Massively overexcited because I am off to Ireland tomorrow - yippee!

The day the buzz isn’t there about this fishing thing and also heading away for this fishing or indeed guiding thing is the day that life for me would essentially be over. A life without fishing and all that surrounds it is a life I don’t want to contemplate, and for all the amazing places I have been lucky enough to spend time in via my working in fishing, that buzz about heading over to Ireland is still that bit extra special…………

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I am heading over tomorrow for a week of fishing and photography around Dungarvan. It’s been too long and I can’t wait to get back and fish those waters where I have had so much fun over the years. Steve and Carl are jumping in my epic Berlingo and I know deep down that they are more excited about getting to ride in my chariot than they are about the bass fishing to come. Come on lads, you can admit it, you look a lot younger and more hip when you are travelling in such style, and especially when the driver is wearing his under-wader compression tights and a pair of shorts with the obligatory Crocs of course!

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As ever I am heading over with a very open mind - we will work together on trying to find the best bass fishing we can, and I reckon that if conditions stay like this then it’s going to be a lot of all night fishing especially. In truth we will only get about four or five hours of proper darkness a night, but between the three of us I reckon we know enough to have a decent chance at some good fishing if the bass are behaving. I can remember one complete day and night so well over there a couple of years ago in June, when we fished hard nearly all day and never had a sniff - but once it got dark we smashed bass until first light.

I had better get on with clearing some work and getting myself packed up for heading over tomorrow, and as ever I will do my best to keep the blog updated with how we are getting on. I haven’t been over to Ireland since my last co-guiding trip over in Kerry last October and I can’t wait to get back over there. You all have a good weekend and may England get back to winning ways again and stuff South Africa in the rugby tomorrow……….. 
 

Is it just my imagination, or is there a hell of a lot more lure fishing for bass going on at night these days?

Whilst I accept completely that the fishing related stuff you might see on Facebook, Instagram and a few forums is of course not all that’s going on within bass lure fishing here in the UK and Ireland, I would suggest that what you are seeing is at least a snapshot. I don’t know how you look at this stuff, or indeed if you do - and nope, I can’t pretend that photos of bass lying on tape measures or on the sand or rocks are ever going to do it for me - but surely you have noticed a big increase in the number of reports and photos that revolve around lure fishing at night for bass?

 Jersey, June 2010

Jersey, June 2010

And I find this fascinating, indeed I bet if you took a snapshot of the same social media platforms say five years ago you wouldn’t be seeing anywhere near as much night based lure fishing going on. On the one hand I love how heading out when it’s pitch black to fish with lures has become so normal and accepted for so many of us now, but on the other hand I am continuously interested in how bass fishing especially is developing and changing for any number of different reasons. You may not be interested in this yourself, but unless I am learning all the time with my fishing and my life that revolves around fishing then my interest would soon wane.

Okay, so those of you here who have either been lure fishing since before you were actually born and/or have been night lure fishing for bass since time immemorial will no doubt wonder what on earth I am banging on about. For those of us who haven’t been fishing with lures for years and years and who didn’t realise you could seriously catch bass at night on lures (bait, surely?), are you in a similar boat to me here in that heading out lure fishing when regular people are tucked up in bed has become so ingrained in your bass fishing these days that you can’t help but think back to the days when you weren’t night fishing and wonder what you could have been catching?

 Jersey, June 2010

Jersey, June 2010

Take the last couple of nights as a very simple and accessible example. I can’t recall such a prolonged calm spell of weather around here in SE Cornwall for years - the sea is flat and the water is about as clear as it can ever get, indeed it’s every single thing that we don’t want for daylight bass fishing out on the coast. Sure you can go and go and go and because it’s fishing and there are no rules as such you might well end up with a few fish eventually, but now wait until it’s dark and it is so often a completely different story………….

It hasn’t been epic, but we’ve had a few bass over the last couple of nights in conditions that I simply would not be fishing around here during daylight hours - and on Monday night I hooked what was without doubt the best bass I have (briefly) connected with this year, but the sodding fish came off the needlefish. You know when you hit a fish and it hits back properly hard? It’s a completely different feeling if you ask me, and that’s what happened for a brief moment late on Monday night - or was it actually the early hours of Tuesday morning? Night fishing at this time of year means a lot less sleep, and you either deal with it or you don’t!

The first time I ever saw bass caught at night on lures was over in Jersey in June 2010 when I was over there to do some photography with Keith and Kevin White, and whilst what they did that evening absolutely amazed me, I didn’t gain that all important confidence myself because I was taking photos and not actually fishing. I don’t care how many fish you see or how many photos or reports you come across of anglers catching bass at night on lures - you need to do it yourself and catch some fish before you fully believe that it’s properly possible to fish like this. Then the lightbulb goes off…………...

 Ireland last year - 11lb bass for Steve

Ireland last year - 11lb bass for Steve

I firmly believe that because we can’t see what’s going on there’s a kind of disconnect in our head with committing to the fact that bass are perfectly able to locate lures in the pitch black - and until you disprove this to yourself by heading out there and catching bass at night on lures then I reckon night lure fishing will remain that thing which works for other anglers but isn’t working for you for whatever reason. How do I know this? Because I have been in that exact position. But it does work, and as I said earlier, I find it so interesting how fishing our lures at night has become the norm for so many of us more now when not very long ago I wonder how many of us just didn’t quite believe that was possible. Adapt or die? Okay, not quite as extreme as that, but you get my drift………….. 
 

I’ve got X to spend on a rod and reel - what should I get?

I don’t know how many of you look at my Fishing Tackle pages that you can find via the links at the top of the page, so if you are unaware of this resource, it’s essentially an index page that links to a number of further website pages that detail all the various rods and reels and lures and other items of fishing related gear that I have either reviewed on here or have used or am using now for my lure fishing etc. When I moved my website over this Squarespace platform I did actually contemplate leaving that whole Fishing Tackle section behind because it was a fair amount of work to bring it over and then try my best to keep it up to date - but a lot of traffic on this website goes through these pages so I am guessing they might help a bunch of people out.

But I still get a bunch of messages and emails and what have you from anglers asking me what lure rods and reels they should buy. I have always worked on my own here and I will always try my best to reply to people - but I am also aware that some of the time I just can’t. I don’t like this but it’s the way it is and I can’t really see a way around it when all this blogging and fishing tackle related stuff is done on my own time, and aside from some of you kind souls kindly buying some of your fishing tackle through my affiliate links, that’s the only earning that any of this blogging directly does. 

