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We supply some of the worlds best LRF rods from brands such as Tailwalk, Apia, Slash and Xesta. Solid or tubular tip? That is the question! Our special "rod statistics" and in-depth observations will help you make more informed buying decisions.
What are LRF rods?
LRF rods are ultra light spinning rods that follow design influences from Japanese light game fishermen who fish with small lures and light line. Perfect for species-hunting, Light Rock Fishing (LRF) rods may have very soft solid or tubular tips depending on what methods they are intended for.
Our History with LRF Rods
When LRF fishing first took its place in the UK, those of us that were particularly keen on its merits agonised over the technical aspects of the rods that we used (all imported at this point). Ultra light spinning rods have come a long way since then and life is a little easier know that we know (with experience) which type of rod we really need for different situations. Trying to "define" an LRF was inherently difficult and still is unless you've used one. The complications come when you have two 7' rods, each rated to 10g max. One may be a "true" light game rod, while the second may be a Japanese freshwater bass rod. On paper, the specs make them look similar but in the flesh they will be vastly different - the LRF rod being much, much lighter and softer in action. The point is that it is incredibly difficult to just say something as simple as "an LRF rod is a lightweight lure rod rated to 10g". It's far more complex than that. Although we're obviously here to help!
In the beginning LRF rods were inherently expensive (being 100% imported), but following our introduction of the first LRF starter kits with some ultralight Shimano rods (spreading the word and influencing UK brands to get on board) eventually the first HTO LRF rod changed the market and made it far more accessible, selling for a mere £30. This was a proper, solid tipped light rock fishing rod with a fast action - unlike any of the more traditional light spinning rods previously available.
LRF (or "light game") rods are available in lengths between about 5'6" and 9' and have maximum casting weights between 3g and about 20g, but its their action, lightness and style that separates them from more traditional lure rods with similar specs. They may have solid or tubular tips, depending on what they're designed for. In Japan they tend to come under two or three categories.
"Aji" is the Japanese name for our "Scad" or "Horse Mackerel". In Japan this fish is incredibly popular and is the main target for light game anglers.
Aji rods are all about "feeling". Look at the minimal grip on most shorter Aji rods and you'll notice great contact between your hand and the rod blank. Most have solid tips yet some power in the rods butt for casting methods such as with the Caro-rig. The solid tips are to reduce resistance felt by the fish when they initially take a lure (ensuring more confident takes), but the power exists for better casting with heavier Caro weights/floats. This action also makes working lightweight jigheads easier.
Lighter Aji rods (5'6" - 7") are usually designed for working lightweight jigheads and the like. These can be softer throughout but offer maximum sensitivity. They may only be rated to 3g on occasion, but often more in the region of 5g. Dedicated Caro rods can go to 9' long, but the majority are between 7'-something and 8'6". These are often rated to 12g or more, and combine that softer solid tip with a comparatively powerful butt. A weird combo almost, but specialist bits of kit that work!
Ignoring the dedicated Caro rods (which are Aji rods too), you'd buy an Aji style rod for the most sensitive work.
Consider buying for:
- Down the wall species hunting (split-shot rigs).
- Ultralight jigheads fished on-the-drop (OTD) or straight retrieved.
- Lightweight (<12g) Carolina rig (Caro).
Mebaru are a mini Japanese rock fish species. They can grow to around 12" long (the majority much smaller) and have big mouthes and big appetites. They are often fished for around harbours and shallow rocky, weedy areas.
I've always considered Mebaru rods to be more versatile, all-round LRF rods. Most are 7'+ (which suits most of our LRF needs best) and the majority have tubular (hollow) tips. Mebaru anglers will use all kinds of lure (soft, hard, metal) to target this fish and the rods reflect that. Many of the rods may only be rated to 7g max, but this well suits the varied type of small lures used. These rods also don't tend to see such a contrast between soft tip and powerful butt as the Aji rods do. There are always exceptions with both categories, obviously, but for light plugs, small vibe baits and metals - if you're given a choice - go for the Mebaru ranges.
