A few week’s ago Matt Godfrey came within a whisker of becoming World Champion at this year’s showpiece event in Serbia.
His result in the World Championships on the canal at Novi Sad capped a quite remarkable rise for the affable 28-year-old from Yorkshire.
The multiple World Youth Champion finished fourth – still a mightily impressive finish in his first senior Championships.
Of course, Matt is no stranger to the big-match podium. After all, he won three golds in World Youth Championships and is a key member of the all-conquering Drennan Barnsley Blacks side. He is also now a TV star, featuring in the recently transmitted Fishing Allstars series.
To those who know him, he’s a larger than life character brimming with cheeriness and an unbridled love for the sport.
Not content with his own fishing, though, Matt is also heavily-involved with bringing on the next generation of match anglers into the England fold as coach of the England Under 15s side.
The Guru media & marketing co-ordinator looks set for a long and distinguished career with England, current boss Mark Downes being quoted as saying it’s a case of ‘when’, not ‘if’, he becomes World Champion.
Is there no end to Matt Godfrey’s talents? Angling Times caught up with the ‘ginger ninja’ to find out…
Q: You made your full Men’s World Champs debut in Serbia – was it just like you’d never been away or very different from the World Youth Champs that you fished?
Matt Godfrey: It’s similar in the way the event works. I fish a lot of matches to international rules, such as the Sensas Challenge and World Club Champs, so it’s not as though I wasn’t in touch with what was needed. It was pleasing to see many of the anglers in other teams I’d fished against at youth level so yes, it was like I’d never been away!
Q: England boss Mark Downes says you have ‘the best angling brain’ he’s ever seen. Is much of this down to natural talent, or do you have to work hard to stay on top?
MG: Natural ability only achieves so much. I enjoy fishing and I enjoy competing. I like to work out the best way to catch the best weight as quickly as possible, be it F1s at Tunnel Barn Farm in winter or carp and catfish on a Spanish river. All this involves a lot of preparation, practice and sourcing information, then you must bring it all together on the bank.
I see it as a challenge, I thrive on it and I have a competitive streak that must have helped me get to where I am .
Q: After winning three World Youth titles, did you think ‘that’s it’ regarding England or did it make you want to go all the way?
MG: I was fortunate that a year after I’d finished my Youth fishing, Mark Downes and Mark Addy invited me to be in the European Champs team. It was a big step up but the next one that I had to take and I won my section, which made me think ‘I can do this, I can and should be fishing at this level’ and from that point you have an eye on the World Champs, all things being equal.
By fishing the World Club Champs regularly I was taking part in the right matches to help with England so there were few doubts – but taking in all that I’d achieved before those Euro Champs, I didn’t feel that I shouldn’t have belonged in the team.
Q: Most of us will never fish for England. Can you describe the difference in mindset between fishing a match in the UK and for England abroad?
MG: I think this is down to what goes on outside of the actual match itself. If I’m fishing an open at Hallcroft, for example, I may make up some rigs the night before and perhaps have a quick practice, but a World Champs is entirely different in terms of the work involved..
Take this year in Serbia, for example – there’s a journey of over 1,400 miles in a van, two weeks of practice, early starts to prepare bait, late finishes with team meetings – not to mention the weeks spent tying rigs and hooks and finding out information about the venue. It’s all incredibly intense for eight hours of fishing.
Q: There seems to be a decreasing level of interest in international match fishing. How can it be taken back to the 1990s when everyone wanted to know how England had got on?
MG: A lot can be done to raise the profile of international fishing and I think it needs everyone involved in match angling to get together and create an agenda that we can all work to. That mean the anglers, the management, the media and the Angling Trust all knocking heads and working together.
Social media is a massive part of this and I’m positive we could generate huge interest this way, but it has to begin from the level above the media and anglers and then go from there. I’d love to see it happen, as the World Champs is the biggest event out there, but it seems to be in the shade now compared to Fish O’Mania, Match This and even FeederMasters among the fishing public.
Q: Now being involved in the England Under 15 side, is there anyone who stands out as a future full cap?
MG: They could all be the next Will Raison or Alan Scotthorne but no one knows how their lives will go over the next decade. I hope they’ll continue to develop, and I’m buzzing to be playing a part in it all. I think that just as at school, where the learning curve is very fast, so it’s the same in fishing.
Of the current squad, Charlie Sibley and Billy Kirk are the two that have caught my eye this year – they are both very, very good.
Q: What will the Under 15s need to do in the next 15 to 20 years to try to break into the men’s team?
MG: It’s not necessarily about fishing international matches, more about fishing at a high level. I wouldn’t want to see the lads fishing junior matches and would urge them to fish against the men and learn. That might be big match qualifiers, feeder matches, the Sensas Challenge, all of which will make them more rounded anglers. Joining a team helps, but it has to be a good side with good anglers to learn from.
It’s not all about winning, though – fishing against the likes of Sean Ashby, Will Raison and Lee Kerry and then picking their brains is the thing to do.
Q: We know the exuberant and lively Matt Godfrey from the TV and online. Does this transfer into your match fishing, or do you become a totally different beast when the whistle goes?
MG: For me, it’s about being myself until the match starts. Then I want to beat everyone and I become quite evil in my single-mindedness. That’s the competitive side of me, I suppose, but I do believe that I have been brought up to be a good sportsman so there are never any grudges held or sulking. It’s so important to conduct yourself properly, as you can influence other anglers, but I don’t let that get in the way of my results. So if you see me on the bank in a match and I’m not talking, it’s nothing personal and I’ll buy you a pint afterwards!
Q: Participation – now there’s a thorny subject. How can angling encourage more youngsters to take up fishing and stick with it?
MG: A whole new project is needed to get youngsters and adults to start fishing and then stick with it. The Guru Match Academy and Talent Pathway is great for developing match talent, but not for gaining numbers from the grass roots.
I believe that we need to get fishing into schools in some fashion and everyone – the tackle and bait industry, media, fisheries and governing body – need in the next 10 years to get together and work. We all know each other, and the benefits of more people starting fishing will be mutual across the board. It does come down to money and that’s the sticking point. Who is going to put their hand in their pocket?