The Perfect Rod

Buying the right rod

No half measures

The Spine


Bad Casting


The Perfect Rod
I've been asked this question quite a few times. "What makes the perfect rod".
It's a pretty easy question to ask but actually a very complicated one to answer, but I'll give it a go.
The perfect rod does exist, well near perfect. We all know there is no such thing as true perfection no matter what my wife says. Let's be clear, I'm not saying that one rod is perfect for everything and everybody, but I am saying that you can get the perfect rod for you and the type of angling you want to do with it.
I think there are four main elements to take into consideration to get the perfect rod.

Right let's have a look at functionality first of all as in my opinion this is the most important part of a fishing rod, as it needs to be "fit for purpose".
If the rod doesn't function for the type of angling situation you required to do so then it cannot be "fit for purpose" hence not perfect.
I fish with a 15' 3pc Continental beach rod. it's "fit for purpose" for continental style beach fishing but not "fit for purpose" for long trotting for Roach on the Wensum. See what I mean, it has to be "fit for purpose" to have any chance at being perfect.
12' 2.5tc carp rods are not "fit for purpose" trying to hit 150 yards with 4oz of lead, but they are "fit for purpose" fishing 2oz leads out to 80 yards.
13' 4.00tc carp rods are not "fit for purpose" free lining crust a rid length out to the edge of the Lily pads, but they are "fit for purpose" for smashing 5oz leads to the horizon.
Functionality regarding perfection can be a little more refined than just the above big differences between what is "fit for purpose" and not.
Take for example a 14ft float rod used for long trotting for Roach and Dace. Everything could be absolutely perfect about the rod apart from its weight, just a bit too heavy and it becomes tiresome to hold for long periods, it still "fit for purpose" but if it was just that bit lighter it could be considered perfect.

Right let's have a look at form of the rod.
Form should always follow function and never the other way around. Functionality of a fishing rod is the most important thing and it shouldn't be compromised by the form too much.
I'll give you an example of this. Fuji brought out some k series rings a few years back. They bought out a size 50 double leg. Now in the titanium frame it was ok to use but in the standard steel frame it was incredibly heavy. I categorically refused to fit them to any more fishing rods after I built a set and they felt like you had a bag of sugar on the end of the rod.
This was definitely a case of form first. They made the cast awful, the rod wobble and heavier and just all over nasty.
Now as long as the rods form doesn't impede on its functionality I'm happy, and as a custom builder I do make rods to fit my customers form requirements. The form of the rod is very important to becoming "the perfect rod". We are visual creatures, we say things like "I like the look of that" not "I like the functionality of that".
We buy with our eyes initially, so if the rods form, such as it's colours, handle styles, reel seat, diameter, length, etc are all visually appealing to us then the rod has got that element of being "the perfect rod".
If you don't like the look of the rod then there's slim chance you'll be buying it.
Just think back to the last time you bought a fishing rod. The vast majority of us bought it on how it looked and something we heard from a mate or read about its functionality. We didn't test it's functionality, it's not an option that's freely available, we just bought it and hoped that what we heard about it was accurate.

Now this is a bit of a strange one, the financial side of things. We all have our personal thoughts about the price of things regarding their value. To a millionaire when he spends £100,000 on a car it's small change, but to the average Joe if he spent £100,000 on a car his wife would divorce him.
Same car, same amount of money, but to one person it's cheap and to another it's ridiculously expensive. The value of something is personal.
Now you see a fishing rod that caught you eye in a tackle shop, a catalogue, online etc and you look at the pretty pictures, read about it, but you haven't seen the price you start to form an idea with your internal values how much you think this rod is worth. You then see the price and if it's close to what you thought it might be then assuming it has the form and function you require it's got potential of being "the perfect rod".
If the price of the rod however turns out to be a good bit more than you expected you start thinking to yourself either: 
"Well that's a bit of a rip-off, they're over pricing that one".
"Well it's obviously of a higher quality than I first thought so it's out of my price bracket".
Either way, it's not going to be your "perfect rod".
If the price of the rod however turns out to be a good bit less than you expected you start thinking to yourself either:
"Well that's a bit cheap, can't be as good as they're making it out to be, bet it's made of sawdust".
"I don't feel good about owning such inexpensive fishing tackle, I can afford more"
"Bargain. I'm having me some of that".
If you like the idea of it just being a bit of a bargain then assuming it has the form and function you require it's got potential of being "the perfect rod".
The price of the fishing rod is actually quite an important part of what makes "the perfect rod".
This is an individuals personal viewpoint.
I'll give you an example.
I designed the X Series carp rods for Wolf International.
Now the prices at the time of writing this for the X3K 12' 3.25 is £180.00
Before the rods were launched we showed this rod to various people at Shows etc and ask them to price it up. They all seem to love the custom build style and quality of the rod, and the majority came up with the price of £350 Plus.
The reason why they priced the rod so high was because it has a high-end custom look and quality associated with custom builds of £350 Plus.
Soon as we told them that it's actually going to retail at £180 they look skeptically at it, probably assuming that it was of a lesser quality than it looks. It isn't, it's a bloody fine rod, and if I had custom build it with my own two hands, stuck a union Jack flag on it, it would be £350 Plus.
See what I mean, value is an individuals personal viewpoint.

