World Championships 2014

This year saw the nations back at Pietrafitta in Italy, the same venue that hosted the event in 2011. The last two years have been dominated by the home nation but knowing the venue like we did, we were expecting a much fairer match. Back in 2011 England picked up the silver medal and were obviously aiming to go one better and come the end of the week be stood on top of the podium.

First thing and probably the most important part of the match was the draw bag. The lake is split into 3 sections for the match and the draw is based on a formula to try and make it as fair as possible. That means that no nation could draw 3 end pegs, and that each envelope in the bag would see the teams split up as fairly as possible. There were certain areas that we wanted to be in and in particular ‘A section’ was of high importance. At one end sat a nature reserve that would be sure to hold a large number of fish once all 288 rods had been cast out! To benefit from this you needed to be in A1-A8, basically the lower the better. We were due for 16th pick and as Lee went up to do the honours, 1-7 were still available! We needed him to repeat his drawing performance in Romania when he plucked A1 from the bag and it really would have been game on. Unfortunately for the boys he drew A23, just about as far away from the area as possible. We went to look at all swims to see how we looked in section B and C and in the words of Ian Huntingdon, the team captain, we had drew a couple of Pizzas! He explained that due to being at the back of bays with the other nations going out around us, we were all casting at the same area! Not ideal as I’m sure you can imagine. Having said that the attitude of the boys didn’t falter, they still set about getting ready with Gold firmly in their minds.

The important thing with this competition is getting fish on the board in all 3 sections as without that happening you have virtually no chance of winning. Without doubt the worst draw out of all 3 teams was that of Kia Sanger and Jack Stamp in B section so when we found out that just a few hours in the boys had landed a fish of 24lb, confidence was high! Both other English teams scored quickly with the Wildbore brothers catching through the first night and Billy Flowers and Jamie Londers catching early during the first morning, England had started well and risen straight into 3rd position overall.

Even with the solid start Ian realised that to compete in C section we had to make an early substitution. We had caught one but were being hemmed in either side so we had to bring in the big guns. Up steps Mark Bartlett or ‘The Animal’ as we christened him! we watched him put a zig of probably 18’ somewhere in the region of 190 yards, simply incredible and whats more it looked effortless! Game on! Dan Wildbore had to make way but there were certainly no hard feelings as he understood the situation. That was one of the most impressive things about the whole set up, we heard NO mention of individual Gold, they were there to win as a team, nothing else mattered.

Obviously a great start but whilst we had a few fish on the board the very impressive Croatian team had already landed 14! Importantly though they had caught well in all sections so were already building a lead at this very early stage. We went to look at the Croatian teams in more detail and I have to say that they were very impressive. One guy in particular (A6) was doing a lot of the casting but he was fishing incredibly accurately at a range of 165 yards. All 4 rods were landing nice and tight and he was then spodding directly on top and hitting the clip with ease. This wasn’t unique in their team though as almost identical ranges were being achieved by the others as well. We looked at their draw and in both other sections too and they were out on the tips of points in both so that coupled with their range fishing it really was hard to see anyone competing with them. It was still early days though and with so much angling talent on show, anything could happen. At this early stage the French had taken 2nd position which was largely down the pair of Mathieu’s in C section. They had caught very well through the first night and had landed an unbelievable 8 fish! What was also impressive was that all were caught at just 70 yards range! With everyone else around them fishing to the horizon it took a brave man to try the short line but it had clearly paid off.

The match lasts for a total of 72 hours and for as much of that as we were allowed we were driving around the whole of the 360 acres trying to stay in touch with the match as best as possible. Going into the final night the Croatians simply hadn’t stopped catching and were sitting on a first in 2 sections and a second in the other giving them an almost record equalling score of just 4 points. It has been won in the past by the crafty South Africans with a win in each section and this was as close as it could possibly be. Second looked almost guaranteed by the French as they had not only carried on impressively in C section, but steadily caught in both others too. Belgium were next up and a solid second night performance had put them in bronze medal position with a 2 point cushion from the Russians. England were still fighting though and 5th spot was theirs and only 3 points from catching Belgium.

When we arrived at the lake on the last morning with just a 4 hours to go we had no idea what had happened so when we saw the Belgian Captain up at the food tent we had to find out how his boys had done. Unfortunately for us they had caught very well in all areas and had risen in weight by nearly 20kg in all 3. A great performance which without knowing what the French had caught meant they could now be pushing for silver. Our boys hadn’t fared too bad either though with Barty and Jake landing 5 band losing 2 but one was just over 28lb which based on the average of about 7lb was like catching 4 on its own. This had gained us a couple of points which with our calculations had put us in 4th. However the Italians had also caught in all sections, gaining points and when we saw the update at 10.00am we had held our 5th position. Italy had moved to 4th with the Russians dropping away.

As if it wasn’t exciting enough already, Mark Bartlett had a call to say that his Mrs’ waters had broken so he had to leave! Up step Vice Captain Pete Holehouse getting back in on the action for the first time in a few years! Not sure if he was a lucky charm but he hadn’t been in the swim for anymore than 10 minutes when one of the rods went into meltdown, the result was another good fish at just over 5kg. we knew that if nothing else happened we would have just leapfrogged the home nation and snatched a very hard earned 4th place. The final flare went up at 12.30 and we were already in situ with the Croatian team in section A. Marco the captain was on hand for a quick interview before the party kicked off! This team of anglers had been seamless for the whole match and got the Gold that they definitely deserved. They also picked up individual Gold and Bronze making it an almost clean sweep, but for the French in C section they would have done.
Looking back, 4th for our boys was a fantastic achievement, they plugged away and got steady action throughout so that for most of the match we were still in contention for a medal. If it hadn’t been for an amazing last night from the Belgian team then it would have been even closer still. The draw bag let us down but please don’t read this thinking that the boys blamed it, as they didn’t. The facts don’t lie though and I hope that you watch the programme when it airs later this year on Sky and really appreciate just how well they fought.
Well done boys, you all did us proud!