As pastimes go, the normally peaceful pursuit of fishing is not known for attracting controversy. Disputes are usually limited to gently mocking those who exaggerate tales from the riverbank about the size of the one that got away.
But, a fishing competition has become embroiled in a bitter and increasingly personal row about allegations of vote rigging, fraud and bullying forcing organisers to urge angry anglers to “treat each other with respect”.
Angling Direct, a Norfolk-based fishing tackle company, holds an annual photo competition called King of the Catch that sees more than 1,500 anglers submit photographs to the company’s website of themselves holding a prized catch.
The entrants encourage friends and family to vote for them online, resulting in about 17,000 votes cast every year. The four winners with the most votes in four separate categories are then awarded a “once in a lifetime” luxury fishing holiday in Canada or Thailand.
Shortly after opening in July what it describes as “the biggest and best fishing competition”, Angling Direct stripped some entrants of hundreds of votes amid claims many have been cast fraudulently.