Adventures at a car boot sale…

Obviously, I’m not talking about fishing for carp at car boot sales! I recently had a good idea, as I love spending Sunday morning with my wife Dawn mooching about around local car boot sales. My task was to see if I could set myself up with a full set of carp gear for a fraction of the price. Carp tackle is prohibitively expensive for many anglers these days, even the simple bits you need cost a few quid, so can it be done on the cheap? And just what can you get for your money?  I visited Stafford, Eccleshall and the mighty Chelford car boot sales over a couple of weekends in August and September to see what I could find……

I’d got no intention of buying unbranded tackle. I’m not a tackle tart (not really), but I do realise that carpers like good quality tackle, so I intended to buy recognised names to give a fair comparison. I’m a bit of a dab hand at car boots, my wife and I have sold on them for years, and bought from them for longer, so we have a rough idea of the etiquette involved.  Buying on a boot sale has several ‘rules’; number one is never pay the asking price! Sounds a bit mercenary, but as a seller, I’ve always asked for £7 when I know I want £5, so there is some leeway and the buyer thinks they have ‘done’ you. Works both ways, as a buyer I want it for the absolute minimum, free if possible, so I always barter.

Car Boot Carp Fishing TackleRule two; don’t take the mickey; if it’s up at £15, don’t offer £3, you will only cause offence and the seller may well not entertain you even if you then offer full price! Sounds unbelievable, but it happens.

Rule three; if you have successfully negotiated a couple of quid off by saying you only have a few pounds left, don’t pay with a £20 note and then ask for change! Risks a good thump!

Rule four; be prepared to go back later when the price may well have been reduced. If it’s cold or starts raining, sellers want to be away with the loot and are reluctant to repack everything away into wet boxes or torn bags; catch them at the right time for huge reductions!

Rule five; smile and enjoy it; vendors want to sell, you want to buy, so have some fun! A smile and compliment goes a long way and often makes the purchase much easier.

Rule six; if you suspect it’s stolen, copied or otherwise illegal, don’t go near it as you may be prosecuted for handling stolen goods!

Last rule; get there early. There will always be someone who wants exactly what you do, so get there first and be prepared to be ruthless. (Early is 5a.m at some sales!).

Once you get to grips with the basics, the next step is to find a boot sale worth going to. Some of the local ‘one off’ sales aren’t worth the bother; the chances of picking up good gear on the cheap are virtually none existent and just means you waste time and fuel. The big boot sales are the ones to go for, and, locally, I’ve found few better than Chelford car boot near Knutsford in Cheshire. It’s so big it’s even featured on the BBC as part of one of the many daytime shows and is well known in the area. This particular sale can take up to three hours just to walk around and you always seem to be playing ‘catch up’ as more cars arrive to sell their wares. Ideal! If you have never been before, it can be quite a surprise to cough up £2 just to park in the adjacent field, but put that down to experience! (And a miserable farmer!)

Traders are to be avoided when hunting for a car boot bargain. They will buy in the stock to sell at profit, so there is little room for negotiation. ‘Professional’ booters head straight for the ‘one off’ sellers who rarely do sales and have no idea what to charge; better still is the girlfriend who has ditched the boyfriend and is now selling his tackle out of spite! (rare, but has been known!). Another sneaky tip when considering a purchase from the stall which has a couple manning it as the chap sells his gear to upgrade or as a result of ‘lady pressure’, is to wait until he goes for a burger (he will at some point, guaranteed, we all do!) then make your move as she will have no chance of remembering what price he has said she cannot go below and will happily sell it just to say “…..look what I sold while you were away!”  Priceless when he spits the burger out as you saunter off with a smug look……

Right then, onto buying my carp gear; I want a two rod set up with bivvy, bedchair, rod pod, reels and all the bits I need to get me started, but don’t want to spend the earth. After ten minutes scanning the myriad of stalls, some shambolic, some well organised, I notice a pair of Shimano baitrunners tucked underneath a couple of teddy bears and a baby blanket. The stallholder is a shaven headed young man aged about 22, who obviously needs to sell to buy new things for rapidly growing baby which sits in a pushchair as his girlfriend clucks over it. (See, I told you to keep an eye out for these things….). I wait until he is busy with another punter and ask how much? He replies £40 the pair, so I counter by asking about spare spools (“nope”), servicing (“dunno mate”), and, if that is the case, whether he will accept £20? He states no lower than £30, so I’m prepared to walk away until I see a carp chair folded up against the back of the car. I offer him £30 for the reels and the chair which he considers before his partner says “Yes, okay” and instantly undermines his authority with one of those smiles which says “Go on then, try it!” The reels are Shimano 6010 single handle reels, and the chair is from Wychwood, and they are more than adequate for my needs.

