Do you have any issues with my new website?

It’s been a while now since my new website went live, and some of the more observant among you may have noticed that I changed the look of the homepage and the blog the other day. As a means of showing off my photography/highlighting my business, running my blog and trying my best to give some sort of fishing tackle resource that might help a few anglers out, well I have to say that I am really pleased with both the software I have been using (Squarespace) and the way the site looks. But I am perhaps a bit too close to this website to be fully subjective, and I wanted to ask you lot if there were any issues I was not aware of……..

I really liked the original style of homepage I had as per above. I like the simplicity of photos hopefully almost jumping off the screen at you, but as much as it was kinda working for me, I wanted to find a way of getting a bit more info over on the actual homepage - latest blog posts, collections of photos from recent trips away, updates to the Fishing Tackle pages, that sort of stuff - hence the slight change the other day, and I notice from my stats that people are coming onto the site and already looking at more pages per visit.

I own an iPhone but I don’t generally use it to access the internet, unless that is I am checking how my website looks on it - and if fascinates me that around 32% of people are looking at my website via a mobile device. Obviously I am trying to make sure my photos look as good as possible on a big computer monitor, but do you have any particular feelings about how stuff looks on your phone? Are there any glitches that I am unaware of? I notice that Google has recently said something about websites which are not fully responsive will soon suffer from a loss of rankings, and I can’t help but like how the work I do with my Squarespace package here then translates to seamlessly resizing for different devices - but is it seamless? Any of you getting any hassle with it?

It amazes me how much activity on my website is via people looking at the numerous fishing tackle reviews I have done. I write them because I enjoy it, and judging by the amount of emails and Facebook messages etc. that I receive, it seems that there are a growing number of anglers out there who are looking for advice/help/reviews/opinions etc. Perhaps I am a terrible businessman and should not be spending any time doing these reviews, but I enjoy it and I know they help an increasing number of anglers out. That’s good enough for me, and one thing I have noticed is how many times an old blog post about travel rods here gets looked at - does this mean that some of you are as interested in finding high performance multi-section fishing rods as I am? If you didn’t realise, on the Fishing Tackle page on this website, if I have done a blog review on a particular item then I link to it.

My thanks to those of you who take the time to leave comments on my blog. It means a huge amount to get feedback from people - please feel free to engage more with me via the comments, and I reply whenever I can. I have made it so that I need to “approve” the comments before they go live, but so far there hasn’t been a single comment that I haven’t clicked yes and approved it. I accept completely that many of you don’t agree with me, and I also accept that by putting my head above the parapet and doing what I do in fishing that a percentage of anglers despise me, but it doesn’t mean I have to stand for threats and general abuse. Thankfully though, fishing continues to impress upon me how full it is of some of the finest people you could ever hope to meet.

Anyway, as always, thanks for reading. Please tell me in the comments section below if you are having any hassle with my newish website. We might well not agree on the look of it, but wouldn’t life be boring if we all thought the same? Have a good weekend, still hoping that we might get some warm weather back, and now I need to start getting my stuff together for a trip over to the US next week to check out a bit of striped bass fishing with Matt from Fiiish.

Major Craft Skyroad SKR-962 Surf 9’6’’ 5-28g - £180 (bargain of the year?)

Please note that this review is about the Major Craft Skyroad SKR-962 Surf 9’6’’ 5-28g lure rod, and not the Skyroad 9’6’’ 10-30g (longer brother of the very impressive 9’ 10-30g Skyroad, review here). My understanding is that this Major Craft Skyroad SKR-962 Surf 9’6’’ 5-28g has been designed for targeting flatfish from the shore with lures over in Japan, but whatever the case, this is one scary-good lure fishing rod for how many of us go about our bass fishing these days……

I have only waggled and not actually fished with the longer 9’6’’ 10-30g Major Craft Skyroad, but on the few occasions that I have picked it up it’s felt pretty damn impressive. I note that although Major Craft’s rod action ratings are in my mind fairly irrelevant, the 9’6’’ 10-30g Skyroad is rated “Regular”, whereas this Skyroad Surf version is rated “Regular Fast” - and as far as I can remember how the non-Surf version felt via a few waggles, this Surf perhaps feels a smidgen faster.

