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Last Updated: 20th September 2012


Outrageous angling, world records and the future of one of the UK’s most respected brands as the man behind the Solar brand talks openly and honestly.


Q: What’s the most outrageous piece of angling you’ve ever witnessed, either here in the UK or aboard?

ML: “Over the years I have been lucky enough to witness countless incredible moments in carp angling, far too many to recollect here.

Off the top of my head though there are three that spring to mind. Firstly, I would have to go back to when tiger nut\'s were \'discovered\' as a bait. My mate Mick Murray was fishing on Darenth Big Lake and managed to have three fish in the net at the same time, using only two rods! He landed the first one, unhooked it in the net and cast the rod straight back out there, during which time the other rod flew off. He landed the second one only for the re-cast rod to go again as he did so - chaos, carnage and brilliant angling.

“The second was at Rainbow lake. A French lad , Jean Marie, had a massive common of 73lb, his PB by some considerable amount, took the photos and slipped it back. He re did the rod only for it go off again a few minutes later resulting in another common of 79lb.

“The third one I was lucky enough to be on the end of, again at Rainbow lake earlier this year. At 9am I had a take, took to the ship and netted what turned out to be a 54lb mirror. As I stepped ashore another rod hooped over, ending up with the second net being full of common carp, all 75lb of it. We dealt with them and I’d just put them back when the other rod went with another 54 pounder and I was all done and dusted by 10am – lovely.”


Q: What’s been your lowest moment with Solar Tackle?

ML: “ I can’t think of any really low moments as I\'m not one to feel sorry for myself for very long. When things aren\'t going to plan I always try to find a positive from a negative situation. So, I would say that there have been plenty of frustrating times, but nothing that couldn’t be dealt with.”


Q: What would you say is your greatest accomplishment in carp fishing?

ML: “It has to be the 94 pounder from Rainbow Lake in January, in sub zero temperatures when most people couldn\'t get out of their houses for snow, let alone go fishing. So, to get just one take in during an entire week and it be that fish at that weight in those conditions was amazing.”


Do you have any regrets – in business terms – when it comes to running Solar Tackle?

ML: “No regrets. I believe that everything happens for a reason, whatever that may be, so when things aren\'t going your way you just have to deal with whatever is thrown at you and learn from it.

“We all have hurdles to climb, sometimes higher than we expect, but all in all, getting over the hurdles is a  test of character and makes you a stronger person. In the words of Roger Smith "pick yourself up, dust yourself down and get on with it "


Q: What’s wrong with carp fishing nowadays?

ML: “Now that\'s a difficult one! (see answer below to understand why this question has no answer).”


Q: But then what’s great about it?

ML: “I could write about this one forever. I\'ve spent the vast majority of my life chasing carp. From an early age I was \'sucked in\' and intrigued by the secretive and underground world of ‘the green-boiler-suit brigade’ by the history surrounding famous captures and stories of mythical monsters.

“Looking back on it, I\'ve been fortunate to be able to fish some legendary waters and been privileged to fish with some legendary anglers, almost seeing their thought processes evolve, coming up with methods, baits, tricks and tweaks to outsmart the biggest, best and craftiest of legendary carp, all while having a laugh along the way. Being there to share \'the moment\', experience all the emotions that you can\'t quite put into words and say… \'I was there\'.

“Truth be told, what’s not to like  about carp fishing?”


Q: Solar is renowned for developing unique and interesting products for specific angling needs and has a reputation for quality, but does it upset you that nowadays there’s more emphasis on marketing than how good the product is?

ML: “There are so many products to choose from nowadays that anglers have all sorts of gear being thrown at them from every angle. No matter how good a product might be, it needs to be marketed correctly to show the anglers how to use it and how it can benefit them. We have dropped behind a little on marketing its products in recent years; this is now being addressed which I’ll get to in a bit. That being said, you can never underestimate the importance of quality product and that’s something Solar’s always had to its advantage, or so we’re told, and I’d much rather be in a situation where the products are good and all we need do is shout about them a bit louder.

“Some of the Solar products are quite niche and so need a lot of explaining, so going down the information and marketing route is only going to benefit the brand. So it’s not a case of quality no longer being important, far from it.

“A perfect example of a product that’s not used as much as it should be is the Spiker Hair Pins, which saves using a baiting needle, or trying to get a boilie stop through a tiny loop, they makes changing your bait a really easy and are perfect for tipping your hook bait with a bit of plastic. But, because it’s just a small packet on a sprawling tackle shop wall they go largely un-noticed. The carp fishing market is almost unrecognisable to what it was in Solar’s early days and it’s a question of moving with the times rather than moaning about the changes, also, it’s nice to be in a position to be part of those changes and raising the bar a little.”


