While it’d be great if one rod and reel could cover all our angling bases, there’s a reason most of us have garages full of tackle – but that doesn’t mean solid, versatile setups don’t exist. Adam Clancey talks us through what he looks for when trying to get the best ‘bang for his buck’.
Having worked in the fishing tackle industry for many years, I have sold literally thousands of fishing rod and reel sets, if not tens of thousands. Now for the disclaimer: I am a sponsored angler, so showing off the latest and greatest in tackle is part of my job, as well as something I truly love to do – but that’s not to say I don’t understand the needs of anglers. One thing that comes up all the time on social media is fishermen looking for versatile tackle at budget prices, and this is something I can certainly offer some advice on.
The one thing that you must accept from the get-go is that no rod and reel combo is the perfect general-purpose set. All rods and reels have limitations in performing certain types of fishing tasks. For example, a spinning rod and reel with a capacity of 200 metres of line will be fairly useless if you fish deep water using 1kg sinkers – and vice versa (a heavy deepwater rig is equally useless when using light lures). It’s a matter of weighing up the type of fishing you will do most often and finding a rig that is the most versatile. It won’t be the same for everyone, but that’s a good starting point.
If you are just a bottom fisherman, look at heavier duty options.
Most versatile rigs have the ability to be cast easily, so a spinning reel is a great option. The most common line weight used in NZ is 10kg, so a reel that has a good capacity of 10kg line is necessary – that’s a reel in the 5000 to 8000 size. If you intend to cast, your rod needs to be long enough to cast, so a minimum of two metres/six feet. If you are a boat angler, you may go up to 2.3 metres for ease of use. If fishing off the shore, a little longer may work better.
One function that standard spinning reels don’t have is a free spool (bait feeder) function, which can be tricky when bait fishing or livebaiting. There are, however, spinning reels that do have a function that will let you free spool your reel without having to loosen your drag, and this type of reel makes any setup more versatile. One of the most common ways anglers lose fish is over-tightening the drag when a good fish is hooked.
Weighing all this up, I believe the most versatile rig is a 2.3-metre rod with a 5000-size spinning reel with free spool function, spooled with 10kg line. To add further versatility to this setup, add a spare spool loaded with 8kg braided line for lure casting.
A 5000 size reel with a free spool or bait feeder function is very versatile.
The most important area of performance to look for, even in budget tackle, is the quality of the guides on the rod. There are many types of ceramic inserts for guides, and some will groove easily when you use braided line. Check the frame of the guide and how well it is bound to the rod. Look at the coating on the bindings as well.
The reel seat is another area you need to check. Make sure the reel fits snuggly without wobbling around and without you having to crank the locking ring up excessively. Reels should wind freely and feel solid.
Check the guides and fittings for quality.
The drag is one area where a lot of budget sets show their price, so check this thoroughly by pulling line off the reel under drag pressure. The reel should release line smoothly. Check the range of the drag from light to heavy to make sure it has enough scope for various drag settings. Many reels in the budget category have an all or nothing drag system that can be very problematic when playing decent fish.
When it comes to budget tackle, always buy the best setup you can afford – there are options that will get you started for under $200. One of the keys to this type of tackle is to set it up correctly and give it basic after use care. The basic setup involves spooling your reels correctly with the appropriate line weight, setting your drag to suit the rod and breaking strain of the line and remembering to play your fish using the rod, not just using the reel like a winch. After use, wipe the salt off the gear with a damp cloth, then spray with an anti-corrosion agent and put it away in a dry place. Look at the bail arm and how well it springs over. Look for potential areas of corrosion. This usually occurs on poorly finished reels or exposed metals. Feel the strength of the reel foot that attaches it to the rod. It should not flex very much.
Keep your expectations realistic when it comes to entry-level tackle. Your cheaper setups should perform adequately for you to enjoy plenty of good fishing trips but don’t expect them to last a long time if you are fishing every weekend and targeting big sportfish. There are some very good budget sets that punch well above their weight; however, there are some very attractive budget sets that don’t perform well, so it is a case of ‘buyer beware’. Take your time when shopping and always buy from a reputable retailer. In most cases, you are looking for a versatile rod and reel that will catch a variety of species in a variety of situations. This is a great starting point, and it also might be the start of you getting diagnosed with T.A.S. – Tackle Acquisition Syndrome.
June 2021 - Adam Clancey
New Zealand Fishing News Magazine.
Copyright: NZ Fishing Media Ltd.
Re-publishing elsewhere is prohibited