Personally I like the cork grips that I have fished with on Major Craft and APIA lure rods, but of course I am also more than comfortable with your more regular duplon grips - and this Skyroad Surf has got duplon grips on, with a handle length that suits me well (about 35cms from reelfoot to end of butt section). You’ve got Fuji K-Guides with some of those pretty small guides towards the tip, and I am not going to bother going into how comfortable I am with small guides like this, indeed I really like them - the least amount of weight possible on the tip section especially if you ask me. There’s also a Fuji reelseat which Major Craft say is a VSS version if that means anything to you, because it doesn’t to me. I just like it.

All of us like different things when it comes to our fishing gear, but so far it’s the 9’6’’ 10-30g Major Craft Truzer (review here) that for me is just about the most perfect lure rod I have ever used - and holy cow if this 9’6’’ Skyroad Surf isn’t pretty frigging close to the somewhat more expensive Truzer. Sure, this Skyroad Surf feels a tiny (and I mean tiny) bit heavier perhaps, and there is perhaps a tiny bit more give in the butt section, but as much as I am having a love affair with that 9’6’’ Truzer, I can honestly say to you that I would be more than happy to fish with this 9’6’’ 5-28g Skyroad Surf for evermore - hence my phrase “bargain of the century” in this blog post title. This fishing rod floats my boat in a big way.

The fact that such an out and out lure rod like this can be bought for £180 here in the UK is an absolute steal if you ask me, indeed I defy you to pick up this rod and go fishing with it and find anything remotely un-proper about it. Sure, you might not like the way this rod fishes as much as me, or indeed it may well suit you down to the ground, but whatever the case, compared to what else we can lay our hands on in the UK and Ireland as regards lure rods, this Skyroad Surf to me is one of those lure rods that I come across from time to time that really freaks me out - it’s just the most incredible rod, there’s nothing remotely budget about it, and it stands right up there with plenty of far more expensive rods I have fished with.

Everything about the way this Skyroad Surf fishes suits me and my bass lure fishing. Surface lures, sub-surface minnows, weightless soft plastics, ripping Crazy Sandeels, bumping Black Minnows or retrieving them slowly through the rough stuff, I can’t trip this rod up. It’s a pretty fast rod (very steely, got to get it in there somewhere) but very easy to wind up and get the best out of it, and I love how this Skyroad Surf is as happy with the smaller lures as it with the heavier ones that are getting towards that 28g maximum recommended rating. If you and I met in a fishing tackle shop and you asked me to try and describe my ideal lure rod action, to be honest it would far easier to just hand you this Skyroad Surf. I just like lure rods that behave like this - nice and fast but easy to use, a tip that just feels so precise it’s like looking down a gunsight, and the fact that it doesn’t remotely feel like a longer lure rod.

What more can I say? I know that I have ended up reviewing a number of Major Craft rods on this blog (see here), but I am not going to apologise for it. They tend to suit how I fish, it’s my blog, it’s my (unpaid) time that I spend doing it, and at the end of the day I can only use and review fishing gear that the people I know within the fishing tackle industry are kind enough to get me access to. From first picking up a Major Craft rod a few years back and not thinking much of it all to now believing that they are arguably the finest and also the best value for money saltwater lure fishing rods that we can get our hands on here in the UK and Ireland, that’s the way I feel, and yes, of course, lure rods absolutely fascinate me - and especially when they are as outrageously good as this Major Craft Skyroad SKR-962 Surf 9’6’’ 5-28g. This is some rod, and at £180 it’s a bargain - I have never come across this much fishing rod for comparatively so little money. Oh, and before anybody asks me - yes, this rod can chuck the Patchinko, in fact it animalizes the lure without even trying.

But - not long after writing a first draft of this review, the tip section went and snapped on me in two places during a cast. Of course I want to blame the rod and not my bad casting, and as far as I can remember I didn’t “ding” the rod along the way and then suffer a breakage because of that. I do know though that on the particular cast when the tip section broke on me, I was fishing very rough conditions and I was doing one of those slightly dodgy casts when you run down to the water’s edge and cast at the same time, whilst also making sure to then run back out of the way of the huge waves coming in. I was also casting the 150mm/20g Crazy Sandeel, which I have found out might be just over the 28g recommended weight on the rod, albeit this shouldn’t really matter that much.

I know my timing was a bit off on the cast when the tip section broke, and I know that I properly larroped that cast (larrop is a very technical casting expression in case you were wondering!!). The more I think about it, the more I think that there’s a chance the braid went and wrapped around the tip. It could have been a flaw in the rod of course, but why would it break in two places as per the photo above? I pushed this rod hard before it broke and I never had a second’s bother, and unless it’s proved to me otherwise, I am going to go with me and some mistake I made being the reason the tip section broke - nothing changes my opinion that this Skyroad Surf is an outrageously good rod (buy from a UK or Irish Major Craft dealer and you get the support in case something were to go wrong), and what upset me the most was that I had to stop fishing with it, because this is a lure rod that I am absolutely in love with.

