Modern Fishing Tackle

Owen Bosen
Articles / Modern Fishing Tackle
Posted on: 2017-09-23 12:50:12 +0530 (IST)

Modern Fishing Tackle


2. Modern Fishing Tackle

2.1. Rods:             This section will hopefully help the young angler to select the right type of equipment to suit his style of fishing, rather than get something that he can make do with for a short while and then keep buying more and more stuff till he has no more place to store it in. From the humble bamboo rod to the graphite M9 blanks, get yourself a fishing rod to suit your style of fishing and your budget.

Fibreglass rods are almost always cheaper and more durable for the novice, but their weight and action can be quite different from a graphite rod. Fibreglass rods usually have a softer action than those made from graphite.

The bare rod is called the blank as you must have guessed by now, and although it is the most important part of the rod, there are other components that go into the finished rod that brings it to life. The guides and their spacing, the reel seat and handle with grips when spaced perfectly to the angler’s requirement can be a joy to fish with.

The length of the blank used is determined by the type of fishing the rod is to be used for. A rod between seven to eight feet with a 10-30gram cast weight is all that a beginner needs, and it will double up for both float fishing and light ledgering.

I have never felt the need to use a rod over 10 feet long except for surf casting. Increased rod lengths can be a hindrance when playing big fish. In fact the shorter the rod, the greater advantage the angler has over the fish. Unfortunately short rods don’t quite cast the required distance, or put a float right under the tip ten feet from the bank. Thus the need arises for rods of different lengths.

Most freshwater rods are graded by the weight the angler would cast, in the form of a lure or bait or the line strength being used with the rod. However European carp and pike rods are graded on the basis of their test curve.

The height of the guides used from the blank depends on the type of reel and fishing that the rod is being built for. Guides that have longer legs (higher standoff) are usually used where longer casting is required as they reduce line slap against the blank as line comes off a spinning reel during casting.

Porcelain, ceramic, aluminium oxide, silicon nitride and silicon carbide (SIC) are some of the materials used for lining guides, and each of them offers varying levels of friction and thermal conductivity. SIC guides probably being the best for their cost, and therefore commercially viable.

Rod Action           A rod that bends mostly at the top 25% when brought under its recommended cast weight is called an extra-fast taper rod. Fast taper rods would bend at the top 33% while a medium taper rod would mean the top 50% bends, while a slow taper rod would have a progressive curve all along the blank.

The taper of a blank can be estimated by holding the rod in both hands parallel to the ground and waving the tip from side to side



     Rod Action (Taper)

2.1.1. Spinning rods:   are usually between six and ten feet long and are made from fibreglass or graphite. These rods are meant for fishing lures and need to have a nice crisp action to be able to cast a lure a reasonable distance, and be able to set a hook easily. A sloppy soft action rod suitable for other types of fishing, will not work well for spinning. A spinning rod needs to be light, with the right type of guides and spacing to cut down friction during casting. There are different types of guides that are available, for varied applications.

The ideal spinning rod is of a two-piece construction with the joint between the two pieces being of the put in or put over type. Aluminium or brass ferrules to hold the two joints in place are a rarity these days.

When fitting together a rod using a push in or push over type of joint system, place the two sections 90 degrees off centre and gently twist the two sections till they come together at the right spot. Use the same system while dismantling the rod. This will give the joints a perfect and long lasting seating.

Rods using brass or aluminium ferrule joints should be pushed together with both sections perfectly aligned together. This will prevent unnecessary wear out of the ferrule joint.


Spinning Rod

Telescopic type spinning rods have been popular over the years with the beginner, due to their cost and portability. However you still need to look after them, as they need delicate handling when collapsing them after fishing. Their guides can be prone to damage if not handled carefully. Guides with a shock lining are usually more durable.

A telescopic rod, which is long and with several joints, can have some slap between the joints if not properly made. Swishing the rod from side to side, usually gives you a good idea if any slap exists.


