Do many of you swim paddletails nice and shallow for bass? And yes, my brain is in churn mode…….

Amendment - Just got back from a dog walk where I quickly had a few chucks with the Z-Man/weedless hook with hitchhiker setup which is described in more detail below - it doesn’t work. The Z-Man looks stunning in the water when you swim it nice and shallow, but the moment I put any power into the cast and the hitchhiker popped out of the front of the lure - because of the material I guess it’s not actually “catching” into the soft plastic. It’s going to work though, I just need to find another hook to get this thing swimming shallow. Perhaps the TT Lures ChinlockZ, and then add some lead strip to act as a belly weight? More to come.

If you listen carefully as you are reading this post you can probably hear my brain whirring away! If there is one thing that an intensive period of fishing with a few other anglers who I know and trust gives one is the chance to learn a whole lot more about this lure fishing thing, indeed I would always argue that the angler who fishes with other anglers but doesn’t watch and listen and learn is shooting themself in the foot by not doing so. Never for one second would I claim to be some sort of great angler, but I pride myself on wanting to learn more all the time……………

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So I briefly mentioned the other day that during this week of charging around Cornwall and generally fishing our socks off how Steve had been doing well on the  5’’ MegaBass Spindle Worm fished on a 4/0 Gamakatsu Worm EWG Weighted Spring Lock hook with the 3.5g belly-weight - and naturally it has got me thinking a whole lot more. For sure I have swum various paddletails nice and shallow for bass a fair bit before - and with a good degree of success - but for whatever reason I kinda moved away from it as I tried other stuff.

Which of course is one of the dangers I suppose of striving to learn all the time and expand your armoury as such - you can sometimes almost forget a method that you used to use, but then that is also the beauty of fishing with other anglers. We are naturally going to fish in slightly different ways and sure enough somebody is going to do something that strikes a chord with you. If you bass fish from the shore with lures then I would guess you’re fishing a lot of shallow, reefy ground where the water can sometimes fizz around a bit, and to me it makes so much sense to swim certain paddletails nice and shallow and for the most part fairly slowly, indeed Steve had a few bass last week by literally holding his lure in the backwash or small rips created by the fizzing sea.

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Obviously I went and bought a few packets of those 5’’ long MegaBass Spindle Worm paddletails - it’s not as if I need much encouragement to drop some dosh on lures after all! I have various weedless hooks here with belly weights on them already - and if it helps, I have used and really like the Owner and VMC ones, but I can’t get away from how well those Gamakatsu ones sit on the Spindle Worm as well. I must have bought some a few years ago because I found a couple of packets of them squirrelled away here in my office.

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And blow me down if I didn’t go and find another stunning looking paddletail that I completely forgot I had here, and as per the photo above it looks pretty damn tasty rigged on a belly-weighted weedless hook. I have used some of the almost ridiculously long lasting ZMan soft plastics a lot for wrasse fishing, and whilst you need to keep them in their packets and separate from your other soft lures and they can be a little awkward to rig, to me they are more than worth it with how lethal they are for the wrasse.

Anyway, so I stumble upon this packet of Z-Man Grass KickerZ 5'' paddletails and I start wondering how nice they must surely be swum nice and shallow for bass. I realise very quickly that because of the weird plastic the lures are made from I can’t simply wind a hitchhiker on a weedless hook into the front of the lure, and then because we can these days, I go looking for help on YouTube and I found the video above. Sorted, and rigged with a VMC Drop Dead Weighted Weedless Twist 3.5g (belly weight) 5/0, the combination weighs 16.2g - and bear in mind that for whatever reason these VMC Drop Dead Weighted weedless hooks are big, and this 5/0 as per the photo is far more like a regular 6/0 if you ask me. Nice hooks though. I am really looking forward to giving this combination some water time, and I also like how the Z-Man soft plastics aren’t very expensive at all when you also factor in how long they last compared to other soft lures.

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There are of course loads of options out there for lures like these. I found an old blog post from mine that refers to catching on the Yamamoto Swim Senko for example, a paddletail that some mates in Ireland put me onto a few years ago. And of course these paddletails can be fished nice and slow without any belly weight on the hook in calm conditions, although I don’t yet know how the very buoyant Z-Man Grass KickerZ 5'' paddletail might swim like this. A tip that I picked up from John Quinlan over in Ireland was to carry a few thin strips of lead to wrap around a weedless hook if you needed to add some weight and/or don’t have any belly-weighted weedless hooks to hand. And so on. A simple way of bass fishing that I find myself very excited to almost come back to and learn far more about, and to me it’s an option to turn to especially when the conditions might be a touch too fizzed up to properly control something like a 6’’ DoLive Stick rigged weedless and weightless. 

I mentioned John Quinlan and his lead strip thing earlier, so I am really pleased to see my interview with him in this month’s Sea Angler magazine. He is a blast to work with on this co-guiding stuff we do together over in SW Ireland, and it was great to finally find a bit of time to sit him down and fire a few questions at him. Professionally guiding as he does and has done for so long now doesn’t half give you some interesting insights into fishing. 

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Disclosure - if you buy anything using links found in this blog post or around my website, I may make a commission. It doesn’t cost you any more to buy via these affiliate links - and please feel entirely free not to do so of course - but it will help me to continue producing content. Thank you.
 

Interview with Major Craft fishing rods, Japan

My profound thanks to James at Nice Fish! (UK Major Craft distributors, plus Sunline and Seaspin) for helping me get this interview with Koichiro Hamano of Major Craft in Japan. Hamano is the Overseas Division Manager & Major Craft America corp. President at Major Craft and of course my thanks to him as well for providing these answers to my questions. If you read this blog then you will have gathered that I have a serious thing for Major Craft fishing rods (as per here for example), indeed I must credit the 9’ Skyroad especially for doing so much to change what I thought about lure rods for the way we fish and how much rod we can get for our money.

