A personal view on long surf rod guides.

New technology and the old, choosing the right rod and how to set it up.

A personal view on long surf rod guides.

Postby Jeri » Tue Jan 31, 2017 10:46 am

Hi All,

Reading through some of the historic posts, combined with what appears to be a trend towards fishing the surf with fixed spool reels and braid – I thought I might share some of our findings in this respect to guides and various ‘concepts’ that are being promoted as the best new thing.

Originally, the world of surf fishing with fixed spools and nylon basically worked pretty well with what is called the ‘Cone of Flight’ system of big ring guides reducing in size up the rod towards the tip. This was the ‘holy grail’ of what we were all brought up with, and it worked to a degree.

A little side diversion here, which will become apparent later, in the middle 1960’s the then president of Fuji was actively involved in distance casting, and developed what has become known as the ‘Omura Theory’, which offered an improvement on distances achieved and more line control, by using higher profile, but smaller ring guides. At the time, they had neither the technology nor the materials that we have today, and the ring sets offered for this new system were not as elegant as the then current models for ‘Cone of Flight’. It was either this style of ring or the dogged attitude against change, but the system never really found favour.

Cone of Flight continued to be the favoured system, with small local improvements to cope with line control problems, specifically thinner nylon lines wrapping usually around the first guide. Improvements like reversing the first guide when it was put on the rod, so the two sweeping legs might push any overtaking coils of line back to the working side of the guide. The next ‘garden shed’ improvement was to gently bend the whole of the ring to form a forward sloping first guide. These were all solutions in the 1980’s and 1990’s, and with nylon they pretty much worked.

Then in the late 1980’s we had braid come onto the scene, a very strong line for its diameter and infinitely more flexible and soft in comparison to nylon. Almost immediately US surf spinning found problems with casting this material, as it would look to wrap around first and second guides at almost the drop of a hat. The resulting term ‘wind knots’ was born, though it really didn’t have a lot to do with the wind, just seemed to be worse in windy conditions. It was the fact that the line was coming off the spool of the reel so fast that it bunched up at the early guides and wrapped, due mainly to the line not being taken away by the cast lure or sinker as fast as it was being delivered.

Because of the size of the US surf market, Fuji decided to investigate and find a solution, and they found that with the use of very high speed cameras, they needed something radical, and found most of the solution in their archives – the ‘Omura Theory’. With modern guide manufacturing systems and better ceramic inserts they delivered their very own solution, which is known as Low Riders – which again did not find huge favour with most of the English speaking world, for didn’t we already know we had the holy grail in the cone of flight system!!! However, the non-English speaking world, especially Spain and France embrace the new system with huge success, as they were used to using ultra thin lines, and took the new system with braided lines down to even further extremes. Up until very recently, nearly all top line Continental style surf rods were fitted with Low Riders.

Back in the 1990’s Neil Mackellow did a field test of two identical rods tested side by side, one CoF the other the new Low Riders, and he did find that there were less line control issues, and that he managed consistently more distance, even just using Fuji’s ‘recipe’ for spacing these new guides. So, even with a very reputable caster endorsing these guides, general angling option was reluctant to take on something so radical.

This huge reluctance in the English speaking surf world was obviously of concern to Fuji, as the obvious core problems of line control with braid persisted. Back in Japan the problem was addressed with a revised concept to deal with the problem but also be socially acceptable to the anglers, and here they took some of the ‘garden shed’ modifications of the 1990’s and developed them, with the advent of the ‘K’ series designs. A big ring guide with line wrap shedding properties – and very socially acceptable to the angling public.

So, this is where we are today, with various concept spacing designs from Fuji for their popular ‘K’ series guides, and their ‘recipe book’ is very much a direction to getting absolute best performance from these guides. However, personally being a little sceptical of most ‘urban legends’, where if enough people say product ‘X’ doesn’t work, then everybody believes it, and you now need product ‘Y’.

