In match fishing you can test yourself against the very best, using the same equipment as the stars.
Not so in other sports. Try popping down to your local Mercedes dealer and asking if you can have an F1 car like the one Lewis Hamilton drives. Or see if you can get on the Etihad pitch just because you’re wearing new Adidas footy boots!
Spiky accusations of having ‘all the gear and no idea’ are often levelled at match anglers, but there’s lots to be said for using tackle chosen by world-class anglers. If it’s good enough for them, it’ll be good enough for you!
So when Daiwa launched its Tournament Pro Feeder 10ft and Tournament Pro 9ft-10ft Feeder rods late last year I was itching to get my hands on at least one of the pair. But before revealing my thoughts on the new Tournament Pro Feeder 10ft that landed on my desk, allow me to dispel any false news that you may have heard about Daiwa’s latest Tournament Pro Match and Feeder rod range.
The only changes are improvements to their spec – the handles are sexier than ever, with a new cutaway design and ‘Tournament’ embossed EVA foregrip. That, plus an improved matt black Tournament reel seat and new guides, is the sum total of the changes. Bias V-Joints, HVF Nanoplus materials and Megatop quivers remain exactly the same.
Anyway, on a wickedly cold late January day came my chance to have a closer look at the new Tournament Pro Feeder 10ft. The weather, need I say, was brass monkeys, but Westwood Lakes near Boston are always good for a few bites. I chose Swallow, a narrow snake lake packed with F1s, carp and skimmers, and the ideal venue for a rod like this.
Rob, manager of the on-site tackle and bait shop, advised me to fish peg 4, where you only need to cast a small maggot feeder two foot from the far bank to have them lining up – or so Rob said!
Three hours later, as Angling Times staff photographer Lloyd sat in the car with the heater full on for fear of his long lens freezing and dropping off, the rod tip finally moved.
A fractional twitch of the super-sensitive 0.75oz Megatop quiver was enough to strike at, and the first fish of the day came grudgingly to the net.
The rod, like all Daiwa Tournament Pros, has a blank built in Scotland, delivering flex and action without compromising accuracy or casting power. The pain barrier is in the wallet. The full asking price of £415 works out at around £41.50 per foot… and well worth it.
The blank’s outstanding forgiveness is a wonder to behold, yet it can shift up several more gears if necessary and pile on the pressure without recoiling, twisting or locking up.
As a bonus, this year’s Tournament Feeder rods come with three (as opposed to two) virtually unbreakable Daiwa Megatop carbon quivertips.
On the 10ft rod these are perfectly graded to suit the blank at 0.75oz, 1oz and 1.5oz.
This world-class all-round feeder rod has no equals in its 10ft class. It’s better suited for use on small commercials and natural venues than to long chucks on open water, as it doesn’t have the length to pick up line fast enough, or cast to the horizon. But other than that, the only negative I can find is its price.
Regular readers of my tackle reviews will know that I am a big fan of Browning products.
Introducfing short rods for use on commercial fisheries was one of the German tackle company’s many firsts – I could also mention pre-cut and tactically designed pole top kits, longer pole butt sections for better linear balance, and true stated lengths. Not to mention Browning’s flagship Sphere rods, way ahead of their time – the Distance Feeder models are quite exceptional.
But what of the more affordable gear? The latest CK (Carp King) rod range spans 13 models covering everything from a 10ft F1 Micro Waggler through to a Method Feeder rod, and prices start from a very reasonable £54.99.
All models in this new CK range share Browning’s most advanced technical carbon advances, but each fulfils a specific need. For instance, the Method Feeder rod is furnished with low-profile, ultra-low-friction SiC guides for enhanced casting performance, while the F1 rods are 20 per cent softer-actioned than the standard rods, and ideal for use with lighter lines and hooklengths.
One thing they all have in common, though, is that they look fantastic – super-slim blanks are decked out in a classy gloss black livery, and every time I have taken them to the bank other anglers have commented on their stunning appearance.
I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at Browning’s CK range late last year at a trade show held at the firm’s Bremen HQ in Germany. Light and lively in the hand, with seamless parabolic curves, they made a great initial impression on me.
I asked if I could be sent samples as soon as they became available and, sure enough, they turned up at the Angling Times offices a week or so ago.
Now, live-testing commercial fishery rods in January can be a bit hit-and-miss. The fish ball up in certain pegs, and even when you do find them it isn’t easy.
Undaunted, though, I wended my way to Decoy Lakes with the entire CK range in the back of the motor. I figured that even if the fishing was a bit iffy I could still get an idea of how Browning has developed each model with its own distinctive footprint.
So, with the choice of any model in the range, I assembled the CK Method Feeder, CK Carp Feeder, CK Bomb and CK Wand. I’d be using small cage and Method feeders and a straight bomb.
Think of it as a ‘Goldilocks and porridge’ thing – but rather than ‘too hot, too cold’ it would be more of a ‘too stiff, too soft’ test that ended up ‘just right’.
Surprisingly, the best rod in my opinion for Decoy’s Elm Strip Lake was the CK Bomb rod.
This 10-footer has enough backbone to cast a 30g feeder without it bouncing around prior to the cast, and this is coupled with a sublime softish parabolic, almost through, action when a fish is on.
However, there’s a fair helping of steel to call into play for the odd really big fish, which is just as well, given the eclectic population of Decoy’s strip lakes.
It can also be used to punch a feeder out to 40 yards, should you feel the need. I had the rod threaded up with a 5lb mainline (you could push this to 8lb if you really needed to, or drop it to 3lb for close-quarters work). You would be safe using hooklengths as light as 0.12mm and as heavy as you wanted.
If I were to buy one for myself for my winter commercial matches I would also invest in a Browning carbon quivertip, as the rod takes on a much sharper aspect with one of these at the business end.
Verdict: Although billed as a bomb rod, this Browning CK beauty is no old-school wand, capable only of winkling out silver fish from flooded rivers or canals.
Instead it’s a modern commercial fishery tool with a fair casting backbone and non-locking playing action that can be used for nearly all standard commercial feeder and lead work.
The ultra-slim blank delivers plenty of transmission, and for a bomb rod it has a slightly steely feel tempered by a reassuringly forgiving quality.
Get hands with this rod at this year’s The Big One Show
It’s fair to say that when it comes to fishing for pike I’m about as out of place as a wire trace in a winder box full of silver fish rigs.
As a match angler, after donkey’s years of trying to avoid the toothy roach-snatching critters, it’s my considered opinion that all you need do to catch a pike is fire out some maggots and wait for one to turn up and ruin your swim.
The sound of bronzes sprinkling over the water seems to work in a very similar way to summoning the Kraken. Hey presto! Esox appears and proceeds to chow down on anything and everything you might happen to be catching.
And there you go – pike fishing sorted! Thousands of matchmen will tell you that my version of things is not far from the truth.
Luckily, though, I do know someone who knows all about ‘proper’ pike fishing – the UK’s most successful specimen angler and double Drennan Cup winner Dia Gribble. He’s slipped the net cord under many of the biggest fish (pike included) in the country.
