Already named by Jan Porter as one of his angling heroes, we knew that Jan’s feelings were echoed by many, MANY anglers so we were delighted when Shaun agreed to join us on the sofas.
One of the six that form the British Carp Study Group Steering Committe, Regional Organiser for the East Mids and Lincolnshire region, Regional Organiser Co-ordinator and Forum Moderator, Shaun also writes for a fair few publications. If you’d like to know more about Shaun we recommend you look him up on Youtube, follow him on Twitter or like his page on Facebook.
Most anglers would love to be able to call themselves ‘professional’. How did you manage it?
I have been very lucky and have worked in the angling trade right from leaving school. I have never earned a single penny outside of angling.
I had worked in a angling retail shop for 25 years as well as writing in the magazines on a regular basis since the mid ‘80’s as well as a weekly newspaper column which ended up being a full page most weeks.
In the early years I got immense satisfaction from my job in angling retail but things were starting to change and the team spirit and pure drive of the early days was beginning to fade. I was starting to get disillusioned with the way things were moving and not owning the business I couldn’t do a great deal about it.
I very much wanted to remain in the angling trade though and had wracked my brains about what I could do within the trade, looking for any tiny gap in the market and eventually it all dropped into place and became so obvious I couldn’t believe it hadn’t occurred to me before.
There I was sorting a customer out with an insurance claim and fully kitting him out. It was a very easy sale as all he wanted was what I used myself. We went through all the usual rods, reels, line, luggage etc then came to bait.
It suddenly dawned on me that I couldn’t honestly put my hand on my heart pick up a bag of bait and say this is what I use. It felt as though a massive release valve had just opened in my head and before I had finished serving him I was already putting ideas into place.
I’d had a long involvement with bait with some of my bits being available under the Nash Bait label and it simply seemed the most obvious thing to do.
I could show and sell every customer everything I used except the all important bait. If the carp didn’t pick that up then the rest of the gear was pretty pointless anyway. So, in 2005 I left the shop where I had worked for 25 years to be able to work full time on developing Quest Baits.
So, here I am to-day with over 30 years spent in the angling trade, 1,000’s of examples of my written work have been published or appear on line in various places. Lots of my video work available on line, A few T.V. appearances on Sky TV and Channel 4 and the proud sole owner of Quest Baits Ltd. On top of that I have been responsible for quite a few items of tackle released by several different companies over the years which have started off from my first suggestions and designs.
I guess all in all I have put a lot into helping others in angling and have been rewarded by being able to take a wage back out of it.
How often do you fish and what do you fish for?
I try and fish for at least a couple of days a week and often manage to fit an extra overnighter or evening session in as well.
What do you think are the most pressing issues in angling today?
So called nature lovers not understanding natures ability or inability to support certain species of animal and bird which results in certain creatures being released and/or protected for too long in areas that can’t possibly support them for long.
Along a similar theme it totally disgusts me the same people have a complete lack of understanding the amount of money some have invested in fish and fisheries only to see their businesses disappear with no compensation even considered due to the release of what can only be described as vermin if it eats your stock.
Cormorants have caused catastrophic damage to our natural fish stocks here in the U.K. and were protected for far too long. Now we have a massive problem with our larger fish falling victim to recently introduced otters. Perhaps when our nature lovers start to see these otters start killing the cute cuddly things with fur and feather then perhaps a few will realise those cute otters are having to kill anything available including domestic pets simply to survive. Their preferred food was never in a plentiful amount in the first place.
Can you imagine the outcry if a few wolves were released back into the wild and they started to slowly make their way through the farmers livestock, the stock that their business and lives depend upon?
I see absolutely no difference between this and the person who has purchased or rented a lake and stocked it with fish. Purchased livestock is purchased livestock. Because Joe Public doesn’t see fish very often or indeed see them as anything other than something you can eat then we are totally up against it.
Give us some PB stats – what are you most proud of and why?
Ooh after so many years there have been so many proud moments. Some of the sizes of fish which have been really special at the time don’t necessarily sound anything like as big these days due to the sizes some of our fish are now growing.
