Perfect Day

Alright, there were certain places which you didn't want to draw in, but this is always a risk when you set your box on the bank. What was outstanding (apart from the result of course!) was the fact that the Italian organising body, produced yet again, an event which had all the hallmarks of being run by professional and competent people. The effort and cost which went into these championships could be described as unparalleled... and it showed. What it must have cost 'Roberto' to have all those flags, I dread to think!!!

First we needed to look at the original concerns regarding stocking levels... they proved totally unfounded. The Italians did what they said they would do and pump thousands of fish into the stretch beforehand. The access routes were, admittedly, not the prettiest run in, (courtesy of the extremely large smelting works which operates on a 24/7 basis!), but the points for public access were well designated and policed. Direct access to the match-length was closed to all except officially designated personnel, such as competitors, administration, press, etc. The support roads had been especially prepared with tarmac which laid along the entire length, a distance of some 3km+ (it actually felt longer to me!).

Smooth tarmac made life easy for the countless visitors to these Championships, it seemed no expense was spared in creating the perfect environment for everyone.

The podium area, which also doubled up as a large car park, was big enough for the crowds at the end and near enough to the central administration HQ. Numerous tackle displays were on hand for the thousands of visitors who thronged the banks. Food and refreshment stalls were present to 'fuel the boilers' and quench the many thirsts which 30° heat tends generate. Just one minor criticism here... we could have done with a couple more drinks stalls, as the distances between water stops for me, was far too long!!!

Fire trucks and personel where strategically placed at the start of sections D and E (above) as well as for A, B and C sections.

Also on hand were Italy's finest Fire and Rescue services (in large numbers) to ensure that the public were safe. The whole area was parched with the heat and there was a high risk of fire from the thousands of people attending, many of them smokers!

It was amazing to see such crowds appear so early in the day. They were obviously keen to get the best seats in the house!
One other thing that made these championships memorable was the crowd. Where they all came from, I have no idea. It seems that in Europe angling takes on a different 'persona' than in England. I believe the nearest we have to this type of event at home is the Evesham Festival each August. Well, despite the partisan atmosphere, the home crowd gave the same warm applause to the every other competitor, as they did to there own anglers (well nearly as much). They proved themselves as knowledgeable and appreciative as I've ever seen and were a credit to the event.

I thought last year's European Champs at Cavo Lama would be hard to beat, but yet again I've been proved wrong. Like the Chinese in Beijing, the Italians have raised the benchmark of organising excellence for all championships to come... BRAVI ITALIA!

So, what of the event itself, how did England manage to overturn strong favourites Italy... and on the first day as well?
I suppose it started were any major angling campaigns begin... with information. This constitutes the basis for all plans and expectations and is a paramount factor to any success achieved, as well as a fair element of 'luck' of course. England are fortunate as they have many contacts worldwide which can source them information. Italy was no exception. The team arrived the week preceding the official practice sessions, armed with knowledge of a possible inside line bonanza. They quickly established it's effectiveness and kept it 'top secret' from all the prying eyes. I must add at this point, that this information was also common knowledge to the two home teams, Italy and San Marino (San Marino being effectively Italian in all but name!).

Joint manager Mark Addy (who Dick Clegg reminds us, is the oldest World Champion on the bank) checks out some up-to-date tactics in MF magazine!
England, however, never rest on their laurels and quickly set about looking at every possible option, from feeding strategies to checking out Match Fishing magazine! No stone was left unturned in their quest for success. The week started well for them with their official practice box draws producing some great returns. Two end boxes and a draw smack opposite the 'hot spot' smelting works, helped them take an average of just under 5kg per man, each day of the week, and that was without the aid of that little 'secret'. The Italians too, started their campaign with a bang. Their first practice box was again near the smelting 'hot spot' and available information gave them a range of weights from 10kg to 18kg for the six man squad! The rest of their week was a little unclear, but one would have assumed that they, like England, had covered all the 'angles' and kept that inside line approach quiet.

The first days draw did not impress joint manager Mark Downes very much, "We've got two good ones and three mediocre ones" he commented... luckily he was only partially right! Mark has stressed many times that these championships are becoming more and more difficult to compete in. Some of the venues can be peggy and the level of ability of many teams has rocketed upwards, making the competition more open.

Above left: Scotland's David Corcoran was his country's top scorer on day one with this 6.230kg taken from peg D1. Scotland finished the day in 5th place, a commendable position which unfortunately they couldn't maintain on Sunday. Swedish 'icon' Mikael Tono was also in D section and he helped his team, courtesy of this 5.900kg net, to one of their best ever opening positions, a 4th place. They, like Scotland, slumped down the order after a poor day two.

We've covered most of where England drew in our 'Super' Saturday article so we'll take a look at how some of the other nations fared and in particular the 'lesser' nations who appeared to be 'batting above their weight'. South Africa, Sweden and Scotland were to finish the day in 9th, 5th and 4th position, a result which would do nothing but encourage and spur them on. The major surprise was South Africa.... not only did they finish in what I believe is their best position ever , but one of their most experienced competitors, Jaco Goodwin, actually won his section. This must have been a massive boost to SA pride and I hope it continues in the coming years. Unfortunately the wheels were to come off their tournament the following day! Wales had a poor match, their best angler managing just a 6th in section. Ireland too, had an abysmal first day, but not as bad as the once mighty France.