I know how bloody confusing it can be when you want to buy a specialist lure fishing rod or reel especially, and whilst this blog is merely my thoughts and opinions and I am no more qualified to comment on fishing tackle than any of you reading this, the simple fact is that a lot of fishing tackle does pass through my hands and I like trying to translate my thoughts on it across to you lot. What works for me might not work as well for you and all that sort of stuff, but as simple and accessible as a lot of us like to think that lure fishing is, imagine for a second that you are thinking of getting into it and you have no prior knowledge of those words and terms and phrases we chuck around like confetti. 

So I created a very simple page for the Fishing Tackle section which I called “I’ve got X to spend on a rod and reel”, and it is quite simply what lure rods and reels I would personally recommend at different price points that you can buy actually buy here in the UK and not have to go importing from wherever. There are no rights and wrongs and I can’t and indeed won’t recommend gear that I haven’t actually fished with myself, but I would hope that this simple web page helps answer some of those messages and emails I get.

I would also always urge an angler who is looking for fishing tackle to buy to try and drop into either a more specialist lure fishing tackle shop or at least pick up the phone and ring these places. We are lucky enough to have physical shops like The Art of Fishing, Chesil Bait’n’Tackle and Lure Heaven here in the UK, plus a few very good lure fishing tackle websites as well, so there is actually access to a lot of buying information from some really knowledgeable and helpful people out there if you go looking. 
 

Nitecore NU25 rechargeable headlamp review - £36.95 UK price - can a headlamp for night lure fishing get any better?

I blogged about some initial thoughts and opinions on this new and incredibly small and lightweight Nitecore NU25 rechargeable headlamp back in March of this year, and I have now used it enough for my night time based bass lure fishing to form an opinion on it and report back to you guys via this review. I asked the question in the title to this blog post “can a headlamp for night lure fishing get any better?”, and to give you the short answer if you don’t want to read my review - no, or at least I haven’t yet come across a more perfect headlamp for the way I go night fishing these days……………

Bearing in mind how differently I use a headlamp nowadays for my night lure fishing compared to how much more I would use one for my bait fishing - and both during the actual fishing session and because I used to do so much night fishing - what I want from my headlamp is a bit different now. Plus of course these days lights can run on much smaller batteries and use LED bulbs which don’t bloody blow if you go and look at them wrong like those infernal halogen bulbs used to!

Ideally I want a small and light headlamp that can sit in my fishing rucksack for when I need it. I don’t want to be taking it in and out of my rucksack and then find that I haven’t got it if I decide to stay on somewhere into darkness, and then I also don’t want the thing to weigh very much or take up much space in my waterproof HPA rucksack that already has a load of camera gear in it before I go putting say a waterproof jacket in there plus other bits and pieces I might need.

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Damn this little Nitecore NU25 headlamp is small and light, but holy cow does it pack some power and features into that little body. The strap has never once slipped down on my head and I am now fully used to the different switches and settings on the headlamp. I am trying to think of something that I don’t like about this little Nitecore NU25, but I can’t, indeed try as I might I also can’t think of a single way I would go about improving it if the chance came along. 

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It’s nice and simple to use, the rechargeable battery lasts just fine but of course on a bright light setting it’s not going to last for days on end with its very small size - this might have been a problem during my bait fishing days when I would keep a headlamp on sometimes for hours on end, but with how sparingly we try and use our headlamps for night lure fishing I will take the small size and not such a long battery life over a bigger headlamp with a bigger battery any day of the week. Above are the quoted brightness levels and battery life for each light setting, and from a decent amount of use I see no reason to disagree with the figures. You can press and hold the red light button and this gives you a visual indicator of the power left in the battery. 

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Having used an older LED Lenser headlamp for a while and numerous times found that the bloody thing had turned on and run itself down in my rucksack, the fact that you can press and hold those two switches above and lock this Nitecore NU25 into an off mode that then requires another press and hold to come out of is a major plus point for me, and especially because as I said earlier, my headlamp lives in my rucksack.

Charging is dead simple - plug the Micro USB cable into the port on the underside of the headlamp and a red charging light comes on. A full charge only takes a couple of hours and that red light turns to green to tell you when it’s completed, and what I really like is that I have another Micro USB cable in my epic Berlingo so if needs be I can charge the headlamp when I am driving (plugs in via a USB plug thing that goes in my cigarette lighter socket). 

There are a few different white and red light settings, indeed if I can’t turn a red light on and off via a separate switch on my headlamp these days then to be honest I’m not really interested. Cycling through endless white light settings to get to the red light on only the one switch drives me mad, so I love the fact that this little Nitecore NU25 has separate white and red light switches. I can’t prove whether the use of a red lamp spooks bass any less than a white light, but I do know that with how little I try to use a headlamp when I am night fishing these days and how important our night vision is that of course gets better over time, I will try to do as much as I can on a red light when fishing which doesn’t bugger up one’s ninja vision.

So this is how I find myself using this amazing little Nitecore NU25 headlamp for my night based bass fishing. First off I will try not to use a headlamp as much as possible, and of course it does help if you know your own fishing and casting backwards and can do all this sort of stuff in the dark. If I ignore the Auxiliary White Light and also the Turbo Mode (which to be honest I haven’t used so far) then there are three main white light settings, and for walking over fields and down cliffs or whatever I use the Mid (38 lumens) white light which is more than bright enough, and you can easily angle the headlamp up and down to suit. To change lures when I am fishing I have found that the dimmest Red Light Low (0.9 Lumen) setting works pretty well, and then if I need to move around the rocks or land and unhook a fish then it’s the Red Light High (13 Lumens) that is so handy and is a big part of what got me interested in this Nitecore NU25 in the first place. That brighter red light lets me a do a lot and it doesn’t mess my ninja vision up like switching on one of the white lights would.

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There is also a flashing Red Light setting which I haven’t found any need for, but rather interestingly there’s a very bright white, flashing SOS/Location Beacon light that I imagine could be pretty handy if you got into some kind of trouble at night and needed to alert people to where you are. Not for one second am I going to suggest you reply on this setting to get you out of trouble if you ended up in the drink with a lifejacket on that doesn’t have one of those water activated flashing lights on it, but with specific testing I wonder if this little Nitecore NU25 could be a useful backup on that front?

