TOP figures talk exclusively on matters close to their own hearts. This week we chat to Tri-Cast national sales manager Steve Hopkinson who continues his interview from the printed magazine on our website here…

How is Tri-Cast doing?
Tri-Cast on both sides of its business is growing at a remarkable rate. It is true to say that in the early few years of this century the angling side was a little neglected, but purely due to a un presidented rise in business and international contracts within its industrial side.
Contracts with NASA and Airbus along with even more work for more and more Formula One race teams had a major influence on the angling side of the business.
At first the effect was of a detrimental manor as the amount of time, effort and resources had to be put into these new contracts and thus the Angling side was left to tick along on its own so to speak. Not totally neglected but not pushed forward as in previous years. As we all know in business you can not afford to stand still, you need to push forward at all times.
This situation led to my appointment to be the companies National Sales and Marketing Manager. My role was to get the angling side back on track and back to the for front of angling where it truly belongs. Not an easy job I must admit and not one that happens over night, but with the help of a great team behind me and the support and backing of the directors slowly but surely things turned around and now we are back up there alongside the other major players in the angling market place.
The second effect from our industrial success has come into play in the fact that we now have at our disposal some very special and unique carbon materials and Resins which are not available to other companies. I have managed to in corporate these space aged materials within some fantastic new designs and this combination has seen a remarkable improvement in our products and there performances across all our ranges. At a time when economic pressures are great and many companies are making cut backs and cost savings, we have been forced to expand.
Last year taking on not only a new commercial unit to house part of our engineering department but also a new storage unit to house our ever increasing stock holding of raw materials etc. People in many working sectors have had their hours reduced, but we have our engineers working long days and at times six days a week. As we get busier and busier then along comes an increase in problems. Not with products but with continuity of purchasing raw materials and fittings and then ensuring that our customers orders are meet and delivered in time. I shouldn’t complain really as it’s a nice headache and pressure to have. I would much rather be sat at home worrying about how the hell are we going to be able to meet the demand, than worrying how I am going to get more orders.

 

How do you think the overall angling trade is doing?
I do not think that anyone can argue the fact that the angling trade has taken a little dip over the past 2 or 3 years, but that can only be expected in our countries current economic climate. When times are tough and money is short due to ever increasing household bills and expenses, then belts have to be tightened. Unfortunately the leisure and sporting industries are one of the first to suffer. Anglers just do not have the spare funds to go fishing 2 or 3 times a week and therefore they make cut backs. Only going once a week, only buying just what they need, cutting back on the amount of bait they take etc, etc. This I am afraid to say must and will continue up until such time as the country in general gets back on an even keel.

 

What the future for the tackle trade?
I only wish I had a crystal ball. My job would be so much easier if I could see into the future. Angling is no different to any other industry, and the tackle shop is no different to any other high street shop in the fact that the same patterns are occurring to them all. If you go back a few decades before the times of these large hypermarkets, super stores, and out of town retail parks, the town high streets were king. Every weekend they were full of shoppers and very busy, and this included your local small tackle shop.
Times have changed, and you only have to look at the high streets today. Shops are empty, shops closing down and boarded up, what a great shame. Why is this? Everyone now shops at very large supermarkets, and goes to retail parks, for a one stop shopping experience. Today people just do not seam to have the time to go up and down the high street and in and out of individual shops buying a few items in each shop. Add on top of these changes the influence the Internet has had, and on line shopping and it is very easy to see why the small local tackle shop can find it a struggle. A great shame as I believe we all have a duty to support our local community and our local tackle shop. Just stop and think for a minute, if your local shop closed, where would you go for your bait and every week items of tackle you need. Just because it is only a small average tackle shop doesn’t mean it can’t offer you the best deals and best tackle and I am sure they can offer to you an efficient, friendly and knowledgeable service.
It appears that within the trade, the bigger shops are getting bigger and the small high street shops are fighting to stay in business. But fight they must because as I have said the local shop is needed, but they must be proactive within their business in getting people into their shops, making them come there for a reason and looking after each and every customer. An angler who receives a good deal and gets good service and help will return time after time, and will tell all his fellow anglers too. There is nothing better than word of mouth endorsement to promote your business.

And you’re part of the Angling Trades Association?
I was also privileged some four years ago to be asked to become a Director on the Angling Trades Association board. This is the main organisation within angling which helps the retail trade and promotes Angling through events such as National Fishing Month. I consider this a vital role as I can contribute in my way in ensuring the growth and continued participation of all anglers in the sport.

