Fishing Lines: When a bidder's lot is not a happy one

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The Independent Online
WHY DO otherwise normal people wave like shipwrecked sailors whenever a television camera passes by? Is it to save them writing home to mum? Is it the hope that Quentin Tarantino will be watching Match of the Day in his quest for a new star? Is it a desire to update Andy Warhol's quote - "famous for 15 seconds"?

Bloody television. Just when everything in the fishpond was going swimmingly, along comes someone with a bright idea that scuppers all my carefully laid plans. On Tuesday, the first televised angling auction takes place at Bonham's. It will also be broadcast on the internet, so people worldwide can bid. For me, the innovation is little short of disastrous.

Internet bidding is relatively new, but it has proved hugely popular. The best site I have found is called ebay.com. Its live fishing auction is offering hundreds of items, including a 1981 fishing jigsaw ($8 at the latest count), a Creek Chub Bait Orange Pikie lure ($432 and rising), an Innuit fishing sculpture ($65 so far) and a three-inch ceramic of Willie the Fishing Alligator ($5, which tells you how good it is). A time limit is placed on each item. If your bid is the highest within the limit, be it six hours or 10 days, then the item's yours.

The Bonham's auction, which is being televised on Sky Sports, takes a slightly different tack. You must register with the auction house before you can bid. You watch the auction on television or on computer and, if it's the former, you bid via telephone by pressing the the star key. By computer, you just press the on-screen square that says "Bid". Veronica Kruger of the Auction Channel, who are doing all the technical bits, says that, theoretically, thousands of people can bid at the same time.

The event has been heavily trailed on Sky, with three 30-minute previews showing some of the more delectable items, such as an 1891 Hardy reel, which could sell for as much as pounds 10,000, or a case of eight stuffed perch (ideal if you've got an awkward five feet to fill in the living room and you want to spend more than Lord Irving paid for his wallpaper).

I enjoyed the preview because the presenter was David Profumo, secretary of our Angling Writers' Association, wearing a hat two sizes too big for him. This gave me the opportunity to phone him late at night, put on a transatlantic accent and pretend I was representing 20th Century Fox, looking for his signature at any price. However, that's about all the fun I will get out of it.

A couple of weeks ago, I revealed that I was working on launching Classic Angling, a magazine for memorabilia and the historic side of the sport. As editor, it is vital that I attend all the auctions. Occasionally, it may happen that I raise my hand to pick up items that will be valuable for, er, research purposes. David Profumo is my partner-in-crime in this. Our wives are suspicious, but we each claim we are buying on behalf of the other. So far, it has worked like a charm.

But this televised auctioneering looks set to banjo our little artifice. First, going online seems certain to attract a new breed of rich collectors, particularly from the US and Japan, who will send many delectable items beyond our small pockets. However, that is nothing like as worrying as the second aspect. In the cultured quiet anonymity of an auction room, we have been able to bid merrily. Who, after all, could know that those two old boxes of salmon flies cost us pounds 100 rather than pounds 10? How could a non-expert realise that rusty old spinner was actually a 1922 Allcock's Dazzle bait? No more, alas.

If we try to bid via the internet or via television, we are sure to be caught out. It won't take Hercule Poirot to work out the relationship between the "Bid" square flashing on my computer and the auctioneer banging down his gavel. Even if we attend the auction itself, we can no longer travel incognito. Those intrusive television cameras are bound to focus on the successful bidder. Wave at the cameras? You've got to be kidding.

l The Angling Memorabilia auction is live on Sky Sports 1 from 7.30pm on Tuesday. Catalogues from Bonhams (0171-393 3900).

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