

For those who have been living on another planet, you land your fish, pop it in the recess of the mat, between the handles, pop it back in after a photo, weigh it using the handles, carry it back to the sea and release the fish. It boggles the mind how no other sea-centric fishing brand has thought to do this and release a good one. It’s a simple product that works.

The Rapala weight and release mat is a functional size; it will take a fish up to 125cm in length. It is made of rugged PVC, with a strong set of handles and a recessed/walled compartment to accommodate your capture. It also has additional PVC meshing at either end of the sling to help keep your lively fish in place. Not only is it well made, but the nice part is that the intelligent design means that it folds down very flat for storage and the mat is very light, only adding minimal weight to the kit you take fishing.

The mat can be used for your bass, cod, pollock, coalfish, haddock and even hounds and bull huss. If you’re catching big tope or conger eels, I would personally still use a Royal Mail postal sack, as I think it’s more convenient for the big predators. The well-made mat is going to accommodate fish that most anglers target around the UK and Ireland. It’s perfect for the job.

The Rapala weight and release mat retails at around £24.99 at reputable UK shops and online retailers making it a relatively inexpensive addition to your tackle collection and a functional one.