When I was growing up fishing the Thames Estuary we only had a few choices when it came to lead weights. We either used a breakout grip lead for uptiding or a 1lb bell style sinker when downtiding. If you were really lucky you’d get to use a 12oz watch lead, but they were rarer than mullet’s teeth in my neck of the woods.
Long gone are the days of tangled traces due to a bell lead falling over on the seabed and rolling around in circles in the tide. Nowadays there is a huge array of sinker styles to choose from to cover every fishing situation, so I thought it would be a good idea to cover my top seven, all of which I use at some point during the fishing year.
1) Grip leads
There are two types of grip lead available. The more traditional is the breakout style, which has four wires held in place via rubber tubes or beads. These four wires are actually just two wires, so if one spike breaks out, then that renders two of the four spikes out.
They’re designed for uptide fishing, to anchor your bait away from the boat up in the tide. When a fish takes your bait the added pressure pulls the wires down ‘breaking’ them out of the seabed, which in turn allows the lead to roll down the tide and signal a bite.
Another type of breakout style is the Gemini System 100+, which has four independent wires that are clipped into place in grooves on a special head attached to the lead. The grip wires on these sinkers can be broken out individually, and therefore give a tiny amount of extra gripping power. For areas with exceptionally strong tides or rocky/ snaggy seabeds the fixed grip lead is a must. Here the wires don’t break out.
There are numerous styles available, but one of the most popular is the Gemini System 100+ fixed lead, which allows you to choose between three different thicknesses and strengths of wire, from ultra stiff to springy or soft. Unlike a breakout style lead, the wires are fixed in place, often shaped into position by the user. It takes quite a lot of pressure to trip a fixed lead from the seabed.
I often use them in the Bristol Channel or River Mersey, where fierce tides make short work of traditional breakout style leads.
2) Cannon balls
The cannonball lead has become very popular with south coast anglers in recent years. They have a number of advantages such as being able to roll around the seabed to search out gulleys and depressions where fish might be lurking.
I quite often use a cannonball lead on a boom set-up when drift fishing with lures over wrecks and reefs. They’re extremely hydrodynamic and aren’t as prone to spinning as some of the other lead shapes, which in turn helps reduce tangles.
3) Pear leads
The pear shape is perhaps one of the most common sinkers used by boat anglers today. Designed with the bulk of the weight being situated at the wider base, tapering slowly upwards to a moulded-in eye or swivel, this style is perfect for all manner of fishing situations.
I use them in sizes from 2oz up to 12oz, which covers me for lure fishing, drifting for plaice over rough ground, fishing at anchor for smoothhounds or bass, and even for tope or conger eels in deeper water.
Definitely a must-have in my tackle box. I often carry a selection of 2, 3, 4 and 6oz pear leads in my box for fishing lures on a fixed lead rig (see page 38, issue 531) when targeting summer cod, bass and pollack.
4) Blopedo style
The Bopedo style of lead weight is perhaps one of the most instantly recognisable to boat anglers. This is my go-to lead when fishing deep water with strong tides. These sinkers are available in a range of sizes including 12oz, 16oz (1lb), 20oz, 24oz and 32oz (2lb), so they cover most deep-water fishing situations.
It’s a tried and tested design, with four flat sides but a streamlined design, they get down quickly and tend to hold the bottom really well without rolling around all over the place. This is what I like to use when searching out conger eels over wrecks, or when winter cod fishing off the Needles, Isle of Wight.
5) Coated and coloured
Coated leads have been around for decades on the carp fishing scene, but they really only started to appear in sea fishing about five or six years ago.
Most of the coloured leads are powder-coated with a plastic material, and this helps protect the lead inside. Although there is no hard and fast evidence that a coloured lead attracts fish, there is a school of thought that thinks this way.
I’m not convinced, but I believe that having coloured lead weights in a match-fishing situation really helps. You can instantly grab the desired weight required if you know the colour scale in your box - for instance, blue is 90g, red is 60g etc.
More recently we’ve seen an increase in luminous, glow in the dark leads. Again these are powder-coated, and are a brilliant idea for beach anglers fishing at night. Again I’m open to suggestion with regards to their fish-attracting qualities.
6) Watch leads
If you’ve ever been plaice fishing on the drift then you’ll know what these are. The watch lead is the perfect choice when fishing over clean sand on the drift, and for a very good reason.
The design is such that as the weight is dragged along, the small nodules on it, coupled with the open centre, actually kick up puffs of sand. This is said to mimic small baitfish, even sandeels, which is why they are so popular with anglers targeting plaice, turbot and brill.
Of course you don’t just have to use them while fishing on the drift for flatfish. I like to use a heavy watch lead when fishing at anchor sometimes, especially if I want to pin my bait hard to the seabed without fear of it rolling around in the tide.
I also use the really small 2oz watch leads to great effect when fishing in shallow water. They make great casting leads when fishing a single ragworm or belly strip of mackerel. I like to cast across the tide and let the tide carry the lead along. This tactic has caught me numerous bass and turbot when traditional methods have failed.
7) Drilled bullets
The humble drilled bullet is a very often overlooked and underrated piece of kit. In fact, while doing the pictures for this piece I discovered that I only have one left in my lead box, so I must remember to pick some more up the next time I’m at a shop that sells them.
Drilled bullets come in two shapes, either round or egg-shaped. They’re primarily used on float-fishing rigs, but if you have a selection in smaller sizes you can fine-tune a rig to perfection when fishing a live sandeel for bass. This type can also be used to great effect when ‘trotting’ a river estuary for flounders.
The great thing about using a drilled bullet is that it gives you a direct line to a hooked fish, because your line passes through the middle of the weight, rather than needing a swivel or boom to hold it onto your main line.
Fixed-spools are the angling favourite around the world, which is why there are so many makes and models. They differ in size, line capacity and quality and you must choose one that is fit for the purpose for the fishing you intend doing.
Different sized reels are required for beach casting, estuary and lure fishing, but your final choice is based on line capacity. For clean beach angling 12lb to 15lb line is the standard choice, so a reel that holds around 200-300 yards of 15lb or 400-500 yards of 12lb line is ideal.
Reel sizes are usually reflected by their catalogue number; beach reel examples being from 4000 or 450 upwards to 7000 or 800. This is not failsafe so check the line capacity; details are on the spool or box. Beach fixed-spools usually have a spool diameter of around three inches.
Look for a model with a spare spool. This gives you the option of loading the second one with heavier line for fishing rough ground or even fishing with braid.
Price a major factor. Many of the economy reels, those under £30, will get you fishing, the more expensive models offer better design, engineering, including precision anti-rust ball bearings, oscillating line-lay and a super-smooth clutch.
Bright metallic colours, honeycombed spools and bright fl ashy chrome bits often hide plastic parts and cheap engineering, while quality reels have a better corrosion resistance.
Beach fixed spools must have a front drag, which is a mechanism on the front of the spool that allows controlled slip to release line when a fish pulls hard.
This is rarely used for basic beach fishing and, if you do hit a big fish, it's probably easier to back wind.
For beach casting the spool needs to be clamped down hard; only reels with a front drag adjustment allow this. The spool cannot be allowed to slip during a cast because the resulting movement of line would be like a knife running over your finger.
Rear-drag reels, where the clutches cannot be tightened down hard enough to prevent line slip, are used for coarse fishing, spinning and plugging.
Balance is an important factor. Some reels can be heavy; especially cheap versions and can upset the rod's balance. Take your rod with you when you buy a reel. Finally, look for a model with a comfortable handle (bear in mind that a winter beach is cold on the hands) and a handle that the palm can grip will be easier to use.
A modern fixed-spool reel will have a line capacity of about 300 yards and should be filled to the spool lip
Loading your fixed-spool reel
Modern fixed-spools have a long, wide spool and a line capacity of around 300 yards. There is no need to fill the reel with yards of backing line to fill it up as is the case with older reels and some cheaper models.
The wider tapered spool is also contoured to unload the line during the cast more smoothly. The line diameter you use will effect the way the reel unloads the line.
Thicker line will decrease the diameter of the spool quickly causing the exposed spool lip to catch the line as the mono pours off. With a thin line (0.35mm mono and below) the spool decreases less quickly and line flow is more efficient because it doesn’t catch on the spool lip.
Fixed-spool reels allow the efficient use of lighter mono lines and braid and it is possible to use lines down to 0.06mm from the shore effectively...but don’t forget you will need to attach a shockleader.
You can tie the line to the spool using a simple lasso knot or a three-turn grinner knot. Avoid knots in the line because these will stand proud on the spool and catch loops of line as you cast. Fill the spool to the very top of the spool’s lip.
Removing the spool reveals the drive gear and spool spindle
Oscillating line-lay system
This important device moves the spool up and down in a set rhythm so the line being retrieved is laid evenly on the spool as it rotates.
The more expensive models have a more intricate oscillating line-lay system, which loads the line with precision so that it doesn’t bed into itself. This certainly improves casting distance.
Reels with poor line lay tend to bunch up the line at either the base or lip of the spool, which spoils casting distance. These type of reels also tend to rock or knock when winding in and are probably best avoided.
A roller bearing in the bale-arm prevents line twist.
The line clip on the side of the spool.
Adjustments, settings and features
Of particular use to the sea angler is the anti-backwind, which is a small lever positioned on the rear end of the reel body. In one position the spool is locked but flip the lever and the reel handle can be turned either way. It is an effective way to release line should a big fish threaten to snap your line; in an emergency you can back wind.
A roller bearing in the bulbous end of the bale-arm acts as an anti-twist mechanism allowing the line to run smoothly at right angles to the spool. This may stick on cheaper models, so is worth checking to avoid potential line wear.
Most spools have a handy line clip on the side of the spool to clamp the end of the reel line; fixed-spools have an annoying habit of shedding loops of line and the clip solves the problem.
However, if your line has a heavy leader tied on the end, this tiny line clip will not hold it. A hair band or Velcro rod band should keep it from unravelling.
The retrieve ratio of the reel relates to the number of turns of line around the spool per turn of handle.
Fixed-spools are faster than multipliers because the spool is bigger and the line diameter on the spool does not decrease by much.
All models include an automatic bale-arm return, on some this is simply a bumper the bale arm hits to flip it back into position. On the more sophisticated models the return is internal and far smother. On cheaper reels the bale-arm can stick and you have to wind extra hard to make it flip over and engage.
The majority of reels are ambidextrous and can be swapped from left to right-hand wind in seconds. This is a big advantage for left-handers because there are very few multiplier models able to offer this.
The reel's handle can be unscrewed and switched to the left or right side.
Tapered shockleaders are ideal because the smaller leader knot is less prone to snag loops of line on the spool or the caster’s finger.
● A finger-stall or line trigger allows power casting.
● Cheaper front-drag models can jam if tightened down too much.
● Use braid below 1.15mm diameter. Lines as thin as 0.06mm are ideal for long casting.
● Big Pit reels for carp fishing are ideal for long-range sea angling.
● Don’t panic if you thread the line through your rod rings and find it is outside the bale-arm. Unscrew the front drag, remove spool, open the bale-arm and replace the spool.
● Fixed-spools require far less maintenance than multipliers. Wash the reel in soapy water after use, rinse and allow to dry in the air. Oil occasionally.
Casting and tackle expert John Holden offers some really useful advice on getting the best from multiplier sea fishing reels with magnetic brakes...
A SURPRISING NUMBER OF anglers still refuse to believe that magnetic brakes actually work. A typical letter goes like this: "Mag control cannot operate unless a spool is made of steel, which would be useless for casting. Aluminium doesn't stick to a magnet. Why do you people keep recommending them?"
Fixing a small but powerful magnet into a multiplier reel's sideplate does help to control an alloy spool for casting. The principle is simple: when an electrical conductor passes through a magnetic field, its movement is resisted and the magnet acts as a brake. The vital word is conductor - not the familiar attraction that draws steel to a magnet.
Aluminium spools are excellent conductors, and that's why magnetic brakes can be so useful and efficient. A slider or control knob alters the relationship between the magnet and the spool to produce the appropriate braking force. Adjustment takes only a moment, with no need to strip the reel and no brake blocks to fall out.
