For the following article, we are discussing rough-ground rods tackled up with large, fixed spool reels and spooled up with heavy braided lines; typically between 65-100lb. The classic ground is that of gullies and rocky scars strewn with boulders and kelp as per the image above. You’ll note numerous mixed to rough ground marks within the image, all of which present challenging conditions for the angler and his equipment.

Despite rod choice being a personal preference, as with any angling area, there are a few stand out examples receiving the nod from many dedicated rock anglers. Among these regular choices there are a few recurring features. Namely, rods around 14ft in length equipped with stiff butt sections and supple tips. For the most part the rod will be chucking 6-7oz of lead with a considerable bait, therefore it needs to be powerful. It must also have the power to extract the rig plus a fish from the ground to which you are fishing. Unfortunately, you don’t go cod fishing on the North East to enjoy the fight of the fish, its just pump and winch the fish as quickly as possibly out of the snags. This is why a rod with a strong lower section is required, once that supple tip has folded away, you’re left with a powerful piece of equipment.

I mention a supple tip as it’s important for a number of reasons, the main factor being shock absorption. When fishing stiff rods in conjunction with braided lines there is little to no stretch in the set up, therefore hook-pulls and “bumped fish” are commonplace. Imagine driving your car with no suspension up a bumpy road, every bump and pothole of that road is going to be transmitted to your arse; well all the jerks and forces applied through the fight of the fish are transmitted to the hook hold in a similar way. This results in tearing the hook from the fish’s mouth, we therefore require a buffeting system. This is where the supple tip comes in, rods which are equipped with a glass tip offer the most suppleness however some carbon tipped rods also offer forgiveness in the upper sections.

A rod with a forgiving tip will also sit better in rougher seas and strong tides thanks to these shock absorbing characteristics. Though tide is not so much of an issue here on the North East, rough seas are, as they coincide with better fishing conditions. If you’ve an unforgiving tip, when the sea surges against the line, it will drag and move the rig around. This will inevitably result in it becoming snagged up. If the rod possesses a supple tip, it is here that the force will be dissipated, leading to better bait presentation. 

A Zziplex Zeteque TXL GT pictured with two typical North East fresh run cod. The TXL GT offer the power in the lower sections of the blank whilst possessing a very supple glass tip. At a smidge over 14ft it is an ideal tool for the job.

A softer tip also aids in bait presentation, a supple tip will cushion some of the forces in the cast, reducing the damage to the bait. Classic cod baits constitute a concoction of soft baits such as cart and mussel. If these are subject to harsh casting, they can slip down the shank of the hook, masking the hook point, making the bait useless with poor presentation. The use of correct baiting tools can help prevent this, tools such as the B8M8 are ideal for this situation. Many anglers opt for rods around 14ft in length, this has a number of advantages.

Quite often the angler is faced with close in obstacles such as boulders and ledges, braid in contact with such rough surfaces will fray and snap, being able to hold your line above such objects protects it from abrasion. Also, there is often weed present in the surf, if your line is in the surf its likely weed will accumulate on the line, resulting in more drag. Keeping your line up and out the surf prevents this. A longer rod also allows the angler to increase the upward angle on the fish, keeping the fish from digging deep into the snaggy ground.

A Zziplex Dymic LT 14 Evo perched on a tripod, a rare occasion for the North East, often the rod is simply jammed in a crack. Kelp fronds can be seen protruding from the water, highlighting the extensive kelp forest into which the cod are located. Clearly a powerful rod is required to bully the fish through such a feature. A slightly longer rod will also aid getting the fish to the surface, preventing it diving back into the close in snags.

I frequently see on social media a big emphasis on casting ability, the old saying “if you can’t bend it…” is often repeated. Personally, I cannot compress the rod which I use, and I’m unable to fire baits long distances. This is something I notice in many of my fellow, local, rock anglers.

We are spoilt with quality fishing at such short range, you’re better off buying a rod to fish with than cast. Fortunately for me much of my fishing is done at a distance of sub 70 yards, I simply lob the bait into my chosen position. If you were to cast it to the moon, for the most part, you would be casting over the feeding fish.

A Zziplex M424 Hi-flex, these Hi-flex variants are idea for coupling with fixed spool and braid set up for anglers who are not blessed with brilliant casting capabilities. They retain brute power yet with more of a C-Curve pattern.

Prior to constructing this article, I dropped my Dymic LT14 Evo, chipping and smashing many of the Fugi Kwag guides in the tip section. You’re regularly walking over rough terrain, jamming your rod into cracks and crevices. Slips, trips and falls are all part of a normal session, any rod is going to take a battering. With this in mind, Minima eyes can be a session saver. Local rod builder Dan Midd regularly works with both PacBay Minimas and Fugi Kwag guides, the following is a short quote from his experiences.

“Due to not having ceramic centres Minima guides will not chip if the rod is dropped. Obviously they aren’t indestructible, but they will take a greater deal of punishment. Minima eyes will also reduce the weight of the rod and when you’re a roving angler this is certainly a welcome advantage. As with all things in life there is a compromise, minima eyes can groove with time due to constant abrasion from your mainline. Something I know a few local anglers have suffered with. This however does not happen overnight, and they will last at least a few seasons of heavy usage. Fitting a ceramic tip eye on Minima builds reduces this issue, as it is this guide that’s most likely to suffer from grooving. Most people also complain of ring wrap when a Minima tip guide is used, terminating a Minima build with a ceramic eye removes this issue.”

A top job from the local rod builder displaying minima eyes. As with all things in life there is a compromise, but these guides will certainly take punishment.

For the purpose of this article, I was unsure to offer a few examples. It’s not as if there are only a handful of rods used here in the North East, if there’s 10 anglers on a mark there’s probably 6 different rods. However, I will name a few as a base to search from, the Century T900 SGT and Zziplex Zeteque TXL GT are the clear standouts, rapidly gaining in popularity. At the upper end of the price scale, you’ve the classic Zziplex (Zeteque, M427 and LT14 variants) and Century rods (T1000, T900 and Graphex sport). For anglers looking down the price scale, rods such as the AFAW 6nbait cannot be ignored. Looking towards the second-hand market, discontinued rods such as the Greys Nitra and Apollo models as well as the Century Carbon Metal BB offer excellent value for money. There are probably 50 rods on the market that will do the job, this is but a few.

Despite a rod feeling like the flagship of any angler’s set-up, don’t go blowing three quarters of your budget on a rod; compromising budgeting elsewhere. There is no point coupling a high-end Zziplex with a cheap nasty reel, surely soon to fail. Likewise, quality terminal tackle isn’t cheap, what is the point in having an all singing, all dancing combo, yet presenting your bait on blunt hooks? When choosing a rod, it should fall in with the whole set-up budget. Spending more money on a rod is never going to improve your catch rate to the same effect of spending money on quality bait. It will merely offer the angler slight comforts and advantages. Hopefully this comes as some use to a few out there.

Tight lines,

Tom.

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