Earlier this year Planet Sea Fishing reviewed the impressive Islander 30-35lb boat rod from Isle of Wight based UK Hooks. Now, hot on the heels of that fledgling classic come two further additions to the Islander rod range.
Advance prototype versions of the 6-12lb and 12-20lb class Islander rods had been in my custody and worked hard for more than two months before this review was concluded. Both were properly put through their paces at venues such as Scrabster in the north, Carloway on the Isle Lewis and Dunbar on the Scottish eastern flank.
Built on premier CTS blanks sourced from New Zealand, these are 2-piece affairs, with tip and butt sections solidly connected and perfectly aligned via a genuine metal-pinned Fuji HD fitting. The ideal length for a downtide boat rod varies depending on who you ask, where they fish, and actual application, but my plumb length spec’ for a versatile modern boat rod is a little over 8ft. Both rods measure 8ft 4ins and are rung with sets of 10 Fuji Power Oval guides plus the tip.
The guide configuration comprises of four double-legs on the lower tip section, running to six single leg guides at the top. Perfect for modern braid fishing, these stainless silicon carbide guides are lighter, more robust and considerably more corrosion resistant than the widely used cheaper guide patterns common to mass-produced boat rods. These guides alone would cost around £100 to buy, so the impression from the outset here is that quality is key and will not be compromised. The guide spacings are identical on both rods.
Further fittings comprise of Fuji butt caps and slim, hardwearing ergonomic foam grips either side of the reel fitting. These are very much sporting rods rather than soulless heavy hauling levers; hence there are no gimbals as standard. Rod decals are understated and the finish is to the highest standard, as you would expect of master rod builder Chris Dance.
6-12lb Super Tip
The wand-like 6-12lb Islander is wonderfully light, weighing a mere 272 grams, and a gorgeous item to hold all day long without complaint. The upper tip area is worthy of particular mention as it is whisker-thin and slimmer than the stem of a cotton bud.
My first bash with the Islanders saw me fishing out of the northern port of Scrabster on a medium sized tide for a mixture of species over both rough and clean ground where leads to 1lb were required to cope with the drift fishing. The 6-12lb rod was paired with the new Daiwa Saltist lever drag, twin speed, 20 reel (STTLD202SP), and excelled at long trace pollack work, particularly on leads between 6 and 10ozs. I used a variety of lures on a 12ft flowing trace to bag numerous cod and pollack short of double figures.
Bite registration is unmistakably clear. Tip indication at the first flickering attentions of a pollack is electrifyingly visual. Thereafter, the lively top third area of the rod is restrained enough not to offer jarring resistance – especially when using braided line – in response to a firmer take. Such an inbuilt stern rod response is regular cause for wary pollack to spook and instantly eject the lure. There’s no such issue here.
This is every bit a tip action rod with ample lower power to turn and usher double figure fish on angler demand. Lead load parameters would ideally be 6-12ozs, with an optimum 10ozs allowing the rod to display its full sporting finesse. I found that the rod requires a reasonable amount of lead to give it real life and felt it really came alive on leads from upwards of 6ozs.
The 6-12lb rod was also employed for static fishing with up to 12ozs of lead for a whole variety of species over cleaner ground. These included cod, gurnards, haddock, dabs, whiting and spurdog. Bite indication was again superb, and clean blank curvature was evident under weight of double figure spurdogs, which provided a more strenuous workout.
Ideal applications for the 6-12lb Islander would be sporting, single hook fishing scenarios for bream, bass, pollack and bank fishing for plaice in modest depths and manageable runs of tide.
The 12-20lb Islander version weighs a negligible 315 grams and offers no strain on arms when held for prolonged periods, so long as it is married with the correct size of reel. I wasn’t gentle on this rod, which was paired with a Daiwa Saltist 30 lever drag twin speed reel for fishing out from Carloway on the Isle of Lewis. Here I enjoyed some excellent sport with big spurdogs, cod, ling and a host of smaller species.
The tip action is steelier than on the 6-12lb version but bite registration is instant and very visual. Tip diameter is slightly thicker than that of the super fine 6-12 rod, but it is still damn thin… and desirably so in comparison to many other ‘fat tip’ rods spanning this line class rating.
The brusquer tip in conjunction with a low diameter 30lb braid promotes fast ‘pick-up’ for working small casing pirks of around 6ozs. I found the 12-20lb Islander ideal for working modest pirks /jigs of up to 8ozs/224g. Hopping the likes of a Sidewinder lure or Rage Live Eel is likewise a pleasant experience.
1lb of lead is a breeze for the 12-20 Islander, and it will handle marginally heavier weights if required. I rate it as an excellent general-purpose boat rod that will cope with more pronounced tide and depth. It stands out as an excellent rod for shadding and Gilling for cod, pollack and bass. Other front line applications would be wreck pollacking and more testing tidal fishing for bass. Light pirking and hopping for cod also fall within its capable remit.
Both rods steer clear of the dated and inaccurate through-actioned blueprint of a braid rod. Instead, refined tips back onto gritty middle and bottom power zones. Blank slimness belies the available muscle inherent in both instances. These blanks are a real find, and it will be most interesting to see if any other blanks are forthcoming to the UK from the New Zealand source.
With the current movement of ever growing interest and use of fixed spool reels afloat around the UK, I must risk stating the obvious and point out that both of these rods are rung for strictly multiplier use as standard builds. And readers may spot that the guides on these test rods are of a gunmetal finish, but those on the finished rods are in fact eye-catching chrome ovals.
Any Adjustments / Personal Touches?
The tip guides are too small to allow a rig clip such as a Gemini Genie, or Breakaway Fastlink to pass through. My preference is always to plump for a slightly larger tip guide in order to avoid this all too common, time consuming gripe. There is also a potential issue of leader knot snagging with very small diameter tip guides. And it is a fact that not everybody ties small neat knots.
For enhanced bite spotting I would like a little reflective white tip gloss or whipping to fill the 65mm between the tip and first intermediate guide. The good news is that because these rods can be custom finished to order, you can have more or less any adjustments/embellishments that you like. Contact Mike Taylor at UK HOOKS to discuss.
Prices & Availability
Both finished rods are priced at £270 plus carriage. For more information on these and other boat rods visit www.uk-hooks.com
Tel: 0044 (0) 1983 868687
Fax: 0044 (0) 1983 863329
For details of the 30-35lb Islander boat rod click here