Although weather conditions could play a part in the result, other factors could determine whether this year's event will leave more questions unanswered than answered. For the first time in the events 55 year history, a section would be divided into three! For instance; A1, A2 and A3. Our personal concerns remained, that any genuine and absolute result may not be forthcoming, from what we believed was an unprecedented move away from the tradition that...
TO BE THE BEST, you have TO BEAT THE BEST. Sunday afternoon would confirm this or not and we shall deal further with this particular issue later in our coverage.

On arrival at the venue, some 15 minutes before the competitors entered their boxes, it soon became apparent that the weather was finally beginning to look up. Although there was still some wind along A and B sections, it was of  significantly less force than the previous two days. The major worry was the huge amount of rain that had fallen during the night, which had created more flow on the canal, but as the competitors began to plumb and set up. This flow reduced to a slight draw from left to right by the start and, in effect, the venue looked to be exactly the same as in Friday's practice.

Tactically, the match would proved to be intriguing, as the approach adopted by the majority of teams was very similar. It would be the way of catching bream that would set teams apart in the end.

All teams had balled an inside line, somewhere between 8 and 10 metres seemed to the standard, with a few balling on 13 metres. Bream fishing usually dictates that you lay a carpet of groundbait then sit over the top of it with a bait nailed several centimetres overdepth. However, a lot of teams opted for a softly softly approach, by cupping this longer 13m line with whatever bait they considered appropriate. In most cases this was a combination of bloodworm and joker, along with some groundbait, chopped worm and caster.

In B section, Will Raison was catching well and was staying a few fish ahead of the Italian, Ferruccio Gabba, who was three pegs to his left. The fish were of a similar size, small roach and perch, with an odd 75g to 100g bonus roach in amongst them.

After about an hour, Drennan Team England were doing OK, but the French looked to be flying, as they had taken a bream in the first hour. Their anglers in the other sections were also up in the top three or four places. A spectator this year, Jean Desque seemed quite confident that they were doing very well.

One angler who was starting to stand out in B section, was commercial king Jamie Masson. The Maver Barnsley man, fishing for Scotland, was on bloodworm at around 9m, and were all of a good size. In typical 'Jamie-style', he was using doubled No.4 elastic and swinging fish in that the other anglers were playing for a minute or two then netting! He would go on to catch over 5 kilos for second in his sub-section, beaten only by Belgium's Hans Slegers with some bream. This would be the best none-bream weight, by some distance, on the day.

Returning to Will after an hour and a half, things had become quiet. His early burst of small fish had put him on 63 fish to Gabba's 43 and in command. He then made the switch to the long line for bream. England’s approach to this line proved extremely effective and a key ingredient during practice sessions, but it was still considered to be one of the riskiest plans the team had ever developed, as it only looked for only one or two bites. After five minutes and one small fish, his float buried and he made short work of netting his first bream, (photo 02775) to a huge cheer... Will’s match was well and truly up-and-running.

England's Des Shipp had drawn in the third part of C section... peg 35 and started well. He was soon up to speed, catching bits at a reasonable rate. Italian master, Jacopo Falsini, on peg C34, was also catching, but was slightly slower during the early stages, compared to Des’.

Walking through the section, all the anglers were catching reasonably well, but as each main section of 38 is split into THREE, it was therefore important for a teams' management to know exactly where each sub-section began and ended. Bank runners were effectively only watching 12/13 people in each section, which made running quite simple. England's European Champion, Steve Hemingray, had arrived in Almere the night before to help in this task and reckoned it was the easiest 'running' job he’d ever done.

Des had been catching well in C section. Steve Hemingray had him down as third behind the Russian Igor Potapov, on Des’ right, who had caught a good bream and very close behind was Jacopo Falsini, two pegs to his left. The last half hour of this match would be a fascinating contest.

With about 20 minutes left, Des hooked his first bream hooked just outside the mouth. With ten minutes left, both the anglers either side of Des hooked a bream. Potapov got his out and once again moved ahead, pushing Des down into second. Serbian Dusko Kovacevic, on Des’ left, then landed a good bream, but Des still thought he was third, so this would push Falsini down to fourth!! Three minutes later both Des and Jacopo strike, Des realises immediately that the fish seems foul-hooked. Jacopo’s is soon under control and just after he nets it, Des’ fish comes off. Des is now back in third again, behind Igor and Jacopo.