There is a large psychological part to what makes "the perfect rod".
Brand familiarity for instance. You could bring out the best rod ever made but if it's by an unknown name with no track record or history, people can be very weary to purchase.
In contrast to that you could have brand familiarity with a well-known and well regarded company that could bring out a very inferior rod but because it has a good name it will sell.
Also new name or old name it's how you want to be associated with it.
Skoda cars years ago were considered Skips and very down Market, nowadays they considered wonderful. Things change with time.
Now I have a bit of a thing about clothing with logos on them, I'm not a fan.
I don't really like the idea of fishing away looking like an advertisement for some carp brand or the like. The clothing item might be perfectly "fit for purpose" but I don't want to buy it because it's got "their" name on it.
It's the same with fishing rods. If you don't associate yourself with that company, no matter how good the rod, how "fit for purpose", you won't buy it if you don't want to be associated with that brand.
There is also an element of "Keeping Up with the Joneses". If you take your fishing a bit serious like a good lot of us do (including myself), then you have to be proud of your setup, so when your fellow angler comes along and glances at your kit he's either complementary or even envious. God forbid if you look down at your setup and said under his breath "Noddy". So psychologically we have to be comfortable with our brand choice.
So to summarise. "What make the perfect rod".
1) The rod is not only "fit for purpose" in primary functionality, but also refined to your taste, such as, weight, action etc.
2) The rod looks just the way you want it to without compromising it's functionality. 
3) You feel the rod cost what you should have paid for it, not too much not too little, or a bit of a bargain.
4) You're happy and have confidence fishing with that brand.
If the rod delivers the above 4 points then you have your "perfect rod". Enjoy it, fish with it, catch with it.

Tight Lines.

Buying the right rod
The fishing rod, in my opinion, is the primary piece of tackle. We feel the whole fishing experience through it. The rod literally connects us to this wonderful pursuit that is angling. As the fishing rod is so important, you would have thought that when buying rods, we would go to great lengths to make sure that the purchase is exactly right for the job we intend to do with it. Unfortunately the opportunity to do this is very seldom available. The lengths I would go to if purchasing a rod are quite long, mainly because I’m a fussy bugger, but also because I’m a professional rod maker.
In my experience most of us start the buying process of a rod, in the same way we buy any other product, with our eyes. What the hell is Mark on about you ask, well let me explain. Products, be they cars or mobile phones, are designed in part to catch our eye. Which car would you prefer to go out in on a hot date, an Aston/ Ferrari, or an Austin Metro? (Sorry to all Metro driver, but you get my drift.)
If the design of the mobile phone looks fantastic, it will out sell the uglier, often better functioned mobile phone ten to one. The product must always have function to stand up in the later stages of the buying process, but form starts it off, and without this, function seldom gets a look in. Companies know this and spend millions on getting there brand image right for their market place. Get it wrong and they could be out of business. I can think of quite a few items of fishing tackle, from major companies that have great function, but hideous form, and they hardly sell any of them. If they changed the form they would sell like hot cakes.
For this example of the buying process, our happy angler is out to buy a pair of 12' 2½ lb. test curve carp rods. He sees an ad that catches his eye (see what I mean), “I like the look of them” so he has a read of the ad and finds that there is a 12' 2½ lb. test curve in the range, and in his budget. Later on he chats to a mate at the lake side and mentions the rods he’s thinking of buying. “Yes they do look tasty don’t they, but I also like the look of XYZ rods” replies his mate. (see what I mean again) So off to the tackle shop.
The assistant hand our happy fisherman the rod he asked about. After looking it over and wobbling it about a bit in the limited room of the well-stocked tackle shop, he hands over the cash to the pair of rods, everyone's happy. What does our happy fisherman really know about his new rods? Very little, and will he still be happy when he uses them for the first time?

