It is often a sad fact that I rarely get British made, single angler designed, innovative product through the doors. Some years ago, the whole tackle industry was full of guys in their workshops and sheds inventing all manner of products, not only to solve their own situations but also those of fellow anglers too. Dare we say it, the angling market over the past 30 years has gone global, big brand and totally commercial. So when Martin Waller, owner of Smart Tackle Innovations got in touch with me to take a look at his new product, The Coaster Companion, I was delighted!
With constant developments in rod technology rods have become slimmer and more dynamic, with this comes the problem of multiplier slippage. Various solutions have been tried, old school coasters are often the favoured method, there have also been sliding reel seats from various manufacturers all working with limited success, in my opinion. I’ve never got on with the Abu Grip Lok, the Penn Coastal Reel Seat was distinctly average and I’ve never been a fan of the screw winch types either! In fact, the only one that has ever really worked for me when used properly is the Talon, but that has never totally floated my boat either! Generally speaking though, when push comes to shove, coasters have always been my favourite method of fixing a multiplier reel to a rod. This is where the Coaster Companion comes in.
The development of this product was born out of frustration of the similar problems we have all faced at some point in our angling careers, the annoyance of a slipping multiplier at the crucial point of playing a decent fish or when winching in half an acre of weed foliage! These same problems have also blighted Martin, an angler who cut his teeth on the shores of the Solent where weed and good fish are commonplace.
After some thought, Martin finally found a design and a material that would solve his problem for good. Martin became convinced that coasters would somehow play a role in his invention and instead of trying to reinvent the reel, he decided to look at where the coaster was sat rather than how a coaster could work better. He settled on a piece of rubberised, durable and strong material that is used in the aerospace industry. This material has some mild form of elasticity and is malleable when heated and super grippy when in place.
From the initial look it is obvious to see how the product works. At one end of the product there are two rings with a gap of 2.5cm between them, these tubes fit onto the rod butt and are spaced apart the correct distance for fitting coasters for most sizes of beach multiplier reels. To the other end, the product has a long, thin piece of material that extends out toward the back of the reel and coasters, this is the spool grip.
If you intend to use the Coaster Companion you will only be able to fit it on any rod with a butt diameter over 24mm, generally speaking though the majority of rods are between 24 and 26mm so most people should be able to fit this to their rods. Fitting the Coaster Companion can be tricky and a little frustrating. You will require some patience.
I decided to follow the instructions and heat the Coaster Companion in hot water first, water that is about as hot as your hands can stand is usually good, it made life easier. The trick to effective fitting is to make sure the rod butt is clean, washing it properly with hot water and a mild form of detergent should get all of the rubbish off the shrink wrap.
With the cleaning job done you need to make sure that you properly align the Coaster Companion on the rod and then, with the aid of some washing up liquid, gently push the Coaster Companion up the rod, gently working each ring independently until you reach the position desired. Once done, washing off and leaving to dry is all that is needed! Fitting is easy in theory only in practice it takes a little longer because the material is so grippy on the shrink tube. At least this proves that once fitted, your reel is unlikely to be going anywhere!
To fit the reel simply place the reel on the Coaster Companion in between the two rings and then fit coasters like you usually would. It is best to invest in some oversized coasters for the diameter of the butt you are going to be using. Smaller coasters will need to be forced on and will damage the Coaster Companion so it is best to be prepared and invest in some new, bigger coasters. A +6mm sizing is about right so for a 24mm butt, buy a set of 30mm coasters.
I’ve actually been using these for quite a long time, I put them on my own rods at the end of September. I didn’t get out at all in October really but did manage a few session in November, December and a couple in January. I thought it would be a great idea to try them out over the winter period when things can get cold and slippery and with your hands not working quite at their optimum, I could also try out the spool grip as well. For nearly all of my fishing this winter I have been using an MTI 250 rod and an Penn 525 Slidey. The MTI 250 has a butt diameter of 25mm.
The first noticeable difference with this product is when initially tightening the reel to the rod, considerably less effort and less coaster tightening is needed. The slightly soft, grippy underlayer created by the Coaster Companion allows the coasters to grip the reel and rod with much less force than without it. I guess the best way to describe this would be to walk on a carpet without underlay and one with underlay, the difference is noticeable and this is the first impression you get.
Of course with this cushion between the reel foot, the coasters and the butt shrink tube – it adds a layer of protection so that you don’t damage the shrink tubing, reel feet can often dig into the shrink tube overtime, damaging and also devaluing your rod. If you keep rods for a short time and then move them on to buy something newer, this is an ideal and cheap way of protecting your investment.
You also notice that the product actually looks nice, not too bulky or overbearing like many sliding reel seats. It blends in nicely and if your rod has black shrink tube, you’ll hardly notice it is there. The spool grip is also nicely designed and minimalistic, not too big and wide and just right for the size of a thumb at 2.5cm wide, and, at the right length to get your thumb over the spool without too much overlap. For my hands for example, the spool grip overlaps the end of my thumb by about 0.5cm.
In a fishing situation the Coaster Companion provides the ideal setting for keeping the reel straight and true. It is quite incredible how grippy the material is on the blank and I would imagine it would be quite tricky to take off again once on! Which is of course, a good thing. During several fishing trips I never noticed any slip at all when using the Coaster Companion. I tried it with a couple of reels with a bigger foot as well, but provided the coaster was the right size, there were never any problems. It provides that reassurance you often need that if a big fish comes along, your tackle is going to perform at its optimum.
The spool grip also works a treat, saving your cold, wet thumbs from untold damage and also providing that little bit of extra grip and control when leaning into a big cast either in winter or summer. It is just the right length that it doesn’t overlap too much and the rigidity of the material means that it stays locked parallel to the butt until it is needed. It doesn’t flap about or get in the way when you’re playing a fish or doing other tasks.
Lastly it is worth mentioning the material used. Whilst it is rubberized, malleable, soft but rigid (it really is all those things) it is also very durable. I’ve been using the Coaster Companion for a few months now and I’ve noticed very little wear or tear, no visible cracks have appeared in the material and despite the obvious cod slime and lug juice, there are no visible signs of any use.
Overall I love this product. Many people will say they can produce the same results at home and I’m sure you could do something similar but I doubt it would be as good. The rubberised material has been especially chosen for the task, it is grippy, malleable and rigid composition makes it an ideal choice. What’s more, for a limited time it is only £6.99, that’s two pints down my local and this thing will last for years, not 30 minutes (I’m a slow drinker now I’m over 30)!
The Coaster Companion also has a sister product, the RS Companion. The RS companion is similar to its coaster counterpart but only has the one ring before the spool grip. This is designed for use on moveable reel seats and provides an excellent, secure, ergonomic spool grip.
The Coaster Companion and RS Companion are available from Smart Tackle Innovations priced at £6.99 (Limited offer usual price £8.99) and £5.99 for the RS Companion.
You can read more and also order your Coaster Companion through the Smart Tackle Innovations Web Site