John Holden offers advice on how your casting style and ability determine the type of rod you need
The big-swing, or classic, pendulum style with its long power arc, which flows down and around before the final hit, calls for a specific type of rod design.
That’s why traditional pendulum fishing rods are fairly short, medium-fast and modestly stiff to match the style’s smooth and progressive nature.
If I change to off-ground casting or the compact flat pendulum styles, though, my power arc is shorter and therefore the casting action has to be relatively quick in order to generate power and tip speed in the limited space available. If a rod needs a good whack right from the start, which is the case here, it has to be stiff enough to provide the necessary resistance and leverage.
This stiffness has to be built in, in contrast to the classic pendulum style where the rod develops its stiffness by bending hard as it comes down and around from the initial sinker swing.
Where distance counts, such as in field work and ultra-range fishing, my rough rule of thumb is to use the longest, stiffest rod I can handle properly. The tip needs a bit of flexibility to provide a smooth take-up when the sinker starts moving, plus adequate bite detection and fish control. The more powerful the caster and the heavier the sinker, the stiffer a rod can be within reason.
I avoid taking on any more rod than I really need, for the downsides massively outweigh any slight advantages. There is a lot to be said for erring on the cautious side, not least because it is easier and so much nicer fishing this way.
For off-ground work, flat pendulum and Hatteras styles, I’m happiest with a rod that takes a decent bend when I’m casting at average cruising speed but still has a hint of reserve steeliness, meaning that it won’t go soggy should I need a few more metres, more lead weight, or both. My old ‘proper’ pendulum rods were never designed to cope with this, so here I go a little longer and beefier in the blank department. Because modern rod manufacturers tend to overdo length and stiffness anyway, my choice is wide whatever the budget.
This is not the case with the classic pendulum style. Attempt a big swing with a long, stiff rod, and, for most mortals, things go pear shaped in a flash. With no ‘give’ in the system, the rod does not bend far enough or quickly enough to let me drive the cast down and around on the proper path. That puts the sinker in the wrong place at the wrong time and, coupled with the rod’s excessive leverage, it makes the pressure on me viciously unmanageable.
The cast loses its natural flow, the rod comes off its proper path and I finish with something approaching an overhead thrash. This common disease is called ‘cutting the corner’. Time for me to see sense and switch back to my proper pendulum rod.