The problem with buying fishing rods is that there a tool for a job and by that, should be bought on their function firstly and their form secondly. This is completely opposite to how most of us start the buying process. Buying a rod should be a bit like having a suit made for you. The tailor firstly asks questions on what the suit is to be used for (wedding/ business/ etc), then measures you, and then shows you materials and talks about styles. Function first and then form.

In the ideal world, buying a rod would be like going to the bank in that Larger ad on TV. If you don’t know the one I’m on about, it’s probably the best ad in the world. A beautiful assistant would ask you a few simple questions, and from your answers would accurately recommend rods that will do just what you’ve ask for.
Next you would be asked to choose a ‘look’ for your new rods from a large range of options.

a) The colour of the rod blank and wraps you would like.
b) The type of rings you prefer.
c) The reel seat and handle configuration.
d) Any other personal add-ons, such as monogramming.

Then the wonderful assistant would disappear through a door and a few seconds later would re-appear with your perfect rods. She would then explain to you about the Spine

The Spine
The Spine article goes into detail on this subject, but to simplify, it’s the way the rod wishes to bend (the Preferred Plane of Bending, or the Plane of Least Resistance). Take a tip section of a rod, stand it vertically upright on a carpeted floor (so not to damage the section). Place the palm of your hand on the tip ring and push down gently to bend to rod. The rod will bend according to its Spine position. This, you will notice, is most likely not along the line the rings are wrapped.
Most, if not all factory rod makers don’t assemble their rods along the Spine, and for their justifiable reasons. Custom rod makers and builders however can use the Spine to their advantage, and with good effect.

Back to our world. What questions could you ask yourself to help make sure you buy the right rods?

1) What length? 
Length is normally 12'. (remember that we are still talking about carp rods) For a dedicated close range rod 11' is fine, and for a rod dedicated to long range work, 13' is good. Personal choice really.

2) What action do you prefer?
We all have an idea of what type of rod action we like, so we're half way there. Bend some rods you're interested in at the shop, preferably with a reel and line and someone to assist you. Do it outside if you can, otherwise you might start knocking things off shelves in the shop, and you will not be popular.
The majority of carp rods come in a medium action (good all rounders). Let me explain. Action describes the way the rod bends. A rod that bends all the way through from tip to butt is called ‘Through Action’ and rods that only bend at the top of the tip section are described as ‘Ultra Fast’. Some manufactures describe their rod in a range of interpretable way, such as ‘Authoritative’, ‘Players Action‘, ‘Dominant’. your guess is as good as mine on these. I describe carp and other coarse rod actions in 4 main ways.

a) Through Action
b) Medium Action
c) Fast Action
d) Ultra Fast Action

If I was talking about fly rods then a Medium Fast action would exist aswell, but the vast majority of coarse rods will come under these 4 types of action.

There are no real wrongs and rights in choice of action, this is personal, but certain actions lend themselves better to a job than others. You wouldn’t want to pick up 210 yds. of line on a take (from a bait boat drop) using a Through Action rod, this would most definitely feel like blancmange. Ultra fast rods excel here. Margin fishing with a Fast Action rod will need some very speedy clutch and reel control, and a lot of luck to stop hook pulls, were a Through Action rod will just absorb the fight.

Don’t think that just because the rod has a Fast Action that you will be able to hit the horizon, it’s a lot more complex than that. Tip speed, timing, casting style, trajectory, compression, lead weight and shape, line, reel, luck, etc, etc. That’s an article in itself. In expert hand yes, in mortal hands like mine, no. I would cast further using a Medium Action rod than a fast one, but with practice.

3) What test curve?
The test curve tells you the amount of weight in lbs. (as a guide) needed to bend the tip section to an angle of 90º to the butt.
A 2½ lbs. test curve Through Action rod is nearing maximam playing/casting pressure when bent to the 90º point. A 2½ lbs. test curve Fast Action rod is no where near its maximum playing/casting pressure when bent to the 90º point.
Test curve is only of a use as a power guide when you know the true action of the rod. So not all rods in the same test curve have the same power. Through actions will be less powerful than faster action rods in the same test curves. 
Dr Stephen Harrison writes on this matter in his site. Test curve ratings are only a rough guide and not very accurate.

4) What type of look?
After you have decided on the Length, Action, and Test Curve, you will probably get what you're given regarding the look of the rod. Factory rod makers would have to make virtually thousands of different models, and tackle shops would have to carry ridiculous levels of stock to offer a choice like this. A factory rod maker would have to make approximately 107,000 model variants to equal my workshop's range, and that’s just the carp rods.
Custom rod makers and builders have a big advantage here. The Length, Action, and Test Curve, denote the choice of blank, and then you can decide on the look of the rod. So with the custom rod maker and builder you can nearly have the deal world. The beautiful assistant will probably be unshaven, covered in cork dust and glue, (if I’m anything to go by) and would disappear through a door and a week later re-appears with your perfect rods, built on the Spine.