A hastily arranged meeting saw me pulling up alongside one of Dai’s favourite big-fish haunts, the picture postcard Copmere Lake near Eccleshall, Staffs. Focus of the day would be the latest 12ft two-piece 3.25lb Korum Snapper Cult Deadbait rods. These will cast deadbaits to the horizon, yet have an action sufficiently forgiving to avoid hook-pulls on a short line.
They look the part, too, boasting a full cork handle with a secure screw-down carbon inlayed reel seat. The blanks have ceramic-lined, braid-friendly guides throughout, and Korum has gone for anti-frap tip and butt rings, a wise move indeed.
So after a quick tutorial from Dai on drop-off indicators, leads, rigs, and the correct way to mount a smelt deadbait (yes, they do smell of cucumber), I was in business.
If, like me, you have little idea about pike fishing but fancy giving it a go, the Snapper range of deadbait kit is pretty much foolproof to set up. Anyway, with Dai’s experience, it wasn’t long before the drop-off signalled the first run of the day, which turned out to be a spirited scraper double.
The rod, which is quite stiff, does indeed have just about enough softness at the tip to make playing a fish an enjoyable experience but, as Dai was quick to point out, there are times when you’ll need to cast a big deadbait a long way, and that’s when you’ll appreciate the poke of this 12ft Snapper Cult Deadbait rod.
Our Verdict: The Cult Deadbait rod has been developed with plenty of input from Dai Gribble and Snapper’s leading predator angler, Ed Matthews. As a newbie piker I must admit that I found the rod quite stiff, hardly surprising as I am more used to softer blanks.
But as Dai said, you might find yourself having to cast half a mackerel, along with a lead, a very long way, which this rod does to perfection. Let’s be honest, with treble hooks it’s unlikely that you are going to pull out of the bait in mid-air.
What I like is the rod’s all-round presentation – understated decals, pleasing whippings, butt cap, run clip, braid-friendly and anti-frap guides, and carbon inlay reel seat. All that gives it the look of an expensive custom-built rod.
If you’re after a simple yet effective lure set-up for big pike this Christmas, Fox Rage certainly has the tools for the job.
Get your hands on all the latest rods, poles, reels and accessories at this year’s Big One Show
Catching double-figure fish requires a rod with plenty of grunt – not only to handle the powerful runs of each specimen hooked but also to cope with the regular casting of baits of 30g or more.
So you’ll be happy to learn that Rage’s latest Prism Pike Spin outfit ticks both these boxes with ease.
At 7ft 10ins long and rated to chuck lures in the 30g-100g range, it’s compact enough to fold down and fit into the boot of a car – but when it comes to the fishing you won’t be let down during the fight or while frequently casting your lure. And speaking of lures, the Fox Rage’s Loaded Natural Classics 2 patterns are the perfect accompaniment to this rod.
These paddle-tailed beauties have a superb swimming action combined with a realistic finish – and considering they come in weights of 15g and 20g, they’re a fine fit for the Prism Pike Spin.
When I was tasked with testing the two components together I couldn’t wait to see the outcome.
Lure tackle of this calibre is generally suited to gravel pit or reservoir fishing, but a lot of big pike inhabit our river systems – including the Soar in Leicestershire, home to twenties.
On the stretch I fished there are canal boats moored on the far bank and beds of water cabbages along the near bank – with a 9ft-deep track down the middle.
I clipped on the 14cm Loaded Natural Classic in perch colour and flicked it as tight to the far-bank boats as I could – allowing the lure to sink to the bottom of the shelf and retrieving quickly before it reached the cabbages.
In two hours I roved up and down the bank employing this tactic, and a number of pike between 5lb and 8lb made their way into my net.
The rod, although not tested by a true monster, was strong with a hint of softness, so none of the satisfaction of the fight was lost – a unique element considering it’s primarily intended for fish that go into double figures and above.
When a pike did try to make an escape to some near-bank lilies, the Prism Pike Spin had more than enough guts to turn its head with no creaking of the blank whatsoever. It also cast the lures effortlessly throughout the day without showing signs of struggle.
In my opinion, the lures under review should be included in any serious pike angler’s armoury too.
They come in three different sizes and four realistic colours, but it’s the fact that they’re fully loaded and ready to fish straight from the packet that will see them shoot off the shelves. The already fitted harness system includes two razor-sharp Armapoint trebles connected to a strong wire trace and screw-in jig head.
When a pike grabbed hold of the lure there was no way it was getting off – every bite resulted in a firm hookhold.
The swimming action is also phenomenal. The big paddle-tail kicked out lots of vibration and the sleek body enabled the lure to wobble enticingly on a quick retrieve, something that the pike simply could not resist.
Although no huge fish were caught on the day I left with no doubt in my mind that this combination of Fox Rage products could hook and handle pike of record-breaking proportions.
Our Verdict: A perfect tackle combination for all predator anglers wanting to catch monster pike. The Prism Pike Spin is a proper big-fish cruncher and the lifelike lures are the ideal match. I just wished I could have hooked a proper pike to really put the rod through its paces!
Price: Fox Rage Prism Pike Spin rod £94.99
A couple of weeks back I ran the rule over Angling Direct’s own brand Advanta Discovery SU Twin Tip Barbel rod on the River Trent.
Even though I’d been told by a friend just how good the Advanta RVS range was, I was still taken aback by this rod’s build quality and performance – especially at such a modest price.
So, when the 11ft Advanta RVS Twin Tip Lite arrived on my desk with a note extolling its virtues as one of the best small-river chub rods around, I was more than keen to get it out on the bank pronto.
Get your hands on all the latest rods, poles, reels and accessories at this year’s Big One Show
I’m sure many of you reading this can relate to my own angling career. I have spent much of my fishing life on small to medium-sized rivers in pursuit of chub.
In my case this started in my home county of Oxfordshire, biking to the banks of the Evenlode. Then, once I had passed my driving test, my horizons broadened to take in the Cherwell, Windrush and Upper Thames.
No wonder, then, that I have a journeyman’s penchant for small-river chub rods.
I have used everything from expensive hand-built wands to cut-down float rods with spliced-in quivertips. Materials have been as varied as tank aerials, split cane, fibreglass, carbon, boron, carbon composite, in fact Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all. I have fished with the lot at some time!
How many of these rods have I kept? Well, just the one, and it was built at Gloucester Angling Centre at around the turn of the century, or so it now seems.
Anyway, moving on, the build quality of the Advanta Lite is impeccable. This lightweight, highly responsive two-piece rod is made from 30T carbon, with a 1.25lb test curve carrier section that includes 0.5oz, 1oz and 2oz carbon quivertips. There’s also a 1.25lb Avon top that looks ideal for slightly heavier lead tactics or snag fishing.
Without a doubt, the Discovery has been designed by someone with a passion for small rivers, who knows exactly what they are doing. For my money it’s at its best with the carrier section and quivertips fitted.
There’s more than enough casting clout to propel 40g-plus (1.5oz) casting weights, and although it seems dainty, it’s by no means delicate. The blank itself has a through progressive-type action that allows it to be used confidently with hooklengths of around 0.16mm upwards, and hooks as small as a size 16.
