New year, new perspectives

The talk amongst the group of HookPoint contributors as we’ve moved in to 2020 has been around what the year is going to look like for us, both in terms of individual aspirations, other life influences on our fishing and also where we collectively want to take HookPoint.

Reflecting briefly on 2019, it’s been quite the year for us all in our angling exploits and wider lives. On the angling side, most notably Gary Mitchell had his record spurdog ratified, whilst Ryan Wingfield went and bettered his previous years tope record. John Locker has developed one of the most watched fishing Youtube channels in the UK, Wayne Hand has launched a highly successful guiding business and Chris O’Sullivan is through to the final stages of qualifying to represent his national team, Ireland, once more. Meanwhile Carl McCormack bagged his first common Skate, as did Kelly Smith who hasn’t looked back since adding several more, whilst everyone of our other contributors have ticked targets off of their personal lists.

On the personal side, Steve Perry and Grant Jones both had new family additions, curtailing some fishing efforts throughout the year, whilst we received the good news that it’s Carl and Rob Stammas’ turn early this year, which will no doubt impact their fishing plans for 2020! And a congratulations to Chris O’Sullivan, who got married in the final days of 2019, which we optimistically hope does not curtail his fishing plans…

We could go on, but this is not to dwell too much on 2019 but to look ahead to 2020. We asked a number of the contributors what they see 2020 looking like for them, before we cover off what it will look like for HookPoint as a whole.

It may come as no surprise that Rob Stammas and Carl McCormack had a similar outlook, both having their first children arriving imminently. Carl is thus targeting the summer as a time to seriously attack the fishing again, his eyes set on the summer hound and ray fishing, but with his taste well and truly quenched by his first, he’s also eager to get back up on the common skate in Scotland.

Rob’s expectations are likewise tempered, but he recounts how every year his grand slam or rays falls the one short and hopes 2020 can be the year to buck the trend. (We don’t know whether to break it to him that it doesn’t count without a blue skate since Till Hall’s capture…). His key focus in the slam will start in early summer on the Sussex beaches for a large stingray, his nemesis for some time. With increasing average sizes in the last few years, perhaps 2020 will be the year for a record? He’ll just have to beat fellow contributor and stingray enthusiast Steve Harder to it!

Rob also intends to do more on his kayak, incidentally an area we will also seek to cover more through the magazine, with another new contributor, Tom Rowe, an equally avid kayaker. Their experience should help produce some informative features to help guide others in to the safest and most productive ways to commit to this style of fishing. Rob hopes to better a 3lb 10 black bream on the yak, as well as pursue blonde ray and gilt head bream. Most importantly, Rob simply looks forward to more fishing with family and friends. Hopefully it yields him some special fish and excellent features.

In another area we intend to cover more of, small boat angling, one of our excellent recent additions to the contributor team, Ben Carter, really wants to add some video footage to his brilliant exploits after 100lb + fish in UK and Irish waters. In particular, he would love to obtain drone footage of a fish as long as his 17ft boat. A thresher also remains top of the target list to get his 100lb + species in British Isles waters to 6, whilst the hunt for a 100lb+ conger may require getting through an enormous volume of smaller eels first!

Fellow regular boat angler John Locker found his biggest achievements in 2019 were none of the targets he set out for, but continues to seek to grow his ever popular YouTube channel, which we have no doubt from current progress he is destined to do. It really is great seeing someone succeed like that.

It’s great to see our base of contributors now covering more regions. Tom Rowe and Simon Waldram will be great additions in the North East, whilst Sam Chapon ensures representation for Jersey alongside Remi Naftel on neighbouring Channel Island Guernsey. As a new contributor, Sam’s 2020 aspirations are linked to his recent informative piece on the bait slider, aiming to target more and bigger species on it than the bass he currently uses it for, outlining a number of marks he is hopeful of deploying it successfully for tope. He’s also excited to be joining several of us for the second edition of the Pembrokeshire bass lure tournament and also target more bass on the fly at home as they hunt out the smaller bait fish in the spring.

Unfortunately Remi has faced a number of health issues which will influence his fishing in 2020. First and foremost he will be sticking to some of the safer high water marks, targeting the bass as they move in and off of the inter tidal feeding areas; but, his health issues have also convinced him he really should be using a life jacket when out on the rocks. Something we believe everyone should be using. Remi will also be hoping to add a bit of variety to his captures when he joins some of us fishing back in the UK, whilst also returning to the Pembrokeshire bass lure tournament.

