England win the World Carp Champs

England have won the World Carp Champs for the first time after a physically and emotionally draining battle in Spain.
New manager Rob Hughes and his eight-man squad erased memories of previous heavy defeats by wringing every ounce out of their pegs on the River Ebro. Rob, who was appointed team boss only in February, said: “If ever there were English lions it was these boys.”
The national team has long been in the shadow of countries like Croatia, who have been on the podium in nine out of the last 11 events.
“We stood toe to toe with the heavyweight champions of the world and slugged it out punch for punch with Croatia,” said Rob. “In the end, one fell over, and it wasn’t us.”
At the end of the 72-hour pairs match, England topped the 24-team competition ahead of Croatia, Serbia, France and Romania. Under standard international match rules, the result was decided by the section placing of each team’s three pairs. With a second, third and fourth in section, England beat Croatia by one point.
England’s Alexei Bygrave and Harry Charrington finished with 21 fish for more than 470lb and had been winning the individual event until the dying moments, but a quiet last morning pushed them into fourth behind Romanian individual winners Emilian Pripon and Bogdan Dragan.
Billy Flowers and Jamie Londors came fourth in their section, while Chris Holmes and substitute Mark Bartlett secured third in theirs. Big caster Mark had replaced Neil Rivers on day two in a crucial tactical switch as the fish pushed further out in their section. Ebro expert Paul Booth was the only squad member not to fish, but Rob Hughes praised his valuable local knowledge.
Rob, who won the World Champs with Simon Crow when it was a pairs event back in 1996, did not wish to give away the team’s winning tactics but said they “fished long with PVA bags over the top of bait, with a few tricks up our sleeves”. He added: “The only bit of luck we had was that it turned into a scratchy, technical competition and that played into our hands.”
The event was followed by thousands of fans on social media who tuned into Rob’s frequent video updates. The team boss was also aware that England needed to build some bridges with other countries after previous tournaments led to strained relations.
“If you Google the World Champs, one of the things that comes up is England accusing the Romanians of cheating in 2012 and I want to get away from that,” said Rob. “I think we’ve restored a lot of dignity and improved the way people perceive England and the match team.”
Rob also praised the balance of the squad and the way the anglers interacted with one other. He said: “All the lads are massive team players. I said when I came in that there would be no commercialism, no egos and no politics, and they have all just got on with it.”
He added: “At the end of the event we got changed into our smart clothes and, because our villa was a bit further out, we walked into the hall housing all the other teams a little bit late. As we walked in there was a ripple of applause, which led to a few cheers and then to a full-on standing ovation.”