Angling: Selecting my #CrabtreeKit

Mr CrabtreeRecently I spoke of my desire to try to simplify things a little with my fishing tackle. The main reasons being; (a) a nostalgic craving for my childhood fishing experience and (b) sometimes my back tells me, I’m getting too bloody old for humping a mountain of gear to the bankside on each new angling trip!

Read more and purchaseSo, continuing with the Fishing in the Footsteps of Mr. Crabtree inspiration, I’ve started to put together what I’m calling my Crabtree Kit. But where do I start?

Last year Alex, a fishing pall, gave me a small proprietary tackle bag. The idea behind the gift was for it to be used for the roving style of river fishing. Although this dovetailed nicely with my Crabtree Kit idea, the bag is actually a little small for my requirements. That said, the tackle bag is an inspirational starting point of my plan.

Tackle preferences vary amongst anglers, and it’s often only after experiencing the actual fishing that the novice gains some knowledge of what gear he/she needs and a preference for the tackle he/she likes…(

Crabtree Kit (luggage):

When I started fishing as a kid all my tackle, along with my sandwiches and flask, were stuffed into an army surplus gas mask bag. Tackle storage and portage has moved on a pace since then. Today most well-know angling manufacturers produce a myriad of purpose made tackle bags in many differing designs. Which one will best fit my needs?

Overall size, capacity, organisational versatility, along with the quality of materials and fittings are all worthy considerations and, never forgetting the price aspect in selection. There is however the danger of procuring a bag that is either too small or, one that appears small enough but is actually too large and consequently, it gets filled with more gear than is really required. Just because there is space to fill you tend to fill it and before you know it, you have a mountain of heavy gear again.

In addition to size consideration, there are now several options available which also include either a workstation or a seating aspect, in addition to simple tackle storage. Items like a combined rucksack and stool or, the tackle bag that forms an angling work station like the TFG Compact workstation. Or why not have both, as with the TFG Compact Seatbox (see YouTube clip)?

Interestingly Korum Tackle, who promote themselves as The Home of Easy Angling, have recently expanded upon the concept. By producing a multi-purpose, lightweight tackle storage and carriage solution for the ‘mobile’ angler, their complete Roving Kit may well be worthy of consideration for some.

This purpose-designed system is ideal for the roving angler. Simply carry the Roving Chair and Chair Bag as one as you travel between swims. The skeleton-style quiver system is also totally stripped down to save on weight. It’s the ultimate setup for the mobile fisherman…(

My thoughts are, why go for anything that complicated (or expensive)? The original requirement was for something simple and compact for a roving style of angling. Solutions such as the Snooper Bag, the Rova Bag or the Rigger Bag, all from Chub Fishing are excellent options here. Bags such as the Korum Roving Bag would also fit the requirement for a well-organised and convenient method to transporting your tackle.

Crabtree Kit (Rod):

I decided that my requirement is to be able to cover various fishing styles for various species with a single rod, one that is easily transportable and something of a multi-purpose all-rounder. With the flexibility and popularity of this type of rod several manufacturers have one or more in their range. Take for instance the TFG Compact All-Rounder or perhaps their Compact Nan-Tec version which Fishtec say “is the only rod you will ever need – value, performance, versatility – the ultimate rod.”

The validity of the above claims remain to be seen but this type of rod is now available in forms that meat all budgets. You could go for something cheap, such as the Avanti 11-13ft All-Rounder Float/Feeder rod from the pioneers of budget tackle Dragon Carp Direct. Or maybe there’s something in the Mach XT range of rods from Shakespeare  Tackle.

Many of these ‘all-rounder’ type rods can be considered as young pretenders to the crown of what is probably the original of its type. I refer to the John Wilson’s signature 11ft Avon Quiver system, it is also reported to be probably the best-selling ‘all-rounder’ rod of all time. The fact it has been in production, in one form or another, for more than twenty years must say something of it’s worth.

John Wilson Avon QuiverWith all the available choice, who better than John Wilson MBE to provide a solution? In addition to his television and written work on angling, John has also been voted ‘The Greatest Angler Of All Time’ by readers of The Angling Times. He has also been designing his own range of fishing tackle for more than twenty years, a wealth of knowledge and experience not to be sniffed at.

Throughout my latter years of angling John Wilson has also been the one person who, in my opinion, has carried the torch first lit by Bernard Venables in the Mr Crabtree fishing legacy. I’ve tended to look upon him as a kind of Big Lads’ Mr Crabtree, which is also a good enough reason for following some of his advice here.

These ‘signature’ rods have been around for many years now and have been produced by several different suppliers during that time. The original Masterline version is now manufactured under the Rovex brand name in the factories of Jarvis Walker, an Australian tackle manufacturer. Most tackle today is produced in the Far-East today but if, as the company claim, this means – “improved quality levels, improved specifications and greatly improved prices”  – it all has to be good for the angler, especially the latter point.

When the new Rovex John Wilson Avon/Quiver DeLuxe 11-13ft first hit the market it was obviously compared with the original version. There may have been several different manufactures since it was first produced however, this also means it has undergone continuous development for some 25 years since introduction. That can’t be a bad thing, can it? A consequence of all this has been the great deal of critical opinion published about the rod over the years, the vast majority of which appears to have been positive.