Anyway, so there you go. I have gone and found my perfect headlamp for the night fishing I do these days, and the fact that this little Nitecore NU25 headlamp costs under £40 is a complete steal if you ask me. I think about those great big headlamps we used to use and then I look at this thing and how much I am getting for the price and I think it’s bloody impressive. I have had a look around Google but I can’t find any tackle shops stocking this awesome headlamp, hence the links in here are to where I got mine. The instruction manual can be found here, and don’t worry if it sounds a bit complicated because initially it did to me as well - but over time with this Nitecore NU25 and using it has become as natural as opening the bale arm on my spinning reel. You all have a good weekend and I can’t believe I am asking this with the amazing run of weather we have been having, but please could we have some S or SW winds soon! Anglers eh?
 

Have you seen these new Daiwa LT (Light & Tough) spinning reels?

I may well be a little late to the party here, but I dropped into the den of filth that is the Art of Fishing tackle shop yesterday and Ben showed me a bunch of the new Daiwa LT spinning reels. I have heard a bit about these new reels and how Daiwa seem to be seriously upping their already impressive game with this whole “Light & Tough” concept, but up until yesterday I had not seen any of these reels in the flesh. First impressions? Wow……..

Now this is obviously not any kind of review because all I have done is pick a few of these new spinning reels up and turn the handles a few times, but considering that I am merely an angler like most of you here, I can’t get away from the fact that as a consumer of fishing tackle it’s those first impressions that count for a lot. You know when you pick up a rod or a reel or something like that and however good or indeed bad the item may end up being, unless our eyes and brain engage with said product on some sort of positive emotional level then we ain’t going to buy it. The psychology of shopping? Well I never concentrated much when I was doing a business studies A Level, but there has to be something to it. How else am I to explain my fishing tackle collection?!

And a fishing tackle company like Daiwa must surely be rubbing their hands together with these new LT spinning reels - you can’t help but pick them up and notice how beautifully designed they are for starters, and then how almost ridiculously light they are in the hand. Turn those glorious handles and as with a Shimano spinning reel out of the box the experience is as smooth as falling into a pat of nearly melted butter. I understand that these new Light & Tough spinning reels from Daiwa are really going for it on the gearing front especially, and I do like a good drag knob that’s easy to grab hold of and tighten right down.

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I think it’s increasingly impressive these days what fishing tackle we can get our hands on for the money, and I can’t believe how it’s possible to make a spinning reel that looks and feels as good in the hand than this new sub-£100 Daiwa Exceler LT for example. As with any of this gear the proof will be in the pudding as such - how are they going to last in a real fishing environment? Whatever the case may end up being, I can’t ever recall picking up a spinning reel for under £100 that said buy me as much as this new Exceler LT. As smooth as you like, incredibly light, nice and shiny, the drag felt great, and if I got say a hard season of bass fishing with this reel and it stayed anywhere near that smooth out of the box then for under £100 I’d be over the moon.

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And then you nudge just over the £100 mark and you come to the new Daiwa Fuego LT, and I believe that this is the cheapest Daiwa spinning reel on which you are going to find any of their Magsealed technology. I have a fair bit of experience with the Magseal thing and whatever it does actually do compared to what it’s claimed it does, and my personal opinion is that - and it’s the same with Shimano’s X-Protect system for me - I am going to treat a Magsealed or indeed X-Protect spinning reel exactly the same as I would a spinning reel that doesn’t have these technologies in them. Saltwater harms most things over time and with what we do it’s going to find a way in eventually, so I will do my utmost to prevent that and/or wash reels down and take them apart to a certain extent and re-oil as required - and especially the whole roller bearing area. How many of you get your spinning reels professionally serviced at the end of your fishing season for example? I bet you get your car serviced, so why not a reel that has been subjected to intensive saltwater use?

Anyway, the new Daiwa Fuego LT felt and looked mightily impressive, and if the Magsealed thing is helping to slow down or indeed prevent some saltwater getting in then it has to be a good thing, and once again it feels like a serious amount of reel for a not very serious price. I would guess that Daiwa’s spinning reel designers have been drinking a lot of coffee over the last few years to come up with this new LT range.

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And then because I am a tackle tart and my heart rate speeds up in a direct correlation to the increasing price of fishing tackle (and Ben in the Art of Fishing shop bloody well knows this!), we come to the seriously stunning looking new Daiwa Ballistic LT spinning reels. If I needed a new spinning reel I’d have bashed Ben over the head yesterday and legged it back to my epic Berlingo with at least two of the new Ballistic LT reels. I don’t need a new reel, but damn do I want one of these things. You can find them for around the £200 mark, and whilst I have no idea how long these reels might last, wow do they look and feel massively high end.

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But now we come to the slightly complicated part - reel sizes. I think that Daiwa have managed to cram all their amazing know-how into ever smaller reel bodies, and this in turn has led to them changing the reel sizing codes for these new LT spinning reels, so not only do we have the difference in reel sizes between Daiwa and Shimano, but we now have different reel codes/sizes within the one tackle company! Confused? I can see why Daiwa have done this, but damn I bet you there have been a lot of LT reels bought online and then returned because the customer bought their new spinning reel based on the previous Daiwa sizes and then got a bit of a shock when their new LT reel turned up and wasn’t quite the size they hoped it might be. Confused? Whoever made these new LT reels look this good deserves huge credit, but whoever came up with the new reel sizing numbers deserves a damn good thrashing! If one day all Daiwa spinning reels are based on these new size codes then a certain amount can be forgiven, but whilst their range is in transition I guess we are stuck with this confusion.

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So this is my understanding, and it comes from Ben and I putting a bunch of reels side by side in his shop yesterday morning (I found the graphic above on the Daiwa Australia website) - the new 5000 LT size of Daiwa spinning reel seems to be about the same as their previous 3000 size, the 3000 LT size is like the previous 2500 Daiwa size, and interestingly this new 4000 LT size seems to sit right in the middle of their previous 3000 and 2500 sizes. Still with me?! These new LT reels do give us bigger spools with larger line capacities which I guess are going to be really useful for anglers overseas who chase hard-running fish on light gear, but as much as I love our own species of fish over here that we might chase with lure gear, reel-emptiers they are not! Buy some cheap say 15lb mono for your reel backing.

