Capt. Joel Dickey, Big Pine Key, Florida
It’s the time of the year salt fishermen and guides look forward to, and all rod companies hate. Tarpon season is in full swing, which means that repair season is too. With June now here, I’m sure most rod companies’ mail bins are full with tubes and tubes of broken rods. I’m also sure that many of those rods suffered the same fate as tons of hooks and other terminal tackle – they messed with the silver-plated behemoth and lost. Epically.
There is no truer test of tackle and angler skills than this fantastic beast. Most anglers I have witnessed will swear up and down that it’s the equipment that failed. Not to rub salt in the wound, but more often than not its angler error that has usually determined the ill fate of these rods. To help minimize future catastrophes, I’d like to share a few tips that may help prevent that sickening snap of your four-piece rod becoming a five- or six-piece rod…and a lost tarpon.
1. Keep your rod tip low and pointed at the fish. This will prevent any unnecessary lifting and pressure on the spine that can cause breakage. This also keeps you in direct contact with the fish allowing you to anticipate movements.
2. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD don’t touch the edge of the gunnel when fighting your fish! (I think this is self-explanatory)
3. Make sure your rod is put together tightly. This allows the rod to perform as “one piece.” A loose ferrule will prove tragic if any pressure is put on it while casting or fighting a fish. Not to mention your casting will be far less efficient, which will only make challenging casts that much more difficult.
4. Pay attention while reeling down on a fish. If you get slack and start reeling hard, a lot of times you will tip wrap your rod with the line due to the tip moving back and forth. When the fish comes tight it’s game over. It also helps to keep the tip in the water while doing this (Refer to tip #1).
5. Try not to slap the rod while casting with lead-eyed flies. The nicks you put in the rod as a result will never lead to a good ending.
6. If you pick up a large clump of grass off the top of the water don’t try to power through the cast to throw it off. That’s a sure snap.
7. While landing the fish, when your Capt. grabs the leader and the fish, walk backwards and feed him line. As guides, we know you’re excited and want to see your fish but walking forward with me holding your thrashing fish and a tight drag never bodes well for the rod tip.
8. Always properly store your rod when traveling to different spots (once again, self-explanatory).
9. When your day is over always break your rod down and put it back in the tube after a wash down. This prevents you from laying it down and slamming it in the car door, rolling it up in the window, stepping on it, or carrying it into the house and shoving it in the ceiling fan
I could sit here for days and write explanations and other tips to how not to break your rod, but I think these will suffice. Just remember tarpon are much stronger than pretty much any fish out there, and will put your rod to the ultimate test. They can be extremely smart and if breaking your rod is what separates them and their school from you, they won’t lose a wink of sleep over it. Who knows – maybe it even gives them some small satisfaction knowing you’re out of commission.