I am fascinated to learn a bit about how Major Craft go about their business, and I am amazed for example at how much information they are sourcing from the marketplace to help develop products that anglers want. OK, so this might sound logical and you would think it has to happen all the time to make decent fishing tackle that we actually want, but believe me, I have seen some stuff here in the UK over the years that has left me pretty amazed, let’s put it that way. Anyway, enough from me, here’s Major Craft Japan.

Please tell us a bit about how Major Craft the company started up. How big is your company, how many employees etc.?

Mr. Tsugio Mori (President) established Major Craft on 15th February, 2001.  Before then, he has been working in fishing industries for 30 years.  He was always thinking about the PRICE of fishing tackle.  Bass fishing was very popular in Bubble economy. Then many fishing rods, lures & etc. was imported from US and the price was very high due to super low exchange rate of yen. When Japanese manufacturing started to produce fishing goods, they have also set their price range as same as US products.  But people still bought the product due to the bubble era. After that the price has become low, but it was never low enough. It was because people in japan always had a mind that High Price Product is High Quality. Mr. Tsugio Mori thought this wasn’t correct and wanted to produce products with affordable price & high quality. He created the brand Major Craft, designing high quality products with affordable price. The brand satisfied many anglers, and also changed their mind for fishing products. It didn’t take long for Major Craft to become one of the biggest fishing brands in Japan. Now the brand is widely supported by anglers all over the world. Major Craft have 21 employees in Japan.

Who designs your sea bass rods for shore fishing? Please tell us a bit about how a new rod is thought of, designed and then tested before going on sale.

Our rod designer is Mr. Tetsu Kawakami & Mr Kei Hisamoto.  Mr. Kawakami is designing the outlooking of rod and Mr. Hisamoto is designing the blanks. We have the knowledge about sea bass fishing. We change the guides & reel seat if FUJI release new products. But the fishing style is developing daily. Our sales staff are going around many shops every day and try to get some information for new idea.  And our pro staff Mr. Tatsuki Hirose is going fishing for 130~150 days in one year!! He also talk to some anglers, captain & shop staff. Anyway we keep getting some new ideas. Then we make some samples. Then Mr. Kawakami or Hirose go to TEST. We make sample many time until we can accept the action.

Does Major Craft make their own rods, or do you design them and then outsource the actual building to another company? How do you make such good rods that are not very expensive?

Yes, we have two designers as I said. And then we order to China OEM factory and our own factory in Vietnam. Why can we make affordable price? There are many reasons. One of them is our order quantity. The sales of Basspara, Solpara & Trapara is good because of the price. The order quantity is 1000 to 2000pcs per model. That’s why. And we have more reason. But we can’t speak here. Company secret.

What are your thoughts on certain lure rod lengths and what works best for certain shore fishing situations - bays, estuaries, open coast, rocks, rough weather etc.? I believe that here in the UK we tend to use shorter lure rods than you do in Japan.

The length depends on each situation.  If I use seabass rod in bay, the length should be around 8’0’’. If in beach or rocks, it should be more than 9 - 9’6’’. If I use in small river (estuaries), I might use short rod.  I love bream fishing. I’m using 7’6’’ LRF rod. LRF rod is not so strong. But I can catch a sea bass also.  Of course the size of seabass is not so big. Anyway if we need to cast far, we use longer rod. In bay, we don’t need to cast far. We need accuracy.

Why do you tend to have slightly longer rod handles on the cheaper sea bass rods? The handle length (reel to butt) on a 9’ Crostage is very different to that on say a 9’ Truzer - why?

Crostage seabass model was developed for seabass but Crostage is versatile rod.  It means bait fisherman also use it in Japan.  Truzer & Skyroad seabass model is specialized only for lure sea bass fishing.  When we use the rod in the water (wading), the grip should be short.  If it is long, it’s clumsy to use. That’s why.

Regular, Regular Fast, Fast etc. - what do you mean with regards to the rod actions? What are you trying to describe?

As a company you bring out new rods very often - when for example are you looking to upgrade/replace the Skyroad, X-Ride and Truzer ranges? How are you going to make a better range of budget rods than the Skyroad range?

We don’t replace their range now.  Maybe we don’t do 2016 & 2017.  But I don’t know 2018.  If FUJI release new guides and reel seat, we might release new or replace.

Please tell us about the surf/flatfish models that you have in some of the rod ranges - how does your flatfish fishing differ from sea bass fishing?

When we fish in surf, we want to use a lightweight lure.  And we have to cast far.  If we use seabass rod, we can’t cast far.  The action of surf rod is different from seabass rod.  The action is Regular slow. The rod bow like cane. Then we can cast lightweight lures also. But the method of surf (flat fish) fishing is changing recently. It’s becoming more technical. Do you know “WIND” method? We use the method on bottom. So we need Regular or regular fast action. But If the action is 100% same as sea bass, we can’t cast a lightweight lure. So the action is little bit slower than seabass.

As a company and where you fit into the rod market, do you ever see Major Craft making sea bass rods that would compare in price to say the Daiwa Branzino? How much better can a sea bass rod be than the Truzer for example?

Now we’re planning to make REAL High-end rod. But I can’t say the detail now. Daiwa Branzino??  We can’t use AGS.  But I believe we can make the best blanks.

Please tell us about your new, “entry level” Firstcast range of sea bass rods (starting to appear in the UK right now) - how do they compare to say the older Crostage range?

The guide of First Cast is Fuji O ring. Turel is K guide + SIC ring.  First Cast has an action more like Skyroad & N-One with split eva handle where Turel is little more stiff with full eva handle. And the guide number on the First Cast is smaller in number. (ex. Solpara have 7pcs ==> First Cast 6pcs). But the First Cast rod is perfect for fisherman looking for upgrade but don’t want spend lots of money.

