An overview of the latest models of fishing reels, fishing rods, lines, lures, hooks and clothing is presented. Information on recent improvements in fishing gear and a directory of suppliers are included.
for the past several months, while most of us have been hibernating, the fishing world’s R&D boys have been hard at it–toying with the latest copolymers, tweaking scrims and, in at least one instance, going overboard (literally) to find out how fish see us. They may not have reinvented the reel, but the technoids have struck upon enough legitimate innovations to make every angler instantly, if incrementally, better–starting with the machines that make things in the fishing world go ’round: reels.
As we reported last spring (Sporting Gear, March), one of the biggest improvements has been the reduction of line twist on spinning reels. Last year Daiwa introduced Twist Buster, a re-engineered roller, bail and shaft system that goes a long way toward keeping line from turning over on itself when it’s reeled in under pressure–from a fish, or sometimes just a lure with a lot of action. Other Companies–Shimano, Abu Garcia and Pinnacle among them–have followed suit.
But even as reel designers made strides toward solving one line headache,-two snore popped up. Super-strong braided and fused lines place more stress on spools than mono ever did, and they tend to slip around the spool at the anchor point. Consequently, some spinning reel manufacturers are abandoning plastic and graphite spools in favor of grooved aluminum spools on their high-end models. The grooves reduce slippage by spreading out the initial line wraps. To that feature, Abu Garcia has added a measure of insurance: a No-Slip line anchor on the spool of its Ultra Cast and Tournament reels.
There has always been a contingent of right-handed anglers who’ve preferred left-handed casting reels so they don’t have to switch hands to begin cranking. Problem is, the left-handed reels have been awfully tough to find. Until now. Shimano has just introduced left-hand-wind models-in its Calcutta, Curado and Citica series. And Daiwa now has a series of true left-hand TD-X Bass reels. “True” because the Shimano is not merely a righty reel with the handle flopped over to the southpaw side. The crank and shaft are positioned farther aft, for quicker cranking response. And the clutch is positioned on the top-left of the reel so it won’t accidentally engage during hooksets. The idea is to maximize your dominant arm for quick, powerful hookups. Casting reels aren’t just for casting, of course. Walleye trollers use them because they’re easier than spinning reels for paying out line and keeping track of how much is trailing behind the boat. Some makers are responding to this market by tailoring their casting reels with spare light-line spools and features like the trolling switch on Quantum’s EX Walleye Grade. The switch instantly disengages the clutch, even with the line under pressure (a bite, for instance), so you can free-spool for a delayed hookset when fishing resistance-sensitive fish. Meanwhile, line counters are appearing on new lightweight models from JWA, Shimano and Marado.
Finally, a one-way clutch system that allows zero handle backplay–and therefore instant hook setting–is available on a spincast model, Zebco’s 33CLA. Trickle-down ergonomics, in effect.
Cool Constructions, Hot Rods
great changes seldom arrive without a lot of griping in response. Twenty-five years ago, when Fenwick introduced a high-modulus graphite fishing rod, you may as well have goosed the country’s angling public with a cattle prod for all the nay-saying that went on. But while the traditionalists howled, fishing rods took a giant leap in performance–or at least potential performance. For all the mewling, the material’s advantages were stunningly evident, but so too were drawbacks.
Early graphite–or more accurately, early graphite construction–produced rods that snapped, crackled and popped. In truly stressful conditions they literally exploded. Newer graphite fibers came along and showed promise, but the resins for fusing the graphite fibers and cementing the scrim (the outer skin holding those fibers together and protecting them) were an Achilles’ heel. Eventually, the resin would crack; then it was just a matter of time before the whole stalk blew out.
It was only a few years back when someone discovered the missing piece of the puzzle–graphite-friendly thermo-setting resins that were flexible. With that nagging problem solved, the door flew open for rapid rod evolution, chiefly through the incorporation of stronger graphite. And with stronger graphite came lighter, more responsive blanks. But the really interesting thing about the newest rods is that they have slightly more progressive actions than graphite before them ever could. That is, they bend farther down into the butt section. In casting, you’ll notice it as a feeling of power unwinding from the butt up toward the tip, and a gradual bend back to the grip when the blank is under pressure from a surging fish. It’s a welcome feeling, a kinder, gentler way to fish than is demanded by the ultrastiff sticks that have dominated the market in recent years.
