Since Ross Honey founded the event in 1998, this competition has always been held on a French water, but this year it was all change as the host venue was Lago di Bolsena in Italy, a volcano crater that has filled with water (and fish!) over thousands of years, located about 2 hours North of Rome.
After a dip in the lake and setting up camp at the aptly named 'bivvy city' on the day of our arrival, the following morning I was picked to place pegs around the lake with Sparsholt students Ashley Bunning and Tom Broomhead along with my tutors, Chris Vaughan and Steve Waters. Rob Nunn, who was fishing for the JRC team, also kindly stepped in to help with the pegging, as it was an enormous task. Each sponsored section had 16 pegs, and there were 10 sections in total, starting at the Rodbox section, which was very hard to access as there were long, windy and steep dirt tracks. We worked our way through the picturesque towns of Marta, Montefiascone and Capodimonte, right the way round to the last section, which was CC Moore, situated in Bolsena.
It wasn't long afterwards before the 6 day match got off to a very wet and windy start - a storm had set in for around an hour. The wind and rain was so strong it blew some angler's bivvies up the bank! I was marshalling the CC Moore sponsored section, which stretched from the marina in Bolsena for nearly 2 and a half kilometres to the East. Here, there were anglers representing England, the Netherlands, Austria, Serbia, Poland, Slovakia, South Africa, and host nation Italy.
Over the course of the week it became apparent that anglers based in and around the town centre were catching more than most. This was possibly due to the many tourists feeding the waterfowl with bread. Ardy Veltkamp and Richard Simeons, based on peg 13, which was right next to the marina, were picking off fish as they were entering or coming out of it. One evening I walked down to their peg at around 10.30pm to weigh a good fish. Almost immediately after releasing a nice common, another rod went off and they were in again. Whilst Richard was playing that fish out in the boat, the rod on the left also screamed off and Ardy hooked up too! For them it was a sleepless night as they landed 6 commons in total to just under 14 kilos.
Andreas Papesch and Kurt Flieger, the Austrians in the peg next door, also had a busy night, landing 5 fish to just over 12 kilos too. It took myself and Lauren, another Shuttleworth marshal, quite a while to weigh them all in the morning!
These two pegs were the only ones that consistently produced fish all week. The only other anglers to catch were Frank Warwick and Jason Cann on peg 10, who landed 2, their biggest weighing 9.8kg. Unfortunately, all the swims to the right of peg 10 didn't even produce a run!
On Thursday morning I managed to get an hour or so of free time between doing the rounds of all the swims (keeping an eye out for any problems and chatting to anglers), so I wandered in to Bolsena to have a look at the fishing tackle shop. It stocked quite a few of the softbaits my Dad and I normally buy in America and use for targeting Perch, Zander and Pike at home. I ended up spending most of the remaining Euros I had on split tail shads and drop shot weights!!
These were also perfect for targeting the huge numbers of Bass in Bolsena we were seeing along it's shores that had been winding me up all week. As marshals, we didn't take any fishing gear with us, but Jason Cann on peg 10 was keen on trying to catch some Bass, and he very kindly let me borrow one of his rods to use, which we shared for the remainder of the match. I used a size 4 thin gauge carp hook and 9lb zig rig fluorocarbon to create a drop shot rig, that I loop-to-looped to the 40lb braid! A 12ft 4lb tc carp rod isn't ideal, but that's all we had!
Later that evening, I fished for around an hour along a short length of bank and within minutes I was holding my first Italian fish - a tiny Pike! Not long after releasing it, I hooked in to something a lot more acrobatic, which turned out to be my first Bolsena Bass of around 1lb.
This wasn't the only one I caught that evening and in a short amount of time combined over the course of a couple of days, I landed another 20 Bass to around 1lb 10oz, all falling to the drop shotted split tail shad. I was actually outfishing many of the locals, some of which were curious about how I was catching them! Speaking to them, most were fishing texas rigged senko-style worms. Although they weren't massive fish, it was still great fun watching some of the Bass engulf the split tail almost at my feet. I reckon Bolsena would make a brillant venue for a American Bass-style tournament, either from boat or bank. But I didn't get much time to fish as I was here to marshal instead...
Back to the marshalling, after weighing 3 good fish first thing Saturday morning to 16.2 kilos that Ardy and Richard had caught during the night on peg 13, and a couple the Austrians had caught too, I blew the final horn at 8am to mark the end of the competition. A few hours later, once the anglers had all packed up, crowds began to gather in the town square of Bolsena, as all the anglers eagerly awaited the announcement of who'd won the World Carp Classic 2012. Listening to the walkie talkie during the week, the very fishy looking Pescalis and Club Carpin sections I'd pegged earlier in the week had been producing some amazing catches, but the winners, Peter Micula and Norbert Pongracz of Hungary came from another busy section, PVTV, with a total weight of 329.9kg, and who walked away with £10,000. They also caught the biggest fish weighing 22.5kg too. The team winners were Stewart Downing, who is the director of Pure Fishing, Rob Nunn, Andrea Campanini, Fillipo Mongrandi, Tomas Vanek, and Peter Hofierk of JRC Europe1 with a combined catch of 382.2kg. - well done to all of them. Also a special well done to Ardy Veltkamp and Richard Simeons for winning the CC Moore section, where I was based for the week - they won £1000 worth of bait! That's a lot of boilies!
In total 483 fish were caught, and I think only 2 of those were mirrors, for a combined weight of 5011 kilos! We flew back to Gatwick early the next morning after probably one of the best carbonaras I've ever had - the Italian cuisine was to die for, especially the Pizzas and the Ice Creams! I had a great time with all the Shuttleworth and Sparsholt students - also, thanks to our tutors Steve and Chris, to Ross Honey, and to the media crew for all of their hard work during that busy week. I'd definitely like to go back some day and give the Bass another go!