Coming from an almost ‘genetic’ engineering background, I embarked on a real time personal test regime. It was very pertinent to our custom rod building at the time, as it was during the early days of the southern African transition to fixed spool reels and braid, especially at angling competition level, and a lot of spurious ‘bar chat’ philosophies were being promoted by less than authoritive people.

We had a very successful little blank, a 2 piece 12’ designed for 2-3oz + bait that we were building as a scratching rod, Fundamentally the design of the high strength carbon blank was mostly parallel base section, followed by a responsive top section, fairly similar to most performance UK surf blanks. We built 3 rod in 3 different formats, first with traditional big ring stand-off spinning guides (CoF), then ‘K’ series to ‘New Concept’ design recipe from Fuji, and finally a Low Rider variant using single leg rings for the top 3 guides. The rods were built and all tested with a 3oz sinker over some open ground, where we could get an accurate assessment of what each was doing. 10 casts on each for an average, and using the exact same reel and braid casting leader.

The traditional spinning guides were fine, offering an average of about 90 metres, with the odd line wrap, and one actual break off. The ‘K’ series were certainly better, and while distance did improve significantly, there were a number of casts when you could feel the ‘anti-line wrapping’ mechanism working as braid tried to wrap the first guide, resulting in loss of performance/distance, but an overall average of 120 metres. The feel of the rod however, because of all the extra ‘new concept’ single leg guides on the upper section seemed to lose some of the crispness felt with the CoF single leg guides. Finally the Low Riders, and this just blew our mind away, trying to match the casting strengths used for the earlier casts was difficult, but the distances just seemed that much more, due to the reaction of the rod. So crisp and precise, no line wraps at all, and no ‘anti-line wrap’ mechanisms happening. Though one factor that we will admit to is that we were using a spacing for the first Low Rider from the reel, longer than the recommendations in the Fuji ‘recipe’. Overall the average of the 10 casts was 130 metres, so pretty impressive from the blank, but a testament to the guide system.

Something that we have found with this very long spacing for the first Low Rider is that the squeezing of the coils of braid as they come off the reel and approach the first guide is happening, but as once that coil reduction has started, the interface between the small coils and the reel line, actually moves back down the rod towards the handle, so that the coils approaching the first guide are well settled as the flight of the cast progresses.

For a long time we have felt also that the weight of rings at the very top section of a rod need to be kept to a realistic minimum, and since our fairly definitive experiment, we have used the same principles on much longer and stiffer blanks (up to 8oz + bait), up to 15’ long, and found the results to be pretty conclusive – Low Riders work better than ‘K’ series in a ‘long rod’ situation. We have, at client’s request, built a couple of the heavier weight surf rods with ‘K’ series, and just found then not to be quite so responsive and potentially shorter casting.

As an engineer, this is far from a definitive test, as there are inevitable variables during our test, but generally, I would suggest that while casting skills are a cheaper option to increasing distances, but having the correctly built rod in the first place will only capitalise on your skills improvement. Finally, before we disappear down the rabbit hole of frictions, all the guide types were SiC, and the Cof probably had the least line friction with only 5 guides, the ‘K’ series the most potential friction with 9 guides as per Fuji’s New Concept recommendations, LR had just 6 guides.

The post test development of this was that we have totally changed how we view some of the Fuji ‘recipes’, they are a very good starting point, but just that. Where their 120cm measurement for the first Low Rider works, when you get to the point of nearly doubling that dimension on 15’ long rods, and still getting casting distance increases; it is certainly worth trying variations on their theme. Another snippet was to introduce quite small single leg fly guides at the very top, sizes 8 and 10, huge weight saving on the ring load, and give tip action back to the rod. However, they do require a little care and attention over normal 3 leg guides.

Another point worth considering, is that ‘K’ series were developed primarily for the spinning rod market, which globally is huge and the use of braid. While the system is very efficient in shorter spinning rods, it doesn’t automatically translate that the scheme can be enlarged to cope with long surf rods. I’m not saying the system isn’t great for the format it was designed, but likewise I wouldn’t suggest that Low Riders would work at all well on shorter spinning rods – just get the right horses for the right courses.

