Broomsticks and Buggy Whips
I’m not sure what they call it but I know there is a name for it, the disease that plagues all fishermen and causes them to pick up every fishing rod they see and examine it as if they were searching for the sword of Excalibur. It’s always fun to walk through the rod aisle of your favorite tackle store and watch as anxious anglers put the rods on display through their own brand of testing. Shaking the rod in an exaggerated hook set or casting motion seems to be the most popular test that perspective rod buyers try in an effort to find just the right one. I once walked by the rod aisle in a tackle store and thought I was in an old western movie where the Indians were shooting arrows at the cowboys because 2 fishermen were shaking the rods so violently it sounded like arrows flying. I raised the white flag as I walked up in hopes they wouldn’t think I was the enemy.
Trying to get the feel of a rod and how it responds in your hands is what we are all after and there is certainly no “perfect version” that suits every angler. I have seen a ton of different rod models in countless sizes and configurations that are made to catch everything from pan fish to grouper and everything in between. Some folks want a straight up weapon, a fish whooping piece of graphite that will make even the toughest adversary tremble in fear. Others like a more forgiving rod that allows an angler to play their catch and enjoy the fight. Each style serves a purpose and is a welcome addition to nearly any angler’s arsenal.
One thing that I have noticed over the years is how different styles tend to be related to different areas of the country. One comparison that we often make here is between Texas and Florida fishermen which are usually really entertaining. I know I have personally witnessed Florida fishermen pick Texas anglers out at the dock because they were using bait casting reels instead of spinning gear which is the norm in Florida. Another thing I have witnessed firsthand is that nearly all the Florida fishermen I have been on the boat with or been around use fishing rods that are comparable to broom sticks or garden tools. These rods are usually ultra-stiff and no nonsense models that would jerk the teeth out of a mule if need be. These rods are generally paired up with high end spinning gear that’s spooled up with heavy test braid. The only conclusion I can come to on this set up is that Florida anglers need to be prepared for all kinds of species of fish from tarpon on down so they rarely venture out under gunned.
I learned this lesson the hard way with my good buddy Bink Grimes and my son Hunter several years back while fishing in the Indian River and along the beachfront near Fort Pierce Florida. We were armed with the latest travel rods from a very reputable Texas rod company and were given instructions to put these new rods to the test. The rods were standard issue Texas trout and redfish models, surely capable of taming Florida fish, or so we thought. After 3 days of chasing trout and snook it was very evident why these guys fish with such heavy gear. After we got home I walked in to the rod manufacturer’s office, opened the travel cases, and poured out what was left of the shiny new graphite rods into a nice pile of splinters. Snook, jacks, and a few other unidentified species had effectively blown up every rod we brought and left the locals laughing at us as we loaded up and went back to Texas. I should’ve known better when we started talking to other fishermen around us and told them we were using 12 pound mono with 25 pound fluorocarbon shock leaders and they laughed at us while saying sarcastically “good luck with that”.
Now on the other end of the spectrum is a typical Texas set up, a rod that handles a topwater plug with ease and can scale back to accommodate a light jig head and soft plastic offering. Here in Texas we are unbelievably blessed with some fantastic rod manufactures from right here in the Lone Star State. Fortunately for us these rod makers are very in tune with the way coastal and freshwater anglers like to fish so the choices are nearly endless. Top end rods that weigh just a few ounces and come in a myriad of actions allow anglers the opportunity to fish a comfortable set up and not compromise their ability to fight big fish. From lightning quick models with only a fraction of flex in the tip to a down right soft whippy model that is as forgiving as your best friend these rods say it all about Texas fishing and the anglers that use them.
I guess in the grand scheme of things it’s great to have options when it comes to your favorite fishing set up. If we all had to use the same gear that would be like a trip to the dentist or paying taxes, not much fun at all. Varying your gear and exploring new methods will inevitably make you a much better angler and I’m sure we all would like that to be the case.