Do you know where your reel hand sits on your rod when you are fishing?

I must admit that I hadn’t thought much about this at all until the other day over in the US - do you know where your reel hand sits on your rod when you are fishing? Not casting, not fighting a fish, but simply fishing away. I had (wrongly) assumed that essentially all anglers held a lure rod/spinning reel combination as per the photo below - two fingers either side of the reel stem, and like this for both casting and retrieving lures etc. I fish like this when there is a spinning reel and I am lure fishing, but I only got to thinking about when I handed Matt a rod I had taken over to the US and said “nice rod, shame about the grip where your hand sits”............

Is this a "normal" grip?

Is this a "normal" grip?

To which Matt replies along the lines of “what’s the problem with it? It works great.” But how? If your hand sits like mine does around the stem of a spinning reel, then an annoying lack of grip where the rear of your hand sits when you’re fishing away kinda bugs me - as per the outstanding HTO lure rod I reviewed recently. Serious rod, but yes, that lack of grip for the rear of my reel hand to me is a mistake. But it’s only a pain if you hold your rod like I do, and whilst I did assume that most anglers do indeed wrap their hands around a spinning reel like this, I now wonder if in fact anglers like me are the odd ones out?

So I really watched Matt cast and then work his lures a few times, and whilst he probably doesn’t even realise he is doing it, in fact he casts with his hand in “my” position (two fingers either side of the reel stem), but then changes over to the grip you see below at the end of the cast - whole reel hand in front of the reel when working lures, with no fingers split around the reel stem. Which of course means that a lack of duplon or cork grip behind the reel where the back of my reel hand would sit matters not to an angler like Matt who holds his rod in this way. If the old and now discontinued 8’ Daiwa France Branzino was one of the best 8’ lure rods I have ever been lucky enough to fish with, then the grip behind the reel seat was to me just a perfectly crap design when your hands got wet.

But was I the one at fault for lure fishing the way I do, with my two fingers spread either side of the reel stem? If I had naturally held a lure rod/spinning reel combination the way an angler like Matt does then I would never have even noticed that crappy bit of plastic, because my whole hand would have been in front of the reel stem and therefore gripping onto a nice bit of duplon that doesn’t then become really annoying when it’s peeing with rain or you have wet hands from releasing fish etc. But I naturally hold a lure rod/spinning reel combination with that split-grip as such and as far as I can remember this is the way I have always done it.

Gripping a lure rod/spinning reel combination like this does throw up another issue that I have found on a few spinning reels. I was having a look on the rather large Shimano stand at the iCast show in Orlando the other day, and especially their new and rather smart looking Stradic FK spinning reel (check here, is this a US model?). I picked a few up to have a bit of a feel, and whilst they felt nice and light and smooth etc., the main thing that struck he was how short the reel stem was compared to most other spinning reels I have used, and therefore how uncomfortable a reel like this would be for me to lure fish with - with my split-grip, I find that the knuckle on my third finger rubs uncomfortably against the bend on a shorter reel stem. And no, my knuckles don’t drag on the ground when I walk, just in case you were wondering.

I had this problem when I was doing some work with Shimano UK and they sent me the (new at the time) Exage to have a play with, as per the photo above - seemed to be plenty of reel for the price, but I had to give up using it because I just could not fish remotely comfortably with that shorter than normal reel stem. I asked the question why was it shorter and possibly wider than say on the (comfortable) Sustain 4000FG, but basically never got an answer to it. I’d have been fine if my natural grip had my hand in the same position as Matt’s - fully above the reel stem/foot, but I don’t naturally grip like this. And in turn this would have stopped the lack of anything but a screw fitting behind the reel foot on the 9’ Graphiteleader Argento Nuovo in the photo above eventually bugging the hell out of me (give me duplon or cork or something!). But my hand naturally sits the way it sits I guess, and I wonder if any of you are conscious of where your own hand naturally sits when you are retrieving lures? I am going to try lure fishing a bit with my hand completely in front of the reel stem and see how I get on……….