The original small Abu magnetic reels were targeted at baitcasting. The brake setup did not suit beach fishing, unless you played with the reel's innards. My current Sports Mag 6500CT is so much better in this respect that modifying the brake is of no benefit for fishing. I set the slider to '3' when the reel came out of the box, and that's where it has stayed. The reel casts 4-6oz long or far under most conditions, and with almost full insurance against backlashes.
Like most small high-performance reels, the Mag's zero setting is still a shade too resistant for casting on a field or fishing at extreme ranges.
First step is to remove one or two tiny magnets from the array. That's easy: just pull them away from the steel backing plate where they are held by magnetic attraction. The magnetic elements within an array are usually arranged with alternately opposed poles (N-S-N, etc), so I always mark the front faces before taking them out so that they can be replaced in the correct order - not that it seems to make any difference to the brake's performance.
With the magnetic field reduced the lead weight really flies, but the reel is more nervous. A nasty characteristic of all tuned magnetic systems is that a small movement of the slider or adjustment screw can make a big difference to speed and controllability. This is an inherent weakness of magnetic braking in general, not a bad reflection on any particular reel.
Best solution is to get the magnet setting more or less right, then fine-tune with oils. In the case of the small Abu reels fitted with centrifugal brakes as well as magnets, you could add maybe one small brake block.
Tuning is all very well if you are looking for maximum performance and don't mind doing some work to get there, but otherwise it's a nuisance. This is why the latest Abu CT magnetic reels tend to be more practical than the old ones - though if you are prepared to do the work and put up with the hassle, some of the old models still outperform the new.
There is a counter argument. Why not take out all the magnets and use blocks alone? Why not indeed. At this point, enter the classic Daiwa 7HT multiplier. Old technology and dated design, but lovely performance, practical, and, as small multipliers go, fairly reliable. I still use one for most of my fishing.
WHY BIG REELS HAVE AN ADVANTAGE
CONVENIENCE apart, does the magnetic brake offer any significant advantages over blocks and oils? In my view, not as far as small high-performance CTs are concerned. Switch to a larger reel, and the situation changes.
Let's jump all the way to Okuma's Magnetix MG-30CS, a large-capacity multiplier new to the UK. Its specifications look good - tough graphite frame and sideplates, a monster handle, fast gearing, powerful drag with smooth, effortless adjustment, nice alloy spool holding 230 metres of 0.5mm line, and adjustable magnetic control.
The MG-30S ticks all the right boxes for heavy beach fishing duties. It casts as far as most of us would need, and it performs as a big multiplier should. The price is keen. The jury will remain out until the new reels have been around long enough to prove their reliability.
The big Okuma's magnetic brake is controlled by a dial on the left-hand sideplate. How do they achieve such powerful braking at one end of such a small dial, yet allow virtually free-running at the other? Ferreting around inside the reel reveals that the brake adjusts by shifting the whole array up or down relative to the spool's radius. In contrast to other systems, the magnets always remain at a constant distance from the spool.
When the magnets are positioned near the spool's rim, more aluminium revolves past the array per revolution than it does when the magnets sit nearer the spool's axle, thus increasing the brake force. It's easy to adjust and nicely balanced to average casting skills.
Like all magnetic controllers, the Okuma's is good for big, slow-flying baits used for general rough ground work where one cast might be 30 yards, the next 100 yards or more. Under these conditions, magnetic reels are better than centrifugally-braked multiplier reels because centrifugal brakes must spin fairly rapidly before the blocks begin to bite against the drum, whereas magnets kick into action at much lower speeds. If magnets do have an advantage over blocks and oils, it is their precise control and rapid reaction at short and medium distances with heavy tackle and big bait.
You might expect that reels falling between the ultra-quick CTs and monsters such as the Okuma tend to be a mishmash of the good and bad aspects of magnetic control.
That is true to some extent, and well demonstrated in Penn's 525 range. Specifically on the issue of cast control, any reel with spool size similar to a 525 is a hybrid of pussycat and tiger. If small CTs were Ferraris, 525s would be more in line with how Mercedes Benz described pre-War Bentley sports cars - the fastest lorries in the world.
The magnet arrangement on early 525 Mags was not well thought out. Many anglers found them difficult or impossible to control. The latest models, such as the Supermag Extra, are in a different league, but of all the magnetic reels on the market 525s remain the most demanding when pushed towards their limits. Any magnetic reel of similar spool format and dimensions would have a similar character.
The basic model's revised magnetic controller offers a reliable and flexible means of setting up the reel to perform beautifully on the beach. Set the slider to generate however much control you need for the circumstances, and the chubby Penn will be equally at home hurling well out or lobbing just beyond the backwash.
The downside is that the standard model does not always allow the extra speed and fine tuning necessary for peak results with a powerful casting style. These are the SuperMag Extra's domain - this is the Penn with the chunky screw-in adjustment knob similar to the controller fitted to the original ‘T’ tournament 525.
Whereas the standard model adjusts between comatose and reasonably wide awake, the Extra ranges from dead to tired, through increasing liveliness, before becoming out-of-its-head manic.
Screwed down to maximum, it is a viable beginner's reel. Backed off somewhat, the magnets are ideally calibrated for run-of-the-mill beach casting provided that you cast reasonably well. But somewhere along the scale the spool goes berserk, and it is not easy to find a setting that delivers maximum range with reasonable insurance against disaster.
This nasty on-off habit is linked to underlying characteristics of magnetic braking, not to the controller as such. Until more sophisticated braking systems arrive, fine tuning for peak results calls for a combination of magnet setting, suitable oil and immaculate technique.
On the field, an easy answer is to let fly at a fairly high setting then back off when the cast is nicely away. A more practical fishing option is to screw the knob in a touch beyond the marginal control point and then live with the drop in performance.
Why do you choose a particular pattern or size of hook? Is it the one your dealer sells the most of, is it the cheapest, are you a sucker for the adverts or does your mate use it?
There are plenty of other just as silly reasons why a particular hook pattern gains favour and there are also lots of sea anglers using hook patterns that should have stayed in the Ark.
The big breakthrough in hook making came when a chemical process, like the way coins are coated, was introduced, instead of the old method of tumbling hooks in a vat of enamel to coat them.
This led to today’s term of ‘chemical sharpening’ or ‘chemical etching’ because the result is a far sharper hook point. One of the reasons hook points are sharper is because the old tumbling process actually dulled the vital point area. The chemical coating process keeps the hook as sharp as when it was first produced.
So rule number one is to use only chemically etched hooks because they are so much sharper than any others. Don't believe me? Try this simple hook test – will your hook point dig into your thumbnail when you draw the point over it? A chemically etched hook will dig in every time and if yours don’t, bin them and get down the tackle dealers.
Patterns and designs
There are so many hook patterns available because we are not all the same and anglers have personal preferences, and it’s a human trait to have an individual opinion on everything, especially fishing gear.
Several lifetimes of anglers – whether coarse, game, sea or commercial – have produced hundreds of hook designs and patterns. Some are for a particular species, some for a particular bait, some are known by their shape, the name of the designer or place they came from, and others are a pattern designed by the professional fisherman.
Thankfully in recent years several of the major hook brand ranges have been consolidated, with around six patterns reckoned to cover most sea angling options.
What are the best makes? Ask any angler and he will have an opinion. Mine is that Japanese/ American hooks are mostly the best with my favourite makes including Kamasan and Owner.
UNDERSTAND HOOK SIZESRemember, large numbers mean small hooks
Hook sizes are not complicated. The higher the hook size number means the smaller the hook. The addition of a slash and zero, /0, to the larger hook sizes could lead to confusion.
Sizes 24, 22, 20 descending are the tiniest freshwater fishing size. The sea range starts at around size 8; 6; 4; 2 and gets bigger down to a size 1. Once the 1 is reached the /0 is added as the size increases as the number increases from 1/0, 2/0, 3/0, 4/0 and up to a 12/0, which is the largest big-game hook.
Hook sizes are supposed to be standard, but in reality they are not and the various manufacturers have their own interpretation of sizes.
HOOK SIZE AND SPECIES FORMULAHere is a rough guide of hook size in relation to fish species
- Size 4 and 6: Suitable for small species with tiny mouths like mullet, sole, bream and garfish.
- Size 2, 1, 1/0: The standard sizes for shore fishing for the smaller common species like dogfish, wrasse, pouting, whiting, codling, dabs, flounders, plaice etc.
- Size 1/0, 2/0 and 3/0: The choice for larger species like cod, bass, pollack, rays and smoothhounds.
- Size 4/0, 5/0, 6/0: Essential for the biggest species, such as conger eels, big cod or bass and for use with very large baits like whole squid and mackerel.
- Size 6/0 and above: Required for sharks and big-game fish.
FAVOURITE PATTERNSWhat they are and what they're for
Aberdeen: The all-round favourite shore and boat hook for worm baits. Sometimes also called worm hooks, they are available in most sizes. One of the best is the Kamasan B940
Uptide or Viking: Arock angling and uptiding favourite for use with big baits, especially peeler and hermit crabs for the bigger species like bass and smoothhounds. Mustad and Kamasan are among the favourites.
Beaked: Aclassic blast from the past, the bent in beaked point still has its fans, but Iwouldn’t tie one on your snood, let alone mine. Only the Kamasan K60 impresses me.
Crab hooks: Popular patterns of the past include the Limerick style short shank. The Kamasan B900Cis similar, while the B940Sis a popular short shank version of the Kamasan Aberdeen.
O’Shaughnessy: This is a heavy-duty forged pattern renowned for its strength and is generally available in the large sizes for big fish. Ideal for a whole mackerel head or flapper, double squid or large spider peeler. Meat hooks from Cox & Rawle and Kong hooks from Hiro are just a couple of the other strong patterns available for big fish.
Bait holders: Retaining barbs sit along the shank to support the bait – a great idea but they do enable the bait to travel up the snood and not down around the point, which can be a pain when fishing for the smaller species. Elastic cotton is particularly difficult to remove from them.
Match hook: Generally a light fine-wire pattern, such as the Mustad Nordic bend 446Bor the Mustad 3262 blue Aberdeen. Avoid both if you want to land fish weighing more than 1lb.
Semi-circles: The semi-circle hook or smart hook has grown in popularity in recent times, particularly for livebaiting. Its turned in point is a better choice than beaked hooks.
BE WISE WHEN BUYING It pays to buy in bulk, but avoid cheap deals
Hooks are generally available in packs of six, 10, 12 and 25 or in boxes of 50 or 100, although lots of distributors realise there is more profit in small packs.
Cheap hooks sold on the Internet may appear a bargain, but is it wise to scrimp on hooks?
SHANK AND GAPE
- The shank of hooks varies in length and wire thickness and this usually relates to the hook’s suitability for a particular bait or species.
Aberdeens have a longer shank and are suitable for worms and sandeels. O’Shaughnessy hooks are considered large and strong and are favoured for species like conger eels.
The gape is the distance from the shank to the point, which relates to the size of the hook. However, some patterns of a different size have a similar gape, but are of a difference thickness of wire. This allows the angler to choose a lighter, bendier hook for catch and release or fishing snaggy ground so that the hook springs out.
Bass anglers fishing with a live sandeel may prefer a lightweight, but strong, hook that does not impede the bait’s swimming action and so want small but strong wire. The combinations are endless, which is why there are so many patterns.
- Most hooks are coated with a protective coating or enamel and this prevents them from corroding or offers the hook in a colour to suit the bait – black for lugworms, silver for sandeels etc. Even white hooks for mullet fishing with bread are available nowadays.
However, in the main hooks come with a nickel, black or bronze coating. Red and gold are also available, while stainless steel patterns are out of favour because they don’t corrode if lost in fish.
EYED OR SPADE END
- Eyed hooks are the most popular among sea anglers. Spade ends, which have a spade-shaped, flat end to prevent the knot being pulled off the hook shank are not popular, although in coarse angling and on the Continent they are considered superior in terms of the presentation of some baits.
Eyed hooks are probably preferred here because they do not damage delicate worm baits, and are easier to tie.
BARB OR NO BARB
- Catch and release is popular so micro barbed hooks are the answer to reducing damage to fish.
Barbless hooks are practical for some sea angling situations, although generally because of the long range fished from the shore and the stretch in mono lines they are not that efficient.
MATCH HOOK AND BAIT
Q When targeting different species how do Iknow what size and type of hook to use?
A The best starting point is to look at the size of your bait. Asingle lugworm or ragworm will fit a size 1 or 2 and that will suit most of the middle to smaller size fish species.
