I would have been out fishing today if my plans hadn't been scuppered by flu ridden delivery drivers. I had it all planned, rods out for Christmas Wednesday and Thursday, fish Friday. Wednesday went well and the courier arrived early. If that was repeated on Thursday I might even manage to snatch a few hours on the river before and after dark. By five thirty yesterday I was still waiting. Then I got a phone call to say the driver would be late - as if he wasn't already. Ten minutes later another call to confess that there was no driver, they were short-staffed owing to 'flu' and they couldn't collect until Friday. So here I am, twiddling my thumbs and waiting. So I thought I'd fill my time rambling on here.
Back in August I wrote a review of the Okuma Epix Pro EPB30 Baitfeeder on this blog. It's a nice little reel that has it's body and spool in proportion - something I like in a reel. I mostly use the Okumas for perch fishing, where the freespool option comes in handy when there are daft carp about. For barbel fishing I also find that feature useful, especially when using two rods, but for that I use Shimano Baitrunner 3500Bs which I have reviewed on Barbel Now. While I have used the Okumas for feeder fishing for chub and roach I find they are a little slow on the retrieve. Not much of a problem on a river or when fishing at close range (as most of my perch fishing is) but on a long chuck it seems to take ages to get the feeder back for a refill.
For a long time my tench fishing had been done with Shimano Aero Baitrunners of some description. The size had always been the same even though the model numbers had changed over the years. Originally they were 4000s, latterly 8000s. All take the same spools. A 4000, for example, takes the 4500 spools - the only difference being their capacity and the width at the spool lip. The smaller Aeros, however, are really the same reels with noticeably smaller spools. I have never seen any advantage in this. If I want a smaller capacity reel it's to use with lighter lines and lighter rods - so I want a reel that is smaller too. Anyway, the 4000/8000 Aeros are ideal for use with mono lines of 12lb and upwards to maybe 18lb. They are a popular size for carp and pike fishing. Personally I don't think they are robust enough for piking (maybe the more recent and more expensive models are) and prefer other reels, but that's for another blog.
In 2007 I decided that I wanted a slightly smaller freespool reel for my tenching and bought myself three Daiwa Regals. After just a short period of use I realised they were a bit flimsy for me. The bale arms bent for one thing, and one had started to sound a bit rough after I'd used it for a session on a river. I persevered with them until the end of the tench season, having had no trouble with them, and managed to palm them off on someone during the winter. In April this year I replaced them with three Tica Sportera 3507s. Initially I was unsure of how these relatively cheap reels would perform, but after landing a lot of tench on them, and playing a big carp on one for a long time before I lost it, I have grown to like them a lot.
They are not much larger than the Epix Pro 30, but considerably smaller than the 8000 Shimano - and therefore than the 5000 Shimano that has a similar sized spool. For close to medium range casting with lines up to 10lb they are spot on and balance nicely on an Interceptor or similar rod with a test curve of 2lb or less. The drag is surprisingly good, the bale arms don't bend, and after a fair bit of use they still feel smooth and satisfyingly 'solid'. Maybe not quite as smooth as the Epix Pros, but on a par with the Shimanos.
The line lay may not be as nice as on some reels, but I can't honestly say it has hindered my casting. They are not reels for distance fishing anyway. Even on the longest chuck I find they whip rigs back in quickly enough. If I ever get round to doing that roach fishing I keep threatening to do their spare spools will be getting loaded up with five pound mono. In the meantime it's 10lb. Should I need to cast further for tench or bream then it will be out with the heavier rods and on with the Aeros. Horses for courses.
Why the Tica range of reels isn't more widely stocked I can't say. All their reels I have seen in the upper price brackets (which is still a lower bracket than the top ranges of other manufacturers) have looked and felt as well constructed as the Sporteras. That's a Tica I bought for my chub fishing last month, for example. Bigger sizes of the Sportera are also available and even if you are not on a tight budget they are worth a look.