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Official interview with Korda Team England manager Ian Huntington

Korda: why did you have England trials?
Ian Huntington (pictured right): Those that have been to the World Championships before obviously have experience and a head-start. It’s a great baptism for all these anglers because from whatever they’ve done before, there had never been a selection process like this before. We had three trials – the theme of the first being the endurance-side of things which as it turned out was extremely important, whereas on the next trial was on a technical basis, where the anglers were catching bigger fish in a more traditional carp fishing scenario. This had less relevance as it turned out as luck, as in most English Carp matches, played too big a part with most of the fish ending up in one area of the lake. The third trial reflected team-work and the guys working together, sharing information while they’re on the bank, which is something that is totally unheard of in English competition carp fishing. These guys normally fish against each other, so to have them fish together as a team, and share that information is normally against their nature, so we’ve broken all those moulds, to effectively create what we want as a team.

This whole process is about selecting a team, which did mean that some very good individual pairs that fished did not become part of the team. The management team were to keep a very close eye on each pair, and individual, throughout the trial period and narrowed it down to four pairs. Three that would begin the match in Romania and a substitute pair if required. One thing that was clear; this was a team event and each individual had to work well with others, as well as retain the qualities required to be considered in such a major event.

Korda: How was the team chosen?
Ian Huntington: The venue Lacul Corbu only received ratification from FIPSed in late May this year and a report issued in mid-June through the FIPSed Italian delegation who inspected the venue. This rubber stamped its use for the world championships. We knew from this report that the venue swims had only been built in March /April and the venue only stocked at the beginning of May with hundreds of tons of small fish, consequently the action would be non-stop as we have experienced previously in the World Championships in South Africa. Based on all the information from FIPSed the results from the RIGS series of tournaments held on the venue, together with all the trials information the team was chosen. The focus being on World Championships experience, team spirit and endurance the final team selected was as follows:

Jake and Dan Wildbore. Jake is a former British junior champion and with Dan his brother has been second in the BCAC at senior level. Dan and Jake were also the best performing English pair at last year’s world championships in Italy, beating GP Knell of South Africa, a two times individual and four times team World Champion off the next peg.
Billy Flowers and Jamie Londors. Three times world silver medalists in four previous attempts at both team and individual level make them a formidable duo whose work rate at these events is second to none and makes them a formidable pair.
Mark Bartlett and Kev Hewitt. Having never before competed in the World Championships, however they need little introduction. Bart and Kev smashed the 48 hour World and British enduro records in the first trial at Drayton. The rest of the world knew all about these guys before they arrived and they were certainly one the most feared pairs in the competition.
Jack Stamp and Kia Sanger. Also having never before competed in the World Championships, however they have been consistent winners in their BCAC qualifiers on big hit waters, also very solid performances throughout the England trials process winning two out of three sections, not to mention being UK Carp master’s winners.

All in all a formidable team I think you will agree. Of course, one of the most important factors in succeeding in an event of such magnitude is preparation. Ian and Pete had placed a lot of thought in rig mechanics and bait. They even visited the venue months in advance to form a strategic plan.

Korda: What about the tactics for the 2012 World Champs?
Ian Huntington: Bait, it was clear from the visit that our main strategy should be formed by fishing boilies over free offerings of the same. Fishmeal type boilies and soluballs were evident in every swim and it is clearly what the fish are used to being fed on. The throwing stick will play a major part. Pasting baits and fishing in conjunction with two bait stringers. Maximum range fishing should be with pasted singles.

We noticed the soluball approach. We even discussed this with some of the finest bait brains in the country upon our return. Unfortunately the key to the match and what we did not know was the lake had been corrupted onto one single type of bait. Since the fish were stocked in May 2012 and while at the fish farm prior to this they had been fed solely on this bait. Consequently countries that had been and practiced were aware of this and managed to get some local bait to enable them at least to take part in the event. The Bulgarians who are next door to Romania commissioned their own bait based on what had been fed to the fish. Portugal and Serbians had contacts in Romania who provided local bait. The fish were fed daily throughout the summer by boat on the Romanian bait on fixed lines parallel with the bank so the host countries were not taking any chances. Imagine feeding a lake in this country with only one bait for a year and then holding a match on it, the outcome would be just the same as Romania. Those with the introduced bait would do well and the rest would really struggle to get a bite.

From our point of view and bearing in mind you are kept behind lines when you visit it’s difficult to have foreseen this coming without actually practicing on the venue and within two hours of the match starting we were asking ourselves questions about the bait. We later found out from the South African team and the French team consultant Ronnie De- Groot that they had also brought different English bait from two other leading English manufactures, most of which stayed on the pallets and was not used at all in the case of South Africa. That’s 1.5 ton of bait or £10,000 of bait left on pallets.

