This year I’ve certainly done a lot more lure fishing from the shore than maybe I have done in the two or three previous years. Partly this has been down to things not coming together very favourably to get out on the kayak… usually one, or a combination of, weather, work, and family commitments have conspired against me but I’d be lying if I said that was the sole reason. Unlike kayak fishing sometimes it’s nice just to grab a rod and a few lures and simply fish without the hassle of having a truck load of kit to take with you which you then have to scrub down when your finished at the end of the day!
With this in mind I decided to treat myself to a new rod specifically for my lure angling. Unlike fishing from the kayak, where I wasn’t bothered as much with the quality of the rod because they take such a battering, I wanted the lure rod to be of decent quality. The reason being there’d be much less risk of me losing it to Davy Jones’ Locker fishing from the shore, I’d probably be using it a lot more frequently, and with a bit of common sense I should be able to keep it in better nick than any of my kayak rods. It goes with the territory… kayak sea fishing equals lots of salt water exposure – lure fishing from the shore equals a fair bit less…. that’s the theory anyway!
So I began the search for a good quality lure rod that ticked as many boxes as possible in terms of what I needed it to do and how I fished. The main criteria being that it should be as light as possible for those long days fishing, ideally be capable of casting lures in the 10 – 40g bracket, have a fast action, a length which would pack a punch on the beach but short enough to fish rockier marks, and above all be fitted and finished with quality components that are going to stand the test of time… if I look after them. To find a rod that can tick all these boxes is no easy task and was always going to mean paying a premium price for an off the shelf option which unfortunately in my opinion are often over-hyped and over priced. That said I did look at a range of rods including some of the Tenryu red rods and Century offerings and whilst they all had their good points I was never completely sold on any of them. Increasingly, I was being drawn to the idea of a custom built rod but if I was spending a decent whack on it, which I thought I might have to for the quality of the blank, fittings, etc., I wanted to be sure of what I was getting.
As luck would have it a few months back I was introduced to Richard Cake of Dorset Fishing Rods based near Dorchester. Richard’s rod building is a small operation but encompasses all manner of rods for different angling disciplines. The thing that drew me to Richard above anything else, aside from the good things I was hearing and reading about his rods, was the fact that first and foremost he is a lure fisherman who could very likely relate to what I wanted from a custom built lure rod… was this too good to be true?
Now, let me set the scene, I travelled down to Richard’s one Sunday morning in June simply to have a chat about what he does, how he does it, and to have a look at examples of his work. I had no plans to commit to anything with him and always had at the back of my mind the off the shelf rods I had previously seen, which although I had misgivings about, were still options nonetheless. After initial introductions Richard was immediately very upfront and pointed out clearly before we started looking at anything that he had no problem whatsoever if, after we’d looked at some of the options he could provide, I was not interested and simply wanted to walk away. In fact he went further than that and actively discouraged me from making any commitment without going away and reflecting on what I may or may not have decided on – this was no hard sell, quite the opposite in fact. What it did do was give me confidence that I was dealing with someone who was keen to provide the best quality product he could, that matched what I was looking to get from a custom built rod, with the budget I had at my disposal.
Before looking at examples of his work or any components he uses Richard simply sat me down with a cup of coffee and went through how I fished… was I mainly fishing from open beaches? Was I fishing rocky areas? What type of lures was I predominantly using? How and where does my hand grip the rod and reel? What type of reel? Braid or mono? What sort of length sessions do I put in? My preferred speed of the rod? The list goes on but it was clear it was all designed for Richard to narrow down possible configurations that might appeal to me.
The initial part of this process involved Richard showing me examples of rods he has built and one’s currently being built – the standard was impressive and above all attention to detail was first class. These were of varying lengths anywhere between 8’ and 10” 6’ with different configurations on each. Already my mind was buzzing with possibilities but I was being drawn to a rod that was 8’ 6” in length simply because a lot of my lure fishing is in rocky areas where accessibility with a longer rod might be more challenging… it was still open to debate though. To confuse me even more Richard then brought out blanks he had in the 8’ 6” range and the first thing that struck me was the featherweight lightness of them against the recommended casting and line weights – it was difficult to comprehend how blanks so light could cope with the specified casting and line weights to be honest! These Japanese blanks were T-Russell one’s with a casting weight of 8 – 28g… pretty spot on for most lures I use to be honest but if I was going to spend the money on a custom build was there anything else that could tick the box of retaining the lightness but able to cope with the 10g – 40g casting weight? It was at this point Richard introduced me to the St Croix blanks he had recently acquired from the USA. These were something else and with a casting weight of 10 – 50g they pretty much nailed the casting weight I was looking for with a line rating of 10 – 25lb… all this from a fast action blank and still retaining the lightness I was after. If I was going to go the custom built root this was the blank that ticked the right boxes… sometimes something just feels right and this was one of those occasions.