For a multi-lugworm bait aimed at cod, a larger size 1/0, 2/0 or even two hooks in a Pennell set-up may be more suitable, while for a mackerel head, whole calamari squid, whole peeler crab for bass or conger a 4/0 to 6/0 pattern is advised.
Long-shank patterns such as the Aberdeen are recommended for worms and flatfish because the longer shank presents the worm better and is easier to remove from smaller species.
Braid became the number one choice among boat anglers when they discovered its lack of stretch boosted bite detection, while the much lower diameter cut through the racing tide like a knife through hot butter.
Line stretch is a big factor when it comes to fishing, but if there is a problem with using braid it is that its lack of stretch puts extra pressure on the hookhold. Softer tipped rods have been produced to combat this lack of stretch, while anglers add a short mono shockleader to their braid to help improve its performance.
Using braid from the shore is not quite so straightforward as it is when downtide fishing from a boat. First, braid cannot be used on a multiplier reel for casting any distance, simply because the coils dig into one another on the spool, especially when stressed via a snag or heavy fish. This results in the line jamming and locking the spool during the following cast.
For those of you wondering why you see pike anglers using braid lines on a multiplier for jerk bait casting, it is because they use heavy, large-diameter braids (80lb) to prevent the coils of line digging into each other. This is not practical for sea angling, because the larger line diameter catches far more tide and drastically reduces casting range, so braid can only be used for shore fishing efficiently with a fixed-spool reel.
Here Alan Yates took a couple of beach casting outfits to the shore - one loaded with mono and the other with braid - to find out which would perform the best...
HOW THE TEST WAS DONE
I set up a test with two rods – one with a standard multiplier loaded with 15lb (0.35mm) monofilament line and the other with a fixed-spool reel loaded with 0.14mm braid.
The test took place early in the New Year on a venue with lots of small dabs, pouting, whiting and rockling. Lugworms, clams and squid were used for bait, and the hooks were size
2. Each identical rig had three hooks, and the same baits were put on the same hooks of each rig.
Casting distance was identical, although the braid rod was fished on the uptide side of the mono to prevent the braid cutting through the mono, should they get tangled or the lines crossed. Casting time was fixed at 20 minutes for each rod.
1 Braid's potentially lower diameter promotes longer casting distances with a fixed-spool reel. This is a reality that many fixed-spool reel users are yet to discover.
2 Bite indication is magnified dramatically, not only making the angler more involved in his fishing, but the fishing more enjoyable. Compare this to mono's massive stretch, which limits bite indication, especially at long range. This can be frustrating when there are lots of fish about.
3 Braid is constructed in tightly woven Dyneema fibres, so is far stronger, tougher and more resistant to abrasion than mono.
4 Braid's finer diameter combats and cuts through strong tide far more efficiently than mono.
5 Floating and sinking braids are available, with the carp braid lines equally effective for sea angling.
1 Monofilament's stretch is a safety cushion when a big fish is hooked. Braid's lack of stretch transfers sea movement to rod tip, and it is best used from the shore in a fairly calm sea.
2 Mono seems to be more neutrally buoyant than braid, which can sink and drag on the sea bed, become caught in weed or buried in mud.
3 Braid breaks abruptly when snagged, whereas mono's stretch often allows it to pressure the hookhold gradually and pull free.
4 Braid cannot be used efficiently on a multiplier reel, especially for long-range casting. Similar problems exist with braid jamming in its own coils when uptiding with braid and a multiplier from the boat. A fixed-spool reel is the answer in both cases.
5 Mono is available in a range of bright colours – ideal for field casting. It is also available in clear for clear-water conditions.
6 Mono is far cheaper than braid – 250 metres of 15lb braid costs around £20-£25, while 1,000 yards of 15lb mono can be as little as £8.
BRAID VERSUS MONO – TEST CONCLUSIONS
1 Over 10 casts both rods caught fish every time, although the mono rod landed considerably more, and the bigger specimens. Sheer coincidence, perhaps, although the test conclusions suggest that the movement of hooked fish on the braided line transmits to the other baits and may put other fish off taking them. Longer and wider spaced snoods would improve this situation.
2 Bites were more apparent on the braid rod, so its time between casts could have been drastically reduced from the 20 minutes used in the test. This could lead to braid catching more fish.
3 Using braid could be deemed unsociable because it will slice through mono when the two lines are retrieved against each other.
4 The use of a mono shockleader (60lb) did make a difference when casting. Braid takes some getting used to because of its lack of stretch, and it's not the line for the novice.
5 A very low diameter braid could be used – down to 0.12mm. Beware of selecting braid of the same breaking strain or diameter as you do mono, because the whole point is about reducing the diameter of the braid. Look for the new micro braids.
6 The retrieve of the braid on the fixed-spool reel was faster and the movement of even small fish could be felt, giving more enjoyable fishing. However, retrieve carefully to prevent reeling the fish off the hooks.
7 While braid is a solid coloured line – mostly green or black – it is available in red, blue and fluorescent yellow (carp spod line). For those who are worried about fish seeing it, the answer is a clear mono shockleader.
8 Braid's lack of give is noticeable when the leader knot comes through the rod rings. A tapered leader is the way to avoid the threat posed by a large uni-type leader knot jamming in the rod rings during the retrieve.
9 It's a myth that braid wears out your rod rings. This might happen on cheaper rod rings, but not with the patterns used by most of the major manufacturers.
10 Braid line is good at short range, such as when fishing alongside a pier wall, for short-range rock fishing, or spinning where the line's reaction to a snag is transmitted to the rod to give the angler time to react to avoid it.
11 A big advance in lines will come when a braid can be produced with some stretch. This would allow the angler to use a line with a stretch suitable for the venue, water depth and species.
12 Using braid and a lighter rod promotes more enjoyment when catching the small or medium-sized fish.
13 Both lines have their uses and advantages. Shore anglers should consider carrying reels loaded with both line types.
If you use the wrong hook pattern or size of hook, the chances are that you will struggle to successfully catch your target species when sea fishing.
If you know what species you are likely to encounter, then you are already well on the way to choosing the correct hook. Equally important is the bait that the hook is going to hold.
Mounting a large cocktail of a crab and mussels should be done on hooks that have a wide gape, while a single sandeel will sit better on a long-shank hook. Hooks that have tiny barbs along the shank can help to hold a worm in position, especially during a powerful cast.
Hook sizes can be very confusing to some newcomers to angling.
The smallest hook you will probably encounter in a shore situation will be a size 8. Anything smaller than this is usually used by coarse anglers.
The sizes move up as the hook becomes bigger. For example, from an 8, the size will increase to a 6, then 4, 2 and finally a size 1. As the size increase continues, after a size 1 we come to a 1/0, then moving further up the scale to a 2/0, 3/0, 4/0, 5/0 and 6/0.
A hook that is bigger than a 6/0 is usually considered for targeting larger species such as sharks and conger eels, simply because they may be needed to hold a large fish bait like a whole mackerel flapper or two or three whole squid.
KNOW YOUR HOOK
One of the very strongest knots to use to tie hooks is thehalf blood knot.
Match the size of bait to the hook
Depending on what species you are targeting, you must match the hook size to the bait you are using.
For example, flatfish prefer a crab bait or a bunch of maddies tipped off with a sliver of mackerel. Limerick hooks have a wide gape, and a size 2 can easily hold a decent peeler crab bait and still have enough of the hook point showing.
An Aberdeen pattern in a size 2 or 1 is ideal for threading several small ragworms with their tails left hanging. A small piece of squid or mackerel can then be hung on the point.
Smaller round species, such as pout and rockling, can be caught using Aberdeen patterns, but even smaller still in a 4 or a 6. Larger round fish, such as cod, pollack and coalfish, like a larger bait and a size 2/0 up to a 6/0 will easily fit into their larger mouths.
Smoothhounds and rays have relatively small mouths compared to their size, so a size 1 to 2/0 will be adequate. The pattern depends on whether you are using crabs or sandeels.
Know the common hook patterns Five types you should have
Q In the event of a fish being deeply hooked, are there any hooks that might be safely left in the fish to corrode away naturally?
A While the use of barbless hooks would probably be better for catch and release purposes, they are not really effective. Tides and wave movement that occur on the shore can make keeping a fish hooked on a barbless version difficult.
If a fish is deeply hooked and you intend to release it, then you should always cut the snood as close to the hook as possible. Forcing your fingers down the throat of a fish or pulling at the hook will probably result in its subsequent death.
Hooks that are best used for this purpose are modern, chemically-etched carbon types. Forged steel or thick stainless steel hooks should not be left in a fish.
There have been many arguments as to whether or not hooks left in a fish actually corrode away, but the general feeling among anglers is that the acids in a fish’s gut help to pass the hook. Larger hooks may take longer, so if you intend to practice catch and release during a session, use smaller patterns that if left may even be passed through the fish’s digestive system.
Another alternative would be to use a circle hook, as these tend to hook a fish in the corner or scissors of the mouth. Commercial longliners use them and they make unhooking a fish much easier. On the other hand, circle hooks are more difficult to bait up with delicate worms or sandeels.
Disgorgers are very effective. Now that match anglers are adopting catch and release in the majority of contests, a high percentage of fish are going back alive with no need to leave the hook in them.
The cod season is under way. The bigger fish are closing in on the shoreline and, by the second week of November, the chances of a double-figure fish will be good. Sadly, so should the prospects of genuine winter weather, says Alan Yates, who’s determined to make sure you’re ready for the foul conditions
PLUMMETING temperatures and biting winds begin to be felt by fingers and toes and the rare calm days and nights are invariably frosty, all of which means that shore fishing is no longer easy.
Just casting your bait a reasonable distance and getting it to stay put is difficult in a windswept sea.
Some of the simplest tasks become major problems, like keeping the rod in its rest or lighting a fuel-powered lamp.
Here we look at some things you can do to make life on the beach easier - and more productive...
HOW TO BEAT THE WEATHER...
Keeping warm is not a problem because the standard of winter clothing is so high that you can buy an efficient suit for as little as £30. Every angler should have one.
Best buys are the two-piece suits with salopettes and jacket because each can be removed to suit the temperature on the day. One-piece suits, especially those with flotation padding aimed at boat anglers, can be a liability on the shore, so be warned. However, rock and pier/jetty anglers might want to consider wearing one.
Ditch the fuel lantern and switch to instant electric. There are a host of super headlamps available with twin beams offering a power light and a working light. Rechargeable base lights are also superb.
Some form of beach shelter is an invaluable aid to keeping warm, providing somewhere to duck out of the elements and keep valuable bait and tackle dry.
There are a range of options, with the umbrella the lightest and best allround shelter, although many are made for coarse fishing and can soon be wrecked or blown away in strong winds, so anchor them securely.
Best choice is a 45in model with wings, which help secure the brolly to the beach and increase the sheltered area. Beware of buying a larger model because it will catch more wind and be harder to anchor. To secure it, bury the lower third in the shingle and fasten the centre pole to your tackle box with a luggage strap.
Best bet is the original Beach Buddy, which still takes some beating. The look-a-likes are cheaper but will they last the entire season?
Again it’s essential to bury the lower flaps in the beach to keep the shelter in place - this is part of the design - and a bucket piled full of stones is an invaluable aid in high winds.
The cheapest shelter option and the simplest to erect, wind breaks are widely available from caravan dealers. A canvas strung between several poles is basic but better than nothing.
Not all venues are suitable for a brolly or shelter. Long, shallow beaches, where the angler is required to move with the tide, or steep rock marks rule out ‘base-camp-style’ shelters so it is essential to have the best clothing available.
Lots of anglers fishing from sandy shores opt for chest waders and a waterproof jacket to stay dry and the combination certainly takes some beating, although it is not advisable for dangerous rock marks.
Rod rest stability
Modern aluminium tripods are very stable but there are several features you need to look out for when you buy a rod rest to make it even more stable in the worst of the winter weather.
A hook under the tripod can be used to hang a plastic bag full of shingle to help stabilise the rest in high winds. Alternatively you can use a leg brace kit, which is efficient, especially when you can’t dig the legs into shingle or sand.
You can make your own brace by drilling a hole in the bottom of each tripod leg and securing the legs with wire or string to prevent them splaying open. A few rocks piled around the rod rest legs will do instead or you could attach your rest to a railing with a large cable tie.
