I’ve lots going on at the moment. I’m still field testing prototype rods and reels scheduled for the Penn and ABU brands which are due on the shop shelves in the coming autumn, and we’re about to final field test a new series of spinning rods due to go in to the ABU product range, again in the coming autumn ready for next year. There’s a host of other new rods, reels, luggage and accessory items going through final evaluation process at the moment too. Spring in to summer is a very busy time!
The bulk of my product field testing is done during my own personal fishing time. The reason I prefer to do this is that my own fishing is very varied covering all aspects of shore and boat angling, plus plugging, spinning and fly fishing. This constant varied approach means prototype tackle gets assessed to the best of our ability across as many techniques and situations as possible and that it may encounter when finally it reaches the hands of other anglers.
My latest field test trip was up in North Wales on the Dee Estuary where I was looking for early spring plaice. The mark to be fished sees you casting from broken stones which drop off steeply in to a 20-foot plus deep channel, the stones giving way to sand and mud with a fast tide run running past, often with floating weed present.
I set up with a Penn Affinity Surf beachcaster and an MTI300, both armed with Penn prototype reels loaded with 18lb line and a shock leader. The reels have high retrieve ratios and due to the steep incline of the stones below water level, which are a tackle graveyard when retrieving fish, the high-speed retrieve is a major advantage.
I put a single hook long and low rig on the Penn rod, and a three-hook flapper on the MTI, both rigs tied with size 2 Aberdeen hooks. Bait would be frozen black lug.
I started the session of with a full house of two whiting and a dab on the flapper rig, but I had to fish a slack line between the rod tip and the rig to keep all three baits on the seabed due to the depth of water. This rig continued to catch fish consistently, but the long and low rig caught only one dab.
Due to the still cold water temps I figured the fish were still reluctant to move far for their meals, so shortened the hook traces down to just 10-inches on both rigs and added a large BB split shot nipped in just above the hook. My reasoning being that the short hook snood and split shot would anchor the bait in a small precise area and not allow the tide to wash it around. The bait being a more static target would appeal more to the lethargic fish. This worked immediately and my catch rate shot up with numbers of good sized dabs and the odd whiting each and every cast.
As low water approached I saw the slack line to the flapper rig lift and drop back, lift again and fall very slack as a fish pulled the weight out. I wound down and struck. I knew this was a decent plaice as it used its body width and muscle power to hug the tackle snagging rocks. Pushing the rod tip outward and winding the reel faster to bring the high retrieve ratio fully in to play kept the fish away from the rocks and I swung a fat 1.5lb plaice in to my hand. Not a huge fish but tidy enough off the shore this early, but a true spring arrival and an indicator summer is just around the corner.
The session ended with more whiting, some big dabs and small plaice.
Thornback and spotted rays are showing from my home coast now with small-eyed ray due in the next few weeks and these will be my next target species casting long range from rock ledges on to sand. I’m also expecting the bass to be on the rough ground beaches in the next couple of weeks, plus if the weather holds I’m hoping to get a day’s boat fishing in off Plymouth to further field test some new Penn and Shakespeare rods. Like I said my own fishing, and field testing, is very varied!