Run­ning his tackle shop means Ben Field needs a crys­tal ball to spot the lat­est trends. Read how it’s done.

Run­ning his tackle shop, The Art of Fish­ing, means Ben Field needs to get in­side the heads of his cus­tomers and have a crys­tal ball to spot the lat­est trends

Sea Angler (UK) - - CONTENTS -

Henry Gil­bey: What made you want to open up a tackle shop spe­cial­is­ing in mod­ern lure fish­ing tackle?

Ben: It was an ac­ci­dent re­ally, and never my plan. Be­ing a bass an­gler/tackle tart and web­site de­signer, I was work­ing on a new lure fish­ing re­view site at the time; this was early 2010. I used to im­port so much kit from Ja­pan for my own use that I started rat­ing and re­view­ing it on dif­fer­ent tech­ni­cal el­e­ments; lures mostly.

We lived in St Mer­ryn, North Corn­wall, at the time, and my busi­ness part­ner and then girl­friend, Jo, wanted to open a shop of her own. There was a small re­tail premises avail­able in the vil­lage so I started jok­ing about it mak­ing a good tackle shop. To my sur­prise, she just came home one day and told me we were do­ing it.

It might have helped that her dad was lo­cal bass fish­ing leg­end, Jim Macphail. Her mum came up with the name, I spoke to some sup­pli­ers and that was that. At the time peo­ple thought we were mad – a fish­ing shop that sold £20 plugs, spin­ning rods to over £400 and LRF tackle, what­ever that was.

I had no sales ex­pe­ri­ence, so we had to be sell­ing the type of gear that I could be pas­sion­ate about. I never fin­ished the re­view web­site, but hav­ing fished so much and used all that im­ported tackle gave me a re­ally good un­der­stand­ing of the vari­a­tions in lure and tackle de­sign. I al­ready had knowl­edge of what was and wasn’t work­ing for us on our lo­cal bass marks, and nat­u­rally this helped our cus­tomers when it came to ex­plain­ing what this new lure fish­ing tackle was all about.

HG: If you look back to when you first opened your shop, is there any­thing spe­cific you’d like to tell your­self with what you know now?

Ben: There are too many things. Which stock to carry, and when, is the big­gest part. With lim­ited funds and big bills, you can’t stock ev­ery­thing all of the time, and get­ting hold of it when you want it is an­other mat­ter.

We’ve been through a lot in eight years, good and bad, but it’s been a great learn­ing curve. I’m ex­tremely op­ti­mistic for the fu­ture, know­ing what I know now, and I tend to treat each year as a fresh start.

HG: Does it amaze you how lure fish­ing is grow­ing in the UK, or do you think it’s more of a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion with how fish­ing al­ways moves along?

Ben: Al­though the shop started through a pas­sion, in my head I also felt like it was the right thing to do at the time. I guess I could see it hap­pen­ing, so where we are to­day doesn’t amaze me, as such. What does amaze me is that we’re not even fur­ther on than we are – with more tackle shops and sup­pli­ers re­al­is­ing that an­glers want qual­ity, spe­cial­ist lure kit. Lure fish­ing would be grow­ing far more quickly if that were the case.

HG: What are the ques­tions that an­glers ask you the most in your shop?

Ben: What’s the best bass lure? Other than that, it varies. It’s more a case of talk­ing to cus­tomers to fig­ure out what’s specif­i­cally best for them. Our lo­cal coast is very rugged, but an an­gler who fishes mostly es­tu­ar­ies might need some­thing to­tally dif­fer­ent. Even if they do ask a straight ques­tion, the an­swer might of­ten be an­other ques­tion un­til we get them ex­actly where they need to be.

We’ve al­ways had to sell new cus­tomers the ‘idea’ of lure fish­ing as much as the prod­ucts, es­pe­cially back when it wasn’t so widely done.

HG: You im­port a cer­tain amount of lure fish­ing tackle from Ja­pan to sell in your shop and also for dis­tri­bu­tion. Why do you do this? Can’t you find the gear in the UK, for ex­am­ple?

Ben: Yes, it’s as sim­ple as that. Of­ten, Bri­tish-based tackle brands don’t sup­ply what we need, or what our for­ward-think­ing cus­tomers want to use. Say­ing that, it’s get­ting much eas­ier with a num­ber of es­tab­lished lure tackle dis­trib­u­tors here now, in­clud­ing our­selves. There are brands, like HTO, which have since come along to de­sign tackle that suits what the UK lure mar­ket now wants.

Big brands don’t move quickly or keep up with trends, so it’s al­ways been down to spe­cial­ist shops to push things for­ward.