I was hugely impressed by the power reserve the blank generates from the bottom of the butt. It certainly has more than enough in its locker to dissuade even the largest of chub from that last-gasp headlong dive into the nearest snag… something all chub have an annoying habit of doing when they are close to the net.
Despite my enthusiasm for the RVS Lite rod, my test session on the upper River Welland above Stamford proved to be a very frustrating few hours.
The gin-clear river was simply heaving with ravenous hordes of roach, pecking away at any bait that hit the water.
Every now and again I would connect with one, and to be fair they were nice fish – but old rubber lips never got so much as a look-in!
WELL, well – what a surprise Angling Direct’s Advanta RVS range is turning out to be!
Make no mistake, this rod is a proper keeper. Well designed, well thought out and well dressed in smart livery, it offers great value for money and is bound to become a sought-after small-river companion for many anglers this winter.
My previous experience of own-brand rods over the years had left a lot to be desired, to be honest. However, for friendship’s sake I rang Angling Direct’s commercial manager Stewart Downing, and arranged to pick up the Discovery RVS rod range.
Stewart, no mean angler himself, said he’d had plenty of input into the rods’ design and build, which somewhat allayed my fears about any lack of quality.
Turning them over in my hands I was more than pleasantly surprised by the rods’ looks. The lightweight, gunsmoke grey two-section blanks are clearly made from quality carbon cloths. Fittings include natty carbon-effect 18mm DPS reel seats with gunmetal grey hoods, and old-school full cork handles without a trace of Duplon or EVA to be seen.
Understated decals add to the classy look, and the rods are ringed with decent-sized ceramic-lined guides throughout. I was very impressed, especially given their low prices.
The one that really caught my eye was the Discovery RVS Twin Tip Power S/U Barbel rod.
Unusually, this bertie-beater comes with two identical-looking top sections emblazoned with luminous white tips, but with test curves of 2.25lb and 2.75lb, giving the user loads of tactical options.
I live reasonably close to the Trent, the UK’s best barbel river by a country mile, so it made perfect sense to go there with the Discovery Twin Tip. I knew just the swim!
Gunthorpe Island is fishable on a syndicate ticket, but I’m allowed on there every now and again. ‘Forceful’ does not come close to describing the heaving cauldron of white water that greets you at Gunthorpe Weir. The deafening torrent ripping over the sill fills the stoutest heart with trepidation but it’s a stunning assault on the senses, with clouds of spray and that unmistakable aroma of river.
Every now and again the wind whips cotton balls of white foam from the water’s surface, and these rise into the air and vaporise as though they’d never existed. Magical stuff!
I rigged the Advanta with 15lb reel line, 12lb hooklength and a super-strong hook, and should really have gone even heavier.
This is not a distance-casting rod – its progressively through action is geared more towards helping you land big, aggressive fish than chucking 100 yards. But for hitting 70 yards with hefty kit and lines, the rod quite probably performs better than some costing three times as much.
By Gunthorpe’s standards it was a slow day. I’d mistaken one bite for weed on the line and lost the fish (my fault), so next time the tip pulled round I was all over the rod like a cheap suit.
Piling on the pressure, I was impressed by the amount of grunt the rod’s mid-section put out. Being a twin tip, it’s versatile, too. The 2.25lb top is ideal for all normal work, while the meatier 2.75lb top is perfect for fast, deep rivers, even those swollen by floodwater.
You could, in fact, have a matching pair of these for the price of one expensive barbel rod that in my humble opinion would not do the job any better.
Pound for pound, the Discovery Twin Tip Power with its 2.25lb and 2.75lb test curve top sections is arguably one of the best barbel rods on the market. You’d be hard-pushed to find a rod of its type to match it for the asking price.
It will tackle powerful rivers such as the Trent, Severn or Wye with its lighter top section in place, while for heavy leads and the meatiest of terminal kit the 2.75lb top comes into play. For playing big barbel, this eye-opening own-brand rod is up there with the very best.
Anyone who fishes big waters like Rutland or Grafham will know that a fast-actioned rod is needed to stay in touch with your lure, especially in depths down to 90ft or more.
So when I was tasked with testing Rage’s newly-released Warrior2 Vertical 185 and Spin 240 rods, I was eager to get down to Rutland Water to see if they were up to the mark.
Having vertically-jigged Rutland for zander with the wrong rod in the past, I was a tad apprehensive when I made my first drop with the Vertical 185, but was swiftly reassured when my 25g jighead and lure hit the reservoir floor in 65ft of water with very little bend evident in the rod-tip.
At just 6ft (185cm) long, it was stiff enough for great bite indication but not so stiff that it took the sting out of the fight.
My lure remained in direct contact with the bottom at all times, which is essential if you want to spot bites when fishing from a drifting boat.
The Vertical 185 is labelled to handle weights of 14g to 28g, so when drifting over deeper water I thought I’d test a 30g jighead – and I’m pleased to say this heavier weight had little effect on the playing action of the rod.
When the zander finally revealed themselves on the fish finder at mid-depth it was time to switch to the Spin 240 and really cover some water.
This rod is a big-fish cruncher, rated to cast weights from 10g-30g, so I was happy to see that my 35g jighead wasn’t a step too far – the braided mainline slipped through the sleek guides effortlessly with no creaks of protest from the blank.
For me, the real quality of the rod revealed itself while retrieving the lure – I could feel every twist of its paddled tail vibrating down the blank. As with the Vertical 185 there was an element of stiffness in this rod, but as soon as you hooked a zander it was forgiving, and could cope with the most powerful lunges without sacrificing the thrills of the fight.
The verdict: These are perfect rods for deep-water reservoir fishing that give unfailingly excellent bite indication and playing quality. The sleek grey high-modulus carbon blanks and cork handles add a touch of class, and considering you don’t need to break the bank to buy them you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck. The Spin 240 is as much at home on any river, canal or lake as it is on a reservoir.
Price: Fox Rage Warrior2
Vertical 185 £39.99
Fox Rage Warrior2 Spin 240
Preston Innovations is all set to launch more new tackle items than ever before in 2019, Angling Times can reveal.
The Telford-based firm, along with sister brands Avid, Korum and SonuBaits, will unveil tens of dozens of exciting new lines for next year in a couple of weeks’ time at its annual international trade show.
However, in this exclusive preview Angling Times offers you a sneaky peek at just a few of match brand Preston’s ‘must have’ new gear offerings for next season.
Included in a cornucopia of new kit are three new XS Response poles, delectable new Superfeeder and Tyson rods, and two outstanding reel ranges –Extremity and Inertia.
Preston’s Tyson branding tells you these rods are up for a fight, and built to take on all-comers!
A wide range of lengths and styles covers all scenarios, but common to all is a progressive action, dependable furnishings and a classy finish – all, needless to say, at knockout prices!
9FT CARP FEEDER
Designed for casts of up to 25m, the 9ft Carp Feeder can be used with confidence to target match-sized carp and F1s. You’ll be glad of it on small snake lakes when fishing to the far bank in windy conditions.
