By Age Lundstrom
Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat, please put a penny in the old man’s hat ….. although, if the old man in question is a lure fishing fanatic, maybe, three hundred quid might be more in order.
Coming with a hefty price tag of £299.99, merely buying this rod is not for the feint hearted …. in use, one almost feels afraid to take it out of its’ well appointed rod-bag. For the last few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of putting this, much hyped, piece of carbon through its’ paces. So, what do you get for three hundred smackers?
Firstly, you are greeted by the sight of a good quality neoprene rod bag sporting the name and model of the rod, and the HTO logo and the legend “QGX – quattro grid-x”. Although this bag looks likely to protect the rod from all the usual storage knocks, at the best part of £300, I would have liked to see a rigid case supplied (I know that many “premium” rods are supplied in what can only be described as a cheap hessian sack, and the neoprene is far superior …. but, I still would have liked a rigid case).
The contents of this bag assemble to form a two piece, 8’8”, impressive looking length of tapered carbon fibre expressly designed for the European sporting bass angler. The first thing that grabs you is the weight …. or lack of weight! This is one rod, feeling no heavier than some of my LRF tackle, that can be used all day long with little fatigue. The next thing that strikes you is the unique appearance of the Quattro Grid X woven 40 Ton carbon blank and its’ deep gloss finish, with understated but classy graphics. The reel seat is a high quality Fuji affair with locking winch fittings mounted within a split handle terminated with a strip of cork. The use of uber expensive Fuji Titanium Torzite guides, merely confirms the idea that this rod represents an attempt to break into the high performance “Formula One” category of fishing rods (and if there is any aspect of the sport that lends itself to the use of such thorough-bred tackle, it has to be sport bass fishing with lures).
When testing this rod, I have to confess to a certain amount of initial disappointment – I was handed the rod, rigged with a very light lure (around 5g) and a reel loaded with fairly heavy braid. To say that the rod failed to inspire, under these circumstances, would be a bit of an understatement. I usually find that rods in the range of 7-28g can flick a 5g lure reasonably well …. this one didn’t. The rod felt as lifeless as a stick! So underwhelmed, was I, that I nearly handed the rod back there and then ….. as it turned out, I was so glad that I didn’t!
Having read all the hype surrounding the Shore Game, I felt that I must be missing something, so I was determined to give it another chance. A few days later found me on the banks of the mighty River Tamar for a night time session, in search of bass and pollock using a mixture of plugs and soft plastic lures. The mark chosen, wasn’t the best for easy casting as the space was limited, so it was impossible to impart a full power cast with shoulder and body rotation. Rigged with an Okuma Trio SRS loaded with 12lb Nanofil, an 8lb fluoro leader, and limited to casting by means of an overhead wrist flick and with a shorter dropper than I would normally employ, I was pleasantly surprised at the ease with which it could send a 15g plug sailing through the air and out of my sight. Usually we aim to land our lures on the edge of an illuminated patch of water – in the case of the Shore Game, the same lures were flying well out into the darkness. If the amount of time spent on the retrieve before the surface lure came into view is anything to go by, then the Shore Game was kicking these lures a good 10 metres further than my usual rod for this type of fishing. I achieved similar results when switching to a soft plastic lure. The casting action was powerful (surprisingly so) and very precise, once I’d “got my eye in”, it was a simple matter to send any lure over 10g in weight to any part of the mark I wanted with great accuracy. I worked my way through a series of weights up to 25g, all with excellent results. Beyond 25g, the rod started to feel a bit spongy and all that precision and accuracy faded very quickly. Feel was excellent throughout, being able to detect the action of the lures and changes in current direction instinctively. The couple of modest fish landed during this session didn’t tax the rod in the slightest, but they were large enough to impart a smile inducing curve to the blank and I could feel every movement the fish made quite clearly.
I finally managed to get the Shore Game into, what I feel. is its’ natural environment – an open coast rock mark with space to really open your shoulders in the cast. Using lures in the 15 – 20g range, I really put some work into the cast and was delighted by the results. The casts were covering distances I’d always felt were unattainable with this class of rod. The session was a blank as far as the fish were concerned (one mighty hit on a lemon back SG sandeel, but failed to hook-up), but I left the rocks with a grin on my face. I’d had so much fun firing hard and soft plastics in all directions. Even at extreme range, the sensitivity of the rod and eight strand braid was evident with every movement of the lure transmitted to my hand with great clarity – you could almost “read” the water by feel, alone.
Well, it looks like HTO have succeeded in creating a “Formula One” high performance lure rod, but as with all high performance equipment, there is a price to be paid – basically, the Shore Game is not an easy rod to use. Just like an F1 race car, this is a very finely tuned piece of equipment, if you don’t put enough effort in, it’ll stall … too much and you lose control – as the angler, you need to be as accurate and precise as the rod (timing has to be spot on, and compression adequate for the blank to work for you). The reward for getting it right is a monster of a lure rod! In the same way as I can’t recommend a Ferrari as your first ever car, I can’t recommend the Shore Game as an ideal beginners’ rod – it, simply, is not forgiving enough – for an experienced angler it could be a whole different story, though.
Over all, the HTO Shore Game is one helluva rod. High quality components, excellent build quality and bucketfuls of performance available for your £300. With any luck, this rod will carve a niche in the high end market for HTO, who, thus far, have built their (very good) reputation on the quality and performance of their budget and mid-priced tackle.
Build quality and performance are both excellent, but I’m afraid that “value for money” is always subjective at this end of the market … if you have a spare £300 to burn and fancy a Lamborghini amongst lure rods, that should last “a lifetime”, you won’t be disappointed with the Shore Game.
Thanks for reading my honest review of this piece of finery….