Frustration versus reality
You go to a fishing show like the one at Nantes that a bunch of us have just come back from and you naturally come back all buzzed up about lure fishing in general. All that (lovely, shiny) gear, all that knowledge, and all that atmosphere under one roof really gets to me, just like it did last year. But however you look at it, we are playing catch up here in the UK. I am not for one second damning the UK tackle trade or even where we sit with regards to modern lure fishing. More so I am saying that the French lure fishing scene is where it is now for what must be a bunch of different reasons, and it strikes me a very exciting time to be into lure fishing over there. As it is over here. We are where we are at here in the UK and Ireland, but the big problem seems to be that more and more anglers are hearing about, looking for, and asking about items of tackle that are for the most part a struggle to get hold of here, and more often than not we are forced to buy abroad. Frustrating to say the least......
And especially when you know that so much of this gear is for sale and in use just over the Channel - hardly very far away as regards geography, but in fishing tackle terms it might as well be another world away. I accept that what I tend to call "modern lure fishing" is in its infancy here in the UK, but I am guessing as well that it must have once been like this in France. I am sure that a few years ago there were anglers getting frustrated because they could not buy the gear they wanted to in their local tackle shops. But their market has changed so much, or at least my research leads me to believe so. Nothing is ever perfect and the grass is always greener and all that kind of thing, but I sense such a reluctance within parts of the UK tackle trade to embrace what is so obviously going on in lure fishing (for bass especially) and either develop or at least import more gear for us to buy and use. That is why I have such a huge amount of respect for the people and companies who have taken this all forward so much already in the UK.
Is it a monstrously huge market at the moment that is going to make everybody very rich ? No, obviously not. But it could get really big. Think about where carp fishing once was, and look where it is now. Who would have predicted that explosion in growth in what is essentially a static kind of fishing ? Where could lure fishing go in this country ? Questions that I accept are impossible to answer, but surely the UK tackle trade has to sit up and take proper notice sometime soon.........
Take something relatively simple like this stunning looking Jackson Athlete Slim 12SS (sinking) minnow - this kind of thing floats my boat in a major way, and up until recently I think I am right in saying that the best way to get hold of something like this was to buy direct from Japan. But not any more. Shops and internet sites like the ones here and here (check out the new website) are now stocking these Jackson lures. These guys here are stocking an increasingly large number of Japanese and US lures that nail our bass. But what about having more choice with modern lure rods, reels, braids, clothing, etc. ? More switched-on shops and internet sites are doing what they can, but even then I know that a bunch of them are often having to beat their heads against brick walls in frustration. One problem we seem to have right now is that the modern-thinking lure angler is far more aware of what is out there than the bulk of the UK tackle trade. Whether this be because of forums, internet searching, shows such as the one at Nantes, or simply word of mouth and personal experience, I am sensing more and more that more anglers are getting really frustrated at the tackle trade not keeping up with them. So we need to support the ones that are keeping up. And we need to hassle the ones that are not into getting us the stuff we want.
But although it all looks very logical to anybody outside of the tackle trade, it is never that easy - we might want more and more gear at all kinds of prices, but what companies are going to take the bull by the horns, take a bit of a punt, and go for it ? All financial risks aside, it strikes me that this "modern lure fishing" is very "modern" in the way that it is snowballing. Information is travelling faster and faster, and more and more anglers are trying different stuff and using ever more efficient ways to tell people about their exploits. And unless you are in the middle of it and working at the coal face, it can actually be quite difficult for a company to keep up unless they are either actively interested in the fishing, or are working with well informed people who are in on the ground and keeping a close eye on what is happening. - and even then the company needs to trust these "well informed" people and roll with their information.
The Nantes show opened my eyes up a whole lot more once again, but in a very different way to the first time I went there last year. I have come back with so many different ideas that my brain is fit to leave my head. Quite where I fit into all this "modern lure fishing" is something I am not completely sure about, because I come at it from different angles - first and foremost I am a fishing junkie who has fallen for this fishing in a huge way (fish, methods, gear, locations, people etc.), but also I am a fishing writer, photographer and sometime TV presenter who has to make his living within fishing. All I can do is do what I think is best and hope that it is doing some good for fishing in general, while at the same time making me and my family a living. It is not always an easy balancing act.
The guys at IrishBass.org are still working around the clock to do all they can - I did a brief phone interview with the Irish Sunday Times just before I left for France, and I also uploaded them some photos to use for the article on the understanding that sport fishermen would be fairly represented within the piece. I reckon a very good job was done overall, and you can check out the article here. Different photos of mine were used in the paper copy of the article, and I hope that they have gone some way towards helping the IrishBass.org people out in their fight to protect sportfishing for bass over in Ireland. We can all do our bit in different ways.