For the army of match anglers who grew up in the 1960s and 70s, Ivan was the man who changed match fishing and we remain forever in his debt. As his biographer, I have more than a passing interest, but he was my hero too when, as a teenager in the early 1970s, I eagerly devoured his weekly column in Angling Times.
Greatest of the greats
Without doubt there were other iconic figures of the time; Dick Walker changed the whole approach to catching big fish. Benny Ashurst and Billy Lane did the groundwork that Ivan was able to build on. Kevin Ashurst and Ian Heaps were huge stars of the 1970s and 1980s too. And, of course, Bernard Venables sent a million youngsters out to fish with ‘Mr Crabtree'. Yet it was Ivan who grabbed the headlines in the early 1970s.
Unprecedented match fishing success
Ivan won both the Welland and Great Ouse championships in 1970. He also led Leicester Angling Society to victory in the last of the gigantic one-match All-England championships in 1971 and triumphed again in the Great Ouse championships in both 1972 and 1973. Add in wins in the Nene championship, The Working Men's Club and Institute Union (CIU) championship and Embassy knockout final, a long and distinguished England career (11 caps) and you have a match record of wins of huge proportions. Many of these matches were fished by 800 or more anglers; thus Ivan has a match record that few, if any, can claim to surpass.
Angling Times columnist
Angling Times recognised Ivan's popularity in 1972 when he got his own weekly column that ran for eight years. What was terrific about the column was that journalist Peter Collins knew exactly how to get the most out of Ivan from a weekly phone call. Ivan held little back, often to the chagrin of his teammates who preferred that their secrets should remain within the group. Yet Ivan reckoned that if he helped others then it was far more likely that he'd get much more in return. His angling network of contacts spanned much of England and he had help from anglers in Ireland and the near Continent.