Once you have bought your new rods, take them to a quite spot on the lake, as not to annoy anyone fishing, and cast them at range. Start off with light weights and work your way up to heavy weights The rods will not compress with too light a weight and over compress with too heavy a weight. This is a bit of trial and error. You will now know the ideal weight your new rods like to cast. This is a very useful thing to know, as it will keep things consistent and make accurate placement of you hook bait easier at range. If you use PVA bags or the method, make up one at home and accurately weight it with the kitchen scales. You know the ideal casting weight for your rods, so adjust the amount of bait or lead weight accordingly. (Remember minimum good bolt effect weight) Take into consideration extra wind resistance for the bag or method ball and you should be confident and able to hit the long range target more consistently.

To summarise.
Pick a Length, decide on an Action, choose a Test Curve. If your buying from a shop bend the rod to find the Action and check how close the Spine line is to the line the rings have been wrapped on. Settle for what look you're given from the factory rods, or get a custom rod maker/ builder to put together the look you want on the type of blank you have decided on. Ask it to by built on the Spine if possible, and pray that the custom rod maker/ builder look just like the wonderful, beautiful assistant in the ideal world.

Tight Lines and good bending.


No half measures
I’m a fussy type of carper, not over fussy, just fussy enough. I’m not satisfied with just chucking and chancing. I like to know what’s out there on the lake bed and try to visualise what’s going on down in the murky waters. Leading about with a marker float and watching the water for showing carp are necessary to help find likely areas worth fishing in the first place. But once I have found these likely featured areas I employ the ‘measure’ technique so I can consistently cast to the same spot, not only during the session, but at anytime I return to the same swim. I like the ‘measure’ technique for many reasons, one being, not having to cast a marker float about, spooking everything in the area when you first arrive in a trusty old swim, trying to find the same ‘hot spot’ you caught from a few weeks earlier.
I developed this measure technique sometime ago due to two main reasons. The first was the fact that I hated having anything on my line as a marker. I disliked the way the line was interfered with as it bangs on the marker knot during the cast. Also this marker knot would drive me mad as I tried to get it off the line at the end of the session. I’m now using thin electrical tape as a marker and this is working well but still a pain to get off. The second reason was to allow me to cast my bait straight to the spot without disturbing any carp present with a marker float as I mentioned earlier.
How do you start using the measure technique? Your fishing the ‘hot spot’ and have a marker knot on the line. What you need to do is somehow make an exact note of the position of this ‘hot spot’ for future reference without having to resort back to chucking the marker float about until you stumble across it again. Well you know where you are standing to cast, you now need to know how far away and in what direction the ‘hot spot’ is from you. You’ll need a few little bits of kit to make this work.

Marking the line with tape or knot

Tools of the trade
a) A compass
b) A line measurer
c) A note pad and pen
d) Patience
e) Luck
1) You already have a marker knot on the line as mentioned earlier, so clip up and make a cast.
2) Attach the line measuring tool to the rod, zero it and trap the line.
3) Wind in until you’re left with the same amount of line you started off the cast with.
4) Read off the distance from the measuring tool and make a note.
5) Use the compass to take and accurate direction reading. Look for any distant feature to help clarify the direction, such as a church spire, telegraph pole, etc, or a feature on the lake such as Lilly pads and make a note.

Line measure tool

Consistent drop

Making notes

Find the bearing with the compass
My notes might look like this for a particular lake:
Swim 34 / 54 min / 55 yds / left of pylon.
Swim 39 / 44 min / 72 yds / big oak tree.
Swim 41 / 32 min / 34 yds / to the right of the Lilly pads.
I use the minutes reading and not the degrees because my compass is set up that way, but both are fine.

You return to a swim that you have made notes on in the past and wish to put out baits to your ‘hot spots’.