Korda: Did you imagine the event to be as big as it was?
Ian Huntington: Having fished in five previous World Championships with Pete we were still amazed our hosts had put on such an amazing event. The South African event had been amazing and the teams silver medal very satisfying, however the sheer scale of expense the Romanians had gone too with three different themed gala dinners, open top bus parades around the city not to mention the spectacular fireworks displays really set this event apart.

It was then completely eclipsed by the second nights opening party where all 21 countries plus press and invited guests were treated to a ball room banquet fit for Kings which when compared to all previous carp fishing tournaments we had attended really did stand head and shoulders above.

The following day did however bring with it the draw and the start of the match so slowly and unsurprising quite reluctantly the management of the participating countries began to call time and usher the competing anglers back to their hotel.

The draw, as expected, was a nervy, tense moment and without doubt the most important part in any match. This was short-lived however, when each of Team England received a pleasing draw. The talented Hewitt and Bartlett drawing a renowned productive end peg in Section A was the most notable.

It was clear that the England Team meant business and worked tirelessly throughout that first day and night to grasp this daunting venue. However, by morning they were well behind. The local knowledge fired Romania into a huge lead and by the morning of the second day they were already ahead on points with over 800kg. They where chased by Bulgaria, Portugal and the Serbians.

Unfortunately, this was the theme of the match. As England moved further and further behind, it was clear that something was wrong. They were fishing out of their skin, far more methodical and accurate than other pairings that flanked the English, yet they where unable to buy any consistency in their catch rate. Their efforts could not be questioned.

The Romanians had been canny. The newly stocked carp had been born and bred on a certain bait and indicated an almost inherent urge to feed on this certain boilie. Unfortunately, this was the instrumental component that lead to the demise of the English attack and ultimately to the success of the Romanian catch rate.

The carp were so preoccupied by this now “natural” food source that they would rarely feed on anything else. It dealt the killer blow to the England and we feel that this edge would certainly have given England the necessary tools to have competed for a medal.

By the end of this epic match which saw Romania and Bulgaria battling it for first place, and England finishing in a disappointing 18th, the home nation succeeded by a whisker.

Looking forward to 2013 the England team having now fully debriefed and are looking forward to Portugal. Korda have expressed their huge confidences in this young team and will continue to be a supporting element to the team.

It’s set to be yet another highly contestant event with all participating nations feeling confident of a good result.

Korda: And for 2013?
Ian Huntington: Hard lessons have been learnt and it has been a very difficult experience to pick the team and ourselves up after this event. Team sponsors have also invested money and support and many people have given up their time as volunteers in the trials to try and raise our chances of winning the team gold medal for the first time.

Firstly the corruption of the water as described above, while this is strictly not against the rules and the Romanians freely admitted to doing this there is the morale issue here and in the interests of fair play and fair contest this can’t be right. I have already spoken to Dick Clegg about this and he is going to take the issue up with FIPSed at this year’s November meeting in Italy. While we appreciate the Lac Corbul is unique and its fish stock brand new thus making this corruption of the water more possible, it will not ultimately deter other host nations following suit leading to a potential breakup of the competition.

Practicing, the team needs to go and practice a number of times prior to the world champs. The days of just turning up and hopefully being lucky with our approach from information gained off the internet are over. Unfortunately this all takes time and significant money which has to be found if we are to compete. The South Africans spent 100k this year and went home without a medal. The Bulgarians said they spent 80k and they live next door and went home with silver. The Romanians spent in excess of two million euros creating the venue and hosting the event.

As a management duo we have generally sacrificed our whole fishing season organizing the trials, team meetings, workshops with specialist consultants, all for this event. The only shining light in all this is the team’s own preparation and commitment to the process and each other which has been something really special to behold and be extremely proud of. If we were going back tomorrow we would still take the same team as what we witnessed in Romania was a true English team spirit and grit in the face of extreme adversity. As mentioned, this all takes time and a commitment to the England cause and also means giving most of their other fishing up next year to solely concentrate on the world championships venue in Portugal, if we are to have any chance of winning a gold medal.

England team member Jake Wildbore commented ‘As a team we have been through highs and massive lows. The team is more unified than ever before. This year’s event had all the necessary elements to ensure the team a good result. The unforeseen and unfortunate circumstances that restricted our efforts have been forgotten and the team will learn from this year and approach Portugal with a clear head and even more conviction.’

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