Get the feel
  |  First Published: June 2004

THE PROBLEM with rod and reel fishing is the lack of feel. There is no doubt that a handline gives a better feel of what’s happening on the end of the line, but the pleasure of hearing a reel scream as a fish strips line far outweighs the feeling of a line cutting into your fingers.

I started with the old faithful 3” Alvey when I was five years old and I graduated though the size ranks as the body grew. There was the inevitable move into threadlines through my teens but the good old Alvey will always be dear to my heart.

When I moved to Innisfail in 1981 I decided it was time to graduate to a baitcaster. They were expensive in relation to my income back then, so one reel had to do it all. A Daiwa Magforce was my weapon of choice, and from there I moved through a wide range of brands and models to where I now carry a rack of seven baitcasters in my active arsenal.

Being restricted to one baitcaster back in the 80s meant it had to do for both bait and lure fishing. As I was used to the great line feel available when using an Alvey reel I learned to adapt my grip to a thumb and forefinger clasp of the line to better detect a bite. I found this very effective for bait fishing and my remaining three fingers quickly adapted to the extra responsibility of holding the rod.

I soon discovered the joys of Vibrotails, especially for barra fishing, and spent many hours experimenting with retrieve techniques to try to improve the hookup rate, which was poor when compared to minnows. The fact that the strike rate on Vibrotails was two to five times greater than minnows (in my experience) kept me interested, and I soon found that a super-slow retrieve with the rod pointed at the lure and the line running between my thumb and index finger (as in bait fishing) was the most effective way to get a hook-up. I found this method to be by far the best way of feeling the tiniest bump of the lure, and I could then strike at the right time.

Since the advent of Prawnstars, and the huge increase in the range of soft plastics, this same fingertip control has been a fantastic technique for using these lures. I find the conventional four fingers around the rod and thumb on top of the reel gives very little feel of the lure, in comparison – but strangely enough, I have yet to see another angler lure fish the way I do. Feeling the slightest touch is very important when using Prawnstars and soft plastics, so I’m surprised more anglers don’t use this method.

Admittedly, it does feel a bit awkward at first – mainly because most of us have little faith in those three fingers – but I’ve never had a rod pulled from my hand. Even when bait fishing with a huge Penn 6/0 and 60lb line, I still use the same grip. The secret is to switch to a four fingered grip after the initial strike. Starting with a relatively small diameter grip on the rod also helps, as the three fingers can then wrap around the rod more securely. Incidentally, I also use this same grip when fishing minnows and it works great.

So if you’re missing a lot of strikes or think you’re not getting any, especially when using Prawnstars or soft plastics, give this grip a feel.


1) The standard way of holding a baitcaster when luring.

2) Running the line through your thumb and forefinger allows you to feel every little touch of the lure, especially when using braid.

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