Looking down B and A sections of the Dubrava channelLooking down B and A sections of the Dubrava channelPerhaps the worse result ever? That’s what it looks like for Drennan Team England after a demoralising 16th place, the world’s number one team…or was! To be fair, it wasn’t just England that blew out. Italy found themselves in an even worse position, finishing in a humiliating 26th place. Others felt the emotion of dejection as well… France (11th), Hungary (13th), Belgium (15th), Russia (24th) and Slovakia (32nd). It’s been a championship to forget for all these teams.

But my main focus will be on Team England. If one looks at the tag, ‘the worse result ever’ you may need to go back further in time than the present management structure. In fact it’s proving extremely difficult to do this, as even the International Events Manager and FIPS official Dick Clegg, obe found. He commented that he could not recall such a heavy defeat in his 30 years in charge of the team, first as team manager, then in his current position as overall international supremo. Does anyone know of a worse result further back in time? A long time to wait! But for once ‘lady luck’ favoured a team that has not graced the winner’s rostrum for 32 years… Holland, or Netherlands if you wish. So often blighted by one misfortune or another, Jan Van Schendel’s men came good with a performance ‘out of the top draw’, against some very stiff eastern and central European teams. Nobody, including myself, gave the ‘Orangemen’ much of a chance, but we where left in no doubt that Jan’s boys where there on merit, to lift a well deserved ‘golden’ trophy.

It's been a long time for Jan and his boys, but they made it!It's been a long time for Jan and his boys, but they made it!
For many years, since 1982, Jan has been within touching distance of that elusive gold medal. Only in 1983 and 2010 did they achieve podium status, but that was just for bronze medals. Eleven 4th place positions in 32 years had been a very hard pill for the Dutch to swallow, but now they’ve turned a seemingly endless corner, can we expect more from the ‘Orangemen’? I suspect yes, given the confidence booster this world champs has bestowed on them. That’s not to say things will always be like this, something England and Italy found to their cost on the Dubrava channel in Croatia. But there is no denying that Jan’s boys will now face future events with some spring in their step and an added incentive to aspire once more to the pinnacle of world angling.

Czech’s and Serb’s mount serious challenge
The Czech Republic had given themselves a great springboard for gold medal after their day one 4th place, on 25 points, just 9pts behind the Dutch. And like during this year’s Europeans, they produced a solid day one performance. But unlike Belgium, their day two was exceptional and it guaranteed them a medal. Not only did this result gain them a medal, but it also shot them up the world rankings.

If there was one person you would want in your side when barbel where around... it was this guy!If there was one person you would want in your side when barbel where around... it was this guy!Just like the Czech’s, Serbia was also having a storming finish, led by their top rod, ‘Mr. Barbel’, aka Goran Radovic, by far the most outstanding angler of the championships, completing a perfect 2pt score on a venue which suited him perfectly. His overall weight of 18,546 kilos was only surpassed by Dutchman Arjan Klop by 312 grams, but Arjan only registered 3pts overall. Goran expertise has long been acknowledged in his country, but now it has gained a wider stature with a gold individual medal. He was, after all, the highest placed individual in the 2009 World Clubs Championships, when his team won gold on the Mandunice Channel in Slovakia. The team had formulated a plan based on past knowledge and final practices. They used 10 litres of gravel and also 10 litres of groundbait for their 20 litres of allotted feed. The groundbait was made up of 5L Terre de Riviere, 4L of a cheesy groundbait and 1L of gravel. During the initial 10 minute pre-baiting session, they fed 4 to 5 balls of groundbait and sticky mag. Afterwards, 3 balls were fed every 5-7 minutes starting with two of groundbait and one of sticky mag. As the day went on, they fed more sticky mag than groundbait. During Sunday, as the water began to rise and increase in flow, they fished closer in because they knew from their own waters that the fish moved in closer. The problem was sections A and B had a slower flow and the barbel there did not come in too close. This was shown in their result of a 10th and 6th in sections A and B respectively. They nevertheless secured a well-deserved bronze medal for their effort, just 1 point away from silver.

Competitors wait for the starting signal on Saturday morning.Competitors wait for the starting signal on Saturday morning.
Could have done better?
If you analyse the top ten places you’ll see that seven of the countries have relative experience in this type of scenario and are also in the central and eastern part of Europe. The two exceptions to this, quite surprisingly, were Hungary and Slovakia. What happened here is perhaps more bewildering. It’s understandable that teams such as England and Italy could fall foul of this venue, but Hungary is Croatia’s neighbour and has easy access to the Dubrava channel, while Slovakia are no strangers to this form of fishing. Hungary’s score of 85pts, for both days, set them in a similar bracket to France, England and Belgium and must be a shock to their standing.