That sensation is especially evident in Loomis’s new GLX rods with graphite scrim–a scrim that’s much more difficult to work with than even the latest glass scrims used on most other high-end rods. The GLX series of rods includes fly, spin and casting models for bass, walleyes, salmon and steelhead. They are the hands-down leaders in lightness, yet they manage to retain great backbone and sensitivity while playing fish.
Fenwick, meanwhile, is willing to bet that anglers will swallow a little extra weight in exchange for incredible strength and durability. That’s the theory behind the company’s new HCG (Hard Core Graphite) rods, which feature a solid core of graphite rather than the hollow center found in most rods. Wrapped around the core is a pattern of extremely flexible graphite fibers. Obviously, with a solid construction like this the potential for crushed walls is practically nil. The solid core also resists the tendency to “oval,” thus providing more fish-fighting power for its diameter. And since these Fenwick rods are smaller in diameter than competing models, they’re less wind-resistant, which means they’re easier to control on blustery days and at least minutely build up more casting speed.
None of this has made graphite obsolete.
In fact, the breakthrough resin systems have lent new life to less expensive IM6 material, once the standard graphite for high-end rods. The Redington Fly Rod Company was launched with quality, economical IM6 rods, and many other companies continue to use the material in their casting and spinning rods.
Nor are composite and all-glass rods dead. Shakespeare has an updated version of the venerable, heavy, yet still tremendously popular, Ugly Stik. The Ugly Stik Lite series continues to grow this year with new offerings for inshore salt water plus a salmon/steelhead series. Similar to the Ugly Stik, Shimano’s new Carbomax rods have a sandwich of graphite and fiberglass in the tips to protect that breakage-prone area; the remainder of the blank is graphite. Brunswick’s new Quantum Iron Big Water Rods, engineered from high-modulus (read: extremely stiff) E-glass are fine examples of fiberglass efficiency in the modern world–lighter than old glass rods and extremely strong. Berkley has followed suit with a series of E-Cat catfish rods in one-piece and telescopic models.
To complement the new braids and fused superlines, rod builders continue to fiddle with actions and composition blanks. Typical of this trend are Berkley’s graphite FireFlex rods, to be released this year, which feature greatly improved shock damping. Three casting, three spinning and one trigger model will be in the series.
Other manufacturers, meanwhile, continue to offer various exposed-blank designs at the handle of their casting and spinning models to eliminate the grip’s deadening effect. Orvis, the rod maker that once offered “Stealth” technology (a noodle-like insert in the blank that dampened efficiency-robbing rod vibrations while flycasting), now locates that material only at the handle. According to the company, “That’s where distance-cutting vibrations begin.”
With a 1993 launch of its InterLine Downrigger Rods, followed in ’95 by the Sealine-X saltwater series, Daiwa refined the concept of line-through-blank design. Now there’s a TD-X InterLine bass series. Line enters the blank after running through a single guide. Inside, it passes over raised linear-spirals (think barrel rifling in reverse) that keep it away from speed-reducing water droplets caught in the recesses. The line then exits the blank through a circular, low-friction silicon carbide tiptop. The innovative system produces excellent casting distance. The blanks have no splines, and without guides, there should be none of the rod torquing that occurs while fighting fish with traditional casting rods. What about rigging it, you ask? A cable for just that purpose comes with the rod.
LInes, Lures, Hooks and..Camo?
rods and reels may be fishing’s bread and butter, but without filament and an attractively dressed hook, the package is little more than an exquisitely balanced switch. So, in the interest of totality, our tackle technology roundup concludes with the best of fishing’s other essentials. Well, there’s some stuff that’s not as necessary, but we were kinda intrigued anyway.
If you still can’t decide whether you love or hate the superlines, you’ve now got a new consideration–PRADCO’s Excalibur Silver-thread is a copolymer with unbelievable abrasion resistance. One field tester fished the line in a tournament for 11 hours, caught 30 bass and didn’t need to retie once. The other good news is that the line appears not to give up a thing in memory, stretch or casting performance. Though no official tests have been done in the stretch category, the low-visibility line seems less stretchy than the company’s Super Silverthread, which was still good enough to win the last two BASS Masters Classics. Reinventing the fish hook sounds like a make-work project, but that’s exactly what some decidedly ambitious manufacturers are doing. That and offering vast improvements in sharpness. The X Point from True-Turn is the fishing world’s equivalent of the broadhead. A close look reveals four micro cutting edges at the hook point, which obviously make for greater penetration. Tested independently in the lab of a surgical needle manufacturer, the hooks beat the next-best-penetrating hook seven-fold. And where most premium hooks are made from 80 carbon steel, X Points are cut from 110 carbon steel–reason why they retail for around 80 cents apiece.