This is just our personal findings, not a holy grail, but a suggestion to folks to perhaps overlook the radical nature of Low Riders, when considering a guide system for a new surf casting rod, for we have also found that as lighter lines are used the line control problems become even more exaggerated, especially when you are pushing to the upper limits of the rod during casting.

Apologies for the length of this piece, perhaps I should have suggested that you first get a favoured drink, before you sit down to read.


From sunny Africa

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Re: A personal view on long surf rod guides.

Postby Dan-C » Tue Jan 31, 2017 3:46 pm

Hi Jeri,
Thanks for a great read and insite into guide layouts and concepts.
As a hobby builder, i have been experimenting with a few of the layout concepts and have found similar findings to yourself in regards to small ringed, high framed guides getting the line under control quickly and their impact on casting distance. I've had reasonable success and alot of fun playing with the KR concept on shorter rods around the 3m mark.
The dificulties i found in building the best fishing rod i could fell in trying to find the balance between casting performance and line control in poor conditions. Pushing the stripper guide (KL20H) down the blank improved the line flow, and as a result, casting distance. But the problems arose in variable winds were the line was more difficult to control, and line slap started to become a problem. So i struck a compromise where i moved the guide closer to the reel face, but still far enough out to ensure there was no bunching or over shooting at the stripper.

I have a set of LC reduction guides that i am looking forward to playing around with on a 13ft 3oz rod. I was thinking of placing the LC20 at about the 1200mm mark as fuji suggests and play from there. Pushing it out even further is someting im interested in experimenting with.

Out of interest, What are your thoughts on the theory that large spacings from spool face to stripper guide, and few guides/large spacings between guides, reduce the effective power of the blank? There has been a bit of discussion on this subject on a few of the american rod building forums, but the jury is still out for me on how much impact it has on the blanks characteristics. I imagine the stresses on the blank would increase, but the build would have to be pretty severe for that to be a factor (think what just having a stripper and a tip would do under load :? )

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Re: A personal view on long surf rod guides.

Postby Jeri » Tue Jan 31, 2017 4:23 pm

Hi Dan,

As I said, with a much longer first measurement to the LC20, we get a tunnel effect starting, very initially at the guide face, then this small coil tunnel effectively moves back down the rod blank towards the reel face, stopping at about the top of the land (reel low, long handle above). So, during the mid-flight situation of the sinker and bait, we are getting very settled line approaching the first guide and subsequent guides. Which, in my humble opinion can only lead to better flow of line with less loss of power, hence giving much improved distance. The fact that the LC20 is perhaps a little higher than a KR20, keeps the small coil tunnel off the blank, as we do not experience any line slap issues on the out going cast.

Initially on 14'-0" and 14'-6" rods we stuck with a train of 6 guides, and that as a general scheme was working exceptionally well on a lot of rods that we were prducing. Recently, we have tried 5 guides on a 14'-0" blank, but of a slightly different design, and that is also working, and not seeming to distrupt the power performance of that different style blank. Bearing in mind that the majority of our blanks are rated 6oz and above for what we are doing, and being used over a very wide range of skill sets in the anglers using them, without any problems occuring for any of our clients - only praise.

I think on the subject of reducing the number of guides further would introduce other problems, with the line no longer being in some sort of harmonic action as it flows out, and then problems with line wrapping would move to another location. My personal opinion is that the 'K' series concepts put too many small guides on the upper section of the rod, and that potentially reduces blank power.

In all these thinks it is a matter of balance, and a simple adage from my early engineering training - is that something needs to 'look right, and balanced', then it probably will perform properly.