Neither can Slovakia’s result be overlooked, and the more I think about it the more it doesn’t seem to make sense. How can they finish so far down the overall list, finishing 32nd out of 37 competing teams??? This country has waters very similar to the River Drava’s Dubrava channel, and that’s along the River Vah system. Their close proximity to Croatia also gave them an advantage. So it really is a mystery how the 2009 World Champions could finish in such a lowly position!

Both these teams must be both scratching their heads and wondering how they missed such a great opportunity!

One welcome result was the placing of Ireland in 9th position. Under the circumstances, this was a superb performance by a team well behind England, France, Belgium and Italy in the world rankings. Two section winners on each of the two days was a major boost for them and one which must have had ‘Irish eyes smiling’ back home! We are fortunate and pleased to have taken both section winners’ catches below as well!!!

Two of Ireland's finest... Jason Ward, who took section B20-37 on Saturday with 6.130kgs and Nicky (Ginger) Howells who secured section A1-19 on Sunday with 4.241kgs.Two of Ireland's finest... Jason Ward, who took section B20-37 on Saturday with 6.130kgs and Nicky (Ginger) Howells who secured section A1-19 on Sunday with 4.241kgs.
What about other teams present? Looking at the results there were still more surprises. Spain’s close proximity to the podium was gained by two consistent results for the two days. They managed two section winners on Saturday. Day one saw them finish in 6th place, just in front of France, and a further 6th place for day two set them into 4th overall. Poland produced a solid performance to avenge last year’s defeat at the hands of England on home soil.

But what of this years home nation, Croatia? With a joint second place after Saturdays match, they must have gone into their final evening team meeting with high optimism. They made one change to the day one team for a final assault on a podium position, which would have been richly deserved after all the country’s efforts in hosting this championship. Unfortunately, they fell at the final hurdle and lost a golden opportunity to place themselves on the podium. Whether they will have such an opportunity in future years is doubtful, given the rise of other eastern teams.

We mentioned Italy’s terrible performance earlier, but what happened to Russia, one of my favourites for a championship place? Russia had been gaining momentum over the past few years by creeping up the rankings. This result fits into the same bracket as England… they simply got it all wrong. Tactically, they found fishing for just a few fish totally alien to their own style and they are more than aware that their feed was lacking a cheesy component, apparently essential in the coloured conditions for barbel, a fish they have little knowledge of. Other species they had initially counted on, proved absent, and like so many others, they found that their failings in the distance, smell and rig categories proved their downfall.

Looking overall at the overall affect of the championship, it wasn’t so much the extra water, and the colour that came with it, but its knock-on influence. It could be argued that this effectively limited the chance of the other species putting in a more solid appearance, which could have changed the outcome and made things a more level playing field for all. As it was, the vimba, nase and plotica (Danubian roach) generally stayed away and therefore did not play such a major part in the outcome. An unpleasant statistic for some of the teams was the number of blanks. Day one produced 17, day two 28, notably one ex-world champion from Italy!

But if we take a step back and think logically about it, this was a result always probable, given the circumstances surrounding many of these international events. England is a country far removed from the practices of our continental neighbours and we are disadvantaged in several areas such as:

  • Venue types
  • Fish species
  • Fishing techniques
  • Rules
  • Availability to practice

These are not simply excuses offered up to justify a heavy defeat, or demean what has been achieved by the top teams over the championship weekend, these are facts which constantly hound countries such as England, in fact all the teams from the British Isles. So let’s take a look at each of these one by one and try to explain in more basic detail.

The upstream power plant runs millions of gallons of water through its turbines to generate power to the surrounding area. But it also creates an extremely strong current as it flows down the deep Dubrava channel, an ideal environment for big fish, especially barbel!The upstream power plant runs millions of gallons of water through its turbines to generate power to the surrounding area. But it also creates an extremely strong current as it flows down the deep Dubrava channel, an ideal environment for big fish, especially barbel!Venue types

Waters such as the Dubrava channel, Canal Hensies, River Morava, Ostellato and many others, have no bearing on the type of venues that all the England squad fish, far from it. Most of our waters have a heavy commercial taint to them, our canals are narrow and shallow, our rivers run clear and slow (except when flooded!). And finally, our depths and flows have no comparison in relationship to European venues.
Russian star Ilia Yakuskin pulled these two enormous nase (Nobheads as Darren Cox called them) out during Fridays final practice.Russian star Ilia Yakuskin pulled these two enormous nase (Nobheads as Darren Cox called them) out during Fridays final practice.
Fish species
While several species found in the UK prevail in European waters, there are several others, which do not. Vimba, carrasio, nase (nobheads) and plotica, where just a few of the species encountered this year which are alien to UK fisheries, there are many others. Some of these species require a specific approach, both tactically and feed-wise. Although we triumphed in Poland on our staple UK roach species, in similar UK wintery conditions, many other occasions required a different train of thought.

