Meet the man who hoards bite alarms

Meet the man who hoards bite alarms
33 Steve Neville alarms make up under a quarter of the collection!

33 Steve Neville alarms make up under a quarter of the collection!

Meet Spencer Humble and his amazing collection of bite alarms.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that a man who grew up in the Darenth Valley, worked at Bob Morris Tackle and has carp fished for 30 years has a fascination with cult buzzers, but his collection is still an absolute marvel.

We asked him to talk us through the 140-strong electronic assortment...

Have you always hoarded tackle?

I guess kind of. From my tackle-shop days I always found myself wanting new toys, the latest items of tackle and particularly bite alarms.

I suppose my collection these days brings back many memories and I have found myself particularly collecting items of tackle, magazines, books and especially buzzers from ‘my era’. The alarms before that time do not particularly appeal to me, although I do still have a few!

Where do you store the stuff you don’t actively fish with?

I moved house last year and on the shopping list was a study, a big garage and a big pond. Thankfully I achieved all three so now have a dedicated ‘carp room’ at home! This is my room, somewhere for me to spend the odd hour’s quiet time when not working or fishing.

Pride of place in Spencer's carp room

Pride of place in Spencer's carp room

What is it about bite alarms that appeals to you?

I don't know really, I guess I have spent so much time staring at my alarms over the years that I began to appreciate them and a man needs toys!

Whilst they all go bleep, there is a great deal of difference between how they work these days and although they all serve their purpose there are certainly benefits with the latest models and it’s these that I use most of the time.

Spot the early Delkim conversions amid the Magnetonics

Spot the early Delkim conversions amid the Magnetonics

What was the first bite alarm you bought?

My first bite alarm was the antennae-based BJ. Whilst the name is not exactly appealing, the alarm brings back some great memories.

I recently managed to get an unopened, never-used one which sits pride of place in my collection. They were rubbish alarms to be honest!

I then moved onto Optonics – Magnetonics to be exact – and these were great. I still have a number of these now.

All of my alarms work, most are actually more recent purchases, unused or certainly little used. They are all mint.

Spencer's current alarms rub shoulders with their forebears

Spencer's current alarms rub shoulders with their forebears

Do you ever use pieces from your collection?

I am a Nash man through and through and the R3s are my mainstay buzzers, but I do have a bit of a love affair with Steve Neville alarms. So simple, nice to look at and, let’s be honest, cult alarms.

I have 33 of these in various guises alone! Some get a regular outing and some never will – some I wouldn't want to get dirty!

Super-rare stainless Nevs

Super-rare stainless Nevs

Do you have a favourite classic bite alarm?

To look at yes, it would be a toss up between my MkI Nevilles, my volume-control Parson alarms and my stainless-steel MkII Nevilles. None of these ever leaves home, though!

Volume-control Parsons

Volume-control Parsons

Are there any that are particular rare?

Many of them. There were only 39 stainless Nevilles made and I was lucky to get a set. I have some others that there were even rarer and of course there are now so few mint-condition sets around.

I have a set of Bamford conversions that were fitted with square LEDs by Les himself for Micky Sly, and Mick very kindly gave these to me. They are the only set ever made like this. Mick is a very special friend!

The ONLY Bamfords with a square LED

The ONLY Bamfords with a square LED

Talking of Mick, he also gave me a set of three Ted Rowlands alarms, which are ultra rare. I have never seen another set, although I know of one other collector who has a set. They are superbly detailed and handmade – works of art inside. They are very special.

The Ted Rowlands alarms: "a work of art"

The Ted Rowlands alarms: "a work of art"

What alarms do you currently use?

It depends where I am fishing and what mood I am in! Most of the time I use the Nash R3s and to be honest I do not think there is a better alarm on the market. The way they work by detecting the speed of the movement of line as opposed to just the movement of it is invaluable in fishing.

Nash R3s are Spencer's workhorses

Nash R3s are Spencer's workhorses

The range on the receiver is incredible too which is invaluable if you are fishing down a slope or through dense foliage. 

That said, I do still use some of the others, if only for nostalgia or the fact that I just get enjoyment from it.

How big is the collection and what’s it worth?

The collection is at the moment around 140. Most are new unused or certainly in mint condition.

Value-wise? I don't know. Certainly the rarest are worth around £1,000 a set.

They are insured of course but most are irreplaceable. They are very safely stored away with as much security as it’s possible to have. To be honest, most of them you could not sell without me finding out as there are so few others out there.

Most of them would fetch very little at a boot fair as they would just look like old-fashioned alarms and us collectors tend to know each other’s collections very well!

There are a few guys out there with much better collections than me believe it or not and we all keep in touch with each other, looking for those rare gems out there.

Classic Fox alarms

Classic Fox alarms

Is there a perfect bite alarm?

I am not convinced the perfect set exists but I would dearly love to be able to design some. My electronics knowledge is non-existent but I would like to think I could suggest a look, a design and features that would still break the mould.

Technology moves on and tastes change but us carp anglers don't want anything too complicated or something we can’t remember how to use, and let’s be honest it has to look good too. We are all tackle tarts at heart!

That classic Optonic shape is familiar to many

That classic Optonic shape is familiar to many

Do you collect any other carpy items?

A few but nothing in particular. Books, of course, and I have pretty much every carp magazine ever printed.

In fact, I have been supplying magazines for research for books and videos recently. It seems not many people hoard like I have!

I have dozens of bobbins, an unused set of brand-spanking-new Cardinal 55s and a few other items. A man can’t have too many toys, can he?!

Despite leading a busy family and work life, Spencer still catches his fair share!

Despite leading a busy family and work life, Spencer still catches his fair share!