In the last gripping episode, Tarquin had foolishly attacked the Abu Hi-Lo that had swam within striking distance from his and Randolph’s gulley and had indeed been hooked by a “Catch and decease” rotter! (At this moment I feel like Eric Van Lustbader deciding the fate of Jason Bourne!) Randolph and himself had often discussed escape and evade tactics when there were no lures coming across them to “Play the game” and Tarquin put them into action. He swam towards the knobhead as fast as he could and dived into a depression behind a jagged reef. The cheap mono bought from one of the German run supermarkets chaffed against the reef and parted company. Another stroke of luck for Tarquin was that the hooks on the lure was rustier than my Transit van and hadn’t penetrated his top lip. A couple of shakes of his head and the lure was dislodged. Lucky bugger!
So what information can you glean from the opening paragraph apart from the fact I’m as mad as a box of frogs! There is a subtle point in there, do not skimp on the business end of your gear. It’s all well and good having a megabuck Tenryu rod and a matching mag sealed reel costing a king’s ransom but close attention should be paid to your braid, fluorocarbon, links and hooks.
We will start with the braid. If you don’t fish with braid and use mono instead I cannot emphasise enough…… “Try it!” you’ll never look back. The diameter to breaking strain ratio is about half of that to mono which will extend your cast by half again. However, this is not the main reason for using it. Braids Uber quality is that there is zero stretch in it. A fish can hit the lure at sixty metres and the result would be the same as the fish hitting at six metres away. Direct contact. The hook up ratio of braid compared to mono is phenomenal. What braid do you buy? As with everything nowadays the choice is bewildering. Personally, I use Berkley braid. Whiplash, to be precise. Is it the best? Probably not but it has never let me down yet and I’m a great believer in the term “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” A three hundred metre spool of twenty pound BS will set you back about forty bucks which is a bargain compared to the braids in the upper price range. Most reels come with a spare spool so load the lot on (if your reel is 2000 to 3000 class a 300 metre spool of braid will fill it) and then top it up with mono until it’s perfectly loaded. Put the spare spool on the reel and transfer the first spool onto the second. The following season, add extra mono to the top of the spool to compensate for braid lost and find a big field. Pull the lot out and tie the new mono to the existing backing and reverse the braid giving you unused braid. Two seasons. Forty euros. Cheap as chips!
Once the braid is loaded onto the reel you will need to attach a length of mono or fluorocarbon. This is done for two reasons. Fluorocarbon is less visible in water than braid and it will also give you a bit of stretch when playing the fish. I know some anglers use a swivel for the junction but I prefer to use a standard Albright knot with the braid doubled up. The top ring of your rod will love you for it! This is tied at home and tested. If I am happy with the knot I apply a dob of superglue to it and tie on the quick link. The quick link is tied on with a grinner knot and nine times out of ten this is the point of breakage when snagged up. Simply tie on a new link and away you go. With 20lb BS braid I opt for 15lb fluorocarbon. Berkley again. It works and haven’t broke on a bass yet. I do carry a spool of the Seagaur fluorocarbon (11.6lb BS) for the super calm days when the water clarity is unreal. It is the best leader material I have come across and use it for my salmon fishing. It wants to be at twenty euros for a fifty metre spool!
Quick change links have come on leaps and bounds over the last decade and it’s well worth spending the extra dosh on these, especially when you have a megabuck, megabass lure on the end that cost thirty euro. Grauvell do a stainless “twist on, twist off” one which are superb. There are plenty of others too but avoid the old style “American snap swivels” as they’re crap! Unless you’re using spinners, swivels are unnecessary so go for the links that do not incorporate one. Another potential “weak link” removed.
The trebles on my lures get replaced each season with new ones. I crush the barbs down for my own sake as much as the fish. It’s a lot easier to remove a barbless hook from your hand or finger compared to a barbed one. The Owner range of trebles are ridiculously sharp and reasonably priced. Another good one is a Dremel tool with a wire brush attachment in it. In a couple of minutes it will remove any nasty rust stains off your lures and clean up the split rings. The split rings rarely need replacing as they are normally made of a higher quality metal than the hooks and the hooks act like a sacrificial anode on a boat engine, rusting the hooks before the split rings. A couple of hours at the end of the season spent cleaning your lures with warm, soapy water will massively increase the longevity of them. Let them air dry and a light spray with WD40 is all they need before you put them away for the winter.
Let’s face it lads, we are all tackle tarts! The bling and accessories that is available to anglers would be enough to make an Essex girl jealous. Keeping your braid and leader material in order, along with sharp hooks and good quality quick links will catch you more bass. Boga grips and super duper pliers made out of aircraft grade aluminium with titanium jaws will not catch you fish. Buy the bling by all means if you feel you need it but make sure the “Business end” is in perfect order before you splash the cash!