Live test: Sonik Specialist Barbel rods
IYCF tackle editor, Mark Sawyer, enjoys a hotly anticipated session with two incredibly well-priced barbel rods. But would they be capable of taming the Trent?
SONIK SPECIALIST BARBEL RODS 1.75lb & 2lb RRP: £49.99
IHAD been looking forward to this live test since the start of the new river season. Not only would I get the chance to run the rule over two of the best bargain priced off-the-peg barbel rods from Sonik, but I had a swim booked which was allegedly stiff with big barbel at the famous Gunthorpe weir on the Trent above Nottingham. With the car all packed up and ready to go the night before, an early start saw me winding my way towards the river across the Lincolnshire flatlands. Inside the car, a heady aroma of halibut pellets, freshly cooked hemp and a raft of other super-smelly hookbaits and pastes added fuel to that burning sense of anticipation and promise that all true anglers periodically suffer from. Oh yes, I was off to the Promised Land of plentiful bites… As a further treat, I had arranged to meet up with the angling photography legend that is Mick Rouse, who is enjoying well-earned retirement after decades of great service as staff photographer for Improve Your Coarse Fishing and Angling Times. The fishing on Gunthorpe Lock Island is limited, as there are only three swims, but it is available through a syndicate. As you might expect, it does have a bit of a waiting list, but it certainly is available. Parking the car right next to the river, it was only a hop and skip across the lock and on to the barbel equivalent of Fantasy Island. No backbreaking slog of a walk, or having to negotiate rickety stiles, and tackle-threatening barbed wire fences. Basically, my day was getting better by the moment. Even the sun came out by way of a cheery greeting. Now, before I even clapped eyes on it, the relentless pounding noise coming from the huge weir was overwhelming. The air was heavy with that unmistakable aroma of river water. Two steps later and there it was before me – a crashing crescendo of white foamy liquid. Surging and gushing, huge boils and creases were caused by unseen rocks and boulders, with flat runs of water where deeper gullies lay.
My word, nothing other than raw unbridled power came as a proper angling culture shock, I can tell you, to one more used to lazing about on the grassy banks of the sedate River Thames around Oxford! Terrifying to my senses it may have been, but the river looked perfect. My only unanswered question was, would this day of angling perfection end with a new Trent record barbel, or perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime net of whiskers? Hurriedly setting up with my rod rest pointing skywards, landing net handily placed, and bait mixed and arranged in proper order, I was all ready to go. Oh dear. Two hours of trying everything from meat and pellets to boilies and a multitude of modern barbel baits failed to raise anything more than a slow tremble from the tips of the Sonik Specialist Barbel rods. Somewhat perturbed that my probable best live test of the year was now heading downstream faster than the foaming torrent in front of me, I rang the island’s property owner Ian for some fishy information. “Cast three foot from the weir’s sill, in line with the blue posts that you can see on the far bank,” he instructed. “What, into the white water?” came my reply. “Yes Mark!” Turning to Mick, I told him what Ian had said. “Surely that’s a recipe for lost kit?” I asked, expressing my concern. “Well, you’ve caught nowt so far,” came Mick’s reply. Fair enough, I thought to myself. Therefore, as instructed, I deftly landed my straight lead and meat rig with its accompanying PVA mesh bag of cubed meat feed into the foaming maelstrom. I turned away from the rod, looked at Mick, and before I even had chance to utter the words ‘waste of time’ Mick hollered: “ROD!” Now it may be a strange starting point for any live test, but when it comes to catching and holding on to a rod handle in mid-air, few if any, have the sticking power of Sonik’s Specialist Barbel! Not so much a bite, more of an event, if you get my drift. With the 1.75lb test curve Sonik now in full fish-playing mode, I quickly appreciated the
“The fight became a proper test of wills, not to mention tackle integrity”
blank’s parabolic action that quickly powers up from the mid-section area of the blank, to provide enough clout to be able to wind down on a fish. This enables you to get it up and away from the bottom, and then keep it high enough in the water to prevent it getting its head back down into the rocks. All very impressive, but as the foam-covered net revealed a reasonable fish I was sure the rods would be put to a far sterner test before the day was out. Swapping to the 2lb Specialist Barbel model, the rod did feel that little bit more resilient in the hand and would quite possibly be better suited to the type of fast-water, tough-as-it-gets type of fishing I was now exposing it to. Anyway, it didn’t take long to find out, as another whiskered challenger slammed the rod tips over with startling aggression. Tightening down on the reel’s clutch, the fight became a proper test of wills, not to mention tackle integrity. With the fish boring down hard toward the rocks, I piled on the power. The rod bucked and jolted as it attempted to find refuge in the torrent. Giving any line at this moment would only have ended with a lost fish, so the rod had to do all the work for me. What more can I say? As the net slid under a near-double-figure barbel it couldn’t have performed better. Not only that, this whole splendid scenario was played out time and time again, as my barbelbashing session exceeded all expectations. Once-in-lifetime, red-letter day, call it what you will. All I know is that I drove home as happy as Larry. It couldn’t have been any better. My only tiny issue was how on earth would I tell Sonik boss Ian McCormack that he wouldn’t be getting his rods back. They are mine for keeps.
The Vader X FS reels are the perfect partner for the Sonik Specialist Barbel rods
The two test curves cover any likely barbel fishing scenario
Mark’s verdictRECKONED by many to be among the best off-the-peg barbel rods, the Sonik Specialist Barbel is a rod for all seasons. The lighter of the two would be at home for most all-round tactics, while the 2lb test model is suited to fast water and heavy kit tactics.