Thank you very much for your time - anything else you would like to say to fishermen here in the UK?

Thank you very much for using our products. We will keep releasing the best possible products. Thanks & Best Regards, Hamano.

And of course we won the Grand Slam. How on earth can a country with the player numbers and resources that we have not won a Grand Slam for thirteen years though? Whatever the case, it’s a damn fine start I reckon to a new era of English rugby, and my hope is that this young team go on to some great things under our esteemed Aussie coach. The French were always going to do everything they could to disrupt our Grand Slam ambitions, but we came through, and I reckon the confidence from winning some decent silverware at last is going to get us going places once again. Exciting times ahead? How about that England run chase in the Twenty20 against South Africa the other day? I was convinced we were down and out, and then we chase down 230 to win. Don’t you love sport’s capacity to shock?

 

Interview with Nick Robson of Sunslicker lures - UK designed and made soft plastics

I have heard a bit about the Isle of Man based lure company Sunslicker, and then the other day I saw a reference to their newish Surge soft plastic lure on Facebook I think it was. Because I need some new lures (?), I gave in and bought a few to have a look at, for “research” purposes of course. UK designed, UK made (hand-poured), crumbs they look impressive, and some of the colours that Sunslicker do on their soft plastics just freak me out. I have recently seen a bunch of photographs of some serious bass taken on Sunslicker soft plastics, so I thought it would be interesting to get hold of the Sunslicker boss Nick Robson and ask him if he would be so kind as to submit to this blog interview. Many thanks Nick, and you can find their growing range of soft plastics right here. I can’t wait to try these lures out in the spring…...

 The Sunslicker Surge Bait 165mm lure. I have been advised to fish this lure with a belly-weighted weedless hook.

The Sunslicker Surge Bait 165mm lure. I have been advised to fish this lure with a belly-weighted weedless hook.

Nick, please tell us a bit about how Sunslicker lures came to be?

Making soft plastic lures was a hobby of mine for a number of years, driven by wanting some custom aspects like colours and flexibility. This progressed into me designing my own specific lures which I, along with a few angling friends, had great success with. Suddenly my lures were in demand and so “Nicks Lures” was born. This was a pretty dull name, so a good friend came up with the anagram “Sunslicker”.

It fascinates me how people design fishing lures - Are you mostly trying to problem solve with lures you design, or do you believe that you can make better lures than what are on the market already ? It’s an increasingly crowded market place and I wondered how you guys work on standing out?

We are not trying to problem solve in the sense of trying to change something that’s already out there. A lot of soft plastics that we use were maybe designed for other species but do have that crossover application, like the Senko for example. If we narrow our search down within the marketplace, in that we want a specifically designed lure for Bass made in the UK, then suddenly that market place becomes somewhat smaller and we believe we are standing out and leading the way.

I love how your lures are made here in the UK. Do you envisage it always staying like this, or do you ever think about moving production to somewhere cheaper etc?

The whole process of designing and manufacturing lures specifically for Bass here in the UK, has to stay in the UK in my eyes. We are very passionate about our work and we have exceptionally high standards of quality control – to the extent that each and every single lure is scrutinised before being packaged. As much as it is appealing to lower production costs, we cannot envisage how this level of quality can be maintained without being directly involved in the production process.

How has working in fishing full time affected your own recreational fishing time?

During peak season I have always fished 3-4 times a week, sometimes even more. You guessed right, I have a very understanding partner! This really hasn't changed since the business began, and when a prototype for a new lure is ready it just gives me even more drive to get out there for real testing to see how it performs. That’s a key concept here at Sunslicker – each and every lure is designed and developed around real fish catching ability, rather than what looks nice on a shelf.

 Photo courtesy Nick Robson.

Photo courtesy Nick Robson.

What is your most best selling soft plastic and why do you think so?

That’s a very difficult question as they all sell well, and this can change year on year depending on what the fish want. Paddle tails are always popular as the angler can visually see the lure working which tends to instil a little extra confidence over a slug type bait for example. If I had name one I would say the most widely used is the Mishna Eel which consists of a paddle tail that produces an action that allows the angler to fish and (more importantly) the Bass to take the lure with confidence.

Some of the colours you do amaze me. I am not for one second asking you to reveal anything secret, but how on earth do you make some of your lures look so damn good?

Creating colours can be a tedious process. Having an understanding of what colours complement one another is key in the production process to delivering the exact effect that the customer is looking for. We started the production of our own baits because we had our own ideas about exactly what colours and effects we wanted. We want to extend this bespoke service to our customers making their “dream” combination a reality.

A new lure, from your head to market - please tell us a bit about this process. Design, testing, manufacture etc.?

Initially lure designs start as scaled drawings which progress to scaled models. We then make test moulds that allow us to move to the testing phase. These are normally the core design with no features such as eyes and scales etc. Each lure is tested and alterations are made until its desired function is achieved. Not all designs make the grade but throughout the processes small characteristics such as a particular body shape or paddle design are noted for possible future applications. Once the lure is ready, a production mould is manufactured. This a much more involved process which includes the polishing and fine detailing required to obtain the final mould. Manufacturing is all done by hand and each lure is individually poured and inspected.

Do you distribute to any shops or do you keep Sunslicker as a web only business?

Yes we distribute to a couple of shops, although most of our sales are direct through Sunslicker.com

Please tell us a bit about your saltwater lure fishing in the Isle of Man. I have heard about some serious bass fishing up there for example - is this correct?

Lure fishing around the Isle of Man can be fantastic, and yes we’ve experienced some mind blowing shallow water Bass fishing sessions. Like many places around the UK however shallow beaches can fall foul of the weather very easily. If the conditions are not favourable for Bass fishing fortunately Wrasse and Pollock are very prolific so it’s always possible to get a fix.