● If you didn’t upgrade your rigs last month then now is the time to increase your hook size and snood strength. In many UK regions, anglers will continue to catch small fish such as whiting, pout, dabs and codling, but a big cod is always possible so change to a minimum 30lb hook snood and if you use a small hook, make sure it’s a tough pattern.
● Winter tests tackle to the extreme so don’t go fishing with just one rod or reel. Take spares. Now is a good time to invest in a second rod or back-up reel. Similarly,
renew your main line and carry a spare.
● For night fishing, a small LED headlamp is a good standby in emergencies. They are not expensive.
● The extreme weather conditions in November invariably create bait shortages and result in higher worm prices. Order bait from your regular dealer.
● Get a thick woolly hat to retain your body heat, most of which is lost through the top of your head. On a beach that’s firmly in the grip of winter, warmth takes precedence over fashion!
● Check out last year’s diary for information and hints about tackle, venues etc. If you didn’t keep a diary, drag out some back copies of Sea Angler and check what was caught where.
● Finally, keep warm, dry and out of the wind. Hot food and drink also boosts morale... and catching power.
If you don’t possess a current tide table then get one pronto. No sea angler should be without one. No other item of equipment is more valuable at this time of year. A tide table helps you choose the best times to fish because the movement of the tide is a major force in fish behaviour.
You will find that certain tides and weather conditions are more favourable for some venues than others and such knowledge can save you many chilly blanks.
At a majority of venues, spring tides are ideal, especially at times when the sun and moon are nearest the earth causing spring tides to peak. The fact that spring and neap tides occur in alternate weeks means that the perfect tidal conditions for many venues around the country only occur for a few days in each fortnight.
Weather is an unpredictable factor although when an onshore wind coincides with a spring tide, fishing can certainly be at its best for some venues. Alternatively, the aftermath of a strong onshore gale can mean fishing is also good during neap tides.
Shore anglers can apply this knowledge with a few generalisations:
● Spring tides: good for fishing from most venues.
● Spring tides when calm: best for night fishing.
● Neap tides when rough: best for deep water in daylight on venues where tide is strong.
● Neap tides when calm: best for deep water in darkness on venues where tide is strong.
Apart from the information on the best tides to fish and the time of high and low water, tide tables also indicate the lowest tides when the sea retreats the furthest. Tides like these are best for bait digging.
Low water spring tides can uncover rarely-dug virgin territory. They become an invaluable aid to getting a supply of hard-to-obtain baits like black lugworm, white ragworm and shellfish like razorfish as well as allowing you to survey the bottom.
Many tackle dealers or angling clubs produce their own tide tables or the local chandlers will have one. They cost around £1.
Casting is a key sea angling skill, and reaching long distances with bait gives the shore angler an edge when it comes to catching bigger and more fish, especially during winter when weather and sea produce the worst possible conditions.
Getting baits to reach maximum distance involves using heavy 5oz or 6oz lead weights and low diameter lines between 12-15lb breaking strain or 0.32-0.35mm diameter.
The heavy lead and light line combination offers the least resistance to wind and gets the best performance from the reel.
However, this formula creates a problem in that the low breaking strain/low diameter line can easily be snapped by heavy leads and large bait loads, so a short length of thicker, stronger line is used at the head of the mainline – this is called the shockleader.
The job of the leader is to deal with the massive load put on the line during the build-up stroke to the cast and final release.
A standard 15lb line wouldn’t be able to cope with the massive pressure and would part halfway through the build-up. This would be dangerous, if not potentially lethal. A leader acts a safety net for anglers firing out a lead weight over 3-4oz on all lines under 30lb. Any sea angler not using a shockleader when casting from a beach or pier is irresponsible.
The problem with a shockleader is that you need to know how to join the heaver leader to the thinner mainline, which is a potential weak link if you get it wrong.
If tackle gets snagged, the leader knot is most likely to break and that means losing the complete shockleader as well as the rig and lead weight. You don’t want to be doing that every cast because it will ruin your fishing and cost you money.
Some novices get fed up with losing tackle and tying knots and don’t bother with the leader. This is a big mistake, and you should never cast a big lead and bait directly off a 15-20lb mainline. But read on, because we are going to show you simple ways to tie leaders without losing your temper.
TAKE THE STRAIN Using a leader is common sense
The strength of your shockleader is dictated by the weight of the lead you are casting and your casting style.
The oft-quoted formula for leader breaking strains is 10lb for every ounce of lead cast. In other words, a 5oz sinker needs a 50lb shockleader and a 6oz lead needs a 60lb line.
For power casting styles that involve generating compression in the rod and more speed in the lead, which is achieved by swinging the lead in a wide arc (pendulum), then a further 10lb is usually added to the overall leader breaking strain as a safety cushion.
There is an allowance for common sense here. There is no comparison between a full-blooded power pendulum arc on the tournament field and a simple back swing from the pier or beach.
On the field the lead in not encumbered by rig, bait or wind direction and can therefore generate awesome power and more danger. On the beach a baited rig, the awkward stance, surrounding obstructions, a strong wind and unsure footing all reduce the power input, but can heighten the dangers.
For short-range rock fishing, or where less powerful overhead casts are used, it is possible to reduce the shockleader strength safely.
Anglers using Continental-style overhead casting methods use leaders as low as 40lb.
Even when you take precautions things can go wrong. Line damage, a thumb slipping off the reel, losing the grip of the rod or simply slipping over during the cast can all result in accidents.
FOUR TOP LEADER KNOTS
Tying two lines together that differ greatly in diameter requires a specific knot, and there are a number used within sea angling circles. Here are some of the main knots that are used. They vary in simplicity and strength.
Double grinner A bulky knot, but good for joining mono and braid
A streamlined and fairly strong knot which is popular among boat anglers. On the shore it is considered strong but bulky and is also used for joining mono to braid, although it needs at least four/five turns and the mono to be blobbed with a lighter flame.
How to tie: Lay two lines alongside each other. Tie a three-turn grinner in the leader around the mainline. Tie a five-turn grinner in the mainline around the leader. Tease the knot tight, cut and blob ends.
Uni leader This is the easy one for beginners
Ideal for beginners because it is simple to tie, it creates a small neat joint and the cut ends of the knot face away from the rod rings when the knot passes through them. This knot has been popular with field casters for many years because of this. From an angling standpoint it is not the strongest of the leader knots, although it is adequate for clean ground. It is not a good choice on rough, mixed or snaggy ground, though.
How to tie (below): Start by making an overhand knot in the leader line (yellow). Pass the mainline through the loop (pic 2) and twist around the leader six times (3). Turn the mainline back on itself and pass through the gap you have created between leader and mainline three times and back out through the overhand knot (4). Tease tight slowly (5), cut and blob ends carefully (6).
The lasso uni-knot Braid to mono
Perfect for braid to mono joins of any kind and can also be used to link lighter shockleaders. Not so good with leaders above 50lb.
How to tie: Form a lasso in the braid mainline (1) and lasso the mono leader (2 & 3). Then tie the mono as you would the uni leader knot (4). Cut and blob mono (5).
Double blood Use with tapered leader
This is a small neat knot suitable only for joining two lines of equal diameter and perfect for the tapered shockleader.
How to tie: Twist the tapered leader and mainline (1) five turns opposing each other (2) and pass each end through centre of the turns in the opposite direction (3). Tease tight (4). Cut off ends (5).
Positioning the knot How to keep it out of harm's way
There is a chance the leader knot will catch your thumb or loops of line when you cast, so check it is to the right or left of the spool before you cast.
There are a couple of ways to protect your thumb, and the simpler solution is a ‘thumby’ cut from a rubber glove. The second is to tape a flap of rubber to the rod below the reel seat so it can be used to grip the spool.
If you fish with a fixed-spool reel, position the knot on the top of the spool and then it won’t catch on the loops of line and drag them off the spool.
A tapered shockleader creates a small, tight knot which is ideal for fixed-spool reels as well as multipliers with a level-line.
The paternoster has a religious connection. It's an ancient word referring to the recital of the Lord's Prayer, as well as an item of fishing tackle on which short lines with hooks are attached at intervals to the mainline. Here Alan Yates fishes a paternoster against a boom...
TERMINAL TACKLE IS complicated enough for beginners due to all the different accessories and terminology, but a consistent design thread runs through sea rigs and that's the paternoster.
It is the most effective and efficient tangle-free rig design, which is why it has withstood the test of time. It can be made of metal or monofilament line, and while the brass paternoster has disappeared it has been replaced by one made from mono line, or one with a mono body and short metal or plastic boom. The basic design is as it always was – only the accessories used to construct it have changed.
UP to 20 years ago mono paternosters included hook snoods attached via lasso loops or snood knots to the rig's mainline. Some anglers still use this method. The same style was used by commercial fishermen on their set or lay lines, and these contained hundreds of hooks.
Nowadays hook snoods are tied to small swivels trapped on the rig's mainline with small beads and crimps, or, in some cases, stop knots made from monofilament line or Power Gum.
The rig was originally constructed using one, two or three hooks, simply because three was a practical maximum for casting comfortably, and up to modern times three hooks remain the standard maximum number used in all kinds of angling.
The biggest change in the rig's construction was instigated when casting distance became a priority. Rig designs now include hooks and snoods that are clipped behind the lead weight or to the mainline to improve the aerodynamics of the baited rig.
However, the basic paternoster without bait clips, called the flapper, remains the same. The name ‘flapper’ comes from the fact that the hooks and snoods flap around during the cast, cutting distance. You can alter the rig's aerodynamics simply by reducing the number of hooks – one baited hook will cast much further than three. Other ways to increase casting distance without adding bait clips is to reduce the length of the hook snoods – a shorter, stubby rig with short snoods will cast further.
The construction of the basic mono paternoster includes a clip or swivel at the top to connect it to the reel's mainline. This makes it easy to swap rigs and to remove them to help untangle crossed lines.
The lead weight is attached to the bottom of the rig via a quick-release clip, or lead link. This enables you to swap leads easily, and is a stronger joint for the line. Tying the line directly to the lead weight's eye can allow it to be damaged by abrasion, so this is best avoided.
The snoods come off small swivels spaced at intervals down the rig. There is a tendency to put the longest snoods at the top of the rig, because these are the furthest from the sea bed when the rig is used owing to the angle between the lead weight and rod tip.
There are several variations of the mono paternoster and these include rigs with one, two or three hooks above the lead weight, as well as those with the lower hook hanging below the lead via a swivel close to the lead link. A combination of the two is called a one-up, one-down rig.
Rigs can be stored on rig winders or in sealed plastic bags and labelled, both inside a rig wallet.
THERE are a few anglers who believe metal booms offer some kind of attraction to fish due to the creation of a magnetic field in saltwater. Lots of fish species hunt their prey via the minute magnetic field that crabs and shrimps give off, and the reaction of metal in sea water produces such a minute magnetic pulse.
It's an opinion as daft to some as using WD40 on your hookbaits, but many believe that as well, so it's up to you to make up your own mind.
However, small metal booms (6-9in long) are great for producing balanced terminal rigs with longer tangle-free snoods, especially when small diameter mono is preferred.
They also add weight to the rig and nail it to the sea bed, which is another important aspect on many occasions, especially in a strong tide.
The construction of a boom paternoster is similar to the mono paternoster, with the booms trapped between beads and crimps.
Some of the booms available, such as those from Gemini, come complete with tension springs that fit underneath the boom on the rig's mainline and, when tensioned, keep the boom standing out prone from the rig body.
A small swivel fitted to the eye of the boom can help prevent line twist, caused by small fish, damaging the snood line.
Plastic booms may not have the same magnetic attraction as metal, but they too prevent tangles.
Small 6-9in metal booms are great for producing balanced terminal rigs with longer tangle-free snoods
● In all cases the main body line of the rig should be strong enough to take the force of casting. The rule of 10lb per ounce of lead weight is ideal for this.
● Hook snoods can be as light as you wish using booms, but with a mono paternoster take care not to use line that is too light because this can twist and tangle more easily. Rigs using ultra-light line can be made to perform more efficiently by reducing swivel sizes and lengthening hook snoods – proportional lengths and line diameters are the major rule.
