As the morning grew longer it was obvious that the gull activity was just about over. A stiff north wind that cooled the water down to the 80 degree mark had prolonged the bite and we were looking for one more slot red or a few more trout when I shut down within casting distance of a pair of gulls sitting on the water.

The more aggressive of my two clients grabbed his rod out of the holder on the side of the center console and raced to the front deck. His cast was not unlike scores of others he had made over the course of the morning, but it sounded different. Before his jig even hit the water he was eyeing his rod and cursing the manufacturer.

His $300 graphite stick had snapped six inches below the tip and he was fit to be tied. “How can that happen,” he barked aloud. “I put it back in the holder when we finished that last group of fish and the next time I pick it up it just breaks for no reason!”

The truth was that there was a reason and it had nothing to do with the quality of the rod. He forgot that he had switched rods twice while fishing the last flock of gulls and his partner had inadvertently hit the rod with his jig with a careless back cast. The high dollar graphite shaft was fractured, but it didn’t show up until the rod was put under a load.

I only offered my condolences as they were good friends and his friend had chosen not to say anything during the brief tirade. I have had clients throw a few of my rods overboard over the years, but I can count the rods on one hand that they have broken while actually fighting a fish or even grabbing the rod in the middle to hoist a fish over the side of the boat. A quality rod is a durable piece of equipment and worth every cent.

I have, however, had eye inserts jerked out of rods, tips snapped off, and way too many rods damaged while still sitting in their rod holders as a result of those same errant back casts. I am also amazed at the end of the day when veteran fishermen hurriedly cram five or six rods into a rod locker rather than take the time to separate them and put them in their individual slots.

All the way home, the reels jar against the shaft of the other rods and they take an unnecessary beating while not even in service.

Gene Locke and I stopped at the CastAway headquarters in Montgomery last June and Scott Luft, president of manufacturing, and I were talking about the percentage of rods that are broken well after the fracture actually occurs. “We occasionally see returned rods here at CastAway that could have broken in several other places as evidenced by visible stress fractures caused by abuse or negligence,” stated Scott.

“As durable and sensitive as a quality graphite rod is,” he added, “after many years of service it will eventually weaken somewhere on the blank due to repeated use, but the average angler will never use that rod enough to see that happen. As a rule, that happens only to guides and tournament anglers that use them every day and even then it happens very rarely.”

You can, however, escalate the process by allowing your rod to bounce on the deck of your fiberglass boat while running the lake, leaving your rods standing in the center console holders while trailering your boat on the highway or throwing them in the bed of your truck for the ride home. Any of those practices will have you looking for your warranty card in the very near future.

If you regularly fish with two or more rods, take the reels off tonight and clean them up. Check the ceramic eye inserts and clean the entire rod with a mild detergent and water. When they are clean, lightly wax them and check the entire length of the rod for dents and dings. I can assure you that you are going to find some and each of them are potential breaking points.
While the minimal damage is irreversible, it still may not be severe enough to ever lead to a broken rod. At the very least your rods will be better off for the TLC and it will give you a feel for just how rough you have been on your favorite sticks!

We are finally starting to see some gull activity on the north end of the lake in spite of all the fresh water hurrying down both the Sabine and Neches Rivers. The birds have been skittish, but they are feeding on small shrimp pushed to the surface by 15 to 18-inch trout and slot reds.

The tides have been very strong and even a pretty good north wind has failed to significantly drop the water in the bayous and the river. We caught a few good fish earlier this week on topwaters and small crankbaits, but the best bite by far has been on four-inch tails in bone diamond and glow-chartreuse.

The love bugs have made life miserable when the wind doesn’t blow, but they are easier to cope with than 20 mph winds!