FORMER Angler’s Mail Specimen Cup winner Neill Stephen (pictured with a huge pike) has lost his complete set of hi-tech and vintage fishing tackle to a well-organized criminal gang.

The thieves walked away with tens of thousands of pounds worth of fishing tackle after using powerful hydraulic tools to open a heavy-duty steel security door and then smashed down a wall.

And British perch record holder Neill is offering a large reward if any of his fishing tackle can be returned to him as he also lost many sentimental items too.

Maidenhead, Berkshire-based Neill explained: “It’s the last thing I want to shout about, but if there is even a small chance it helps stop it happening to others, or to identify the thieves, then it’s worth talking about.

“I was stupid to not have my kit insured, which is the same old lesson. What I would say to everyone is if you care about your kit, get insurance, get an alarm if you can, and don’t keep anything you don’t want to lose outside.”

“Fishing tackle thieves will stop at nothing”

Neill continued: “These thieves will stop at nothing. They opened a heavy-duty steel security door, presumably with some kind of hydraulics, then smashed a wall down.

“I lost nearly all the kit I accumulated as an all-rounder over a lifetime of fishing. As ever, it’s the irreplaceable things that hurt, like rods my grandfather built, but I have just got to move on and not let it affect my fishing.

“John Bailey has already given me some essentials to get down the river and that’s what I intend to do.

“I don’t think I will ever want to own valuable kit again – I have already sold the few things they didn’t take to pay for an alarm. But I am feeling positive that owning less kit will not stop me loving my fishing. It will certainly mean less to worry about!”

Ace all-rounder Neill Stephen built up an impressive tackle collection.

Neill told Angler’s Mail: “I have decided to offer a reward for anyone that provides information that leads to a recovery or identification of those that did it.

“To fund that, I will sell anything recovered and half the value will be the reward. I won’t go into figures but this could be a very decent payday.

“I really care more about stopping them doing it again than having my stuff back.

“It was a large collection of fly, coarse, carp and vintage kit, which would be unusual to see together. Modern rods were Drennan, Hardy, Greys and Free Spirit. Vintage rods were Richard Walker MkIVs, Sealey and Scotty.

“So please look out for people selling or offering to sell kit in the Maidenhead area or surrounding counties where I live,” concluded Neill, who can be contacted on neill.stephen@bupa.com

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