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THE PERFECT GRINDER ROD: FOR THE COMPETITIVE ANGLER

Dean Pretorius turns to the experts to find out what the competitive anglers prefer.

AS OF LATE, MUCH has been written about grinders and their increasing popularity as a tool in the competitive arena. The merits, drawbacks and the grinder itself have been debated at length, but it seems more and more competitive anglers are adding a grinder outfit to their competitive quiver. Anglers who have fished in a smash using mono, when most of the anglers around you have braid, will know exactly why it is important to have the braid option available.

The quest to find the perfect grinder rod to suit the serious, competitive angler seems to still be in its infancy, with many contradicting theories and opinions going around. I have been fortunate to be involved in the so-called grinder evolution since its inception, but I don’t have the technical knowledge with regards to the composition of graphite, lengths, and guide placements to confidently state that I have a definitive answer. The first step is to look at the needs of the average provincial or serious angler.

These needs will obviously vary from province to province, but finding an all-rounder that suits most applications is where we should be looking. In my view, the grinder rod and braid has its place firmly in the smaller to medium size (under 50kg) fish range. So-called scratching for edibles, and fishing for smaller sharks, skates and rays are where most anglers are at. For this, one would have to be able throw between a 5 and 7oz sinker with bait, bearing in mind that the diameter and directness of the braid allows the angler to fish a lighter sinker in the wash and current. The rod must be light in weight to enable the angler to fish the full eight hours in big wind, but be strong enough to put the brakes on bonus fish that are so often hooked during these competitions. In saying this, the rod would need a stiff base, a slightly more flexible mid-section, and a tip that has more fl ex to aid casting – especially when wading. The rod must not be too stiff, as this will increase the chance of hooks being pulled, and even opened. It must be fitted with good braid-friendly guides, and in my opinion, anti-tangle guides. The guide placement must conform to the grinder to limit wind knots and wrap-ups. The rod and its components must be functional and tough enough to stand up to the rigors of competitive angling. The grip and winch must be grinder specific, and if the anglers use one, it must be fitted with a bionic finger. Remember, with the grinder and braid, one needs to fight the fish with the rod, and not the reel and braid.

The length of the rod is another hotly debated subject. It seems the competitive guys are going for longer rods (14ft6 up to 15ft6), especially for wading. It is important to remember that throwing the grinder puts far less stress on the blank than loading up with a multiplier, allowing the longer rod to be more successful.

Then there is the issue of price – making it affordable will increase its popularity. In my humble opinion, if one could amalgamate all these factors into one rod, you would get pretty close to an all-round perfect grinder rod. To elaborate further, I have approached five individuals who are all respected in the tackle industry, and who are leaders in their respective fields. As you will see, we all differ in opinion, but there is also a lot of common ground.

CRAIG NEIL, CDS ANGLING

Craig is well-respected for his rod building and development passion. Craig’s take is as follows: Use the rod you would use, casting the same rig with a multiplier. Lay it out with the correct casting concept of guides. So, if the Blue Marlin/7+1 Super Mandrel was the one, then use that. For casting, look to the European R&S layouts, as well as our local freshwater. For power and pulling, look to the jigging and popping guys. Don’t redesign the sheel. Use your reel’s drag to compensate for the lack of stretch in the braid. League: the guy who can cover the most water (cast the longest cast) is the guy with the biggest advantage. Get that rod and fish with it.

Only worry about playing the fish once you get the bite. Place the reel a bit higher on the rod to open your shoulders in the retrieve and in fighting the fish.

One last thing, I hate a braid leader and prefer a full-length mono (knotted or Windon). Braid guides cost money because they protect your braid, and not the other way around. Braid is an expensive investment, make it last.

MIKE PEREIRA, KINGFISHER

Mike is in charge of development at Kingfisher, here are his views:

We have been involved in getting that perfect grinder rod for years now. When Esa first started toying with grinders for rock and surf fishing many years ago, we started by altering a Poisedon HMG medium heavy rod, with grinder guides. Since then, we have brought in the 13’7 gold class spinning (standard graphite) and the Saltiga 5500 HMG spinning to cater for the competitive market. In terms of sales, it seems the long butt spinning rods are definitely selling out the short butt version – especially up country, where most anglers are brought up using the longer butt. This may not, however, be the answer for the bigger fish targeted by competitive anglers.

At present we are doing a lot of research and development in our Coastline range to get a grinder rod specifically aimed at the competitive market – a bit longer than 14’8, with a mixture of HMG and graphite in various compositions to stiffen the base, and to make the tip more flexible. We are working with various anglers to get the correct guides, guide placement and butt length, but we still offer a competitive price.

ROB GAVIN, RENOWNED CUSTOM ROD BUILDER

Our T-Flex P7/P8 grinder rods are very popular with both our local and Capetonian competition and recreational anglers. The hype in this new innovation is the mix of two types of graphite, which enables an angler to cast with braid, and not have rod breakages or a sore back after a prolonged fight with a dream fi sh. The reason for this is, in KZN the anglers are targeting edibles, flat fish and smaller shark species. They are generally throwing smaller baits, like a mackerel head, red eye or small chokka-type baits.

 

The Cape chaps prefer the slightly stiffer tips because they tend to throw much bigger baits (whole mackerel, bonnie head etc.) for the raggies and mighty bronze whaler shark. The rod can, at the angler’s discretion, be built at 14’, but the larger and stronger anglers prefer the longer 15’ version. We build to the customer’s stats and most rods are built straight forward, with the guides being the Fuji anti-tangles, Eva (foam) grips, Fuji reel seats, short butts around 180mm long, and you have the option of fitting a bionic finger.

