Here are some reviews of equipment that I've used & have some experience of & feel I can give some useful insight into their performance, reliability & value for money. Watch out for other item reviews coming shortly...
MK2 Delkim Indicator
I first begun using the MK2 DELKIM indicator around the late nineties, when I’d progressed from the OPTONIC to the first generation of FOX MICRON’s, & then to the DELKIM after hearing such good reports from my friends about them. My initial purchase was of three indicators complete with the blue LED’s. These performed more than admirably, & catered comfortably with any situation that presented itself. Upon subsequently parting with my carp setup, then reacquainting myself with the sport a few years later, I purchased some FOX MICRON M’s, which I struggled to get on with. They weren’t a bad indicator, they just didn’t offer me enough flexibility, but for the price I couldn’t fault them. I eventually managed to get hold of three second-hand MK2 DELKIM indicators via an internet auction site & originally when I purchased them, they had red, yellow & green LED's in them, but with the help of my mate Preston, I managed to get hold of three really bright LED's, & with a simple procedure I removed the old ones & replaced them with the new blue/purple ones, making them even better! I certainly enjoyed returning to the overwhelming sense of reliability that they gave me. A friend of mine had said that he had experienced wearing a small groove in the little plastic sensor vane, but that had come about because he had been using braided main line. I normally have my alarms really quiet, & the DELKIM can be turned down really low with ease. Likewise if you needed them really loud, they can be quite deafening at full volume! The sensitivity adjustment is just perfect for my needs, & the battery life is quite impressive. Since then I've owned a set of the new TXi version of the DELKIM & ironically I've since been converted to using the new remote Steve Neville alarm, but as you can tell, I can’t praise the MK2’s enough – excellent performance for excellent value!
Daiwa Emblem-Z5000A Reel
My acquisition of three DAIWA EMBLEM-Z 5000A’s was my first experience of a DAIWA reel aimed at the carp fishing market. My initial thoughts were that they were considerably lighter than my old BIOMASTER’s by size / weight ratio, & were recommended by a friend that used a set of EMBLEM-S’s. The line capacity on them is huge, & they swallowed up a bulk spool of 15lb GT80 with ease! My only concern with the reel was that the fine thread of the front drag disc, that I had to slacken to fish ‘baitrunner style’, took several turns to tighten down once a fish had taken line. I got around this by purchasing three baitrunner conversions to suit, which made life much easier, but at almost £25 each, this was a somewhat expensive solution! Another concern was that the bale arm would not pass over the conversion when the spool was fully forwards, & although this was very annoying at first (especially just as you’re about to cast out!), was soon avoided after I got used to them. I also noticed that sometimes the line could loop over the conversion pin at times, & hence these were minor problems with the conversion & not the reel itself. Performance wise they easily out cast my old big pit reels, due to the extreme spool capacity & the brilliant line lay – I could cast 2oz leads on 10lb GT80 for miles, & I’m not the greatest caster! All in all I have been extremely pleased with these reels, & would happily recommend them to any angler. I paid just over £200 for three (second hand), which when you consider that they used to have a RRP of £179 each was an excellent investment.
Trakker Ultralight Bivvy
I have to admit to not being an avid user of bivvies during my early years of carp fishing, preferring to use a brolly with stormsides that allowed me to watch more water than a full shelter would allow. My first delve into the bivvy market was an original NASH TITAN ALL SEASON when it first came out, I believe in the mid nineties. At the time I was fishing on the Packington syndicate through the winter & needed something more suitable. I was heartily impressed with the TITAN, but went back to a brolly type system when I took up the sport again around 2006 & I purchased a JRC DAVE LANE OVAL PLUS system. This served me brilliantly at Blackroot, but I was frustrated with the condensation situation whilst fishing through the winter. I invested in a TRAKKER SPECIMEN PIONEER in the spring of 2007, & although this was an excellent piece of kit, it was too big for most of the Blackroot swims. I found that I was taking two bivvies to the lake & if the swim I opted for was big enough, I'd use the PIONEER, if it wasn't, the OVAL would be employed - not the the best situation to be in! Having suffered the mosquitoes during the summer months at the Swag, I made the decision to buy the ULTRALIGHT. This had a slightly more compact footprint & has the mozzy panels fitted to allow air inside the bivvy, without the blighters having access for a free feed! The fact that it was a brolly-based system (I'm not a fan of domes & pram-hood style bivvies – you might as well use a green tent…) that is really simple to set up, & rock solid, with the second skin to prevent condensation makes it my only choice for overnight or full weeklong sessions. The Aquatex material also makes the whole lot much lighter & perhaps it's me, but maybe it's a little warmer during the colder months? This has to be be the most flexible & innovative bivvy on the market, & I can't recommend it highly enough. Well impressed!