10FT CARP FEEDER
Perfect for slightly longer casts of around 30m, the 10ft Carp Feeder is a great all-rounder for commercial carp up to double figures. The soft action blends into the butt section, which powers up progressively.
11FT CARP FEEDER
The 11ft Carp Feeder is powerful enough to beast carp well into double figures, but is a beauty for playing smaller F1s and skimmers too. It’s suitable for casting Method feeders out to around 50m.
12FT METHOD FEEDER
Roll out the big guns – this is a distance-casting rod that will propel Method Feeders beyond the 60m mark and take on any carp. Perfect for large open-water lakes, with its soft tip action it will handle smaller F1s and skimmers too.
11FT PELLET WAGGLER
Suited to pellet waggler fishing with floats of up to 10g, its slightly through action will ensure that carp and F1s are easily tamed, while its responsiveness helps to hit bites at range. It can also be teamed with smaller standard wagglers for closer-range work.
A great all-round rod for mixed species, this one is also capable of handling bigger carp.
Ideal for use with standard wagglers at long range, its tip speed and responsiveness will help to hit shy bites. It is also an excellent river rod for use with wagglers and stick floats.
Tri-Cast’s rod-building reputation is built upon two core values – power and strength.
So when the Lancashire company’s new 8ft Excellence Wand dropped on to the Angling Times tackle desk, more than a few eyebrows were raised.
The word ‘wand’ conjures up images of flicking a little maggot feeder down the edge of a river to catch a quality roach or a big perch – not, as Tri-Cast bills its new arrival, a rod for banging out hefty carp and F1s from a modern UK commercial fishery.
Could the Excellence lay claim to both finesse and power without compromising both? I’m happy to report that a thorough going over at the remarkable Decoy Lakes fishery, near Peterborough, confirmed that appearances can be highly deceptive.
Before getting on to the fishing, though, let’s look at the history of the Excellence Wand and how it came to be. The initial idea was for Tri-Cast to work with multiple Matchman of the Year Andy Bennett to create a short, light bomb rod for winter fishing when the fish don’t pull that hard. It ticked all the boxes, and at that point both parties thought beyond the January and February chill.
Could the Excellence deal with high summer, when fish go like the clappers?
There’s a gap in the market for a short tip rod that can let you chuck a bomb on top of your long pole line or down the margins when the wind makes fishing the pole impossible... and that’s what got Tri-Cast and Andy interested.
A few tests in search of big summer carp soon proved that the rod could indeed take a hammering and give as good as it gets. At this point the Excellence began to be marketed as the perfect short rod for all seasons.
So, on to Decoy and the Horseshoe Lake’s big carp and F1s. With unseasonal gales to contend with, this looked set to be the ultimate test! Clearly the rod is extremely light in the hand, as a wand should be. The two pieces weigh just 108g and are rated to a 5lb line and a 30g casting weight. You’re not going to throw miles with the Excellence, but that’s not what it was built to do.
Supplied as standard are three carbon push-in quivertips in matt black, as opposed to having a coloured end. I prefer the latter, but thinking about it, a carp bite is savage so you’re not going to be striking at little knocks.
Plopping a 15g Method feeder tight up to the far-bank reeds was easy enough, and despite a stormy cross wind the Excellence had sufficient backbone in the cast to direct the feeder just where I wanted it to go.
Too soft a casting action and you’d not be in control, but that’s not going to happen with this rod. In fact, I’d say a good cast could be achieved if you were to fish a 30g feeder and put plenty of welly into getting it on to the spot.
A bite wasn’t long in coming, and immediately the rod hooped round almost all the way to the handle. That did set an alarm bell ringing. It’s a lovely action to behold, but how the hell would I guide a fish away from all those lily pads dotted around the lake?
The moment of truth came 30 seconds later, when the carp decided enough was enough and ploughed off to inspect the pads. Winding down, I pulled and pulled hard, and the fish stopped stone dead.
It might not look it at first glance, but there’s an acre of power in the bottom half of the rod, and that was even more evident at netting time. The 6lb mirror was bundled in with the minimum of effort.
Several more chunky F1s followed before it was time for a look in the edge.
A bait tub of micro pellets had been chucked in, and the boils and waving tails weren’t far behind. First drop in and the rod ripped round to the bite of a 3lb barbel before the first of a trio of big carp followed suit.
At such short range, a savage bite can bust you if the rod is too stiff, but owing to the beautifully soft action of the Excellence, there’s never any danger.
Our verdict: I’d happily use this rod on the river in winter with light hooklinks, such is its finesse, but the Excellence is built for carp and it puts a lot of its rivals to shame. There’s silk and steel in equal measure right throughout the 8ft of carbon, and if you invest in one, I’d say sit back and enjoy your fishing with this rod because it really is head and shoulders above anything else out there.
The Tri-Cast excellence is of the many impressive commercial fishery rods to hit the market, everything from refined snake lake and pond models through to powerful creations that will graze the horizon. Within Tri Casts range there is something to suit everyone’s depth of pocket.
At the topmost pinnacle of Tri-Cast’s latest feeder rod releases is the new Excellence range developed in conjunction with match ace Andy Bennett.
These top-drawer rods, as you might expect, are not cheap. The new 11ft Excellence on live test duty will likely set you back around £209, but you definitely get what you pay for.
So what exactly will you have in your hand in return for your herd of eight little Cockney ponies?
Well, on the face of it you’ll be getting a great looking ultra-slim, ultra-light rod with lightning-fast reflexes and superb high-end furnishings.
Tri-Cast’s design flair and technological genius come together in a blank with both beauty and brains. In a nutshell, the rod enjoys a high resin-to-cloth ratio, which contributes to its non-locking action
In addition, Tri-Cast has used its not inconsiderable aerospace knowledge to realign the way the carbon fibres are wrapped together. This all adds to the rod’s lightness, rigidity and post-cast recovery speed.
Other luxury touches include three push-in carbon quivertips with coloured whipping bands – yellow (fine) 1oz, green (medium) 1.5oz, and red (stiff) 2oz.
Low-profile single and double-legged ceramic-lined guides, and a dependable Tri-Cast reel seat and full cork handle, complete this impressive package.
Tri-Cast claims the rod will cast bombs and feeders of around 50g using mainlines up to 8lb, which is standard manufacturers’ marketing speak for a commercial feeder rod of this ilk.
In my humble opinion, though, top-end or flagship rods should always have the ‘wow factor’. Yes, you’re shelling out for classy furnishings, fittings and carbon technology, but without that noticeable ‘edge’ all that alchemy counts for nowt.
And so, to discover the aforementioned edge, on to the live test. A favourite water of mine is the peaceful day-ticket Stretton Lakes complex, just off the A1 north of Peterborough.
The fish here are all of a decent size, and respond to open-water tactics, which makes them ideal helpmates for testing feeder rods.
As you put this Tri-Cast Excellence Feeder rod together you can’t help but be impressed by its pencil-slim profile. Its sections are pretty much of equal length when the carrier section’s quivertip is in place, so it can be moved around ready made-up.