What age did you get into fishing?
My love of fishing started at an early age of around 7 or 8 years old. Being born and raised in Grimsby, then fishing was the main livelihood of the town as it was a major fishing port.
I can remember both my Father and Uncle taking me on some windswept cold mornings to just below the dock and harbour entrance to fish off the rocks. I don’t think any of us really were experts, but most of the time came back home with something for the dinner table. Happy days fishing with my Dad, and in my mind that is what fishing is about. Great times and even greater memories.  Alas a couple of years later my love of fishing took a bit of a dent.
My best friend at junior school invited me during the school summer holidays to join him on his fathers fishing boat. As we had just finished junior school and going our separate ways with him going to one senior school and myself having being fortunate enough to qualify for grammar school, I thought this would be a great idea. What a big mistake. Wasn’t a normal fishing boat, but his father was a captain of a trawler which went out into the Wild North Sea for a week at a time. Off I went full of excitement only to spend 90% of the whole week green. Never felt so ill in all my life, and was never more pleased to see the entrance to Grimsby docks.
I will never forget the captain’s parting words to me as I left the boat, “I take it you won’t want to come in the winter when it’s rough seas then”. Not a chance I replied. So fishing then turned to coarse fishing around the local lakes and the boating lake at Cleethorpes. I have no trouble with boats these days and never felt ill since that trip. Probably too young for that experience.

 

And did you get into match fishing?
So from the age of 11 my fishing was confined to odd occasions with friends to local lakes catching the usual specimens of roach, perch, bream, and carp etc. Fishing took a little bit of a back seat due to my every increasing commitment to football. I was very fortunate in the fact that my school had an outstanding reputation for sports and football in particular. On many occasions soccer scouts would turn up unannounced to watch an inter schools or county game. My luck came when I was put forward to attend some sessions at Grimsby Town. I was even luckier when I was taken onto their junior books at the age of 14. This event was tinged with sadness as it was at this time my father passed away and never got to see me play. I hope that I made him proud then, and hope he would be proud of me today.
As I grew up, left school and continued at Grimsby I used to go fishing with one of our top players, Dave Boylan, only a small man but absolute dynamite on the pitch in midfield. We struck up a great partnership both on and off the pitch. He took me under his wing so to speak and taught me so much. To cap it all, his great pastime to get away from everything was to go fishing. So we were not only great team mates but fishing buddies too.

 

What are your best fishing achievements?
It was a few years ago now, but I received through the post an invite from Ann Freeman to fish the Terry Freeman Memorial Match at Tingrith Fishery near Luton. Terry was Ann’s husband and the person that launched and ran Browning Fishing Tackle for many years. Terry was a great angler and business man and was also the first person to sponsor Bob Nudd. He set up and developed the great London Browning Team and was much loved and respected throughout the tackle trade. Also he took on and developed Tingrith Fishery.
Sadly and very suddenly in the mid nineties Terry died, and this was a great loss to us all. In subsequent years his wife Ann, organised a memorial match at their fishery. 80 of the top anglers, and Browning lads from all over the UK were invited to take part in this event. I was honoured to be one of the lucky anglers considered worthy of participating in this match. A day to remember, not because I won the event, but I did finish in third spot. Fishing amongst many great and top international anglers, I did not let in phase me in anyway and just got my head down and fished my own match. As I said I must have done something right as I came a creditable third and was not that far behind the winner. Most of all the day will be remembered for what it was and what it meant. Great anglers, a great venue and superb day.

 

Any other major hobbies?
Any other hobbies? Yes but I do not get a lot of spare time. My love of football will always be there and one of the first results I look for on a Saturday teatime is how Grimsby got on even though they are now in the Conference League these days. Not for much longer though as they are top of the league as we speak. My other team and love is Liverpool FC. I have always supported them.

 

Any angling heroes?
I have so many. Not so much heroes but anglers whom I respect and for different reasons. Top of the list for me are two anglers. The late and great Ivan Marks, who gave me so much help and advice and had all the time in the world to speak to anyone.
The other is the rough and ready Kevin Ashurst. What a fantastic angler he was. This man could catch fish in a puddle. At the same time he was probably the most untidy angler I have every come across. If you stood behind him to watch him fish his peg looked like Beirut on a bad day.
I must include Bob Nudd in my list as I worked with him for many years at Browning in the good old days and his influence on the younger angler was awesome. Wherever he went he drew a crowd and he did so much in promoting the sport.