Telescopic Rod

In recent times travel rods of the multi-piece construction have become popular. These rods have between 4 to 6 sections that have their joints of the put over type. The improvement in the quality and strength of the blanks used has made this multi piece rod construction the choice of many a travelling angler. Travel rods with individual sections of between 20 and 24 inches in length are common for varying cast weights. Some travel rods even have the option of increasing or reducing their overall length by the inclusion of an optional piece that fits onto the handle section.


Multi section travel rod

The two types of grips commonly used for fishing rods are made from duplon or cork. Cork grips have a nice traditional feel about them, while duplon grips can be comfortable in long battles. Light Spinning Rods:                   Single leg guides are used for light fishing rods, to maintain the light action of the rod. A heavy double leg guide will stiffen the action of the blank

Most light spinning rods are fitted with short handles to improve the balance and reduce the overall weight of the rod.

Single-handed spinning rods are usually around six to seven feet in length, with a trigger grip. For some unknown reason, these are known as bait casting rods in America, where bait fishing is almost nonexistent. These rods can be used with a small multiplier or spinning reel. For the rod to work with both types of reels, the number of guides fitted on it and their spacing are crucial. A light six-foot rod for use with a spinning reel almost always has not more than four to five guides plus the tip.

There could be six to seven guides of a smaller diameter used for a rod to be used with a multiplier reel. The cast weight of these rods is usually between 20-50grams, and the recommended line to be used is between 10 – 15lbs. Heavy Action Spinning rods:      Used for casting heavier lures would therefore need to be longer and sturdier in construction, with a cast weight of up to 150grams. In seriously heavy-duty rods the cast weight could be to 300grams. The guides are usually of the double leg construction and the blank uses a slightly longer handle, with the reel seat further away from the butt of the rod than in the single-handed or light spinning rods. 

These rods are usually 8 to 10 feet in length and although they are called spinning rods, they are often used by anglers to cast a heavy weight a long way. These rods are built for use with fishing lines between 25 to 40lbs breaking strength.

2.1.2. Carp rods:           These are strong whippy action rods graded on test curve, and are able to cast a weight of around a 100grams a long way out into a lake. They should be sensitive and able to cope with sudden lunges that big carp make. Carp rods are between 10 and 12 feet in length, with a guide spacing that improves casting distances. Carp rods have “test curve ratings” which relate to the strain required to pull the rod tip into a quarter circle.

To find the right line to match a carp rod, multiply its test curve by 5. This means a rod with a 3 pound test curve, is suitable for use with lines of around 15lb B.S

2.1.3. Sea fishing rods:

These can be divided into beach casting rods, lure casting rods, pirking and jigging rods, popping rods, uptide rods and trolling rods. Sea fishing rods need to have salt resistant guides and reel seats.

Beach casting rods are usually over 12 feet long and are made in two or three sections.

Using fewer guides than would be normal for a rod of over 12feet in length helps increase casting distances for anglers using a fixed-spool spinning reel on a beach- casting rod. There are beach-casting rods made for use with multiplier reels as well.

Most beach-casting rods are built for use with 25 lb line. Some are longer and stronger used for catching sharks from a beach in parts of the world.

Lure casting rods are similar in construction and length to those used for fresh water fishing, with a slightly stronger blank and a whippy action to get a light lure out a long way.

Pirking and jigging rod used by sea anglers are around 7 feet long with an ultra strong blank. Due to the immense strain on the blank when bringing up a big reluctant fish from the depths, a jigging rod has an under wrap before the guides are wrapped onto the blank. This is to prevent the feet of the guides from biting into the blank when under full load. The rod is of a two-piece construction with the handle portion being only as long as the handle and grips, and the longer section containing the guides.

Jigging Rod

Uptide rods are similar in construction to jigging rods, in that they have a handle and a longer section with the guides, but they are longer (upto 10 feet) with a fast taper capable of casting a weight upto 280grams a long way from a boat. Uptide rods are a British solution to overcrowded fishing boats, and are made for use with both spinning and multiplier reels.