I was not, though, wholly convinced by its suggested 50g maximum casting weight and, for me, the top end of the carrier section has a little too much play. There’s no denying its impressive recovery rate, but this rod is clearly not of the ‘give it a whack’ breed. An over-enthusiastic miscast could prove very costly in more ways than one!
But there the criticism ends. The performance of Tri-Cast’s aristocratic feeder-chucker will have you purring with satisfaction. It has a wondrous amount of torque and feel, and a handling performance up there with the very best.
The immaculate gunmetal grey blank has a phenomenal pick-up speed, and its responsiveness to any size of hooked fish is as smooth as peaches and cream.
Verdict: A GENUINE high-performance rod for the commercial fishery connoisseur, this top-end Tri-Cast Feeder will handle most weights of flatbed feeders and straight leads to 30g-plus. It’s as much at home using a maggot feeder with light lines and small hooks for F1s as it would be targeting far bigger fish with bread discs in winter.
Price: £209.99 (but shop around)
Latest to join the Tri-Cast gallery of excellence are new waggler and feeder rods.
The latest Excellence Commercial series (see what I did there?) has been masterminded by the seemingly unstoppable match juggernaut that is Andy Bennett.
He had the boffins at Tri-Cast burning the midnight oil in pursuit of rods with perfect casting and fish-playing actions – and the results were, well… excellent!
The blanks feature the best possible carbon cloths and ultra-light resins. After all, Tri-Cast also produces parts for the aerospace industry, so the company’s extensive knowledge of all things carbon has been called into play to tweak the angles of the fibres, and how they are wrapped in multiple directions. This gives different actions in various areas of the blank.
Tri-Cast also spent time playing with the placement of guides and whippings to get the very best performance from its new family.
The 10ft (on live-test duty) 11ft, 12ft and 13ft waggler rods, Tri-Cast tells us, have a totally new through parabolic action that bends from the butt right through to the tip. As a result, anglers can feel every movement the fish makes and stay in full control.
The rods behave like a soft cushion when a big fish is acting up, by absorbing its lunges and soaking up the pressure while still piling on the power.
The tip section, I’d been told, reacts as swiftly as a striking mamba, setting the hook firmly without risk of snapped hooklength tragedies.
All that sounds almost too good to be true, but then, these are no ordinary rods. As ever, the acid test was to get one out on the bank and see if the reality measured up to the manufacturers’ claims.
One of the busiest complexes in my area is the fish-packed Portland Fishing Lakes. This mature, very nicely kept day-ticket fishery in rural Nottinghamshire is renowned for its peace and quiet, comfortable easily accessible pegs and superb clubhouse.
Here, I made a beeline for Long Island Lake. At just over 20m wide it’s beyond the reach of a far-bank pole attack, but responds well to a small waggler and hard pellets. Its stockie-sized carp lap these up.
Terminal tackle was simple – a 5lb reel line attached to a straight 3AAA peacock waggler, 0.17mm hooklength, and a size 18 hook with a banded 6mm pellet.
The short 25m cast tight to the far bank, often a tricky distance for a waggler approach, proved ideal for the 10ft Excellence which, I later discovered, could push out heavy-ish kit towards 35m without many problems.
I was also pleased to find that the Excellence was adept at casting my lightweight 3AAA float, especially given its hollow tip.
The rod cast straight enough most of the time, maybe wandering slightly to the right (or slicing, as a golfer might say), but nothing to get too peeved about.
And, just as Tri-Cast had predicted, the rod showed lightning-fast line pick-up which, for a two-piece blank with a through action, is quite something.
The real joy of fishing with this new Excellence, though, kicks in when a fish is hooked. Be it a small F1 or a proper zoo-creature, this rod will handle both – and everything between – to the manner born.
I reckon this ‘one size fits all’ attribute has a lot to do with
Mr Bennett, who is widely believed to be the best F1 angler on the planet and would be looking for a rod with subtle tippy softness, yet enough steely backbone to cope with larger fish.
As is often the case when lots of stockie-sized fish are present, I overfed the peg with pellets, which resulted in a number of foul-hookers.
Most of these pulled out before the net, but the exaggerated fight of fish hooked this way gave the rod a chance to shine.
Handy for a waggler rod, the 10ft Excellence will handle most weights of floats, within sensible limits of course. The only limitation I can see is in its casting distance – anything much past around 30m and I’d plump for the 11ft or 12ft model instead.
What's not to like? The Tri-Cast Excellence 10ft commercial waggler is one of the best rods you can buy, funds permitting. Light in the hand, it’s easy to manoeuvre, super-fast on the strike, and has an extraordinary capacity to cope with fish of all sizes.
My only very minor nit-pick is the dull-as-ditchwater graphics. C’mon, Tri-Cast – this is a state of the art, cutting edge bit of kit, so why not dress it up to fully look the part?
The Black Magic quartet is made up of Distance, Stillwater, River and Bomb (live tested) rods. All have a matt black gloss finish with matching whippings set off by classy red and silver detailing. Ceramic lined guides, a good length cork and EVA handle and a secure locking reel seat all add to their aesthetic appeal.
The carbon composite blanks are fast-tapered to hit the horizon, with the weight of the feeder loading high on the tip section. But it’s not all about casting clout, as the softly progressive, almost through action demonstrates. It offers reassuring cushioning against hook-pulls when targeting soft-mouthed skimmers and bream, or pursuing chub and roach with small hooks and light hooklengths.
Regular readers can’t fail to notice the number of short feeder rods I’ve reviewed of late – am I stuck in a rut? Well, no… I reckon this reflects the massive popularity of feeder fishing these days, and 9ft, 10ft and 11ft rods are especially sought-after.
For commercial fishery work their reduced length helps with casting accuracy, and their progressive action can’t be beaten for targeting F1s and carp.
All this brings me nicely on to the live test venue – the day-ticket Stretton Lakes, just off the A1 halfway between Peterborough and Grantham. This peaceful and fishery has four lakes on site.
These tend to attract pleasure anglers rather than ardent matchmen. The complex does, though, have a rectangular match lake with islands running along the middle, just perfect for very short-range feeder and bomb tactics. What better place to put Browning’s Black Magic C-Picker Bomb rod through its paces?
There’s a choice of 8ft 2ins, 10ft and 11ft lengths, the longest being selected for live test duty.
The carp in this pool show a distinct preference for baits presented on a tiny Method feeder, especially if it’s cast tight into the gaps between the islands. It’s not much of a chuck distance-wise, but the lake does test a rod’s casting accuracy which, in this case, was arrow-straight.
I reckon the blank will cope easily with casting up to 30g (although Browning rates it to 50g). That kind of goes against its ‘bomb rod’ tag, as I reckon ‘lightweight feeder rod’ describes it better. Effective casting distance tops out at around 30m.
However, it’s swings and roundabouts with this rod. Its non-locking fish playing action quite literally makes up for any shortcomings. If I had to criticise anything, it would be the top section that doesn’t blend all that seamlessly with the stiffer butt section, not that this affects its performance in any way.
