The pleasant thing about taking kit out on the beach to test is the fact that every now and again something turns up that is actually very good.
Unfortunately, things did not start well. When I removed a pair of Shakespeare MTI Zero rods from their protective bags I discovered a problem. The rods had no reel seat or indeed any coasters with them, but as I carry at least two pairs of coasters in a tackle bag for such situations I was in luck.
To be honest, buying a rod without any capability to attach a reel is a bit like buying a car without a steering wheel.
The rods are called Zero 300 and Zero 250 and they look almost identical to one other. The build and finish are superb, with genuine Fuji Alconite guides secured with black whipping. Diamond shrinkwrap runs along the butt for a good grip.
An 18in reducer is included with each rod if you require one, but without them the Zero 300 measures in at 13ft 6in while the 250 is 13ft 2in.
I fitted both rods with Abu 6500 Hi-Speed Mag reels loaded with 15lb mainline and 70lb shockleaders. As I was going to fish with them, I alternated between Pennell rigs and two or three-hook traces, all clipped, to see how the rods performed during casting and retrieving, and, importantly, when signalling bites.
MTI ZERO 250
Designed for casting 4-6oz sinkers along with bait, it has a slightly softer tip, which presumably is for spotting delicate bites. The butt section packs a lot of power, and with a short drop and a fast swing anyone can wind up this rod easily and let rip.
With the reel fastened down the butt, I didn’t bother with a high backswing. I could feel the sinker throughout the cast and even when losing sight of it during a pendulum I knew exactly where it was at all times. This, of course, helps with timing, which isn’t too critical because the power transfer is progressive from butt to tip.
It is an absolute dream to cast and my three-hook clipped rig loaded with a single lugworm tipped with a piece of squid on each hook was now resting a long way from the beach. It wasn’t long before the tip was pulling down from what were obviously hungry whiting. Reeling down and pulling against the weight was very comfortable, and shortly afterwards three plump whiting were flapping on the beach.
MTI ZERO 300
This version felt a little tougher in the tip section, leading me to think it would be capable of handling some rough ground.
It will handle 5-6oz sinkers along with a good portion of bait with ease, so I loaded a Pennell rig with a worm, squid and crab cocktail. Again I didn’t bother with a high backswing, but opted to do a short and fast pendulum.
Tougher it certainly was, as I applied a huge amount of pressure into the butt section, but as it progressed through into the mid-section the tip came around and pulled my rig and sinker with it before launching it high and long. That felt very sweet, and watching my orange shockleader climbing into the clear blue sky was pleasing. Seeing a small white splash as my huge bait dropped into the North Sea a long way out was even better.
Even though the tip was slightly stiffer, bite detection was still superb as the tip once again pulled forward and then sprang back, giving me a slack line.
Taking up the slack I felt resistance but nothing heavy and the retrieve was smooth and easy. A double-shot of whiting emerged from the surf on my Pennell rig.