Gardner GT80 Monofilament
Using mono main line has become a way of life, & up until very recently had never felt the need to change to braid, despite some recognised ‘stars’ giving it their seal of approval. I only use braid where I find it beneficial, & use it accordingly. I have used various recommended mono lines in different colours & diameters, & I first tried GARDNER GR60 for the first time in 2006. I was suitably impressed with its performance, & reluctantly made the switch to GT80 in 2007, after a mate raved about the stuff. I have used this in both the 15lb variety for weedy venues during the summer, & 10lb for when I needed to get those few valuable extra yards on the cast. The abrasion resistance is quite superb, & the line is impressively limp for its diameter, unlike some of its ‘wiry’ competitors. The 10lb variety casts like a dream, & hardly ever causes ‘frap-ups’, whilst the 15lb ‘rope’ bears all the refinements of a mono much thinner in diameter. I can honestly say I have never had one single issue with this line & this is a top performer in the mono market minefield.
Korda Hybrid Soft Hooklink
Many people who know me will tell you that when it comes to hooklink selection, I am extremely reluctant to give any of the leading manufacturers my seal of approval. Having had some bad experiences with a popular market-leading brand, this has had a major effect on my process of selection. When I first used the original ‘hybrid’, I was reasonably impressed with its performance, but I was somewhat disappointed in the way it would often develop a kink or bend at the most inopportune moment (ie: when reeling in to recast). Although this may seem only a minor problem, the fluorocarbon coating on the braid would give the hooklink a neutral buoyancy & the hooklink would always sit up off the lake bed at the point of this bend / kink. I would normally get round this by using small wraps of lead wire along its length, but if you needed to reposition one of the wraps, invariably you would damage the coating, rendering the effect of the rig almost useless! Korda’s subsequent release of their new ‘hybrid soft’ hooklink proved to be exactly what I was looking for… soft, supple, didn’t kink or bend & seemed considerably denser when in water than many of its major rivals. I have both the ‘gravel brown’ & ‘weedy green’ versions of this brilliant material & this covers me for pretty much every eventuality. The only negative aspect of this hooklink material, is because it’s much softer than the original ‘hybrid’, it can be prone to tangling. However, by employing some simple measures into my own presentations, I can now cast out a rig constructed with this material with complete confidence.
Berkley B2 3.5lb XLR Carp Rod
Having suffered the fate of finding the fish out of my normal casting range during the winter on a popular park lake, I had eventually succumbed to the idea of purchasing a set of out-&-out casting tools. I had initially read a review in a popular monthly carp magazine about these rods, & as I’m mega-fussy about my rods, (I’m always messing around with them until I get them how I need them!) I had instantly realised this was what just the type of rod I was after. Having been fortunate enough to have had a play with one some time ago, with the superior build quality & styling, I made an immediate purchase after scouting round for the best deal I could. I’m not a fan of shiny chrome bits on my rods – I prefer slim blanks, minimalist styling & a comfortable, yet usable handle, but as most carp anglers will concede, they’ve got to give you confidence. That said, I eventually altered the handles to my all-time favourite full-duplon style & I managed to get hold of & fit the ‘free spirit’ versions. I need to be able to sit behind my rods thinking; yes they’re smart, & they’ll do the job I want them to without paying a kings ransom for the privilege! Berkley also offer a lifetime guarantee with each rod, so you can compress them with complete confidence! Although I had some early reservations about the stiffness of the rod having an effect on fish losses, this was soon extinguished after catching a few decent carp on it A top piece of equipment!