…I recommended it to anyone I met who commented on it… It is still, without doubt, the ubiquitous rod it always was doing almost everything an angler requires of it. Anyone starting up fishing or moving to specialist angling could do no better than to get one of these rods…(

The only remaining decision is; do I plum for the standard or travel version of the rod, in the original or heavier John Wilson Rovex Barbel Quiver configuration? I could buy more than one I suppose but that would be like succumbing to the tackle geek within me again!

Crabtree Kit (Reel):

Fishing Reel Buying Guide: Buying a reel is such an important investment, get it right and you will enhance your fishing pleasure and your results, get it wrong and you will ruin the balance of your rod, and it could cost you fish…(

The one size fits all ideal should have been sufficient here but I decided to complicate the issue a little. With the idea of covering an ever greater number of fishing styles, and partly in a nod of reverence to my nostalgia kick, I’m including both a fixed spool and a centre pin reel.

The inclusion of a centre pin reel in my Crabtree Kit is almost de rigueur. One of my first angling experiences as a child was trotting with a centre pin, it’s probably the most traditional form of river fishing. Despite the fact not every angler holds that opinion, river fishing with a centre pin is another piece of nostalgic self-indulgence. A memory of the simplicity involved in my youthful years of fishing.

Centrepin Reels – Is it Just Spin? –  A delight to look at, wonderful to hold and a nightmare to use. But, but, but, but… they’re perfect for trotting… they’re the best for playing fish… they’re the best…no line twist, …nothing to go wrong. Hmm. Bumblebee says otherwise. Why? Are my views jaundiced? Do I know what I’m talking about? (

Good quality centrepin reels became an expensive commodity however; probably due to the joy of their simplicity and traditional format, they have enjoyed something of a renaissance in recent years. This increased popularity amongst anglers has also had a knock-on effect in their pricing. Consequently, it is now possible to obtain a relatively high quality performance ‘pin’ at a reasonable cost.

In addition to the centrepin reel I am including a fixed spool bait-runner type reel. Why do I want a ‘baitrunner’? There are several arguments about the advantages and disadvantages of the standard fixed spool against that of a baitrunner. The main one relates to safety and landing your catch, particularly when Carp fishing. As I spend a fair amount of time fishing for Carp, it makes a great deal of sense to use a baitrunner.

Baitrunners or Fixed Spool: Carp reels should really therefore be of the baitrunner type, and although a little dearer than the normal fixed spool carp reel, the added cost could mean the difference between landing that giant specimen or losing your rod and reel altogether. (

Baitrunner reels are also helpful when ledger and feeder fishing for other species such as Barbel, or live/dead bait fishing for Pike. Indeed, they are a ubiquitous part of any type of fishing where a bite alarm may be utilised during your angling quest. 

Crabtree Kit (Tackle):

I don’t intend to itemise every last piece of tackle here, just those items that I have found to be particularly useful in my fishing. It’s far too easy, even when you start with a solid plan like I did, to get a little caught up in the tackle geek aspect of fishing. Almost any angler let loose in a tackle shop acts like a little kid in a sweet shop, before you know it he/she is leaving loaded up with a range of goodies.

The other day I saw a video clip on YouTube from Martin Bowler (see below). It covered the values of simplifying your tackle and travelling light, relevent even when you’re camped up in a bivvy for a weekend Carp session.

But I digress slightly, back to my Crabtree Kit contents selection and once again I’ll start with the storage and organisational aspects of the kit. Like my gas mask bag replacement in the luggage section, there are now many purpose-built tackle storage solutions available to the modern angler.

Tackle Boxes:

No longer will my bag be littered with tobacco tins or small wooden boxes, full of terminal tackle bits ‘n’ bobs. I don’t have to root to the bottom corner of my gas mask bag to find an Arlesey Bomb to replace the one snagged in a tree root any more. More importantly, I no longer run the risk of impalement from that stray hook, the one which escaped from its soggy paper packet during the last outing. Today the tackle organiser box is almost de rigueur.

Imitation Baits:

Imitation Bait

As with most good fishing ideas and methods, it doesn’t take long before they become popular across the angling fraternity, as was the case with imitation bait. The original idea has since been adopted, copied and tweaked by several manufacturers and all to the advantage of angling consumers.

I know it seems a little strange, and many folk still can’t get their heads around the concept, but there are actually advantages in tempting fish with fake food. Bait Logic is one company designing and developing all manner of imitation baits for Specimen and Coarse Angling. Another is Enterprise Tackle who were, and still are, innovators in the area of imitation baits. Theirs have proved to be excellent fish catchers for not only Carp, but species like Tench and Bream also.

Luckily I was never one of the sceptics, I could see the advantages of fake bait and was hooked from the outset (pun intended). It’s about the flexibility and storage considerations that did it for me. I can carry a wide selection of differing bait that won’t decompose or go off and in many cases, as with fake corn, it actually stays on the hook far better than the natural equivalent. For those still unconvinced, take a look at the video below where pro-angler Danny Fairbrass explains some of the most effective ways to use fake baits.

So there you have it, my Crabtree Kit is finally complete. Some will find this interesting and some will say I’ve got it all wrong. There is one thing for certain, the contents of the kit are likely to change  more than once before I’m totally happy with it all. That said, I’d be interested to know what items you would include in your Crabtree Kit?

Whether you’re a diehard disciple of Walton, learnt alongside Peter from Crabtree, stayed up late to watch Wilson, got guided by ‘A Passion for Angling’ or have just realised there is a piscatorial world beyond commercial carp fisheries, hopefully you will find something to interest you at

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