● Sequins and beads are used as both attractors on hook snoods and to keep the bait close to the hook. They add weight to a hook snood and can help to prevent it tangling.
● Remember, if you want to make hook snoods longer, the rig's body length needs to be increased. Standard length of a three-hook mono paternoster is 6ft, while modern long rods (15ft-plus) allow that length to be increased.
● You can construct a three-hook paternoster rig using only the three-turn Grinner knot.
TERMINAL RIG: The tackle anglers use at the end of their line, including lead weight and hooks.
SET OR LAY LINES: Commercial fishing methods of laying a line with hooks placed at intervals and leaving it to fish overnight.
CRIMPS: Small, soft metal sleeves that fit on the rig body line and are squeezed gently so that they grip the line and hold beads and swivels in a set position.
STOP KNOT: A knot (usually a three-turn Grinner) formed in mono or Power Gum on the rig's mainline to hold beads and swivels in position.
POWER GUM: A strong rubber line used to tie stop knots. It does not wear as quickly as mono and can be moved up and down the rig line to adjust hook positions.
The hook is often compared with the wheel, difficult to improve. Well compare today’s latest low profile alloy car wheel with the shieldshaped things on Boudica’s chariot and that just about sums up the leap from the Stone Age bone hook to today’s high-tech tempered carbon steel fish-holder. Alan Yates explains...
CHOOSING the size, pattern and type of hook hinges on many factors, including experience and knowledge. Many, especially novices, get it totally wrong basing their choices on what it looks like rather than what it has been designed to do.
In the old days, when hooks were made in Norway or Sheffield, they were sharpened mechanically and then tumbled in a vat of enamel paint to stop them rusting, which ironically dulled the points. Now hooks are coated chemically to prevent corrosion so the point isn’t physically altered and stays as sharp as when it was made.
The second breakthrough came when lightweight, finer and stronger hook wires became available for hook making.
Small eyes make baiting easier
The working parts of a hook
Prime parts of a hook include the eye, which can be replaced by the spade end because it does less damage to small, soft baits like marine worms. Modern hooks also have far smaller eyes than the old styles of the past.
The barb is there primarily to prevent the hook falling out and although coarse anglers have proved at long range it’s not always necessary, in the sea it still has a place. Micro barbs are far more fish friendly for catch and release and it is a positive fact that barbless hooks are sharper because of the uniform decrease in the point’s diameter.
The hook’s coating can be in a range of materials and colours, these can be utilized to suit the bait. Black for lug, silver for sandeels, gold colour for rag, choice is also down to personal preference.
Shank length dictates what type of bait can be used, long shank, for example, are easier to thread worms on and easier to remove from flat fish.
The gape of the hook, between point and shank, is what determines the hook’s size and although this is generally uniform it is not precise or exact between patterns or manufacturers.
Hooks are primarily chosen by size and by the job they are expected to do. Small hooks, for example, are not very effective pushed in a large bait, although quite small hooks are capable of holding large fish. But that’s down to the tough wire, tempering and sharpening processes.
Smaller hooks are also much more fish friendly.
Buy hooks because of their reputation, sharpness, strength and reliability.
Alan’s top hook choice
There’s no such thing as the perfect hook, but the nearest I guess is the Aberdeen, but it must be chemically etched in a strong wire and come out of a packet with a reputable name on it.!
Hooks are cheap and in the harsh sea environment blunt quickly. Never use a hook twice, although larger patterns over 6/0 can be re-sharpened. Not only is placing a used hook back among new hooks the way to trigger corrosion, you can bet it won’t be as sharp as a new one.
Striking home the hook
Boat anglers enjoy greater success in terms of striking a hook home because they lift the hook into the top jaw of the fish, while from the shore the hook is often pulled out or even levered sideways away from the fish’s mouth.
Tide helps hook a fish when it takes the bait because any momentary halt in forward motion causes the hook to dig in.
A majority of novice sea anglers lose fish through striking too early. The decision to strike should be made solely on conservation or rod safety grounds. Striking as early as possible is more fish friendly than fish bag filling.
You need to remove the bearings from the reel and drop into a jar containing petrol. Agitate the bearings and then use the end of a pencil through the middle to remove and spin them. Do this a couple of times to make sure they are really clean.
Dry the bearings on a piece of kitchen roll. Leave a few minutes to let the petrol evaporate, then drop into another jar containing suitable oil. Agitate again to get the air out of the bearings. Leave for a few minutes then remove onto kitchen roll to remove the excess oil, then pop them back into the reel.
1 Unscrew and remove the screws on the end plate and push the spool towards the end to displace the cap
2 Remove end plate and then the spool
3 Remove screw holding the retainer plate
4 Remove the ratchet ring
5 Take out the bearing retainer plate
6 Remove the spacing ring and then the bearing
7 The second bearing is in the opposite end plate - use tweezers to remove the circlip
8 A bent wire can be used to remove the bearing
9 Use petrol to clean the bearings then oil to lubricate
10 Wipe off surplus oil and reassemble reel
A rod transmits clear messages through the handle to your hands. Do you know what your rod is saying?
Understanding ‘rod-speak’ is a vital prelude to mastering advanced styles such as the pendulum. Here coach John Holden spells out how to initially handle fixed-spool and multiplier reels to maximise your fishing
Taking aim before you fire
Casting without having a proper target to aim at is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. Look out to sea in the direction you want to cast, and imagine a target in the sky at about 45 degrees elevation and a little to the right of the casting direction.
These angles are only a guide. Just remember that to cast straight and far you must cast high and slightly right. If you aim straight towards where you want the bait to land, casts tend to fly low and left usually losing power and control along the way.
How to hold your fixed-spool reel
Trap the leader with your index finger, open the bale arm… and let fly. Using a fixed-spool is that simple. Tuck the metal stalk that connects the reel body to the rod between your second and third fingers to provide a firm grip, positioning the index finger above or slightly behind the spool for best control.
Lock the spool before you cast, otherwise the leader will slip under pressure and slice across your finger like a bandsaw blade. Some anglers tighten the drag before each cast then re-set it to a lower pressure for safe fishing. Others lock the drag permanently and release line by winding the handle backwards.
Mastering the multiplier
Essential checkpoints before casting: Leader knot tucked to one side of the spool; a good solid grip, most easily accomplished by wrapping the thumb around the spool. And it helps to put the reel out of gear, which we all forget to do now and again!
Thumb protection is useful, especially in cold, wet weather. A snug-fitting ring of rubber cut from the finger of a washing-up glove does the trick. Success with the multiplier is all about confidence. The more nervous you are about over-runs, the worse they get.
Fuss-free casting style
The new beach angler’s priority is to cast far enough to give a reasonable chance of catching fish. Style does not come into it. We need a fuss-free system, quick to learn and reasonably efficient.
For good distances and smooth control, start the cast with the sinker lying on the beach. A compact offground method involving no more than a flick of the arms will drive a baited rig well over 100 yards. Why? Because it makes the rod work.
Spring and lever generates casting energy
To cast well, a rod must be swung through an arc in a two-step process. The first step is to bend the blank into a spring-like state so that it stores energy. As it bends, the rod blank stiffens to become a solid lever.
You must be hitting against firm resistance when the arms finally push and pull to drive the cast skywards. Big trouble and small distances are the inevitable result of hitting an uncompressed rod – and the common overhead thumping style is proof of that.
Stand your ground
To cast powerfully and smoothly it is essential not only to stand comfortably but also to be properly aligned with the target. The basic stance is quickly discovered by swinging the rod as if it were a hammer.
Imagine that the tip ring is the hammer-head. Hit towards the aerial target using exactly the same pushpull arm action that you would use with a long-handled hammer. It’s really that easy.
Notice that your stance took care of itself. Most people’s feet settle at about shoulders’ width apart. If a line were drawn through the heels, it would angle slightly to the left.
This natural stance allows the body to work efficiently – and what works for hammering is excellent for casting as well.
Laying out the tackle
This cast uses a relatively small arc and gets most of its power from the arms, so how can it produce the initial spring-like loading that turns the rod into a firm lever?
Since there is only a small amount of rod movement between the cast’s layout position and the point where the arms must begin working, the only solution is to make the rod load heavily and rapidly.
This is achieved by laying the sinker on the beach in a high inertia position almost alongside the blank. The layout shown in the diagram works well with most tackle, but you should experiment with leader lengths and sinker positions to find the best combination.
Remember; elbow high, tip low
Look at the imaginary mid-air target and shuffle your feet into position. Turn away from the water and lay the sinker on the beach ready for lift-off. As you turn, hold the rod at comfortable arms’ length so that you feel neither cramped nor over-stretched when the tackle is in position.
Rod, leader and sinker lay-out must be the same for each cast unless you deliberately make changes, so it helps to mark their starting positions on the sand.
Two important checks are rod tip and left elbow heights (assuming a right-handed caster). The tip ring should almost touch the beach. The elbow is held high, so that to somebody watching from the side it would appear that the left forearm was a straight extension of the rod handle.
Unless these points are correct, the rod arc will be too short to pre-load the blank and the arms cannot hammer properly.
Weight on back foot
Having turned away from the sea and laid out the tackle, notice that in the meantime your body weight has shifted towards your right leg. This happened naturally. There is no need to think about it as you set up the cast... it happens naturally.
When the cast is set up and ready to go, check that the weight remains biased towards the right foot. This pressure tells you that the casts set up is correct – and there is more to it than that.
Where is the target?
Remind yourself where the target is. See it clearly in your mind’s eye. Now it is time for action. Turn your head and lock your eyes on to the imaginary target in the sky and at the same time…
Body weight transfer
… slide your body weight towards the left leg. The combined head turn and weight transfer triggers the cast. Your arms do absolutely nothing to control or add power at this point. This is a vital point to understand.
Do it right and there will be a momentary sensation of your body leaving the tackle behind, accompanied by a feeling of the rod becoming heavier and stiffer. As you become more familiar with the cast, you will feel that the rod’s first movement is similar to the action of throwing a spear.
What happens is that the body weight sliding over to the left foot makes your upper body unwind towards the water. The rod lags for a moment then follows the shoulders. The sinker resists strongly, compressing the rod blank into a lever. All this happens automatically.
Focusing on the target keeps the action going forwards and upwards. As the body unwinds and the rod follows, there comes a moment when it feels right to make the hammering action.
Go ahead and do it. Push and pull to flick the rod over and drive the sinker towards the target in the sky. Line release takes care of itself with no deliberate timing involved.
In the early days, use the natural hammering action where both arms contribute equal power. Later, when casts flow smoothly and the drop length and sinker positions are more refined, increase left-hand pull.
This little off-ground cast with its high inertia sinker lay-out responds extremely well to lots of left-hand power. A 2:1 pull-push ratio is by no means too severe.
It’s an excellent way to extract smooth performance from a stiff, quick rod. It also makes a cast fly high, which is a very good thing when you are learning the game.
Casting on autopilot can be disconcerting, but you must fight the natural urge to over-analyse and control every step. Think simple.
The entire cast can be summed up in a few key words: identify the TARGET, TURN away from the sea, lay out the TACKLE. Slide your WEIGHT over to the left foot while turning your HEAD towards the target. FEEL the rod compress, HAMMER the cast into the sky.
Applying the brakes to stop the line
When a fixed-spool cast hits the water, crank the handle to close the bale-arm. Wind loose line back on to the spool under proper tension.
Backlashes at the end of a multiplier cast are common until you master the art of stopping the spool at the right time. Clamp down with your thumb when you see the tackle hit the water. Err on the quick side if anything. Experience will teach you to monitor the cast by feel, sight and sound.
There is a unique blend of line pressure and reel noise that tells you exactly when to stop the spool. Controlled that way, multipliers are easy to use even at night.
Half speed, half power
Anglers who started out with the overhead thump almost always try to cast too quickly and much too hard. This is a mistake with any efficient style, and particularly destructive with a high inertia technique. Half speed is usually quite quick enough, and the power needed to cast 100 yards is remarkably little.
Feeling the flex
Done reasonably well, this small cast will comfortably exceed 100 yards with a 5oz/150gm sinker. This is plenty far enough to catch fish. Rather than thrash for a few extra yards, concentrate on learning to feel the rod working as it moves through its spring-and-lever stages. A rod talks to you by transmitting a clear message through the handle to your hands.
Understanding rod-speak is a vital prelude to mastering advanced styles such as pendulum.