And then of course you have special cases like my mate here who shall remain nameless but I am still pretty damn sure he nudged me head first into an electric fence a couple of years ago. This guy casts like I do, as in right handed/“normal”, but then as the lure flies out he changes hands with the rod to retrieve left handed, or cack-handed as I tend to call it. This bloke was convinced he did not change hands on the rod during the actual cast, until I showed him some casting sequences. It matters not of course because he casts a mile and hammers bass, indeed it’s only me taking a bit of the proverbial here, but upon examining a few photos of his hands on a fishing rod I now see that he in fact grips the rod as you see above. Help!

And then you've got the hanging on for dear life grip as a serious fish (bluefin tuna) sees the boat and crash-dives - a combination of back-saving grip together with braced legs that alleviates a bit of the glorious pain! Vive la France.............

And then you've got the hanging on for dear life grip as a serious fish (bluefin tuna) sees the boat and crash-dives - a combination of back-saving grip together with braced legs that alleviates a bit of the glorious pain! Vive la France.............

Penn Clash 3000 spinning reel review (under £140)

Please believe me when I tell you that I am a fishing tackle tart of the highest order (no, really?!), and I absolutely love fishing with higher end lure rods and spinning reels especially. I lust after the more expensive Daiwa and Shimano spinning reels and the way they feel when you first pick them up and turn the handles, but of course I completely accept that many anglers can’t or simply will not spend a heap of cash on a reel - can’t for numerous reasons, and won’t perhaps because there is always going to be the argument that spending a load more cash doesn’t automatically mean that your spinning reel is going to last a commensurate amount longer. Nope, lure fishing around saltwater is incredibly tough on fishing tackle as we all know.

So as it stands at the time of this review (and of course I will report back if anything goes wrong with the reel in the future), I can’t really see how a spinning reel that comes in under the £140 mark could get much better than the Penn Clash 3000. I am quite simply loving lure fishing with it. As I said a while back here on the blog (here and here), I have zero experience of fishing with Penn spinning reels for UK and Irish saltwater fishing so I didn’t come to the Penn Clash with any previous opinions. I didn’t know what to expect and my judgement as such is of course influenced by having used Daiwa and Shimano spinning reels for a bunch of years now. Whilst I really like the look of these Penn Clash spinning reels, I have a hunch that they could be a marmite sort of thing.

If you want to spend around £140 and under on a spinning reel then of course you’re not going far wrong by looking at Daiwa and Shimano, but I would also implore you to have a look at these new Penn Clash reels. The Clash 3000 is essentially the same size as a Shimano 4000 or Daiwa 3000 reel, indeed this Clash 3000 weighs the same as a Shimano Sustain 4000FG. I have rarely felt such a sense of confidence in a spinning reel when I am out lure fishing, indeed whilst this Clash 3000 initially felt a little on the “tighter” side to start with, it’s loosened up nicely over time. I love a smooth as butter spinning reel, but how many of them stay that way for a meaningful period of time? I can’t help but think of a (not cheap) reel like the Shimano Sustain 4000FG - absolutely love it, but I have had to get a bunch of bearings in it replaced via a service, and I’m not sure how comfortable I feel about the length of time it took for the reel to get like that.

What can I tell you about these Penn Clash reels that I haven’t mentioned before in a couple of preview/update posts (here and here)? Nothing really. Go back and read them if you are interested in these reels, because quite simply I just love fishing with them. Sure, I need to be mindful that their 6.2:1 retrieve ratio is faster than what I am used to on a spinning reel, but that doesn’t seem to be a problem. OK, so it bugs me that you don’t get a spare spool with the reels and I can’t find out when spare spools will actually be available here in the UK, but at the price I can’t really grumble. The handles on the reel are as close to perfect as a reel handle can be I reckon, but as with rod grips that is of course a personal thing - hell, I’d love it if all my reel handles could be exactly the same as the Clash handle. I like it that much. The drag feels great, albeit discussions about drags and the fish we are likely to hook in our waters I reckon are overdone somewhat - come on, we love our fish, but tarpon they ain’t. If a bass is ripping loads of line off your reel then either it’s on speed, or just possibly you’re drag knob need a little “assistance”. I kinda like how Penn have Less and More with helpful directional arrows on said drag knob! No excuses now……….

