RODS AND REELS, ETC
The standard of beach casting amongst beginners in the UK is generally poor and the reasons for this are varied, but most of all beginners use the wrong equipment and cheap inferior gear carries a large proportion of the blame. A majority of newcomers to sea angling do not join an angling club and they do not read the angling publications, etc and they want very cheap gear. That’s OK because they may not want to spend a fortune on the best tackle etc because they might find they don’t like fishing, but there is cheap and there is shoddy. Many novices start out with a very basic mackerel fishing kit from the local tackle shop. Thousands of these low quality “holiday outfits” are sold annually but they create more problems than they solve and put the novice at a great disadvantage. I often hear the words “best seller“ from reps, dealers and distributors, but when will they realise that best selling low quality tackle is a major reason why many anglers actually fail and give up angling altogether with potential future sales lost for a few quick quid! That’s why you won’t find any cheap starter kits in TFGear – none of the rods and reels available I would not use myself!
I reckon that sea angling is the most complicated branch of angling to take on what with its diverse range of different species, types of venues and the fact that the sea is a wild and weather effected fishery, no cushy push over carp in a puddle here and of course then you have the trawlers to compete with, but that’s another story!.
Casting is a major skill when shore fishing, don’t let anyone kid you that fish are always caught close in because it’s rubbish! The skill to cast a good sized bait a long distance, especially in adverse weather being the first major stumbling block of the novice. Thousands of beginners jump in the deep end after buying a rod and reel and then realise that casting is not as simple as it appears.
The basic rod choice is between a fixed spool rod/reel combination and a multiplier/rod reel combination. These are very different and the fixed spool reel is considered easiest to cast and handle and is therefore popular with most novices. The multiplier reel on the other hand can overrun producing a tangle in the spool called a birdsnest, but at the same time is considered my the majority of skilled sea anglers as being more robust, practical and better suited to the majority of sea angling
The fixed spool reel is slung under the rod and a fixed spool rod therefore requires few rings to guide the line along the rod. A multiplier rod is used with the reel on the top side of the rod so more rings are required to guide the line along the rod, especially when it bends. So if a rod has a few large rings it’s for a fixed spool reel, lots of smaller rings it’s for a multiplier. Neither rod is suited to the alternative reel, although a fixed spool reel can be used with a multiplier rod, at a push!
Once you have made your choice there are a few pointers to look for.
Modern fixed spool rods are longer, lighter and softer and combined with a quality fixed spool reels with a cone shaped spool, oscillating line lay and low diameter mono line or braid line they have extending the potential casting range of UK fixed spool users. A long rod is a longer lever so casting distance is extended, BUT rod length is proportional to strength and ability of the caster with 15ft the optimum length for the average build. In the past the multiplier has always been superior in terms of distance, but the lighter carbon rod building materials have allowed longer rods to be produced and these have favoured the Off the Ground or over head thump styles used by fixed spool casters and it’s considered easier for the novice to master the fixed spool.
Fixed spool rings are large and prone to damage easily so if you choose fixed spool look for a rod model with quality rod rings. Most fixed spool rods have a fixed seat for the reel with the reel to butt length determined by tucking the butt under your extended arm. The reel should be at your knuckles.
Fixed spool reels should have a tapered spool, the compact big pit carp and the Continental designs are the best. Load your fixed spool reel with line up to the spool rim, an under filled spool will catch the line and restrict distance. Fixed spools come with spare spool and these can be used for spares in case of line loss, thus you can use one reel with several spools. Multiplier spools cannot be replaced so easily and so you will need spare reels.
Multiplier rods are used with the reel low or the reel high so always look for a model with an adjustable reel seat. Those with a trigger grip are suitable for multipliers only. Reel position is determined by the casting style, the low reel being more suitable for the longer rod pendulum cast and this type of rod will have a reducer to extend the butt length to raise the reel to a comfortable position to retrieve with the butt on the hip. The high reel position is best suited to shorter rods (13ft) and the butt is tucked between the legs for the retrieve.
The basic difference between the low and high reel position is that with a long rod and low reel the casting arc is wider, longer and therefore slower – Timing is not so crucial and this makes casting smoother and more user friendly. With a shorter rod and high reel the casting arc is short and timing far more crucial and prone to a mistake which can cause an overrun or snap off!
Overruns can still be the consequence of a miss timed cast using a multiplier reel in any position, although in recent year’s multipliers with magnetic brakes, have almost eradicated this problem. A quality multiplier is the key to avoiding the dreaded birds nest, do not buy a multiplier without a minimum centrifugal brake system, and preferably look for both centrifugal and magnetic brakes. Avoid models with line lays unless you are a complete beginner, the line lay mechanism restrict thumb access and can add to tangle problems. In time you will learn to lay the line on the spool neatly and cotton reel fashion will help you avoid overruns.
Do not overload the spool with line and ensure that the brakes are deployed. Most multiplier models will perform better with less line than their stated capacity, fill the spool to the top if you are a competent caster, novices, leave 1 cm gap. Make sure your line diameter is correct. 15lb/18lb (0.35/0.38mm) is the standard for long range beach casting, 30lb (0.45mm plus) for rough ground and rocks.