In the hierarchy of sea angling tackle, swivels and links are like hooks - few people take notice of them. We need them, but ever wondered why?
THERE ARE SEVERAL types of swivels, but they work in much the same way with eyes that twist independently to prevent line twist.
Rolling swivels are round, usually with round eyes, diamond swivels have a diamond-shaped eye rather than round, while barrel swivels are the type usually made from brass with a twist of wire at each eye.
Another is called the crane swivel because its body resembles the assembly on a crane’s hook.
The only swivel that's a bit different is the Dexter, which has a detachable eye for attaching rigs to mainline quickly.
You'll also see there is a variety of link swivels, a pattern with a lead or line link attached to it. They include the American snap, interlink, snap link and cross lock and this relates to the way the wire clips up to secure the lead weight.
Some are made of wire and some, like the American snap link, have a metal plate to trap the wire clip. Beware of using an American snap that is too small because they can open up under extreme pressure.
The popular Gemini Genie clip is safe to use as a lead link for casting, being made from marine grade stainless steel. It secures the lead weight through wire pressure alone.
Swivels used to hold the hook snoods on a terminal rig decrease line damage caused by small fish and also enable your snoods to be lengthened or replaced easily.
A swivel placed on your mainline can be used to attach terminal rigs via a lead link. Alternatively you can add a swivel to your terminal rig and a lead link to the end of the mainline.
EASY WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR TERMINAL RIG OPTIONS
LARGE swivels can even be used to sink rigs closer to the sea bed or you can join your lead weight to a terminal rig with a lead link. This prevents the knot being damaged by pebbles, rocks and sand as you retrieve your rig.
This is an important rule of rig making because a line tied direct to a lead weight gets damaged very quickly and could cause a very dangerous snap-off during the middle of your cast.
A swivel added to a lead link can also reduce the line twist caused by oddly shaped or less streamlined weights like the watch and bell leads that are popular with boat anglers.
Cut your knot ends fairly tight on swivels otherwise a spur of line is left sticking out and is a magnet for other line and fine weed; this is a major cause of rig tangles.
A three-way swivel is the ideal way to construct a simple paternoster. Mainline is attached to the top eye, the hook snood goes on the side eye and line to the lead weight is tied to the lower eye.
The lead weight line can be a weak link made up of 10-15lb mono if power casting is not employed. You can use a three-way swivel for attaching an extra hook snood to a sliding float rig.
You can construct a basic terminal rig with a single large swivel by tying the mainline and the hook snood to the top eye and the mono link for the lead weight on the bottom eye; a simplest boat rig.
The best knot to joining a swivel or lead link to line is a three-turn Grinner. It can be pulled tight without kinking the line, which is often the case with a half blood knot.
A swivel or lead link is the easiest way to join a rig or lure to your mainline. Either one lets you to change rigs in an instant, which is useful if your line tangles with another angler’s mainline or terminal rig. Using an American snap link when spinning enables a quick and easy change of lures.
There are a number of different eyed swivels - look out for the type with a round eye at one end and a diamond eye at the other, which is perfect for when you are making rigs.
Top: Rolling swivels usually have round eyes. Bottom: A swivel on a link cuts line twist. Right: A round and diamond eyed swivel
The barrel swivel is usually made from brass
HOW TO ENSURE THAT YOUR SWIVELS ARE SAFE
ENSURE that swivels and links are strong enough, especially if they are to take the strain of beach casting. The minimum breaking strain for swivels used within the main body of a rig is 60lb.
Modern swivels are surprisingly strong for their size and the smallest offer less of a trap for weed and line tangles.
Snood swivels with a built-in bait clip, like the Breakaway Cascade, are the most efficient for streamlining rigs when you are long casting.
Swivels come in a range of breaking strains and sizes, so it is essential to buy by breaking strain because this can vary between different makes and sizes. Swivel sizes are similar to hook sizes, which go from 10 down to 1 and then 1/0 upwards. Typically a size 10 is 40lb breaking strain and a 2/0 is 225lb.
Buy your swivels and clips in bulk because it is far cheaper than the small packets of ten or so, but beware of cheap snaps, swivels and wire lead links because they can open up under pressure.
Cheap swivels don't actually swivel, so best bin them and buy a well-known brand that actually rotates under load.
Anglers love playing with their tackle, especially terminal rigs, but many get in a right tangle. Here we try to unravel the problems, explaining the basics including the importance of dimensions, what rig bits to use and unravel the jargon...
WHAT IS A TERMINAL RIG?
DON'T laugh, some people don't know. It's the tackle on the end of your line that includes hooks, lead weight, swivels, maybe a boom or two and clips.
A rule of terminal tackle construction is that the builder follows proven designs, which prevent it from tangling during fishing. This means the foundation of all rigs is a link for attaching the lead and a clip or swivel to link it to your strong leader that is attached to your mainline. Most successful and popular rig for shore fishing is the mono paternoster, which uses a stiff main rig body line with hooklengths, called snoods, coming off small fixed swivels spaced up the trace.
RIG USE AND STORAGE
Place your new rig in a labelled bag
DETACHABLE terminal rigs give the shore angler a way to overcome all sorts of problems. If tackle is damaged, tangled or lost it can be replaced in an instant; simply clip on a new rig.
This saves lots of time when the fish are feeding because a spare rig can be ready baited prior to each cast, while the option to change the rig type or size of hooks brings you advantages.
An efficient way to store terminal rigs is in a rig wallet. These come in a range of sizes and designs, some with extra compartments for your terminal accessories, line and rig-making tools.
You can expand the capacity of a rig wallet by storing each individual rig in a sealable plastic bag, which keeps the wallet clean when you return used rig. Coiling the rig, using your hand as a guide, is a popular way to store it in a rig bag, although it is likely to tangle unless removed with care. Wrapping a rig around some card can reduce tangles.
Mark your rig bags with the content, such as rig type, number of hooks and their size. Some anglers use different coloured beads on the snood line of certain rigs for identification.
MAKE YOUR OWN RIGS?
MAKING your own rigs is a valuable skill because of the options it brings.
However, the combined dimensions of all rigs are crucial to performance in that hooklengths are not allowed to overlap each other or the top and bottom links. Failure to remember this will result in serious tangles and lost fishing time.
The beginner may need to copy a few shop tied rigs to get the basic rules and construction ideas. Knots may be his first problem although learning to tie the Grinner knot allows you to construct any rig.
COMPONENTS AND TERMINOLOGY
Rig bodyline: This forms the spine of the rig and must be strong enough to take the immense strain of the lead being cast. It is usual to continue the breaking strain of the casting shockleader through to the terminal rig. In all cases shockleader and rig body breaking strain is determined by multiplying each ounce of the lead weight by 10 (for example, 5oz lead = 50lb leader and main rig line, 6oz lead = 60 leader and rig line.
The spine of the rig is called the body
Hooklength (snood): This is the length of line that attaches the hook to the rig body. It must be strong enough to cope with the abrasive nature of the seabed, plus small fish spinning it up.
Most commonly used lines are 15lb for estuary fishing, 20lb for summer sport, 25lb for winter and 30lb if big fish are likely or you fish rough ground.
Swivels: A large 60-80lb breaking strain swivel can be used at the top of the rig. For attaching the hooklength 45lb swivels are placed on the rig bodyline and trapped in position between two beads and two crimps. Several shapes of snood swivel are available including the purpose made round eye/diamond eye.
Crimps: These are soft metal sleeves that slide onto the rig bodyline to hold the hooklength swivels and beads in position. They are squeezed with crimping plies so they stay in position.
A large swivel for the top of the rig (left) and crimps and beads (right)
Micro beads: The small beads used to buffer the swivel between crimps on the rig bodyline. Larger coloured beads are often used on hook snoods to attract fish to the bait.
Stop knot and sequin: A sliding stop knot made from mono or Power Gum used instead of crimp, or as a stop to keep bait in position on hook snood. A small sequin or coloured bead is used on the hook snood above the bait stop to hold the bait in position.
Bait clip: Clip that holds baited hook close to rig body to streamline it during your cast.
Flapper: This describes a rig without bait clips. The snoods are said to flap when being cast.
Bottom clip: A clip or link to attach the lead weight to the bottom of the rig.
Clip down: This is a rig with bait clips that improve aerodynamics of rig when you cast.
Snood clips: Small clips used to attach hook snoods to a rig
The mono paternoster is a simple tangle-free design and over the years it has become the most popular and practical means of presenting hookbaits cast from the shore.
There are many variations and most relate to the number of hooks used. Simplest is the one hook mono paternoster and this is the most basic of the rig designs, popular for fishing over rough ground and for casting maximum range.
One hook means less chance of catching a snag and less resistance to casting. Multi-hook rigs using two or a maximum of three hooks are used for clean ground and in most cases for smaller fish.
Bait clips are popular to temporarily attach the hook baits close to the bodyline of the rig during casting. Breakaway's Cascade swivels and an Impact lead are the most efficient means of doing this.
Variations of the mono paternoster include using a hook snood that is positioned near the lead weight so that the bait hangs below the lead, described as 'one down'. Therefore it follows that two hooks 'up' involves a paternoster rig with two hooks hanging above the lead and 'one up, one down' relates to one hook above and one below the lead.
A rig's overall length is restricted by the distance between the rod tip and the lead, in most cases six feet is around the maximum.
Long rigs are required for multi hooks or long snoods and are popular for surf fishing, while short stubby rigs are often preferred for fishing close in from deep-water venues, such as piers or breakwaters.
You will need several tools to construct terminal rigs with a pair of large nail clippers ideal for snipping mono lines close to knots. Crimping pliers ensure that crimps are closed and not crushed too tightly and damaging the rig mainline, a point to remember when using ordinary pliers.
A hook puller is a safer way of pulling knots tight; avoid putting hooks near your mouth to tighten knots. It's Russian roulette, sooner or later you will get a bite!
Make sure you use proper crimping pliers
Nail clippers are ideal for trimming line
The terms used to describe hooks, their patterns and the closer technical details often leave the would-be buyer confused. Here we spell out loud and clear what the terms mean so that you will always know, for example, what a reversed hook means…
Worm hooks and bait holding barbs:
Patterns with bait barbs are often described as worm hooks, although the barbs can prevent worm baits sliding round the bend of the hook where they are most effective.
The trade tells us that the worm hook or bait-holder hook is a volume seller, although we suspect that most of the hooks are sold to holiday anglers who perhaps don't know the pitfalls of such a design.
In our view a smooth-shanked Aberdeen is a far more efficient worm hook.
This is the length between the eye and the bend of the hook. Long shanks are best for worms and sandeels and short shanks for a crab, piece of fish etc. Look out for the medium-shank lengths, which can prove effective for a live prawn, shellfish and fish or squid strips.
The best selling bait-holder or worm hook
Short-shank hooks are ideal for a crab bait
Most sea hooks are barbed, but the barbs vary in size. For fishing at long range a decent barb is recommended. Barbless hooks have very limited potential for sea angling.
Some popular match fishing hooks have the smaller whisker barbs, which are claimed to improve penetration.
A relatively new concept in hook point design, the triple barb is said to offer a non-slip hold.
A hook with the point and bend offset from the shank. Most hooks are straight, but the offset point does offer an extra hooking dimension.
This relates to the size of the eye to which the line is attached.
Smaller eyes are more suited to baiting with the delicate worm baits, while larger eyes are actually better to help hold bulky baits, like squid or a crab, on the hook shank.
The hook has a flattened spade at its end, instead of the usual eye.
As a result, a special knot has to be used to hold it. This helps to hold the hook straight and some competition anglers, especially on the Continent, prefer this type of hook for delicate bait presentation for small fish.
A big-eyed hook - useful for holding bait in place
The now old-fashioned spade end
Ultra point/needle point:
Long, fine needle points are preferred by match anglers, although beware of the fine points being blunted, bent or even broken off when being retrieved over pebbles and rocks.
Fine wire/heavy wire:
This relates to thickness of the wire used to make the hook.
Fine-wire hooks are used for catch and release because they can be bent out of a fish's mouth.
Stainless steel, nickel, gold, black enamel:
These are all coverings designed to protect the steel from rusting. Stainless hooks generally get the thumbs down because they don't rust away if lost in a fish.
An old hook pattern renowned for its high strength and a unique, slightly hooked, round bend.