Q: On that note, there have been a lot of changes at Solar Tackle over the past six months, moving to new premises, recruiting new staff members and so on, so are there big plans in the pipeline?

ML: “Huge plans. Following on from the previous question, we now have the staff and the resources to give the Solar brand a much bigger voice. Years ago you could let your results do the talking and drive sales by putting regular catch pictures into the magazines and papers. Now, anglers crave information and videos, websites and social media sites are the first ports of call for many and that’s where we’ll be concentrating our efforts over the coming months and years.”


Q: It seems that this has been a long time in coming. Why haven’t you made the move earlier?

ML: “Over the past three years there have been a lot of problems at Solar with various legal issues that took up an awful lot of my time. I’ve had more dealings with solicitors and legalities in the last three years than I need in a lifetime. With all that going on it took time away from the core business and when you’ve got all that going on it messes with your head. You can’t concentrate on work, you can’t sleep at night and before you know where you are, the brand’s treading water rather than pushing forwards at the speed that we always were. Now that’s all behind us, it’s all change and we have the platform to drive things forward, the team of staff and anglers here is a hotbed of creative, experienced and motivated people. Solar will be back ‘up to speed’ very soon, watch this space! ”


Q: So what do these changes mean for you, Martin Locke?

ML: “Having experts in their field micro managing various areas of the business, rather than trying to ‘spin all the plates” myself, has brought a lot more structure to the business. I’ve been bitten in the past and had some bad luck with employees, I’ve definitely been battered around a bit with a few wrong ‘uns, but now the staff are in place to look after things and so allow me more time for the things I am best spending my time doing, which is product development.

“I started this company sitting behind my rods and deciding that something wasn’t quite right, something needed adjusting, certain items weren’t up to scratch or I needed a product that didn’t exist, and then coming up with a solution. That’s still the bit I enjoy most and so now I can focus on new products and developing baits.

“I’ve also got a couple of new tickets this year, one for Monk’s Pit in Cambridgeshire and one for Golden Gates in Essex, so I’m really looking forward to getting out more regularly, having a go on some new venues ”


Q: Does that mean there are some new Solar goodies due out?

ML: “We’ve got loads of things on the boil, most of which will be launched at the start of 2013. Can’t say too much at the moment, but there are some very nice new, dare I sat revolutionary, products on the way.”


Q: Rumours are that there are big things in the pipeline for Solar’s bait?

ML: “We’ve done bait for almost as long as we’ve made tackle, but the perception is that the Solar makes tackle, and does some bait as well. Plans are to split the two, creating Solar Tackle and Solar Bait. With the new premises being large enough to bring the bait making in house, something we’ve not previously been able to do, it’ll be right under my nose where I can ensure that just as much emphasis and precision goes into the bait as it does the tackle. It’ll also allow me to experiment with and develop exciting new additions to the range, for which there are already big plans, but, again, all will be revealed in due course!”


Can we expect to see a website any time soon?

ML: “Getting a new site sorted and live is a project that’s full-steam ahead at the moment and a massive on-going job. The old site was taken off line, almost a year ago now, because I didn’t think that it was up to scratch and the resources weren’t there to manage and maintain it properly if we launched a new one any earlier. The new site is set to go live in August though.”


Q: Do you get upset when you see blatant copies of gear that you’ve designed and developed?

ML: “I used to. When you launch a load of new products and the majority have been copied within months I used to question how many more good ideas I could generate to stay ahead of everyone else. At times it was like designing gear for other companies, only I was the one that’d spent the time and money on development, which did get me down.

“Now, I see it as part of the business and actually look at it as a pat on the back if others decide to copy a Solar product, we just try to design it right in the first place leaving no room for anyone to call it an improved version. Also, anglers are far from silly, they know one product from another ”


Q: Who has helped you most to grow Solar Tackle?

ML: “It’s a bit ‘nancy boy’ to say my mum, but she was the one that instilled a work ethic in me that’s got me to where I am. She used to be on at me saying that I couldn’t go fishing until I’d made enough products for her to send out and fulfil orders with while I was away (every other week at the time!). With the instant nature of today’s world, where you order stuff, you expect it to be delivered the next day, the ethos of always striving to have enough stock there to cover this has stood the company in great stead.

“I’m renowned for stressing about everything until it’s in stock and ready to go, but it’s not an easy job forecasting how much of a new product you expect to sell. In fact, we were caught out with the Bow-Loc net, as it sold out quicker than expected and then there was a three-month wait for more carbon parts. Rather than being proud that we had a top-selling new product, I was stressing that we didn’t have enough to go around. Especially something as important as the Bow Loc is a ‘flagship’ product”

Q: How is Solar Tackle going in the rest of Europe?

