THOSE who know me will appreciate that I’m a fanatical match angler. All the travelling involved is quite exhausting and, every now and again, I need a bit of break. Country walks, the cinema or a trip to the pub all provide that little bit of R&R, but often I decide to go fishing instead!
Yes, having an evening walk around a venue close to home with just a rod, a bucket, a mat and a net is a far cry from the pressures and strains of top-flight match fishing!
Luckily for me, I was able to combine the two when I was asked to live-test one of the new Shakespeare SKP Concept Specialist rods.
With 11ft and 12ft lengths available, each with a test curve of 1.25lb or 1.5lb, they’re ideal for chub, bream, tench and barbel, although today my target species was going to be good-sized carp!
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I fancied a bit of stalking, where the extra length of the 12ft rod would help me lower a bait into position and the extra cushioning of the lighter 1.25lb test curve would cope well with explosive close-range action.
I arrived at Alvechurch Fisheries mid-afternoon on a bright and baking hot summer’s day. Given that lots of anglers were thinking of packing up, I’d very soon have most of House Lake to myself. Freelining surface baits would have been my obvious choice but, with a floater ban in place, I decided to give the Hybrid feeder a try.
Odd, maybe, but a feeder does have its benefits. A Hybrid presents a nice little table of bait, just enough to draw fish in and catch them one at a time.
It’s amazing how often you can crawl through the reeds, lower a feeder straight off your rod end near some carp and get a take within minutes. With time and gear at a minimum, I just laid the rod on the grass and watched the slack loop of line off the tip for movement. No place for bobbins, bite alarms or quivertips in this game!
My first couple of attempts were unsuccessful, as the fish were more interested in sunbathing than feeding.
My fortunes changed as the sun dipped a little lower in the sky and the carp decided it was time for their evening meal. I spotted three good-sized fish milling around just a few feet from the bank in a windward corner of the lake.
Almost scared to breathe, I opened the bail-arm and slipped the feeder in behind them. They must have known something was up, because they slowly melted away into the depths. I knew they hadn’t gone far, though, as the odd flick of my slackened line gave away their presence. Without warning, the rod came to life, arching round and pulling through the reeds. I grabbed the butt and, with the angriest of carp stripping line from my reel, I got to experience the Concept Specialist in action.
Its battle curve is a thing of beauty, allowing me to fully experience every thump and lunge of what was a very powerful fish without fear of it throwing the hook.
This same drama was played out several times more throughout the evening, as a number of carp and even a 6lb bream got in on the action. The 12ft Concept handled all these fish beautifully.
By now my competitive match angling brain was yearning to know how well this rod would cast. As the only angler left on the venue, I set myself a little challenge. With only a modest flick, I could quite easily cast
the width of the lake with just the 28g Hybrid feeder attached – which was a bit of an eye-opener.
Not yet fully satisfied, I slipped on a 60g (2.1oz) version and found I could hoof it corner to corner diagonally across the lake, the best part of 80m – much to the amusement of my photographer, Tony Grigorjevs.
As I suspected, these rods have a great fish-playing action, with sufficient poke and a fast enough recovery to allow every inch of water to be explored on any small to medium-sized venue of your choosing.
They might be cheaper than the sort of high-end gear that I’m used to in matches, but I’d be more than happy to use one every week on one of my afternoon ‘chill out’ sessions. Quite simply, they can do it all.
Price: £62.99 (but shop around), www.shakespeare-fishing.co.uk