Looking every inch like expensive custom-built rods, the two 12ft Daiwa Black Widow Barbel and Specialist models are built using full-carbon two-piece blanks that are garnished with an understated matt non-glare finish.
They are furnished with a well-spaced set of durable stainless steel framed guides that have hard-wearing, braid-proof aluminium oxide linings. Both rods also have hollow tubular top sections that are ideal for fishing situations which require the use of heavier leads, feeders, and stronger than normal terminal tackle.
However, before you run away with the idea that this pair of affordable specialist rods are both little more than ringed broom handles, they are both supplied with permanently fixed 2oz test curve glass quiver top sections ideal for targeting shy-biting fish or when tackling still or slow, meandering water where a more sensitive set-up will be beneficial.
Which rather bizarrely is a million miles away from where the pair actually underwent their endurance of a live test. Heavy rain and high water levels just after the start of the new river season had meant that the fish had been pushed out of the normal areas I would expect to bag barbel and catch reports from the opening week were pretty sparse. After a few phone calls I discovered a few fish were being caught from the tidal Trent. If anywhere’s going to test a barbel rod to its limits it’s here, I thought to myself. If it can survive this test it will handle anything else.
The Tidal Trent is a serious water. It’s wildly fast flowing in spots, very deep in places, boils and bubbles like a witch’s cauldron, and is generally completely unforgiving of angling errors.
Its rock and boulder banks and bed are a nightmare, and just to make things doubly difficult for the angler, it flows both ways depending on the tide of the day. Oh yes, it’s quite tasty too but most definitely more Vindaloo than Korma!
The fish that swim the inhospitable depths of the Tidal Trent are nothing less than lean, mean, super fit fighting machines. Think of them as permanently living on a fast-paced treadmill! And that’s what makes the tidal reaches so popular with a multitude of match and specimen anglers. It’s wild water fishing at its raw best.
So where and how does this Daiwa pairing fit into the equation? Well although both rods are close to the cusp on both casting weights and casting distances on a river such as this, the lighter Specialist model is well worth a look, even if you’re a match angler targeting fast-water bream, skimmers and hybrids.
It has a bit more backbone for casting heavier feeders than a normal match style quivertip feeder, but with just enough cushioning softness to allow for lighter lines, from say 0.14mm and more, and smaller hooks from size 16 hooks upwards.
The Barbel model was pushed to its absolute limit on this live test, as the session kicked off with a hefty 70g feeder cast to mid-river and went up from there, as the ebb tide pulled hard. Fish-playing wise, the blank’s progressive action is a little too much for a powerhouse river such as this, and I did lose a couple of big fish I couldn’t keep out of the boulders. Maybe it was it was just bad angling on my part. But let’s face it, none of us ever blame ourselves! And the occasional loss is always going to be expected when fishing such an extreme venue.
By the end of the test, however, the number of fish the rod put on the bank vastly outnumbered those that had escaped. If rods could talk, this one would have said ‘thank flip that’s over with!’
For my money the Black Widow Specialist model would make a good stillwater tench and bream tool and would also double-up as a very handy winter chub rod for any water. The Barbel model is an ideal all-rounder for any river, maybe better suited to the more sedate Thames and Avon flows, where its 2oz fixed quivertip section would come into play. Pacier rivers such as the Wye, Severn and Trent could be tackled with its tubular carbon top section.
The tidal Trent really is at the upper limit at what the rod can handle. But the venue is a different animal to most waterways and normally requires tackling with what can be hugely expensive bespoke rods. The fact that this high value for money Black Widow rod tamed plenty of fish from this river speaks volumes about how good it is.