Not long ago a rod rest was thought of as the sign of a lazy angler. Nowadays sophisticated angling styles have made a rest an essential part of the angler’s equipment
Until recently a rod rest was a length of stick with a forked end, often cut from a hedge by the water and sometimes referred to by the term ‘idleback’. Its best use was as a support for the rod while eating a snack, but today any attempt at ledgering, swing tip work, or laying-on is certainly pointless without a firm base on which the rod can be securely cradled.
Strength, lightness, adaptability and simplicity are the four essentials of a good rod rest. Strength sufficient to penetrate deeply a hard bank or gravel pit edge so that the rod will be firmly held, especially in a wind, suggests the use of a metal support. But when one considers that two sets (four rests) may have to be carried, lightness prohibits the use of thick steel or iron bars.
Various kinds of thin, light alloy rod rests are available in the shops, but most are .likely to bend if full body pressure is applied to drive them into the ground. Better models are thick, hollow, well pointed, and without a seam or join along the side through which water can seep and leak over tackle or the angler.
One or two models, made from a hard metal and shaped into a T’ or T section, have recently appeared on the market. They are remarkably strong and by virtue of their shape are easy to mount into the bank. But they do cost a lot more than the average rest and are just as likely to be left behind as their cheaper counterparts. One suggestion for the forgetful angler is to paint a part of the rest a bright colour to act as a visual reminder.
Adaptability includes adjustable length and several angles of use apart from the upright position. Telescopic rests that can be held open to the required length by a thumbscrew are popular, but rather more delicate than the one-piece variety. Unfortunately, they tend to collect water and mud in the hollow section, to the detriment of rod bags or hold-alls.
There are a few rests that have ad-justable heads, but most have ver-tical grips for holding the rod. A model with an inclined head is available, however, which can sup-port a rod with the tip pointing downwards for swing-tip ledgering.
Simplicity is essential at the head. The rod should sit lightly but firmly in the support, and there should be a gap so that the line can run smoothly when a fish takes. The usual ‘U’ and ‘V shapes are par-ticularly likely to trap a line below the rod, and more than one good run has stopped short because of this.
Two specialized rests are worth mentioning. The roach pole is usually associated with hand held, small fish tactics. But it is equally useful for laying-on, the tight line between rod tip and hook resulting in good hooking. To enable the pole angler to lay-on in moving water at various angles through the swim a multi-notched head can be used that allows the rod to be shifted, fan wise, until the whole swim has been worked. This special rest can be cut by the average handyman from off-cuts of marine plywood mounted on- to a flattened metal stake. Naturally the wooden notches in which the rod will rest must be lined with foam or rubber to protect the rod varnish.
Rod rests on which bite indicators are incorporated are expensive, but usually possess a very firm metal shaft for driving into the ground. Even if the indicator is not being us-ed, they are good value by virtue of their rugged construction. When used with the bite indicator mechanism they should be sunk deeply into the bank – otherwise wind vibration can set off the alarm signal.
Setting rod rests demands a little thought. They should be well spread, giving maximum support to the rod itself. Mounted too closely together the rod will vibrate in any reasonable wind, leading to false bites registering at the indicator or float tip. Where the bank is extra hard, preventing a good vertical push into the ground, try to set the rests at right angles to each other. Sufficient shaft can then be buried to give support.
Finally, there should be adequate soft plastic or rubber padding around the arms of the head so that the rod will not be chipped when set down or accidentally knocked. Electricians’- waterproof tape can help where protection is thin, but it should be renewed every season.
Sea rod rests
For the sea angler, rod rests need to be extra strong. The weight of a beachcaster and reel and the very nature of the ground, whether sand or pebble, rule out any lightweight rest. Where shingle or rock is the main covering of the shore, then a tripod will be one of the best rod mounts. There is at least one model on the market whose head can be set parallel to a steep incline.
For a simple but adequate rest, three stout lengths of wood can be tied together Indian camp-fire style and used on the beach. But remember to practise the lashing that will bind them before going to fish – do not attempt it for the first time on a dark night. Old camera tripods are excellent and can occa-sionally be purchased cheaply. Only the minimum of work on the head makes them into servicable rests.
Where the beach is principally sand, the bayonet mount, bucket and bar type rest that allows the rod to stand vertically is best. The ‘T’ shape section and welded bar across the spear end prevents the rest from turning, and the bucket allows the rod butt to stand without slipping. The ‘U’ of the head is mounted horizontally so that the rod is com-fortably held – but again it must be well padded.
One final kind of rest remains to be considered – those for use when trolling from a boat. These mount on the gunwale and allow the angler to row or tend an outboard motor while the rod is held at a right angle to the boat. Those for sale usually have a ring into which the butt end of the rod fits, and a ‘U’ section on which the rod rests above the handle. Un-fortunately, they all tend to be short, leaving most of the rod balanced out above the water without support, which imposes a constant strain. Look for the rest with the longest reach between butt ring and support.