everything you need to know about the TACKLE...
With all fishing rods the price can vary dramatically, from a few EURO for a second hand rod right through to hundreds of EURO to top of the range boat rods. As with all rods, the conditions in which you will be fishing allied to the fish you are targeting will determine the choice of equipment. Ask the boat skippers, local Sea Angling Club (SAC) members for advice on your choice of rod and reel.... read the magazine reviews. In the tackle shops ask sales people for their advice and check to see if the sales assistants are keen anglers (they usually are), where and what kind of fishing they do, how often, and if this matches your own preferences.
Always shop around! Check the links section of this website for online tackle dealers.
Beachcasters are long two three or four piece rods that can send a 3-8 oz weight and baited trace out > 100 yards out into deep waters. Fishing from the beach requires a beachcaster - these are the longest rods you will use and can reach up to 18 feet (5 m) long! You need to find one you can cast with, that suits your personal style not to mention physical build, and that will show the bites! Beachcasters never use the roller tips or rings found on boat rods, and the butt will not have the cross curt for the belly belt or fighting chair. The butt is far longer than on other rods, to allow you get both hands on the rod, essential for effective casting. The rings on the beachcaster determine which type of reel you will use - a smaller number of bigger diameter rings indicates that the rod is designed for a spinning or fixed spool reel. Lots of smaller diameter rings demands that you use a multiplier reel. Fitting the wrong reel to your rod will seriously diminish your casting distances and the rod's overall performance. Most beachcasters now have a luminous topmost section, to help signal a bite when night fishing. Lots of anglers whip a tiny battery operated light for better visibility... the light uses watch batteries and slides into a grooved seat that is whipped onto the rod tip behind the rings at the top. The main criterion listed on beachcaster rods is its casting weight range. This can range from two ounzes right through to 8 ounzes. A 2 ounze rod is a specialist lightweight rod, designed for bass aficionados and light line specialists. If the mark is weedy, has a big swell, and/or you are seeking big fish, then something stronger is called for... Rods differ significantly and you can have them custom built to your specific requirements however this is far more expensive than buying a standard outfit from the tackle dealer. Rods can be stiffer to deal with bigger fish or difficult terrain/currents etc., more sensitive to give better bite detection, and can be a compromise at any point between these two extremes. A good option is to ask to test cast the rods used by members of the local sea angling club, to see which you like and can use effectively. You may pick up a very good rod second hand off the owner for a fraction of the cost of a new one, and know you are happy with the equipment. Loads of free advice is available too from the owner.
Spinning rods are lighter and shorter versions of beachasters, ranging in length from 9-12 feet (2.5-3.5 m). These are freshwater salmon or carp rods that offer an ease of use / sensitivity useful in light sea fishing. Spinning rods are the name implies use a spinning or fixed spool reel and are used for spinning with lures. plugs or even a few feathers. It can be used to float fishing for shoreline pollack, mackerel, wrasse etc. Finally it can be used for short distance casting from piers or rocks into deeper waters or gullies on an incoming tide. Quite often shore anglers will use two rods, a beachcaster for distance and a spinning rod or another beachcaster for shorter casts. It is possible to use a beachcaster for spinning but the lighter more flexible rod makes it more enjoyable, as spinning is an active form of fishing and a long heavy rod can take it out of you!
