THE BIG IN­TER­VIEW

Hav­ing run a tackle shop from the age of 16, John Bar­rib­all is now bring­ing some of the top prod­ucts in lure fish­ing on to the UK scene

Sea Angler (UK) - - SEA ANGLER | CONTENTS -

Henry Gil­bey meets Lure Heaven boss.

John Bar­rib­all runs the Lure Heaven tackle shop and web­site with his wife Melissa. They are known in the mod­ern lure fish­ing world here in the UK for mak­ing some fan­tas­tic brands avail­able to an­glers. If you want to know about Graphite­leader rods, Duo, Bait Breath and Gary Ya­mamoto lures, Geecrack fish­ing lug­gage, along with Palms and Zetz slow-jig­ging gear, then Lure Heaven, in Launce­s­ton, Corn­wall, is the place.

Henry Gil­bey: When did you start Lure Heaven and why did you de­cide to be­come so in­volved in the grow­ing UK lure fish­ing scene?

John:

When I was 16 I ran a tackle shop in Sur­rey for about eight years. Then we moved down to Corn­wall in 2000. We started Lure Heaven in 2008 and then it be­came a lim­ited com­pany in 2010 – to deal with Ja­panese com­pa­nies it re­ally helped to be a lim­ited com­pany. They pre­fer the sta­tus of deal­ing with a recog­nised com­pany pro­file in­stead of an in­di­vid­ual.

We opened up our Lure Heaven shop around the start of 2012, largely be­cause with im­port­ing unseen prod­ucts and sell­ing them mainly on­line, an­glers were in­creas­ingly want­ing to see and han­dle the ac­tual gear. We also dis­trib­ute our brands into the UK tackle trade.

HG: What made you go after the Ja­panese lure rod brand Graphite­leader, and how easy was it se­cure the UK distri­bu­tion?

John:

I had heard a lot about them from var­i­ous sources and there wasn’t much Ja­panese gear here in the UK at that time. We tried deal­ing with UK tackle com­pa­nies and they would not talk to us in the early days be­cause we had no phys­i­cal premises to start with, so we were al­most forced to go and source our own gear.

We also wanted to do se­ri­ous lure fish­ing gear. We could hardly find any here in the UK that ap­pealed to us so we thought about get­ting hold of our rods from Ja­pan and see­ing if we could sell them.

We con­tacted Graphite­leader in Ja­pan and it took us about 12 months of email­ing and talk­ing to them about our plans and vi­sions for the UK mar­ket be­fore they would

start sell­ing us rods – we had to sign a proper sales agree­ment and were put on a 12-month pro­ba­tion­ary sales pe­riod where they could can­cel on us for any rea­son and at any time. We came through that with no prob­lems and we were then made UK ex­clu­sive agents for the brand and have been ever since. We love their rods.

I know you be­lieve in a kind of softly-softly ap­proach, by let­ting the gear do the talk­ing, but how do you feel about the state of the lure fish­ing mar­ket in the UK?

At the mo­ment we feel it’s tough here in the UK with re­gard to lure fish­ing. The big one is try­ing to con­vince shops and ac­counts about spe­cial­ist new tackle that isn’t like ev­ery­thing else.

Small com­pa­nies like us go­ing up against the big boys is not easy. They can flood the mar­ket with gear, whereas we like to stay spe­cial­ist and niche and feel that the gear we of­fer is per­fectly suited to the job.

The UK mar­ket is hugely driven by price and, of course, an­glers want the cheap­est items. An­glers think that what a lure costs in Ja­pan, for ex­am­ple, is what it should cost here in the UK. This sim­ply isn’t the case, not with how ex­pen­sive it is to im­port fish­ing tackle into the UK.

We feel that the lure mar­ket is still grow­ing, but more and more an­glers are sourc­ing their gear abroad or go­ing for re­ally cheap stuff. It’s a chal­lenge, and we love it be­cause we be­lieve in what we sell.

How’s the re­ac­tion been to all this mod­ern slow-jig­ging gear that you are im­port­ing?

Mas­sive! On the boat side, it’s spread­ing like mad now, to the point that more and more com­pa­nies are do­ing their own slow-jig­ging gear.

We find it re­ally in­ter­est­ing how this tech­nique seems to spread by word of mouth, and it’s in­ter­est­ing how some com­mer­cial rod-and-line an­glers have adopted it be­cause it catches fish so ef­fec­tively.