I should also mention that I’m a lifelong fan of single blaze-coloured quivertips. I don’t like green or yellow, and I wouldn’t normally be seen dead with a banded multi-coloured tip.
I have to say, though, that this is the fourth Browning rod I have live-tested with the red and yellow Euro banded tip. It’s a proper attention-grabber – a bit like the rod itself.
A couple of months ago I showcased the new Cadence range of rods and reels, with a forward view to getting out on the bank and live-testing a couple of samples. Now that time has come.
But before getting into how this new tackle firm’s kit shapes up when being waved about over water, it’s worth mentioning that you will not see any Cadence products in your local tackle shop. They are all sold directly online.
This may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it means that prices are kept very realistic as there’s no middleman selling the product on.
The Cadence ethos of ‘believing in the future of fishing’ should be applauded, and the company promises to donate a pole to one of its registered charities for every online purchase of £50 or more.
So far, Cadence has presented more than a thousand 3m starter poles to ‘Get Hooked On Fishing’ for the charity to give away at its national teaching events.
Cadence is fronted by former Shakespeare brand manager James Robbins, widely accepted as one of the best running water match anglers in the country.
Given Mr Robbins’ penchant for flowing water, it’s pretty much nailed on that any of the Cadence rods he has designed for flowing water tactics will be spot-on.
Rather than have separate brands for commercial and natural fisheries, Cadence has two ranges, both labelled CR10, made up of seven Feeder rods and 13 Match Fishing (float) rods. But can that really work? Surely virtually all modern rods are targeted towards a specific angling discipline?
Well, to find out, I took the Cadence CR10 11ft Match #2 and Cadence CR10 10ft Feeder #2 along to one of my favourite live test venues, the day-ticket Stretton Lakes complex just off the A1 north of Peterborough.
The 10ft Feeder, with three lengths of quivertip rated to 2.1oz and 2.2oz, and the 11ft Match rod, will between them tackle 99 per cent of commercial fisheries. Both will cast 20g flatbed feeders up to 25m, or wagglers up to 10g.
Both rods are built from high-grade carbon cloths and dressed with Fuji Alconite lined guides, original Fuji reel seats, and full-length AAA grade cork handles with EVA thumb and casting grips.
On the bank, you immediately notice how slim and light these rods are, not to mention stunning to look at – but, as always, it’s performance that really counts.
So, on to the verdict. On the plus side, they are fabulously lightweight, and extremely easy to use and handle.
The fish-playing action of both rods is on the light side of progressive, making them ideal
for work with light lines and smaller hooks.
They transmit plenty of feel through the blank, which makes them great fun to fish with, and they will cast as far and as straight as you’ll ever need on a normal 20-peg commercial fishery pool.
Also, the finish is as good as that on many much more expensive rods – yet I am slightly hesitant.
Okay, I would happily make space for them in my own rod holdall for all my winter commercial maggot fishing, but my single criticism centres around one of the rods’ most notable plus points, the lightness and slimness of the blanks.
While this is quite exceptional, and they look a million dollars, they do feel a bit prissy and slightly wanting if you are intent on bagging up on large commercial carp.
I’m planning to keep hold of a few of the rods until winter league time, and I’ll report back to you after some further use.
EYE-CATCHING rods with a fast action and a nice crisp feel, these are better suited to mixed fishery use than out-and-out commercial slog.
However, the two models on live test would be serious contenders for my ‘best light line and small hooks winter commercial rods’ award!
More info and sales - www.cadencefishing.co.uk
Price: Cadence 10ft CR10 Feeder Rod £89.99 - Cadence 11ft CR10 Match Rod £89.99
I’ve always had a soft spot for all things Tri-Cast. Not only are they UK designed and built, but the Lancashire company’s kit is always up to the job asked of it.
When I got wind of its Excellence rod range, I confidently expected more of the same – but my enthusiasm was nothing compared to the excitement of Tri-Cast boss Steve Hopkinson when he visited Angling Times.
He was positively brimming with joy over the eight new models. A long time in the making, these are the most technically-advanced rods to come out his factory.
All that development time was well spent tweaking and making minor adjustments to each rod in conjunction with Tri-Cast’s team of top match anglers including the mighty Andy Bennett. Tri-Cast has never been content to release rods and poles that are very good – they want to give the public tackle that’s beyond compare, and the Excellence range is just that.
Every aspect of modern UK match fishing is covered. Waggler rods ranging from 10ft to 13ft will handle commercial carp and river chub and roach with equal aplomb, and 9ft to 11ft feeder rods can do the same. There’s also a pocket rocket of an 8ft Power Wand for short-range work on carp lakes.
But what makes them so good? Well, aside from the fixtures and fittings that include a lightweight screw reel fitting, hook-retaining ring and delicate guides, the beauty of an Excellence rod lies in the very best carbon fibres and ultra-light resins used in its construction.
Not only does this keep overall weight down, and therefore improve performance in the hand or when a fish is hooked (the 11ft waggler model weighs just 148g), but it also delivers a parabolic action. In simple terms, this means that the rod bends all the way from tip to the butt. It’s this softness and flexibility that makes it as good at heaving big carp away from snags as it does scaling down to light hooklinks for roach.
The same can be said of the feeder rods and Power Wand, although the butt section is stiffer and provides the backbone to punch a feeder accurately to the distance required.
Couple this with the lovely soft through action in the remainder of the rod and you’ve found the holy grail of rod design.
Each feeder rod is supplied with three colour-graded push-in carbon quivertips that are fine, medium and stiff or – if you prefer to think in ounces – 1oz, 1½oz
In keeping with the modern vogue, all except the 13ft waggler rod are two-piece so they can be broken down and stored ready to go in hard case rod sleeves.
Tri-cast excellence rod range prices
Tri-Cast Excellence 10ft Waggler: £189.99
Tri-Cast Excellence 11ft Waggler: £199.99
Tri-Cast Excellence 12ft Waggler: £214.99
Tri-Cast Excellence 13ft Waggler: £299.99
Tri-Cast Excellence 9ft Feeder: £189.99
Tri-Cast Excellence 10ft Feeder: £199.99
Tri-Cast Excellence 11ft Feeder: £209.99
Tri-Cast Excellence 8ft Power Wand: £179.99
So the company’s first venture into the rod market in March came as a bit of a pleasant shock.
Thousands flocked to The Big One Show in Farnborough for a first glance at these Aventus rods, which should be available in the shops this August.
Meanwhile, last week the Aventus range made its official UK debut at an invite-only dealer day at Partridge Lakes, near Warrington, and Angling Times was on hand to catch the action.
Six rods make up the range – 11ft and 12ft Float, 10ft and 11ft Feeder and 12ft and 13ft Distance Feeder models.
Priced between £375 and £450, they won’t suit everyone’s budget, but anyone who does splash out is in for a treat. They all ooze quality, and boast several innovative features. The handles are longer than usual – this is to aid casting – and finger grips are a novel addition.
Reel seats on the Float rods are extremely slim, for added comfort when using labour-intensive tactics such as the pellet waggler, and the guides on all rods are built so as to stop the line wrapping around them.
