For the past few years quiver tip or “tippy” rods have become more fashionable in boat fishing. I've purchased a number of quiver tip type rods for boat fishing and I enjoy using them, when applicable. Shakespeare are the latest brand to join the tippy revolution with the Shakespeare Agility Tipster, a different take on the usual continental type match quiver boat rod.
Rod Cosmetics, Description, Pieces and Versions
The Shakespeare Agility Tipster comes as a three-piece rod for easy transportation. It features a shrink tube covered butt to an aluminium reel seat with a good solid EVA foam grip to give maximum comfort. The rod is finished in the familiar Agility matt deep blue colour featuring a glossed silver section on the butt that contains the rod name and other information. The rod is fitted throughout with Zirconium Oxide guides ideal for use with both braid and mono lines, these are fixed to the rod using deep blue whippings tipped with silver. The quiver tip section of the rod features an orange reflective section between the tip and third intermediate rings for easy bite detection in low light conditions.
The Shakespeare Agility Tipster is available in 9ft, 11ft and 14ft versions. The 9ft version is the one I have been using for the purpose of this review.
It’s hard to fault the build quality of the Shakespeare Agility range of rods for the money. Every one I’ve had my hands on has been finished to a high standard. Whippings are all well appointed and each ring has been attached straight and true. The rings and fittings are not Fuji, but, for the price of the rod, this is not to be expected. They’re strong, lightweight and tough, with Zirconium Oxide guides standing the test of time on other Agility rods. The EVA foam grip is solid, provides good grip and is the right circumference to be comfortable for all but the hands of a giant.
One thing I did notice after continued use is that the orange tip colouring started to fade over several months of use. This was under harsh, continued use however and I don’t suspect that under normal use this would be an issue.
Designed for Shore and Boat
Originally designed for fishing from beaches and in the margins of estuaries for smaller fish such as flounder, bass and other small species, the Tipster is equally at home on a boat too. The versatility of the rod means that it can be fished with bait or lure from the shore or boat, making it is a great travel rod to have in the car when you don’t have room for loads of kit.
The blank is interesting, despite the tippy quiver tip, which we’ll look at later, the rod has bags and bags of power in the mid section and in particular the butt. This power progression makes fighting bigger fish easier; making for a great all rounder that covers a multitude of different angling situations.
The rod can cast too. With weights of between 10 and 40g, this rod is a competent casting tool from the shore or boat. This makes for an ideal spinning rod when you don’t have a lure rod and for bait fishing at close range on a sheltered beach or estuary. From a boat, casting sensible weights can increase your range of fishing allowing you to fish different pockets of ground for different species, you can also uptide small baits too.
They key feature of this rod is the supple, near quiver like tip. It’s not a full match quiver or a quiver you would find in freshwater fishing, but a hybrid, a kind of almost quiver but with a bit of backbone built in to it. This makes for a tippy, sensitive tip that offers great bite detection, especially when bites are finicky.
What I also like about this tip are the sensibly sized rings. Many of the continental type match fishing rods use rings that are incredibly small and if bits of weed or debris get caught around a leader knot and you don’t notice, it could well be Goodnight Vienna for your precious quiver tip. The Shakespeare Agility Tipster uses sensible guides that are large enough to counter this potential hazard.
When I was a kid I was brought up on sporting, fun angling principles. For much of my youth I fished for tope in the shallow waters of Cardigan Bay using little more than a spinning rod. Bass fishing expeditions were done with the lightest gear possible and as I progressed through my angling career, the fly rod became the new tool of choice for maximum sport. The Tipster follows on in this tradition for me, and I was eager to get the rod out on a boat that I knew would offer me a great chance to apply these sporting principles.
Each year I team up with Mike Snr and good friends Dave Barham, Jim Midgley and Gethyn Owen for two days of angling debauchery aboard Gethyn's Holyhead based charter boat, My Way, fishing for smoothhounds on the lightest gear possible! Geth is a big advocate of light line tackle sports fishing, especially for smoothhounds, so it was with Geth that I elected to put the Shakespeare Agility Tipster through it’s boat fishing paces.