Measure technique example No1 ( Still using the marker knot or tape on the line )

1) Read your notes on the swim, in this example they read:
Swim 34 / 54 min / 55 yds / left of pylon.
2) Use the compass to locate the direction.
3) Cast out a guessed 55 yds in another direction as not to spook any carp in the target area.
4) Wind down tight and clip up
5) Attach the line measuring tool to the rod, zero it and trap the line.
6) Wind in until you’re left with the same amount of line you started off the cast with.
7) Read off the distance from the measuring tool and remember it.
8) Adjustments
a) Over cast: If the cast distance was more than required, say a cast of 60 yds, remove the measuring tool and cast out again to the clip. Replace the measuring tool zero it and trap the line, unclip the line from the spool and wind in 5 yds. ( 60 yds - 5 yds = 55 yds wanted ) Clip up and mark the line with tape or maker knot. You now have the 55 yds desired.
b) Under cast: If the cast distance was less than requires, say a cast of 50 yds, remove the measuring tool and cast out again to the clip. Replace the measuring tool zero it and trap the line, unclip the line from the spool and let out 5 yds. ( 50 yds + 5 yds = 55 yds wanted ) Clip up and mark the line with tape or maker knot. You now have the 55 yds desired.
9) Use the compass again to confirm the direction and cast your baits out first time right on target.


Touch down
I find over casting is the easiest to do, so if I under cast by a far way I just cast again until I have over cast and then make my adjustments.
I know this all sounds very complex and fussy but once you have your head round it, this is a quick and affective way of re-finding that ‘hot spot’ in a few minutes with no prior disturbance to the area before your bait hit it.
Measure technique example No2 ( No use of a marker knot or tape on the line )
The steps are the same as example No1, but as there are no markings on the line you will have to measure before re-casting after a run. If you haven’t had a run and wish to re-bait just wind down tight and clip up before you wind in, and then you can re-cast to the same spot.
We all spend a large amount of time siting behind buzzers waiting for a run, so when you think about it, if it takes a few minutes, two measure casts, and a bit of messing about after a run, so what. I know it still sounds a big hassle but in comparison to leading about with a marker float disturbing all and sundry, I take the measure technique any day when fishing a known swim.
I apply the same measuring technique to my spod rod but with multiple spools, let me explain in this example.
Say I’m in a swim that I have notes on, I’m using three rods, one in the margin, one at say 50 yds, and the other at say 70 yds. We only need to think about the two distance rods as the margin rod can be hand feed in this example I’ve done the measure technique on the two distant rods, so they’re fishing nicely. I take my spod rod and make a measure with one spool at 50 yds, clip up and mark the spool so I can identify it later. I then swap spools and make another measure, this time 70 yds, clip up and mark that spool. I now have a spod rod that is set up to cast out to my two ‘hot spots’ at different ranges. All I have to do is select the correct spool and spod away merrily.

Mark the spools

Ready to spod to the spot
Mark Tunley
Rod Maker


The Spine

What makes one rod cast better than another can be a complex subject. The idea of this article is to give you a better understanding of why some rods cast and play so sweetly and others kick like a mule. I will endeavour to keep it simple, so give this page time as it will straighten out in the end.

Fig 1
1) Building ‘On The Spine’. Also know as ‘The Preferred Plane of Bending’, or ‘The Plane of Least Resistance’.

The ‘spine’ is a feature of the manufacturing process of graphite blanks. This ‘spine’ gives the blank a ‘Preferred Plane of Bending’. The completed fishing rod will naturally want to bend along this ‘Plane of Least Resistance’ and if the rods guides / rings haven’t been aligned along this plane, then the problems start.

Factory rods could be built On The Spine, but they’re not because of us, Joe Public. When we buy a fishing rod at the local tackle shop, most of us sight down the rod with the rings either pointing straight up or straight down, and if the rod has a bend or kink we will reject it. If the rod looks straight then it’s OK. Rod manufacturers know this, and are forced to build their rods looking straight, and only occasionally is the ‘Plane of Least Resistance’ and the Straight look at the same place.

A straight blank is a very rare thing indeed, it’s almost impossible to get them, because of the nature of the materials and techniques involved in the manufacturing process. Graphite blank manufacturers would be out of business very quickly indeed if they could only sell true, straight fishing rods. What they have to do is sight down the blank and place the rings at the position that looks the straightest, so when you look down the rod, it looks fine.

You can test your own rods at home, ( see fig. 1 ) just take the tip section and stand it up straight and place the palm of you hand on the tip ring and push down carefully ( at your own risk ) to create a bend, and see the rods ‘Preferred Plane of Bending’. If the rings are straight on the bend ( see fig. 2 ) then your lucky, and if not, then you have a normal rod. This is a very basic way of testing and isn't that accurate, but it give you an idea. The pro will flex roll the blank to feel the kick points whilst loading the blank to near maximum because the spine can curve around the blank, complicated ha !!!

