Bend the frigging thing !!

Look, I love lure fishing and especially for bass in a way that a few years back I could never for one second have envisaged. I think bass, wrasse and pollack especially are simply fantastic species to fish for with lures (and indeed bait), but I still stand by my belief that most anglers simply have no idea how far they can push the gear they are using to get these fish in. OK, so via my work I have had numerous chances to photograph, fish for and catch some pretty serious fish on all kinds of gear, and if you happen to spend enough time around South African anglers especially then you are going to pretty swiftly see how hard you can actually fight a fish without breaking rods, breaking leaders, losing fish and generally taking an age to land what we have to be realistic about and admit are hardly monster fish we are catching here on our lure gear in northern Europe. I ain't for one second belittling the fish we catch because I would choose for example to go bass fishing in Ireland over any other kind of fishing on earth, but crumbs we could learn to put so much more pressure on our hooked fish and not end up losing so many...........

The Tenryu Super Mix 240 into a 100lb plus shark out in the Florida Keys - this is a bass fishing rod yet it was never under abnormal strain against this fish, indeed this rod can bend way further than this if needs be.

I am not going to get into a rant here on barbed versus barbless hooks, but I will say that I personally struggle to understand how any self-respecting sport angler could fish with potentially nine barbed hooks on one single lure and then deal with the damage this can do to a fish that you most likely intend to return. It disgusts me and I despise how we think of ourselves as "modern anglers" and still fish like this. Plenty of fly fishing operations especially that I photograph are barbless only deals and you hear no whinging or wining. When you see anglers really fighting their fish hard then you see how fish are simply not lost because of a lack of a barb (or nine). Sure, a fish with a stupidly bony mouth like the tigerfish is going to throw any kind of hook for a pastime, but I can't for the life of me remember seeing one single fish lost on the saltwater flats that I could put down to the hook having no barb - and we are talking some serious fish that really fight. Now think about a bass fighting for longer and tearing bigger holes in those weaker parts of the mouth area for a hook to then fall out because the angler seems to be so scared to actually put real pressure on the fish. A properly bent rod creates a tight line that creates more pressure that results in a shorter fight that results in less hooks coming out and fish coming in far "greener" than if they have run around for ages while the angler fannies about and worries about getting bust off or losing the fish. Well, that's my theory anyway, and I'm sticking to it.

The Sakura Mazzera 8' bass lure rod into a big jack in the Florida Keys - yes, you can bend a rod into a fish.............

You must remember that I spend a lot of time not actually fishing but instead watching different anglers all over the world with a camera around my neck, and I see all manner of different ways in which fish are fought or played. I guess that because we just don't grow up battling seriously big or hard fighting fish in our waters (a select few fish aside of course, like those mad skate from the shore in my last blog post), we don't learn how to really put our fishing gear to full use on the fish we hook. And perhaps there is always this fear factor that if you pull too hard on a fish you're going to break the line - whereas I would argue against this and say that I believe far too many fish are lost because the angler did not fight the fish nearly hard enough. I can think of very, very few anglers who I have seen or spend time with in the UK and Ireland who I would say really put the gears on their hooked fish. This is not some smug criticism by the way, because I know some of these anglers might in turn say that I give my hooked fish too much stick. I remember a UK angler once telling me on the beach out in Namibia how he would hook smoothounds off the shore back home and from time to time his reel would be emptied. Sorry, but that's just plain bad angling. Tighten the drag up and give them some grief. They're awesome fish and it's great to hear how incredibly good the hound fishing has been recently, but reel emptiers they are not.............

Look how much you can bend a rod just by casting - why not put that kind of pressure on your hooked fish ? It ain't going to break, and neither is the line.

I had some anglers tell me a few years back that braid simply did not work for pollack fishing off the boats because you ended up bouncing the hooks out. Please, how can I possibly take that kind of garbage seriously ? What's a drag for ? I did an "experiment" a few years ago out at Rost off the coast of Norway - as much as I love pollack, big coalfish leave them for dead. I wanted to see how hard I could push 30lb braid on a heavy spinning rod against a big coalfish. I wound my drag up solid, hooked a coalie and then clamped my hand tight over the spool so that not one single millimetre of line could get taken off my reel by the fish. I remember thinking that either the line breaks, the rod explodes, or hopefully the fish succumbs to the pressure. Well the line didn't break and the rod never exploded, and I got the 30-35lb coalfish in pretty quickly and then returned it. I would not advise on normally taking this course of action, but it proved a few things to me - like the fact that big cod are some mightily impressive fish, but big coalies are in a different league altogether on the scrapping front. Proper sportfish.

I would bet some of you reading this might be thinking "Henry's a tit, what does he think he's on about because I'm pushing my lure gear to the max" - which let me assure you the chances are that you are not - not even close in fact. I bet you I could come and photograph you hooked into a fish and you would be amazed at how little that lure rod for example is actually bending. I know what it's like - we seem to have this inherent fear that we're going to bust fish off if we fight them too hard (light line stuff aside of course, but then I'm not really using very light lines). Yes, of course the terrain, what the fish do when hooked and the lures we might cast all come into it as well, but I cannot tell you how much more grief you can give a fish before you ever come close to maxxing your gear out. Sure, hook a decent bass in a raging current or around serious structure and other factors are coming into play, but I would still argue that on a straight, "clean" fight there ain't a bass that swims which can't be landed on our gear. Sometimes bad luck is just plain bad luck. It's never cut and dried, I will grant you that................

When it all goes wrong, but then that's what comes from using LRF/ultra-light lure gear out in the Florida Keys !!