Delkim TXi Alarm
I decided to update to these alarms after suffering an unfortunate event whilst fishing a park lake, in 2006. During one session, my rods were out in the water in front of my swim, & whilst enduring a heavy rainstorm I couldn’t hear my MK2 DELKIMs at all despite them being turned up fully, because the rain was pounding onto my bivvy. I’m not a fan of having my alarms at a volume where every angler on the entire lake & surrounding area is aware of them, so I knew the answer to my problem was to use a sounder box or some kind of remote receiver. Eventually, I decided against the sounder box for my existing alarms as the cables trailing from them would have been prone to getting dogs tangled in them on the park lake! Having consulted a few guys that I knew were using TXi’s, I decided to make the expensive purchase & I was most impressed! These are amazing alarms, & do just about anything you would want an alarm to do & more. Their obvious selling point – the remote receiver is simple to use & easy to carry in your pocket. Although they possess many features that I will almost certainly never use, it’s a comforting thought that if I need them to do a particular job in any given condition, they’ll perform it without any problem. The feature I most find of use is the ‘night marking’ LED configuration, where they can be set to glow very dimly, completely removing the need for isotopes. My other reason for not using a ‘roller wheel’ type alarm, is that I like the idea that the sensor vane in the DELKIM can detect vibrations & subtle knocks – useful in winter when trying to detect fish movements. With little or no lateral movement on the main line, this could easily go unnoticed by a ‘roller wheel’ type alarm.
Daiwa Tournament TS5000T Reel
Since taking up carp fishing over during the late eighties, I’ve seen many tackle trends come & go, but some items of equipment have always retained their cult status. One such item was the outrageously priced DAIWA SS3000 big pit reel. I had always dreamed of being able to own a set of these & although they seemed huge all those years ago, they have since been superseded in the spool size battle within the carp fishing reel marketplace. I had always believed that no one in their right mind would ever be able to warrant paying over £175 per reel unless the body & spool were constructed of twenty-four carat gold!!! The SS3000 was subsequently replaced some years after their introduction by the TS5000T which became a much more affordable option. This model was highly praised in carp angling circles as one of the best reels on the market & with many endorsements from some of the most respected carp anglers of our time; these were placed at the very pinnacle of my ‘wish list’. I managed to purchase a set at a reasonable price & found them to be perfectly balanced when matched to my rods & they’ve performed without compromise since the day I purchased them. The chunky rosewood handle makes them a joy to use & the unique ‘twistbuster’ feature really does seem to drastically cut down line twist. To summarise, yes they’re expensive, but to own such a cult piece of carp angling equipment is well worth paying good money for! Add to this the perfect line lay & the subtle blue & gold styling, these reels are a joy to use & of course, look wicked on any set-up!
Precision 'Wye' Polarised Sunglasses
I’ve probably owned more pairs of polarised glasses than I care to admit & invariably they usually meet a sticky end by being trodden on, sat on, bent in my pocket or just generally mislaid or lost. As a result of this general mistreatment, it is unusual for me to spend a serious amount of cash on a decent pair, but following the systematic destruction of my last pair, I decided it was time I finally bought a decent set & looked after them. After looking at many different styles, I stumbled across a small, discreet advertisement in a monthly carp magazine that caught my eye. After some menial searching via the internet, I managed to track the supplier down – Johnson Ross Tackle. Through their website, I purchased the ‘Wye’ style (there are five styles to choose from) & although I don’t consider myself to be too much of a ‘camo man’, I do like a bit of the Advantage Timber. As these are fully licensed by Realtree, they certainly look the business. Once they arrived through my post box, I was surprised at just how light & comfortable they were. Once on the bankside I couldn’t believe the difference between these & my old pair. They’re also supplied with a soft drawstring pouch so I don’t have to worry about scratching the lenses & certainly so far, they’ve been outstanding!
