The beginner or those wanting to upgrade their sea tackle are faced with a maze of choice, especially when choosing rods and reels, so before we start lets explain the various differences between the UK sea fishing styles, tackle and techniques. A rod for UK shore fishing is usually described as a beach caster with a choice of lengths between 12ft and 16ft. Shorter rods are for boat fishing (6ft to 8ft) Longer Uptide rods (8ft to10ft) are for boat casting.
There are two basic categories of beachcaster – Rods for use with a multiplier reel and rods for use with the fixed spool reel. Each type of rod has a different action when compressed during casting and use and has rod rings which guide the line to cope with the way each different rod bends and the type of reel being used. (Models for multiplier often have an M in their catalogue/stock number, F/S signifies fixed spool)
The multiplier reel has a spool that is driven directly via gearing by the reel handle, each turn of the handle the spool will turn 4 plus times, that’s why it’s called a multiplier reel. This type of reel is used spool facing upwards, on the top of the rod with the rod rings also facing upwards so that the angler is looking down at the reel’s spool, most multipliers are right handed.
Because the reel is used with the line running along the top of the rod the rings that guide the line are small and closely spaced so that the line can follow the contour of the rod when it bends and cannot touch the blank.
In contrast the fixed spool reel involves a drum type spool on the front of the reel which does not revolve to cast, hence “fixed” spool. Instead a metal or wire bale arm is driven by the handle and this revolves around the spool to lay the line via a line roller. This reel is used slung below the rod and so fewer rings are required to allow the line to follow the contours of the rod when it bends. The rings have a larger diameter because the line comes off the front of the spool in loops when cast. Larger rings near the reel funnel these loops through the remaining rings smoothly. Fixed spool reels are mostly ambidextrous and can be changed from left to ring hand wind by simply unscrewing and reversing the handle.
As if to confuse the novice sea angler even more there are two different styles of casting involving the reel position on the rod, high reel or low. The high reel position is most suited to rods of 12ft/13ft and the low reel to longer rods up to 16ft. The best modern beachcasters now include an adjustable tubular reel seat which the angler can lock in position where he wishes on the rod’s butt. A point to remember when choosing your rod, a fixed reel seat will not allow you move the reel position. This is important because no two casters have the same arm length and a moveable reel seat allows a precise choice.
Reel seats for multipliers also have a trigger grip to increase the grip and purchase on the rod and reel when power casting. A multiplier style trigger grip on a fixed spool rod would be in the way of the casters hand because of the different way the reel and rod are gripped.
To determining the reel position for “reel up the butt” place the end of the rod butt under your outstretched arm. Fix the reel where your fingers reach.
For the low reel position place the reel at the very bottom of the rod butt. Most rods designed for low reel offer a “Reducer” which is a short section of butt that is slotted in the bottom of the rod just for reeling in – It raises the reel off the hip.
Favoured mainly for the multiplier and rods over 13ft the low reel position is more user friendly simply because the casting arc of lead in relation to the angler is larger, thus slower and easier to control. The low reel also offers more control over large fish and is reckoned to be more efficient for fishing over rough ground.
The length of a beachcaster effects its performance and it is generally accepted that the longer the rod, the longer the lever which increases casting distance. But length increases the rods weight proportionally and therefore the potential speed the caster can move the rod – tip speed. When choosing a model be realistic about your casting skill and power, don’t let your ego take over! Since the advent of lighter materials such as carbon fibre and the other space age fibres longer rods have been possible. 12ft to 13ft is the length required for the high reel position with longer rods up to 16ft for the low reel position. Rods sold with a reducer are designed for low reel casting. Do not cast with the reel up using a reducer.
Beachcasters that include the word tournament in their description are rods designed for casting big distances. Lots of such rods totally outgun the average angler. Beware of buying a rod JUST because of the designer label or its tournament casting reputation, you don’t catch fish in grass fields and risk loosing some fishing enjoyment using an overly stiff rod. Think of your rod as a bow and arrow, too stiff and you cannot pull the string back so the arrow goes nowhere, to floppy and the arrow lacks power. You need to be able to bend a rod to get the maximum compression and any power return from it. Look for a rod you can fully bend and ignore those you cannot. Some coastal dealers will allow you to test a rod with a few casts and that’s a good idea. Another is to find someone with the same model and persuade them to let you have a cast.
Beachcasters are produced with various actions although most of the powerful rods aimed at power casting with a multiplier have a stiff butt and centre length with most of the action in the tip – These are designed for powerful casts like the Pendulum cast where the caster swings the lead in a wide arc to increase initial casting compression.
The softer more through action (parabolic) rods are designed for casting “overhead” or “off the ground style” with lighter lines, often with a fixed spool reel and with an emphasis on bite indication and fishing finesse rather than just casting distance.
Cheaper carbon is heavier and that’s why cheaper rods often have a soft or floppy action.
Beachcasters are rated to cast between 3oz and 8oz with various combinations offered for the range of shore fishing and casting situations. Leads of around 5oz have always been considered the optimum casting/fishing weight of lead for the average size /build angler to cast and bottom fish with. 5oz tows baits through the air and has enough weight to hold bottom in medium strength tides and swells. Lighter leads are used to fish more delicately at short range on calm venues and these include as small a weight as 1oz for spinning and plugging or 3oz in the estuary for flatties. Heavier leads are chosen for towing large baits into a head wind or for holding in strong currents and big seas. A 5oz to 8oz blank is most suitable for fishing at maximum range from open beaches, whilst 2oz to 5oz is best for estuaries or fishing light at close and medium range. Lighter rated rods are required for spinning and float fishing etc.
ROD RINGS AND ACCESSORIES
In general the more you pay the better quality and carbon content of the rod and its fittings. Look out for tough quality rod rings that are less likely to break or crack if the rod if dropped. The legs or feet on rod guides used to secure rod rings to the rod via cotton whipping can stiffen the rod’s action, in the case of the tip section of the lightest rods, single leg rings are often used to allow the tip to bend more freely. At the stiffer butt end three leg rod rings are used for strength and they may be double whipped where close to a joint for extra strength.
Soft hand grips on rods have given way to tougher and easier to keep clean shrink tube or shrink wrap which is a tight fitting PVC or rubber with a cross grip finish. This has a more comfortable lower diameter which improves casting grip and performance.
Multi section beachcasters have spigot joints and it is common to find long rods in three sections which make them far easier to transport. Modern spigot joints are brilliant and do not alter the action of the rod like those of the past. Note that the small gap between the male and female spigot is left to allow for the wear (This is not a fault, indeed look for a gap between the joints, and if the joints meet then the tip may be loose fitting)
It is common to find a long whipping, sometimes a double whipping close to spigot joints to add strength to the joint. On many of the most flexible rods like the softer blanks used for fixed spool reels the joints are metal banded for extra strength.
Most beachcasters have a white or coloured tip section to aid bite detection and the lightest models also offer a range of removable quiver tips.