When selecting a boat rod it is very misleading to wave it about in the manner usually adopted with freshwater rods, which do have a flexibility that can be assessed, even if not accurately. A boat rod only proves its worth under the stress of a sizeable fish coupled with the dead weight of a pound lead in a moderate run of tide.
A 30lb class rod will cope with fish up to 50lb, leads up to 20oz and quite hard tides—anything up to four or five knots—when fishing from an anchored boat. The rod is intended to be used for tope and big shoal fish such as cod, pollack, ling, and rays, but would still handle the smaller species. A 50lb class rod will enable anybody to hook, fight, and land most of our larger species. Porbeagle shark, all but the largest of common skate, and the average deep sea conger, are all within the competence of a rod of this strength.
Skate and shark rods Then there are the outlying fish —the huge common skate found off Shetland, Orkney and the West of Ireland and conger from the deep sea wrecks, where tides are fierce and the depth around 50 fathoms. This sort of fishing places a terrible stress on any rod, so the angler has to consider moving up to an 80lb class weapon. Big shark do not fall into this category because they are a free-moving species; the strain is caused by speed and a sustained fight rather than by a continuous, dead weight on the angler and rod of a fish clamped to the seabed.
The rod’s fittings
No glassfibre blank can perform as a rod without the right fittings. The quality of the glass and its design must be matched by a perfect winch fitting and rod rings. Ensure that the length of the handle is right for you, and remember that the winch fitting position is critical. Make sure too that you can reach the reel handle and control mechanisms. The choice of rings depends on the type of line that an angler prefers. Plain bridge rings are fine for use with monofilament nylon line but use at least a roller tip ring if the line is of braided Dacron or Terylene. There can be a lot of friction as these lines pass over the tip rings, and a roller will help to reduce this. Remember, too, that saltwater will damage the fittings of almost any boat rod.
Boat rod lengths
Rods are becoming longer. At one time a 5 or 6ft rod was normal; now 7-8ft rods are commonplace. The longer rod gives better control of a fighting fish, especially when it comes close to the boat. At the same time it possesses more travel during compression, absorbing the wild lunges that can break a line when the angler is fishing with lightweight fishing tackle.
One further class of rod is rapidly gaining popularity. With a 15lb test curve and a length of 9ft, it is the longest two-piece boat rod available in this country and is being much used for a technique known as ‘uptide fishing’. This method requires a longer rod in order that a bait can be cast away at right angles across the tide. There is considerable merit in g it, although its practice demands disciplined fishing. Some charter skippers wisely prohibit uptide fishing from a crowded boat, on the grounds of safety.
Boat Rod maintenance
The finish on a boat rod is not a complicated matter. Boat rods are subjected to knocks and hard usage that would soon destroy other fishing equipment. A seasonal rub down with a cleaning agent, followed by a gentle smoothing with ‘wet and dry’ sandpaper, will remove all the dirt and dross. It is then a matter of applying enough coats of polyurethane varnish to effectively seal the whipping on the rings and give the finish that the owner needs. Before varnishing, inspect the rings closely, looking for scuffing within the ring itself. Any ring that is worn must be replaced.
The best attention you can give to any rod used at sea is to wash it down after every fishing trip with clean tap water and store it on a rack, however improvized, to prevent ‘torque’ or permanent warping.