Consider buying for:
- Metal casting jigs < 10g.
- Vibration baits.
- Jigheads and soft plastics > 1.8g.
- Bottom-bouncing light Texas rigs.
- Best all-rounders considering that most people don't fish many jigheads < 1.5g.
Ultra Light Shore Jigging
There is a simplicity to metal casting jigs that I love. From day one, living and fishing the north coast of Cornwall with LRF tackle, there was never too much local opportunity for delicate rigs and sub-1g jigheads. With deeper water, typically more wind and rockier venues, metal jigs and vibration baits always ruled for me. Useful for targeting those mid-water fish species like pollack, bass, mackerel and the like this confident, no-faff way of fishing has always been my favourite. The lightest rods and light solid tips are next to useless in this scenario (though a dedicated Caro rod will cope). Especially in warmer water when the fish are active, it's unbeatable for pure enjoyment and the numbers of fish that can be caught.
My ideal rod for casting light metal jigs (<15g) would be 8'6" to 9'+ in length and rated to something between about 15g and 20g (with some of the newer, longer lighter rods now becoming available). Tubular tips win as you don't really want a tip that is too soft when working a heavier lure (by light game standards) in the depths. These types of 20g rated rods are still very different to a 20g rated bass rod for example. Look for light game or "borderless" Japanese terminology - or even light shore jigging specifically. These styles of Japanese rods may be rated to 20g, but will often feel more comparable to a 14 or 15g rated (sea) bass rod and have finer tips. Although rated to 20g, you would never - for example - want to fish a 6" soft plastic and big weedless hook on one - even if they weighed less than 20g combined. A 20g, dense, streamlined metal jig however, is a different proposition and can remain fishable due to there being far less resistance either in the air or in the water.
Consider buying for:
- Summer LRF fun.
- Active species (including bass) on light metals.
- Vibration baits (<=12g).
- Metal casting jigs (<=18g).
- Rocky headlands.
- Outer harbour walls/piers.
Solid or Tubular?
I've agonised over this subject in the past. I never got as far as publishing it, but I once sat down and write more than 3000 words on the subject. I won't go that far here but will try to simplify things to sum up the real basic differences without getting too technical.
Solid tipped rods are referred to as such because the top part of the rod tip is made from either solid carbon or glass (or a composite). This creates a softer, tip action. The length of the solid insert and the taper of it can have a big impact (explained in the next section, below), but the main reason for this solid tip is to reduce the resistance that a fish feels when it takes a lure. It's not necessarily about sensitivity as people often imagine (a tubular tip can actually be more sensitive in some situations). A fish having the slightest doubt in its head that there's something not quite right with your lure will spit it straight back out again before you've even had time to realise you've been hit.
Upon taking a lure, any stretch in your line or softness in the rod tip allows the fish more time to take a lure and turn back away without feeling an immediate jolt from your end - as would occur with a stiffer tip (further exaggerated by braided lines - which don't give). This extra split second ensures that the fish has the lure further in its mouth before feeling any resistance. By this point, the hook is less likely to be expelled and you've noticed the take - so the fish is yours.
This is especially relevant in a few situations for us:
Species hunting - fishing down a harbour wall with lengths of Marukyu Isome or Gulp Sandworms (etc), allowing the fish more time to pick up and take a lure is a good thing. It's even more important at close range where you have even less give in the rod or line.
Straight retrieves - if you are casting and most simply winding a lure, a solid tip is especially useful. A fish taking a moving lure is likely to feel that resistance much faster. The solid tip (and fluorocarbon mainline) can help to hit more takes. If you're getting a lot of knocks and bumps, a solid tip may make the difference. A fluorocarbon or mono line (which will stretch) can add even more time for the fish to take a lure and turn.