You will discover very quickly when you learn to cast that casting with a plain lead alone is easiest because the lead speeds away taking the line from the spool evenly. Smooth casting is also helped by balanced tackle and bait. But add bulky baited hooks and the reduction in the lead’s speed slows the line coming off the spool causing it to overrun. The answers are to first use the diameter of line that best suits the reel. Small Magnetic braked multipliers, like the TFG Force 8 6 range cast best with 15lb/ 0.35mm line. For the novice thicker 0.38mm is a wise choice, for the competent caster going as low as 0.32mm is possible. Anywhere outside these line diameters and these size reels will not perform so well.
Casting with a fixed spool is far more comfortable if you use a finger stall or a casting trigger to protect your main finger from damage from the line. These are now available from tackle dealers and enable the caster to hold the line whilst putting more power into the cast. When using a multiplier wind the leader knot on the side of the spool away from your thumb.
Lots of rods are now available with adjustable sliding reel seats, look for the TFG reel seat with a finger trigger grip on the multiplier models. Avoid any rod with a fixed reel seat unless you are sure it fits your arm length
Seat boxes: These are available in a range of sizes, beware a large tackle box is easy to overload. The addition of a carry harness is seen as an essential by many winter and match anglers who need to walk to a venue. My personal view is that a harness on the standard Beta size box makes it as good as a rucksack for medium distance walks. For piers, promenades and where there are footpaths a tackle trolley can make life easier.
What you carry in your tackle box does of course determine its eventual weight and that’s your choice, minimalist or maximist may depend upon your personality, build, age or imagination, but remember what you carry DOWN to the shore will also need to be carried back UP along with your catch!
Rucksacks: A small number are deliberately design for sea anglers and these have a waterproof or hard plastic base which is essential to keep gear dry. Plenty of plenty of specious pockets with zips and a comfortable carry harness are other essentials, but beware a large rucksack can be heavier than a small tackle box. Linked with a single rod a rucksack is perfect for those far off venues.
Rod rests: Some tripods weigh as much as 6lb so watch what you buy if your venue is far from the car. Looks for a model with stability bars, especially if you fish from promenades and a double head is required for two rods. A rod cup is essential to lift the rod tip high over swell. Rig clips on which to hang spare rigs or a bucket are handy whilst a bait sling or tray can be used to store spare bait, tools etc close to the rod.
Buckets: Essential for catch and release match anglers although a bucket can be a useful way to balance the tackle load and carry live bait. Look for the nest of buckets system, whilst a carry sling is useful if you have a catch to carry any distance. In summer a cool bag that can be stuffed inside you bucket is the alternative to a heavier cool box.
Rod holdalls: These range from the fully enclosed sleeve with straps, zips and pockets, to what is basically a rod quiver or even just a few Velcro straps. Balance when loaded is very important so look at this aspect when buying and when loading your holdall.
Chest waders: I could not leave these out of the tackle selection because they are so much better for inter tidal terrain or really wet weather with the neoprene’s popular although the breathable waders are more expensive they are less likely to cause you to sweat up.
* A cheap umbrella can be far easier to carry any distance that a purpose designed angling shelter – TFG have a purpose designed sea going 45inch model which a far better option than most of the expensive models designed for coarse fishing.
* Carrying lots of ready made terminal rigs as well as the means to make up extra rigs may seem pointless, but lots of anglers do this. The answer is to carry the bare bones accessories to accompany the rig wallet or winder box for the odd emergency.
* Balance is important when carrying tackle so lighten your box down by spreading gear around, leads in bucket etc. This will place less strain on your back and shoulders.
* A plastic maggot style coarse box with a lid is an ideal and safe way to carry wired grip leads. Check that small accessory box(s) used for swivels, clips, hooks etc don’t spill over into other compartments when turned upside down.
* For spinning or a short rock trip stuff your tackle in your pockets or use a bum bag. – The perfect tactic for plugging or the angler who wants to be really mobile.
Rod action changes when a baited rig is clipped on the line, lots of rods have been designed to cast just a lead a long way and the hype that sells them doesn’t always tell you this fact. Bait and tackle can often over power a beach caster’s action and this is particularly noticeable with the cheaper and shorter beachcasters.
Q: I want to switch from a fixed spool reel to a multiplier. I have been advised to buy one with mag brakes, can you recommend a suitable model?
A: Look no further than the TFG Force 6 and Force 7 series. Also consider a few casting lessons, this will help you understand your new tackle set up because, you may also need a rod ringed for the multiplier if you change reels. Modern magnetic braked reels are far easier to control than the old style multipliers, but you still need to get all the aspects of their use correct such as the correct diameter line and line load, correct positioning of the reel on the rod, style of cast and the line needs to be laid evenly on the spool unlike with a fixed spool. Several new skills including the adjustment of the brakes themselves not to be dismissed lightly, it’s not just a matter of which reel to chose.