How do you go about mak­ing fish­ing tackle shops aware of your grow­ing port­fo­lio of tackle brands?

We email and call tackle shops, and we go to some of the shows, but the big­gest way for us is get­ting an­glers to see the gear, who then ask their lo­cal tackle shops for it. For us, so­cial me­dia and word of mouth is vi­tal. Noth­ing beats an­glers catch­ing fish on the gear you sell.

I know you love fresh­wa­ter lure fish­ing as well, es­pe­cially for trout. Do you be­lieve that lure fish­ing for a fish like trout could ever prop­erly take off here in the UK?

It’s start­ing as a bit of an un­der­ground thing, and es­pe­cially when the coarse close sea­son is on. Some trout fish­eries are now let­ting lure an­glers fish for trout with their lure gear. Again, it’s try­ing to get past that old-fash­ioned im­age that can so of­ten hold us back.

You dis­trib­ute one of the best Ja­panese lure brands out there, Duo. What’s it like to work with that com­pany and make its lures avail­able to UK an­glers?

Re­ally good com­pany to work with, and it makes in­cred­i­ble lures, but Duo is very de­mand­ing of our time. This is typ­i­cal of Ja­panese com­pa­nies. Ev­ery­thing is pro­duced in ad­vance, we get a pro­duc­tion list, and then we must com­mit to the lures we want to bring into the UK. We speak to our deal­ers to try and get an idea of what they might want and then we go back to Duo. We are re­spon­si­ble for all ad­ver­tis­ing and pro­mo­tional work for Duo in the UK.

You can take only two lures and one lure rod out boat fish­ing – what are they?

The ZetzR H10 150g slow jig (above) for bass fish­ing from the boat, and then for the north coast and some rough con­di­tions, the Duo Tide Min­now 140 Slim Flyer (be­low). My rod for boat fish­ing would be the Palms Metal Witch Quest No.3 63SF (Slow Fall), and then for shore fish­ing my orig­i­nal Graphite­leader Ar­gento RV 99ft 6in. I love this rod!

You have been heav­ily in­volved in soft plas­tics from the out­set with Lure Heaven. Where do you see this part of the mar­ket go­ing in both fresh­wa­ter and salt­wa­ter?

In salt­wa­ter, soft plas­tics are a huge deal for us. It used to be mainly hard lures in our ear­lier days, but things have come around big time to soft lures. In fresh­wa­ter, soft plas­tics are the big thing and a lot of this is be­ing driven with the perch side of things com­ing in via LRF fish­ing in the salt­wa­ter world. There is a lot of cross­over in lure fish­ing, and I think this is great.

Are you al­ways on the lookout for new brands to rep­re­sent in the UK, or are you, in fact, pretty com­fort­able with your port­fo­lio? I know you have been to one of those big Ja­panese fish­ing tackle shows. What was your im­pres­sion of it?

Out of this world! I have never seen a show like it here in the UK. Imag­ine a big flashy car show, and that’s what it’s like over there. For ex­am­ple, the Shi­mano stand at the Osaka show (Fe­bru­ary in Ja­pan) was just in­cred­i­ble. They get about 65,000 peo­ple in over the week­end. Vis­i­tors can buy cat­a­logues, but not fish­ing tackle – they come to look, and they have loads of fish­ing schools to get fam­i­lies in­volved. The trade use it to show off their new gear.

Around the new Shi­mano Stella reel, for ex­am­ple, on the Shi­mano stand I reckon it was six peo­ple deep. So much en­thu­si­asm there, so many pro-staff, in­clud­ing women an­glers, so fam­ily ori­en­tated, so dif­fer­ent to how we do things in the UK. Re­mem­ber that every­body was there to see fish­ing tackle be­cause you can’t buy it at the show. Amaz­ing, so ap­peal­ing to young an­glers.

If you won a fort­night’s all-ex­penses paid fish­ing trip to wher­ever you want to go, where would it be, and what would you fish for?

I’d like to go some­where in the tropics and fish for species like bar­racuda (be­low), snap­per, GTs, maybe from a small boat fish­ing to­wards man­groves. Some­where nice and warm with big blue skies! ■

John be­lieves in let­ting his gear do the talk­ing

Set­ting off for a day’s slow jig­ging

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