For many decades the two-section, 12ft long beachcaster was seen as the ideal fishing rod for all types of UK sea fishing. However, in recent years longer and longer fishing rods have become increasingly popular, with rods up to sixteen feet in length (or even longer) becoming common. Read on to find out why this is the case, and why more and more anglers are switching to this type of Continental style fishing rod.
Changing Trends in Rod Length
In the 1970s the trend was for shorter sea fishing rods, with popular books such as The Fisherman’s Handbook, published in 1977, stating:
“The average man casts 6oz further and more easily by exchanging his 12ft rod for one nearer 10ft”.
This was because heavier glass-fibre rods were still popular at this time, and switching to a smaller, lighter rod did indeed help anglers reach greater casting distances. By the 1980s the vast majority of fishing rods were made out of carbon fibre (or carbon composite), meaning even anglers with modest budgets could afford a rod made out of this material. By the 1990s fishing rod construction was becoming increasingly complex, with materials such as Kevlar and graphite being added to the manufacturing process, with these advances leading to rod lengths growing to an average of 12ft, and today this length of rod (when combined with a multiplier reel) is still seen by many as the classic set up for British sea angling. Since the beginning of the 21st century, rods which are substantially longer have began to appear on the market. Today most manufacturers make a number of long Continental rods which are 14, 15 or even 16 feet or more in length.
The Growing Popularity of Long Continental Type Rods
The increasing use of long rods in the UK has been driven by lessons learned from European anglers who have used rods up to, and in some cases over, 18ft long for many years. Despite being longer these rods are lighter, thinner, more sensitive and have a softer action than the traditional 12ft British beachcaster, as they are designed to fish sub-tropical sandy beaches or the calmer, almost tide-free waters of the Mediterranean.
Many of the ideas used in manufacturing these types of rods have found their way into UK rod design, meaning lighter, longer rods with softer actions are now available to UK anglers. The longer length of these rods means that casting distances are increased. Anglers casting with simple overhead casts will see their distances improve, while anglers using off the ground casting styles will see their casting distances increase considerably. Almost all Continental rods are designed to be used with fixed spool reels and casting distances can be further improved by using lighter, lower-diameter braided line. Indeed, a 15ft rod, fixed spool reel and braided line is now a well-recognised set up for fishing many marks around the UK, rivalling the popularity of the classic12ft beachcaster and multiplier reel in some areas.
While additional casting distance from simple casting styles is very tempting for most anglers the advantages of Continental rods need to be weighed up against the number of disadvantages which are inherent in their design.
Advantages of Continental Rods
One of the main advantages of Continental rods is the additional casting distance which can be achieved with simple casting styles. Overhead casts or slightly more complicated off the ground casting will see maximum distances reached. These rods also usually offer good sensitivity and bite detection, especially if stretch-free braided line is used. Many anglers enjoy the simplicity of fishing with fixed spool reels and basic casting styles and yet still being able to reach good casting distances. Many Continental rods also have soft/sensitive tips which register even the shyest bites very well. A further advantage of long Continental rods is that they are always three-section rods, meaning that despite their length they can be transported much more easily than a traditional two-section beachcaster.
Disadvantages of Continental Rods
Continental rods work best on clean, sandy, snag-free beaches. They will cope with areas with mixed ground and a few snags but are not designed to fish properly rough or snaggy ground due to the soft action inherent in these type of rods. Many anglers fishing traditional rough winter cod marks which feature big seas and plenty of snags would do best to avoid Continental rods for this type of fishing.
Furthermore, while they excel when used to perform overhead casts (and most can handle off the ground casting) they are not designed for pendulum or power casts and should never be used for this type of casting. A final issue to remember is that longer rods obviously require more space to cast successfully – some anglers have found that pier walls, breakwaters and rock marks which had sufficient space to cast with a 12ft rod are too tight on space to cast a 16ft rod, so anglers should bear this in mind before making a purchase.
There is no doubt that long Continental style rods have become much more popular across UK sea angling in recent years. Continental rods are not all-rounders – they are designed for mostly clean beaches and calm seas. However, anglers who mostly fish these type of marks (or those looking for an additional rod specialised for fishing this type of mark) should seriously look at a Continental rod due to the features this type of rod offers. In particular, anglers struggling to cast long distances or those who cannot get to grips with pendulum or power casting should certainly consider a Continental rod, as it provides an easy way of reaching further casting distances. It remains to be seen to what extent long Continental style rods will replace the traditional beachcaster. It may well be the case that they begin to decline in popularity in the future as fashions in sea fishing tackle change, but in the right conditions, many anglers may well improve their casting distances and catch rates by switching to a Continental fishing rod.
Suggested Longer and Continental Rods
All are three-section and designed to be used with fixed spool reels. The links will click through to Amazon where these rods can be viewed and purchased.
Oakwood 15ft Beachcaster Surf Rod with Reel and Line – This setup is ideal for anglers looking for a budget long Continental style rod which comes complete with a Lineaeffe reel which is pre-loaded with monofilament line. While this rod and reel will lack the refinements of higher priced rods it does provides a cheap and effective Continental rod setup. The 15ft rod is made up of three 5ft sections and the Lineaeffe 70 reel features front drag construction and a big line roller. This rod and reel combination is available from Amazon for under £40, often with free delivery. This is a Continental style rod and reel for an exceptionally low price.
Shakespeare Agility 2 Continental Surf Rod – This rod from Shakespeare offers a mid-priced option to anglers looking to buy a Continental fishing rod. It is available in three lengths (13ft, 14ft and 15ft), with anglers looking for a Continental style rod best off choosing the 15ft option. This version of the rod has three sections and has a transport (collapsed) length of just over 5ft (160cm) making it easy to transport and store. This rod casts 120 grams (just over 4oz) to 200 grams (7oz) and can be used with either monofilament or braided line. This rod works best with large, high capacity fixed spool reels. Available from Amazon for around £80 – £85 for the 15ft version.
Penn Rampage II Surf Rod 15ft 9in – The Penn Rampage Surf is ideally suited for fishing around the British Isles. It is capable of reaching long casting distances with simple and straightforward overhead casting styles and retains the power to fight larger species of fish such as cod, bass and rays. The casting weight is 4 – 6oz and this rod can be used equally well with monofilament or braid. This rod has all of the high-end features expected such as Fuji guides and EVA grip, plus most sellers provide a tubed carry case with this rod. Available from around £100 – £120 from Amazon. The Penn Surfblaster 8000 fixed spool reel complements this rod perfectly.