Above top: French star Eric Lubin nets a good carassio to gain a valuable 9 points for his side. Regretably the rest of the team struggled badly and could not match him. Above: Eric waits patiently for the scales to arrive, knowing he really in the poorer part of the section. His 6.010kg was testiment to his ability to catch the venues carassio and carp.

We've mentioned before that the French team has undoubted quality, but for some reason they cannot seem to put all that skill together come match day and secure a result. Talking to my 'deep throat' on the bank, it seems that their whole match plan revolved around catching the venues skimmers. Perhaps they felt these were more reliable than the carp family present? Did they not spy on the other main teams during practice week? Did they not realise that thousands of carrasio, carp etc., had been pumped into the venue? Could they not see that any weight building would be courtesy of that carp family? Their failure in the Czech Republic would also be deemed not to be an isolated incident, but perhaps more a trend, which they can't seem to break out off. I hope they sort whatever problems they're undergoing at present and return to the forefront of world angling as soon as possible. They're too good to languish in such lowly positions.

An incredible barrier of fans took up position behind Gianluigi Sorti and Will Raison for what turned out to be a fascinating contest.

Gianluigi Sorti and Will Raison prepare for battle!

It was a sign of mutual respect when both anglers met and shook hands after a great battle between them. Our thanks go to for the use of their photo.
And what of Italy? I would loved to have been a 'fly-on-the-wall' in their Saturday evening team talk!!! Their whole day could be summed up in a special duel, which took place in B section opposite the smelting 'hotspot', between their idol, Gianluigi Sorti and England's Will Raison. This drew a very large crowd before the off, and it looked as though the home nation would be fishing with two against one! This was not the case, as both anglers set about their respective tasks. Will was first to hit a good fish, only to lose it moments later. Gianluigi scored first, much to the 'Azzurri's' delight. This was just the opening 'salvo' on a day which would have all the characteristics of a 'ping-pong' match. The advantage swinging one way and then the other. It really was a fascinating contest and almost impossible to know which angler was ahead at the finish. Even they had no idea as they walked towards each other, where their zones met, to shake hands... RESPECT!

As it turned out Will had nearly a clear 2 kilos over Gianluigi. To compound the Italian's problem even more, the Hungarian Balazs Csoregi, to the right of Will had beaten him as well as the German and Swiss anglers further to Gianluigi's left. Rene Bredereck and Jean-Jacques Iseli had taken valuable points away from Italy, but worse was to follow. The home sides fortunes plummeted from that point on and they ended up with a 5th, 11th, 20th and 30th being recorded. They only finished in front of South Africa by courtesy of a weight differential, and that must of hurt badly!

Four of the anglers who filled the places behind William. Left to right: Germany's Rene Bredereck, Switzerland's Jean-Jacques Iseli, Hungarian Balazs Csoregi and Italy's Gianluigi Sorti.

The 13.270kg section winning catch which set William on the road to a well deserved gold medal.
England on the other hand had played their 'joker card' and sprung a tactical 'coup' on the rest of the field, much as they did in Paris 2001. Everyone in the England team had discretely fed the inside line from the off... quietly. Even I noticed that William kept flicking down maggots and then looking around at his Italian counterpart to see if he'd spotted him! As it happened, Will didn't catch there, but what it did achieve was to rest his long line, making it more productive when he returned to it. The respite had definitely done it good!

The other squad members were not fairing as well as William on the long line during the first part of the match. Alan was struggling in C section, along with another Italian idol, Stefano Defendi just two pegs away. Alan however, managed to 'snare' a kilo bream, while losing two other big fish from down the edge. This was enough to take him to overall 8th in the section. Another beneficiary of the tactic was Des Shipp, who'd been England's best overall scorer during practice. Des weighed in two big carp to send him to the top of section.

But perhaps the most important and crucial performance came from England's most senior rod, Steve Gardener, who was propping up section E in or around 30th position. With an hour and a quarter to go, Steve made a dramatic comeback to within 2kg of the section winner, South Africa's Jaco Goodwin. He banked a bream and carassio of a kilo each, a 2.5kg carp and a 1.5kg+ asp. That was 6 kilos in a little over an hour, a performance his manager, Mark Downes, described as the most remarkable result of the day. It was essentially a last gasp effort from Steve, who freely admitted afterwards that the line only seemed to prove productive after 90 minutes of feeding. That was close then!

When news of the points score filtered back it was fair to say that there was some amazement. Not that England were incapable of such a result, but it was that they had done it under such devsatating circumstances. What sealed in the sweetness, was Italy's position... 8th place and 46 points away!

However, Sunday would be another day, and as England are often known for their strong late finish, caution was being viewed by all in the England camp as Italy could always turn the tables... there was also the small matter of that other dangerous Italian team (San Marino), who where hovering over England's shoulder, just a mere 16pts behind!

We'll be assessing the final day's competition in afew day's time, along with some videos of the day.