Broken fishing rods - mostly angler error? Surely not!!
I would imagine that most fishing tackle shops get it a fair bit, and they must dread it - an angler walks in with a broken fishing rod, saying that he (or she) was casting or playing a fish and "out of the blue" the rod just snapped. How can the tackle shop prove otherwise, and how many anglers would admit to having made a mistake and therefore the broken rod was actually their fault? I personally think that it's rare for a fishing rod to snap when it is being used correctly - sure, it can happen, and it has happened to me, but I still reckon it's very rare when a rod breaks for "no reason", and I wonder how much of the price we pay for rods is influenced by a company having to be ready for future rod returns? Is it a bit like the world of insurance, or is this me seeing a conspiracy theory that simply doesn't exist?
Like with anything we might buy that is made, there have to be manufacturing mistakes from time to time - many years ago I was used to fish with an awesome pair of Daiwa beachcasters, but out of the blue one snapped when we were filming on the Shannon estuary over in Ireland. I can remember the crew taking a break while we carried on fishing (because it was so good), and without warning one of the rods snapped when I was casting. All credit to Daiwa, they took a look at the rod and said straight away that there was a fault with it - they replaced it and I never had a single problem with the rods again. I've still got them in fact, and one day for sure I will have to dust them down and see if I can still remember how to cast 6oz of lead plus bait............
Most fly rods I have seen break were because the angler high-sticked the thing when fighting or going to land a fish (going beyond the vertical which places an abnormal angle and thus too much stress on the rod tip), although I have also seen a few simply snap when people are fighting big fish hard. It can happen, but I also wonder if the rods ever got "dinged" by a weighted fly on the cast? The fly hits the rod on a mistimed cast, you think it's all ok, but it has created a weak point that then can break as and when the rod is next under serious load. The photo above is a classic example of how not to land a fish, and what you are seeing is the fly rod literally a split second before it snapped. Awesome rod, but angler error plain and simple - the best rods in the world can break if you use them wrong.
As regards lure fishing rods, well from memory I am pretty sure that I haven't seen a single one snap yet. Obviously we hear of rods breaking from time to time, indeed it might have happened to you, but again I wonder how many really are a manufacturing fault instead of the angler simply not admitting to or perhaps even not realising that they have done something wrong? If it is proven that a rod was not made correctly, then ok, it can snap, but I can't help but be somewhat suspicious of anglers who claim that their lure rod broke when playing a fish for example - and especially with regards to the size of fish we tend to catch and also the fact that most UK saltwater anglers seem scared to actually bend their rod into a fish. It's so easy to get overexcited and high-stick a rod when a fish is coming to hand and not even realise you are doing it - the rod snaps, you don't realise what you did wrong, but you walk into your tackle shop (or complain on a forum, Facebook etc.) and say the rod is a duffer.
Look at what lure rods go through when you've got an angler who can cast properly - ok, so the angle of the photo I shot is slightly compressing what you see here, but that is a (Graphiteleader) lure rod being bent to the butt on the cast, and there is no way that any of us are then bending a rod that much when we fight fish!! Think about how many times you cast a rod compared to fighting a fish. As I said earlier, rods can break out of the blue, but some of these lure rods are pretty fragile things and it's up to us to look after them as best we can. As with a fly hitting a rod in the cast, have you ever dropped your lure rod for example, and it has then landed hard on the rocks? Does that bang then create a slight weak spot that over time might cause the rod to break?
How about overloading a rod? For the most part the rods suggest what weights we should cast, but I know of situations when anglers cast over that weight and then wonder why on earth their rod has broken. OK, so some rods can be easily pushed over that casting weight advice, but if we choose to do that and then break the rod, surely that is our fault? I wonder though how many people would admit to have done so if their rod breaks "for no reason"? That rather lovely Major Craft Wind rod that I reviewed earlier in the year (check here) - I repeatedly cast lures that weigh over what is suggested on the rod and it did just fine, but if I had broken that rod then it would have been my fault entirely, and I would never suggest to anybody who has this rod to do the same as I did.
You might be able to sometimes save a few quid by importing a rod from abroad, but to me the potential breakage issue is another good reason for buying my rods from recognised dealers here in the UK. Firstly, I am not brave enough to buy a rod blind, as in take a punt on something that I have never seen myself (ok, I am lucky in how I get to see so many rods, and that's the reason I review them - in the hope that it helps some of you out), and secondly I want some comeback if the rod breaks. If it's my fault, so be it, and I will admit to it, but if I get one of those (what I think are very rare) genuinely faulty rods, then I know that a decent retailer is going to sort it out.
Still the best rod breakage I have ever seen though was just before the photo above. A really good South African fly fisherman casting at what everybody thought was a big GT on one of the ultra-remote Seychelles atolls. I am standing close to him and watching events unfold. The GT turns and charges the fly, but it's not a GT, it's one of those massive, 50lb plus Indian Ocean barracuda that you see from time to time. The cuda swims straight past the fly and right for this guy here. The angler comes to a snap decision and very quickly rams the tip of the fly rod down in front of his legs to try and stop the cuda hitting him at full speed with its jaws open, and if you have ever seen what a barracuda can do to a fish with those teeth, well rest assured you don't want one of these things biting you. The rod tip goes down and instead of the cuda biting the angler, instead it bites the tip of the rod clean off - to this day that's the only G Loomis Cross Current 12 weight fly rod that I have ever seen break!! I remember we all stood there rather nervously laughing at what nearly happened, and especially as there were a bunch of hungry looking sharks on the prowl that I am sure would have loved a sniff of this guy's blood in that warm Indian Ocean water. I actually emailed G Loomis when I got home to tell them the story, and they said many thanks, nice one, but the best breakage they knew of was an angler having to beat a crocodile off with his Loomis rod!!