Wandering a bit further, waiting for my wife to wade through the multitude of shoes, handbags and belts on offer, I’ve not seen anything else worth looking at in the last 20 minutes. However, across the acres of stalls, I can see rod tips leaning against a van in the distance, so make my excuses and slope off for a closer inspection. There are a few punters picking items up and dropping them back onto the tables as I arrive, which isn’t a good sign as it often means the stall holder has high prices, so I hang back a bit until they have moved on so I can get a good look. When I can get near the stall, I can see that some goods are new, but others are used, so will certainly be cheaper. The only thing I have in mind is a Prologic 6 rod holdall folded over a rail at the side of the stall. A short discussion results in an agreed price of £15, which I’m happy to pay because it is new and all zips work and clips fasten.  I’m then asked by the stallholder if I’m after anything else, and when I mention carp rods, he opens up the side door of the van to show me some rods he hasn’t time to put out yet. Sadly, there is nothing which I fancy, but it shows that building up a rapport over the first sale may bring benefits later.

I’ve been here about an hour and picked up a couple of top quality reels, a chair, a rod holdall and a few bits of terminal tackle and spent around £50. I’m happy so far, but could do with a pair of rods and I haven’t spotted any yet. Meeting up with Dawn, she asks if I’ve noticed the three rods for sale on a stall at the end of the row. In my haste to get to the van seller, I’d missed them, and quickly returning to the rods, I find that they are the only fishing thing on a stall run by a lad and dad who are selling up. The rods turn out to be Shimano Technium 3lb test cur
ve rods in great condition as they haven’t really been used. An asking price of £90 is too much when I only want two rods and they refuse to split them so it’s all three or nothing. I’m tempted to walk away, but I can always sell the one I don’t need elsewhere. £75 changes hands, and I’m off back to my van with the rods to keep them safe and prevent damage as I move around the sale.

The remainder of the morning is fruitless, as I pick up nothing else except a few books and other bits. Chelford has given me a great start; I’ve got the basics, and need only a few more items to get me on the bank. The weather has been fantastic, the banter has been fun and I’ve got £400 worth of kit for less than £140 with the option of selling one rod to make some money back. Next week I can do it all over again somewhere else!

Car Boot Carp Tackle

So, a week later and I’m back at the sales. I don’t want to go back to Chelford again so soon, so I’ve travelled to Stafford for the Sunday boot held on the common just off the A34. I haven’t been to this one yet, so I just get stuck in at one end and march on! This week the sale seems to be made up of many ‘one off’ sellers which is always a good thing; I’m early, so some vendors haven’t even unpacked their cars yet so I know I’m on for pick of the wares.

Stalking up and down the rows of pasting tables, I can see the olive drab of something ‘fishy’ tucked in the back of a car…….it’s a Trakker carryall, brand new, unused! £25 is the asking price, it’s huge and plenty big enough to get everything I’ll need in, and so I get the chap down to £20 and make off with my prize. A quick look at the internet later in the day will show I’ve saved myself almost £30, getting a new bag for less than half price!

I’ve got almost all I need to go fishing; I even have a bivvy, a one man Shakespere Cyprydome which was offered at £8 and was finally purchased at just a fiver!  I have seen traditional brollies for less than a fiver, so at a push I could get by with one of those if I had to, and I managed to pick up a barrow from someone who was selling off all of his kit on the internet….(kids, lady, more kids etc).

In total, I’ve spent about £160 and picked up most things I wanted. I didn’t manage to get a pod as I just couldn’t find one for a reasonable price, (they seem to be a high value car boot booty!) but I did get 4 banksticks for £2 which will do for now. A couple more visits to local sales yielded very little else sadly, just a few more bits of rig making kit and the option of cheap pellets and shelf life boilies, so it was time to call off the search…

I must be honest and admit that during the month I had writing this piece, I didn’t strictly stick to buying at car boot sales; I have also scoured the internet to find a bargain which I can turn to my advantage. Buying up ‘full set ups’ seems to be the most cost effective way to get top quality stuff at the best prices, as I can cherry pick what I need and shift the rest at the next car boot sale, often at a higher price for single items. The single Shimano Technium rod I didn’t need went for £35, so, in reality, the pair I wanted set me back just £40. I’ve now gone back to my trusty Trakker barrow, too, as the one I bought online fell apart about a week later, so not every purchase was a complete success…swings and roundabouts?

What did I learn from my experiment then? Well, with a bit of patience, a well practised booters’ ‘radar’ and a wallet full of cash, there are definitely bargains to be had. Check out each item you are interested in carefully; it’s no use saving money on a pair of bait runners if you only checked one at the time of sale and then find the other has a bent spindle when you get home! Be prepared to walk away if it doesn’t suit you; remember, there will be others. Stick it out to buy quality branded items and don’t waste money on old dusty stock or ‘cheap and nasty’ kit. Don’t expect a receipt (I’ve been asked….), but if you are polite, then you might just get some joy if you do spot a problem; returns are not accepted by almost all booters! 

The quest was a load of fun; I met some lovely people, had loads of good natured banter and picked up quite a bit of stuff ‘for nuts’, so it proves that carping can be done without robbing a bank; you just need to get booting!

Clint Walker, October 2010 ©


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Clint Walker

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