Choosing the blank turned out to be the easy part as from there on for the next 3 hours, over more coffee, we went through in detail each part of the process of configuring the rod with the right guides – with the right spacing for the blank, the reel seat position, the type of grips including the positioning, the weight of these fittings , the weaves to be used, trim items including the script to be embedded on the rod and so many other small details I can not now recall! At this point I had still not committed to anything and as I’ve said previously nor would Richard allow me to commit. He promised to put every detail down in an e-mail for me to digest at a later date when my mind had stopped racing with all the options he had just put before me! To be perfectly honest I was already sold – I had 100% confidence that Richard would deliver exactly what I wanted come what may and importantly give me an after sales service you just can’t buy off the shelf. True to his word the email duly arrived with the agreed configuration and a price which was extremely reasonable given the quality of the components.
My chosen configuration was as follows:
Blank 8ft 6′ St Croix fast action 10-50g / 12-25lb line class
EVA grips – split grip formation
Fuji IPS reel seat with silver colour metal decal band on edge of EVA to seat.
All metal work to be silver coloured components.
Thread colours black & metallic steel blue.
Pacific Bay Minima 4 TiCH/TiCH, titanium carbide coated, single leg guides.
Personalised scripting on rod.
I knew there would be a bit of a wait from the moment I paid my deposit, something Richard had spelled out to me, because he had other rods to finish plus had a hand operation to deal with. So, it was with baited breath I waited over the rest of the summer but it really was worth the wait when mid-September Richard gave me the call to say it was ready.
The result is stunning… even down to the cloth bag it was presented in! The first thing that struck me was the weight – or lack of weight I should really say – just 150g… barely 6oz. I knew the blank was light but when you consider all the components and layers of resins added the lightness of it is incredible. The finish is equally impressive with the scripting, weaves and resin application faultless and the guides lined up to perfection with the Fuji reel seat. It really is a classy piece of work by any standards… and all this before you even give the rod a wiggle!
When you do give it a flex the first thing you notice is just how fast it really is – it is exceptionally quick to recover and whilst it has a stiffness to it the profile of the blank means it has just the right flexibility in it in my opinion.
So how has it performed? Well, so far in four outings I haven’t blanked so it can’t be bad! I’ve been using it mainly with a Daiwa Fuego reel and it has felt nicely balanced. Casting is effortless with a mere flick of the wrists pinging an average 18g lure fizzing into the distance. The rod comes into it’s own though when working the lure – though light it can be worked really hard to get the optimum action out of the lure without wearing your shoulder, arm, or wrist out in the process! I’ve largely used with shallow diving and surface lures and it twitches and retrieves superbly but the biggest plus is, because of the lightness, you can really feel your lure working in the water. Then there is the moment you connect with a fish – again because of the lightness of it you feel every hit, every run, and break for freedom the fish make… the biggest I’ve taken on it so far was a 5lb fish and it felt double that… yet there was never the feeling you were stretching the rod to anything like it’s outer limits – it just seems to effortlessly take everything in it’s stride.
That’s pretty much all I can think of to say on it based on my first impressions and as you will have gathered they have been exceptionally good. Negatives? Only that I’m now sold on custom built rods and that could have serious consequences for my pockets in the future! I really can’t find any negatives so hence my review may seem a bit ‘gushing’…but I make no apology for that as Richard’s approach and workmanship are first class. I could very easily have spent a similar amount of hard earned cash for an off the shelf option which no doubt would have performed admirably but the thing is about the custom built route is that everything about the rod has been tailored to my needs, with my input, then built superbly… and that just makes it feel a bit special.
Until next time…