Caro rigs - as discussed above, the Caro techniques require a rod that will cast some distance but also - since the lure is generally taken on the drop - a tip that ensures the fish feel less resistance that it would do otherwise. Sensitivity with the rig is made more difficult by the sliding Caro weight itself, so anything you can do to reduce resistance is good.
Close range dropshotting - whether in salt or freshwater, dropshotting underneath your rod tip benefits from all of the reasons above. Allowing a fish to take a lure and feel more confident will improve hook-up ratios.
Tubular Tipped Rods (e.g. hollow - like most rods are):
Tubular tipped LRF rods have long been my favourite recommendations for customers who want to do "a bit of everything" with an ultralight rod. While solid tip rods may be the pinnacle of sensitivity at the lower end, it's not to say that tubular tips aren't sensitive. If you're wanting to feel a lure bumping along the bottom for example, a tubular tip - being very slightly stiffer - will transmit more feeling to your hand than a soft, potentially bouncy solid tip. Solid tips can be just too soft for some lures too. For vibration baits, small plugs and the like, solid tips can bend far too much in to the lure on the retrieve. If you wish to impart any kind of action or lift a lure through the water column, a tubular tip will give you more efficient control. You can generally be more aggressive with a tubular tip than you can a solid. There are exceptions like the Caro rods which are a weird combination of features, but on the whole, the majority of tubular LRF rods (rated to say, 7g max) will be better with the lures described here than a solid tipped equivalent.
Which Length LRF Rod?
In saltwater situations, considering the variety of fish that we catch on LRF tackle and the nature of the coastline that we do it from, I've never been a huge fan of LRF rods under 7' long. Shorter rods are always better when it comes to more direct lure control, but unless you're fishing calm conditions, from almost water level, I'd steer towards those over 7' long. 7'6" would be my go-to all-round length.
It's all about line control for me. If you're stood 20' up a harbour wall and have anything more than a light breeze to contend with, a longer rod will enable you to keep the tip down to maintain better line (and lure) control. An 8' or even 9' rod would be the ideal in windier conditions.
Even if fishing underneath your feet down the side of a wall, I still prefer a rod of 7'+ as it will give you more reach to drag a wrasse, blenny or scorpion fish out away from the inevitable snags on the wall. A longer rod doesn't limit how close you can fish, you just fish to the side and keep the tip tucked in. Or down. But it will give you more control in the wind and when you hook a fish. To go to the other extreme, you could in theory get away with a 5' rod if fishing from a floating pontoon (or similar) and casting ultralight jigheads in to open water. Such a short rod when fishing under your feet though can actually be limiting.
7' is ok, but there are very few negative reasons not to add an extra 6" to that for the varied fishing that we do.
LRF Rods in the UK - A Summary
If I were to kit myself our with the perfect LRF rod quiver (3 rods) it would consist of:
- LIGHT: 7' - 7'3", long solid tipped, Aji style rod rated to 5g max. for split shot rigs down the wall and ultralight winter jigheads - when sub 1g stuff can really come in to its own.
- MEDIUM: 7'6" tubular or short solid tipped rod rated to 7g max. as an all-rounder for those days when you don't know what to expect.
- HEAVY: 8'6" - 9', tubular tipped rod rated to between 12g and 20g max. for metal lures (up to 15g) and heavier jigheads (up to 5g or so in current).
If I had to pick just ONE rod to do it all, I'd go for a 7'6" rod with a short solid tip, rated to that 7g middle-ground region. I'd expect this rod to be light enough and sensitive enough to fish a small bait down the edge, but also have enough power to cast a 7g metal. It's not a rod we actually sell many of, but one of my favourite all-round LRF rods was the Gamakatsu AJ Master 76. Not the lightest rods on paper (Because of the grip design. The blank is superbly light), but with a reel they're so well balanced and light that I was just super happy while using one. I've used lighter, more specialist rods, but that one was one of my very favourite all-rounders.