THOUSANDS of angling fans and fishing enthusiasts from across the country are expected to descend on Evesham this weekend for the Angling Festival.

The festival, which is free to attend and attracts more than 40,000 people each year, has grown in popularity from its humble beginnings in the 1970s to become one of the biggest events of its kind anywhere in the UK.

Competing for fame and fortune, keen anglers will line the banks of the Avon over Saturday, Sunday and Monday as they pit their wits against nature and each other to land the perfect catch.

Evesham market town manager Shawn Riley said: “This is the biggest festival we do in terms of visitor numbers, and for each championship there are 70 competitors.

“And these guys are professional anglers, this is how they earn their living by competing in these types of events. They are the best of the best and that’s why so many people come down to the riverbanks to watch them, and maybe even pick up some top tips.

“We also have a tented village set up on Crown Meadow with lots of food, drink, bargain tackle and attractions to suit both anglers and families.”

He added: “You won’t get a room at a hotel in Evesham now, they are all fully booked, and as well as being a showcase for some of the best fishermen and women the festival is a huge economic boost for the town.”

With a top prize of £6,000 at the Shakespeare Championship on the Saturday, anglers have been taking part in qualifying rounds every week since June 16 just so they can compete this weekend, and entries are now closed.

The Abu-Garcia/Wychavon Championship takes place on the Sunday with a top prize of £3,000, and the Match Fishing Team Championships on Monday, also with a top prize of £3,000.

The mayor of Evesham Jim Bulman said: “I hope the weather stays dry for this truly international event, and I’m very proud that Evesham hosts it.

“It has been going for many years and we get teams competing from all over the place, and people have had to be bussed into the town from Broadway because Evesham is full.

“I’m really looking forward to it and I will be down there myself on Saturday afternoon to present the Shakespeare Trophy at about 5.30pm”