Over the past few years I have become steadily more convinced that longer spinning and fly rods are ideal for use on wide estuarine flats, especially spinning rods 9’ (2.74 metres) or longer and fly rods of around 9’6” (2.89 metres). There are many reasons for this change in thinking but simple physics and improved rod manufacturing technology are the primary drivers.
Let’s start by discussing spinning rods.
I first started experimenting with the longer bass spinning rods common in the UK about 7 or 8 years ago. My first long wand was 4 piece 10’ (3.04 metre) rod rated for lures between 15 – 60 grams. It was a fairly heavy model (320 grams) designed not just to be a lure casting tool but also for light surf casting with bait. Matched with the lures in the rated range it was a formidable weapon and huge casting distances were achievable. When it came to fighting fish the rod was equally impressive.
However, one of the principal techniques that I use on the flats is “wetlining” soft plastics (click on the link to learn more:-https://activeanglingnz.com/2015/07/25/wetlining-soft-plastics/) and this involves continual rod work to mend the line as the lure drifts downstream. While this rod was excellent at lifting the line off the water and re-depositing it upstream it was too heavy to use for more than 1 ½ hours at at time. Muscle fatigue became a constant companion.
Learning from this shortcoming, and further refining what I needed to fish small – medium sized lures, I acquired two new rods. One of these, a Daiwa NewEra 9’ three piece spinning rod, is rated for 10-50 gram lures is used to cast poppers, hard bodied lures and larger soft plastics. It weighs 210 grams and is matched to an IRT 400 spinning reel spooled with 7 kilogram braid . This rod is the one that I opt to use if there are likely to be kingfish present.
The second rod, a Yamaga EVO Ballistick 9’4” two piece rod, is rated for 5-28 gram lures and is used for light soft plastics and small hard bodied lures. The rod weighs a paltry 154 grams and is matched to a Zaion framed Daiwa Luvias 3000 spinning reel that is spooled with 5 kilogram braid. This rod is perfect for “wetlining” soft plastics. It is long, strong and light. To put the lightness into perspective, the Yamaga is less than half the weight of the original long rod I used.
What are the main advantages of long spinning rods over short rods?
To understand the first advantage it is necessary to use geometry to calculate the casting arc (L) of different length rods.
- Assuming a constant casting angle of 110 degrees, longer rods move through a longer casting arc which means that they generate greater rod tip speed. Increased tip speed equates to faster lure speed and longer casts. The table above quantifies the increase in casting arc length as rod length increases. For example, the casting arc of the Yamaga 9’4”(2.84 metre) rod that I use is 33% greater than a 7’ (2.13 metre) rod. My guess is that the extra rod length is probably adding 5 – 10 metres to each cast.
- Longer rods allow the angler to lengthen the shock leader between the rod tip and lure. Increasing the length of trace outside of the rod tip is essentially the same as lengthening the rod. This means faster lure speed and greater distance.
- Longer rods give the angler a better chance of clearing obstacles when fighting fish or retrieving lures. Weed covered or oyster encrusted rocks close to shore and mid channel mooring buoys are examples of hazards that long rods can help the angler avoid.
- Longer rods tend to have a more progressive, parabolic action and this is useful in cushioning the leader from sudden surges from fish, especially late in the fight as they are drawn into the shallows.
- Longer rods generally have longer handles which means that the fulcrum created by the front hand is shifted higher up the rod. This can allow the angler to exert more pressure on the fish during the fight and shorten the landing time. However, if the rod is very long and the handle comparatively short then the law of levers applies and the fish can actually exert more force on the angler.
Spinning rods are generally made on a multi-tapered mandrel and have a much more aggressive rod taper than fly rods. I’ve measured this for rods of comparable length and spinning rod tapers are generally 33 – 85% steeper than fly rod tapers. A rough rule of thumb is that they are ~ 50% steeper in taper on average. Also the shorter the spinning rod the more aggressively tapered it is.
What this means is that the tip section of a short spinning rod tends to be thinner in cross-section and not that long. This increases the bend of the tip and how deeply it loads and unloads during casting. The problem with this configuration is that sometimes the force on the tip of the rod is so great, especially when casting heavy lures, that it can lead to blank breakage during casting. Long rods have a more progressive, parabolic taper and this means the tip bends less during casting which in turn reduces the chances of overloading the blank.
Much of what I’ve said above about longer spinning rods also holds true for longer fly rods. However, there are a couple of extra things to other to consider with fly rods due to the rod handle being closer to the butt of the rod.
Firstly the torque applied to the wrist of the fly fisherman is greater with a longer fly rod. If the rod length increases from 9′ (2.74 m) to 9’6″ (2.89 m) then torque on the wrist will increase by roughly 11% (according to research conducted by Tobias Hinzmann – “Experimental investigations on the fly rod deflection” – May 2014).
To counteract this the angler needs to use a lighter more flexible fly rod with a more parabolic action (deeper action) as this type of fly rod is more mechanically efficient. The deeper a long rod flexes during casting the less strain gets placed on the wrist.
Stiffening the rod blank and increasing weight is not ideal in longer fly rods as apparently a stiff rod hinders rotational movement of the wrist and this, coupled with the additional torque, leads to muscle fatigue.
So if you want to go to a longer fly rod then don’t go for one with a stiff, fast action but opt for one with a more parabolic action. The other option, if you do prefer a fast action rod, is to use it with a fly line that is one size larger than the line weight for which the rod is rated as this will force the rod to flex deeper down the blank.
Hopefully this article encourages you to try long rods, especially in wide estuaries where casting distance can be critical to success.