Naughty reels get the strap

by Steve Souter

Does your reel pull like a rabid dog on a short leash? If the answer is yes, then give rubber the thumbs-up because it’s time to get a proper grip.

Spool-slip when casting with a multiplier reel is a problem that anglers and dedicated power casters have always had to contend with. Slippage is bad enough with standard sized reels like the Daiwa 7HT Mag and Abu 6500 models, but things get even worse when using larger casting multipliers.

Two reels fitted with anti-slip straps

Anglers with average sized thumbs can toil to achieve good spool purchase with the popular bigger reels such as the Daiwa Saltist 30H, Abu 7500 and Penn 535 Mag 2. This is chiefly because getting adequate flesh and bone clamped over the top of the spool for failsafe gripping can be something of a physical impossibility for many people.

To make matters worse, wet skin isn’t the ideal brake-pad for fastening a secure grip on greasy mono line either. Indeed the difficulty can be likened to pressing down hard on a wet bar of soap which will happily catapult right out of your restraint given the slightest opportunity.

So, the ability to grip the spool securely and comfortably is crucial, and many anglers conscious of what is a universally serious problem, resort to using something called a ‘thumby’. A thumby is simply an inch-long rubber, or rubber-like, casting grip that sleeves over the thumb. They are commonly cut from bicycle inner-tubes, or from the fingers of household rubber gloves. Their purpose is to kill slippage by adhering to the mono, locking the spool down firmly under thumb pressure for confident and safe casting.

Thumbs Up

Unfortunately, homemade thumbies tend to be of limited usefulness – not least because perhaps one in a thousand anglers will actually find one that fits absolutely perfectly. As the hands get wetter, and bait juice etc inevitably works its way under the grip, one that is too loose is inclined to fly off in the course of casting. Conversely, one that is too tight will uncomfortably constrict blood circulation and give you a big blue thumb that throbs like hell. Most anglers compromise and suffer one indignity or the other…but it doesn’t have to be like that.

Arguably better than a thumby, is a thumb-strap, sometimes cheekily referred to as a ‘strap-on’! This is basically an enveloping flap of rubber material that affixes to the reel foot, and remains in place on the reel for the duration of the fishing session. The gripping principle is the same, in that the loose strap is pressed down against the open area of the spool to massively improve purchase and grip for casting. When a cast is released, the angler lifts his thumb clear as normal and the strap automatically falls back from the spool, allowing unimpeded line flow and full inertia.

A thumb-strap is a simple and highly effective anti-slip, anti-frap device that takes all of five minutes to make… and we reckon that’s five minutes very well spent. Incidentally, the rubber shown in the sequence is used for making haemorrhoid-cushions… love your bum!

Cricket bat handle grip works particularly well.

Follow the tutorial pictures below for step-by-step instructions.

Step 1 - Naughty reels get the strap

Get some supple rubber that’s around 1.5mm thick, a marker pen, sharp scissors, a craft knife or scalpel, and something to use as a template to draw around. The ideal template is a 6 inch steel rule, as shown here

Step 2 - Naughty reels get the strap

Start by drawing a clear outline around your template on the rubber. Your strap should ideally be 13 centimetres in length, and 2cm wide for standard casting multipliers such as the Daiwa 7HT MAG, Abu 6500 or Penn 525.

Step 3 - Naughty reels get the strap

Carefully cut all the way around the outline. Rubber can be tough to cut and the job is made much easier with good sharp scissors.

Step 4 - Naughty reels get the strap

The result should be a neat looking finger of rubber. We now need to cut a pair of horizontal slits across the base of the strap so that it can be fitted to the reel foot.

Step 5 - Naughty reels get the strap

Mark lines at 1cm and 2cm from the bottom. These guidelines should be around 1.5cm long, and should not extend right to the sides. Cutting ‘retaining’ slits at different positions will allow the strap to be adjusted to larger or smaller reels

Step 6 - Naughty reels get the strap

Draw the craft knife or scalpel carefully across the rubber. To avoid accidents, do this slowly, and don’t try to slice right through the rubber with a single cut. Don’t cut towards yourself and keep fingers out of the way.

Step 7 - Naughty reels get the strap

Pulling the rubber taught makes cutting easier. Take care at this point not to let the blade slice too close to the outside edges of the strap. There must be enough rubber left either side of the slits for it to grip the reel foot and remain locked

Step 8 - Naughty reels get the strap

Take the finished strap and line up a slit with the reel foot.

Step 9 - Naughty reels get the strap

Slip the strap over the foot and pull it down tight to the base of the foot at the root of the reel frame. The short overlap is then pulled flush along the underside of the foot before the reel is fixed on the rod.

Step 10 - Naughty reels get the strap

The casting strap should encompass the whole upper face of the spool. This very simple trick with a length of rubber allows you to firmly grip the reel with no fear of spool slippage in the wettest and coldest of conditions.

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