I would suggest that you might try 180cms for your first LC, and get a feel for that when compared to 120cms. Even on the light weight 12' that we did the initial experiment on, the first LC16 was at 150cms from the reel face, and subsequently moved out to 165cm for optimum performance. That 'little' rod has produced some spectacular catchs for our clients, just last week we had two come in and report their happiness, one had had an 18kg Kob (like your Mullaway) and the other had just caught and landed a 29kg Spotted Gully shark (like your Gummy sharks, but more powerful).

In all these things it is a matter of finding the right balance between optimum casting performance, and preserving the 'fishing' performance.

Cheers from sunny Africa.

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Joined: Tue Jan 24, 2017 6:52 pm
Location: Namibia, where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Namib Desert

Re: A personal view on long surf rod guides.

Postby lbg15k » Sun Feb 12, 2017 3:47 pm

Interesting read. My next rod will have low rider guides, but there is an unanswered question in my mind.

The much smaller first guide does throttle the line - we have all seen the videos. I suspect that is at the cost of some longevity for the braid. Also that some braids will take it easily, others will not.

I base this on some experimenting with Gliss, Berkely Nano, fireline, Sufix 832 and Daiwa tournament braid. Briefly - both Gliss and Nano are good lines and cast amazingly well. They are also fragile and the way they fail is in the first 10m - after an hour or so of spinning, the line has plenty of little frayed threads, which are less frequent as you go back up the line. Given that these lines are so fine anyway, I don't take a chance and cut off that section.

So in a morning of fishing I would rebuild the leader, trace etc two or three times using say an 8kg Gliss. That fused fireline is similar, although it seems to be more robust for a given diameter. The 832 is a soft braid and it takes casting stresses a bit better, with the daiwa line better still. Think multiple trips (5 or 6) before rebuilding the leader, etc, for either of these 8-ply braids.

These lines were all on rods with similar guides (K-series). But I did borrow a few other rods over the past few years. Most instructive was an 11' rod with micro-guides. Fast action, a rated casting rod, but the Gliss and the Nano lines were soon shredded and much quicker than on my "k" guides placed on a 12' rod. Same lures, same bit of sea, same fish. My thinking is that the line has to take a high-speed turn as it approaches and then goes through the first eye. The twisting and flicking and pulling straight from coils around a rod eye is what is causing the issue.

- Faster the line speed, the more the issue. So look out on your 12' and more rods
- The more eyes choking down the line cone, the more issue. This is where the LC vs K work similar and should be about neutral. On my K guides I aim to have the line running basically straight once it has gone through 3 eyes. On that 12' stick of mine I run K-guides 30 -20 - 16 and then a 12 (does little throttling), then 10's. If I did it again I would go smaller right through.
- The larger the eye diameter, the less the issue. Here is the rub (sorry!). At a #20 LC being the largest, things are going to be similar to that micro-guide throttling the line and could be a line longevity issue - especially on the longer, more powerful rods. K guides in front here.
- The thicker the eye section, the less the issue. I think of line turning around a bigger edge or corner is easier on the line than if it has to go through a sharper, finer edge. So here the LC is in front.

What that mean on a 14' rod? Someone send me one and I'll report back....
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Re: A personal view on long surf rod guides.

Postby Jeri » Mon Feb 13, 2017 6:12 pm

Hi Charles,

Your findings are very interesting, and perhaps go someway to support some reasonable assumptions about what is happening when we take rods for distance casting. Something that is perhaps missing from your analysis is the composition of the actual inserts on the guides. I know there are Micro-guides that have aluminium oxide as the insert, very rough (microscopically) and potentially abrasive to braid. Next higher grades like Alcomite and SiC are progressively much less abrasive.

Something that is also missing from your evaluation is the number of times that the K guides are performing their anti-tangling operation, for everytime this takes place, the line will be abraded across the significantly less smooth steel frame of the guide - potentially a high wear situation. So, while the guides correct the problem of line tangling, they are bringing with them another issue. What might the smoothness value or friction surface value be of a stamped and polished piece of stainless steel, especially when compared to a diamond polished ceramic insert??? Just an observation from an engineering perspective.