Fishing techniques
Sliders, flat floats, bolo rods are all styles more akin to the continent and have very little relevance to many UK waters so are thereby not on the teams main tactic list until they cross the channel. Admittedly, the slider, which featured extensively in Belgium this year, was practiced extensively by the team at local reservoirs prior to travelling to Pommereoul. But this is not a technique commonplace in the UK as many waters are simply not deep enough.

There are, if any, very few matches governed by CIPS rules. Our fisheries tend to adopt in part the old NFA, or Angling Trust match rules, which bear no relation to CIPS. Pole lengths, bait limits, time durations are just some of the continental restrictions imposed on matches over the channel. Most anglers in the UK have little or no idea of these.

Availability to practice
This is something that may often be overlooked. Being separated by the channel, access to Europe is a somewhat protracted event. Driving to a channel port, or North Sea port, usually requires an expensive addition to the cost of fuel, which can mount up when travelling to places like Croatia. Yes, I know about teams from Scandinavia, this applies equally to them also. While there are these inevitable expenses incurred for championships, it does rather limit any prior travelling for practice sessions. Also the schedule of match competitions in the UK is sprinkled with many ‘big money’ qualifiers, regional league matches and general open matches, which are many and varied throughout the country. So time availability as well as access limits opportunities.

These points are just a brief overview of some of the issues faced by UK and, in some cases, others European teams.

It’s also relevant to say that any, or all, of these points could possibly contribute to defeats. But they all have a bearing on how a team performs. It’s as well to remember that every time England compete at international level, you simply cannot apply the principle ‘they came, they saw, they conquered’, that’s a naïve and unreasonable expectation. However, what it does show is that while Team England has become the most adaptable and accomplished team in the history of world angling, they are not infallible!

England’s misfortune
Tactically, England shared misfortune with many other teams, even though most followed a similar pattern of rigs and feeding strategies. Were they looked be out of sync was in the manner and content of feed. With extra water adding to levels and colour it proved to be more sticky mag than groundbait, which saw many finish in front of the 2013 world champions. Knowing what these conditions could do proved a big advantage to all the local countries.

We mentioned fishing techniques earlier, which disadvantaged England. Using flat floats (lollies) up to 80g was as near to ‘alien’ for the team as you could possibly get. We simply do not fish that style in the UK. If the flow is too strong…we use a feeder. Remember, the UK does not fish to CIPS rules! Anyway, you cannot buy these types of floats to 80gs in the UK, even the availability of sizes from 30g to 50g are like ‘hens teeth’ (extremely rare). These were all purchased once the team arrived on the continent, or at the venue itself. Karoly Kralik delivered a special batch of Cralusso Rays to the team during practice, which they found perfect. These were floats that the Dutch also used, a fact Mark Addy was surprised at as he was under the impression that only England and Hungary had been given them!!!

England relied on Cralusso Rays up to 50gr during the championships.England relied on Cralusso Rays up to 50gr during the championships.
The major problem on the channel was the flow. Even with large lollies it was impossible to hold the rigs still for more than a millisecond. The Dutch told me that they had stuck two 80gs together and tried to hold the rig still, only to find it ‘popped-up’ after a second or so! The sheer physical effort of fishing this venue was unreal for 80% of the field. England’s Alan Scotthorne said after on practice day that he counted approximately 600 run-throughs of the rig during the allotted 4 hour time span. Sean Ashby reckoned 5-600 times but Callum put the figure closer to 700… perhaps Callum was using a much lighter float!!! Our Friday videos gives a more personal look at the physical issues this venue posed to our team.