HG: If you could take only one rod from your shop to go bass fish­ing on the north coast of Corn­wall, what rod would it be, and why?

Ben: If I had to do ev­ery­thing with it, then the Apia Foo­jin’AD Flow Hunt 810ML. The trend to­day is for rods over 9ft, but I’ve al­ways liked them slightly shorter. In calmer con­di­tions, I’d choose a Tail­walk Hi-Tide TZ S90ML be­cause it’s the best soft plas­tic or light plug­ging rod I’ve ever seen. It’s a spe­cial­ist bit of kit that’s more of a joy to fish with than any I’ve used.

HG: Based on what bass an­glers are buy­ing, are you see­ing big dif­fer­ences in hard lures ver­sus soft lures com­pared to when you first opened your shop? Are we do­ing things dif­fer­ently be­cause we can ac­cess more var­ied fish­ing tackle?

Ben: It’s changed so much. I still have pic­tures of our open­ing day in 2010 and it was all hard lures, apart from some DoLive Sticks and XLay­ers. To­day it’s the re­verse, with just a few plugs in among the ar­ray of soft plas­tics.

There was a real golden age around 2010/11 when an­glers were ex­per­i­ment­ing more, with ev­ery­one bor­row­ing ideas mostly from Ja­pan or France. I fished nearly ev­ery day.

As an­glers it took us all a while to get to where we are now – with a wider un­der­stand­ing of what we re­ally need for our own fish in our own wa­ters.

The way we fish now com­pared to 2010 is hugely dif­fer­ent be­cause we’d just not tried most of this stuff pre­vi­ously. There are a lot

“There are a lot of tac­tics we now use daily that we spent 30 years in­sist­ing would never work”

of tac­tics we now use daily that we spent 30 years in­sist­ing would never work. HG: What frus­trates you the most about the tackle trade here in the UK?

Ben: We’ve had such an in­tense eight years that I’ve come through the other side and am pretty chilled about the way things work now. Lure fish­ing has be­come such a big thing that the com­pet­i­tive early days are gone.

Not be­ing able to get the stock we want at the click of a but­ton will al­ways be an an­noy­ance, though. There is some tackle that I wish we could sup­ply that we can’t, and I just work with that the best I can by find­ing al­ter­na­tives and/or look­ing for the next big thing.

HG: Mod­ern lure fish­ing is mov­ing so fast these days, so how do you keep abreast of what you need to have in your shop?

Ben: I still think that the best way for me to find new prod­ucts is to get deep into Google, look­ing for brand lo­gos I don’t recog­nise, or by trans­lat­ing var­i­ous Ja­panese terms to try and find some­thing dif­fer­ent. I have a book­mark list in­clud­ing hun­dreds of large and small Ja­panese brands that have never yet been un­leashed on the UK mar­ket.

HG: How hard is it to keep a mix of ‘essen­tials’ on your shelves but also keep of­fer­ing new and ex­cit­ing prod­ucts that might or might not catch on with an­glers?

Ben: Be­cause we’re through the in­sane pe­riod of ex­per­i­men­ta­tion, and ex­pe­ri­ence tells me what the essen­tials are, it’s much eas­ier than it used to be. It’s not a good thing re­ally, but we’ve of­ten been ahead of the times.

Buy­ing in un­known lures can be risky, no mat­ter how good I know they are. As an ex­am­ple, by 2012 we stocked a full range of Deps soft plas­tics. No­body bought them, so even­tu­ally we cleared them out at a loss.

By 2017 they were one of our most in-de­mand lures. Some­times it works, some­times it doesn’t.

HG: What kind of fish­ing do you like for a bit of re­lax­ation?

Ben: I’m do­ing a lot of coarse/match fish­ing at the mo­ment. Be­ing so dif­fer­ent, it gives me a nice break from work and in­volves a lot of the tech­ni­cal el­e­ments of tackle and pre­sen­ta­tion that I en­joy.

HG: If you could go any­where in the world for some fish­ing, where would it be, what would you fish for, and why?

Ben: I’m not sure why, but I al­ways had a thing for roost­er­fish. I had an amaz­ing hol­i­day in Costa Rica last year so I’d prob­a­bly go back there and try for a few roost­ers from the shore. ■

Words and pho­tog­ra­phy by HENRY GIL­BEY

Soft plas­tics now dom­i­nate lure sales

Ben Field fish­ing with a Slash Lamya Thief rod

Us­ing the tackle gives Ben an in­sight into the best gear

There have been many changes in bass fish­ing

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