Uptide Rod

Trolling rods are classified as in 20lb / 50lb / 80lb class as per IGFA standards, and determine the strength of line to be used with these rods. These rods are a lot shorter than casting rods in order to cope with the handling of large sea fish. A rod that is longer than five to six feet puts the angler at a disadvantage when he tries to pump a big fish up from the depths. This has a lot to do with the fulcrum point which is the front grip of the rod. In a long rod there is a lot of the rod tipping towards the fish, which increases the strain on the angler. In other words it works much like a child’s seesaw. The trolling rod being short and sturdy is definitely not made for casting a lure or bait.

Trolling Rod


Popping Rod

Mahseer rods:

For the choice of a mahseer fishing rod, which does much of the work during bait casting and playing a fish, there is a variety to choose from. Carp rods have been used regularly to catch mahseer, catfish rods, beach casters; uptiders etc have all been adapted to fish for mahseer. To me, a rod that can cast fist size bait and one that can throw a plug or a spoon the right distance, and is capable of taking the enormous strain that a big fish puts on it, is what one needs to start with. Which means that two different rods are required to handle the two very different types of fishing that one might try on any given day.

Casting is an art that develops with practice. It can be perfected to a fine art, where minimal force is used to attain distance and accuracy. However, there is more to casting bait the right distance than just technique. The use of modern materials in the building of fishing rods, has made it possible to have a rod that is light, and slim even at the butt, with a medium to fast taper action for good casting and a backbone that can withstand protracted battles with giant fish.

A rod fit for such battles and to be used for ledgering, would be between 2.7 meters to 3 meters long, with a casting weight of between 100 to 300 grams. It should have a distance of about 50- 60 cm between the butt end and the lower end of the reel seat, this distance could vary depending on the height and reach of the angler. The grip above the reel seat allows the angler to play the fish with his arm extended when the rod tip is down, and the arm in a bent position when the rod tip is raised while pumping in a big fish. This also considerably reduces the strain on an anglers arms and shoulders compared to an upper grip that was placed closer to the butt end of the rod.

For spinning and lure casting rods, the distance between butt and reel seat could be much shorter, and the length and action of the rod would depend very much on the distance the angler would need to cast his lure. Very often, the fish are just out of reach of the angler using too short a rod. For long casting, a composite blank of around 12 feet with a fast taper and a cast weight between 75 to 150 grams should be ideal. However, rivers with overhanging trees and very little space for casting, call for shorter rods. The same is the case when casting lures from a coracle or boat. A 7-foot rod that can cast a 25 to 30lb line should work well.

The choice of rod for ledgering would depend much on the type of reel to be used. Since a spinning reel is always secured to the reel seat under the rod, the number of line guides required can be fewer than for a rod mounted with an overhead reel. The reason being, that when the rod bends with a spinning reel mounted, the arc created will not cause the line to come into contact with the rod blank, and therefore there is no additional friction created on the line. However in the case of a rod mounted with a multiplier, the reel is always facing upwards (and hence called an overhead reel), so when these rods take up their full curve, if the same number of guides are used, as for a spinning reel, with the same guide placement, it is likely that the line would come into contact with the rod blank when the blank comes under pressure.

The number of guides used are essentially more for a rod built for use with a multiplier, and their diameter is smaller than those used for a spinning reel.

The difference in guide diameter is governed by the fact that a spinning reel casts line from the reel in a circular motion, with the line coming off the reel in coils, and moving through the largest guide. If the diameter of the guide is not properly selected for the kind of line being used, it will cause a build up of line at the guide closest to the reel, and hamper casting distance. Casting distance with spinning rods can also be hampered by line slapping against the blank as line moves through the guides in a circular motion.

In the case of casting with an overhead bait-casting rod, line comes off the spool with line moving from side to side. If the height of the guide is properly selected for the rod blank, there is almost no line slap against the blank, and almost no line build up against the guide closest to the reel as can be the case with spinning rods. This reduces friction and helps to increase accuracy and casting distance.

Composite rods of today are very efficient fishing tools. Light in weight and exceptionally strong, they can out perform any previously made rods. They often sport an additional cross wrap of Kevlar that can increase their strength by up to 10 %. However, great care has to be taken with composite rods, as even a slight tap on a rock, could cause them to shatter.