A needle point Aberdeen
The strong-armed O'Shaughnessy
Sea angling is about balance, says Alan Yates, who explains why sinker size and line diameter are inseparable partners when it comes to casting, holding the sea bed and beating rough conditions.
Why does sea angling gear appear to totally outgun the fish it is used to catch? You have probably guessed that powerful tides, rough weather and tough terrains have a lot to do with it.
It is simple logic. The need to cast tackle and bait well out from the shore and anchor it there, as well as combating sea bed boulders, weed and snags, are the reasons we fish with strong tackle. Anything less wouldn't survive.
It is possible to fish with light tackle, but when you have to cast a large bait a big distance into strong tide or a rough sea then you have to use the tackle and techniques that can cope with the conditions.
Sea angling tackle has developed over the generations to a standard strength x dimension rating to cope with the conditions. If you go over or under that standard rating your control of tackle and ability to fish is impaired.
Modern tackle has introduced a number of improvements and a tendency towards lighter more balanced gear, although that standard rating always remains.
The sea leads, also called weights or sinkers, we use have been developed along this theme and are rated between 2oz and 8oz.
Some are armed with wires to anchor them in strong tide and have a range of aerodynamic shapes to improve casting distance. Other refinements include grip wires that break free to make the retrieve easier or fixed-grip wires for extra holding power. Shapes include streamlined bombs, flattened patterns to lift the lead off the bottom quickly and even shapes that grip without wires.
When you cast your baited rig into the sea the tide and wind reacts on the line between the lead weight and rod tip. If the tide or wind is strong this can result in the tackle being dragged along the beach, inshore and down the tide. Even when using a wired grip lead to provide extra grip, tidal pressure on the line can still move the tackle. You can change the weight of the lead to cope with the tide, while the line diameter can be reduced to lessen the pressure exerted on it by the sea.
How to match the terrain and conditions
Standard beach casting tackle is 15lb (0.35mm diameter) mainline and a 5oz (150g) lead weight. These are the tackle ratings that are most consistently successful for casting distance and keeping tackle anchored in tide.
However, line diameter and sinker size can be adjusted to suit fishing conditions. For instance, a heavier lead (6-8oz) can be used to tow multi-hook or large baits through and into a head wind. Heavier line (038-0.40mm) can be used to beat snags, while light line with a lower diameter (0.32mm) can be used to improve casting distance.
It's the balance of your fishing tackle that matters. For example, it is of no good using an 8oz grip lead to combat really strong tide or wind if you then use a very thick line because 0.45mm mono will not only reduce casting distance, but will also create more drag in the tide and therefore put more pressure on the lead's grip.
Similarly using a line that is too light (say 0.28mm) may improve casting distance and the ability to hold in the tide, but it may be too light to cope with a mixed sea bed.
Grip wires are an important addition to a sea angler's armoury. Many anglers use a breakout grip lead for all their fishing because of everpresent tidal movement. It's a fact that the tide is slack on occasions, but these periods are the least productive for fish. On the other hand, strong tide generally offers the best fishing because the fish use it to travel and seek out food. You just cannot ignore the presence of the tide and your choice of lead must reflect its likely influence.
10 TOP TIPS
1. Heavier leads tow baits and penetrate wind more effi ciently, but the trajectory of your cast is most important in windy and rough sea conditions. Casting low to the sea can punch tackle further, while casting high in a following wind will increase distance.
2. Casting distance is the most crucial aspect of shore angling for the beginner. A good caster can choose the distance to fi sh, but for most novices the furthest is the best. That's a good reason to use a 5oz lead weight to start with because it's reckoned to be the most compatible in terms of the average angler's build and casting power.
3. The most turbulent sea is in the fi rst 60 yards or so. Putting your bait beyond that helps prevent it being swept ashore and that is also a good reason to use a lead with grip wires.
4. The size and number of baits, as well as the weight of the lead, infl uence the distance you can cast. Don't sacrifi ce bait size to increase distance. Your bait's scent is the most potent weapon to attract the fi sh to the hook. Bait clips also help to increase casting distance.
5. Heavy lead weights sink faster than light ones. In stronger tide and deep water a heavy lead will land on the sea bed closer to where it enters the water. A lead that is too light may be too far down the tide when it hits bottom so its grip is impaired by the angled pressure on its hold.
6. Cast slightly uptide to compensate for any downtide movement of your rig once it is in the water.
7. Once the lead has hit bottom the straight line will pick up maximum limited tidal pressure. The tidal pressure is reduced by letting a bow form. In many situations the bow forms naturally and cannot be prevented. If fi shing close to other anglers make sure you do not cast over their bow and catch their line.
8. Use a plain lead or remove the wires from the standard grip lead to allow a bait to trundle down the tide to a back eddy where food may collect. Designs with pimples, like the watch lead (right), or odd shapes to add grip are an option when fi shing in surf to reduce movement. There are lots of plain lead shapes, plus groundbait feeder versions, and all have a place in sea angling.
9. The type of bottom will make a difference to a wired grip lead's holding potential. Long springy wires on a fi xed-wire lead are better for mixed stony ground because they will allow you to hold and also release from a snag easier. Short wires hold better in mud and sand, while you can fl atten the ends of grip wires or add tubing to gain extra grip on soft sand or mud. Soft-wired grip leads are most suitable for snaggy ground, with stiff wires best for really strong tide.
10. One lead weight cannot answer all the likely problems so you need to carry a selection. Combination leads, such as those from Gemini, are ideal for this because they have removable grip wires, changeable heads and bodies, plus various lengths of grip wire and tail wire.
Sea angling is not all about fishing when the weather is fine. Sooner or later you will face strong winds, stormy seas, rafts of weed, torrential rain and salt-laden spray, which can ruin expensive tackle. Here's some useful advice to keep you fishing...
ROD SAFETY RULES
Strong winds are particularly dangerous because a strong gust can toss your rod aside leaving it to crash onto the beach, promenade or sea wall.
Lumps of weed being driven by wind and tide can do much the same thing.
In most cases you do not need to tie your rod down, but simply position it so that the point of balance is well down the butt of the rod. Sticking the rod tip high in the air may improve bite indication but it puts your rod at greater risk from the wind.
When using a rod-rest or resting your rod on a railing or sea wall, never allow the point of contact to be below the central rod joint. Rest the rod nearer the tip end and well above the mid balance point.
The intermediate rings can be used to help keep your rod stable and in position or angled to suit bite spotting. In a strong tide or wind dig the legs of your rod-rest deep in the beach and angle both rod-rest and rod so they present the least resistance to the wind.
In extreme conditions a plastic bag full of stones hung from the rod-rest's hook can help stabilise it, while piling stones or rocks around the rod-rest's legs also helps.
If fishing a pier wall use a rubber car mat or your trolley handle to prevent the rod slipping and sliding along the wall, also angle the rod slightly against the pull of the tide. Some tackle dealers sell customised rubber or synthetic pier wall rests, which prevent the rod moving or rolling. For railings there are screw-on rod-rest devices available in tackle shops. In extreme condition secure your rod with an elastic luggage strap or even your rod bag.
DO YOU 'REELY' CARE?
The obsession with distance casting has ruined many reels because anglers took notice of the field casting hype about removing grease or using this or that magic 'go faster' oil.
The advice to remove some of the brake system magnets has further complicated the issue.
For general fishing it is not advisable to strip reels of grease or oil, this helps keep out the saltwater and corrosion. Re-oiling a multiplier reel is not that important in terms of everyday distance, a quality reel with bearings will retain oil for a considerable time and it's only a few of the faster models that need any special lubrication.
Magnetic brakes work superbly and the slide adjustment that moves the tiny magnets closer or further away from the spool is adequate.
Magnets should not be removed unless you fully understand the reel's working parts and your casting needs.
If you do take out the odd magnet then watch out because once released all the magnets will automatically clamp together.
Fixed-spool reels are easier to maintain because they have less crucial moving parts and have fewer places for salt, fine sand and water to enter. They also allow you to swap spools quickly, useful if you have just had a snap-off and lost a lot of line.
The low reel position can be particularly destructive to all models because it puts them closer to the beach, concrete etc and it's a good idea to take this into account when deciding the length of a rod butt extension (reducer) or fixing a reel seat to a rod butt. Above 12in and the reel is relatively safe from harm.
Don't allow your reel to be immersed in seawater; even the best reels don't like swimming, especially if they are then left sad and wet inside a tackle box.
If your reel gets dunked wash it out and allow it to dry before returning to the tackle box.
CARE OF MAINLINE
Line suffers from considerable wear and tear, especially the lower diameter mono under 0.40mm/20lb. Mono will also discolour with use and this is the time to consider replacing it.
Look out for abrasion, nicks and flattening or twists in the line. Modern copolymer lines are particularly tough and abrasion resistant, but it is a false economy to keep a line for too long and could cost you that special fi sh.
Larger diameter lines are tougher and will last longer on the spool, while braid line is especially tough and knock resistant and will last longer than mono, although for shore fishing you can only use it on fixed spool reels.
Most anglers find it essential to completely replace line after a number of fishing trips. You can save on costs by buying line on bulk spools, another way to economise is to remove line from the spool and reverse it so the unused stuff comes into use.
Never use a line with a knot in it other than the leader knot. Knots encourage tangles and overruns, are a potential weak point and may damage your finger when casting.
Take special care when reeling line on a fixed-spool reel. It's essential to wind the line on the spool so that any loops or twists are removed or else they will remain and the line will coil as you cast.
TACKLE FIRST AID
Accidents do happen while your fishing - things like rings get broken or chipped or reel seats jam. Be prepared by carrying a small stick of Hot Melt glue and lighter so you can replace a broken or loose tip ring.
Simply heat the ring with the lighter flame to remove it. Remember it will be hot so use pliers, rather than your fingers. Heat the glue and melt into the tube of the new tip ring and replace, remembering to line it up with the intermediate rings before the glue sets. You do carry a spare tip ring, don't you?
A roll of PVC tape can deal with a catalogue of angling disasters including replacing intermediate rod rings or securing a plaster over a cut, while a spare intermediate ring or a set of emergency coasters can all help to keep you fishing, especially when you are far from home.
To replace an intermediate rod ring only cut one side of the whipping. Wriggle the ring foot free and then insert the replacement ring foot in the whipping that remains. Then you tape everything together as an emergency repair.
TIPS FROM THE EXPERTS...
A stable aluminium tripod with a sliding butt cup helps keep your rod safe in a rough weedy sea. It can be used to raise your rod tip high above the surf to avoid weed and swell from pulling the lead weight free or tipping over the rod.
Avoid small tip rings if fishing a weedy sea because these jam a weeded leader knot.
To remove weed from the line while reeling in, hit the side of your rod sharply with your palm. This will knock off much of the loose weed and allow you to continue retrieving your line.
Take care when reeling in large clumps of weed and do not put the strain directly on the reel. Lift the rod to pull the weed in and then reel as you lower the rod to take up the slack. Known as pumping, it is an easy way to retrieve heavy weights, including fish.
Line diameters have a major effect on your casting range and control of tackle in wind and tide. Low diameter lines cut through the tide and wind a lot easier.
Fishing a clean beach at long-range? Then fi sh with mono between 0.30mm (12lb) and 0.38mm (18lb) to be effective.
For even more information on maintaining a multiplier reel, click HERE.
For an in-depth guide to general sea fishing tackle care, click HERE.
Skip my reel won't work. Every skipper dreads those words and they are not an unfamiliar cry for help aboard my boat Sundance. If it happens at the beginning of the day it's not a big problem because I can lend them a spare. When it seizes up in the middle of fighting a fish, then the angler wishes he had looked after his reel.
Boat anglers seem to fit into three categories. Firstly, there are some who maintain their equipment to the highest degree. Some even strip down the reel and clean it after each trip, and, as you might expect, get few problems.
Secondly, there is the majority who give their reel a rinse off and perhaps a spray of WD40. Major maintenance will be an annual strip down or perhaps shipping it off to a service agent.
Thirdly, are those who don't bother at all and leave a reel to seize up before doing anything to it.
Unfortunately many of today's reels won't last long after this sort of abuse, although 20 years ago, when reels were built from materials that would withstand being covered with salt and incorporated bronze bushes instead of the ball bearings, you could get away with it.
