When scaling up your fishing, is there a grey area where LRF tactics meet HRF?
In the short while since the term Light Rock Fishing cropped up in the UK, the sport has grown massively. The perception and application of fishing as light as possible has become a common feature up and down the coast, and for a multitude of different species. Although the style was a very Japanese concept in the beginning, anglers in the UK have developed it to suit their sea fishing. Techniques and tackle have been developed to help target our great sporting sea fish from mini-species to bigger quarry.
Yes, LRF has had a great impact, especially on my own pursuit of sea fish species. By fishing ultra-light I have refined my various lure fishing techniques, none more so when stepping up to using heavier gear.
Is there a grey area where LRF meets HRF (heavy rock fishing)? In the strictest sense, no, because LRF is defined by line diameter used and the rod’s maximum casting weight rating. That’s lines up to a PE0.6 and casting weights of up to eight grams, but go over this and it is HRF.
This is the basic description of the terms, but the grey area is where the crossover in styles and techniques occurs.
WHEN TO SWITCH
There are not many anglers out there who solely fish LRF, but for those of us who count this as their main style, the benefits become really apparent when you step up into HRF territory.
Just because you are stepping up in line diameter and lure weight doesn’t mean you go straight for the 50lb braid and 100g rod approach. Instead, my rods tend to pick up where my LRF gear leaves off in that grey area of casting weights.
Now my standard LRF kit is a rod capable of casting a lure from 1-10g (which is already 2g outside of the standard LRF description). My lines range from 4-8lb, depending on target species and underwater terrain. My HRF gear is a rod capable of casting 5-30g with lines from 10-20lb breaking strain.
I am comfortable when tackling big fish, like wrasse and pollack, on my LRF gear because I have developed an understanding of how far I can push my LRF tackle. I also know when the time is right to step up the gear strength, which is usually dictated by the type and size of fish I am targeting.
When I know there are 5lb-plus fish available, I switch to my HRF gear, especially when I am fishing rough ground. It means I stand the best chance of being able to land the fish on this gear.
“My rods tend to pick up where my LRF gear leaves off in that grey area of casting weights”
One of my biggest LRF-related benefits comes from on-the-drop techniques, and particularly when I use heavy metal jigs.
‘On-the-drop’ refers to the act of a lure falling through the water. The rate at which it falls is dictated by the weight and style of lure, along with the control supplied by the angler.
A light lure gently falling through the water is a natural presentation for the fish. When you are fishing through the water column like this, the majority of bites come as the lure is dropping, rather than when you jig the lure up to let it fall down again.
Controlling the lure as it drops through the water column is crucial, and the main point is to keep in contact with the lure without impeding its action as it falls. The two ways in which the lure falls under my control are curved fall, where the lure swings back towards me on a tight line, and vertical fall, where I feed line through my fingers, or drop the rod tip to allow it to fall straight down.
Solid-tipped LRF rods are really great for on-the-drop techniques because when the lure falls through the water the line is generally slacker than when working a jig along the seabed. A solid-tip rod gives you a great visual indication of when a fish bites either by springing up, indicating that a fish has grabbed the lure and swum up, or by nodding down, showing the fish has bitten.
Generally, the fish takes the lure confidently because the solid tip offers very little resistance, while giving the angler a visual indication of when to strike and set the hook.
SOLID V HOLLOW
That’s all well and good, but a soft, solid tip can be more of a hindrance than a help when stepping up to using heavier metal jigs. Rather, the perfect rod for me has been a tube tip, but with a softer, more parabolic action than my standard ultra-fast action rods.
My current two favourites for working heavier jigs are the Hart Boushido and Hart Bloody Offshore Evo light. Both have a 5-30g casting rating and a fast action. However, they both have a softer, more through action when it comes to playing a fish. There is a balance, though. If I went too soft with rod choice, I wouldn’t be able to control the fish. Going too stiff with my selection would lose feeling and have more of a chance of bouncing off the fish due to lack of stretch in the braid.
Both rods curve nicely down about twothirds of the blank and have a good bit of power in the butt section. This softer top section can be great when working jigs because the rod works the lure on the lift with a slower recovery (like a slow-pitch jigging rod) rather than most of the work being done by the arms.
The tube tips combined with braid still give great sensitivity, especially when using lines around PE1.5 diameter, and it is still possible to get a great visual indication of a bite by using high-visibility braid. This watching of the line is another of my mainstay LRF techniques. As the lure falls, the line, especially on a curve fall, will generally bow between the rod tip and the water. By using a high-visibility line you can keep track of its descent. A sudden slackness or the bow straightening momentarily are indications that a fish has grabbed the lure. These subtle takes are very
“A light lure gently falling through the water is a natural presentation for the fish”
common when fishing on the drop, and LRF has taught me to look for these indications so I can strike before the fish spits the lure
When it comes to crossovers, using heavy metal jigs from 18-30g seems a world away from using a 2g jig-head and a lure of only one-inch long. They are so closely linked in my style of fishing that they are virtually one and the same. The only difference is, my lure falls faster.
When it comes to technique, it is just the same, and working jigs in this way is all about feel. First, you need to be in control of how the jig drops through the water. Having a good understanding of this is vital to allowing the lure to fish itself as it drops through the water column or swings back towards you on a curve fall.
This sensitivity conditioning derived from LRF has been highlighted to me again in recent sessions. It started with a visit to a popular mark to catch a few mackerel.
With a 28g Hart Bony metal jig, I was casting and using a curved fall to work the water column. While watching the line and waiting for the rattle as it fell through a shoal of mackerel, the line suddenly paused. Being aware this was a take, I struck and was rewarded with a squid angrily waving its tentacles at me.
I enjoy fishing for squid, but catching them on a standard metal lure required me to use all my finesse skills. Takes are so subtle when the squid grabs the lure with its tentacles. Because the squid is holding the lure, it can sense it is not real and you have a tiny window of opportunity to set the hook. Again, I am used to these tiny indications when fishing LRF so I was able to turn these takes into hook-ups.
I was fishing alongside other anglers who tried but couldn’t feel or see the takes because they were not used to the subtlety or finesse approach of working lures in this manner. We were all using similar gear and fishing the same area, but it was my LRF training that ensured I could sense when the squid had my lure.
For most LRF anglers I will be preaching to the converted, but for those who do see LRF and HRF as two distinct styles, possibly unsuitable for your target species or terrain, then look again. LRF techniques improve your heavier fishing (better technique and better feeling) and result in fewer tackle losses and more fish – it’s that simple. ■
A fine pollack on a 35g metal jig
This cod was lured on a 35g metal jig
While fishing for mackerel with a 28g Hart Bony metal jig...
...an angry squid took the lure