Fig 2
So why am I telling you this.
Well if you think that your rod is straight then think again, because if you turn the rod round whilst sighting down it, ( see fig. 3 ) you will see that it is most likely to have a kink or a bend, slight as it may be, but just not along the line of the guides / rings. If it has no bends, then have it stuffed and mounted on the wall for it is a rare beast indeed, but not unheard of.

Fig 3
So What am I getting at.
Well as we, Joe public, are already buying rods that have bends or kinks in them, ( which is perfectly normal as long as it’s not too pronounced ) then why not have them built on the ‘Preferred Plane of Bending’.

Why build on this ‘Preferred Plane of Bending’.
Well, what would you prefer, unloading that 90+ yard cast, and seeing your rig land on perfect target ( providing you have the ability to be accurate in the first place ), or see your rig going out of line and landing in the ‘dead zone’ because of KICK.
This is quite difficult to explain simply, but as we wind up and cast ( see fig. 4 ) we normally hold the reel upwards and this might not be in the same direction as the ‘Plane of Least Resistance’ thus we are fighting the rods natural ‘Preferred Plane of Bending’.
This cannot be good for the cast or the rod, and in extreme cases this fighting between you and the rod in the casting motion can cause the blank to torque twist, and possible failure.

Fig 4
Fly rods are often custom built to take the ‘Preferred Plane of Bending’ into consideration, because the cast is a very important part of fly fishing. I think, albeit not as important to the coarse rod world, it should still be important enough.
If you are paying out hard earned cash on a rod then why not have it cast and play, oh so sweetly.
2) Size of Rings.
I’m about to open a can of worms on this subject. In my opinion, sometime ago, some bright spark had a wonderful marketing idea to sell more rods. This was to have 5 intermediate rings on a carp rod instead of the standard 6, make the rings oversized and call it a ‘distance rod’. The whole idea was: less friction = more distance.
The reality is:
a) The decrease in friction caused be 1 less ring is almost un-measurable.
b) This decreases the rings affect on compressing the rod, thus making the cast even worse.
c) The increase in ring size, lifts the line further away from the rod, thus increasing the current torque twist, ( if the rod hasn't been built on the 'Spine' like most arn't) and making the cast even worse again.

Shimano have a rod ( Tribal XTR ) that is using the low rider guides from Fuji. Time will tell if we the casters will go for this small ring style. Most of us like large rings and as long as the rod is built on the spine then there seams to be no disadvantage to this. I'm sure in the future, this will be a subject of great debate by those inclined. A good casting style will get far greater distance than having big rings.
3) Ring Spacing.
Ring spacing is dependent on the rod action.
There is a graph method for placing the rings, this works well on the ‘Through’ to ‘Medium’ action rods but needs some minor adjustments in the ‘Fast’ to ‘Ultra Fast’ rod actions.
The key is placing the butt ring. Too far from the reel affects action and line flow ( slap ), and too close increases the angle that the line meets the butt ring at, and increases friction.
So if your around the bend, like me, you will now have a better understanding as to why some rods cast and play so sweetly and others kick like a mule. If your spending good money on rods, I think it’s worth looking at the Custom Option to get the bend right, let alone all the choices on the look of the rod.
Tight Lines and good bending.
Mark Tunley



