True story - I went to a fishing tackle trade shows a few years back, and while I was wandering round I bumped into somebody I knew who worked for a tackle company that I am not going to name. Arranged on a rather smart looking rack was a range of spinning rods that looked interesting, so I asked what they were like, what they were designed for etc., and I received this answer: “not a clue, they haven’t been tested”. So what you might ask? Well the point is that the range of rods was being shown at the trade show because they ready for sale - and they hadn’t even been tested/used out in the real fishing world………
Now of course this left a bad impression on me, but to be perfectly honest I wonder at times how much some gear does actually get tested out in that “real fishing world”, or on the flipside to this, if the gear does get “properly tested” (whatever that actually is), what then constitutes a proper testing period which then tells the company the item or items are indeed ready to be sold to the fishing public - the likes of you and I. Now I am sure that we would all love to imagine that the fishing tackle we buy has all been through a rigorous and carefully structured programme of specialist testing in the various environments into which the products are likely to be sold, but really? Some companies do this for sure, but can you imagine the costs involved? And you simply can’t account for some things happening way down the line.
I have always loved the way that the US fishing apparel company Simms makes such a big deal of its gear being so heavily used and abused by reams of professional guides around the world who use it for their work at the end of the day. Pro fishing guides tend to use fishing gear hard, and especially stuff like waders, wading boots, waterproof jackets etc., indeed if any company needed anything like that tested properly, and I mean properly, properly tested in a harsh saltwater environment, then I can’t think of anybody better placed than the bass guide John Quinlan of Thatch Cottage Ireland. Wow does he go through waders, wading boots and jackets through the course of his working year. If I was to set up a tackle company dealing with that sort of gear when I’d be asking John to test the gear out for me, and I would actually act on the feedback instead of some companies which don’t actually want to hear about anything that may actually be wrong with their gear.
Anyway, via three different pairs of Simms wading boots failing on me last year, I must assume that they don’t get any saltwater guides to test these items of gear out, or if they do, the testing period simply wasn’t long or harsh enough - but how long is long enough? Early on last year I was kindly sent a pair of breathable waders to try out (not Simms waders, a different company), and for about three+ months they were performing impeccably, and I mean completely problem free. I was absolutely loving them and in fact I was about to write a blog review which would have praised them to the hilt - and then out of the blue I was wading across a gully and I thought I must have involuntarily wet myself! Whilst I might now be north of 40, so far I haven’t yet wet myself by mistake - nope, right out of the blue the previously impeccable waders started leaking through the crotch area, and then water started coming in through the foot as well. I found that the tape had started to come away from the seams and it was end of waders.
So those waders were on the market. I wasn’t testing them out prior to them going on sale, rather it was a kind soul who let me use a pair to see how they might do. After a lot of use in saltwater they failed on me, but would the waders have possibly gone through a similar testing period before they actually came to market? I doubt it. In summer last year I received a new pair of waders from a different company that looked frigging awesome - yet they leaked through the neoprene sock on my first day of use! Same with the second pair, albeit they lasted three days I think. Potentially such a good pair of waders - great cut, a few nice features, but let down by a god-awful neoprene sock. I just don’t believe those particular waders could have ever been properly tested - sure, one leaky pair might well be unlucky, but two pairs which leaked in exactly the same place so quickly? A worrying lack of real world fishing testing if you ask me, or is it testers simply saying yes sir, no sir because there are no systems in place to accurately take on board feedback and of course constructive criticisms and work them through for a better product.
I now have a couple of these Penn Clash spinning reels here - the 3000 (check here and here), and now the smaller 2500 as well. As it stands right now, in my opinion these are some incredible spinning reels for a quite incredible price, and I will properly review them in due course - but then report back if any faults develop after those reviews. Because these reels are doing so well I am thinking (hoping?) that Penn put them through a rigorous testing process, but I was interested to see that the company got a bunch of fishing journalists together out in Costa Rica I think it was to put the reels through their paces in the hands of the “fishing press”. I bet it was a blast, but let’s say that trip was a week of fishing at best - do the resulting reviews from what I am guessing was a bit of a jolly then constitute “proper reviews”? What does a week with an item like a spinning reel tell you?
Well in some respects a fair amount, but on the other hand it’s often after a much longer period when things start to go wrong of course. I still reckon the 2015 Daiwa Caldia 3000-A Mag Sealed spinning reel is an incredible product for some very sensible money (review here), but sometime after that review the roller bearing failed on me (check here). I have to attach some blame to myself for not keeping a proper eye on its roller bearing - I am now very much doing so on all the spinning reels I have! - but because it happened to me, does that show up insufficient testing of the product, or was it simply natural wear and tear and quite possibly an error on my part? Same with the Shimano Sustain 4000FG (review here) - way down the line of me using the reel, I came to realise that the bearings are quite possibly not exactly the finest ever put in a spinning reel, but for a good long time the reel was as smooth as warm butter to fish with.
A company could test and test and test and never actually get a product to market. A reviewer could test and test and test (after the product has come to market of course) and never actually produce a review because he or she never actually completes their testing process! I am sure many of you fish with items of gear that work flawlessly, but then sometimes we are all left angry and annoyed when something fails for what seems to be a simple/stupid reason, and in reality that reason should most likely have been picked up during testing and then put right. Sometimes it bugs the hell out of me that some items of gear fail for whatever reason, but then I also understand how impossible it must be to sell something like braid for example. It might be the most tested braid ever in the history of braid. It might have performed flawlessly for months on end, dealing with the biggest fish in the harshest environments - but then it goes to market, and a few anglers end up buying the braid who, how shall we say, can’t tie a decent braid to leader knot for starters. Or they can’t cast very well. Or they are seriously overloading their reel. Or they are using an ancient spinning reel that was never designed for a modern braid. Or they get dragged over some sharp rocks by some monster fish and get broken off - but of course, none of this is remotely the customer’s fault. No way, not a chance. Gotta be because the braid’s rubbish! Who’d make fishing gear for saltwater use especially?