Continuing our series on the top ten greatest anglers is a profile of Ian Heaps, son of Stockport angler, Jim Heaps. One of Ian’s earliest memories is fishing with his father at the age of five. Between them they caught small canal roach on bread punch.
Ian soon progressed to become a top rod in the north but made his name with the Abbey Hey team of Ian Alcock, Tony Bielderman and Tony Knight as they dominated the River Trent in the 1960s. He was part of the winning Stoke team in the 1969 Trent National Angling Championship.
Picked to fish for England by Stan Smith in September 1975, Ian won the world title on his England debut. Held on Poland’s Bydgoszcz Canal, Ian’s brilliant individual performance on the slider float carried a disappointed England team to second spot. Though results were calculated on both points and weight, Ian set a record weight for the three-hour match of 22 ½ lbs, taking eight bream, two carp and four roach. At the end of the match Ian raised his hand aloft to tumultuous cheers from the 30,000 crowd.
His fame quickly spread. This cheerful 32-year-old sheet-metal worker fully deserved the title of world champion and became a great ambassador for angling. Still with the World Championships, Ian won his section in 1977 on the long pole to qualify for the Sunday final but could only finish 16th.
Match angling career
Following his 1975 world title win, Ian’s match angling career took off. The following year he won the £1,000 Greenhall Whitley Championship on the Bridgwater Canal, taking the first prize of £725. A year later he took the world record heaviest match weight on the River Erne at Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, with 166lb 11 ½ oz of roach, winning a cheque for £1,000 and the overall championship. The Northern Ireland Tourist Board installed a special plaque on the peg to mark this historic record.
Ian became the face of the Irish Tourist board, promoting fishing in Northern Ireland throughout the UK, before branching out into his own national tour road shows and angling forums up and down the country.
He was in the 1977 Benson & Hedges Polynet team with Kevin Ashurst, B Reade and Tom Pickering, with an amazing final winning team total of 879 lbs. That year he finished in fourth place amongst the top money winners, with total winnings for the season of £2,200. Leicester’s Ivan Marks topped the list with £7,000. That year, Ian had 13 match wins and numerous placings. Success after success followed, including another big win to become the 1985 European champion. Who knows how many matches he has won over the decades he has been at the top?
Likeable Ian was in demand by tackle sponsors such as DAM and the national angling press, for whom he wrote a prolific number of articles. The book ‘Ian Heaps on Fishing’ (1982) and a bountiful supply of VHS videos on the Waggler, the Slider, etc, followed.
Now retired, Ian runs a fishery and coaching school in West Wales.
Last date edited: 13 January 2021