Not all fish­ing rods are equal

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - COLLEGE FOOTBALL - BRYAN HENDRICKS

As I re­fine my fish­ing tac­tics and pref­er­ences, I am learn­ing that not all rods are the same.

I have al­ways been se­ri­ous about my reels, but un­til re­cently, I wasn’t as dis­crim­i­nat­ing about my rods. For my brand of recre­ational fish­ing, I was sat­is­fied to use cheap but de­cent rods.

A dis­claimer is in or­der. In the late 1990s, I pro­vided pho­tos to Fal­con Graphite Rods to use in its cat­a­log and on its web­site. For many years, one of my pho­tos adorned the hang tags of Fal­con’s Cara rods. Fal­con paid me with rods, and I got their best, but I don’t sub­ject my Fal­cons to the abuses of ca­noe fish­ing.

For that, I use Berkley Cher­ry­woods and close­out Shi­manos and Cast­aways.

In time, I learned that there’s more to a rod than light, medium, medium-heavy and heavy. You’ve got fast tips and slow tips, and ac­tions aren’t uni­form, ei­ther. Some are stiffer than oth­ers, and you have to ex­per­i­ment to match a rod to a par­tic­u­lar ap­pli­ca­tion.

Stephen Brown­ing, the Bass­mas­ter Elite Se­ries Pro from Hot Springs, re­cently told me, “If you can only af­ford one re­ally good rod, splurge on your worm rod be­cause that’s the one you need to be most sen­si­tive.”

As I be­come more pro­fi­cient at top­wa­ter fish­ing, I find that a fairly lim­ber rod that loads quickly, but has good back­bone, works best.

I found what ap­peared to be a great one at the Bass­mas­ter Clas­sic Expo in Hous­ton, a Fen­wick HMG. It’s a 6-foot, medium-light ac­tion with a fast tip that loads up quick and springs like a trap. I mated it with a WaveSpin 1500 spin­ning reel and 8-pound test Berkley Van­ish flouro­car­bon line.

I took it to the Bound­ary Waters Ca­noe Wilder­ness Area in Minnesota two weeks ago. As I re­trieved the first cast, my line frayed as if it were be­ing shaved. The ter­mi­nal guide was chipped, and the sharp edges in­deed shaved the line on the re­trieve.

For­tu­nately, I had a light-duty bait­cast­ing rig con­sist­ing of a Lew’s Speed Spool and a trusty Berkley Light­ning Rod. I use that rig for fish­ing soft plas­tics in creeks, and the rod is too stiff for top­wa­ters. In­stead of spring-load­ing the lure into the hook­set the way a proper top­wa­ter rod should do, the stiffer Light­ning Rod pulled it away from the fish. I caught my three big­gest small­mouths ever with that rig, but I missed three times as many fish as I caught.

I have a check­ered his­tory with Fen­wick Rods. I bought a fab­u­lous rod for trolling stick­baits for walleyes sev­eral years ago, but it snapped in the mid­dle on its first trip.

I re­turned the rod to Fen­wick for a war­ranty re­place­ment.

A few weeks later, the UPS man handed me a card­board rod tube.

“Be­fore I go, let’s make sure there’s ac­tu­ally a rod in there,” he said.

He opened the tube with his pock­etknife, and sure enough, the tube was empty. He filed a claim for me on the spot, but Fen­wick never sent a re­place­ment.

My new HMG has a fiveyear war­ranty, but I learned my les­son. A lo­cal re­pair shop in­stalled a new ce­ramic Fuji tip for $7. That’s less than ship­ping would have been for a war­ranty re­turn, and now the HMG is back on ac­tive duty, but that brand is on per­sonal pro­ba­tion.

I’ve got spe­cial rods for drop-shot­ting (Aaron Martens Enig­mas), spe­cial rods for li­p­less crankbaits and spe­cial rods for jerk­baits. My 7-foot, Mark Davis Edi­tion fiber­glass Fal­con is still the best crank­ing rod I’ve ever used. I even have a spe­cial rod for us­ing top­wa­ters and bro­ken back crankbaits from kayaks, a McCain Line Cut­terz Kayak rod.

The point is that all an­glers go through a phase when one or two rods fit all, but even­tu­ally you’ll get a feel for things that are bet­ter suited for cer­tain sit­u­a­tions. Spe­cial­ized equip­ment will also en­able you to catch more and big­ger fish.

Spe­cial­ized rods don’t have to be ex­pen­sive, though. For ex­am­ple, Shi­mano now owns the G. Loomis brand. You can pay $300 or more for the G. Loomis la­bel if that’s im­por­tant to you, but you can get a Shi­mano rod of sim­i­lar qual­ity and con­struc­tion for $100 or less.

As for me, I’m still a Fal­con man at heart. For $70, the Fal­con HD is the best gen­eral pur­pose rod you can buy.

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