In our evolution of design to where we are in our rod shop at the moment, we did make a serious decision to only use SiC guides, based on 'doing the maths'. With pure dyneema having a melting point at near half that of nylon ( we didn't bother with Gliss, even to find out what it truly is made of), the matter of friction across the insert surface might be critical to overall performance, as well as a potential problem with friction heat. We based it on the time of a 150 metre cast, and found the average line speed through the guides on the rod to be in the order of 90 miles per hour - so potentially pretty fast, as that 'average' would reflect higher line speeds, as the experiment starts and ends with the line at zero mph. We wanted to minimise the potential problems as good guides are cheaper in the long run, rather than high wear rates on expensive braids - hence the SiC decision.

We are also generally using heavier lines in our surf situation, 30lbs as a minimum, 50lbs as a general line, so perhaps not as critical as using lighter lines; but haven't noticed any particular issues of line wear when using the LC guide format.

We found an effect happening with our long rods built with LC guides, that came into effect when we started to seriously ignor the 'Fuji Recipe Book', by extending the first measurement from 120cm up to over 200cm. The effect is that very, very early in the cast, the line settles into a small coil at the face of the first guide, and very quickly after that it starts to form a spiral tunnel effect that gets longer as the cast progresses, and the start of the tunnel starts to move back towards the reel, ending at about 6ocm from the reel face. This coil control and tunnel effect has a diameter about the same as the first LC guide. What we are perhaps seeing is a 'harmonic effect' being set up in the line, where the line is not being 'forced' into any position, but rather naturally flows there - potentially the lowest friction effect across the guide.

We have taken this 200cm dimension further, right up to 210cm on some of the 15' rods we build, and still the effect stays in place. So, what we have found is a system of spacing that has only a brief 'anti-tangling' influence on the line, and it then very quickly settles down to this harmonic flow. We have never had any suggestion of anti-tangling effect happening at the second guide, or at the tip area.

Your observations of Micro-guides might suggest support for this theory, in that the very heavy shredding of the braid with these guides is perhaps due to the excessive forces being imposed on the line as it is forced through the first guide - first down from the reel diameter coils size to the first guide, then very quickly forced further to the micro-guide centre diameter - a lot of forcing of the line direction and behaviour in a very, very short space of time. Potentially a double huge friction situation being set up at that guide???

This long first measurement system that we have developed for our local situation was further checked when we started on our lighter weight 12' rod and 20lb braid, first we used 150cm for the first dimension, and found progressive improvements as we moved it up to 160cm and then 165cm. This combined with a height factor on the guide. Our first design with this light rod used a LC20, we thoght that that looked too unbalanced, and repalced it with a LC16, and things started to improve, we then changed to an LC16M which is slightly higher, and we started to get optimum performance - height of the first guide would suggest to be critical, especially in trying to set up this harmonic effect with the line approaching the first guide. This is what we did achieve with the little 12' rod and the longer spacing and the LC16M.

The effect of all this, is that we get a very settled line travelling up the rest of the rod, to the point where we have no problems at any of the other guides, and have even replaced the top 3 LC guides on the 12' rod to single leg guides with no ill effect, just the benefits of getting some action back from the blank.

To your assumptions about the K guides versus the Low Riders, I would disagree. For in the K series concept, and your own use, they use the first 3 guides to force or control the coils and line flow, before going to a smaller straight through size system. This would suggest that all 3 of these guides are being used to force the line to the direction of smooth flow, and this increasing the amount of friction and potential line wear - and that is without factoring in the friction and disruption of the anti-tangling effect that these guides are doing.

At the end of the day, these are only my observations of what is taking place, on a long surf rod, and it is unfortunate that oiur sport is so small when compared to the global fishing market, for if it was larger we might see a lot more research into the whole issue of distance casting, and a heap more high speed footage of what is actually happening between rings and line during a cast. We at the moment have to rely on personal observations and experiments to see if improvements can be achieved.

