At last it is time to fly to Bulgaria; I meet the rest of the France team at the Charles de Gaulle airport where we will be taking a short flit to Sofia. It is great to see them all, even if on the fishing circuit we compete against each other and over the years we have all become really good friends!
After an extra 2 hours drive we arrive at the hotel in Asenovgrad, town where the competition will be held. We dump our bags at the hotel, no time to rest, there will be plenty of time for that later. After a short walk we are at last able to discover the Chaya River.
River that has been haunting my thoughts and dreams for the last few months ! In this section it is rather large, shallow and strewn with large rocks.
B and C sections of the Chaya River
Thanks to our polarized glasses we try to guess what is happening beneath the surface, behind each rock… we are on a one track mission: finding where the fish are hiding!
During the evening meal we develop our strategy for the next days’ prefishing, at last we are going to be able to fish that river!
All the competitors are there, no less than 80 fishermen all with the same goal: catching a fish. It a ‘mass start’ ambiance and everyone is fishing elbow to elbow, especially on the prime spots.
Each sector is different, Sector A is situated in a steep valley and the water is fast flowing with many rapids. The banks are dodgy and the overhanging trees make the fishing complicated. Sectors B and C are “easier”, wider, shallower and slower flowing with big rocky blocs. Sector D is not as large but deeper with 2 big pools linked by a stretch of rapids.
Team France on sector A
Fishing sector C
Over lunch we debrief about our morning prefishing session. During the afternoon we prepare our kit for the next 2 days while the staff and our captain, Eric Despalin, assist the official meeting and decide who and in which order we will fish the different sectors on Saturday:
Morgan Calu: sector A
Tom Bontempelli: sector B
Jérémy Seguin: sector C
Eric Despalin: sector D
I will be on reserve and coach Eric on sector D
That evening all the teams and staff meet at the Asenovgrad square for the opening ceremony of the 12th World Bank Lure Championship. The logistics of certain nation is incredible, Slovakia 18 people, Croatia and Russia 15 people, 3 staff for 1 competitor!
We were escorted by a girl in traditional dress in the main stand where members of the FISPSED present the 17 nations competing. This year Mongolia and Ireland will be taking part.
Day 1: (By Jérémy Séguin)
“After a year of preparation and waiting, it is at last time to fish again in the world championships. I am the last to start in the first round, so I will only be able to fish the spots no one else wants. I chose the closest ‘box’ and start fishing with n°1 sliver Rapid spinner. No fish react so I decide to change ‘box’. On the second spot, I swap my size n°1 spinner for a size n°2 as the current is stronger and the water deeper, but still nothing. At last on the 3rd‘box’ and catch my first fish and win my first points, 4 fish that have almost swallowed my lure. I will catch a further 2 fish using a soft bait. I keep changing ‘boxes’ but stick to the same strategy: spinner and soft bait, and at the end of the first round I finish 5th with 9 fish, sadly the 10th unhooked just before I could net it. I start the 2nd round using the same strategy but the fish no longer respond and gradually the river gets the best of me, the best boxes being occupied I just can’t seem to find any active fish. Round 2, 3 and 4 literally kill me and I finish 15th. No regrets having caught 9 and only lost 1 fish. I just didn’t fish well enough, I needed to be more accurate, insist longer and fish slower; all that is easier said than done when fishing in a competition! I admit that the next day when coaching Morgan, I took time to watch the other nations and I realised where I went wrong.”
At the end of the first day we finished 13th. It could have been better had we not lost so many fish just before landing them. Our objective to finish in the top 10 will only be possible if we stop unhooking them.
At last I can fish! But of course, I am on the sector I really didn’t want, sector A. But I get a good draw for the starting order; I start in 5th place and head directly downstream.
My strategy for the first round was to use a spinner to try and cover the most ground possible and at the same time localize and catch fish. I used the PRO SERIES ‘Finess shake special’ rod because its length is ideal for the conditions and soft tip helps counter the fish’s rushes and limiting the risk of them unhooking. My reel is spooled with 16°° ‘Crystal Color Line’ Nylon, discreet yet sufficiently strong with just the right amount of elasticity. The trout are not very active but by regularly changing the color, size, vibration and depth of retrieve of my spinner, I manage to catch 6 of them and not a single fish lost!
This time I started in 12th position and the downstream zone being free I decided to fish almost the same ‘boxes’ than the first round. I used the same strategy than before but with an even slower retrieve and tried and keep my lure as long as possible in the main flow of the current. Sadly towards the end of the round, the fish stopped biting. I finished in the top 10 of my sector with 5 fish.
I decided to change combo and opted for the PRO SERIES ‘Shaking Special’ rod and a reel spooled with 6.5°° ‘Finnes Braid’ and switch to using soft baits. After a few casts a massive ‘birds’ nest’ appears on my spool and I lost precious time undoing it. I only caught 2 fish in this round.
I didn’t let this accident get to me and managed to remain concentrated. Having not really fished my zone in the previous round I decided to give it a go using hard baits. I instantly caught a trout but lost the next 2 on hyper violent attacks. I switched to sort baits rigged on ‘G’Round’ 1.8 and 2.5gr jig heads and fished the outside of the main current. I land a further 2 fish but lost 1.
The Shaking Special in action
I finished 7th of my sector but most of all with no regrets, I couldn’t have done better.
I would like to thanks Alexandre who was a great coach all through the competition.
Day 2 was better than day 1 for all the members of our team but not sufficiently to have improved our ranking. We finished 13th, the top 3 nations being Slovakia, Italy and Croatia.
The individual rakings: 1st M. Forbark Martin (Slovakia), 2nd M. Ferro Andrea (Italy) and 3rd M. Vorobiev Alexander (Russia), 3 top notch bank fishermen, well done!
An outstanding experience and a wonderful time spend with some really good friends. Many thanks to our sponsors GUNKI/PEZON&MICHEL and ILLEX that have been with us for many years on the national and international circuit.
I would also like to thank Mr Frédéric Bonnet, Christophe Decourty, Fréderic Jullian, Jérôme Riffaud and Thomas Vogels, for believing in us and without whom this adventure would not have been possible.
The Gunki – Pezon & Michel / Illex team
The French nation circuit starts on the 1st of June in Amiens, and it is an understatement to say that I am hyper motivated to finish in the top 10 to have a chance to be selected for next years’ world championship! If like us, you would like to be part of the national fishing team, sign up for GN CARLA circuit and give it a cast!
See you soon
Johan ans Jérémy