Nash Indulgence MK3 Bedchair
Much to the amusement of my non-fishing pals, I really enjoy fishing through the cold winter months, where I have often woken up to find the lake frozen! After spending two full winters on the CHUB SNOOPER COMPACT bedchair, I decided enough was enough, where regularly enduring up to fifteen hours of darkness & cold, is a good test for not just equipment, but angler too! I had therefore planned to buy a full sized bedchair for the third winter, where money was not going to be an object. After asking a few friends for their advice, I settled upon the NASH MK3 INDULGENCE. At the time, NASH had just released the new ‘Wide Boy’ version of this bedchair, & they had also produced a MK4 version, which was the same as the MK3, but with four legs. I felt that the MK3 suited my needs best & from the very first session I used it, I realised it was money well spent. Anyone who has regularly fished through below zero temperatures of the winter months will tell you that most bedchairs develop a cold-spot in the middle, where cold air can penetrate the underside of the bedchair where the main part of your body weight is supported. If your sleeping bag is not of sufficient quality, this can make for an uncomfortable night at the lakeside! The INDULGENCE however has a padded, removable foam section that is located in the centre, which completely eliminates this & has the effect of almost redistributing your body weight around the frame. With the soft, luxurious padding, & with innovative features such as the mobile phone pouch & a small zip pocket on the side for receivers / head torches etc, this is quite clearly among the very elite of bedchairs. Although not cheap, considering the amount of hours I spend fishing at night & throughout the year, this was a very worthwhile investment.
Aqua Products Duvet Sleeping Bag
After four successive cold winters, I had been promising myself a premium quality sleeping bag for some time. Whilst my old bag served its purpose very well, I found that once temperatures dipped below zero, that it was not sufficient to keep me warm through the depths of my winter campaigns. Initially, I liked the idea of purchasing a bag that had various removable layers like the NASH Frostbite or the TRAKKER 365 Sleep System, but having spoken to a number of retailers, they confirmed that both products had some inherent frailties – not what I expect from a product costing around £150! My fishing companion Ben Woodhouse advised me to take a look at the ‘Duvet’ sleeping bag from AQUA Products. Although I wasn’t able to actually view one, after reading lots of reviews about its performance, I decided to take the plunge, as it seemed just what I was after. When it arrived, I had to admit I was a bit concerned… It seemed extremely thin & I doubted its ability to keep me warm in freezing temperatures. These fears were soon extinguished after a couple of sessions in sub zero temperatures when I realised my money was indeed well spent. As with most sleeping bags, it’s the little things that make all the difference & what I liked most about the bag was that it has a pocket for your pillow. Now I know this isn’t exactly groundbreaking in design, but it keeps your pillow in one place, rather than it sliding around or dropping off the end of the bedchair! Another great feature are the small plastic clips positioned on both sides of the bag that locate the zips firmly in position when not being used. This prevents the age-old problem of the zip working its way down on the opposite side of the bag to the side you would normally exit – again simple in design, but very effective. Amid the positive reviews, some had expressed concern with a ‘cold spot’ at the bottom of the bag, where your feet are positioned. I soon discovered that this was due to the fact that the two fleece linings don’t meet at the bottom & this is the bag’s only negative point. With a little thought, I eventually overcame this problem by fitting velcro strips onto the bottom of the fleece liners, so that they could be fixed together, yet still be removed during the warmer months. I’ve used it in temperatures down as low as –5°C (albeit with a thermal cover), & I’ve been wonderfully warm & toasty! ! It packs down very small in its compression sack, weighs very little & the fleece liners (top & bottom) can be removed for summer use or to be washed. All in all, it’s another quality product that I’d be lost without.
Thinking Anglers Gas Stove Pouch
I eventually switched to using a gas stove during the summer of 2009, when I wanted a cleaner, more compact stove for my Oakwood sessions. For years I’d been more than happy with my COLEMAN Feather petrol stove, but as I was trying to compact my gear as much as possible, I was suitably impressed with the performance of my little stove. However, with the onset of winter I began to suffer the normal problems that go hand-in-hand with using gas cylinders through the colder months. Being very impressed with many of the THINKING ANGLERS products, I had no hesitation in making an immediate purchase of their Gas Stove Pouch. Essentially, it’s a jacket designed to encompass a COLEMAN 500 gas cylinder (or a cylinder of similar size) that improves performance by protecting it from the elements. The jacket also serves to protect the cylinder from damage & it even features a little elasticated loop to house a teaspoon – brilliant!