It breaks my head - fish or photograph, photograph or fish

Whilst it’s hardly a dilemma to rival my girls one day going out with boys, the question of whether I should stand back from fishing and take photographs or get in there and fish and thus not be able to photograph is a dilemma that regularly breaks my head. It’s not a problem on a trip like I did recently to a very remote atoll many hundreds of miles away from the Seychelles (photos here), in that I am along as the photographer and I am not there to fish and waste valuable  photography time. But when I am out and about doing my own thing say around me here at home, well to be honest I am often torn between fishing or photography, and before you say why not do both, let me assure you that I have been at this game for long enough to know that you can’t do both at the same time……

Last Friday morning was a classic example. I couldn’t head out first thing because I needed to send some work off to a client, but with LW around 10.20am I think it was and the mark I intended to fish working best the last couple of hours of the ebb, I would be fine getting down there and meeting up with Mark and Aaron by around 7.30am. It with a degree of haste that I ran/slid/scrambled down the cliff because the light was looking pretty tasty - enough softness to the sunlight, the right angle on it for where we would end up fishing, and then in fishing terms, there were some pretty good looking conditions.

So we get onto the rock we need to be on, and as much as I am itching to clip a lure on and belt it out there, I just can’t bring myself to do so when the light and conditions are combining like they are. Sure, selling fishing photos is a big part of my job, but my urge or need to shoot photos goes way beyond having to earn money - I can’t not shoot photos, and especially not when we’ve got swell rolling in, waves crashing around, the guys are fishing in good positions, the light is lovely, the sky is big and blue, and I am also testing a rather awesome Nikon D4s camera body that Nikon UK kindly sent me down to have a play with. I want to fish, make no mistake, but I also know that if I picked up my lure rod right about now that I would never forgive myself for not firing away on the camera and missing potential good shots.

Do I actually need these photos of the guys fishing? Well I have a huge library of images that I can and do draw on when required, but that’s not the point, and of course libraries need to keep growing. No, I need to take photographs just as I need to go fishing, indeed they are so inextricably linked for me that I can’t really separate them. I am moving around, changing lenses, shooting different pix etc., and it occurs to me that these shots are starting to look pretty good (and please, that is not meant to be remotely arrogant, sorry if it comes across like that) - and now I am starting to think that wouldn’t it be great if one of the lads went and caught a bass to go with the “fishing action” shots as I call them. I love how awesome fishing can look, and as much as grip and grin shots are rarely the most artistic of shots, the simple fact is that angler plus fish means a lot in magazine terms for example.

By this time my head is starting to hurt. I know full well that I could carry on shooting away, indeed one side of brain is telling me not to pick up my rod and carry on with photographing Mark and Aaron - but the other side of my head is looking at those conditions, looking at how the two lads are attacking them, and thinking that it’s getting very hard to hold back and not have a few chucks. What do I do? Do I put down my camera and pick up my rod, or do I keep snapping away? Good cop, bad cop if you like. Brain pain.

Damn it, I can’t resist. The lads aren’t getting a sniff on the hard lures, and I really fancy a few bumps through all that swell and a little line of current with a Black Minnow. On goes a 120mm body in that stunning Khaki Glitter colour which has been glued to a 20g Shore Head that is actually designed to go with the 140mm Black Minnow - it works just fine though on the 120mm body, and with all that turbulence out there I reckon I needed that bit of extra weight to the jig head. As I walk to a certain bit of rock, I can feel my camera getting lonely in my rucksack, but I am determined to ignore its pleading for at least a little while.

Sometimes things just go your way. First cast and I feel the lure hit the sandy bottom. A few bumps in towards me and a bass only goes and nails it. Of course I am over the moon, but I also can’t help but feel like a bit of an arse for fluking a bass on my first chuck!! Aaron kindly went down and grabbed the leader and then the fish, and I gave the bass around 6lbs - Mark then kindly cradled the fish while I of course gave into my camera’s pleading, got it out of the bag again and ripped off a bunch of grip and grins in a lovely drop of light. No more bass were caught and in no time at all the light got harsher and we lost any depth of water in front of us. Was it meant to be? A jammy git I might well have been, but I was so, so close to not actually picking up my rod on Friday morning and continuing to rip away on the Nikon.