 Photo courtesy Nick Robson.

Photo courtesy Nick Robson.

You obviously love lure fishing with soft plastics, but aside from your own creations, are there any particular soft lures out there that you really admire, and why?

There are literally hundreds of SPs on the market but there’s a couple that stand out and for different reasons. Because of my style of fishing and understanding of SPs the 6’ OSP DoLive stick is a favourite of mine. The design and manufacture that has gone into these really deserves to be noted. To many they’re just a stick bait, but to watch how these move and flutter on the fall is just brilliant. Also Redgill - first manufactured in Cornwall in the 1950s. To still see these lures in production now with only slight changes and additions, really shows how popular and successful they are.

What are your three favourite bass fishing lures?

I can’t possibly name just 3!!! I am an angler and we all have rooms full of lures, don't we? Like many Bass anglers, there is no better experience than that exhilarating buzz of caching on a surface lure - Zenith z-claw, Patchinko 100 and the Jackall Bros Bonnie. In terms of sub surface lures, for the solid takes of retrieving a paddle tail, it has to be the Mishna Eel, Gibbon Paddle Up and the new USS Minnow. For the finesse approach the Pavat Demon, Surge Bait and the DoLive stick would be my favourites.

As somebody who obviously understands the ins and outs of lure fishing with soft plastics, what advice could you give to anglers just getting into lure fishing who perhaps don't feel that confident fishing with soft plastics? The whole “but it isn't doing as much as hard lure” thing.

Many newcomers to soft plastics make the common misconception that a lure has to have a really distinct and aggressive action. While this is sometimes true not all lures have to wag their tail like a dog. Often the more subtle actions of a stick bait or can have deadly effects. Fish lighter. You’re not going to feel what the lure is doing if you’re fishing a weightless SP on a 20-60g rod. Also a large heavy lure clips can affect how the lure swims and falls through the water column, so I would encourage the use of a small strong clip or use a specialised loop knot. Practice in some shallow water to understand what the lure is doing. Slow everything right down, honestly there’s often no need to crank like crazy especially for bigger fish. Fish are opportunistic, so a slow moving bait could be more appealing. Most importantly - Never give up. We are always learning about lure fishing and that’s what keeps it interesting.

I understand that you do some night fishing for bass with your Sunslicker lures – which model(s) do you find work particularly well and how do you fish them ? Any favourite night time colours?

Due to work and family commitments we do a considerable amount of our fishing in total darkness with some great results. In 2014 the killer lure was a Mishna Eel in Akakin - fished on a 7g jig head with a lift and draw retrieve it just scored everywhere. In 2015 year our Surge Bait burst on to the scene taking a number of season PB’s for a number of customers. The colours that stand out would be the “Real” or “Live” fished on our own 4/0 3g Mustad swimbait hooks, with a simple slow straight retrieve.

What’s the thinking behind your rather clever “upside down” Gibbon Paddle up?

The Gibbon Paddle up was designed for estuary work, in particular skipping across the sand, hence the tail in the upright position so it didn't foul on the bottom. Very effective when fished on small 5-7g jigs. Customers have also reported great success using these in deep water. We think the success of this lure owes much to its lateral swimming action which is achieved by matching the resistance of the tail on the water with the naturally buoyant material that they are made from. Simply stunning little lures that have accounted for many double figure Bass and Pollock.

Where do you see Sunslicker going over the next few years?

The aim is to develop the business and continue to push the boundaries of lure design by working closely with the lure angling fraternity. We have come a long way over the last two years and if our growth continues in the way it has we will be able to pursue new technologies in lure design and production.





Interview with James Davis of Nice Fish! (UK importers of Major Craft, Sunline, Seaspin etc.)

When I put that interview up the other day with Richard Cake (check here), the traffic on my blog spiked, and this of course leads me to believe that a bunch of you are interested in reading this sort of stuff - views from within the fishing industry if you like, and of course it’s of big interest to me as well. I have never actually met James Davis from Nice Fish!, but over the last few years we have spoken and emailed plenty, and especially about their Major Craft rods that they import into the UK and then distribute around various tackle shops in the UK and Ireland. Read my lure rod reviews and you will have gathered that I have a growing obsession with Major Craft rods (here), and whilst there are more and more good lure rods becoming available to us these days, I am not personally aware of such a varied and outstanding value for money range of lure rods than Major Craft. I take my hat off to the few people/businesses in the UK who deal with the importation of specialist lure fishing gear, and I hope to be able to secure interviews with more of them. A big thanks to James for answering my questions. You can contact Nice Fish! on info@nice-fish.com or 01983 869191.

 This is not James from Nice Fish!, rather it's a Major Craft rod being fished with

This is not James from Nice Fish!, rather it's a Major Craft rod being fished with

James, I blame you entirely for igniting my obsession with Major Craft bass fishing rods - how on earth did you come to be the UK importer for this hugely impressive rod brand? Give us some background please.

I used to be the UK & Ireland agent for Plus Fishing, an Italian based company owned by a couple of Japanese guys. I knew it wasn’t going to last forever because the margins were tiny and the RRP’s were way too high for our market . So, along with a family member we started Nice Fish! in the background and set about pinpointing key Japanese brands who not only produced products which perfectly suited UK & Irish angler's requirements, but were genuinely affordable for them too. We specifically targeted Major Craft because of a particular chap (actually I don't even think he knows this) who’s knowledge, both of fishing and Japanese brands, we admired greatly. Anyway, some 5+ years ago this chap, Vidar Thomassen, was always talking up Major Craft in a big way on various fishing forums for both their extensive salt/fresh water ranges and value for money. So I emailed Major Craft and I emailed them again and then emailed them so more. No reply. I even called them once but my Japanese isn’t what it used to be and the guy on the other end thought I was some sort of mentalist. So I finally gave up and started talking with other brands. Then luckily Major Craft employed an English speaker who saw all of our emails and got in contact. Probably to advise me to get help! But thankfully he did because we have an excellent relationship with Major Craft and together have helped build the it into one of the biggest known and respected lure rod brands in the UK and now Ireland too.