My choice of rod action for this type of fishing is definitely one with a stiffer crispy action, as it provides three definite advantages over a rod with a soft and sloppy action. Namely better casting, better control while playing a big fish (which reduces fatigue for both the angler and the fish) and it has the ability to urge even large fish to give up sulking.

Light Float rods:

Float rods are generally long and light, with a soft tip. The ideal float rod would be around 10 to 12 feet in length, coupled with a light-spinning reel that holds 6-12 lb monofilament. The cast weight of a float rod does not need to be more than 20grams. The choice of float used for this type of fishing is determined by whether there are currents prevailing in the water, or if the water is totally still. Float fishing is normally done in two styles in Indian waters. The most commonly used being the lift method, where the bait just about touching bottom. When a fish sucks the bait into its mouth and lifts it off the bottom, it causes the float to move from an erect position to a horizontal position on the water. Most fishermen use this style of fishing to catch fresh water species in this country. Ideally it is best to have the float right under the tip of the rod, with little or no slack line floating around. Hence the use of a long rod to reach a little further out.

The other style of float fishing used by fewer anglers is by trotting a float down with the current. The rod can be the same, but the float would have to be slightly heavier to cope with the currents.

Feeder Rods:

Feeder rods are similar to float fishing rods, except that they have an ultra light tip section. Feeder style of fishing uses open end or block end feeders that are attached to the main line near the hook and stuffed full with ground bait in the form of bread flakes, worms, oil cake etc. This prompts fish to feed near the hook bait, and gradually builds up a quantity of ground bait in the area that you are fishing.

A simple open end feeder can made by cutting both ends out of a can of film, and drilling 5mm holes in the can. Use a small strip of lead bent across and over the ends of the can, which will act as a sinker. Attach the feeder to the main line with the help of a swivel.

Feeder rods are usually twelve foot or more three-piece rods, with extra tips that can be interchanged depending on the casting weight of the feeder.

Fly fishing rods:

Are quite different in construction from all other fishing rods. The earliest fly rods were made from cane that was split from a section of bamboo, and then six triangles of cane each 60 degrees in shape are tapered down and then glued together to form a split cane rod. The reel seat for a fly rod is fixed very close to the butt of the rod.

Fly rods are categorised by the weight of line that it will cast. Hence 5 weight/ 6 weight/ 7 weight rods etc. The length of the rod also increases with a higher weight rod. Graphite fly fishing rods are now popular, as they are light and easier to work than split cane rods. 


2.    Reels


2.2.1. Fixed Spool reels:

Fixed spool reels are also known as spinning reels as they are also used for spinning. These reels use a rotor and a bail arm to wrap line on the spool. The rotor and bail arm move up and down the spool so that the line gets spread evenly across the spool. The only time that the spool turns is when line is pulled off the spool. The amount of pressure required to take line off the spool is controlled by a set of drag washers fitted inside the spool, which can be adjusted by the angler. The drag is also known as the clutch.

There are three types of drag adjustments used in fixed spool reels. The most common being the front-drag spinning reel, and the rear drag spinning reel. The one that is not so common these days is the centre-drag spinning reel.

Most modern fixed spool reels have handles that can be reversed from left to right hand retrieve quite easily to suit the angler.

Front Drag Spinning Reel


Centre Drag Reel


Rear Drag Reel


Bait Runner Reel

Early fixed spool reels used a single bearing at the most to reduce friction inside the reel, but today there are spinning reels available with over ten bearings. However a reel with 5 to 6 bearings is adequate for most fishing styles.

All reels have specified gear ratios, in the case of a spinning reel, it indicates the number of times the bail arm revolves around the fixed spool for every turn of the handle. Most reels have gear ratios from 4.5:1 to 6:1. Besides gear ratio, the maximum drag that a reel can offer is an important feature to the specialist angler. This is usually specified in the manufacturers catalogue. The more expensive spinning reels come with a drag power of up to 50lbs.