Current UK Champ and Guru product developer Pemb Wrighting, who played a big role in creating the Aventus range, said: “We always said we would never create a range of rods unless we felt they were the best on the market. It’s been two years since we first started working on them, and we are confident the final result will live up to all the hype.”
Still quite a rarity on the bank, single sectioned rods have plenty of positives. Remove the quivertip and the Wandzee can be transported inside virtually any fully-zipped rod or pole holdall. Match it to a smaller 2500/3000 sized reel with a flat-fold handle and it can be slipped unobtrusively between your top kits in their plastic tubes.
Fair do’s, this rod isn’t going to cast much beyond 30m, but its seamless and flat spot-free parabolic action suits it to everything from small F1s through to fatso fish with attitude. Those of you not normally able to hit a bottle-top area every chuck will be be surprised how accurate you can get with the Wandzee.
This week’s live test took place at Decoy’s fish-heavy Horsehoe Lake which, at around 20m wide, is ideal for this type of short-range lead rod.
Straight off the bat, I’d say that the Wandzee would be more likely to find its way into my holdall for winter leagues, rather than midsummer matches. But this newest member of the Monster clan did turn in a jaw-dropping performance, and undeniably has year-round talents.
The rod feels reasonably crisp and very light. Some may find its through action a tad bouncy on the cast, but unless you’re clattering out a feeder to the horizon does that really matter?
It will comfortably handle most anything that swims, yet it can be used with light lines and small hooks with no fear of premature evacuation if something hefty tugs your line.
Preston tags the Wandzee with a 35g maximum casting weight, which is there or thereabouts for a fully loaded 30g flatbed feeder, and the rod is indeed on its limits with that.
Bite registration has to be seen to be believed. I’d kitted up with a fast-sinking pre-stretched 6lb mono reel line, and bites were nothing short of savage.
Watching them develop was interesting. With the tip very much in view, I could see all those little plucks and twitches as fish moved in to feed close to the bait… an early warning system before the tip hooped round.
For winter F1 tactics with a maggot feeder and matching hookbait, timing of the strike on those niggly little knocks you tend to get could be helped greatly by this rod’s shorter length.
The playing action is sweeter than a Wagon Wheel dipped into a jar of syrup and dusted in icing sugar, and will leave you drooling for more. In the wonderful world of non-locking parabolic actions, the Wandzee re-writes the book, handling anything from a newly-stocked F1 to a grumpy war vet of a carp with equal aplomb.
Verdict: I can foresee Preston’s new Monster Wandzee becoming a must-have rod.
It will find a place in my winter pole holdall, for times when the pole line is made unfishable by the wind.
It would be as much at home casting a straight bomb with bread discs for bigger fish in open water as it would be pinging a maggot feeder up the far bank of a snake lake for F1s. I suspect a certain Mr Des Shipp had a hand in its development, and the boy done good!
Commercial match anglers who insist on the best will welcome Maver’s new Signature rods.
Coming in at 11ft and 12ft, the Pellet Wagglers deliver a full parabolic fish-playing action to target carp and F1s of any size.
Superbly lightweight at only 141g and 157g, respectively, they really come into their own when lightning-fast strikes are required. Both will cast floats of between 2g and 8g, and can be used with reel lines from 3lb to 8lb.
Classy rod furniture includes high-quality SiC guides on the high modulus carbon blank, Fuji graphite screw reel fitting, EVA twist grip and a folding hook keeper ring.
Maver’s new 13ft, 14ft, 15ft and 16ft Classic Float rods have been designed and extensively tested by Welsh International Lee Edwards. They are intended primarily for river fishing, but will handle conventional waggler or sliding float tactics on deeper natural stillwaters too.
With their fine, hollow tips they are a dream to fish with when teamed with light lines and small hooks, and have already accounted for many winning match nets of dace and roach.
Although finesse is paramount, the three-piece rods’ middle sections have enough power to cope with chub and barbel from pacy swims. Instant response on the strike combines with a crispness that lifts line from the water in the blink of an eye.
Key features at all four lengths include comfortable EVA twist grips either side of the reel seat. These are slightly oversized to leave no gap between the handle and the user’s palm.
The upper reel seat grip is moulded to enable perfect placement of thumb and forefinger while holding the rod.
Contributing to sleek looks and understated cosmetics, the guides, whippings, blank and reel seats across the Maver Signature range are of a uniform black – sure to attract admiring glances.
Price: Pellet Wagglers from £189.99, Classic Floats from £229.99
Now that spawning is well and truly out of the way, commercial fishery carp are properly on the munch, and can be seen cruising the upper layers, picking off morsels passing in front of their noses.
It’s now that pellet waggler tactics start to come into their own, especially on venues dominated by big carp. But these fish, it seems to me, have learned the knack of feeding on the periphery of loosefed pellets.
They actually shy away from anything that hits the water with a resounding ‘plop’ – a total reversal of how the original pellet waggler tactic came into being, when noise would draw fish into the swim.
Anyway, to keep pace with that development, more modern tactics involve the use of lighter, clear, fully-loaded wagglers.
Few things are more satisfying than building a pellet waggler swim. Start feeding little-and-often and provided you are reasonably accurate with a catty, the fish will gain confidence. Get it right and they’ll soon be swirling at the pellets every time you feed… all of which tees me up nicely for this very modern new float rod from Matrix.
Matrix doesn’t brand this a pellet waggler rod, preferring to call it a ‘Carp Waggler’. This reflects the rod’s all-round pedigree, rather than it being a one-trick pony.
The super-slim two-piece blank’s equal-length sections allow it to be brought to the water ready made-up, saving time. It’s also incredibly light, being built from an ultra-high-modulus carbon cloth.
Key build features include premium grade slim ceramic guides that allow great distances to be achieved even with light lines and floats. There’s a unique detailed weave print on its butt section, and a tiny side-fixed keeper ring, which is a bit ‘Marmite’ in my opinion.
The Carp Waggler’s 11ft length lends itself perfectly to use on small and medium-sized commercial pools with casts up to 35m. I reckon it’s at its best casting floats weighing from 3g to 10g, with reel lines from 4lb to 8lb.
The blank has a parabolic, almost all-through fish-playing action to deal with everything from tiddlers to Titans. That perfectly suited the few hours I spent tempting a selection of carp from Decoy’s Elm strip lake.
With a niggling side wind to contend with, I spent the first hour or so of live-testing chopping and changing my way through any number of sizes, shapes and styles of waggler. Eventually I settled on a short crystal finned version carrying enough weight to cut through the wind arrow-straight.
The rods can actually cope admirably with floats from 3AAA right the way up to 10g.
In addition, thanks to the blank’s hollow tip section, it generates sufficient tip speed to instantly lift line from the surface, making hitting the quickest of bites relatively easy.
The hollow tip also offers a fair degree of recovery, giving it more casting potential than a spliced rod. Just one word of warning – in my opinion this isn’t a rod for heavy splasher-type wagglers, and certainly wouldn’t be up to coping with a big whack against a headwind. It simply doesn’t have the backbone for that. But for 90 per cent of commercial waggler fishing it will do just fine.