Daiwa Tournament SS3000 Reel
Having owned a set of three DAIWA Tournament TS5000T reels for two years, I was perfectly happy with how they had performed during this time & I was convinced that I would never need to replace them. However, I never really managed to quash my passion to own a set of SS3000’s, ever since I saw an original set many years ago. After raising the funds to purchase three of the re-released versions, I was fortunate to track some down after tirelessly searching the internet for the best deal I could get. Initially, I’d planned to pick up a set of ‘originals’, but after requesting the advice from well-respected carp angler John Claridge, he advised me to purchase the new versions, solely for the reason that they had now benefited from the Tournament ‘Twist Buster’ feature. Whilst I believed the SS3000 would be significantly better than the TS5000T, in reality it isn’t. It is just a TS5000T with a brand new coat of metallic black paint. Clearly DAIWA had identified there was a ‘buck’ or two to be made here – I can just imagine a DAIWA UK board meeting taking place… “lets just paint em a different colour & charge folk an extra £75 apiece for the privilege”. So has paying the extra money to upgrade from the TS5000T to the SS3000 bought me a more efficient piece of engineering? No, of course it hasn’t, but they do carry that famous & timeless logo that will forever have its place in carp fishing history, alongside the likes of the Mitchell 300 & the ABU cardinal 55. Make no mistake, I love em!
Steve Neville Remote Alarm
The decision to replace my faithful DELKIM TXi alarms & receiver was not undertaken lightly & following a trip to France in 2010, I spent a long time considering the advantages & disadvantages of changing to the remote STEVE NEVILLE alarm. Whilst I had lots of faith in my DELKIMs, I had always had a liking for the NEVILLE alarm, but I never liked the idea of having to use the plug-in ATTX dongles to enable a receiver to be used. Once the remote NEVILLE had been introduced, I did make some tentative enquiries about its performance & having heard some very good reports about them, I decided to take the plunge. Admittedly, I didn’t have a particularly good reason to want to change, I simply fancied trying something different - after all, I’d previously been perhaps a little harsh to dismiss the STEVE NEVILLE alarm in the past & here was an opportunity to find out for myself just what some anglers had been raving about. Luckily, I sold my DELKIM alarms for the amount I needed to purchase a new set of NEVILLE’s & a receiver, so it didn’t involve a significant investment to make the switch. Since this time I have grown to love these little alarms. From their ‘old school’ styling to their ultimate practicality, they are a ‘no frills’ piece of equipment – they simply do what is required of them very well. The only single element of the system that I would like to see would be a designated pouch for the receiver. The receiver range is excellent & significantly better than my old DELKIM RX Plus receiver (although I’ve never tested it at maximum range), the battery life is very good & the receiver provides the added benefit of providing an indication of the state of the battery.
Reuben Heaton Weigh Scales
During the period of time I’ve spent fishing for carp, I’ve probably used more sets of scales than I care to remember. From the old tubular type SALTER scales & various sets of AVONs, to the slim-profiled NASH stainless steel versions. After suffering the unfortunate situation of having a bottle of KRYSTON KLIN-IK leak in my scales pouch, this seeped into the unit & corroded the spindle of the scales, locking them up completely. As I was able to disassemble the unit, I managed to tidy them up & restore them to their former glory, but ultimately I’d lost a little faith in them after the episode & I’d always fancied a decent set of ‘Reubens’ for many years. Once I’d managed to secure the funds, I was able to get my hands on a set of the limited edition ‘England’ type (with the dial face sporting a George Cross) & even more fortunate to get them at a bargain price. My first concern was that I’d forgotten just how heavy they were, but once I’d used them a couple of times, it didn’t take me long to fully appreciate their inherent quality. They’re super-smooth, easy to use & considering they do such a simple & straight-forward job, I would have no hesitation in recommending them to anyone that is looking for a top-quality set of scales. On the negative side, they are not supplied with a weigh bar or storage pouch so this is an additional cost that has to taken into consideration. In conclusion, if were off out for a days stalking then they’re unlikely to find their way into my carryall, but at any other time they’ll be first item into my bag!