Our next step in personal evaluations is going towards trying even smaller LC guides on the top of persoanl rods, we are currently down to size LC8, but we might have a little test of single leg as well. All just messing about, fine tuning a system that works for us; though I think we might have issues with leader knots and the very small rings. This all assumes that we don't get a new design of blank, that will need to have a whole new evaluation, and perhaps a different set up.

Just my personal thoughts, based on quite a few rods each year, and used with a wide diversity of reels and angler abilities.

Cheers from sunny Africa,

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Re: A personal view on long surf rod guides.

Postby lbg15k » Fri Feb 17, 2017 12:40 am

So what do you think is the physics of that cone forming in anticipation of the guide? That would be good to see on a high speed video. Something weird here.

My thoughts - there is only the line that can create this, and the medium it is going through. The line is soft and limp and going outwards at your 90mph. There would be some eddy effects n the air as it is whipping around and being pulled straight. These are small forces, and in reaction to the cast coil being pulled straight. These would be acting generally at right angles to the line going out and in opposition to the line straightening. In other words, to keep the cone open. Forces stronger the faster the line. Which happens as the line gets straighter.

So I can see the cone is stable - is held open by opposing forces to the line straightening. But what makes it travel up the line to the reel? There will be a component of that reaction force that points up-stream towards the reel but we are well below supercritical speeds in air. So the energy could travel "upstream" but given how fine and light the line is and how slow it is (wrt supercritical speeds) I don't know if there is enough energy.

Sounding too complex to be real. Is it possible that as the speed of the sinker drops, so the centripetal forces drop and the cone no longer holds itself open, but starts to collapse? This could give the same visual effect, but it has less exciting explanations.

I don't know how to model the physics. We need a high-speed sequence of photos.

Also occurs to me that you must be casting in still air - much quieter than I get to fish in......
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Re: A personal view on long surf rod guides.

Postby Jeri » Fri Feb 17, 2017 7:15 pm

Hi Charles,

As a former engineer, but not is high velocity activities; I have given the fact little thought, more just observed the effect and found that when we get this happening the casts seem smoother and further, than other spacing set ups.

I prefer your centripetal concept more than anything else, but as you say it would be a factor of sinkers/line speed reducing, and perhaps significantly. We are seeing this effect from say 30-50 metres onwards, so no real line speed drop at that point in the flight. The additional problem is getting a handle on what is truly happening, which as you say would require some serious high speed camera work.

Personally, I think the 'harmonics' factor is perhaps the route to a satisfactory explanation. We found this to perhaps being the case when we were building more multiplier rods, getting the line flow settled, again to a smoother flow, but almost following a reducing sine wave pattern through the guides. We found certain spacing systems worked best to give distance, over some of the more formulaic based spacing systems which were around.

Whatever the actual 'physics' explanation is, we have found that we experience near zero problems with lines wrapping around rings in virtually every climatic situation. Very few people report 'coil correction' instances happening, so there must be some principle at work, based on the distance between the reel and the first guide, especially as we have literally hundreds of people using our rods with this dimensional spacing, and they are probably using just about every variant of reel on the market from super cheap and nasty right up to Stellas.

The big factor is that I see most of our rod users at most of the competitions, and they would in some cases love to point out flaws or problems, especially in such a public arena - and we don't get anything except recommendations to others from all the folks using our rods over other designs, even 'K' series exponents.

I think I will take some old fashioned wisdom, and not try to fix what is not broken, and continue with the plan that we are using. Getting too involved in trying to re-invent the wheel can get to the point of diminishing returns - and disappearing down the rabbit hole with a big headache.

We'll see what happens when we take delivery of a new blank coming up the road to us, a mixture of 3 different strengths of carbon and a healthy dose of Kevlar in the construction, but I know what will be my first approximation for that blank.

Cheers from sunny Africa

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