I do actually have the slightly smaller Penn Clash 2500 spinning reel here as well, but that has to go back to Penn UK because it’s feeling a little “rough”. I did take the reel to the iCast show in the US and asked a somewhat unfriendly, “looked down his nose at me” Pure Fishing bloke what was wrong with it - the answer was that the gears were most likely not quite meshing 100% but that the reel was actually just fine and how it felt was a matter of personal taste. Balls. Sure, the gears might not be meshing quite right, but a spinning reel should not feel like this Clash 2500 does, end of. Am I unlucky? I don’t know, but my mate Mark’s Clash 2500 is running perfectly and I wonder if the odd reel slips through the (mass?) manufacturing process without being 100%? Whatever the case, the US Pure Fishing bloke can stick his fobbing me off attempt where the sun don’t shine!

As for what size Clash I would go for, well a while back I’d have said the 3000, but over time I kinda fancy the slightly smaller 2500 on most of the lure rods I might fish with. Both are the perfect size for UK lure fishing, but that big chunky handle to me makes the smaller Clash 2500 feel just fine on shorter and longer rods. Hell, I’d be happy with either, and whilst the 2500 I have here has to go back for a checkup, I am sorely tempted to buy one anyway because I like it that much. The reel just feels “right”.

One thing to be aware of if you do buy a Penn Clash spinning reel - don’t do what both Mark and I did and get a little “greedy” with your line level (you may need to play with the spacers by the way to get a nice flat line profile, but there are instructions on how to do so in the box, and it’s very easy). The 3000 I have here has always behaved impeccably with 20lb braid and never even a sniff of a wind knot in all kinds of conditions. I had loaded it up to just on the edge of the black line inside the spool, but then independently of each other, Mark and I both went a bit over that black line on the smaller 2500 which we both have. Take it from us - save yourself the hassle and do not get greedy with line levels on these reels. Both Mark and I began to suffer a few wind knots on the 2500 reel, so I took a bunch of backing off, got back to a level which was a tiny bit under that black line and straight away everything was behaving impeccably and has done ever since. Some reels seem to take a bit of overloading and some don’t, and these Penn Clash reels categorically don’t. I know Mark was still getting a bit of wind knot hassle over in Ireland the other day on his 2500, but I have to say that roughness on my test 2500 aside, both Clash reels have been behaving impeccably for me on the casting front once I stopped being greedy with the line level. If I ever get a proper report back on the rough feeling 2500 I will report back here, but the Penn Clash 3000 is as good a spinning reel as I have ever fished with for under £200, and as ever there’s the argument about how many roughly £140 spinning reels you could get for the price of something much higher end and how long they all last.

And below is my work in the new issue of Sea Angler magazine that is just about to hit the shelves. Always over the moon to get a front cover, and always loving photographing and writing about fishing.

Two short notice places available in August on one of these (rather wonderful!) co-guided Ireland trips

I know it’s short notice, but we have a couple of places in August on one of these co-guided fishing trips I do with John Quinlan and their awesome Thatch Cottage Fishing Lodge operation. Timed to coincide with good tides and a time of year over in Kerry (south west Ireland) when the fishing can really fire - for bass of course, but also for a bunch of other species that we also tend to target when the conditions are right. If you read this blog then you know how much I am in love with spending time over in Ireland, and these co-guided trips for me are about as good as work is ever going to get, and I believe that sense of fun and adventure comes across in how John and I run these trips together. We do long fishing days, the food is outstanding, and we laugh a lot. What more do you need on a fishing trip?

