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…...
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.
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.
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.