This amazing sequence of events turned out to be the last real action from these pegs and, as predicted, Des came third with 4.977kg, some 133g off Falsini's weight of, with ultimate winner Igor Potapov, on 6.399kg.

It would be bream or bust for many!
Listening to the team radio, Steve Gardener was lying about sixth, with Sean still languishing in the bottom half of the section, both needed a bream badly.

From England's perspective, the emphasis had moved to Sean, Steve, Des in the last hour. This was because 5x World Champion Alan Scotthorne had implemented the team plan perfectly. With an hour gone he was top on the fish count, netting some better roach along the way. Given a start like that, Alan had bought himself some time to try England’s long line for a bream. After a quick small perch, he was straight into a big bream. Tense moments followed with wife Sandra, in particular, not being able to watch! But Alan managed to stay cool and went on to take two more bream and some roach to score a perfect section win for the team.

However, Sean on D5 was looking desperate, sitting there motionless waiting for a slab! The dilemma facing Sean was this. The two anglers to his right had caught bream, Switzerland's Jacky Belliard (D6) and Russia's Ilya Yakushin (D7). In fact the Swiss angler had also pulled out of another... there was an obvious presence of bream in the area. So what is he to do? Elsewhere in the section, others had also added the odd slab? It was crisis time. Staying on bits MAY have pushed him up in the section far enough, but it would probably not cement a strong enough position for the team, going into the last day. Bream WERE required, without question, and Sean suffered what happened to many in the past... the fish simply did not move into his peg.

This was an identical situation to the one that faced Will Raison in last years European Champs on the Czech Republic's River Morava. A bream shoal had moved into Poland's Wojciech Kaminski's E1 peg and he took over 19kgs of them, to Will's 7,9kg on E2. This shoal would simply not moved along to Will, no matter what he did! Needless to say, Sean was left despondent after the match, but was nevertheless philosophical about the outcome.

As the end drew near, Yakushin netted a third big slab to add insult to injury. Even New Zealand newcomer, Dave Dixon, could not entice one... and he was next peg to Ilya! Another 'antipidian' attending, Daniel Hull of Australia, was drawn in the second part of D section and acquitted himself with a 6th in section behind the Czech, Ladislav Konopasek. Another who impressed was South African 2008 hero, Jaco Goodwin, who finished 4th in section. His team would spring(bok) a surprise on the final day!

In E section, the early pegs near the bridge were favourite for a bream and Hungary's Jozsef Varga did not disappoint from E1. His final 4,579k included a nice fish and was too good for Switzerland's Antonio Minoretti 2.637kg on E2. Next to Jozsef on E2, Wales' Darren Frost, could only muster up a 2,113kg.

With 25 minutes to go Steve had a small bream of about 750g and moved up to about 4thin E section. Then, with just five minutes remaining, Steve struck into that illusive slab. It would ultimately catapult him from 4th to 1st in the second part of E section. That destroyed Frenchman Benoit Pellegrino's hope of a section win from E16. Even Italy's Stefano Defendi, drawn next to Steve on E18, suffered in Steve's wake as he had been neck and neck with him.

The final part of E section pitted Belgium's 'ace' bream-meister, Guido Nullens, against Germany's Marco Beck and although they were only two pegs apart at the end of the section, for once the Belgian came off second best! A pleasing result was for the Channel Islands' Shaun Rankin, who's day job is being a 'One-Star Michelin' Chef on Jersey. What many will not know is that he is already a winner... but in TV's Great British Menu contest in which he won the dessert category with his Treacle Tart. I will let you all know what it's like when he sends some over to us!!!

The feedback from the other England team members, was that Alan added a third bream to really dominate the early part of A section. Will finished second in his part of the section, also beaten by a Russian., but unfortunately, Sean ended up the only man not to catch a bream and finished in a lowly 11th out of 13.

The detailed results, which you no doubt have downloaded, will give a more sobering dose of reality to our report.

Overall,the venue itself was pretty consistent with the odd pocket of bream showing up. The noticeable factor was that the roach did not show in any numbers. Whether this was down to the rainstorms or crowds, one can only guess, although a factor might be more appropriate. Friday night was a full moon, which many believe affects a fishes feeding cycle. But whatever the reason, the canal turned in an out-of-character results... would the final day be any better we wondered?

Despite not winning on the Day England had set themselves up with a good chance on day two, but what of that risky bream approach? We’ll describe that after day two. There still remained a contentious points systems, which could still influence a teams plan, due to the nature of its composition! Sunday would prove a make or break event for many!