I hope everyone has had a fantastic summer, and I hope that you are all embracing the cooler temps and beautiful colors that fall brings us each year, here in Southern Ontario. Today I am going to talk about a very versatile and useful piece of equipment that is often best utilized in the fall – today I will discuss the Centrepin.
With the growth in sportfishing, we are experiencing new anglers more and more each year. One of the main questions people ask me at the shop is, "where can I catch big fish without a boat?". Now, during the fall and winter months this question is very easy to answer – in the creeks/rivers, you will be hard-pressed to not find yourself some sort of salmonoid species cruising/spawning in shallow creeks/streams.
One of the best ways (and most favored) to hook into these tanks, is to utilize a float fishing setup – the preferred setup for float fishing consists of a long rod (often 10-13ft in length), and a Centrepin reel. The reason many anglers prefer a Centrepin setup over a traditional spinning or baitcasting reel setup (for float fishing), is because a Centrepin allows you to present the most natural drifting/floating presentation. Another advantage that the Centrepin yields over its competitors, is the amount of line that you can stack onto these reels (in relation to weight/line capacity ratio). In addition to the advantages to using a Centrepin setup for float fishing, it is also a very fun and challenging way to catch fish!
Now, for those of you that have no idea what a Centrepin reel is... The best way to describe it, is by literally looking at one of the simplest machine designs ever; the invention of the wheel and axle. The circular metal piece known as the Arbor, has the line wrap around it, and spins freely on the Pin (axle) - most centrepin setups have absolutely no drag system! This makes it very challenging to catch fish, but this is also what allows anglers to create the 'perfect drift' and make their presentation look as natural as possible.
For anglers looking at purchasing a Centrepin setup, there are many things to consider and it can often become a very confusing (and almost intimidating) process. Don’t sweat it though, because I'm going to tell you the basic in's and out's to picking out the best Centrepin for YOU.
When you head to the river and ask most of the local guys, "what kind of centrepin should I get?" Or, "what kind of centrepin is the best?"… Some guys will swear that Islander makes the best centrepin, other guys will use nothing other than Raven equipment for centrepin fishing... While others will swear that you need a $1000 Kingpin centrepin to be a decent centrepin angler. In the end though, what matters is that you have a product that will gives you years of service, and one that you will be happy/comfortable with on the water.
So let's talk about the things to look for when trying to pick out a centrepin... First things first, how does the reel feel in your hand? Will you feel comfortable holding it for an entire day on the water – is it too small/large to comfortably hold, is it too heavy? These are all things you should be asking yourself. Much of the questions that you will ask for this segment will depend on the size of the arbor of the reel. The arbor will determine the overall diameter of the reel – most arbors will generally be around 4.5".
The diameter of the arbor will not only determine the weight or overall 'feel' of the reel, but it also determines the pickup speed of your reel. Generally, 4.5" for an arbor size will be a great universal size for all river/streams you fish. For those anglers that plan to fish larger/faster rivers, such as the mighty Niagara River, a larger sized arbor will be more effective. The reason for this being, that the Niagara will have faster/more aggressive drifts, you will be forced to get your presentation deeper, and you will generally have longer drifts – having a larger arbor allows for a faster pick-up speed on your retrieve, which really helps in getting a solid hookset when you see your float drop.
Another reason some anglers prefer a larger arbor reel, is because they might have larger hands, or even anglers (such as myself) suffer from arthritis and find holding a larger arbor reel easier to hold for long periods of time. An example of a larger diameter centrepin reel would be the Raven Matrix XL, which boasts a 5 1/8" arbor.
The next thing you should look for when looking for the right centrepin for you, would be the bearings. The quality of bearings in your centrepin will generally determine the overall 'smoothness' of your reel. When selecting a centrepin based off of the stock bearings, you'll want to take the reel and hold it how you would normally hold it while fishing (do not put it flat on the counter and spin it – this does not give an accurate representation of how the bearings work). Hold it firmly, and spin it with your opposite hand – listen for squeaks/grinding, look for any wobbling in the arbor (tighten if it's loose) to ensure there aren't any warps in the arbor itself, and feel for any abnormalities. If the bearings pass this first test, simply wait to see how long the arbor will continue spinning – generally, the longer; the better.
With all of this being said, I'd also like to mention that many anglers choose to swap out their stock bearings (regardless of quality) for top-of-the-line ceramic bearings, such as Boca Bearings. Though many anglers go this route, it is not 100% necessary. For example, the Okuma Sheffield comes fully equipped with a pair of German ABEC 7 bearings, that will provide years of service before requiring replacement – I've got a buddy who bought his Sheffield off of Kijiji and has used his centrepin for years and it still spins smooth!
Having a smooth pair of bearings in your centrepin is what will ensure that you get a smooth drift time and time again, and will also give you more distance/cast ability for the anglers that utilize the Wallace Cast.
One of the main things anglers look for when investing in a centrepin, is the overall durability of the centrepin... This can be determined by many things – what is the main material component of the reel? Does it have a separate drag system (more uncommon in centrepins)? Does it have exposed parts, such as an exposed clicker system? These are all things you should look into before you purchase a centrepin.
Having an exposed clicker (the part of the centrepin that stops it from free-spooling) is one of the most inconvenient features on some of today's centrepins. Having this system exposed opens the opportunity of dirt/grit getting into the overall system of your reel, and it also allows for parts to be damaged/lost. My first centrepin had an exposed clicker system, and I lost the clicker spring/some components of the system multiple times – once from accidently dropping it, and a couple times from simply bumping it with my finger while fighting a fish. With that being said, not all reels with an exposed clicker system will have these problems – just make sure that it is a possibility when purchasing a centrepin with an exposed clicker.
As I mentioned above, double-checking what the main material used to make the reel is also important if you're looking for durability. Generally, you can literally 'feel' the quality of the material when you hold the reel in your hand. One of the most overall durable reels I've ever seen, is the Islander centrepin. I've seen these things dropped on concrete/stone, and still spin true, I've seen anglers cover them in skein/roe, and drop them in sand/dirt - after a quick rinse in the river, they all spun true and continued to work as if they were brand new. The Islander centrepin is one of the more expensive reels on the market, but it is a reliable reel that is guaranteed to provide you with years of service.
The final thing to consider when looking at purchasing a centrepin, is your overall budget. Yes, spending more money will get you the top-of-the-line reel – but it is not entirely necessary. Many companies offer cost-efficient 'economy' centrepin reels that will provide you years of service (minus some of the bells and whistles). An example of a cost-efficient reel is the Streamside Vortex. The streamside vortex is a fantastic 'entry' or 'economy' reel, that costs a little over $150. Another comparable and good 'entry/economy' reel is the Raven Helix. Both of these reels are more cost-efficient reels that have a great balance between quality and cost.
Now that we've covered the basics for picking a centrepin reel, let's quickly talk about pairing it up with a rod that meets your needs on the water.
Generally, the longer the rod, the more shock absorption and distance you'll be able to cast. You must also keep in mind though – longer rods are significantly harder to learn on, and longer rods will also be much harder to use in small/brushed-in creeks. A good universal length and action for a centrepin rod would be a 11ft medium action rod – this will be long enough for casting in big waters, while still not being too long for most smaller streams... It will also allow for plenty of shock absorption for larger fish.
So, there you have it folks'! There's a quick rundown of the things to consider and look for when purchasing a centrepin setup. I hope this article has provided you all with some insight on selecting the right centrepin for you.
Please don't hesitate to contact us at the shop if you have any questions –we'd be more than happy to help!
Stay safe, and happy fishing!