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Question Time with Neil Mackellow

by Neil Mackellow

Planet Sea Fishing technical expert Neil Mackellow answers ten fishing questions from our readers.

Neil Mackellow with a shore caught fish abroad

Reader question: How often should I change the line on my multiplier and fixed-spool reels?

Neil says: It depends on how often you use them, what sort of ground you are fishing and how you look after your line. If you fish once a week over clean ground and remove it from the reel through a damp cloth after each session and rewind it checking for nicks, cuts etc then it will last a long time. However, if you fish over ground where you are often snagged and have to pull for a break regularly, the stretching of the line will damage it very quickly. Not to mention the everyday damage caused by fishing over rough ground. I fish relatively infrequently but rinse the reel in fresh water then wind all the wet line off through a tissue and rewind it checking for damage. If there is none, I will use the line for three or four sessions before replacing it. Basically I am not prepared to lose a fish over a quid’s worth of line. A number of match anglers, including myself when I fished the circuit, change their line after each match. Again, why lose a potentially match winning fish that could net a £1000 for the sake of a fill of line from a bulk spool. Once a line starts looking a bit sorry for itself and going crinkly, change it. However, when changing the line on a multiplier, do not remove the last 15 yards or so because this is where the spool is balanced.

Reader question: I find night fishing with a multiplier very difficult, as there is no level-wind to assist neat reeling in. Is there some attachable light or other means of making night life more liveable?

Neil says: Not really, it’s a CT cage, end of story. Get yourself a headlight with a wide beam so you can see what is happening or you could try strapping a large Starlite to the top bar of the reel, but this will more than likely just get in your way.

Reader question: Do any companies make left-handed multipliers any more? I never see any reviewed either in the glossies or on the Internet

Neil says: You make an excellent point. Yes, for surfcasting Abu certainly do have left-handers in the range, they list the 6501 C3 and 6601C4. It is my intention to provide reviews of various left-hand wind multipliers for PSF. Watch this space…

a green ABU 6500 C3 CT Elite

Reader question: Is there any advantage in removing some of the magnets from an Abu Mag Elite?

Neil says: There are various way to tune the Mag Elite. I would always advise that you make one change at a time and test it thoroughly before making another change. For fishing, assuming you are using 0.35mm mono loaded around 2mm below the spool lip and leader, start with three magnets and one centrifugal brake block fitted, with yellow Rocket Fuel in the bearings. Cast with the magnets at magnet level 4, and see how you get on. If okay, drop the magnets down a notch and see how things go. Once you start getting the odd fluff, back up a notch for reliability. Remember this: a super fast reel may be fine on the field but is of little use on the beach.

Reader question: When beach fishing for cod what is the safest rig to use when casting for distance with a rotten bottom, or is this impractical

Neil says: Rig-wise any properly constructed rig should be safe, but if you need a rotten bottom, then a simple single snood clipped down would be a good bet. When fishing rough ground keep things as simple as possible. There are several rotten bottom clips suitable for power casting, both Gemini and Breakaway produce excellent rotten bottom clips that allow power casting.

Reader question: I am currently a fixed spool user, but I a plan on getting a multiplier reel. I don’t know whether to get one with a level-wind as I have heard it reduces casting distance. Do you have any advice?

Neil says: A level-wind on a multiplier will reduce your distance potential. However, it has to be weighed against the advantages. If you are unused to this type of reel and plan to fish at night then the security of a level-wind when winding in will outweigh the loss of distance. But if you want to fish at maximum distance in the day, go for a reel without a LW. The level-wind reduces distance in two ways: first and foremost because the mechanism prevents your thumb getting a positive grip on the spool. Secondly, a cog drives the mechanics on the rotating spool, and a degree of retardation is consequential.

Reader question: When cleaning and oiling my fishing reels, how far should I strip them back?

Neil says: In my early days I used a pair of Abu 6000’s and took them to pieces after every trip…. BIG MISTAKE! After a year I had to replace all the screws as the heads had worn away! Now I rinse a reel in a gentle stream of lukewarm water, avoiding obvious gaps where water can get in, shake off the excess then I run all the wet line off and rewind it under moderate tension. A major service once a year, and a half yearly re-lube if it’s not running to form is all I do now. Once a reel is set up, I leave well alone until it causes problems, or I want to use it for something that requires a different tune. This is based on, say, three or so trips a month. If you go fishing more often then reduce the service intervals, just like a car.

Reader question: Many articles appear in the magazines about various reels, but I cannot find any describing how the drag should be set. Could you please explain?

Neil says: A drag is there to help prevent too much load being put on the line and to counter exceeding the breaking strain. For general beach fishing in the UK with a multiplier, tighten the star drag until you can just pull the main line off. This will prevent any unexpected surge from snapping the line. When winding in with a big fish in the surf, it’s wise to back the drag off a bit. Do not tighten up a drag too much or leave it on full in your box for weeks on end. This could lead to seizing and problems. With a fixed-spool things are a bit different. You must tighten the drag so the spool does not slip during the cast. If it does you can easily cut your finger to the bone, so always wear a finger protector, preferably leather. However, if you reduce the drag for winding in it’s a safe bet that at some stage you will forget to tighten it for the next cast. BE CAREFUL! When I use a fixed spool in the sea I keep the drag tight. Should I hook a decent fish I turn off the anti-reverse so I can back-wind should it make a powerful run or get caught in the surf. Again, do not leave a fixed-spool reel with the drag locked up tight, as it will stretch and damage the shaft that runs through the reel.

Reader question: What is a ‘pop-up’ rig, how do you make it and are they any good?

Neil says: A ‘pop-up’ rig is a rig is where the snoods are fitted with a floating or neutral buoyancy bead/beads or similar, so the baits are suspended above the seabed. There are many variations depending on what sort of fish you are after and water conditions. There has been a big move to pop-ups my neck of the woods. Often very buoyant luminous beads on the snood are used. These are often ‘flashed up’ with a flashgun prior to casting. Personally I believe the light output is minimal in silt-laden water, and it is the buoyancy of the bead that lifts the bait a little and is then caught in the tide wafting it around enticingly. Fishing in clear, shallo
w water for fish like mackerel, scad, bream etc with small baits, a floatation device of some sort will lift the bait off the bottom and make the bait more attractive. A snood of around 24in with a carp fishing ‘poly-ball’ an inch or so above the hook should also do the trick.

Reader question: How do you use a tapered shock leader, and what benefits do they have over standard parallel leaders?

Neil says: I use tapered shock leaders with fixed-spool reels for beach fishing. The smaller knot and gradual taper from 18lb to 70lb makes for smoother line flow. Also, you get a stronger knot joining two similar size lines than you do when joining one thick and one thin line. Simply tie the thin end of the leader to your main line, wind it on the reel and use as a normal leader. But remember after a number of trips when you re-tie the leader you will get to a point when there is not enough of the high strength line for safe casting.

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