How about compared to Shimano reel sizes? To me the new Daiwa 5000 LT spinning reel size is comparable to a Shimano 4000 spinning reel, and then the 4000 LT from Daiwa is about the same size as a Shimano 3000 spinning reel - and so on I guess, but pretty quickly you lose the will to live with this stuff! I guess these new and very light spinning reels from Daiwa do open up the chance to put bigger reels on our lure rods if you wanted to, and so on again. I guess the days of spare spools coming with spinning reels are for the most part over which will always niggle me, but then I can’t remember the last spinning reel I either bought or tried out for review that came with a spare spool in the box. As I said at the top, I have no idea how these new Daiwa LT spinning reels might hold up to what we would want to do with them, but if they are the real deal - and I see no reason why they would not be - then holy cow do us fishing tackle “consumers” have even more options out there to go with our lightweight lure fishing rods……...

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Disclosure - If you buy anything using links found around my website, I may make a commission. It doesn’t cost you anymore to buy via these affiliate links - and please feel entirely free not to do so of course - but it will help me to continue producing content. Thank you.

 

One session you can do almost no wrong, then next time out and you can’t even buy a touch - does anything level one like fishing can?

Earlier in the week I had a good night session on the bass when for whatever reason the fish seemed to want to hit my lure and as per my blog post from Monday I came away pretty happy for a number of reasons. You’re scanning through the tide table to make some loose plans based on weather conditions and the fact that it’s getting properly dark so late now. You make the call and then it goes and works and you’re feeling good, but I’ve been fishing and also working within this fine world for far too long now though to ever feel remotely smug, and mainly because I know full well that fishing likes to give us a kicking from time to time to remind us who the boss really is……….

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So we head out last night to work around the 3am high tide. It’s about as flat calm and crystal clear as it will ever get around here, but the waxing moon is for the most part hidden behind some leaden skies. The tides are just starting to build again and we’ve come up with a pretty damn good plan. Things are feeling good.

And we fell flat on our faces! It’s being able to often catch bass at night when it’s calm that has changed bass fishing for so many of us I’m sure - but can it get too calm and lifeless and clear even for night fishing to work well? Whatever the case, I never even had a hint of a touch last night. I go from earlier in the week when things went so right to our short session last night and coming away with the feeling that for all that I hope I know and how frustrating it is when you don’t even get a sniff, fishing has decided that it was time to teach me a lesson and level me out with how little I do in fact know about what these creatures we chase are actually doing and how they are behaving. It’s for these reasons that I have always tended to steer clear of those anglers who present themselves as essentially knowing it all!

Try as I might, not getting a touch in the early hours of this morning surely proves that yet again we are often clutching at straws when it comes to the natural world. I’ve got nice rods and reels and lures and other bits and pieces, but we all know that fishing is essentially about where and when - and last night I got it wrong. Or were the fish there and I wasn’t using the right lure fished in the right way? And so on - questions, questions! I crawled into bed at whatever time it was yet my brain is bouncing away with what or where I could have done or gone differently. It’s fishing and it’s going to level me from time to time and how could I ever have a problem with that? You all have a good weekend and may you have more productive sessions than I had last night!
 

Favorite Cobalt CBL-902M 9’ 9g-28g lure rod review - £69.99 UK price

I haven’t reviewed a sub-£100 lure fishing rod for a long time now, and as much as I make no apologies for being a complete lure fishing tackle tart, I have been genuinely excited to fish with this not very expensive Favorite Cobalt CBL-902M 9’ 9g-28g lure rod. Why you might ask when I’ve got rods here that are worth considerably more? Quite simply because I wanted to see how much £69.99 could buy me these days on the lure rod front, and of course a lot of anglers who are into lure fishing or might be thinking about taking it up can’t or won’t spend a whole heap of cash on a rod.

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Which might suggest that this Favorite Cobalt 9’ 9g-28g lure rod is a massive compromise - but it isn’t, indeed if you think about that £69.99 UK price then I reckon it’s a cracking rod which covers the broad spectrum of bass lure fishing here or over in Ireland. I like the 9’ length, I like the 9-28g rating, and it’s one of those rods that grows and grows on me. When I come from something considerably more expensive like that incredible HTO Shore Game 9’3’’ 7-30g lure rod I reviewed recently I can fully understand why the more expensive rods are worth the money - but over more time with the Cobalt 9’ rod it becomes more and more comfortable to fish with and I am more and more impressed. 

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Look, for me this Favorit Cobalt 9’ isn’t in the same league as the outrageous HTO Nebula 9’ 7-35g rod, but then that rod is not far off double the price - and as much as I love the 9’ Nebula, it’s a lightning fast rod that I think requires a good casting technique and a bit of thought to get the best out of it. This Favorite Cobalt 9’ 9g-28g is a much easier rod to cast your lures with - if the Nebula is a quoted “Ex Fast” action, then I reckon this Cobalt is say “Medium Fast”, and it’s a very, very easy rod to get at as such. I can see it working very well for plenty of anglers and there’s more than enough there to grow with the rod.

OK, so it’s not the last word in refinement, and you can feel the rod keep on bending into a heavier lure like the regular Xorus Patchinko, but to me that’s no bad thing at all because there’s plenty of grunt and ability there to get lures like this out to sea. This categorically isn’t just some old spinning blank that bends to the butt and has been pressed into service - it’s a genuinely nice rod to fish with soft lures like the 6’’ OSP DoLive Stick for example, and you can whack and crank all manner of hard lures until the cows come home. Your arms won’t fall off from the effort, the rod is plenty light enough, and I fancy this thing to keep on going and going………..

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The tip on this Cobalt is bloody lovely to be honest with you - nice with the soft plastics as I said and works well with surface lures, and the rest of the blank feels like it’s working well together. It’s not quite as “precise” as the 9’ Nebula, but regardless of the price difference this Cobalt is a different kind of lure fishing rod anyway. It’s a bit of a bloody steal at the price in my opinion, and whilst my experience of sub-£100 lure fishing rods is not extensive, I just can’t see how an angler who for whatever reason isn’t going to spend a penny more than the £69.99 asking price could find anything to complain about.