Bushes don't corrode and seize to the same extent and I have seen quite a few old Penn and Mitchell reels dunked in seawater by their owners to lubricate them enough get them going.
What we forget about these older reels is the bigger tolerances on the bushes resulting in bigger gaps between the spool and frame, which allowed line to get down the side of the spool, something almost unheard of with today's reels.
The downside to progress is that the reels now need more preventative maintenance. My preference is for graphite-bodied reels, which do not corrode, and lever-drag models that are easier to strip. I have had Shimano TLD 15s on my boats since the early 1990s and they are still going strong having landed tons of fish each. I fall into the second category of maintenance, giving the reels a wash off with a hose when back on land and occasionally a shampoo with soapy water and a spray over with WD40 when they are dry.
I have experimented with a product called Salt-X and keep a plant sprayer on board to rinse the reels with a solution after use. It seems to be working and has kept down corrosion on the metal-bodied reels, but they still benefit from a light oily spray.
The most common problems I get are a spindle end bearing rusting or a lack of lubrication on the main gear drive shaft. Here is the method to fix these problems on a TLD15. Most lever-drag reels are fairly similar but remember to lay the parts out in sequence as you remove them as this helps re-assembly.
1. Remove handle by unscrewing nut. Pull off chrome collar from under it. Don’t loose copper washer. Lay out parts in order you removed them
2. Unscrew the drag-preset knob, then pull out the bronze cam and you can remove the drag adjustment lever
3. Remove the three screws from the gold coloured drag lever guide, then remove all the screws from the side plate
4. Now pull the side plate apart from the reel frame and then slide out the main drive cog and the spindle
5. The main bearing can be seen in the side plate and can be removed by banging the side plate down on a hard surface, bearing side down
6. The bearing will drop out, but it might take several bangs if it is corroded. You will notice that the anti-reverse pawl has been dislodged
7. After cleaning the reel’s side plate you should grease both sides of a new bearing and then push it into place
8. Replace anti-reverse pawl on peg. Hook up spring with screwdriver. Add cleaned and greased main gear. As you push it pull pawl to side
9. Attach handle while holding gear in place. If you wait until side plate is on before assembling the anti-reverse pawl may become displaced
10. Screw on the side plate and then the gold coloured drag lever guide, remembering all three of its screws
11. Replace lever. Put cam into notches. Put lever in
The market is awash with fishing tackle. It’s available at various prices and made in factories around the globe. Cheap isn’t necessarily bad if you look after it, although it won’t stay the course like some of the big-name tackle items, but even these have to undergo maintenance and health checks to get the best from them…
There are two things that kill fishing gear - misuse and lack of maintenance. Quality tackle can handle the odd missed checkover, but cheap gear needs regular service stops otherwise corrosion soon sets in.
Modern tackle manufacturing processes ensure that even the most economical tackle looks professional. Finishes are excellent, rods have smooth, sometimes fancy whippings and high-build gloss coatings hold expensive-lookalike rod rings and fittings. Cheap reels have a metallic look but don’t be fooled because it could be an eye-catching coating over plastic.
The only real guide to quality is to buy reputable makes; buy the best you can afford and avoid the really cheap rods and reels which will eventually let you down.
Essential are quality rod rings that will not break if the rod is dropped. We are all clumsy and accidents happen. Rods get pulled over by the tide, blown over by wind or dropped on the garage floor and if a ring shatters it’s a disaster.
The solution is only buy rods that offer the best quality rings and fittings. Fortunately most of the major manufacturers use line guides from manufacturers such as Fuji and Seymo, whose rod rings can handle everyday knocks.
Look for the name of the manufacture stamped on the ring leg.
Rod and reel assembly
Nothing is simpler than assembling your beachcaster. Or is it?
Spigot joints are made so there is a gap between the two sections. This is because carbon wears with friction and if the edges of the joint butted up closely when the rod is new, resulting wear would produce a loose joint and the chance of the tip popping out mid cast.
Keeping the spigot clean of sand and grit will extend its life. When assembling, make sure that the spigot or joint is tight together. A major cause of rod breakages occurs when a joint is not pushed home firmly, casting then puts pressure on the blank wall causing it to fracture when the rod is flexed.
Make sure the sections fit together snugly and the rod rings are aligned, but avoid tapping the butt against the ground because this can cause the joint to jam.
It is important when separating joints not to grip the rod rings, this will cause them to twist and damage. Grip the blank close to the joint and twist and pull in a straight line.
Increasingly rods are supplied with a soft grip area close to either side of the joint, which makes joints easier to separate on a cold wet beach. If your rod joint is stuck get the help of another angler and gently twist and pull in a straight line, one holding each section.
Some modern beachcasters have an adjustable reel seat, which can be moved in any position on the butt. You can easily fit one to an existing rod but ensure it is the correct diameter. Mark its regular position on the butt with a wrap of PVC tape, which can also serve to add more grip to the seat if it is the incorrect diameter.
Some modern beachcasting rods now have an adjustable reel seat
Keep reel seats free of sand because the slot that guides the reel clamp can misalign on the cheap models causing it to jam, even override the thread, another reason to buy only the best.
With careful use modern carbon rods are virtually impossible to break, but there are rules that will keep your rod in one piece. These include never picking a rod up by the tip because pressure from a ring foot on the tip can cause a breakage.
Similarly never flex the rod tip with your hands or try to break out of a snag with the rod tip. You can break any rod by jerking the tip or placing too much pressure on it. The procedure for pulling for a break is to point the rod tip at the snag, wrap the line above the reel around the butt a couple of times and walk slowly backwards.
Rules for retrieving
The simplest way to retrieve is to place the rod butt between your legs when you retrieve to give you plenty of purchase.
If you fish with the reel low down then you can place the butt on your hip. Don’t crank the reel against a heavy weight or snag because the extra strain can damage the reel’s gear or pinion. Instead lift the rod dragging the weight in and then reel as you lower the rod. In extreme situations you can walk backwards and then reel as you walk forward. This is called pumping and is the way to beat large fish or lumps of weed.
There are several different joints used by rod-makers. The spigot joint involves a short length of lower diameter carbon that slots in the top of the butt section to accommodate the tip section. This is called a male spigot and the tip (female) fits over it.
In most cases this level spigot joint is used to maintain the smooth taper of the rod, but it obviously adds weight to the finished rod and in many of the modern longer rods, which are increasingly popular, weight is saved by allowing the tapered lower section to push inside the female or next section up.
A spigot joint involves a short length of lower diameter carbon that slots in the top of the butt section
This involves a layer of whipping on the blank before the ring is added. This extends for the length of the ring. The ring feet are then whipped on top of this layer. A clue is the whipping between the ring’s legs.
The high reel position is suitable for the layback or pendulum cast while the low reel is often preferred for the offthe- ground, pendulum, backcast and overhead thump casting styles. In terms of casting distance the low reel is superior because the style is slower and more powerful with less skill required in terms of timing.
Single leg rigs
The tip sections of some rods use the lighter and more flexible single leg rod rings, which are used because they influence the tip’s action less than the standard, longer and wider three-legged rings. But they are more delicate and therefore easier to damage.
A short length of carbon that slots in the rod butt with its correct name being an extension. It is for use with the low reel only and simply extends a low reel away from the angler’s body when reeling in.
General length is 12 inches to 18 inches, but most rods allow you to cut the reducer to the length you require.
Some rods have an extension that fits into the butt section when you want to reel in your line
The edges of all joints on beachcasters have to be reinforced and, in most cases, this is done with a cotton whipping and high-build coating.
However, where weight is a concern to the rod builder a thin metal band is placed around the female end of the joint to stop is fracturing.
This spigot joint has a reinforced section for added strength
Main enemy is salt corrosion and even expensive tackle will corrode if the gear is left salty wet in a damp atmosphere.
Wash off rods and reels with warm soapy water after use and then dry. Rod bags can harbour salt and damp if they are not washed regularly. Reel bags coated in salt spray encourage corrosion.
Carbon expands when hot and this can cause rod joints to jam. A solution is to cool the male end of the joint down with a freezer block or even putting it under the freezer lid for a few minutes before attempting to pull apart.
You can’t cast or fish without a sinker. They tow your tackle through the air and rapidly sink it to the sea bed where the fish are waiting. But do you know what’s available?
Casting distance usually influences the design of a beach-launched lead weight, sometimes known as a sinker. This is why aerodynamic shapes, like the bomb and torpedo, have proved the most efficient...although there are a few quirky designs too.
Usually made of lead and produced in a range of weights, which is why we call them leads or weights, suitable shore sinkers range between 2oz to 8oz. Check your rod’s casting rating for the weight of lead it is best suited to cast.
Four ounces is usually the minimum for most shore fi shing situations with a 5oz or even 6oz lead the best all round and most practical when casting baited hooks. Heavier leads up to 8oz are occasionally used to punch baits through a strong head or side wind or to keep tackle anchored in a rough sea.
Tide and wind pressure on the line is what moves the lead and terminal rig and obviously the further the cast the more pressure there is placed on the greater length of line and the lead’s grip.
Keeping your bait in position is one of the most essential tactics in shore angling, especially when the sea environment is hostile.
Wired grip leads
Because most sea angling takes place in tide many sea anglers choose a wire grip design of sinker for almost all of their coastal fishing. This type has four wire spikes to help grip the sea bed and is produced commercially in various shapes and sizes. Think of it as an anchor.
1 Breakout lead: The most popular designs are the original breakout produced by Breakaway. They come in torpedo and bomb shapes. These feature twin tensioned grip wires that snap open when the lead is retrieved allowing it to be pulled over stones and weeds without the wires catching in the sea bed.
The Gemini breakout design has a different single wire release system with optional screw-in heads.
Tackle dealers often make their own versions to suit conditions in their area.
2 Fixed wire: Venues such as deep water piers and narrow estuaries, where tide and currents are strong, require a weight that sinks quickly and offers maximum grip and the fixed-wired style is perfect in these fishing situations.
They are more difficult to retrieve because the wire grips catch on the sea bed as they are pulled back, although with several grades of wire stiffness available the angler can reduce this problem.
Bend wires in a U shape to improve grip and boost your chances of getting tackle out of snags.
3 Screw head: The Gemini lead type offers a range of different coloured screw in heads with different wire configurations (fixed and breakout) for the range of tide strengths. There are also three wire strengths, soft (coloured blue), springy (red) or stiff (yellow).
4 Long wires: Grip wire length can be used to alter the grip of a lead. Plastic tubing is used to support the grip wires so that they can be bent away from the lead to add extra grip. Long, open grip wires are easier to spring out.
5 Long tail: A long tail wire is said to cast straighter, like a dart, and that can be useful with large baits that are likely to wobble when cast. A long tail also offers some anti-tangle properties when a snood below the weight is used.
6 Impact: This is the latest Breakaway design with built-in bait clip that releases the hook bait on impact with the sea.
These are designed for fishing in less tidal conditions, like estuaries and harbours, or to allow the bait to move with the current. They go down to 2oz.
There are different shapes that offer partial grip without the use of wires. These give you options in terms of allowing the bait to creep down the tide slowly and without wires, which may spook fish.
7 Bomb, pear and torpedo: The most streamline shapes suitable for casting that let a bait to trundle down the tide.
8 Ball or sphere: This shape ought to be the favourite for casting, but it’s not in common use.
The drilled ball or bullet, pictured right, is used for float fishing or a running leger rig.
9 Flat, spoon or lift: Grips the sea bed or skims up in the water helping to avoid rocks and snags.
10 Watch, lighthouse, star and pyramid: Used for grip in sand and mud.
11 Camouflage: Originating from the carp fishing scene in a bid to disguise rigs, these lightweight leads are shaped like a twig, stone or mussel.
They could be useful when fishing small creeks for the likes of flounders, mullet and bass.
13 A recent innovation that incorporates a wire or plastic cage or container for carrying bait to the sea bed. They are generally used for medium range fishing and are not that streamlined for casting.
Effective for match fishing when small fish are the target.
There is also the Intakl lead, which has a sealed compartment that opens on hitting the sea bed to release the hook bait. This is used for casting delicate worm baits or shellfish that may otherwise break up on contact with the surface.
A common mistake of novice anglers when they encounter strong tide is to clip on two small grip leads. This prevents either from gripping and a better solution is a more compact heavy wired lead.