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Short and sweet
  |  First Published: March 2010



Being that I am a lure casting fan I find it really interesting the way baitcasting rods have developed over the last half dozen years or so.

One of the most visible developments has been the increase in baitcaster length. I remember 15 years ago I got a 5’11” baitcaster for fishing hardbodied lures for cod and goldens on the Murray River and it was considered long.

These days we see baitcasters up to and sometimes over 8’. In fact it’s getting harder and harder to find a short baitcaster that is easily handled and allows short and very accurate casts.

Most baitcasters are now built for impoundment fishing at the top end of the spectrum, meaning the extra length of the rods give you extra casting distance and that is a good, no, a great thing.

The problem with these longer rods is accuracy and useability when working hardbodied lures hard and fast, like when fishing in snags for cod and goldens, fishing mangrove fringes for mangrove jacks, barra and others, or even trolling lures for trout and bass where a long cast is not needed.

But there is a solution to the problem with very few short, high-end rods on the market in the form of the Gary Howard G-Force Tropical Assassin series.

I’ve been lucky enough to trial a really neat little baitcaster over the last eight months or so.

It’s only 5’6” total length and is rated at around 4kg, making it ideal for all the tight fishing situations I find myself in; namely casting hardbodies at cod and goldens and fishing hardbodies for jacks in and under the mangrove fringes.

In the field

From the first time I grabbed this rod I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it, and that was cast some StumpJumpers at snags for cod and goldens from a boat on my much loved waters around Bundalong.

Unfortunately I was at least four months away from doing that so I had to dream up some other fishing to do in the meantime.

The first trip for this neat rod was to northern NSW where gorge country cod were on the menu. The problem was I wasn’t going so Greg Livingstone took the rod on its first mission into active duty.

Greg came back beaming about the rod’s performance and was especially keen on the shorter length offering him more manoeuvrability around the rock cliffs and escarpments that make up the New England ranges.

Greg cast hardbodied lures such as locally made Garra Lures along with Bassman spinnerbaits and Secret Creek surface paddlers with the rod.

He said the rod performed really well with the hardbodies but would love to have had a bit of extra casting distance with the spinnerbaits and surface lures. He was also wrapped with the performance of the rod under load and said he never felt under gunned on the New England fish.

The next trip for the Tropical Assassin was to the jack-rich waters around Bundaberg, fishing shallow minnows fast and furiously in and under the mangrove fringes. This is exciting fishing, casting small shallow diving minnows under overhangs in shallow water and just waiting to get smashed by a jack. I love it.

This trip showed me one of the best aspects of this shorter stick and that was the ability to cast accurately underhanded.

An underhand cast allows the lure to travel quickly only a foot or so off the water’s surface, perfect for placing lures under mangrove branches. Being rated to 4kg also allowed me to load up with 20lb braid, 40lb leader and crank up the drag a bit.

While we didn’t crack a 50cm jack that trip, we caught enough jacks up to 45cm to get a good feel for this rod when jack fishing like this and I thought it was absolutely ideal.

If fishing shallow water with hardbodied minnows in tight cover for jacks is your style of fishing, this rod is one of the best for it.

It wasn’t until December 2009 that I finally got a chance to swing this stick at some cod and goldens on the Murray River around Mulwala.

This is the location I was most eager to test the rod in as we fish a mixture of fairly open areas along with tree and snag infested backwaters. This would allow me to get a good feel of the rod’s capabilities.

The first evening was great fun as I cast my favourite purple StumpJumper No2 around a lot of familiar water for a few goldens and one massive hook-up on a cod (I hope!).

The rod handled the goldens with ease, in fact almost too easily and at times. I had the feeling that the violent boat side head shakes of a small golden was going to shake the hooks out. It almost felt like the rod needed bigger fish to keep the weight on the hooks boat side.

I didn’t have to wait long to test the rod on a bigger fish as what I thought was a very big cod engulfed the lure down deep and refused to come up. A few headshakes that bobbed the rod tip up and down like only a big cod can and the lure literally swam out of the fish’s mouth and up to the surface.

It was an interesting hook-up in the sense that I never had control and never lifted the fish’s head one bit, but I did put plenty of hurt through the rod – in retrospect probably too much hurt as I pulled the lure out of the fish. Oh well, not the rod’s fault – mine!

Over the course of the next five days I landed an assortment of cod and goldens, but none to compare with the missed fish, yet I still grew to love how this rod fished the tight country we often fish to catch our native fish on lures along the Murray.

The rod handled everything from a TN60 Jackall right up to a 90mm AC Invader over the few days of fishing. It was a fairly versatile little stick that I grew to love, especially casting Oar-Gee Pee Wees, Custom Crafted Fish Stiks and StumpJumpers in size 2 and 3.

The shorter length allowed me to work these lures hard in amongst the snags and not hit the side of the boat or the water’s surface with the rod tip, my biggest annoyance with longer rods.

OVERALL

My impressions overall on this rod were positive. I had an idea of what I wanted to achieve with this stick and it met every challenge.

I didn’t want a rod that could cast 50m, I wanted a rod that could cast 5-10m with accuracy, be able to be worked hard without the tip hitting the boat’s decks or the water’s surface and a rod that could handle the odd oversized fish.

The G-Force accomplished all these goals and with Gary’s excellent build standards I would not hesitate to recommend this rod if you have similar requirements. The best part though is that Gary has an entire range of G-Force rods still to check out. It seems it never ends!

Technically speaking the Tropical Assassin series uses modern techniques in the blank construction with multi taper mandrels and multi modulus graphite layups.

A high modulus graphite is used in the butt half of the rod which reduces overall weight and delivers a powerful stiffer butt half to fight and subdue fish.

The tip section uses an intermediate grade graphite, which is softer, producing a more forgiving top section and allowing better casting and transferring of load when hooked onto a fish.

The rods are available in camo and cork finish with Fuji Alconite Guides and Fuji reel seats. Tastefully finished with black binds and silver trims they look and play the part.

The G-Force Tropical Assassin range available includes spin and baitcast models that are 5’6”, 6’ and 6’6”. There is also a new 5’2” model designed specifically for kayak fishing. The line classes available include 2-4kg, 3-5kg, 5-8kg, 6-10kg and 8-15kg, so there really is a rod for every occasion in the range.

The G-Force tropical Assassin range retail for around $299 and this represents sensational value for money at a time when good rods are often sold for over $500.

It’s great value for a tough little battler that really delivers the goods when it’s needed. And you have got to love the camo grips on a rod series called Assassin!

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