Henry Gilbey
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Henry Gilbey blog

How is fishing tackle tested before launch and are our expectations of it too high?

As much as we would love to believe that the fishing tackle we buy and use is rigorously tested before we ever get our hands on it, sometimes I can’t help but wonder if this is actually the case, indeed via working within the industry I can safely say that on a few occasions I have been, how should I say, a little shocked? I remember seeing a brand new range of spinning rods at a show and then asking the company what they were like - only to receive the reply that they didn’t have a clue as nobody had tested or even fished with them………

Is this a normal occurrence? Of course not, but on the flipside I do get the impression that many anglers believe the development and testing of fishing tackle is a far more rigorous, logical and even scientific process than it sometimes is or indeed can be. Please, I am by no means having a pop at the tackle industry here - many tackle companies have thorough R&D programmes that successfully bring some serious gear to market, but without doubt some gear failure must to lead us to the conclusion that some R&D programmes sometimes ain’t exactly so thorough.

Two questions stand out in my mind here - as anglers, are our expectations of what fishing tackle is meant to be able to do verging on the unrealistic? And from the business point of view within a tackle company, how long and hard does a testing programme need to be before the product goes to market? I was trying a pair of waders out earlier this year for example, and from the off I thought they were hugely impressive - a good price, extremely comfortable, they felt good and tough, and they did not leak whatever I did with them. Over two months in with them and I’m starting to feel really, really good about the waders, until that is I suddenly started to feel that telltale damp feeling around the groin area when you’re deep wading. OK, I’m getting older, but I was very sure it wasn’t me!! No warning, just one day the waders started to leak, and on closer examination I found that the tape on the internal seams was starting to come away in some areas. I kept on with the waders for a few sessions more and then they started to leak somewhere around the foot area as well. Enough was enough, they had failed (but wow they’d be such good waders if those issues are sorted).

So let’s say I gave those waders a proper thrashing for at least two months, and I didn’t have one single issue with them. How long were those waders tested for before they came to market, indeed how long can a potential new product be tested for before it then makes no commercial sense because it needs to go on sale. Bear in mind here that whilst you and I might think that stuff is designed and then tested in that sort of order, in a bigger company there might well be launch dates/product range “refreshes” planned way before something has even been properly developed if that makes sense? Sure, it doesn’t actually make a whole lot of sense if one thinks about the logic (or lack of) involved with potentially bringing something to market without a rigorous testing period, but business is business and I don’t pretend to understand that sort of stuff.

Let’s imagine the waders I eventually found fault with were rigorously tested for a couple of months before they were brought to market, and no faults were found - then somebody like me gets hold of the waders, has a perfect couple of months with them, but into the third month things start to come apart. Now I have no idea how the waders were actually tested by the way - I am merely plucking figures out of clean air to illustrate various points, but I guess you get my point. How long does stuff need to be tested for before it’s launched? And bear in mind as well, what is “rigorous testing”? Can any tackle company out there afford to be paying full time members of staff to do nothing but “rigorously test” potential new products? Think about computer software and the endless updates we need to keep applying to patch up various bugs, security issues etc. - something like fishing tackle can’t have that luxury as such. Once it’s out there, it’s out there, and around saltwater especially it’s getting used and abused in one harsh environment.

Take my Shimano Sustain 4000FG spinning reel as another example (review here) - it’s a bit of kit that I really like fishing with, but over time and indeed after I wrote that review of it, I found out that to keep it running nice and smoothly you need oil it up fairly regularly. Now does the need to put oil in various parts of the reel make it any worse a product, or should we be looking at ourselves and how we use gear like this, and simply accept that we need to keep on top of this sort of maintenance? What about anglers who know squat about reel maintenance? Well to me the need to oil a spinning reel is part and parcel of owning it, although it’s interesting to note that the Daiwa Caldia 3000-A Mag Sealed reel I have been using for a fair while now (review here) feels pretty much as smooth now as it was when I first took it out of the box - something to do with the Mag Sealed thing perhaps? How long was a reel like the Shimano Sustain tested for, and in what sort of environments? Would Shimano have tested the reel for long enough to have found out about the need for regular oiling?

Of course you also have the problem with anglers using gear for something it wasn’t intended for. I think of my punt on the Simms Vapor wading boots and how they performed so badly for me, but was this partly my fault for using them how I did, indeed could a company such as Simms ever have envisaged somebody like me buying those Vapor boots and using them how I did? Should a company come out and say that so and so product should not be used in so and so environment, or does that make no business sense to admit to that sort of thing? If you read my blog then you will know about my views on (freshwater) breathable waders and so many of us putting them through unintended use in a harsh saltwater environment, but with the growing use of waders like this, should tackle companies be stating that their waders are not for use in and around saltwater? Which of course then puts the onus on us as anglers to decide whether to buy them or not, and then accepting that if they fail and it’s proved that we used them in saltwater, we have no leg to stand on with repair and potential replacement.

I am trying to see all sides of the argument here. I am an angler first and foremost and I want my gear to last me for a reasonable time (whatever that is), but having worked within the industry for a long time now I get to see the other side of the coin sometimes. As an angler I want to believe that the gear I buy has been rigorously developed and tested, but how can a tackle company ever be expected to launch the perfect product as such, as in once it’s out there, who really knows how it’s all being used and looked after or not? Wouldn’t it be fascinating to track a new product from a reputable fishing tackle company and understand more about development, testing and then launch? As a consumer I want my stuff to last forever, but how realistic are we? And of course, is there too much duff stuff out there?

Have a look at this trailer to a short bass fishing film that James from Absolute Fishing over in Ireland is putting together. Bumping soft plastics in a bit of surf always floats my boat and I am really looking forward to seeing the finished product. I believe this footage was shot just after the recent Irish Bass Festival - nice one James, and if it helps, I know how hard it can be not to fish at times!!