The venue for the World Championships was Lough Erne, in Northern Ireland. The Lower and Upper Lough Erne systems, combined, are approximately 35,584 acres - that's 12 times the size of Rutland, with 154 islands. Some parts of the Lower Lough resemble the sea! Although we were only allowed in the match to fish an area around a third of the size based around Enniskillen, it was still a huge area to cover in two, 6 hour practice days. So to ensure we covered as much water as we could, Mike Skipper, the Team Manager, broke the match area in to three sections. Gary and Eric concentrated on the east side of Lower Lough Erne, Matt and Evaldas fished the west side of Lower Lough Erne, and my Dad and I covered the river from Bellanaleck to Enniskillen, along with the bottom section of Upper Lough Erne.
On the two practice days, my Dad and I fished the way we mostly fish, which is power fishing with soft plastics, crankbaits and spinnerbaits - trying to cover as much water as we could. Whilst I used lures that I was pretty sure would work, Dad was doing the experimenting and changing lures a lot more often than I was.
That way we were hoping to find out what was and wasn't working, and maybe find a lure that other teams weren't using that would be effective on the match days. Over the two practice days I caught 8 Pike and 8 Perch, and we'd worked out some good spots and tactics to approach both match days with.
The minimum length for Pike was 50cm, and 6 of those 8 Pike I caught were over 50cm, and the minimum length for Perch was 22cm, but only one Perch I caught was over that mark. So, with the way the points worked, it made more sense to fish for Pike. Gary and Eric had found Pike in deep water in the Lower Lough, so they headed there on match day 1, whilst Dad and I planned to fish upstream and fish some deep holes in the River Erne and a quiet bay, where we'd picked up some better Pike in practice.
The opening ceremony was held on Thursday night, and every team walked on stage in turn, whilst their national anthem was being played. They were then introduced by the team manager to the other competitiors. It was a very proud moment for all of us!
After day 1, England were placed in 6th, and my Dad and I were in 5th place individually. Team England were all feeling confident of a good second day, but things didn't go quite to plan…
Gary and Eric had a major problem. They'd planned to fish in the Round 'O' on the river in Enniskillen town centre first, before heading back on to the Lower Lough. However, there are some sluice gates further downstream and on the Saturday night they had been shut without any of the competitors knowing. This caused the river to stop flowing, and it had a great effect on the fishing. They caught 3 Pike between them, however one was undersize.
Our game plan was to head straight back to where we'd caught 4 Pike from in the last three quarters of an hour of day 1, as we felt really confident we'd catch some more there. Unfortunately, another boat followed us to the same area, but they did leave within about half hour having not caught. I had one Pike there and Dad missed a couple of plucks, but my fish was undersize. We moved on upstream to another hole in the river that drops to over 40 feet deep, where there were plenty of baitfish, and where Dad had caught two Pike on day 1 of the match. On his very first cast Dad landed a Pike, but again it was undersize. By about 2pm we were struggling for bites, and in a nutshell, the fishing became really tough. After trying a few more spots we headed back to Tamlaght Bay, which had produced well for us on the afternoon of day 1, hoping a rest during the day would have helped the fishing. It was still really hard though - what was good timing was when Andy Ford and the camera crew from Sky Sports turned up in their boat to film us, and I hooked and landed a 59cm Pike whilst the cameras were rolling! But that was the only other bite we had all day.
After the match had ended, the atmosphere remained very tense as the teams awaited the final results at the presentation. In the team event, first place went to Italy, second place was awarded to Russia, and in third place was Romania.
The individual champions were Janas Prialgauskas and Vladas Valukonis of Lithuania, runners-up were Alexey Shanin and Alexander Panchekhin of Russia, and third place were Jacek Gorny and Tomasz Kurman of Ireland. Congratulations to them all!
The presentation was followed by an amazing closing ceremony, then it was a night of Irish dancing and music, delicious food, and lots of banter (especially between England and the Irish!!) which everyone really enjoyed. A lot of the teams gave gifts to each other, which was very kind of them, so a big thank you from Team England!
I must also say a few more thank-you's before I end this post. Firstly, to Mike Skipper, for choosing us to be part of the Team England Lure Squad. Secondly, our guide and steward Geoffray Begard, who was fantastic company throughout the 2 days practice and the match days. Others I'd like to thank are Grantz clothing, for making the team some quality t-shirts, hoodies, fleeces and caps to wear; Mark Houghton for making every team member a crankbait with the Team England Lure Squad logo and our name on each, as a momento; Lynx for supplying us with traces; Savage Gear with waterproofs, and Parmaris with lifejackets.
The Irish were fantastic hosts - the venue they'd chosen for this World Championships and the Killyhevlin hotel, including the evening entertainment and food, couldn't have been any better.
In the short space of time Team England have been together, we have all gelled so well and it was a horrible feeling for us all when the results were not what we'd hoped. I think England's final placing mainly boils down to not having enough knowledge of the venue. Some of the top teams had already ventured out months ahead and practised, namely the winners Italy, runners-up Russia and last year's world champions Ukraine. But due to the team being put together fairly late and not having the funds, we just weren't able to. What we have to take from this experience is that we have all learnt so much about fishing in a Lure Fishing World Championship. It was England's first time, as well as France's debut, and both teams finished 12th and 13th respectively. I really don't think we're far off the other teams though, and England will put everything we've learned from this World Championship to use next year.