ML: “Solar does very well on the Continent and the European market, excluding the UK, that has expanded dramatically over the past 10 years. I will never forget my roots though and as we are an English company, the rest of Europe looks at the tackle and tactics that we’re using and transfers it to their own style of fishing. The UK has more carp anglers per acre, as it were, than anywhere else in Europe and the carp over here are trickier to catch on the whole, so it’s generally accepted that if something’s going well over here then it’ll work on the Continent.

“Solar is very much a UK company, but we’re in the privileged position of having an exceptionally strong team of consultants on the Continent (I’d liken them to the carp fishing version of the Barcelona football team… but without the wage bill!). It great for the brand to have these guys on board with us,  all of whom have come to Solar because of its reputation and products, We haven’t approached any of them with a ‘deal’. We’re fortunate to have a team out there that’s just about as good as it gets.”

Q: Where do you see the brand in 10 years time?

ML: “We’re 25 years old this year, so I guess we’ll be 35. But seriously, we’ll continue to be at the ‘sharp end’ of tackle and bait development, actively looking for ways of putting more fish on the bank for those that choose Solar products.


Facebook Questions

Your questions posted and answered by Solar boss Martin Locke:


Q: Which product are you most proud of? John Woods

ML: “It would have to be the bait products, and Squid & Octopus would be at the top of that list, because it’s the bait, or more importantly the success of the bait, that ultimately puts a smile on peoples’ faces.

“The Squid & Octopus flavour is one of the first that comes to mind when people think of Solar bait. We’ve been producing it for the past 20 years and it’s still one of the benchmarks to which other additives and baits are measured, including our own. It’s one of the key ingredients in the Club Mix bait, which is one of the most successful baits ever formulated, particularly in terms of longevity.

“You can have the fanciest bedchair, bivvy and setup you like, but sometimes people lose site of the fact that the reason they’re there is to get that hook bait picked up as many times as possible, and the more often that happens the happier they are.”


Q: Having caught carp in excess of 90lb, do you still get the same buzz going fishing on waters that don’t hold carp of that size? Mike Hutchinson

ML: “Anyone that’s seen me buzzing around the factory getting my gear ready before a session could tell you that I’m as excited about every session these days as I ever have been, regardless of where I’m heading. I’m an angler who loves going fishing. If I’m going to runs water then I want to try and catch more than everyone else and if I’m going to a big-fish venue then I want to catch the biggest, so there is always a buzz that comes with every session. I love looking for the key to a lake and working out the ever changing puzzle as quickly as possible.

“I was asked years ago in an interview what my favourite food on the bank was, to which the answer was ‘whatever the bloke in the next swim is cooking ! I get so excited/nervous before a session that I can rarely go to a shop on the way and decide what I want for dinner’. I’ll always be that way no matter where I go or what I fish for.”


Q: Will you ever produce stainless bite alarms like the ones you use? If not, can I buy yours? Jack Holt

ML: “I made those about 20 years ago and the four heads have never let me down. You wouldn’t believe the amount of comments I’ve had about them over the years, offers to buy them and to make more, but I’ll never sell them because that’ll be a bit of me that disappears, if you know what I mean.

Q: What can ‘Joe Average’ do to be in with a realistic chance of catching some of those fish without 320kg of boiled food and weeks next to the bank? I am a mad keen angler but with very little time on my hands. And also, how do industrial designers go about designing carp-related products and get them produced. Renier De Bruin

ML: “The use of 320kg of bait was on a session at Rainbow Lake some years ago where I didn’t actually take all of that bait with me. As I was running out of bait, because the carp were feeding hard, I was going around to the other lads begging and borrowing any bait they could spare and we ended up getting through 320kg. This wasn’t all boilies , it included a lot of particles too, but if the fish are on the feed, as they were on that occasion, you have to do all you can to make the most of it.

“I always say that it’s better to be looking at it than for it, and with all the money we spend on tackle, tickets, transport and so on peoples’ views on the use of bait still surprises me. Even before I started Solar I would spend the vast majority of my money on bait. It’s the most important part of your gear bar none.

“With regard your second question on product design, most ideas start in the form of rough sketches or homemade sample. If somebody comes to us with an idea, as people do usually with a basic sketch, I can take it on from there with my engineering background. Occasionally somebody might have a working prototype to go from, but  most of the ideas and designs start out as what are no more than sketches on scraps of paper. Many people think that fishing tackle is designed on computers on complex design software and so on, it’s not, at least not until the stage just before it’s put into production, that’s when things can get a bit involved . Anyone that comes to us with an idea ends up being paid a royalty, should the product come to fruition”

Q: Have you ever shelved an idea that you later wish you’d brought to market?

ML: “A few years ago, when I was bang into house music, there was a group called ‘Altern 8’. It crossed my mind to produce a bait called Active 8, but I didn’t think it would ever catch on!”