Let there be laughter, and lots of it!

Let there be laughter, and lots of it!

The dates are:

  • Friday 19th August - arrive at Thatch Cottage Fishing Lodge
  • 20th, 21st, 22nd, 23rd - fish, a lot!
  • Wednesday 24th August - depart.

All fishing, accommodation and food is included.

Come along if you can - contact me here, and because it’s short notice we can do a bit of a deal. Getting to Kerry is pretty easy and we can help you with travel suggestions etc. Have a look at some photos from last year below. Nope, it’s not all about big bass and nothing else. It’s about catching fish and learning about lure fishing especially against the mighty backdrop of a very unspoilt and uncrowded corner of the world where time stands gloriously still. I know it’s short notice, but if you ever dreamed about fishing in Ireland then drop what you’re doing and come along. Hope to see you over there………….

I can’t get enough of the positivity that surrounds their fishing out here

I've been coming to the US for a number of years, always fishing related, and usually something to do with my working in fishing - and each and every time I cross the pond and spend time amongst US anglers, I am struck by just how positive and enthusiastic they are about their sport fishing. I just love it. I love talking with anglers from all around this vast country about their fishing, about how good it can be, how many anglers are enjoying so much fishing, and just a general absence of moaning and complaining.

The Fiiish stand just before the iCast show opened on Wednesday morning here in Orlando

The Fiiish stand just before the iCast show opened on Wednesday morning here in Orlando

It's bloody infectious, to the point that my head is in a complete spin yet again and getting anywhere close to being on US time simply can't happen. Early morning brain bouncing. Just when I think I am starting to get a slight handle on the different kinds of fishing, along come a bunch more anglers who then fry my English head with tales of their fishing around where they live. I could spend serious time out here.

The iCast show is a monster, and the positivity is just relentless. Granted, a lot of the fishing tackle here doesn't have many applications for the way we tend to fish at home, but of course there's a heap of stuff that would be great, and naturally there are some of the bigger companies making gear that I bet you any money we never see in Blighty. Take Rapala, a lure company I am hardly falling over myself to buy stuff from for my bass fishing, but then I wander around their huge stand here and I spot a number of new lures that I reckon could do plenty of harm for us. Will we ever see them for sale in the UK? From past experiences I seriously doubt it. That's but one example.

But for me it's all about the positivity mixed with the absolutely outrageous amount of salt and freshwater fishing out here. I have talked with so many US anglers about their local fishing and my head is a mess! I met a guy for example who lives in the Pacific Northwest and has the most incredible mix of fresh and salt stuff almost on his doorstep, and there's me thinking it's kinda steelhead and nothing more up there (as awesome as steelhead are though). How wrong could I be? Tuna, halibut, chinooks, various trout species, landlocked salmon, you name it, they've got it, and loads of good fish as well.

I've had a thing about seeing big redfish for a while now, and the “obvious” one if you like is those amazing looking Louisiana marshes in the autumn and winter time. I'd kill to see it and photograph it, but then I meet a guy who tells me all about the insane surf fishing in Texas for big reds, jacks etc., and it's just the sort of land based fishing I love - wandering up and down 60 mile long beaches on the hunt for fish, smashing big fish on lures in the middle of nowhere, and for me a perfect sounding mix of fishing and photography. I'm there!

I could I go on. Believe me, it doesn't matter when you think you know about US fishing, because you're always going to meet somebody from another corner of this amazing country who is doing fishing stuff you had no idea about. I love it, and whilst for many years I suppose I have specialised a bit for my work related travel in some very out of the way and remote places, I can't help but love the mix of civilisation and truly wild fishing out here in the US, and when you stir it up with such a positive feel and outlook from the anglers I meet, wow it's one addictive cocktail of adrenaline and dreams and not quite enough time yet wanting to try and experience as much of it as possible……...