The Lure of Tuna Gear

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Posted By
Posted By

Andy

Introduction

Tuna Gear is owned and operated by Andy, and was born out of a frustration of not having the tackle fit for purpose to target these amazing fish we have in our waters. Along with a deep love of fishing and being on boats. 

The Early Years

I began my fishing at the age of six with my dad on our Isles of Scilly family holidays. From spinning from the rocks off of St Martins in search of pollock and wrasse, to also hiring a small 14ft open boat to trawl between the Eastern Isle, we would use crab lines out the back with Red Gills or Spinners on to pick up mackerel and pollock. This was where my love of boats started. 

Over the next seven years, those holidays became all about fishing and getting on a boat for me as we lived in Bristol. The only other fishing I got to do was eel fishing competitions in the local power stations cooling pond, located on the River Severn.

At the age of twelve, we moved to Devon in a little village on the River Dart, and that’s when fishing and boats really started to take over. After winning £100.00 on premium bonds that my nan had bought me, I really wanted a Nintendo NES, but my Dad wouldn’t let me. Although I tried every trick in the book to get the console, he suggested that I should instead spend the money on a boat…And that was it. The next few weeks were spent buying the free ads and scanning the pages for a boat. I ended up with a 10’6 pram dinghy, which was in pretty rough shape, but with dad’s help and some makeshift stands I ended up with my pride and joy. Painted in British racing green on the outside and white inside, with new seats and all done out in oak, it was almost complete. All that was left was to get my hands on an engine. As I had a paper round that paid me £5 a week, along with a small side hustle bailing out a few of the local boats on the pontoon each week, I had saved up enough to start dragging my dad round the local boat jumble on the hunt for an engine. I ended up with a 3.5hp seagull that had no recoil, no neutral or reverse and gave you a third degree burn every time we went near it. But it worked and it finally got me out there.

I continued to bass fish, trawling the faithful crab-line and regill combo up and down the river Dart. When I knew my dad wasn’t about, I would take the boat out alone, out as far as Dartmouth and head out to Castle Ledge in search of anything that would take a set of feathers. 

Alongside this, I had started to do a lot of fresh water fishing at school as they put on a match fishing club. This allowed time out of school to go fishing, which I was all over. During my evenings I enjoyed flicking through the Bennents of Sheffield catalogue (that came with the Anglers Mail) as this was a decade before the internet. I saved up money, and from Christmas and birthday presents, I managed to fully get myself kitted out. Then if I wasn’t out on the boat I was on a seat box somewhere match fishing. 

The following few years match fishing introduced me to Carp, which took me away from my boat and the sea for quite a while as I became fixated on Carp fishing and trying to catch a 20lb’er. This involved me getting dropped off at lakes by my parents all over South Devon until my late teens when my first car came along. 

This is where my fishing stopped for a while as I found cars, clubs and a job. 

The Catalyst

Fast forward to around 2010 when my girlfriend (now wife) bought me a fishing rod for Christmas as she didn’t know what else to get me and had heard all the stories from me and my dad about fishing…little did she know the monster that she was about to unleash.

As soon as the tackle shops were open after Christmas, I was in them emptying my bank account to kit myself out to take on the Carp again. A lot had changed in the time I had been away, but the buzz was there from the second I walked back onto my local club lakes. Over the next five or six years, if I wasn’t fishing, I was trying to wind the wife up so much that she would just tell me to go fishing for some peace and quiet. This time was spent trying to catch all of the big Carp in Devon, which I had a lot of success with. From club lakes, to day tickets, to syndicates. If there was a chance of a 30lb+ carp, I was there. 

Lockdown

Whilst on these missions I started to hear about European carp fishing and especially the canals of Belgium & Holland. So, in 2017 with a mate in tow, the first Eurostar ticket was purchased and the European adventure began. I could probably write a whole book on this. We fished some of the biggest canal systems in Belgium; from the Albert to the V canel, the Damasvert to small public lakes, ‘guesting’ on nature reserves to WW1 forts in Holland. This was some of the most exciting fishing I had ever done and the adventures on the way will stay with me forever. I would probably still be there now if it wasn’t for Covid. We were actually sitting on the side of a canal in Belgium when the news of a lockdown hit us. We were enjoying a bbq and listening to some tunes with a few of the local lads we had gotten to know, when the call came in that the Eurostar was closing the border after Boris’s announcement. A mad pack up started and a race across Belgium and France commenced to get to the Euro tunnel back home.

So that was it for the adventures, as we just couldn’t get out of the county. Yet through all of this, I still had Carp fishing. Unlike some, I had access to the sea as my dad always had a boat. This meant that when the lakes were busy in the summer I would ‘borrow’ the boat and head out bassing, wrecking, exploring the local reefs or drifting over the Skerries. All in search of that fishing fix. This is where Tuna first came on my radar in the summer of 2015. 

After we came out of lockdown, and with no access to the sort of carp fishing I wanted to do, I turned my attention to the Tuna I had been seeing over the previous summers. The next month was spent on ‘Boats and Outboards’ or ‘Find A Fishing Boat’ sites in hunt for my next boat. The first was a Wilson Flyer 23 with a 135hp Optomax which needed so much work. My dad was enlisted again and after four weeks in a boat yard ‘Naughty Jim’ was ready and launched. Unfortunately, I knew nothing about Tuna fishing and it showed. That first year involved me having the constant piss taken out of me by my mates with “haven’t you caught one yet” and burning fuel and funds at Rokmax, Hogy Lures, Faden Offshore and British Big Game Fishing getting all the things I thought I needed. Looking back now, it was the start of my education and the building blocks of Tuna Gear. 

