Rods for River Trotting, and Barbel.

On various fishing forums I visit, this has to be one of the most often questions asked and a difficult on to answer. Firstly rods have move on in the last few years (5-10) as at one time the big fish trotting angler had to make do with rods not specifically designed for the job. I see a lot of suggestions for the Drennan 12’9 Tench rod, well it’s a rod, about the right length but it’s got Tench on in for a reason, and it’s designed to sit in a rest most of the time. Will it do, yes but you could do better.

Angling Times Picture, Barbel on the Acolyte Plus.


I’ve not tried every rod available, few have, but during my search in 2015/16 I did a lot of looking, speaking to those in the know, holding and swishing rods. Lets look at what you need in a big fish trotting rod. First it has to be able to take a main-line of at least 6lb breaking strain. It has to bend right through the blank, not just the tip, or two-thirds, down below is where the power is.

There are plenty of rods designed for river fishing, even float fishing, but most are too light. Hence were the suggestion for something like a Tench rod comes in, it does all the above. But it lacks any finesse, or a quick but softish tip. I tried a Tench rod myself and just found it dull, it didn’t pick up line at distance quickly, or with any authority. I don’t think it’s until you have tried a proper float Barbel rod, that you would know any difference.

I mentioned earlier that rods have come on recently, due I think to the modern carp commercials. These places have a lot to do with new rod designs, specifically for pulling big carp out on light lines. These float rods are very light, as thin as a pencil and bend right through. One pellet waggler I own is the perfect small river float rod, its light super quick, ultra slim and takes 6 lb main-line. If I was a small river Barbel trotter I’d look no further. However it is too short for bigger river applications, where the 13′ rod rules. Sadly most of these pellet waggler rods are too short and 9′-11′ seems to be the ideal size as the carp anglers can net carp quicker with this length.

So as you can see the right design is the key, after much looking I’ve fund just a handful of rods up to the job. Remember these are rods I’ve tried myself and still own.


The Acolyte Plus range from Drennan. In my humble view these rods are perfect, they have all the traits I look for. Some say they are too light for big Barbel, but most people who say that don’t ever test their tackle to the full.  Look at;  You-Tube epic fishing fight on 1lb hook link.  (Have you ever watched anglers with strong carp rods and 15 lb line fish for Barbel. With modest fish they haul them in super fast trying to keep them from snags, nothing wrong with that, but where is the fun, fight?) I don’t float fish near snags, full stop, so my tackle is appropriate. I also bend into my fish and with a float rod, that’s nothing like bending into a fish with a carp rod and 15lb believe me. Mostly my Barbel move toward the middle of the river, then sulk, until I move them again.

It’s worth a test if you still unsure, try breaking 6lb line on a straight pull when attached to one of these rods. Then imagine trying to break it on a big fish, almost impossible, the hook-link goes first, and at 4/5 pound that too takes some breaking. A long float rod is an impressive tool, and can exert real power on a big Barbel.

You can pick these up now for bargain prices. Google Acolyte plus. 14′ my favourite.

The Daiwa Tournament. I’ve been a big Daiwa rod fan for years. The blanks are so high quality, and they last. Most have been good investments for me, but they come at a price. I bit heavier than the Acolyte, but the feel is very steely if you know what I mean. Mine is rated 2-8 pound and is stronger than the Acolyte, just. My choice is the 13’/15′ at 15′ with a light balanced reel the rod is a delight to use, is a Barbel rod killer without compromise.  I often lay-on with this length in the evenings, hooking Barbel as they pull against the rod top, no buzzer required thank God, but do hang on! Maybe because of the quality these rods go for a good price second-hand.

That’s it, just two rods I would choose from. Their must be others, I’m told some of the old Normark are good, and Harrison does one as well as do Free-Spirit. Daiwa also do a Spectron thats almost as good as the Tourny. But you will have to do your research like I did.  Finally forums are a good source, but only listen to those that really do trot for Barbel, and not those ones that wish they did?





Author: Fishermanrichard.

Retired and fishing as much as I can.

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