Give us a bit of insight into working with a Japanese fishing tackle company. What are the language issues like for starters?

You know what, we are so lucky the English language is truly universal. I often think our contacts at Sunline & Major Craft speak much betterer English than wot me and my bizness partner Adam do, innit. Seriously though, other than getting hold of stock before their Japanese wholesalers snaffle it all up and getting hold of samples ahead of the new product launch, it’s all good indeed. One thing's for sure, after dealing with many, many British companies over the years, dealing with Japanese companies is an absolute dream. They reply immediately, get the goods shipped when they say they will and are incredibly nice to deal with.

How do you find the UK fishing tackle business being increasingly open (or not?) with regards to buying and selling the more specialist and expensive items like bass lure rods?

On the whole it is much, much better than when I first started in the trade over 5 years ago. Apart from a handful of shops, the lure sections available, especially in saltwater focussed shops, was rather pitiful. “Where’s your lure section mate?” I would ask and the owner, careful not to move off his stool, would point me in the direction of some small dark corner near the back. Upon arrival at the unloved dingy corner I would be greeted by a plugging horror show. If you were lucky there would be a couple of Thundersticks, the odd Crystal Minnow kicking about, a Chug Bug and a gaggle of softies in old margarine tubs looking so sad you wanted to put them out of their misery. As for the lure rods? Jesus, that was an even sadder looking bunch. Unfortunately, for many anglers in the UK & Ireland this is still the case in many shops. You see, a lot of retailers aren’t proactive when it comes to the lure fishing scene. They see lure fishing as less than a minority sport and don’t realise just how many of us there are now, nor how many are switching from other disciplines to fish mostly with lures. This means not only are they losing lots of business but anglers aren’t being given the choice they badly want. To get up and running lure fishing wise can cost peanuts, it’s the ideal way to introduce kids to fishing too… And various fishing organizations wonder why so many juniors aren’t taking up fishing like they used to.  

I happen to think that Major Craft lure rods are among the best value for money lure rods I have ever come across - have you seen a shift in general attitude from UK anglers towards a lure rod no longer being just some bit of spinning rod add on, or have we got a long way to go towards accepting that proper tools cost proper money?

Yes, for sure, regarding the attitude change. And to be fair most of that shift in attitude has been driven by the anglers themselves, not the tackle companies. On the whole, most UK/Irish anglers are clued up and know exactly what they want. Social media and the internet has given us all access to loads of new tackle brands and new methods of catching fish. And of course anglers over here want access to those methods and products.

My first “lure” rod was a carp rod. An 11ft, heavy as hell stick with hardly any feel, a 5000 sized Shimano reel loaded with cheap 12lb mono teamed up with a bubble float and a Delta eel. Great fun for the first hour or so until your arm started aching. It’s only when you use a “proper” lure rod that you see and feel real differences. They launch lures miles, you can cast these babies all day long, the “feel” both on top and below the surface is amazing and playing fish is just brilliant. If you’re using a quality 4 or 8 strand braid, even better. You don’t even have to spend a fortune, that’s the great thing nowadays. You can get a decent lure rod for £50-60 quid. However, it’s when you start spending in that £150 - £400 category that you really start to see major differences in blanks, fittings, feel, castability and so on. Ask yourself this Henry, what lure rod were you using 5 or so years ago? Would you go back to it now? Exactly.

The more I learn about Major Craft lure rods, the more it amazes me how they aren’t for sale all over the UK and Ireland - how do you as a business go about trying to get your gear into key fishing tackle shops?

Hard working, likeable sales agents who know their stuff. And trust me they are sooooo hard to find. So if you know any please ask them to get in touch!

You also have to bear in mind that there are only a small amount of key lure fishing tackle shops in the UK & Ireland. If you want to buy some carp, coarse, match etc tackle then you’re spoilt for choice. But with lure fishing it isn’t yet like it is in Japan, the States, France, Italy, Germany etc etc. Luckily however, we already work closely with most of the better UK & Irish lure focussed shops.

We did a couple of shows in the beginning and they were OK, but at that time lure fishing was seen as a very minor part of fishing by the retailers. They seemed to be more than happy with just stocking the same old gear every other shop was. I’ve never understood that. Thankfully there are a handful of pro active, forward thinking shop owners now who have seen lure fishing over take many other disciplines within their shop and decided to grow that side of their business.

Luckily for us we have two of Japan’s best lure brands. No other brand in Japan, where lure fishing is huge, sell more lure rods than Major Craft. And no other line brand offers more quality and choice than Sunline when it comes to top notch braids, fluoros and mono’s etc. So, word gets about once an angler has either used one of our products or been recommended one on a forum for example and they go into their local tackle shop which in turn leads them to contacting us.

It also helps to supply samples to guys like you who have no vested interest in the products to review and hopefully blog about it, even if it’s not favourable. That’s the chance you take. Another guy we also like to ask to try our gear is Mark Padfield. For those who know Mark, you’ll know that if he doesn’t like something he’ll be only too happy to tell everyone about it. Product wise, this helps to sort the wheat from the chaff. What’s the point in importing a product on a load of forced hype? Sure, you’ll sell a few units at the beginning but lure anglers aren’t idiots. They will very quickly work out if a rod, line, lure, reel etc isn’t suited to our type of fishing.

