ARE we all brainwashed into following tried and tested methods? I’ve fallen into the trap; I often find myself writing a techniques piece and am lulled into the safety net provided by a well-worn path like setting the strike drag on a game reel to 1/3 of the lines breaking strain. Where does this 1/3 strike setting actually come from? Some may argue a logical and considered case suggesting a safety factor for start-up inertia or another point which might make perfect sense however technology in fishing equipment has advanced dramatically over the past few decades whilst some traditional rules still stand.
Case in point is a game outfit spooled with fresh 24kg line. Rather than the conventional 8kg at strike, why not fish 10 or 12 kg at strike – if that setting isn’t feasible at strike due to drag cams or similar, then fish beyond strike to achieve the elevated drag setting. This is an academic argument – I’m not really interested in the mechanics of smaller fish being unable to turn and swallow lures at increased drag pressures or whether a drag lever cam limits the maximum strike drag but more the point that we’re not pushing our gear to the hilt. Do we have an innate risk aversion that causes us to take a cautious option, a safety valve of sorts that we apply based on years of being brainwashed by those in the know? The line breaks at 24kg; you plait a double which is reputedly 100% knot strength. Say another knot comes into the equation for a terminal connection resulting in a weak point (or does it given we’re using doubled line – ponder that one for a while). Let’s assume we’ve reduced the breaking strain of the line by 20%, the line should still break at a tick over 19kg which is a considerable amount greater than the pre-programmed 8kg that we’ve been accustomed to. I’ve been fishing heavier drags with appropriate terminal tackle, fresh line and reasonable knots – it all seems to work; failure may be a little more dramatic the closer you get to breaking point but we shouldn’t feel the need to be overly cautious if confident in our tackle and techniques.
We all unknowingly stress test our gear, the action however may be lost in a sea of adrenalin. A bream races back to an oyster lease or a barra powers back towards its snag - you clamp down on the reel and try to brute force the fish out of a sticky situation, the redline instinct takes over and your equipment is monetarily pushed beyond regular comfort levels. If everything holds together during a stress test then what’s stopping you form cranking up the drag and pushing your tackle to closer to its limits? Is it purely a margin of safety that we require – are you scared to pull and straighten hooks, bust knots or break rods?
Does our fear of failure limit the extent to which we push our tackle?
Is there anything you can change to alleviate the fear and redline your gear? I’ve started cranking up the drag up a notch or two; I’m more attentive with my knots and rigging, am mindful of how I fight the fish and use appropriate terminal tackle. Fight times are shorter but the intensity levels have risen; flaws in tackle, technique and rigging are quickly exposed and I’ve become more vigilant – I don’t think I’ve lost any more fish that I would have otherwise, maybe I have and am in denial…..or maybe I’ve just explored the limits of my tackle a little further rather than following the status quo!