Going Lighter, Fishing Tighter

For the last four years, I’ve fished with one rod for all three grey mullet species. It’s a Drennan Series 7 Specialist Avon/Quiver: a 1.25lb test curve twin tip model with one full carbon tip and another that has two push-in glass sections. I’ve used this with the carbon tip for pretty much all my mullet fishing and found that it suited me well. It handles nicely whether I’m float fishing, spinning or legering and it’s been a solid performer as a general purpose mullet rod.

With the recent lockdown, however, all my fishing has been based around targeting the winter run of thick lips locally. For the last couple of winters, I’ve fished for these using waggler float tactics as I’ve found that style of fishing so enjoyable. Usually, I fish at a variety of distances from right in close to a decent lob out. This season, things began as normal but after a few sessions, I started to favour always fishing at as short a range as possible. This has a couple of advantages: firstly, I can see subtle movements of the float more easily and react to them quicker; secondly, I can fish with the minimum of line on the surface of the water which helps to minimise false indications. At such close quarters, it’s a big plus to use a rod that has plenty of cushioning in its action to avoid any mishaps on the strike. I quickly realised that the time was right to invest in a more specialised rod, just for my float fishing.

Fishing with the Vertex on its debut session

Brand wise, I saw no reason to stray from Drennan. After all, any manufacturer making inexpensive freshwater rods that can take four years of sea fishing with heaps of rough treatment is doing something right. My mate Laurence Hanger, a fanatical mullet angler, has remarked more than once that the Drennan Puddle Chucker is the best rod he’s ever used for his float fishing. Laurence has a habit of destroying his rods and he’s used lots of them, so his opinion is backed up by plenty of experience! Drennan don’t make the Puddle Chucker any more but their current Vertex range are the up to date equivalents, retailing around the £100 mark. 

There are plenty of float rods to choose from in the Vertex range but I had some specifics in mind that helped narrow it down. I wanted a 12 foot rod, best suited to 4-6lb mainline and with some power in the blank to help it deal with large angry mullet. The 12 foot Carp Waggler model seemed to fit the bill nicely and it was this one that I ended up buying. One thing that impresses me about Drennan rods is how much quality you get for the price. The fit and finish on these Vertex rods is very tidy and puts most sea rods costing the same sort of money in the shade. The Vertex comes with a simple rod bag but I don’t tend to use these anyway so I didn’t pay it much attention. The reel seat is sturdy and the cork handle is of decent quality. Visually, the rod looks smart too with its turquoise touches.

The Vertex is a well-made rod

Looks aside, the most important thing to me was how the rod fished and I was eager to take the Vertex out on its maiden voyage. This ended up being at a local mark in some unseasonably warm conditions. Initially, the Vertex took me a little time to get used to. With most of my casting being an underarm flick, the softness of the tip robbed me of a little feel on the cast that I was accustomed to with my previous rod but I soon got it dialled. 

Fishing with the Vertex is a pleasure; the blank is light, balanced and responsive. Incidentally, I used a 4000 size Shimano Baitrunner for my fishing but smaller, lighter reels should handle nicely too. After an hour’s fishing in one spot, the flooding tide made the mark I really wanted to be on fishable and I quickly swapped over. A shallow gully between two stripes of weed-covered rocks was the honey hole and I started steadily feeding the area with bread mash. It wasn’t long before I started getting the odd twitches on the float that told me there were interested mullet in the area. A sudden dart of the float brought a rapid strike from me and the Vertex arched over into its battle curve for the first time.

The Vertex's first fish: a five pounder

It was clear from the off that I was fast into a decent mullet and I took a moment or two to pay attention to how the rod was dealing with the encounter. My old Series 7 has a very distinct locking point when fighting a fish, a useful quality that tells me roughly how much pressure I’m applying and how much further I can go before asking for a breakage. The Vertex doesn’t have nearly such a pronounced locking point and seems to respond to increased pressure by just bending more. This means that there is less feeling of being in charge of the fight and the battle is more even. This is by no means a bad thing, in fact it makes the Vertex much more exciting to play a decent fish with. If, however, your fishing is in and around snaggy pontoons and you are concerned about giving a hooked mullet too much headway to run, a steelier rod may be a better choice. The Vertex also has more of a through action than my Series 7 and it did take me a little longer than usual to properly assert myself on the fish and get it to the net. The Vertex’s first victim finally slipped into the rubber mesh and was hoisted to safety, where it revealed itself to be a beautifully-conditioned fish of dead on 5lbs. A fine fish to break in a new rod with!

A few days later, I was back in the same area, Vertex in tow. With a bigger tide, the prospect of fishing another spot further up the beach was on the cards. Here the narrow channel of a small stream runs alongside a rock wall with a comfortable concrete platform above to fish from. You only get a brief window to fish here but it’s interesting close quarters stuff and the fish go bananas when you hook them. The light was fading as the water started to look really good for a bite, my float bobbing gently below me just a foot or so from the wall. As I watched, a dark shape appeared through the murky water, turning and flashing its silver flank before disappearing with a flick of its huge tail. Barely a second later, the float jagged to the side slightly and I set the hook on what was almost certainly the big fish I’d just seen.

Another mint five pounder for the Vertex

After a great battle with a couple of lengthy runs, the mullet was languishing in my net, glistening in the last embers of evening light. This was another beauty of exactly 5lbs: I checked it over and it was definitely a different fish to that of a few days previous. After a couple of photos, I sent the mullet back on its way, watching as it glided back into the gloom to rejoin its shoal mates. I had a couple more casts but nightfall was imminent and I soon decided to head home, happy with my lot.

Since those first couple of sessions, I’ve been using the Vertex on every trip and enjoying it more and more. It’s a great rod for waggler fishing for thick lips and it’s certainly capable of being pressed into other uses, such as more general light float fishing for fish like mackerel and gars. It’s powerful enough to get the better of large thicks in frothing well-oxygenated water and handles the rigours of fishing such environments well. It also has enough subtlety to fish at close range in calmer water and take the sting out of sharp strikes. In summary, at this early stage of my fishing with the Vertex, I can’t fault it – it’s been exactly what I was looking for.

To get your hands on a Vertex, check out your nearest Drennan stockist (when restrictions allow). Here in Cornwall and local to me, Gwinear Angling in Newquay stock Drennan rods. If you’re primarily a sea angler like I am, it’s always a wise move to go and have a look at freshwater gear in the flesh before making a purchase.