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I wonder though - the handle on the Cobalt works just fine albeit I would personally like it a little shorter, and the guides are obviously not the lightest or smallest profile you are going to find. Everything seems well put together though and it’s a lot of rod for the money as I said, but I do wonder if you took this Cobalt blank and used better/lighter fixtures and fittings how the rod would end up. Ring it with lighter Fuji guides, put a narrower profile and slightly shorter handle on there, up the price to say £89.00 to allow for these better fixtures and fittings and I reckon this Cobalt would be a bit better again than it already is. Conjecture for sure because we’ve got a lot of good lure fishing rod here already, but it just feels to me that there’s a little more to this rather lovely blank than first meets the eye. I have fished with a few Favorite lure rods now and they have all been impressive, so it makes my day that £69.99 can buy an out and out “proper” lure fishing rod here in the UK.

Disclosure - If you buy anything using links found around my website, I may make a commission. It doesn’t cost you anymore to buy via these affiliate links - and please feel entirely free not to do so of course - but it will help me to continue producing content. Thank you.
 

Tears of joy spilled forth from my eyes like rain while I was fishing last night

OK, so that’s not entirely true, but I was rather happy! Three or four casts into the session which began at around 10.30pm and a nice bass jumped on the end of my white senko. So now’s the time I say to myself - on goes a freshly rigged, brand new 6’’ long white OSP DoLive Stick. Following on from a fair amount of tail-nipping last week at night I’ve got the thing rigged with a singlestinger hook that sits just before the tail of the lure starts………….

I had a few small bass at night last week, but I didn’t get in amongst them to a point where I felt confident in changing the lure that was working and sticking with the alternative come what may. I had a few tentative bumps on one of these newly arrived white DoLive Sticks, but nothing stuck and I didn’t really persist with them - whilst swearing to myself that the moment I felt confident there were more fish around I’d change back and make bloody sure I went and caught a bass on one at night to give myself what is surely one of the most important aspect to this night lure fishing thing. Without confidence it’s going to be a tough one, and I speak from experience here.

Anyway, last night we had a decent tide and good night fishing conditions although it wasn’t completely dark even at after 10pm when we got there yet there was a bit of a fog rolling in, and that bass jumped on the end of my stinger rigged white senko rather quickly. The fish didn’t actually hook up on the stinger, indeed all the bass from last night save for the last one I caught which was on one of Jim’s Lures rather nice needlefish managed to hook themselves on the “proper” weedless hook. How different to last week when any (small) bass I managed to winkle out at some very antisocial hours were hooked fair and square on the single stinger hook at the rear of the white senko. How come this week they seem to be hitting the lures differently? Does fishing ever stop (gloriously) asking us questions?

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Out comes my lure box and on goes a rather lovely looking white DoLive Stick - this is it I tell myself, it’s not coming off until I catch a fish on it, and that’s a promise. Unless I’m still standing there an hour later and catching sod all that is, but worry not fine reader because a few casts and retrieves later and bang, a bass goes and nails the lure. I land the fish and then I cough a bit to make sure that Mark can’t hear the sobs choke forth from me as moisture appears in the corner of my eyes. Crying? No way, a bit of dust in the eye. 

Now of course I fully expected these brand new white DoLive Sticks to work at night, and I was buoyed by the news I saw on Facebook the other day from a good angler I know on the south coast of Ireland who landed some cracking bass on his new lures - but you and I both know that it doesn’t completely matter at the end of the day. You are never going to feel entirely confident about a lure until you catch on it yourself. Doesn’t matter if your mate is hauling out double figure bass on the lure right next to you - you have to do it for yourself. Confidence. You need to take that punt and clip the lure on and persist until you catch on it. Well that’s my theory anyway, and I’m sticking with it.

 Epic night fishing photography!

Epic night fishing photography!

I grant you that it certainly makes life a little easier when only a few casts later it is proved to you that your new lure does indeed work, but I am sure you get my drift. A bunch more bass later on the same white DoLive Stick (but still none hooked up on the stinger) and I have managed to manfully choke back my sobs and mop my tears of joy at proving to myself that firstly the white DoLive Stick works at night, and secondly because I now know it works and works well, persisting with it is not shooting myself in the foot. I had a bit of a play last night with working it nice and slowly along or just off the bottom and I think that’s worth exploring further. Little things please little minds? Whatever the case I couldn’t get to sleep for ages after fishing last night as I turned the session over in my head and tried not to cry more tears of joy lest my wife wake up and think I’m even more unhinged than I reckon she already suspects……. 

Disclosure - If you buy anything using links found around my website, I may make a commission. It doesn’t cost you anymore to buy via these affiliate links - and please feel entirely free not to do so of course - but it will help me to continue producing content. Thank you.
 

Hodgman Aesis Shell (waterproof) Jacket review - £200+ here in the UK

I have worked out the principal criteria by which I judge an item or items of fishing clothing, and it’s pretty simple really - if said item doesn’t annoy me in any way then chances are I really like it. For sure I need whatever bit of clothing it is to work for me and my fishing in the way that it is intended, but beyond that I need to see if there’s something about it that annoys me via some proper fishing time with it - and it’s interesting how some things can look so good on paper and indeed via initial impressions, but when you spend time fishing with or in them you can often find a few things that really annoy you about the item of clothing…………..

I can think of any number of times this has happened to me, indeed later last year I got hold of a waterproof top to try out - and it looked pretty damn good for the price especially. Within about two minutes of wading out into an Irish surf I discovered one major flaw with this top though, and then later on that day when it started peeing with rain (only occasionally in Kerry I might add!?) I discovered another really annoying flaw. It had become very obvious very quickly that this waterproof top had been designed around a table and had not been tested out in the real world. The top annoyed me and I didn’t like it.

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So we’ve got this Hodgman Aesis Shell Jacket to talk about here (I’ve got the Charcoal/Black one as per the pix here, there is also a Bronze/Black colour available). Hodgman is a US brand of fly fishing clothing, waders and wading boots especially, and more recently their gear has been introduced to the UK market by Pure Fishing (Google this jacket for example, there are plenty of UK stockists). It is not remotely budget gear and I have been trying out some of their waders and wading boots for a while now (more to come), plus I have had their Aesis Shell Jacket for my fishing for a few months now. I have used it in all manner of conditions for my own lure fishing and I have tried and tried to find something about this item of clothing that annoys me - but I can’t. Damn this is one hell of a waterproof jacket, and whilst it is of course designed for the fly fishing world, to me it’s about as good a wading style jacket as I have ever (lure) fished in. 