Gamakatsu, meanwhile, climbed aboard the catch-and-release bandwagon with a new line of barbless hooks for bass, salmon and steel-head. Another new barbless series is the Bass Pro Shops’s Johnny Morris Conservationist Hooks in live bait, Kahle worm, conventional worm and treble models.
Owner now has a series of Tournament trailer hooks, featuring the firm’s Triple-Edge Cutting Point treble dressed with feathers and reflective Mylar. Add it to a crankbait, spoon or other lure.
Anglers are still waiting to take delivery on the universal wonder lure (Hey, git yer Banjo Lure here!), but what we do get this year is a new wiggle, shape, material or design that permits fishing a slightly different way. Sometimes that’s all it takes to stimulate a fish’s appetite.
In the realm of spinnerbaits, offset hole blades (from PRADCO), Bent Blades (Wazp) and Wedge Blades (Stanley Jigs) markedly increase and add variety to fish-attracting vibrations. And Sheldon’s (Mepps) has a new Weed Master in-line spinner with a weedguard skirt–the first time this type of spinner can be used in the heavy stuff.
In crankbaits, Fenwick features its Weight Transfer System on the Crank 10, 15 and 20 baits. The system uses a set of steel balls that shiffs to the tail to maximize casting distance and imparts action, and a noisy rattle, on the retrieve (the Frantic Action lures are well named).
Now you can get deeper with small crankbaits using Luhr-Jensen’s Deep Secrets. The 2 1/8-inch and 2 3/4-inch body plugs have especially long lips uith compound booster plates (!) that drive the lures to 18-feet-plus in the small version, more than 20 feet in the larger. For that inner glow, consider Sadu-Strobes, crankbaits that illuminate in cadence with their swimming action. No batteries, no switches–the baits only glow in water and are claimed to offer years of service.
In soft plastics, Lunker City, maker of the Slug-Go, has the huge Muscle Worm. The worm’s bulging egg sac deflects off anything it encounters to produce a wide, wandering swim.
And, proving that hog baits are far from dead (in a manner of speaking), Uncle Josh, which is celebrating 75 years of pork rind lures, introduces a Kicker Frog with legs that do just what the name implies, and a Swimmin’ Leech for walleye fishing.
Switching to electronics, what would yoU say to a hand-held data bank that holds 25 years worth of winning bass tournament patterns in order to predict when, where and how you should be fishing anywhere in the continental U.S.; Enter the date and five environmental conditions that affect fish and the Sporton Fish Guide tells you if the fish are holding tight to structure or ranging off it; lying deep or near the surface; if they’re spooky or aggressive; if they are feeding or inactive; and when during the day they’ll most likely hit. If you’re scoffing, consider this: The unit accurately predicted the actual patterns used by top performers in last year’s BASS Masters Classic.
Amid all the techie stuff, here’s a simple electronic device that will have plenty of shore-anglers saying ” ’bout time.” Lowrance’s FloatDucer is a wide-ranging transducer that’s compatible with newer Lowrance sonar units. Toss it out by its 50-foot tether from a dock, bridge or bank to locate holes, channels, drops, vegetation and, of course, fish. The FloatDucer has been getting raves in Europe, where bank-fishing is the norm.
Why should hunters have all the camo? The folks at Aqua Design answered this question by introducing a line of clothing developed specifically to help anglers blend into five different environments. The patterns–Sand, Bahama Blue, Slate, Willow Green and Gray Rocks–are computer-enhanced images of underwater photos taken looking up at the water surface. You decide whether the developers have gone off the deep end.
two-handed spey fly rods are traditional tackle for fishing on large European salmon rivers. Now there’s increasing interest in the 12- to 16-foot rods for big stealhead and salmon rivers in the U.S. and, more recently, along saltwater beaches. The reason is self-evident: The long rods permit casts of more than 100 feet with very little effort. To be sure, they’re not the greatest fighting tools for truly big fish like tarpon, and they tend to overpower small-to-medium-size game, but they’ll catch fish you could not otherwise reach, and in the process save wear and tear on your casting arm.
Traditional spey rods have slow actions. But two manufacturers, Sage and G. Loomis, are now making fast-action two-handers. For those wanting to ease into this thing slowly, Loomis offers an 11-footer for 8- or 9-weight lines that can also be cast one-handed. And Sage offers a 12-foot 4-inch rod that’s perfect for medium-size waters. Sometimes two hands really are better than one.