How it All StartedAs a keen, some might say fanatical pike angler I have striven to make 'The Friendly Fisherman' the "best pike tackle shop in the country". Every imaginable, practical item of pike tackle is stocked. Long ago in the search for monster pike I found myself fishing trout reservoirs, the rules on these waters effectively made lure fishing the only viable method. Twenty five years ago 5" lures (minimum size limit) were impossible to buy, I asked a local angler and friend the late Doug Cooper to make some copper spoons for us, these were based on successful patterns like Abu's Mortblank and Efgeeco's Piker. The originals were too small so Doug enlarged the spoons in proportion to size and weight. These proved to be very successful, with many large pike over 20lbs caught on them.
It was around 1980 that I was asked by the management of 'Bewl Water' to sell sizeable lures and offer help and advise to visiting pike anglers. Over the years I have met and made friends with many fellow pike anglers who like myself developed a passion for lure fishing. Each year we would continue lure fishing long after the pike trials were over. Again at this time lure fishing was all but a forgotten art with the exception of a few lure fanatics thinly spread around the country.
As the years went by and the piking on the reservoirs boomed more and more anglers wanted a source of quality lures and tackle, from this demand I started to sell lures and lure tackle "mail order". At that time we worked very closely with Graham Easton and John Milford of T.G. lures, in 1986 I saw some brilliant spoons at the European Tackle show in Birmingham , I persuaded T.G. to import the first 'Professor' spoons. Immediately the Professor's were a big hit with the pike and the pike anglers, at last we had a commercially produced spoon that was acceptable with the reservoirs even though the 1H was a tad under 5". This lure caught so many fish at Bewl that no angler would dare to go afloat without a selection of colours and sizes! To bring the story up to date after 6 or 7 years of trying, I finally managed to convince Kimmo Korpua of Kuusamo to produce a 6" Professor, since its introduction the 0 Professor (44g) has surpassed all expectations, being a better distance caster than the 1H and more manageable than the awesome 00.
The first attempt at a catalogue in 1990 was in fact a double sided colour leaflet which started the ball rolling, looking back, it's rather embarrassing now, as some of our original customers might remember. I think it was the only colour catalogue for lures in the U.K. at that time. The response was staggering. I wonder if anybody still has an original copy?
Very soon we took the plunge and invested a lot of money in producing a 16 page A5 catalogue titled simply "Lure Catalogue", since then each catalogue has got bigger and I hope better with expert advice from Mick Brown, Charlie Bettell, Gord Burton, Max Cottis, Chris Leibbrandt, Derek Macdonald, Luke Moffatt, Steve Butler, James Gardner and myself.
In the last few years we have seen a revolution in lure fishing, the numbers of lure anglers has increased dramatically and so has the size of some of the lures! Increasingly, I find myself reading books and watching videos on "musky" fishing, although these fish behave differently to our native pike they do occupy the same position at the top of the food chain and are a northern cold water species, so the lures and techniques used for them are relevant to us. As the source of so many lures and tackle I am always being asked for advise, I genuinely enjoy talking to our customers, I'm still learning all the time, I don't have all the answers but I can usually find someone who does!
Over the years I have spent a lot of time researching and field testing (fishing) lures in North America, fishing for Black Bass with Sam Griffin in Lake Okeechobee, Florida, Sam's creations include 'Jerk N Sam', 'Sam's Chub' he also produces 'Bass Oreno', 'Nip-I-Diddee' and 'Woodchopper' to name a few. I've also had the good fortune to fish on several occasions with Russ Smith "Smity" catching muskies on several of his baits and learning at first hand some of his secrets! Smity's pal and fellow guide John Schulz has become my musky mentor, he's pushed me hard making me get on the water early and fish til' well after dark! I've also fished with Joel Deboer one of Pete Maina's guides, he shown me how to fish their baits, successfully! I caught a beautifully marked 32" striped musky on a prototype Squirrely Burt Jerkbait from Lake Tomahawk (4,000 acres) while fishing the aptly named Eagle Bay as a bald eagle circled overhead!
As I'm writing this the adrenalin is starting to pump, I'm about to fly off on a 2 week adventure to Canada to fish with Bob Mehsikomer and Dr John Schneider, my 1st week will be musky fishing on Eagle Lake in Ontario then my 2nd week will be fishing for pike and maybe lake trout on Lake Athabasca in Saskatchewan, as I often say "its a dirty job but somebody's got to do it"!