Boats rods are shorter than beachcasters, raning from 6 feet (1.95 m) to 10 feet (3 m). Since you do not have to cast the bait any significant distance - it gets dropped over the side (downtiding), or slung a short distance up (uptiding) rom the fishing boat depending on the tide, the short length is not a problem, in fact on a boat it is an advantage. It is neater, easier to use in confined spaces and runs less risk of you whacking someone else with a big long rod (or the leads). Typically boat rods are 6 or 7 feet long (c 2 m) with a strong thick construction. They often have roller tips rather than standard round rings on the top, to minimise abraison on the line. Some will have these rollers rings right down the whole length of the rod - very strong. The butt of the rod will have an unusual cross cut into the base - this is designed to let you slot the rod into a belly belt, or a slot on a fighting chair. If you are fighting a big fish, the last thing you need is the butt of the rod twitching rapidly around your stomach and lower...! Using a fighting belt or fighting chair greatly eases the strain on your back and legs, and bear in mind that big fish can take literally hours to bring in... Most boat rods will be classed at 30 lbs class. This refers to the strength of the rod. You can go higher to 50 lbs and even beyond all the way to the IGFA maximum standard of 130 lbs, but very few fish require a heavier rod than 30 lbs. If you want you can even go beyond the 130 lbs standard. It is important to match the class of the outfit (rod, reel, line & trace) if you want to qualify for IGFA class records etc. I should mention at this point that there are boat rods as light as 12 lbs but these are not for beginners...
DOWNTIDERS & UPTIDERS:
There are two types of boat rod, used depending on whether you are fishing down tide from a boat (letting the current sweep the line down and away from you) or up tide from a boat (casting into a current "above" the boat, often into shallow water). You can use a standard boat rod to fish downtide or uptide but these two rod types offer you key advantages in each case. Uptide rods are often longer, 9 - 11 feet long with a softer top end that allows you cast better (off a pitching platform) and dampens the wave action to give better bite detection. They still have the strong butt and lower section that lets you muscle up a big fish. Downtiding is ususally done from shorter rods and the big game fishing for blue fin tuna, halibut, conger eel, porbeagle shark, blue shark and common skate are also the province of these shorter stronger rods.
Fly fishing at sea - surely not! As bizarre as it may seem, fly fishing is practiced at sea all around the world. When you think about it mackerel feathers are really a marine equivalent of a wet fly. Pioneers in these islands have been seeking bass and sea-trout from shore and in estuaries using fly fishing methods, and with considerable success. It is a fairly specialist area and I can imagine what might be said in the local pubs if I was found fly fishing well out the estuary of the Moy, but it is becoming increasingly popular, perhaps in that it allows fly fishermen some outlet for their energies during their closed season? A distinction is the need for the reels to handle salt water, most of which are of US origin, where salt water fly fishing is a recognised sport.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A ROD?
Apart from the specific criteria described... when purchasing a rod look at some of these key features.
Class: What class of a rod is it? For boat rods we are looking at a 30 lbs class, although 20 and 50 are not uncommon. In beachcasters we are looking at the casting weight, from 2 to 8 ounzes. For spinning rods we are looking at casting weight also, but look also at its flexibility / build quality.
Rings: Look for a roller tip in all boat rods. Make sure all the rollers actually roll! On beachcasters big rings mean a spinning reel, small rings mean a multiplier. Are the rings in good condition? Is the plastic insert to protect the line from the metal intact on any second hand rods? Are all the rings very secure? On "experienced" rods check for new rings are some are slightly different from the others? Are they the right size for their positions on the rod? Why and when were they replaced, and by whom? In two or three piece rods, check the joints aka spigots. They must not join flush - if there is no room for wear and tear, the joint will get loose over time and fail you.
Varnish: Look for signs of corrosion where the rings are whipped onto the rod. On "experienced" rods the varnish will have begun to crack or fall off. Although not as serious as damage to the underlying thread, it does mean that the thread was exposed so the thread could be rotten... with the rings rusting away inside.
Butt: Check for damage to the cross cut in the butt of boat rods. Check for damage on beachcasters to the base, and also on spinning rods (especially if the handle is made from cork). If the reel is to be attached using a screw up system, avoid plastic. Metal rings on a screw thread may take more maintenance (cleaning after each trip) but they last far longer and do not wear away! Some reels (e.g. multipliers) are attached with a clamping system. Check that the butt is undamaged where the reel will be secured to the rod. A reducer lets you place a reel at the base of the butt, giving you the full length of the rod when casting.
Stolen!: If purchasing second hand rods, always check the seller's credibility. Ask them when they bought the rod, what they used it for... that it has not been stolen!!!