Here’s what Hodgman says about this jacket: “Forget the weather, focus on the fishing with the Hodgman® Aesis Shell Jacket thanks to its 3-layer waterproof and windproof V-TecH™ breathable fabric. We designed the Aesis Shell Jacket with a double water-shedding rain fly on the front zipper and fully taped seams, so even in the worst torrential downpour Mother Nature can throw your way you’ll be sure to stay dry. The integrated wire brim hood incorporates a 3-way adjustment to seal out rain from entering where the jacket meets your face while maintaining your peripheral vision. Water tight cinch cuffs also eliminate water from running down your sleeve when casting or while releasing a fish. We know you want to focus on catching your next fish so our ROM™ (Range of Motion) fit incorporates a gusset under the arm and articulated sleeves to eliminate binding along your shoulders when casting. Large low profile chest pockets are perfect for storing fly boxes or gear, and numerous interior and exterior pockets are designed to customize the way you use the jacket. A removable magnetic patch on the chest is perfect for quick fly or hook storage when changing out presentations for your next cast. Both front and rear D-rings allow for accessory attachment.”

For a long time now my go-to waterproof jacket for fishing has been the outstanding Vision Kust (review here), a minimalist style of wading jacket that I liked from the off and then nothing about it that has annoyed me in any way over a long period of time. This equally lightweight and incredibly easy to wear Hodgman Aesis jacket that is very much from the fly fishing world has pockets on the front, because if there is one thing that most fly anglers seem to do it’s stuff every available pocket full of fly boxes and leader material - I don’t though, so whilst some front pockets may well be really useful to lots of you here, I must admit that I haven’t yet put anything in them. They don’t remotely bother or annoy me though and I am sure that one day I will end up actually putting something in them. The pockets are there if you need them I guess.

I was advised to go one size up with this Hodgman Aesis Shell Jacket, so whilst I tend to take an XL in most things, I have this Hodgman jacket in an XXL. It’s the perfect fit for me, especially when I take into account the different layers I may or may not wear underneath depending on the weather, and very, very importantly for me and my fishing which of course calls for repeated casting - the arms on this Hodgman jacket are the perfect length. If there is one thing that will annoy me about a waterproof top it’s if the arms keep “pulling” or “catching” on me when I cast, indeed the perfect arm length was one thing that made me very happy very quickly about that outstanding Vision Kust jacket. 

Same here with the Hodgman one - the arms are the perfect length and don’t catch at all when I am casting, and the way of securing the sleeves is about as good as I have come across. They will keep out a lot of rain before a bit of water eventually creeps in, you can do them up nice and tight if needs be (wear sweatbands on your wrists to stop any water getting down your sleeves, secure the jacket sleeves over them, top tip!), and I am not remotely criticising a bit of water eventually getting inside with how lure fishing keeps putting your sleeves up to the rain, because I have never come across a waterproof jacket yet that keeps all rain out when it’s really peeing down for a long period of time. Hodgman do their sleeves about as good as it gets for me.

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Another thing I look for in a waterproof top that can often end up bugging the hell out of me is the hood. I don’t particularly like wearing hoods but of course when it’s peeing down it kinda makes sense to do so! I would suggest that somebody at Hodgman HQ has actually gone from design to creation to properly testing the hood on this Aesis Shell Jacket, because this one works. It should go without saying that a waterproof jacket at this price is actually properly waterproof and easy to move around in - which it is - but it’s the way a hood sits and fits that seems to be so easy to get wrong. Not here though. I put this hood up when I need it, it doesn’t bloody blow off my head when there’s a bit of breeze about, it doesn’t annoy me when I am fishing, and with a baseball cap on and the hood done up it’s as good a hood design as I can remember using for stopping rain and spray getting in and down your front.

Basically this Hodgman Aesis Shell Jacket is a seriously class bit of kit. Designed primarily for fly fishing it may well be, but then so is a lot of the gear that we use and wear - waders and wading boots ring any bells? One thing that could have let this Hodgman jacket down would be a dodgy front zip, but nope, this one’s got a proper zip that can’t rust up and fail on you with saltwater use. Nothing about this Hodgman Aesis Shell Jacket annoys me at all and I have had enough time for any niggles to have come to light. Outfriggingstanding. You all have a good weekend.
 

So far these braid leaders are working really well

The other day I blogged about braid leaders, and because the idea of a thicker length of braid as an attempt at some extra protection against sharp rocks etc. made a lot of sense to me I went and put braid leaders on a couple of rod and reel setups that were sitting in my rod rack. I liked the idea but I will never know if this system might work for me unless I use it as part of my own fishing gear……………

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And so far a braid leader has worked flawlessly for me. I can’t give you an indication yet as to whether that extra bit of potential protection is helping me from an abrasion point of view, but obviously I hope that it might one day if I persist with this leader setup. My mainline setup with a braid leader in there seems to be as strong as you like - I have caught fish in some heavy conditions and very rough ground, I have snagged a few lures and had to pull for breaks, I have cast repeatedly with all manner of lures, and I haven’t had a single issue.

As much as none of us like losing lures, I kinda needed to snag a lure up good and solid to see if that braid mainline to braid leader FG was going to hold up and not snap before either the FG knot from braid leader to fluoro leader, or preferably the knot in the fluoro leader to my lure clip. The FG knot is that bloody strong that if I need to pull for a break, for me it’s got to be nine times out of ten that my fluoro leader breaks somewhere (and usually on the knot to the lure clip) and the rather amazing FG knot which secures my braid mainline to my fluoro leader just keeps on going.

But obviously if you are going to put a thicker braid leader into the melting pot, that’s another knot, although it seems that a braid to braid FG is incredibly strong and that if you are using a bit of a longer leader then it might well be on your reel for a decent length of time before needing to be replaced, and as per usual you can simply replace your fluoro or mono leader as required.

