In a year of uncertainty concerning the international match calendar, it was a relief to get this year’s Men’s World Champs underway on the Mincio.
Emerging from the two days of action with a well-earned bronze medal was the new-look Team England squad featuring anglers making their debut at world level, alongside some very seasoned old heads!
Taking Steve Hemingray, Sean Ashby and Will Raison as veterans, bosses Mark Downes and Darran Bickerton also blooded Cameron Hughes, Matt Derry and Rory Jones, along with Matt Godfrey in his second senior appearance, on the venue where Alan Scotthorne won one of his five world titles back in 1996 – and they produced the goods handsomely.
Scoring 48 points to lie in fourth after day one, the team improved on that with 41 points to bump up a place into bronze with 89 points. Hosts and strong favourites Italy won gold on 75, with the Czech Republic side snaring silver – a tantalising 2.5 points in front of England.
Individually, the medals went to Serbian Goran Radovic with gold, Imre Szaqkovics from Hungary with silver, and bronze to Czech angler Petr Klasek, although England were close here too. Matt Godfrey ended up fifth with nine points, denied bronze only by total weight, while Cameron Hughes, on his world debut, came in seventh on 10 points.
Day one saw Matt score sixth in section, Sean seventh, Cameron ninth and Will and Steve 13ths. Sunday’s match resulted in a section win for Cameron, a third for Matt, 10th for Steve, 12th for Will and 15th for Sean. It was a tricky venue, though, as shown by Italy’s winning performance. Day one gave them 27 points, but 24 hours later they turned in 48, bettered by England and a few other countries.
“Compared to 1996, the river was totally different with very few big fish, more small fish, more colour in the water and less weed. It was a match that became a proper ‘work it all out’ job, using several lines and methods and a lot of chopping and changing,” England manager Mark Downes said.
“There were good and bad areas, which each held different fish to further muddy the water. The good parts had lots of scardola and 5kg was possible, while the bad bits held the occasional big chub, and one of those meant mega points.”
“Practice was very poor for us, as we always seemed to draw the worst zone in each box, yet the team and the guys on the bank were brilliant. They kept their eyes open and we went into the weekend with a plan that we felt would get us a medal,” Mark continued.
“There were four main lines, these being the long pole at 11m to 13m fed with heavy groundbait and floating casters and then stickymag regularly for scardola or chub, depending on how good the peg was; the Bolo at 20m – although this was no good for us in the match; slider tactics at 35m with groundbait or stickymag; and then our trump card, a short pole line at 5m to 7m depending on the bottom, catching little perch and sunperch on bits of worm. That scored us extra points across both days.”
Despite the lowly-looking section scores for a lot of the team, Mark blames the venue for that. Working it out, he believes any team that averaged eight points a man per day would have got a medal. So often World Championships are won with low scores, but the Mincio wasn’t that type of venue.
“Halfway through the second day we were in gold medal position, as the Italians were having a nightmare and the Czechs weren’t in the race, but three big fish late on for them just kept them in front. We knew this would happen on that type of venue, so to get a bronze in Italy with a young team is outstanding,” Mark enthused.
“Both myself and Darran were delighted with how they fished and their attitude and work rate and, believe me, they will be the bedrock of this team for years to come with Will Raison as captain. The future is incredibly bright!”