The present trend in the European Fishing Tackle Market is certainly not that of clear positive growth.
All we hear about are of reductions in the numbers of regular Anglers, over-fishing, depleted fish stocks, water pollution, lack of image of the hobby, competition from other sports and a soft European economy.
Not only is our trade badly organized in protecting its activity at European and National level; it also shows a total lack of synergy between the main economic agents concerned with recreational fishing.
When was the last time that a meeting was held in Europe between all of those concerned with Recreational Angling? By this I mean the Angling Federations, the Trade, the Media, the Tourist Trade and the other related industries such as the Boat manufacturers and Boat Engine manufacturers. The answer is never!
Not only should these industries and organizations be concerned about defending and promoting the Recreational Angling activity; they should also be working together in synergy in order to develop common strategies to make the market grow.
It is not very difficult to find potentially successful strategies for market growth in Angling. There is often not much need for invention and new ideas. Adapting already existing practices from another market is often enough. Techniques from the UK such as Match fishing and UK Style Carp Fishing have been adapted and promoted with great success in other European countries. The Italian anglers have given us “Bolognese” rods and Beach Ledgering; the French and the Belgians the Roubaisienne Put-Over pole. Each time one of these “new techniques” has been launched successfully in another market, it has benefited both the brands from where the technique originated and the national or regional brands that were smart enough to pick up early on the new trend. International brands are also prime benefactors of the spread of fishing techniques from one region to another.
More recently, Southern European Markets such as France, Spain and Portugal have benefited from new emerging markets such as Lure Fishing and Jigging. Whether practiced in the Coastal waters or in the rivers and the lakes, these two newly introduced/re-vamped techniques have brought some much needed growth to the struggling local companies. Even if, the market being what it is; these successful launches are rapidly followed by extensive competition, oversupply and price slashing. They open the markets to a large number of newly required products and therefore new sales.
These newly marketed lure fishing techniques are quite interesting in such that they carry a good outdoor active image for Angling. The techniques are “clean” in such as no live bait is used and the protagonists often practice “catch and release” while searching for prime specimens. They therefore carry a good potential for attracting newcomers to the sport.
The French market has been at the forefront of the promotion of new techniques in the last two decades and companies dealing there have certainly reaped the rewards from engaging in the promotion and the development of new activities for their regular anglers and attracting newcomers in the process.
One of the most successful enterprises in France has been the development of the “traveling Fisherman” concept which began in the mid nineties and has now developed into a strong high-end market that has not only created growth for the Fishing Tackle Industry as a whole but has also promoted the development of specialized travel agencies and the appearance of various niche related Travel Fishing magazines.
Fishing Travel magazines such as “Voyages de Pêche” played a key role in helping the development of this new concept. This new media provided a platform for the promotion of the overseas fishing destinations and fishing camps, information on the techniques to use and a niche media for the companies marketing these particular techniques.
Passionate French Anglers now save up in order to make regular trips to the most exotic parts of the world, seeking virgin waters in which to cast their lure. As the quality of the fishing is generally inversely proportionate to the development of the area, French adventurers now scour the globe in pursuit of the remotest spots in order to feel the bite of a Big One. Fishing camps managed by professional fishing guides, realizing their dream of living off their passion are now set up all over the west and East coast of Africa, in the Indian Ocean and other fishy parts of the world.
These camps are not air conditioned five star hotels, but real bush camps, usually set on remote islands, where the electricity is provided by a generator and where the dish of the day is the catch of the previous one.
It is most important to note that the French success is mainly due to the fact that the fishing techniques that were promoted for the Traveling Fisherman concept have nothing to do with Big game Fishing or Deep Sea Trolling. On the contrary, the techniques that are popular can be totally and easily understood by the French Anglers as they are simply lure fishing techniques.
The French angler who would spin for Trout, Pike or Sea Bass can therefore easily fantasize in dreaming of catching a prime West African Jack, an Indian Ocean Giant Trevally or a Zambezi Tigerfish while using techniques he is perfectly familiar with.
Of course the ferociousness and the sheer size of these predatory fish can only make the purchase of high end specifically developed tackle necessary and it is quite common for a French enthusiast to spend €2500 or a week’s fishing in Madagascar and another €2500 on the tackle he purchases in the French shops in order to equip himself for a successful and adventurous trip.
Considering that an estimated 8,000 individual overseas fishing trips are sold every year in France, this new market has brought a much needed bubble to the national Tackle Industry. Lure fishing has boomed in France during the same period and both successes can certainly be related. They have brought new business to the market, created new added value and originated in the sale of many thousands of exclusively built central console small and medium size leisure fishing boats.
I remain quite surprised of the lack of interest shown by neighboring markets in following in the steps of such a success story. No other media group in any other European country has shown any interest in exploring this high-end niche demonstrating quite surprisingly a complete lack of dynamism and entrepreneurship in many of the other “rich” European Fishing Tackle markets.
The leaders in the other European markets are obviously too busy treading on each others toes while all walking down on the same path.
They must be so busy watching what the competitor is doing, they have forgotten to look ahead and find ways to make the market grow!