The idea of this article is to dismiss the myth of hook pulls in relation to carp rod actions and to better understand what happens at 'the opposite end of the stick'. We will be focusing on carp rod actions only as things do get very complex when you talk of match rods and very small hook causing the 'bumping off' situation which add complication, so it's carp rods only for the sake of the article.
I'm going to refer to, 'through action', 'players action', and 'soft action' as just 'soft action''.
I'm also going to refer to 'fast action' and 'tip action' as 'stiff action'. So it's soft and stiff, ok!
Also this article will concentrate on the playing side of rod actions and not on the casting side of things. The two are 'opposite ends of the stick'.
We all know that soft action carp rods are best for playing, as they are more forgiving, put less pressure on the hook hold so reduce the chances of a hook pull, that's true isn't it ? Wrong, wrong and wrong again. It might feel that way to you but not to Mr Carp.
Hook pulls happen for many reason, but nearly all stem around the fact that the hook didn't have a good hold in the first place, obviously, otherwise it would of stayed in, and nothing to do with the rods action. When that hook is home nothing short of forceps will get it out.
"Rubbish Mark, stiff rods cause hook pulls, we all know that" I hear you shout. Well wait till you have read on and you will be thinking differently Mr Sheep !!
We can all be a bit like Mr Sheep at times. Someone say something, usually based on a theory they have which they believe to be true based on what they reckon and with no real proof. They tell somebody and they tell others and before you know it its fact. Fact based on just and assumption. We all go along like sheep following without question.
Those underwater DVDs are fantastic and let us really have a good look at what goes on down there. Lots of what was assumed to be true was found to be false and also with respect to the team that made these wonderful DVDs, a lot of what was commenting on from there observation I and many others I know came to different conclusions. Short of the carp actually telling us what he "spooked off", we can only guess at. I don't like hard assumptions, we should always keep an open mind until thing are proven to be fact. But then we all know that some so called fact can be proven wrong. I digress.
We suffer from this misconception about soft action carp rods are soft on the fish because there are soft on the cast and no good for hitting big distances. So as the cast is soft, so must be the play. Wrong, wrong and wrong again.
I'm going to try and explain what the hell I'm on about with conclusions drawn up from real experiments seen below with different rod actions using the leverage principles.
Note: Hand weight for the sake of this article is amount of force in lbs. on your arm assuming a standard playing position with the hand gripping around the reel and the rod handle running along the forearm.
Experiment 1
A soft action rod with a 1 lbs. 8oz weight on the tip has a hand weight of 7 lbs. 5oz with a leverage ration of 4.875 to 1 ( 1 lbs on the fish and 4.875 lbs on you )
Experiment 2
A medium action rod with a 1 lbs. 8oz weight on the tip has a hand weight of 8 lbs. 7oz with a leverage ration of 5.625 to 1 ( 1 lbs on the fish and 5.625 lbs on you )
Experiment 3
A stiff action rod with a 1 lbs. 8oz weight on the tip has a hand weight of 9 lbs. 5oz with a leverage ration of 6.250 to 1 ( 1 lbs on the fish and 6.250 lbs on you )
It's all down to the fact that a softer rod will bend more than a stiff rod for the same amount of weight at the tip. The softer rods tip ends up closer to the hand and giving the affect of being shorter and thus reducing the leverage against you. So it's the opposite of what you think. A stiff action rod puts less pressure on the hook hold than a soft action rod does for the same amount of hand weight.
Just out of interest, John Wilson at one of these Fishing shows was testing a fly rods against a carp rod with regards to 'pulling power' and asked the crowd which one would pull harder and they all went for the carp rod, but you guessed it, the fly rod won. It's all to do with leverage.
Tight lines and good bending.
Mark Tunley.
Section taken from the Friday 23rd January 2009 Blog by Steve Harrison
I am sure most of you will know that a rod that bends and has shorter effective leverage length can be used to put more turning power on a fish compared to a stiff fast taper rod, as long as it has enough bottom end stiffness to control that power and give a sense of feel, of control.