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Last Saturday and Sunday I was using what I could call my north coast setup - that ridiculously good 9’6’’ Shimano rod I reviewed on Monday, a 4000 size Shimano spinning reel loaded up with my favourite, has never let me down 21lb/0.15mm Sufix Performance Pro 8 braid, and on the end of that I put say a five metre long Berkley Whiplash 8 38.5lb/17.5kg braid leader. This new Berkley Whiplash 8 braid comes in 300m spools and it feels as tough as hell, although I can’t take the quoted diameters of this line remotely seriously - a 38.5lb 8-strand braid at a claimed diameter of 0.12mm? Mmm, perhaps not! That aside, this rather nice braid feels all of 38.5lb strong and I thought it might do well as a braid leader. On the end of that braid leader I stepped up from 20lb/0.37mm to 30lb/0.44mm Sufix Invisiline fluorocarbon for Sunday because we were getting a lot of leader damage from the rough ground.

On both days I happened to snag a Savage Gear Sandeel up and had to pull for a break, and on both occasions the knot that secured my Sufix Invisiline fluorocarbon leader to my Breakaway Mini Link lure clip broke - as indeed I hoped it would, or rather I was hoping that the FG knot securing my braid mainline to my braid leader would hold, and it did. Even when I stepped up to a 30lb Sufix Invisiline fluoro leader and was still using the same braid mainline and leader, the connections were that strong that it was still my knot in the fluoro to the lure clip that broke when I snagged a lure up. So if there is one thing I am not going to worry about whilst I am trying out a braid leader, it’s the overall strength. I have a braid leader setup on a lighter rod and reel setup as well and that fishes just as well.

Not once has that FG knot from braid to braid caught in my rod rings, and I haven’t thought for one second that a braid leader is remotely affecting how far my lures are going if they need to - I can’t prove it, but it sure looks like my lures are flying incredibly “true” with that heavier braid leader trailing behind them, plus a part of me thinks they are going a little further as well. Please bear in mind here that I have been fishing mainly with that amazing Shimano Exsence Infinity 9’6’’ lure rod, and if there is one thing which is so obvious with this rod it’s that you seriously only need to be casting at say 75% power to get the best out of it, so this “smoothness” may have a lot to do with why my lures seem to be going out so well. I do though have a feeling that a braid leader is proving beneficial on the casting front.

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But to be fair and impartial here, I was fishing with a couple of lads on Saturday, and we got to talking about braid leaders. Both Charlie and Jody then put braid leaders on their setups for our early morning Sunday session, and both guys reckoned their casting distance had been cut. These guys are seriously good anglers so I am not about to dismiss what they were saying, but on the other hand I do also wonder if the fact that we were battling tricky conditions around HW especially quite naturally leads one to question something new in the setup. I set a rod and a reel up for a friend the other day, and I put a braid leader on that as well. He fished for the session and had no idea there was a braid leader in there until I told him on the way home.

Somebody kindly left a comment on the original braid leader post from the other day that gave a link to the video above. I have actually fished and photographed with the angler in the video down in South Africa, and holy cow do these lads know their shore based fishing. I can’t pretend that I had ever thought of your potentially very thin braid mainline potentially suffering from repeated casting - watch the video for an explanation - but it does make sense and I wonder if a few unexplained line breaks might be down to this? Whatever the case, I like their thinking behind a braid leader.

Anyway, there you go for the moment. I didn’t mean this to be a very long blog post, but there’s more to it than I thought. I am going to keep going with this braid leader thing and see where it might get me. It does seem to be an entirely logical way of fishing some very rough ground and hectic conditions with a nice thin mainline but then getting that extra bit of protection in there, but time will tell and all that.

Disclosure - if you buy anything using links found in this blog post or around my website, I may make a commission. It doesn’t cost you any more to buy via these affiliate links - and please feel entirely free not to do so of course - but it will help me to continue producing content. Thank you.
 

Shimano Exsence Infinity S906M/RF 9’6’’ 6-38g lure rod review - imported from Japan, not cheap

Before I get going with this review, let’s get a few things out of the way - I am not here to tell you that importing a (not remotely cheap) lure fishing rod like this from Japan is going to procure you any more fish on the bank as such, nor that with the gear I have here at home do I really need a rod like this. Want and need are interesting things in fishing are they not though?! I’m not here to justify what I spend my money on, but I have owned this particular rod for a while now and I thought it might be of interest if I told you what I think of it………

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A while back I reviewed the lighter version of this Shimano Exsence Infinity S906M/RF 9’6’’ 6-38g lure rod, the shorter and slightly less powerful Shimano Exsence Infinity S900ML/RF 9’ 5-32g - a rod that completely blew me away and continues to freak me out how good it is whenever it comes out fishing with me. I held out against getting this longer 9’6’’ 6-38g version as long as my pathetic, lure tackle addicted self could manage, doing all I could to tell myself that I didn’t need a more powerful lure rod because I’ve got stuff here already that does the job very well indeed - such as the hugely impressive HTO Shore Game S962MLM 9'6'' 7-35g (review here) - but in the end I failed. Damn I’m glad I did though. Holy cow.

If there is one thing these two high end marvels of Japanese fishing rod technology have proved to me, it’s that a few wiggles or indeed waggles tell you very little about them. As per my review of the 9’ Exsence Infinity, my first few waggles with this longer 9’6’’ version when it arrived at my front door didn’t exactly floor me, but you so need to get rods like these out fishing instead of standing there and waggling away like we really know what we’re talking about!

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Sure this rod is light, but then I knew it would be - look here where Shimano Japan quote 132g for this rod, and I see no reason to dispute that. I love the whole handle design, but then I knew I would because it’s the same handle as on the 9’ (I hadn’t realised that the butt grip is actually part of the rod therefore it’s hollow), and the rod felt impressive but not outright special when I first waggled it a few times. As a contrast to this, I knew from the very first waggle (or wiggle) with that far too good for the money HTO Nebula M 2.7m (9’) 7-35g lure rod that I was going to love it (review here). My feeling is that these somewhat more expensive and indeed refined fishing rods have that bit more to them which tends to really open up to you as you spend more time fishing with them……..

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Which is exactly what has happened with this utterly ridiculous Shimano Exsence Infinity S906M/RF 9’6’’ 6-38g lure rod. I’ve got my perfect 9’ lure rod now for doing a certain amount of my bass fishing, but I do like that slightly longer, more powerful rod for bouncier seas and/or windier conditions, and especially for the sort of lure fishing I might do on the north coast of Cornwall and other similar types of grounds and conditions. And what I really want - indeed this is the reason I took the punt on getting this new rod - is for this more powerful rod to be 100% as accomplished at dealing with the lighter, more finesse stuff, plus I’d also love it if the longer rod felt like fishing with a shorter rod. This one does all that and more - but I couldn’t imagine that I’d end up truly loving a 9’6’’ lure rod easily as much as a 9’ one.