No doubt one of the lads would have gone and caught that particular bass, but as it swam strongly away I said a little thank you to both the fish and to my head for helping me come to what I must believe were the right decisions on that particular morning. Until the next dilemma…….

There's a reason I don't tend to talk about rods dealing with the actual bass in my reviews

If you read my tackle reviews here, and more especially the rod reviews I write (check here), then you might have noticed that I rarely talk much about my thoughts on whether the various rods might or might not cope with the bass we catch. OK, so I am not beset with hordes of hungry double figure bass crawling up my line, but I have had enough experience of somewhat larger and more powerful fish to have come to the conclusion that these lure rods I enjoy messing around with simply aren’t going to struggle with any bass we might end up hooking from our coastline.

I don’t waste my time writing even more words on whether so and so lure rod might or might not deal with bass because the actual size or power of “our” bass in my mind is not really relevant when any of these rods would perfectly comfortably deal with the largest bass we could ever hope to see. These rods we use are plenty powerful enough to deal with far larger fish than we are lure fishing for from our shores, indeed I can only think of one rod that I have played with (and not reviewed in fact, mainly because I disliked it so much I only gave it a few hours and left it the hell alone after that) in the last few years that I think might struggle, indeed I caught a half-tidy bass on this particular rod and got a bit of a shock when I was trying to pull seven bells of hell out of the fish and the rod just as good as folded up on me. That one rod has been the exception though, because most of these rods in the say 5-35g category are plenty strong enough for our rather lovely bass.

We are talking about a perfectly wonderful species of fish here that let’s face it, however much we might dream, we simply ain’t going to hook one from the shore in the UK or Ireland that will go over 20lbs. Whilst I love the way that bass scrap, if they are taking loads of line off you then in my opinion you’re being far too generous. Horses for courses though, because I know that some anglers love to fight their fish for ages and ages until they essentially give up and ask to be landed please because they are as good as half-dead from exhaustion. Sorry, but you might have guessed that overly light drag settings are a bit of a bugbear of mine.

The rod we fish with is but one part of the equation though. Not all bass fight the same as you know. I believe that on a straightforward scrap, any of the rods I have reviewed here for example have more than enough guts to land the largest bass we could ever hope to see, but when in fishing do things ever go to script? Put a good fish in really bouncy conditions and now you’ve got a whole different set of problems to overcome, but from a purely bending the rod into a fish point of view, I would hazard a guess that most UK and Irish lure anglers ain’t hooking bass and pushing their rods anywhere close to the max. How about conditions, angler error, current, sharp rocks etc. coming into the equation? And yes, I said angler error - surely you can be honest enough to admit to losing a few fish because of plain old bad angling? What, me?

Look at the top photo above of Nick Roberts rod bending an APIA rod during the cast - doesn’t it amaze you how much they will actually bend? Now look at Andy in the blue jacket above - he is bent nicely into a bass in some fairly heavy conditions, but as much pressure as he is exerting, the rod ain’t anywhere close to being maxed out. A massively talented angler who I no longer fish but from whom I learnt so much about these awesome fish once told me that he had maxed out the Tenryu Red Dragon lure rod on a decent bass in a run of current, to which I replied something along the lines of me thinks not. No way. Sure, as much as current makes good bass feel even heavier and stronger and it’s another part of the overall equation that we have to deal with, the Red Dragon is a hugely powerful lure rod that can land far bigger fish than bass will ever be.

We all lose fish from time to time. It’s part of fishing is it not? The bass I lost before last Xmas still haunts me (see here) for example, but I know for sure that I didn’t lose the fish because the rod I was fishing with at the time was struggling - because it categorically wasn’t. Think about the size of GTs that the fly guys catch on 12-weights for example, and as much as bass are my favourite fish on earth, GTs they are not. Lure fishing rods fascinate me if you hadn’t guessed, and because I am of the opinion that they can easily deal with the size of fish, I am far more interested in how they work for me as regards fishing the different lures and methods. I had the roughly 6lb bass above just before heading off to Ireland a couple of weeks ago, and although I hooked it in a decent bit of current and it scrapped well, I gave the fish a decent bit of grief and gave it no line - yet the lure rod I was using (without doubt the best value for money lure rod I have ever come across, review to come) was never under any undue strain at all. Have a good weekend, and may spring come back someday…….