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So here we are; I now use my Rick clunn rods for general pike fishing and throwing 4” and larger shads after big perch and zander on rivers like the trent and Warwickshire Avon. As a lure angler I don’t care what I catch or where I fish and I have done a fair amount of boat fishing over shallow reefs for bass now, catching fish to 9 lbs. I use the Rick Clunn for that too. Because the lures are lowered over the side and the rod is only used for playing the fish, it is perfect and any bass over about 3 lbs will fight like hell on it. That to mind is genuine sportfishing. The destiny is in use on 90 % of my trips for catching perch, zander and chub and any irritating pike that come along. Once you get past the big lure/heavy rod mentality that so many new to lure angling arrive with, and realise that big fish will take small lures as well, then you can start to enjoy all of the fish that you catch instead of just the ones big enough to register on heavy tackle. 30 gram rods are more than adequate to deal with big pike if they come along. I only ever had two twenties. One took about 20 seconds to get in the boat and the other fought like a maniac, but still only lasted a minute or two and was easily dealt with on the Rick Clunn Topwater rated at an ounce.
Having steered well clear of baitcasting reels for most of my angling life, I now find that it is actually fixed spool reels that I dislike the most. I hate them to be honest. They are a horrible line twisting, line tangling pain in the arse. Even half decent top brand fs reels seem to let me down with monotonous regularity; but they do have their uses. As yet I have not found the baitcasting rod and reel set up that works well with lures between 1 and 5 grams, so for those I resort to this Spro passion ultra light rod and a tiny Pfleuger fs reel. The rod is beautiful and reasonably priced - no problem. The reel is fine too I have no complaints beyond the usual ones relating to fs reels. It’s better than my shimanos were and has lasted twice as long already, with no signs of deterioration. I use it for working tiny grubs and shads below 3” around the local canals for perch and zander; a task for which it is admirably suited and this is my second most used set up these days.
I love river fishing and this is the one place where I am not truly happy with my set up. I did have a 9 foot Abu equaliser which was exactly what I wanted, It was rated at I think 28grams, but was probably a bit lighter than that. Coupled with a Shimano Sahara twin handled fixed spool reel, I wreaked havoc among the perch of my local small rivers. When called upon, It dealt easily with double figure pike as well and I used it with 3” shads, small spinners and even lightly weighted flies. The length was the key factor for me. Small rivers are invariably overgrown and the fish spooky. With this rod I could reach beyond the marginal growth and retrieve parallel to the bank, covering the majority of the fish which would be hiding under the overhanging and floating vegetation. Then one day on the Mease, disaster struck. I miscast and caught the spinner in some nettles. I tugged and flicked at the lure until it sprang free, and clipped the rod tip on its way past my ear. The top 18” slid down the line and my perfect rod was no more. My small 1000 series Shimanos never lasted more than a season before the monkey metal and plastic bail arm parts wore out, making the bail arm an unreliable, irritating, annoyance and it was all over.
Since then, I have been using an 8 foot Masterline XL rod and a Shimano Exage 2500 reel. In truth they work ok, but the rod could do with being a foot longer with some lighter single leg fittings and the reel would be a lot more use at half the size. At the moment I am not doing as much river work as I used to so I haven’t exactly gone all out to spend my way through the tackle shops looking for a decent replacement outfit, but one day I shall have to. Good quality long spinning rods are not easy to find and I have half a dozen here already that promised much on paper but in reality are too whippy in the middle. Too many are floppy in the middle and are whippy rather than tippy. I find these lack the power to set the hooks even in soft mouthed species like perch and chub.
To sum up then, I use two baitcasting rods and two spinning rods for 99% of my fishing; coarse, sea and game. The two most used are the Dragon Destiny baitcaster and the Spro passion u/l. These serve me well on rivers and canals up to about 40 yds across. After that I go up to the Rick Clunn topwater and start throwing slightly heavier lures. The other spinning rod is longer at 8-9 feet and is used to fish smaller more overgrown rivers for perch and chub.
Baitcasting reels in my opinion are far more lure friendly in that there is no bail arm to throw over or catch line around. It may not seem it at first, but tangles are easier to undo than they are around a fixed spool reel and you soon forget their unwarranted reputation in this department. The greatest cause of tangles is changing to a lure of a different weight without adjusting the controls, but even this can be overcome by skilled manipulation of the spool and proficient casters rarely bother to adjust them at all in the end. You are always in contact with the spool. You can control it with your thumb and strike with the bail arm not engaged. A simple click again with the thumb will allow the lure to drop to the bottom and thumb pressure will allow a strike at any time during the drop. Casting with a baitcaster has more in common with a golf swing and you do need room. The rod/lure balance is quite important as well, as the rod is used to catapult the bait across the water.
Where fixed spool reels really score is their ease of casting. You can cast just about any weight of lure on any rod within reason using a fixed spool reel, although obviously it will cast further if it is all nicely balanced. It is far easier to flick light baits around and under snags and overhanging vegetation with them . You do not need as much space around you to cast either. Their disadvantages are line twist which they all impart - it is an unavoidable side effect of winding the line around the spool and then allowing it to fall off the front on the cast - and loss of contact when the bail arm goes over. This is the time that a stray loop will go around the handle or across the spool causing problems on the next cast. The time it takes for the bail arm to go over can sometimes mean that a take comes while it is still open or it is in the snags before you can start winding.The killing argument in their favour is that straight out of the box and for the unitiated, they are by far the easiest to use.
The Dragon range of rods was a surprise to me as I had never heard of them, and I have since used one or two more and without exception, they have been well -made and perfect for small lure and softbait fishing. I would definitely recommend them as worth looking at if you are after rods for this sort of fishing. Lure world is run by Artur Brzozowski an angler with a wealth of knowledge about fishing at the lighter end of the market and he could certainly give you valuable advice about which model would suit a particular style of fishing.
This was a Dragon Destiny, supposedly casting 30 grams. Although still tippy it was quite a bit more flexible and I would have rated it lower myself. The difference in casting qualities was an eye-opener and I realised that my previous favourite had been better suited to casting lures between 10 and 30 grams while this new rod worked fine with baits as light as 5 grams. I don’t even look at other rods now for canal or perch fishing with baitcasters. These two have the field covered as far as I am concerned.
When I first switched to baitcasting reels, I bought myself a rod to suit from the now defunct Luremania. Andy, the proprietor recommended a rod that he imported from the states, a Rick Clunn Topwater; 6’6” long and very tippy, it was a revelation to me having been brought up preferring longer, softer rods. It is extremely sensitive, with fine tip and lots of grunt down below should the need ever arise. I used this for a long time , mainly for canal zander and was so impressed I got a friend to bring me a second back from the States as a spare. It would probably have still been my number one rod if Gerry T of the LAS hadn’t sent me another one to try.
We are all tackle tarts at heart to some degree and I thought it was time to look at the rods and reels that I currently use for my fishing. There are no real rights or wrongs and no rules, but I always find it interesting to see what others are using, so for what it is worth these are my thoughts on the subject.