What the Matrix Carp Waggler does have going for it in spades is an ability to cope with very big fish on light gear, when its parabolic/through action takes on a superb lunge-absorbing curve. It works as a perfect cushion, preventing hook pulls and snap-offs.
There's nothing not to like about this latest Matrix Horizon offering. It’s light and comfortable in the hand, casts straight and true, and has more than enough casting power to hit the 30m mark. Ideal for floats, and fish of all sizes, it’s a true commercial fishery all-rounder with a very high standard of build that is more than matched by its performance.
Multi award-winning carp rod manufacturer Free Spirit has added eight new Power Feeder models to its top-end Hi ‘S’ match range.
Two years of input from some of the UK’s best feeder anglers have gone into the design of these long-cast rods. Specials are two- and three-piece blanks in 12ft, 13ft or 14ft lengths, all rated to a maximum 120g (4oz) casting weight. The souped-up Distance versions of the Specials will whack out up to 160g (5.6oz) – a really hefty payload.
In terms of build, High ‘S’ Feeder rods are up there with the best. High-end Kigan anti-frap guides and cut-away Fuji reel seats not only give the rods plenty of transmission and feel, but will accommodate larger big pit reels.
All Free Spirits rods are made from super-slim, ‘perdurable’ (non-scratch) Japanese low resin 40-tonne and 24-tonne carbon cloths with a 1k weave, which results in a sensational matt finish.
The blanks boast wickedly responsive casting actions, super-fast tip recovery and ultra-chuckability for bream and carp on big open waters.
Other key features on the new Distance Feeder models include long, hollow quivertips in the same material as the rest of the blank. These ensure a smooth, even power transfer, and longer casts can be made with smaller/lighter feeders. This suits the rods to situations when less feed at long range is called for.
Handles – abbreviated or full cork – are a standard 22ins but can be customised by Free Spirit to whatever length best suits you.
As you might gather by now these are high-class performance rods with a price tag to match, but then the best is never cheap. Overpriced they are not.
For the live test I chose a noted big bream water, Earlswood’s famous Yachting Lake. The bream run large, are no pushover to catch, and are regularly targeted in matches. They tend to feed quite a long way out, making them the ideal subject for live-testing a distance-casting bream rod.
My chosen Free Spirit model was the new two-piece 12ft Power Feeder Special – a first-rate bream weapon with enough backbone to chuck Method feeders at carp.
Put this rod together and you already know you’re on a winner. The sublime slimline blank, with its demure carbon weave and matt finish, is a thing of beauty, while the perfectly spaced Kigan guides add to its aesthetic qualities.
The long hollow quivertips (3oz and 3½oz) arguably add a touch too much stiffness to the action. But in full casting flight you realise that this is all part of Free Spirit’s intended package, a feature clearly adapted from the company’s distance casting carp rods.
The Power Feeder whacks out any type of feeder with no tip bounce, and indeed instant tip recovery. Cast, my word it certainly can cast…. 30g weights don’t even register on the blank, 40g weights power out without a hint of a wobble, while 50g weights, thanks to the blank loading quite high on the second section, still get blitzed.
I stopped at that weight, wanting to concentrate more on the fishing, and getting a feel for how the blank copes with bin-lids on match tackle. My set-up was a 10lb fluorocarbon shockleader to a 5lb reel line, a 0.17mm hooklength and a size 14 hook baited with two small pieces of worm.
Not a single fish was lost during the test, and a progressive action decidedly on the tippy side was no problem. The rod has enough cushioning through its mid-section to cope with headshakes and last-minute lunges without the hook pulling.
Expensive, yes, but if you’re seriously into your distance bream fishing this rod could be for you. Classy looks and furnishings are matched by a high-octane casting performance that may well give you an added edge.
I would have been happier with a 2oz quivertip, but having spoken with Free Spirit’ boss Simeon Bond I’m told that these will be available very soon.
At long last the carp on commercials are up in the water and ready to be targeted using float tactics.
The obvious choice is the pellet waggler, a tactic that will dominate matches all over the UK in the next month or so.
Few things are as satisfying as building up a pellet waggler line. Feed little and often, keeping the pattern tight, and fish will start to swirl at your feed pellets as soon as they hit the water.
Then, if you can deftly land a waggler by feathering the cast so your hookbait lands behind your float with an enticing little ‘plop’, you’ll reap the rewards.
If you ever get a chance to watch master pellet waggler anglers such as Perry Stone or Warren Martin conducting their way through a symphony of pulled strings, you’ll know where I’m coming from.
All this brings me nicely on to Middy’s latest Arco-Tech K-335 11ft/12ft Carp Waggler rod. Like all those in the range it has a soft, parabolic action to subdue large commercial carp. Key features include a slim, full cork handle and KTS smooth flow guides.
‘Match This’ winner Chris Cameron helped develop the Arco Feeder rods, while Kieron Rich is behind the Waggler versions – hence the rigid mini-butts with a Kevlar wrap, which strengthens up the section to pile on some real stopping power if need be. A foot-long extension which can be added without tackling down is another feature of Arco-Tech rods.
I wasn’t surprised that Middy has come up with something a bit special in the pellet wag department. Since the launch of the quite exceptional 3G X-Flex rod a few years ago the standard has been upheld with super fish-playing actions, lightness in the hand, super-fast line pick-up, accurate casting, and an all-round performance better than most.
On the live test at the impressive day-ticket Stretton Lakes my plan was to put the 12ft Arco-Tech through its paces on the carp lake with a heavy pellet waggler at distance, then drop down to the smaller match lake in the afternoon to target its stockies with the rod in its 11ft mode using smaller floats, hooks and baits.
The morning session was a bit of a disaster as far as fishing went, as three hours of non-stop pellet pinging with a rod that cast straight as a die failed to interest the carp, which were preoccupied with spawning in the margins.
I can, though, report that the blank will handle reel lines up to 8lb (just about, as the guides are quite small) and floats up to 10g with some ease.
A change to the match lake saw its stockies queuing up for a 6mm pellet, hung 18ins below a 2AAA straight peacock waggler. Using a smaller, less obtrusive float with lighter lines and smaller hooks seems to be the way forward on commercials these days, and in this respect the new Middy Arco-Tech is sure to gain many friends.
It has just about enough whip in the tip section to propel a lighter float, as long as you drop down the reel line diameter accordingly.
The blank, although admittedly not the fastest in the world, is still nicely responsive, with a softly progressive action across the top section that morphs into steely carp-stopping power going into the butt.
Constant feeding while holding the rod proved painless on the wrists, and the handle was just the right length to manoeuvre effortlessly around my body
The new Arco-Tech 11ft/12ft Carp Waggler is right up there with Middy’s best. With a softly progressive action but just the right amount of backbone, it’s light and comfy in the hand, and casts straight and true with enough tip-whip to hit the 40m mark with larger floats.
Line pick-up speed isn’t the fastest, but there’s enough finesse to handle light lines, hooks and floats even when big fish are on the cards.
Price: £119.99 (multiple deals)