I know it can’t be easy for you guys who import Japanese fishing tackle when you read some of the online conspiracy theory stuff that almost refuses to believe that legitimately imported items are going to usually cost that bit more than what they would on their domestic market. Can you give us an idea as to the costs involved with pricing an imported item to sell into the UK market? Either direct costs per item or as a percentage of the overall price of a rod etc.

Ha! Yes. Some of the stuff and half truths I’ve read over the years online are quite funny. It used to bother me because I knew for a fact some of it was far from accurate but now I just let them get on with it. We’re very open about this. If you want a Major Craft rod it will probably be cheaper to import it directly. You can’t waggle it beforehand mind or attach your reel to it to feel the balance like you can in a UK/Irish tackle shop, you’ll have to wait quite a while longer for it to arrive (hopefully it won’t be held up in customs) rather than a next same/next day service and good luck if it’s damaged in transit or if the tip snaps on the first few casts. Have you ever contacted one of the Japanese/European online retailers to buy a tip replacement? Don’t bother, you’re wasting your time.

We have our International Wholesale Price List (the discount from Japanese RRP isn’t anywhere near as big as some like to think), then depending on the size of the order we pay around £7 per rod for shipping. Then there’s the 3.8% Import Duty for sporting items, good old 20% VAT Import Tax (remember when the rise from 17.5% to 20% was only temporary? 4 years later…) and then our margin (for anyone who has worked in wholesale you’ll know about low margins/high turnovers), the retailer's margin and finally another dollop of VAT for good measure. Cheers yer Majesty.

I totally get some guy sitting at his computer, seeing the Japanese RRP, loading up Xe.com, converting JPY to Sterling and then thinking, hold on, why does it cost X amount over here? Really I do. But when you see our discounts, how much it costs to get it here, taxes and margins that need to be made just to ensure a shop stays open/staff are paid then you’d think again.

How do you work as an importer and distributor - do you hold stock of rods, or do you secure pre-orders and then import the items like that? With how you work now, do you see things changing as the lure market potentially keeps growing here in the UK?

In the beginning it was almost a back to back ordering system as we had no concrete idea on what would sell and what wouldn’t. It was very difficult as Major Craft have a 100 rod minimum order quantity and they really didn’t get our market. They couldn’t understand why lure fishing, especially saltwater, had such a miniscule market share. Nowadays we place our own stocking order and then visit retailers to see their requirements. We try very hard to ensure all the best sold models are in stock all year round. Easier said than done. But as of writing this we have exactly 126 Turel, Crostage, Skyroad, X-Ride and Truzers in stock. Nothing compared to the big boys but we’re happy where we are and very happy with the retailers we work with. We’re eagerly awaiting the next container of rods to arrive in Japan so we can get our hands on the new Major Craft N-One bass and LRF rods.

I am guessing that as a distributor of fishing rods you must get a percentage of returns due to breakages? We all know that no rod has ever broken because of angler error (!!), but how do you deal with this? Are we as anglers being somewhat unrealistic with what we expect our lure fishing rods to deal with?

Yes we do get the odd return but thankfully the numbers are very, very low. The vast majority we receive back are broken tips due to the angler slamming a car door or boot on to the rod or dropping it when rock hopping etc. Accidents are going to happen, that’s life. This is why we sell all replacement tips to retailers at our cost. We don’t make a penny.

Generally speaking if a lure rod is faulty or has been damaged in transit it will snap within the first dozen or so casts. If your rod snaps 3 months after you bought it and you’ve already had a few sessions with it and landed fish then the angler has done something for this to happen.

I don’t think it’s a case of anglers being unrealistic, Henry, I think it’s more of a case of understanding. Modern day lure rods, especially Japanese lure rods, are fantastic. They really are. The lightness, feel, castability and how they perform when landing a fish can’t be beaten in my opinion. But when it comes down to it they are just very thin tubes of carbon, especially the tip sections. They’re not almost indestructible like some of the much heavier, cumbersome rods we used to use a few years back. If a Japanese rod is rated 7-28g then 28g is the absolute max you should be casting. And even then it should be with a gentle casting action, not a full on power cast where it looks like you’re trying to put your back out. You’re asking for trouble, I’m afraid. The rating is a guide not a guarantee. In fact, you shouldn’t really ever need to give a Japanese lure rod the full beans time and time again, even with a strong onshore wind. It’s more about timing in my opinion. A golf swing could be a decent analogy. For those who have played sometimes you hit a ball and it doesn’t even feel like you’ve given it any welly, it just felt smooth like you weren’t putting any effort in. You look up and the ball is going a country mile and dead straight too. After trying to figure out how the f**k you did it you realise that it simply came down to timing. You hit the sweet spot. Your timing was spot on. Then you ask yourself what the hell am I doing playing this old farts game anyway?  

You must have had it, Henry? You get a new rod, a quick waggle and it feels OK so off you go fishing. First dozen casts and yuck, this thing feels horrible. Then after playing about with various casting styles and plugs, figuring out the best drop length from tip to lure and then all of a sudden, shazaam! That last cast felt wicked. Then you proceed to cast it just like that again 10 more times. It feels delicious. You’ve found the sweet spot of that particular rod and now you want to run away with it and start a small family.

So after all that waffling what am I saying? In my opinion, if a rod is rated to 18, 30 or 42g and you are using an 18, 30 or 42g maximum weighted lure then you really need to be extra cautious when casting. It’s just to be on the safe side.

When you go fishing for bass with lure gear yourself, what’s your favourite Major Craft rod to fish with and why?

Truzer. What can I say? I’m a raging tart. It’s just everything about it. It’s soooooo light yet feels so strong with plenty of power if needed but at the same time you can feel every headshake or knock due to the tip. It’s just a brilliant rod. I love it. All of which is strange as I probably use my Skyroad 9ft more than anything else. That’s probably because I’ve been in some escapades with it and it hasn’t let me down. It’s weird how you become attached to certain bits of tackle.