Welsh contingent Ryan Wingfield and Kelly Smith are both looking at shaking things up a bit. Kelly is keen to diversify his target species away from the tope and focus on some cleaner beach fishing, where he will experiment with a fixed spool in the low position with braid to see how it benefits in distance, much like Ben Conway explained in a recent feature. Skate remain on Kelly’s mind too, as he hopes to better the 180lb mark. For Ryan, it’s all about his lad this year, as he aims to keep his interest in fishing going and open him up to more fishing experiences. Despite that, we still wouldn’t be surprised to see Ryan haul in a record tope for a third year running!

Dorset contributor Paul Blehs is another seeking more diversity in 2020. His instinct for a few years has been to stick on the rays when the opportunities to fish have arose, but he’s keen to get back out on the many isle of Purbeck marks for the variety they offer. He’s another thinking about one of those Scottish skates too! It may get busy up there next year! Luckily, Ryan’s earlier feature in this issue should help steer people in the right direction!

Rob Johansen also aims to explore more of the isle of Purbeck, a regular haunt of his but so much of it remains untapped. Rob actually has a number of detailed aims, so the following is in his own words:

“Noticing on the last several rock sessions that the better fish were caught at range, which I’ve read and been told about a ton of times. I think it’s time to get back in the field and hone my casting skills.  Having had tuition over 20 years ago and reaching a PB of 233 yards at the age of 15, I am no novice to the area.  Now grown in strength I’d like to think I can beat that but I do know technique will out cast power all day long. So I will be looking at joining a local club to remember how to swing a lead and improve that timing. My aspiration for this year is to hit 250 yards. This should in theory be easy but I am feeling a little skill fade. With help from some professionals watch this space. 

Another achievement I will be chasing this year and most years is recceing new marks. My favourite area to fish is the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset. This is a heavy ground area that can consistently produce amazing fish. The area is of outstanding natural beauty and a world heritage site. Strangely there seems to be a lack of anglers along this coastline. Not once have I seen an angler in the location I went to fish. This is probably due to the long walks, potentially great tackle losses, and the general hard work of slippery uneven rocks. As my number of marks are jumping into the dozens now, I want to keep exploring as a number a phenomenons have been found with a variety of species and I believe the Purbecks still have many more jewels to be found. 

Of fascinating interest to me is this Jurassic coast has dinosaur, wooly mammoth, turtle and alligator fossils in it plus many more.  On one occasion whilst explaining to Rob about the dinosaur footprints I’d just read about, we saw some a couple of minutes later! Another passion of mine is climbing and with the use of ropes I now have two more locations already planned to get to and see how, if at all, they fish. 

With all of this adventure ahead, I’ve upgraded the camera and lens to hopefully capture this in its rawest form.  So working on my camera skills is on the list too.  All good when the weather is fair but with driving rain and crashing waves then the smart phone will still be pulling its weight.“

We could cycle through all of the contributors, but the summary seems to be diversity along with maybe pursuing one big species each as the icing on the cake. Diversity is a good theme, because it’s also exactly where we want to take the monthly magazine this year too. 2019 has largely been about growing the variety of experienced contributors we have, 2020 is where we move to delivering you an even better monthly read. From February onwards, we’ll be aiming to deliver more features, across more disciplines, with more useful instructional information, technical impartial product reviews, a wider geographic spread of catch report features and more travel features.

We’re also going to aim to provide an increasing amount of video content, provided by a diverse pool of anglers and open up opportunities for more people to join HookPoint magazine, who don’t fancy writing features, as video only contributors.

We’re going to be at more big matches, providing the kind of coverage we did at the Pembrokeshire bass lure tournament and Daiwa pairs and we’re going to sponsor some of the larger national competitions, as we already have done with the bass tournament and UK Shore Catch Reports fish of the month competitions. All in all, we’re going to be out there more, to bring you more.

We’re also going to enhance the quality of imagery and write ups with more thorough editing, being very pleased to announce that Ben Conway will step up from being a contributor to phase in to editing each issue over the coming months. Thats not to say he won’t also continue to contribute his fantastically and uniquely worded features that are always so popular.

To summarise, in 2020 we’re going to be bigger and better. We’ll continue to listen to what our readers want and change to improve on delivering it. There’s just one thing we won’t change, that we’re a bit stubbornly resolute on, and that’s the fact we are free. We set out to be a free publication and we will always be a free publication. We just hope you all continue to enjoy reading HookPoint each month.


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