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If anything though this 9’6’’ 6-38g version is an even more impressive lure fishing rod, and I will try to explain why. As freaky good as the 9’ 5-32g version is, I kind of expected (hoped?) a high end lure rod of that length and casting weight was going to be effortless to fish with - which it seriously is - but now step up a gear in length and also power and I was hoping the rod was going to be pretty damn nice but it would surely require more of me to get the best out of it, plus wouldn’t I surely be losing something by stepping up? If anything though it’s the exact opposite, indeed the harder you lash into this 9’6’’, the less I feel that I am getting out of it. The rod is so ridiculously accomplished and effortless that I need to keep telling myself to cast nice and smoothly at say 75% power and any number of different lures go out there as smoothly as one slips into a shiny pair of technical tights. OK, let’s no go there………….

I haven’t got a clue how Shimano Japan’s rod people have achieved this, because as good as some of the 9’6’’ rods I have been lucky enough to fish with in the past have been, none of them have been quite as versatile and smooth and easy and controlled as this Shimano Exsence Infinity 9’6’’ 6-38g. A 34g casting jig goes out as easily as a 6’’ DoLive Stick, both with no wobble at all because there is just no point at all in lashing into your lures with this rod. Watching that lethal DUO Slim 140 Flyer fly out into the north Cornwall sunshine the other day was something else (I think I might have got a little emotional), and when I slow down (75%) with the Patchinko II and use a slightly longer drop, well I can’t prove it because I have never measured a lure cast, but my gut is that I have never put this missile out as far. Seriously, it makes me giggle it goes out so well. I have never felt a rod feel so utterly “whole” or together when you cast and fish with it - except for the shorter 9’ version that is.

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So the rod does the bigger stuff really well, as indeed it bloody well should for the price and the specs, but how about what the 6-38g rating implies? I genuinely feel that the lighter 9’ version is working as well with a little 4.5’’ DoLive Stick as it is with say this new Xorus Patchinko 125 and upwards through to 32g, but surely this beefier 9’6’’ 6-38g rod can’t be quite as accomplished? Well it is, indeed it’s quite something how I can stand on a rock and punch out say the new Size 80/35g Fiiish Power Tail Saltwater into a bit of clean and green north Cornish surf and then move a few yards and gently work a calmer section of reef with the DoLive Stick or a smaller hard lure like the killer IMA iBorn 98F. I can’t tell you if this 9’6’’ 6-38g rod does the 6g lures really well because I don’t carry lures that light, and especially not when I am taking this 9’6’’ because of conditions or location, but it’s almost scarily impressive how good the rod feels with a wide variety of lures and weights. As I said, I am not here to tell you that you need to go and spend this kind of dosh on a lure rod, but on the other hand I reckon this incredible 9’6’’ Exsence Infinity would be the perfect do it all lure rod for a lot of anglers who would find that slightly heavier casting weight useful.  

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To me it’s all about the tension, indeed with both these Shimano Exsence Infinity rods I now own it’s the one word that springs to mind the most. They’ve both got these utterly divine tips on them and it’s when you fish and cast and retrieve and work lures that the tips on these rods and how they so seamlessly feel part of the whole rod make perfect sense - the “overall tension” if you like. There is some serious power here if you need it, but it’s so easy to get at. There are lure anglers out there who know far, far more about the north coast of Cornwall than me for example, but with what I do know about where I might fish up there, this 9’6’’ is my perfect rod for it. It’s got the power I need for the lures I might use in some often heavier conditions, but it’s like two or three more rods rolled into one. It’s that overall feeling of perfect tension through the whole rod that I think is key, and as good as I have found a number of lure rods to be, it’s these two Shimano Exsence Infinity rods that stand above them all now. It’s hard to explain but for me it all becomes very apparent when I go fishing with them.

And then we come to “walking” or bumping the Fiiish Black Minnow across a really rocky, snaggy bottom in a shallowish to medium depth, and categorically I have never fished a rod that gives me as feedback as this awesome Shimano Exsence Infinity S906M/RF 9’6’’ 6-38g. I accept that you’d expect to feel a lot from a solid jig head bumping and bouncing over hard rocky ground, but I am utterly convinced that this rod is taking that feedback to another level of translating what is going on down the 9’6’’ rod length and into me. I am a conduit! I have used the Black Minnow loads and loads over the years, but I have been guilty of neglecting this often lethal way of covering reefy ground, and the first time I did it with the 120mm Black Minnow and that rather lovely 18g Search Head in some bouncy conditions I got one hell of a shock with what I could feel. It’s unquantifiable and I can’t prove that I am getting all this extra feedback, but I’ve fished with enough lure rods at all kinds of prices to know when I am fishing with something a bit extra special.

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As I said earlier, I just didn’t expect this longer and more powerful 9’6’’ Exsence Infinity to impress me quite as much as the shorter and lighter 9’ one, indeed if I am perfectly honest I was worried that I’d gone and made a bit of a mistake once I had clicked buy and was waiting for delivery of the 9’6’’. How could it possibly be as impressive as the 9’? Well I take my hat off to the Shimano Japan people who are responsible for these new Exsence Infinity lure rods, because the two I have here are in my mind the best two lure fishing rods I have ever used. They are not available in the UK and I therefore very much stand by my statement the other day that the HTO Shore Game S932ML 9'3'' 7-30g lure rod (review here) is the best “available off the shelf in the UK” rod that I have fished with so far. It’s an incredible rod that will catch me just as many bass as these Shimano Exsence Infinity rods might, but there’s a great big world out there full of nice shiny lure fishing tackle that I am sure you have guessed absolutely fascinates me. I love messing around with stuff and I am not into trying to compare tackle when it’s such an individual and price driven thing of course, but I look forward to the day (my wallet doesn’t) when I get to fish with a couple of lure rods that do it for me as much as these two new Shimano Exsence Infinity beauties………. 

Disclosure - if you buy anything using links found in this blog post or around my website, I may make a commission. It doesn’t cost you any more to buy via these affiliate links - and please feel entirely free not to do so of course - but it will help me to continue producing content. Thank you.