What are your three favourite bass fishing lures?

You can’t ask me that! It’s impossible to answer! Three, just three?! Are you some sort of sadist? OK, OK… Hmmm if I was left stranded along some British or Irish coast left to fend for myself to catch fish in order to eat… I’d plump for the Zenith Z-Claw as it’s such a versatile lure and I love surface fishing the most. A weedless softie (probably a Senko type worm or Black Minnow paddletail) and the new Seaspin Buginu 115D which I’m loving at the moment. It reminds me very much of the Megabass Zonk but with a proper bib.

Money no object, what’s your dream fishing destination and what would you fish for?

Jesus, Henry. What are you trying to do to me here? It would have to be some sort of arm breaking top water action somewhere. Where the sun was hot, the beer was cold, the food was amazing and the girls were pretty. Let's say Belize from the shore and Panama from a boat. I’m no different from the next guy. I’d go anywhere to target GT’s, Tarpon and especially Tuna. That doesn’t even touch on some of the FW action I’d love to try in places like Latin America, Egypt and Canada.

Last but not least, dealing with foreign companies as you do, do you ever get the impression that as a growing market we are being taken more seriously here in the UK?

Hmmm maybe a little bit, but not much. Having said that and thinking back to what I wrote earlier about where the market was a short time ago, then yes, maybe we finally are. But not nearly enough. If anything, the growth we’ve experienced is mainly down to the anglers pushing it themselves. We don’t even have a dedicated yearly lure fishing show like they do in Nantes for instance… There’s a business idea there if anyone wants the stress of organising one...

An interview with Richard Cake of Dorset Fishing Rods (custom rod builder)

One of the nicest guys you could hope to meet, Richard Cake is an utterly obsessed angler as well as a rather awesome custom rod builder, and I am so pleased to be able to report that he has decided to go full time with his unique rod building skills. He has just launched a new website (check here), so I thought it would be interesting to you tackle junkies (not me of course!!) if I put an interview up here that I have just done with Richard. I would like to wish him the absolute best of luck with his new venture. Not many anglers I know have landed two double figure bass in one day, on lures, from the shore. Read on…….

Richard, thanks for agreeing to the interview. Please tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to be going at your custom rod building full time.

"As a family we had found that the work I was doing was creating more and more time away from home, which wasn’t great as not really seeing my family grow up. So, a decision was made for a change in lifestyle and what was almost a full time occupation before rod building turned into a full time vocation. I started rod building as a hobby some years back now doing odd repairs for friends, this then led onto me searching out other blanks for personal use as bass lure rods, as they say, the rest is history!

I live in a great part on England, Dorset where we have the Jurassic Coast to fish, open beaches and brilliant rivers like the Stour and Avon. I enjoy winter river fishing for chub, especially fishing matches with Gillingham and District Angling Association.  

When the bass have moved on I turn my lure fishing to freshwater, but alongside this saltwater HRF & LRF.

I have quite an addiction with the ‘shiny things’ in life, can’t help myself, but I have been told that have enough lures now and don’t need anymore! I don’t think my wife understands……"

What’s the process with an angler getting in touch with you and inquiring about a custom built fishing rod? How do you start down the road with them towards them ending up with a unique fishing rod?

"I can be contacted via my website ‘contact form’, email, phone call or text. I have quite openly admitted that I have not always been the easiest of person to contact; but now I am full time rod building this will no longer be the case.

Contact Form: http://www.dorsetfishingrods.co.uk/contact/

Initially I’ll try to find out what the customer is hoping to use the rod for, types of lures, ground they fish, length and casting weights, etc. Quite often people have looked through pictures of rods on my Facebook page, website or have tried other people’s rods, which is great, as they have some idea of what they can expect. The new website is full of information and pictures to help give some background information before they make contact.

A custom rod is exactly that, the reel seat is set to the customer’s perfect length, balanced to match the reel they use which is a priority to make the rod feel as light as possible due to how we spend our time with a rod in our hands for hours. Components chosen to match what they want and last but not least colours of choice to match on thread wraps."

Rod Information: http://www.dorsetfishingrods.co.uk/rod-blanks/

I know that you source and sell T-Russell rod blanks as well as your custom rod building, but now that you are full time at this, will you be looking to expand your range of blanks?

"Yes I do source other manufacturers blanks such as: St Croix, Century, Harrisons Advanced Rods, Batsons and Pacific Bay.

Each companies blanks have their uses, some may be more traditional in there feel and others are suited to singular use like perfect for soft plastics, but rods are a very personal choice to an individual and what suits one person may not be the favourite for another."

Bass Lure Rods: http://www.dorsetfishingrods.co.uk/bass-lure-rods/

I imagine that with the knowledge you have, you must surely be looking to design your own range of lure fishing blanks?

"This is something that I’ve wanted to do for a while and hopefully it may become reality. My passion is with bass lure fishing and this is where I will most probably start, then into the other lure fishing styles.

I can’t say much more on this at present as I still have more research to do, but fingers crossed it will happen!"

Tell me a bit about working with Chesil Bait & Tackle. I understand you are in there most weekends and it must be a great place to talk about lure fishing tackle and pick your brains about lures, methods and of course custom rod building?

"I have been friends with the owners, Mike, Andy, Gill & Mandy ever since they opened the shop a few years back now. Every weekend would see me visiting the shop looking for new ‘shiny things’! So as I took the plunge to go it on my own with the rods they offered for me to work in the shop at weekends and do the shops rod repairs, how could I refuse…….all those ‘shiny things’ hanging up and I get to look through the catalogues and have input with lures for the shop.

It really is a great place to work (almost doesn’t feel like work), friendly atmosphere and always able to talk fishing, whether it’s about tackle, techniques or rod building.  