To pick a few at random though.
1987 I was lucky enough to land what was then the largest catfish caught intentionally in the U.K. The record at that time was held by an accidental capture and the fish removed from the water (and died) so no chance of catching that one.
The same year I managed to land a 20lb carp, 20lb pike and a brace of 20lb catfish all in the same week and all from different venues. There was only one angler in the U.K. at that time who had managed to achieve that in a year!. Weight wise these days these fish don’t seem particularly large but the following year to put things into perspective I won the Anglers Mail fish of the month reward with a 26lb common! 20lb coarse fish were still quite special fish back then.
I later went on to land a catfish here in the U.K. of 108lb – now that was special as the record was only around half of that weight!
I was lucky also in landing a 200lb Blue Shark on just 12lb class gear whilst bait catching!
I had 2 x 50lb plus carp in 2 days from 2 different waters. Now that was a little nit special.
I have struck lucky a few times with the cameras rolling and catching on film some really good fish including hooking and landing carp to 54lb 4oz.
I have caught Salmon from 9 different U.K. rivers, I’m proud of that.
I have caught conger eels to 70lb, double figure wild carp, double figure barbel, some big catches of perch including 16 over 2lb in one afternoon with the largest going over 3lb.
The list goes on and on but I am worried about looking as though I am bragging which isn’t my style at all and after all, the size of the fish certainly isn’t everything.
What are your earliest fishing memories? Who taught you?
I am very much self taught. No-one in my family was actively angling when I decided I wanted to start.
I had a deep fascination with fish for as long as I remember. I had many different fish tanks and ponds at my parents house where I kept all manner of things. Fish I purchased from pet shops as well as many more captured with a tiny net on the end of a cane from the local river.
I am very much self taught in angling. No-one in my family was actively angling when I decided I wanted to start.
Eventually I progressed from the net to fishing with a rod and line which soon saw my interest move on from small fish to deliberately targeting bigger fish enjoying the challenge and the fight they gave.
This started off with me deliberately targeting larger than average chub with fish baits and then pike. In 1977 I was fishing for chub in the snow on the mighty River Trent here in the U.K. when I accidently hooked a carp, in fact I ended up catching 3 that day and from that moment on my path in life totally changed.
How influential has Mr Crabtree been in your angling life?
To be fair it is those who Crabtree influenced who have had the greatest influence on my angling life. I never had a ‘Crabtree Book’ given to me as a child so feel quite sad that I missed out so much joy and happiness so many others shared. Having said that I have always been very much aware of Bernard Venable’s and ‘Crabtree’, in fact ‘Crabtree’ was the nickname given to me by some of the older anglers around the first carp pool I fished.
Is there anything in fishing that you haven’t done? What are your ambitions?
Loads and loads still to do but the number one thing is to continue to enjoy angling and not treat it as some kind of ordeal.
I took a step back and looked at my personal angling several years ago and realised I wasn’t possibly enjoying it as much as I could be and was fishing places I didn’t really like.
That is all sorted now and my angling is possibly more enjoyable than it has ever been before. I love it and still can’t get enough of it. The big turning point for me was suddenly realising that big isn’t best.
Do you have any angling heroes? What do you most admire about them?
Jack Hilton was the angler responsible for firing my interest in carp with his book Quest for Carp and inadvertently changed the direction my life was leading.
It is no coincidence that my bait company became Quest Baits.
What lessons would you pass on to today’s young anglers?
Be courteous and show respect to other anglers.
Always ask yourself…
“Would I be happy with someone else doing what I am doing now”?
Describe your favourite ‘Crabtree moment’…
Meeting the great man’s inventor Bernard Venables at the ‘Red Letters Day’ book launch. I had written and donated a chapter to this book and all proceeds went to Bernard a fitting thing I felt for a angler that had himself given the angling world so much joy through his artistic and written contributions.
Mr Crabtree and indeed Peter will both live on forever and I still find it really hard to believe they were basically cartoon characters.
What other cartoon character could have had so much influence on so many people?