 

BARRY WAREHAM, SHORE ANGLING PIONEER AND WELL-RESPECTED DEVELOPER

 

Here in South Africa we have very quickly adapted braids and reels that are meant for other applications. We have used these to meet our big fish in the surf requirement, but nowhere else in the world do they have a fishing rod that even comes close to satisfying our needs. For this reason, we have forged ahead and developed our own rods for this application, which are globally unique. Our rods have evolved quite quickly, and I believe we are currently looking at some of the best products in the world for this application.

There are features on our rods that are truly homegrown. Guide placement: experience in casting

very heavy braids when popping for GTs etc. soon proved that guide placement is critical. The lighter the braid, the further the first guide can be away from the reel seat. The heavier the braid, the closer it

needs to be. You will see that on some of our shore-based spinning rods, we use a microwave guide system, which increases casting distance substantially simply by catching the loops as they come off the

reel, and funnels them into a smooth straight run through the rest of the rod, thereby decreasing friction.

This, however, only really works with braids that have a PE rating of two or less. Once you go above this, braids start holding more water, become heavier, and the loops that come off are bigger. Another important consideration here is that the bigger the circumference or outside diameter of the spool, the further the reel is going to throw (contrary to what some people believe). Small diameters make lots of small loops, increasing friction; big diameters create fewer loops, reducing friction. Many hours spent testing guide setups showed that getting the first guide in the right place, and making sure that it is the right size and the right height off the rod is critical to the cast.

Line slap and too many loops in the air create an enormous amount of resistance. For a surf rod using 50lb braid, one could go down to small guides like No. 8s up at the tip, which would definitely enhance

the action of the rod and make it lighter. However, the need for throwing heavy braid leaders and sometimes a mono leader coming down into the guides, but never onto the reel, means we still need some biggish guides up toward the tip. Fortunately, because the reel sits under the rod, fewer guides are required than on a conventional multiplier setup, which definitely results in a lighter feel

to the rod. Action of the rod: braid has absolutely no stretch and, the shock-absorbing effect one would normally get from monofilament needs to be taken up by the rod. A longer rod with a slower action is

what is required when fishing with braid. Years of spinning with heavy lures and braid taught us the art of putting the right pressure on the fish to get the correct bend in the rod to create the maximum

shock-absorbing effect.

The same sort of technique and technology needs to be applied to bait fishing with braid. The benefit of a slow action is that it effectively reduces the overall length of the rod substantially when it is under pressure. The result? It is much easier and more effective to pull a fish. Composition of the graphite: modern composite materials, and especially high modulus carbon fibre- and nano-technology, means that using exactly the same mandrel, but with a different pattern and recipe of materials, you can

get a blank with a very fast action – or exactly the same blank but with a much slower action. One needs to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the various materials to be able to design a blank that is going to give you all the functions and benefits that are required from that rod. My perfect grinder rod for the average angler who is fishing predominantly for edibles would be the Assassin BeachMaster M-XL FSSC 14’6. This rod has a nice slow action to cater for the perhaps not-so-experienced angler, and

yet, throwing 5oz it has the ability to land anything from a stumpie to a raggie. It is also extremely good value for money. For the serious and experienced angler, I am confident that there is nothing that compares to our latest Assassin EVO 14’6. It has the resilience of a jigging rod – very thin and yet very light, it casts incredibly well, and has already set the standard for grinder rods in the 6 to 7oz category.

 

PROTEA ANGLER GREG BROWN, BLUE MARLIN

Competitive angling has changed so much over the last three to four years, with many anglers converting to spinning reels with braid. Rod choice has become very important, due to braid having zero stretch and being very sensitive (bite detection). The rod: best results are achieved with one-piece rods. It is practically impossible to achieve the same performance with three-piece rods, which are a compromise, allowing the angler to conveniently store and carry the rod while travelling.

Technical info: parabolic action seems to be most effective. The base of the rod is very stiff up to the end of the grip; thereafter a progressive bend is achieved by mixing 40 ton high carbon fibres and 30

ton high carbon fibres. Rods of 4.20m and 4.30m lengths can have the same effect and action as rods

that are 4.50m 100% high carbon. With this parabolic action, the rod is ‘loaded’ to release bait and sinker smoothly, taking into account that braided line has practically zero stretch.

Guides: the first guide should be reasonably close (±1.2m) to the reel to help funnel the spiral whip of the braid while casting. The rest of the guides should be spaced in such a way as to prevent the braid from touching the blank, and to prevent side flexing, with Alconite guides being the best choice for braid.

Short versus long butt: competitive anglers use a rod bucket to be able to hold their rod for many hours. The short butt is more comfortable for competitive angling. The long butt is not practical for catching

big fish from the shore. The short butt is definitely the way to go, and will only take a few casts to get used to. In conclusion, the rod taking the South African market by storm is the Blue Marlin Super Slim Series, with various rods ranging from 4oz to 9oz. The ideal setup for the competitive angler will be the

80-50-430 that can be used for scratching with a 5oz sinker for bronze bream, right up to an 8oz sinker with a yellowtail head for raggies. The thin profile and light weight of around 650g makes this rod a

real pleasure to fish with. Well, as you can see, there are a number of theories around, but there is

definitely common ground. Getting out there to practice and see exactly what works for you is the only way to get the balance right.