Tuna Gear Is Born

In 2021, I took some massive steps forward in my Tuna knowledge and finally managed to catch one. This led to my next boat that allowed for more range and a more capable sea boat all round. I purchased (and still have) a Wellcraft 22 coastal named ‘Chinese Dave’ which has a 200hp Honda on the back. This boat changed the game for me. With its long range, built in fuel tank, live well and trim tabs I could really get at them and did. Abroad Chinese Dave I learnt to trawl multiple rods, splice hollow core braids, crimp properly and experiment with different colors with different water clarity. 

The winter of 2021 was spent on Youtube and Spotify consuming anything I could about Tuna fishing. As this learning process was going on, a returning thought kept coming back to me from my Carp fishing ‘you always tied your own rigs’. Years of playing around with pop up or bottom bait rigs in the edge had contributed to so much of my success, so why wasn’t I tying my own Tuna bars? 

Christmas and New Year 21/22 centred around ordering samples from different wholesale sites and using favours from people I know in the tackle trade to get my hands on terminal tackle to get me started on my own bars. Initially, I had no intention of selling bars, I just wanted to teach myself how and get over one fundamental problem I felt that all bars possessed which was the way the bar and main line are connected to each other. Consequently, the rest of Winter and Spring were spent teaching myself how to assemble a bar and to start to work out how I wanted to get my bar connected to the main line along with giving the bar maximum buoyancy. Another problem I came across were bars sinking or digging into waves and taking too long to pop back up. Building a jig so I could get a consistent spread on the bars was my next hurdle.

Research, Development and Refinement

Come the Summer of 22, I was back out at them with what was the MK1 bar which very quickly became the MK2. This summer I couldn’t stop catching as I kept true to my gut feeling of permanently experimenting with different colours and sizes of squid on the bar, along with different size, length and weight of stingers. Another boat was added to the fleet in the shape of my Fountain 33 sfc, This boat is an absolute weapon of an American fast fisher. With twin 300hp she can get you offshore fast and stay out for as long as you want. On one overnight trip, during a 3am conversation, we discussed the Tuna tackle market and how although a couple of people had started to pop up offering tackle no one had really gone for it. This was the real starting point of Tuna Gear.

With all that has been detailed above implies that I am a full time angler, this couldn’t be further from the truth. In the background of all of this fishing I had built a large and successful self storage and removal company, along with a housing portfolio. This has meant that by the time I had turned 40 I was already at the semi retirement stage with the both companies almost running themselves. I was therefore looking for the next big challenge in my life. With that 3am conversation still going around in my head I sat down with my SEO and Marketing guy Aaron, along with my business coach Steve, to start analyzing the Tuna tackle market and how I could not just launch a brand but set a standard and bar for everyone else to chase.  

The winter of 22 continued to keep me busy. Flights were made to China and America to find supplies, whilst logo and website ideas were put together here. A workshop was built to be able to build stock in bulk, storage was organised and content was shot. Little did I know at this stage what a task it was to get a tackle brand off the ground. 

More Revisions, Mark 3!

The rest of the winter and spring of 23 was spent building the MK3 and in all honesty I thought I had re-designed the wheel with this design. The feedback I received for it was amazing and I dived straight to the studio to photograph and put the video content together. This turned into a  massive learning curve and quite a grounding experience. Evidently, the MK3 was a total disaster. It would constantly dig into the waves and sink, the very thing I didn’t want to happen I had managed to achieve. To some this would have been the end of the line, but for me the only way to learn is to get things wrong, learn from it and move forward, which is exactly what I did by throwing the MK3 in the bin and starting on the MK4.   

Mark 4 and Commercial Testing

Just as the Tuna season was about to start this year, (Summer 2023), I was given the opportunity to meet two guys who had been granted one of the commercial licences to catch and land Tuna. Whilst I had always been a catch and release angler, the thought of landing Tuna didn’t sit well with me, however the chance to learn and gain even more experience was too good to turn down. I made the decision to crew for them for a season, which turned out to be one of the best decisions I have made in my Tuna fishing journey. It allowed me to use another company’s bars, which I stupidly had stopped doing after I started building my own. This led to the breakthrough in the MK4 I was looking for. After using Carlson’s center birds it highlighted how their birds added buoyancy to the bar, it attached the main line to the bar successfully, as well as putting to bed any preconceived ideas I had about ‘clip on systems’. At the end of my third session out there, I was back on the phone to my suppliers to start the R&D work of what is now my TG center bird and TG directional bird. 

With the 23 season over, I can look back on the great success I have had. Firstly, my MK4 put many fish onto the deck. Secondly, managing to get it onboard the legend that is Alister Campbell’s boat. Finally the tackle shop Hookz in Torquay wanted to stock it. I was then back in my workshop to build the MK4 in bulk in its two forms, one with the centre bird and one with the directional bird. 

What’s Next for Tuna Gear

I’m super excited for the 2024 season and the start of recreational licenses. By the time the seasons open the website will be up and all the new products I’m working on this winter will be ready. 

None of what I have done would have been possible without the love and support of my wife Jessica, she gave me the freedom to fish and support I needed with building the brands.

I hope you enjoyed reading this, 

Andy. 

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