A true all round sportsman, we couldn't leave Ivan Marks out of our top ten series on the greatest angler. Ivan began his fishing career at the age of 11 at the ‘Old Mill’ on the River Soar.
Ivan was well known on the local canalised part of the River Soar in the centre of Leicester known as the ‘Straights’, and he lived just a stone’s throw away on Saffron Lane.
After leaving school, already an accomplished club match angler, Ivan joined Bentley Engineering as an apprentice engineer. He also joined the fishing club and, travelling to the Nene and the Fens, he soon began to win matches outside of the Leicester area.
Blossoming under the tutorship of top angler Eddie Allen at the Black Horse Angling Club in Aylestone, Ivan was crowned the 1961 Midland Angler Match Angler of the Year. He won five of the top matches in the country including the Working Men’s Club and Institute Union Championship on the Trent, the Boston Open on the Witham, the Cambridgeshire Open, the Peterborough Hospital Cup and the giant Sheffield Haig and Haig on the Middle Level Drain. At that time anglers were mostly float fishing with centrepin reels, cane rods and old-fashioned floats that had remained unchanged for years.
Ivan was to play a key part in changing the face of match fishing, embracing new tackle innovations, styles and techniques that were to take both him and his team to greatness. The swingtip, target boards, zoomer floats and gozzers were just some of the keys to his success during the 1960s.
Ivan talent-spotted most of his Leicester squad as they were fishing the local Straight or competing on the local canal match scene. They were picked up, dusted off and honed by Ivan into extremely good all-round anglers.
The nucleus of the famous 'Likely Lads' was formed after this nickname appeared in the Angling Times on 20 July 1967. Brian McLoughlin used the headline after Dave Rossi won the Tetley Gala on the Welland with 22-13-0 and Roy Marlow, fishing for Great Wigston, won the CIU Relief Channel National with 32-13-0. The name stuck. Ivan and the 'Likely Lads', no doubt coined after the TV programme of that name, were here to stay and dominated team events throughout the 1960s and 1970s.
Charismatic Ivan went from strength to strength, winning the ‘People’ Championship in 1967 and 1968. Then came three Great Ouse Championships in 1970, 1972 and 1973, setting a record weight for the event. He won the 1970 Welland Championships plus the HAS Fisheries Championships in 1969 and 1971.
In partnership with Roy Marlow he started a tackle shop business in Tudor Road, Leicester. As a very popular figure it wasn’t long before Ivan was invited to write a regular weekly column for the Angling Times.
Ivan’s inspirational captaincy saw the Leicester Angling Society team win the National Angling Championships in 1971 and 1974. Add on Ivan’s wins in the 1977 Woodbine Final, the 1988 DFDS Seaways Classic, etc. The list is endless. He made 11 appearances for England from 1972, winning a silver individual medal in Bulgaria in 1976.
Suffering heart attacks as he passed 50, he had a heart transplant in 1993 at Papworth Hospital. Fishing was Ivan’s greatest love and he was not going to give up on it. It didn’t take him long to get back to winning matches on commercial fisheries.
December 5th 2004 marked the passing of angling’s 'people's champion'. Without doubt the greatest match angler of his generation, an inspiration to all who met him, a brilliant team captain, founder of the 'Likely Lads' and a man whose jovial banter and close rapport with his friends, fans and supportive spectators never waned in almost fifty years at the top.
Last date edited: 13 January 2021