Early models of fixed spool reels were heavier, as the body of the reel was made from aluminium and other metals, but most modern reels are far lighter with the use of graphite or hardened plastic bodies.

An anti-reverse switch is provided on fixed spool reels to enable the rotor and bail arm to turn in both clockwise and anti-clockwise directions if required.

Some specialist anglers use the reverse direction winding of the bail arm to let out line while playing a fish, in what is known as back winding. They control the amount of line that a fish takes off the reel manually instead of using the drag / clutch.

Fixed spool reels are graded by their size and the amount of line that they hold. Most spinning reels coming out of Asia are graded from 1000 upwards, where as similar reels from the UK may be graded from 100 upwards.

Another variation of the fixed spool reel is the bait runner, which employs two drag systems on the same reel. A rear drag with a controlling lever called the bait runner lever is used to set a light drag on the reel when the rod is placed on a rod holder. The front drag is activated by a turn of the handle or by switching the bait runner lever to the off position. Bait runner reels are mostly used by carp anglers and in more recent times by mahseer anglers who want to do away with the uncertainty of casting properly with a multiplier reel.

Fixed spool reels of today come with what some companies call a super stopper. This in effect means that when you hit a fish, the bail arm and rotor do not turn even a millimetre in the reverse direction if the anti reverse switch is on, thus ensuring a better hook set.

2.2.2. Multiplier reels:

Multiplier reels come in two types, trolling reels and bait casting reels.

The construction of the multiplier is very different from the fixed spool reel. There is no rotor or bail arm, and the spool rotates both when letting out and retrieving line.

There are two types of drags employed in multiplier reels. Either a star drag or a lever drag is used in a multiplier to increase or decrease pressure on a running fish.

The difference between a trolling and a bait-casting reel is the provision of a casting drag on a bait-casting reel. This drag can be preset before casting to determine the amount of pressure applied to the spool while casting a lure or bait. This helps prevent line overrunning from the spool while casting in what is commonly known as a bird’s nest. The more effective casting drags use a set of fibre or plastic washers that rotate inside the reel during casting to control inertia on the spool as a bait is cast out. More expensive modern multipliers use an electronic circuit with user settings to do the same job. Most bait casting reels have an additional mechanism called the level wind. This helps spread line evenly across the spool, which has to be done by hand during retrieve on conventional trolling reels.

Modern trolling reels not to be outdone have an optional depth counter to enable an angler to keep his bait at the right depth depending on the depth at which the fish are swimming. This read out can be taken from a fish finder.

Multipliers made in Europe start in sizes from 1000 to 10000 and above.1000 being the smaller reel. While a similar multiplier size from an Asian manufacturer would be 100

Gear ratios for bait casting multipliers are usually between 4.2:1 and 6.2:1 while for trolling reels it is usually between 2.2:1 and 6.2:1. The lower ratio trolling reels are used for targeting powerful game fish like marlin. These reels also have a maximum drag power of up to 100 lbs. The ones with the higher gear ratios usually have lower drag power. However for fresh water fishing with a bait casting multiplier of the 7000 –10000 series a gear ratio of around 4 and a maximum drag power of around 20 lbs should suffice.

Multipliers are not for the beginner, as you will have to put up with bird nests till you master the art of casting, by which time many a beginner could have chucked in the towel.


Multiplier reel with level wind & star drag



Bait casting reel for single handed rods


Trolling Multiplier without level wind and with lever drag


2.2.3. Fly reels:


Centerpin Fly Reel

Fly reels are the probably the only type of reel that has changed little over the years.

The materials used for their construction may have changed to make them lighter, but few changes have been made to an otherwise exceptional fishing tool. Some modern fly reels employ a drag on the reel, but the purist will still use a split cane rod and hundred year old fly reel rather than a graphite rod with a new fangled fly reel.

Fly reels form three basic types: single action reels where the drum rotates once for every turn of the handle; the multiplier type where the drum may perform two revolutions for every turn of the handle, and the automatic fly reel where the spool is driven by a spring that winds itself up when line is taken from the reel.