THE LIGHT BRIGADE
Switching to tackle of a lower line class gives you a massive edge over both your fellow anglers and the fish
Change your gear and get better sport.
It’s not that long ago, 20 years or so, that 50lb-class rods were the mainstay of UK boat fishing. More enlightened thinking in the quest for greater sport, and a realisation that big fish could be landed on lighter, well-balanced tackle, saw 30lb-class rods become the kingpin gear more than a decade back.
Nowadays, 30lb rods are looked upon as somewhat heavy for average angling, with 15 to 20lb-class rods the more typical choice for everyday situations. This has been brought about by modern technology and the development and manufacturing processes regarding the materials used in rod making.
Rod action and blank power in relation to a low weight are the obvious advantages. This also applies to the development of reels as regards weight, gearing, size in relation to line capacity, and drag performance. Modern braided lines also come into the equation.
There’s another reason why many anglers are adopting an even lighter approach to their fishing when conditions allow, but first we need to look in detail as to why this is the case.
A lot of sea anglers dismiss the intelligence of fish to survive in what is a hostile and ultra-competitive world. I’m not suggesting fish are Einsteins, but I don’t find that fish are thick either.
An example is when drift fishing over sandbanks for flatfish. When the weather is good for a long period, the banks get hammered and the fishing gets harder. In shallowish, clear water, it’s likely that the fish become aware of the tackle constantly passing by and become ultra-wary. This would also apply to any fish that are pricked and lost.
It’s no surprise that a change to much lighter tackle and rigs sees catches instantly improve.
The same can be said for reef ground where certain species such as wrasse and pollack are, to some extent, territorial. Heavily fished reef ground can ‘go off’ and needs a rest before sport resumes at a reasonable level. But again, a switch to ultra-light gear can keep the fish coming.
With the majority of anglers fishing 20lb-class for much of their everyday fishing, we need to have the option of going even lighter when the situation allows. This happens with many of the more experienced anglers dropping down to lighter gear and staying one step ahead. It’s not rocket science, just a progressive step to lighter, more balanced tackle.
This realisation that lighter tackle can better maintain catches is reflected in the increased sales of 6lb, 8lb and 12lb-class rods over the past few years. Such rods can be fished with small, tough, compact multipliers, such as the Abu Revo Toro series, or similar examples from other manufacturers.
Many anglers fish with spinning or lure rods, with light compact fixed-spool reels, which give even greater versatility. Some anglers may not be able to afford a genuine 6/12lbclass rod and reel set-up either, but it’s likely they may have a spinning rod and reel that can be pressed into service.
I’ve used my spinning outfit to good use in Norway targeting big cod, coalfish and even halibut, which sometimes want a really small jig or spinner worked pirk style. Its versatility is that you can use it shallow, use it deep, but also cast away from the boat with it. A lot of anglers now take spinning gear with them to Norway, and it often produces the best fish of the trip.
Back on home soil, I use mine for some of my smoothhound fishing. They really pull back on the spinning rod, and the fun is tremendous.
I’ve been using light spinning gear for tope fishing over shallow clean ground for more than 30 years. It gets pressed into service over deep-water wrecks over slack water when there is little tide run, and makes the most of pollack, cod and ling on lures, as it will on reefs with either lures or bait on light rigs.
My lad and I have used this spinning gear to target blue sharks off Ireland, and that really is an enlightening experience; neither do we lose any fish. The opportunities can be pushed as far as you want them to be providing your tackle is balanced.
Why is this light tackle so effective? It’s basically more sensitive than heavy gear, so the angler is more in touch with what’s happening at the lure or bait, resulting in better bite detection and quicker reactions to set the hook. Equally, this more sensitive tackle is less obvious to a taking fish. The supple tip gives a little as the fish takes the bait, making it less aware that something is wrong. This is a really important point when targeting shy-biting hounds and bass, as an example.
I also feel that the presentation is more subtle. Being able to use smaller links and swivels, thinner diameter lines and leaders, and smaller lures and baits that behave more naturally adds up the percentages more in our favour than the fish’s. This light gear with minimal drag from the tide means small lures can work more effectively.
Fish tend to take small, fast-moving lures easier than big bulky lures worked on heavy lines that behave more unnaturally, especially on those days when they seem reluctant to feed.
The next time the fishing goes off, make the change to light spinning gear and drop down to smaller lures, rigs and baits, and it’s a good bet that you’ll start catching again. It’s a massive edge to have over both your fellow anglers, if you’re of a competitive nature, but, more importantly, over the fish.
If you haven’t already joined the Light Brigade, you’ve been missing out.
A lovely cod caught on light tackle
Small jigs are good over reefs fished on light spinning tackle
Small jigs can take big fish