Another area where the team fell short on was feed and feeding strategies. Widely accepted by all the team, was their failure in this department. Mark Addy thought they had got it sorted out by Friday, but as conditions changes for the worse, the team simply couldn’t respond. Mark Downes commented later, that they should have used more sticky mag. But it wasn’t just the feed, it was also where they fed and fished. Local countries knew, that when these conditions prevailed, you needed to fish closer to the bank, as fish tended to seek a slightly slower current, and I mean slightly. It was still incredibly powerful close in. Every team to a man, used gravel in their mixes to get the feed on the deck as quickly as possible. Feeding was nearly always done upstream of pole tip and about a metre inside it, to combat the currents pull.

Zebra mussels attached themselves to the stones, which some barbel managed to use as cutting tools when hooked!Zebra mussels attached themselves to the stones, which some barbel managed to use as cutting tools when hooked!Another aspect of the venue was the amount of small stones/rocks on the channels bottom and their position. These seemed to hold bait more readily and may have accounted for some of the more barren pegs, which had fewer of them below, England looked to have at least three pegs like this on day two. The downside to this underwater rubble was the fact that there where zebra mussels attached to many of them and competitors ran the risk of breakages as barbel, in particular, hugged the bottom once hooked. Some of the Dutch even used fine braid for their hooklengths, which according to Arjan Klop worked well. It seemed you definitely needed to be aware of these issues and plan your swim carefully.

A crumb of comfort!
There was one consolation for Team England, and that was the world debut of Callum Dicks. Callum is no stranger to internationals, he has performed admirably at two European championships as well as having won individual gold at Under 22 level. He also acquired a gold, silver and two bronze team medals with the Youth squads. His inclusion in this year’s team may have seemed a baptism of fire to some, but the confidence and ability shown in previous outings obviously found favour with the management, enough to bring him in on such an tricky venue.

It wasn't a bad debut for Callum Dicks, he finished top angler in the team!It wasn't a bad debut for Callum Dicks, he finished top angler in the team!It was a decision that could have easily backfired on the management, but one which no doubt left them with some degree of satisfaction after the weekends dismal result. Callum’s day one and two performances where a mixture of cool and calm composure as he secured a 7th and 8th position in each section respectively to gained him added status within the team. On a venue, which sometimes had the more experienced anglers scratching their heads, he settled in and took what the venue had to offer in his stride. It would be folly to imagine his international future was going anywhere other than up, after this year.

What of future positions?
This result will weigh heavy on England’s shoulders, because of the world rankings. Their 16 points finish in Croatia knocked them off the number one spot in the world, to be replaced by Poland. These rankings are taken from the previous 5 years results and remain for five more following years. Take a look at just how much the 2014 Championship affected the world standings:

Rankings after 2014
There are some remarkable changes to last year’s rankings. England’s disappointing demise from top spot was somewhat insignificant to Italy’s ‘freefall’ from 2nd place to joint 6th. This year saw Poland, Holland and the Czech Republic as chief beneficiaries, with Hungary retaining their 5th spot, while Belgium and France dropped two places respectively. One team not in these rankings is Russia. Their 24th place was a complete disaster for them and most unexpected. The will have to put this result aside and fight to regain what had looked to be a promising future in the world’s top ten teams.

The significance of these new positions can be more easily understood if you take next years points and lose the 2010 points. This means that points between 2011 and 2015 will set the 2015 rankings. Even if England win in Slovenia next year, they cannot better this years ranking score of 29 points, because they won in 2010… understand? For England to retain top spot from Poland next year, they would need to finish twelve places above them, because Poland would drop their 10 points from the 2010 result! This does not take into account any possible position England are likely to occupy behind other teams in Slovenia, that is another permutation which could come into affect after next years event. If this where to happen, then the rankings in 2015 may see more unfamiliar placements!

In hindsight!
There seems a basic explanation as to why England, and Italy in particular, ended in unfamiliar positions. Neither team, apparently, saw that changing conditions required a backup plan aimed at barbel. With both teams having a reasonable practice week, everything looked fine, but like so many teams this year, with the channel carrying extra water and colour through the system… knowledge of what happens under these conditions was priceless! Italy will no doubt feel much pain after Croatia, but like England, they will learn and return to their rightful place at the top of the world rankings in the future.

Finally, we have to congratulate Croatia on hosting such a prestigious event. Not only did they produce one of the largest visitor attendances I can remember, but their organisation and facilities were professional and extremely helpful. My sources tell me the closing banquet was of a very high standard and apart from the weather, which they had no control over, they did everything possible to make this one of the best (non-England win) championships I have attended.

NOTE: We have over 100 pictures yet to show you of many competitors, but these will take some time to prepare. We intend to introduce a gallery system similar to what we did sometime ago and it will be accessed through the Contents page, these should be available from next week...CLICK