One of the best things is being able to get some information on new things that could be coming from overseas, just wish we could have better supplies of JDM tackle for us in the UK at reasonable prices.

If things go to plan for the future I hope to have a small range of rods available for sale from the shop."

Chesil Bait 'N' Tackle: http://www.chesilbaitntackle.co.uk/

If a client comes to you with a rod blank, can you give me a rough idea of your rod building charges, bearing in mind of course that you can offer so many different options as regards the components? And what’s the price of a “standard” lure rod that you might offer, as in blank plus custom build?

"There is no straight forward answer for the first part of the question to costs as it’s due to the components that someone would choose this can vary greatly just from the type of rod guides requested to go on a rod.

To answer the second part of the question a standard build could be described as the following for an 8ft6” original bass lure rod:

Split grip high density Japanese EVA, Matagi custom rod components (choice of colours ), Fuji IPS or VSS reel seat & Pacific Bay minima 4 rod guides in TiCH/TiCH ( titanium carbide coating over marine grade stainless steel frames ) - £289

The price of this could be less if a Fuji DPS screw winch seat was used, no split grip and no EVA screw cap and the opposite to increase price if Fuji ‘K’ guides were required in SiC or Torzite."

And talking about components, please tell me a bit about your preferred rings and reel seats.

"Rod guides are a very personal choice for individuals, but on almost all of my rods I have the Pacific Bay minima 4 single leg guides in TiCH/TiCH, I have been using them ever since they appeared on the UK market. The liner is pressed around the frame so no ceramic to crack, chip or break; which ultimately means that no expensive braid is going to get shredded and may save a lure going out to sea on a cast due to guide failure. They are extremely light which is what I aim for in the build of a rod, keeping the tip light and not destroying the action of the blank.

I tend to use and like the Fuji IPS and VSS reel seats with an EVA screw cap for my lure rods; the IPS has a larger profile and wider internal diameter for larger blanks and the VSS has a slimmer I.D and profile. With being a bit of a tackle tart I like to have the painted seats from Matagi in Japan (it helps being the UK distributor), a vast array of colours and they’ll even try to match the colour of a reel or blank to the colours you want!"

When you go fishing yourself, what rods do you use?

"Spoilt for choice, but my normal rod is the T-Russell 9ft6” rod. This length and casting weight of 8-28g has served me well being very versatile and can cover everything that I do. It covers what I need in the areas that I fish, hitting out hard plastics and working sp’s like the fiiish minnow. If I know I’m going for a short session of surface work I may switch to the 8ft6” T-Russell being slightly lighter and easier to work surface lures.

These rods are closely followed by The St Croix Legend Elite blanks, but I’d choose the 9ft blank as it can slot in between the two T-Russell blanks."

What do you think makes a good lure rod for our bass fishing?

"I favour the Japanese style of fast action lure rods, I like a rod that bends and gives you the pleasure of fighting a fish so that you see the rod curve over into it. For most of my fishing I require a fast action rod especially for surface work, can’t think of anything worse than trying to work a surface lure and you’re having to wait for the tip to recover!

There is no one rod that will do everything for me, but a few come close and I’m not the type to carry two rods so a small compromise I can live with."

Right, enough about rod building for the moment. Favourite place or area to go lure fishing, and what’s your most memorable fish? I have a feeling I know the answer!!

"I love Dorset and the many differing waters to fish from rock marks, open beaches and harbours, but something special happened last autumn (2014). I fished the Irish Bass Festival last summer for the first time and blanked, so a planned was hatched to return to the same area in the autumn.

After a few conversations with Cian at Absolute Fishing in Tramore, we decided to go in weather that wasn’t in our favour. I’d blanked for 2 days and watched Mark take a 13lb6oz bass on a surface lure……Eager with anticipation and wanting to catch we were into our last day of the trip, just before we were about to move onto another mark Martin took a fine bass which then changed our plan!

Red Letter Day: I hooked into what was a personal best fish of 11lb on the fiiish Black Minnow, blown away, in shock dreaming, I’d done it! But this wasn’t the end, followed that fish with a 7lb8oz before beating my earlier 11lb bass with one of 11lb8oz’s! In between this was another fish of around 3lb.

 Thanks to Richard and Joe for the use of these photos. Some fish!!

Thanks to Richard and Joe for the use of these photos. Some fish!!

Ireland has always been a special place for me as I have family on the west coast and up until last year I hadn’t been over for a while, so who knows what this year will bring?

A return this year for the Irish Bass Festival and hopefully another trip in the autumn."

Your three favourite lures, and I know that like me you have a bit of a problem with the shiny stuff!!

"3 only 3! Where do I start……I have accumulated a collection over the years, and normally  keep a few spares of the ones that have a fatal attraction, to me that is!

To try and make this easy on myself….I’ll break it down to soft plastic, surface and sub-surface, but that’s still a hard question as it depends on conditions? The following 3 are normally always in my lure bag in one colour size or form…….

Soft plastic: Fiiish Black Minnow, 2 doubles in one session why wouldn’t I love it! Versatile, interchangeable heads and bodies. I still have the one that caught the Irish doubles, it's retired now to my workshop!

Surface:  Gunfish! Walk the dog, pop it, two lures in one, but quite often the fatal mistake a lot of people make is to try and work it to hard and fast. An absolute array of colours and sizes to go for. I love surface fishing.

Sub-surface:  Tackle House Feed Shallow, I love the 128 but last year the smaller 105 did well also. Waiting to get my hands on the new 155! This was the hardest one of all to choose."

Check out a review I did a while back of Richard's 9'6'' lure rod here. Best of luck with the new venture Richard. I am heading over to the Orlando based iCast show on Monday, and I will do my best to keep you updated here on the blog. I will be working with the Fiiish people as I did over there last year, but I might just manage to find some time to wander around that huge trade based fishing tackle show and generally fry my brain.