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In Deep

Shimano Tribal celebrates 20 years at the heart of the European carp market


When Shimano’s carp brand was launched in March 2002 it hardly got a vote of confidence from the man at the head of the company’s European operations.

The Managing Director at the time of the launch of Shimano Tribal was not convinced it would work and gave it just one year to succeed. He was particularly sceptical of the use of camouflage patterns. Now, celebrating its 20th anniversary, the brand is part of carp fishing history and folklore.

“At the time of its launch Tribal was a game changer. Carp fishing had grown massively throughout the previous decade, but larger companies within the tackle trade had failed to capture the imagination and support of the carp fishing fraternity,” explained Shimano Europe’s Gerard Bakkenes. “For a time it appeared that being a large business was most definitely a disadvantage despite the fact Shimano had a very strong position the carp reel market in the form of the Baitrunner.”

But the almost instant success put Shimano Tribal on the map as a dedicated carp brand and market leader. The phenomenon quickly spread across Europe, leading to the launch of additional products – including rods in 2004 – and the formation of the iconic Team Tribal.

Bakkenes added: “I had only been with the company for a year when Tribal was conceived. As the Soft Goods Product Manager it was my responsibility to source, develop and deliver the new Tribal clothing and luggage – my job literally depended on it succeeding. With that very first range of Tribal clothing and luggage in Realtree Hardwoods Green, Shimano became the first company to launch a high definition camouflage. Back in 2001 it was a daring move and one that met with a certain amount of resistance by the tackle trade. However, it captured the imagination of carp anglers and huge demand quickly brought down any barriers and reticence – carp fishing apparel had changed forever.”

Over the last 20 years Shimano Tribal has enjoyed many highlights, but Bakkenes says that the one that stands out is the way the brand – initially launched in the UK – was picked up and rolled out throughout Europe to become the first carp community. “Carp anglers don’t speak English, French, Dutch, German or Italian. They speak ‘Carpisch’ – the international language of the carp fraternity and Tribal is proud to have played a big part in that.

“Over the years a fantastic group of ambassadors have been – and some still are – part of Team Tribal. These include Nick Helleur, Ali Hamidi, Gaz Farham, Steve Reynard Ian MacMillan, Alfonso Vastano, Mark Holmes, Jurgen Becker and Mickael le Peursot. Alongside them, it has been amazing to  have some enigmas on board like Jan Porter and Alijn Danau – true Tribalists!”

Jan Porter saw the future and its name was Tribal

The late Jan Porter – one of Shimano’s most respected and long-serving ambassadors – is credited with being the major influence behind the creation of the Tribal brand. Always a visionary, he made his name as a match fisherman competing at the very highest level before turning his attention to carp fishing in the 90’s – drawn by the ethos, beauty and almost spiritual nature the sport delivered.

Fishing one evening during an international football match was to be a defining moment. He couldn’t help but notice how many anglers on the bank had begun to gather in groups listening to the commentary and cheering every goal.

Fishing rivalries were forgotten as anglers young and old banded together to support their national team. Before darkness fell new friendships had been made and – more importantly – Porter had seen the future … and its name was Tribal.

“That was the night the Shimano Tribal concept and brand was conceived,” said Bakkenes. “It was the perfect solution to what seemed an impossible riddle. A brand that met the demographic head-on and perfectly captured the identity of carp anglers new and old.

“That demographic was perfectly described in the first-ever strapline used by Tribal: “Yeah, we are different.”

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