Our popular general coarse fishing blogger, Colin Mitchell, is back exclusively for the Angler's Mail website - asking whether fishing tackle really does what it says on the box.
JUST like buying clothes or anything for your home, when you go shopping for fishing tackle there’s a vast array of gear out there.
The good news is that most of that tackle is now top notch and good value for money. The problem is that just like clothes many of the sizes don’t relate to what they say on the label.
How many times do you try on clothes you think should be the right fit and find that they are either too big or too small? Well the same thing applies to a lot of tackle, particularly hooks and line.
Now you wouldn’t take for granted the label that said small, medium or large when you bought a pair of trousers – but I bet you often accept without question the size of the hook, line diameter or breaking strain as it is printed on the packaging.
But the fact is that rarely is one pattern or brand of hook the same size as a rival manufacturer – just take a look at, say, a 16, one of the most popular sizes around.
I will bet that you will be hard pushed to find two 16s that are exactly the same size in height and width – obviously their shapes will be slightly different and the diameter of the wire will match the fact whether they are light, medium or heavy hooks aimed at different style of fishing.
Now the manufacturers have done nothing wrong in having their hooks a slightly different size to their rivals despite the number being the same.
What you really should be looking at is how does the hook look to your eyes – will it take one maggot, two maggots, one pellet, a decent sized chunk of bread… and will it match the species and style you are fishing.
Matching hook size and strength to baits and the fish you are after are the things that are far more important than the sizes shown on the packet.
One maker’s size 16 will be another’s 18 or a different manufacturer’s size 14. That’s why you will often hear experienced anglers say they have used a ‘small 14’ or a ‘large 14’. They are trying to point out a slight difference.
The make of hook you use will largely boil down to a preference that you build up during your angling experiences and what you are told by others and good or bad makes. The best guide is match the size of your hook to what you are fishing for and when you find a make that you have confidence in, stick with it!
There can be good and bad batches of hooks – but nowadays competition is so fierce that it is rare to get a bad packet or box. That usually only happens when there is a complete change in manufacturing processes.
Does your line break at the strain stated?
Now onto the line and first breaking strains. A lot of manufacturers have always under-stated the breaking strain of their products. They have done this so that a 4lb line breaks at, say, 6lb and therefore in your eyes it is a quality product.
You can’t argue with that logic – especially as it means they have not sold you a product that doesn’t live up to its rating (i.e.: it didn’t break at below 4lb, in which case you would be running back to the shop moaning when you were broken by a specimen fish).
Your own experience, that of other anglers and information from good tackle dealers will tell you the lines that break at around or above their stated strains. But in recent years we have all become accustomed to saying what diameter line we have been using, rather than breaking strain.
This is something that the mainland European anglers have done for years and if you think about it this does make sense. We know a thinner line is supposedly less likely to be seen by fish or more important it will allow your hook bait to act more naturally as it falls through the water. Thinner lines will lead to less friction so giving longer casts.
So if you see a line stated as 0.10mm diameter how do you know that is the case? Well you could trust the manufacturer or you could run a micrometer over the line to measure its thickness. I’d guess that the vast majority of lines are correct or only very slightly out. I know anglers who have used micrometers and found discrepancies – but nothing that’s going to stop the earth spinning!
Again, it’s like the hook sizes – you can feel if a line is thinner or thicker or whether it is soft or wirey, and those things are far more important than the line being 0.001m or a midge’s whisker away from its stated diameter.
You are never going to know that – no fish have micrometers handy to check line size before deciding not to bite!
Hook sizes and line diameters/breaking strains should be decided by commonsense, not labels on packets or spools. Like small, medium and large on the pants the sizes should only be used as a guideline.
There is no be-all and end-all when it comes to selecting hook sizes and line strains – you match them to baits, species, size of fish, how the fish are feeding and where you are fishing.