Bad Casting

“A bad workman blames his tools.”
Or as I like to put it - A bad caster blames his rod.
A bad cast if often blamed on the rod, but most often it is the user, the weight of lead, the reel, the line, and not the rod. There are two sides to casting: one is the casters technique and the other is the tackle used.
I've been meaning to write an article for sometime on the subject of casting problems but for one reason or another I had yet to get round to it. That all changed the other day when I had someone come to see me with some serious ‘frapping’ and ‘crack-off’ issues. He placed the blame on the rod rings. Well, I calmly laid up the rod against the positioning gauge and showed him that the rings were in the correct positions and of the right size pattern. I politely invited him out to the casting field, to whack a lead about and to see what the real problems were. It turned out that he wasn't a bad caster, he just had everything going against him. A little problem- with all the factors - added up to one big problem.
Let me firstly explain what ‘frapping’ is:
Frapping is sometimes called line slap. It is where the line comes off the reel in a loud slapping, vibrating fashion, cutting down distance massively.
Frapping, at its extreme, causes ‘crack-offs’ in an instant.
During a cast the line comes off the reel in the shape of a conical, transverse-vibration wave. If the wave nodes and antinodes are pitched too far apart, then frapping starts - due to the torque set up by the thrown coils.
Frapping often starts when the cast is released too early. The rod is still under compression, as the line is released from under the finger causing the line to be pulled off the spool - the point of least resistance - and bunches up between the reel and the butt ring. As the lead catches up and proceeds to pull out the line, frapping can occur.
Let me now explain what ‘crack-offs’ are:
A crack-off is when the line breaks while we are giving it the 'big un'.
Most people think it is because the line is too weak, causing it to snap under the pressure of the cast, so they use a shock leader. Now assuming you are using 15 lbs mono or more and a lead of 4oz or less, it is very unlikely that the standard carp-style overhead thumb will snap the line. If the line was to snap under pressure during the casting stroke, it would most likely go straight up and come down close by. If this is happening to you, then use a shock leader and your crack-off problems are sorted.
Have you noticed though, that when you witness a crack-off, most of the time the damn thing flies straight out further than any cast you have ever made before. This is because the cast was good - right up to the point of release - and then it went wrong. The lead is starting on its way out but something causes the line to snap. That something is extreme frapping. The line, as mentioned earlier, bunches up- due to early release - and tangles around one or more of the rods rings in a split second and as the lead catches up and tries to pull the line out, the line is snapped.
Let’s deal with the rod as a contributing factor.
As I said right at the beginning, the rod has little, if anything, to do with frapping and crack-off issues.
Moving on to the lead.
Every rod is capable of casting a weight range. If it is too light then the weight wont compress the rod at all, so it becomes very hard to ‘feel’ it in the casting stroke. Release timing is then hard to judge. If the lead is too heavy, the rod is over-compressed - slowing everything down- way too much. There is for every rod, an ideal weight for high speed maximum range casting and an ideal weight for casting every other range. 
Let me explain with a couple of real examples:
Harrison Torrix 12' 2.50 TC.
High speed maximum range cast: Ideal weight is 2oz
All other ranges: Ideal weight is 2.5oz.
Harrison Torrix 12' 3.25 TC
High speed maximum range cast: Ideal weight is 3.5oz
All other ranges: Ideal weight is 4oz.
You will notice that to cast high speed maximum range, the weight is less than all other casts. This is because the casting stroke is so much quicker. A heavier weight would overload the rod and slow things down. Any less weight, than the ideal one and the casting stroke wont compress the rod enough making it very hard to time the release. It also wont have enough dragging power to pull you line out to the maximum range. The heavier weight loads the rod and feels perfect when casting to closer targets.
Next, let look at the role of the reel.
This is going to be controversial and will probably put a lot of ‘backs up', but the fact is that there is an optimum size diameter of spool to work with carp lines of say 15lb mono and the distances between the reel and the butt ring on the rod.
Now this is going to get very complex so please bear with me.
Small spools create more line friction than large spools so casting distance is cut down. We all know this to be true, so the opposite must also be true - that the bigger the spool, the less the drag and the greater distance.
This is true until you factor-in that the line coming off the massive spool is throwing very large coils which creates torque and drag - and can and does -lead to frapping and crack-offs.
Taking it to the extreme and you have a reel spool the size of a bucket. This would create so much torque in the thrown coils (conical, transverse- vibration wave) that you would need to cast something like a pound of lead to compensate and have the rods butt ring some 15 feet away from the reel. You see we forget that the butt ring on the average 12' carp rod is somewhere around 3'6'' away from the reel spool, so there is actually an optimum size of spool, not too big and not too small. 
The Shimano mini big pits seem to have the ideal size spool.
"What about a 50mm butt ring Mark," I hear you cry. Well that can make things a little worst again, believe it or not. Fuji often refer to the butt ring, on a rod, as a "chocker ring.” The name says it all, small is best. The reason is that the coils are narrowed down quickly and allow the line to straighten and carry through the rest of the rod rings smoothly. Too big a ring and the conical, transverse-vibration wave can carry on down the rod loosing distance in the cast.
Show me a carp rod, rung with a 50mm butt ring and a massive-spooled reel - add in an overhead thump cast with an early release - and I'll show you a frap and a crack-off waiting to happen.
Now don't get me wrong, if you want 50mm rings on your rods, that's fine be me, but add in a massive-spooled reel and you are asking for trouble. If you are frapping away and cracking off while casting like a mad thing and you still don't believe me, then just put on a small-spooled ‘baitrunner’ type reel and watch the difference.
"How can all the reel makers be wrong Mark," I hear you shout. They're not, they are just selling the customer what he wants to buy. Most so called Big Pit reels that are available are really surf/sea reels dressed up and marketed to us carp boys. The massive spool and heavy construction wasn't designed for long range casting but for huge line capacity for fighting GTs, Tuna, etc - that will strip vast amounts of line in a matter of seconds.
To Summarise:
1) Poor release timing with the wrong weight of lead, while using a very large-spooled reel, fitted to a rod with 50mm rings = BAD
2) Good release timing with the correct weight of lead, while using a medium- spool sized reel, fitted to a rod with smaller rings = GOOD
Do note though, that the butt ring size is only a small contributor to frapping. It's the other factors that really cause the problems.
Use a smaller-spooled reel with a good line, get you release timing right, with the correct lead and your frapping days are numbered.
Mark Tunley
Eastleigh, Hampshire
Tel: 0790 525 6747

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