Tackle review: By Age Lundström..
My opinionated opinion of:
HTO Rockfish T L 3-15g 8’6”
Before describing this rod, I have to admit that I’m quite a fan of HTO rods for LRF applications. The price/performance ratio being very favourable, they seem to provide the ideal entry point for those wishing to dabble in the arts of light lure fishing and LRF.
The value for money and performance of the original range of solid tipped Rockfish rods is now passing into the realms of LRF legend, so I was very interested in assessing the tubular tipped variants now that they are available. With a pricing range that is only a few quid dearer than their solid tipped predecessors, they are obviously aimed at a similar part of the market.
So, what do you get for less than £40? Firstly, it comes with a cloth rod bag (not all rods do, especially budget rods). This is the standard Rockfish affair, light weight with the rod details printed on the side, this not a high quality bag, but will house your rod quite happily until the holes start to appear …. and they will. For the money, it is not surprising that costs have been saved on the bag – rather that, than cost cutting on the rod.
Right! Now, stop moaning about the bag …. what’s the rod like?
Well, once put together, it looks remarkably like the original Rockfish …. only much, much longer! At 8’6”, it felt like a beachcaster when I first picked it up, but, being quite light in the hand, it didn’t take long to get used to it. Coupled with a suitable reel (2000 to 3000 size), it feels well balanced and shouldn’t be taxing to use on all day sessions. The blank is a glossy finish with glossed whippings holding the customary single leg guides. The tip has the standard hi-vis white end extending for quite some way down the section. The butt sports a standard Rockfish style reel seat and grips (ie. no grip forward of the reel seat) the reel seat itself is high density plastic with steel reinforcing at the fitting (finished in a natty red and grey ).
I decided to test it out coupled to an Okuma Ceymar C25 reel, loaded with 1.98kg Nanofil. To my mind, this set up looked like the ultimate machine for hurling small metal lures over the horizon …. so, that is exactly what I started off by doing. A few flicks with a Savage Gear Psycho Sprat 5g to get used to the characteristics of the rod before aiming for the horizon. I worked the rod over the range of Psycho Sprats – 5g, 8g and 10g – and it handled them all with aplomb. Once I’d developed the most efficient casting style for the rod, it was the weight of the lure which governed the distance achieved. These tubular tipped rods do require a bit more effort and speed to achieve optimum compression compared to the solid tips, but the recovery of the blank is so much faster that impressive distances seem to be effortless. It is still important to remember that with all LRF and light lure rods it is possible to out cast the rod – there is a point at which increasing the effort put into the cast does not result in any greater distance. So much for small metals. Rigged with a 3g bottom jig and weedless hook, a Gulp sandworm (2”) was fired out into the tide. Expecting a significant reduction in distance, I was pleasantly surprised when the lure fell not far short of the distance achieved with the 5g metal.
The tip is quite sensitive, giving good feedback. I could easily feel the metals “swimming” on the retrieve, and the characteristics of the sea bed when slow jigging on the bottom. The feedback is more tactile than an equivalent solid tip, vibrations being passed down the rod to the hand give you a very direct connection what is happening at the business end. I was given a perfect demonstration of this during the initial testing as a pollock engulfed my Gulp worm and continued swimming towards me. I felt the light tug as the mouth closed on the lure, and I could feel the gentle movement of the fish as it swam, although neither registered visibly on the rod tip. I set the hook and engaged in battle. Not a huge fish, but using the tidal stream to its’ advantage, it put up a creditable fight and a very satisfying bend in the rod before the typical pollock crash dive, bending the rod right over and taking line. A couple more dives later and the fish was at the net – a perfect little Tamar pollock of around a pound and a half. So, rod christened and it had hardly felt stressed. There is plenty of low down power in this rod (which comes in very progressively) and is well capable of subduing much larger fish with out drama.
I have since then, used this rod on a few more sessions, with it accounting for more pollock up to around two pounds, wrasse to about the same and a three pound bass. I have also managed to successfully hunt a few mini species with it – the tip is sensitive enough.
All in all, I rate this rod very highly for its’ price point, but I find it confusing ….. where in the great panoply of fishing weapons does it stand? It is way too long to be used for LFR in the usual confined areas, yet isn’t quite in the league of light bassing rods.
So, what is it good for? Well, it’s brilliant for fishing ultra light lures at ranges most LRF rods could only dream of, a cracking rod for small metal and hard lures fished from the rocky outcrops or piers, long enough to be pressed into service as a light float rod or even ultra light touch-ledgering.
I suppose the burning question is “Has it found a permanent place in my armoury?” The answer is a resounding “YES”. I am looking forward to using it later in the summer hurling small metals around after mackerel, scad and garfish, without a doubt. But, I’m also planning to try it out for mullet “off the top”, light bassing with soft plastics and as a flattie rod in the estuaries. There are a few marks I wish to target with the micro lures, but the “kill zone” is beyond the casting range of your standard LRF rod …. hopefully, this one can put me in contact with the fish that I know are there!
Ratings out of 5
Value for Money: 5
Build Quality: 3.5
Overall rating of 17 out of 20.
Has HTO come up with a swan or an ugly duckling? For me, it’s a swan – your mileage may vary, but go ahead and try one, at a RRP of £38.99 it’s got to be worth a go …. it might prove to be just the rod you are looking for – a tool for fishing somewhere between LRF and HRF, with a couple of additional tricks up its’ sleeve.
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