AS TACKLE editor for Angling Times I now and again get to fish with some quite exceptional bits of kit – and, with my ear to the ground, find out where best to put them through their paces.
There are thousands of different types of feeder rod on the market. You’ve got budget priced pub-chuckers, super expensive long-range horizon blasters, not to mention a wealth of bomb, Method feeder and specialist commercial, river and stillwater models. Yup, the list is virtually endless!
Between them, these could deliver anything from a minuscule cage feeder that wouldn’t fit over the end of your little finger, right up to a massive metal-clad monster holding enough feed in one go to last a canal match angler five hours. Little wonder, then, that choosing the right rod is more difficult than trying to mix groundbait with treacle while wearing boxing gloves!
What’s more, if you’re looking for a rod that stands out from the crowd, and will last you a lifetime, you could well get caught out and spend a whole lot for very little.
So let me direct you along the right path. Recently I got the chance to lay my grubby mitts on the full set of Free Spirit’s sublime Hi S Feederlite rods. So outstanding are Free Spirit rods that their name has become a byword for assured quality and outstanding performance. Many leading match anglers, including England Internationals, will testify to this. The Feederlites are a fine example of the firm’s eye for quality, featuring cutting-edge materials, inspired build and design, and faultless furnishings.
Now, Earlswood’s Engine Pool, my spies told me, had recently been stocked with more big, bold and brassy F1s than you could shake a bag of pellets at, and was absolutely on fire.
Unfortunately, judging by the number of vans and cars already parked up as I pulled into the Engine Pool’s dam wall car park, word had got out about the tremendous day-ticket fishing available here.
But can you believe this? The very first peg I arrived at was still angler-free, and that’d do me nicely… no walking and loads of bites in prospect. It doesn’t get much better than that! In no time at all the trio of Free Spirit Hi S Feeder rods were fully assembled and about to make a great day even better.
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All three – the 10ft, 11ft and 12ft models – are designed primarily for short-range bream, skimmer and F1 fishing with bomb or feeder tactics.
Casting distances are around the 40-yard mark, although the 12-footer has enough steel through its mid-section to hit around 70 yards.
Maximum casting weight is said by the manufacturers to be up to 30g, but I rigged all three rods with 36g Hybrid feeders which, fully loaded, probably weighed nearer 40g. It should be noted that they handled the extra weight without complaint or mishap.
The trio all share the same sublime, advanced progressive action that’s ideal for fishing with smaller hooks and lighter hooklengths. That said, there is still more than enough oomph stowed away in their middle and lower sections to deal with the odd bigger lump.
Thanks to the use of the best low resin 46t and 40t Japanese carbons, these top-end models are ridiculously lightweight at around 108g, and as sharp and crisp in casting performance and line pick-up as you could wish for.
My day’s testing involved having the three rods clipped up at different casting distances while using exactly the same casting weight.
What I can tell you is this. In my opinion the 12-footer has the edge on casting aggression and will outgun the 10ft and 11ft rods in terms of distance. Other than that, it’s hard to choose between them, but ‘the smaller the venue you fish, the shorter the rod should be’ is a rule of thumb that most anglers follow.
All Free Spirit Hi S models come with unique hollow carbon quivertips that enhance casting distance and accuracy, as well as aiding their fish fighting curves when under stress. The Feederlite tips are rated at 0.5oz and 0.75oz, and are nicely suited to the rods’ softer characteristic. They will detect the most delicate of bites, especially when using braided reel line.
Skeletal Fuji reel seats allow for maximum feel through the blank when playing a fish, while high-quality low profile anti-frap guides are perfectly positioned to make the rods less prone to mainlines catching during the cast and causing crack-offs.
Price: From around £365, www.freespiritfishing.com