In this article, James Lewis explores the topic of junior international anglers, or rather takes a look at some serious contenders who narrowly missed out on young England selection but have subsequently gone on to achieve significant success at the highest level domestically. If you had to choose one angler who missed out on selection as a junior to represent England in the world championships today, who would you pick?
The glory of representing your country is considered the pinnacle of sporting achievement across many different disciplines. However, these days some reckon pulling on your nations colours isn't as important as it used to be. Back in the late 90's when I was a junior, coverage of fishing was limited to mass appeal TV productions like Go Fishing and Passion for Angling. The only real area where you could pick up technical information was printed media like Angling Times, Anglers Mail, Match Fishing, Angling Plus and Advanced Pole Techniques. These were your YouTube tutorials of the day and these magazines also heavily followed the match fishing elite: Bob Nudd, Alan Scotthorne, Kim Milsom, the young Will Raison etc. This meant these top-level international anglers were always in your eyeline and thus emulating them was something that I always aspired to do.
My England trials were a short and sweet stint across 2006 and 2007. My best showing was in 2007 at Lower Park Fisheries. In the run up to the trial, I'd won and been placed in two opens on the venue. I was confident that I'd be able to put together a decent net of skimmers. Come the trial, I did just that, but when manager Mark Downes came around to talk to us it must have been quite apparent I hadn't got the requisite experience on bloodworm and joker. I think I finished 5th or 6th on the day and thus showed I was very capable of catching fish, but without the requisite all round skills, I didn't make the second trial. Obviously, this left me very deflated at the time, but with hindsight the decision wasn't too hard for the selectors to make.
Across the rest of this piece, I'll look into other anglers' who had the ability to make the team or their experiences at trials and see where they are now. There is a case that all of them should have been selected but who would want the dilemma of a selector; after all, you can only pick one team. It's worth noting my picks are anglers that I've kept in contact with so please let me know if you have any good stories yourself, or of anglers who, in your opinion, should definitely should have made the young England team.
Alex trialled in 2006 with me and was also beaten out by the strong northern competition at the time. Since then, Alex has gone on to some huge success, winning the Drennan Pairs League and the highly competitive East Midlands Winter League on many occasions. Alex also runs his own tackle shop Tackle and Bates on the Rookery Waters complex and is a real fountain of knowledge on the Fens. In addition, Alex recently formed Daiwa Tackle and Bates team, which won the East Midlands league at their first outing.
Having spent some time watching Lee on both rivers and canals I can pay testament to his rig control and fish catching ability. Like so many others, Lee was left frustrated after his trials, beating more than his fair share but not making the team. This certainly hasn't put pay to his fishing though and he was encouraged by the management at the time to continue fishing. Since then Lee has gone onto huge individual success, especially so in 2018 taking down the prestigious RiverFest trophy. Lee also fishes at a high level teamwise, fishing for the mighty Trentmen, who reside in Division 1 and to top it off he's a fully backed Matrix angler.
The youngest anglers in the line-up, Charlie Gooch has made a name for himself around the Soar Valley, picking up many match wins with his team, Quorn. Alongside this, Charlie has also started a glittering individual career qualifying for the RiverFest Final in two out of the last three years. Charlie was invited to trials in 2020, however with the Covid cancellations they never took place, fingers crossed this most unlikely of reasons doesn't prevent him for having his crack of the whip!
James was a junior when I was in my last year at Milton Keynes AA and his pedigree was clear to see from a young age. James had two trials which both left him hugely frustrated, especially on the Gloucester canal where his Silverfish prowess shone through under very tricky circumstances. Not getting picked certainly hasn't put James off though and he's fished for Division 1 side Matrix Image for many years. Individually James has also placed in the Canal Pairs Final and has won many rounds of the East Midlands Winter League.
Joe's angling ability has been on show for nearly two decades now and in that time he's achieved many individual and team accolades. On an individual level he's won prestigious titles like the Kamasan British Open and the Maver Classic, but it was within team fishing that Joe really shone through. An early career win with Garbolino Osset on the New Junction canal in 2007 saw him join the prestigious Barnsley Blacks where he gained many more titles. Joe also spent many years with Match Fishing Magazine covering the best anglers in the country and has since moved on to his role as Content Creator role at Preston Innovations.
The oldest of my six picks, Motty fished the England trails twice in the mid 1990's, firstly at Gold Valley where he failed to do himself justice on the big waggler and the following year at Heyford Fishery where he finished runner up in the trial match. Simon must have been close to a place on the plane but in the end Mark and Joe Roberts decided to stick with exactly the same team from the previous year and an international career was not born. It would take more than disappointment to dent Motty's fishing enthusiasm, and since missing out, he has been a consistent and still improving performer. He captained the Crewe Match Group to victory in the Division 2 national in 2019 after gaining a Division One bronze medal with Drennan North West in 2017. Along with partner Simon Preece, he also has the most consistent record in the Canal Pairs final with four top five finishes since 2014.
Looking at this list of talent, I think it's evident that they all had, and still have, huge potential to win big competitions. None of them would have been out of their depth on the international stage, both as juniors and in the unlikely event of surprise adult team selection now. I think it also highlights that the international scene isn't for everyone and that not being selected at that level as a youngster isn't the end of the world. Beyond competitions, I think it's very refreshing to see anglers that have a love for the sport from an early age staying in the industry. Look at how Alex and Joe have forged hugely successful careers. The fishing industry is evolving with the times and I think in this current boom, young anglers have more opportunities now than they ever have before. Here's to a healthy outlook for angling and I hope to see you all out on the bank at an Angling Trust competition very soon!
Last Edited: 14 July 2021
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