A look at the gear you need when fishing with some tips and advice

Man holds large fish
Caption: If you’re going to catch fish like this monster Spanish mackerel, having good quality gear is a big help. If herring, tailor and whiting are more your speed, you can get away with the cheap end of town.

by Mike Roennfeldt

How cheap is bottom end fishing tackle these days. Rods and reels, for example, are probably no dearer than they were 30-odd years ago when I sold my tackle shop. I guess it’s a reflection of mass production pricing for goods coming out of China, where it seems that virtually everything is made nowadays.

A few years back at the Mandurah Boat Show, one fishing tackle retailer was selling two surf combos for $50… yes a 4m rod, big reel, line and even a few hooks and sinkers in a tackle box… two for $50. Okay, it was a Boat Show special, but what a price. When I got out of my shop, the cheapest going price for one bottom-end surf rod alone was around the $50 mark and that seems to be an everyday sort of price for a similar item today.

Of course, you don’t expect a lot of quality at that price, but an outfit costing $75 or less wouldn’t have to last long to be a reasonable investment. Even if it stood up to only one season of herring fishing from the rocks at North Mole or Hillarys Marina, it would have been worthwhile. That level of gear probably wouldn’t stand the pace of serious fishing for long, but you don’t have to move far up the price scale to get into tackle that is built to last.

It’s always seemed to me that the worse the fisherman the better the tackle needs to be to stand up to the abuse. You know the sort of things I mean, like direct winding of the reel against a strong fish or heaving on the rod to break off snagged line. Exactly the sort of situations where a more experienced fisherman will do almost the exact opposite, making the rod do most of the work with a pump and wind technique in the first instance and pointing the rod down the line, clamping the spool and walking backwards in the second. 

The irony is that the skilled fishermen who could nurse cheap gear through stressful fishing situations tend to own more upmarket specialised gear that is built to cope with extremes. And the blokes who are likely to hand out brutal treatment to their gear because they don’t know any better, tend to own the cheap combos. Tackle shop owners love both types, the first because they spend big in one hit and the second because, while they spend less, they have to do it more often.

If I had any general advice to hand out regarding buying rods and reels, it would be to get the best you can afford and justify. And if you are working on a limited budget, shave off some of what you were going to spend on the rod and put it into getting a reel that is built to last. Luckily, there are cheap rods around that are tough enough to last years of rough treatment. Find a decent tackle shop, explain your budget and seek advice from someone who knows good gear from rubbish.