Primus Himalaya Stove
I stopped using my old Coleman Peak-1 & Feather petrol stoves a few seasons ago, after switching to a modern gas stove for several reasons. Initially, it was because I didn’t want to have to pump & prime the stove first, but the main problem was that I grew tired of the smell of petrol every time I unzipped & opened my carryall. My first purchase was a SUNNGAS Alpine stove that served me well for a couple of years, but I’d promised myself a PRIMUS Himalaya for as long as I could remember. I came across a second-hand Himalaya some time ago that had got a damaged regulator thread & I was lucky enough to purchase this item for just £15. From here it was a simple task of removing the regulator from my old stove & replacing & re-crimping it onto the hose of the Himalaya. The difference has been quite noticeable & I have really begun to appreciate the quality of a good stove. As for its performance, it is quite simply brilliant. It fires up first-time-every-time with the piezo ignition & will boil a kettle of water in no time at all. With its increased level of performance, I naturally assumed that it would have burned more fuel & ironically, this has proven to not be the case. If anything, I’m certain that my fuel lasts marginally longer than it used to, proving the excellent efficiency of this great little stove. I have also found that one of its best qualities is the ability to adjust the burner to exactly how you need it. There’s nothing worse than trying to simmer the contents of a saucepan or fry bacon in a pan when you find that you can either have it too harsh or a slight anti-clockwise turn of the regulator valve means the burner goes out completely! A joy to use because of its simplicity & performance & probably the best £15 I’ve spent on my fishing!
Shimano Technium XT10000 Reel
Having used DAIWA big-pit reels almost exclusively during my carp fishing career, I had never felt the need to switch to using a SHIMANO model, until an occasion where I needed to get the absolute maximum casting range from my equipment. In this instance, I had considered changing my reels for a premium DAIWA big-pit reel – namely the Basia model, when a good friend offered me the opportunity to try out a SHIMANO Technium XT10000 model. Upon conducting a series of casting trials, I was seriously impressed with their casting prowess & the increased distances on my casts where nothing short of phenomenal. As these were extremely difficult source as they are no longer manufactured by SHIMANO, after lots of effort I managed to find three & immediately I found that they were a perfect match & balance for my rods. I’ve since converted them to Quick-Drag & the build quality & solid feel they possess is unmatched by all of the other DAIWA models I have used previously. If I were intending to use a reel for close to medium range fishing, then I would perhaps consider the Technium to be a little over the top – the phrase: ‘using a sledgehammer to crack a walnut’ springs to mind, but for distance work, they are simply awesome. Their large spool, & slow oscillation provides immaculate line lay & the small, slim body makes them extremely attractive on the bank. All-in-all, they are without doubt a serious contender for the best big-pit reel ever made & it’s difficult to see me ever parting with them.
Rekord Bait Table
I begun making my own bait back in the early nineties & back then, the only commercially available & affordable bait tables were made by GARDNER. Their standard bait tables were then superseded by the ‘long-base’ version & were subsequently followed up with the Baitmaster – a bigger table for producing bait in larger quantities. The downside to making bait in large quantities was that if you required your baits to be rolled in various sizes, then obviously this would require more than one size of rolling table, which would invariably work out to be very expensive. Another thing that often annoyed me with the Baitmaster was that it had to be assembled in sections & mounted on a board. Such is the manner of mass-produced plastic items, it would rarely fit together perfectly, meaning that it would almost have to ‘wear’ together. When I opted to increase my bait size 20mm some time ago, I searched high & wide to see if there were any alternative bait tables available & I managed to source a rolling table from the Italian company – REKORD. For around £15, I quickly took delivery of my new table & I can honestly say it has made my bait-rolling sessions much easier. To begin with, the upper & lower parts of the table are supplied in solid sections, eliminating the need to assemble & mount it on a board. The two handles press into the upper section & solid rubber feet fit to the base to prevent it from slipping whilst in motion. It is fractionally smaller than a GARDNER Baitmaster, which I first feared would have an impact on the time it took me to roll a few kilos of bait, but I soon found that it was so easy to use with the two halves locating together much easier, these fears were soon extinguished. I certainly would have no hesitation in recommending these great bait tables to anyone who rolls their own bait.