It was mid morning on the Thursday, the first day of our two day adventure, when the realisation of just how much fun these rods are came to the fore. I was fishing on the port side of the stern when my Tipster bent over and I leant into my first fish, it was a small smoothhound of around 8lbs but using the light rod and a 5000 sized fixed spool reel, it gave an excellent account of itself. Shortly after I hooked another one, this one slightly bigger around the 12lb mark which hit the bait hard and stripped line off the lightly set drag at a good pace of knots, the rod bent double trying its hardest to subdue the fighting fish as she cruised around in midwater.
I cast another bait out from the stern and soon felt a tap, a clear bite but not wanting to rush things I left it for a while. With the fish finicky I left the second tap to see how the bite developed. On the third tap, I felt a savage bite and leant into the fish, the response was a solid thud and a screaming reel. The fish ran some 10 yards and then hung, contemplating her next move. Another sudden run and the fish went deep. The rod bent double, I now began to feel the power in the butt section starting to work against the fish. As the fish began to settle I started to work the fish by pumping the rod and winding cautiously. The rod locked up helping me work her to the surface ready for the waiting net.
The fish continued its slow ascent through the water column, me cranking on the reel and the rod flexing and bending applying pressure with each pump. As the fish approached the surface it was obviously a big fish, Jim Midgley immediately called it as a near twenty and when Gethyn had secured the fish in the net, he also declared that this one would be “close”. An anxious few moments ensued whilst Geth found the weigh sling and his certified scales. After much anticipation the fish weighed 20lbs exactly! To say I was chuffed, was an understatement.
During the fight, I had no sense that the tackle I was using was ever going to let me down. The Shakespeare Agility Tipster is a deceptive rod, despite the quiver like tip, the mid and lower butt sections lock into fish, providing the power to really lift a big, dogged fish up from the sea bed when required. It’s certainly one of the most fun fights I’ve had and that includes 30lb plus tope on spinning rods.
Incidentally, for this season My Way has become a Pure Fishing sponsored boat and through this Gethyn has purchased a set of Tipster rods coupled with Penn Spinfisher 5500 reels for guys who want to light tackle fish for hounds. Over the past few months Gethyn and his crews have put these rods through their paces and to date have captured countless hounds up to 20lbs and over.
Using spinning rods whilst wreck fishing is nothing new, a good solid 9ft spinning rod with a heavy lead head sunk to the bottom and hopped or retrieved is a common and deadly way for sporting fun on a wreck. With this in mind I wanted to give the Shakespeare Agility Tipster a shot over a wreck. It was whilst fishing out of Portland in Dorset that I managed to get the Tipster into some wrecking action aboard a private boat, Wishing Too, owned by a good mate of mine, Nigel Allen.
We chose to fish a wreck some 20 miles off that had proved successful for Nige a day earlier. Initially I was fishing with another rod I’m due to review shortly, the fantastic Abu Suveran 12lb class, but after a few drifts and having got into some nice cod, I decided for the next few drops to give the Tipster a whirl.
I setup much the same as on the Suveran with a standard Whitby rig and a pink shad – I know everybody loves Sidewinder Rhubarb and Custards but for me, a pink weighted shad is the way forward, the best ones are from an American brand called Calcutta, I don’t think you can get these anymore in the UK sadly. The plan was to let the shad descend to the bottom and then very slowly work the lure back for around 20 turns and then let it back down and repeat – pretty standard!
Within a couple of drops I connected with a fish which had the reel screaming as it took line, and, as with the smoothhound the week before, the rod bent into the fish, the butt taking the strain and applying consistent pressure, making for a fun but controllable fight. A nice cod of around 4lbs was landed.
On the second drift with the Shakespeare Agility Tipster the sensitivity of the rod was to prove useful. For some reason all week when fishing the wrecks we’d found both cod and pollack quite shy, they were mouthing baits but weren’t really wanting them in. When using a standard setup you’d feel a short tug and nothing more. Using the Tipster however cast a whole new light over the situation. You could feel the tug of a fish as it mouthed the lure, but because of the subtly of the tip, it seems the fish were unaware that something wasn’t quite right with the lure. The fish continued to mouth it, leave it, come back again, mouth it, leave it, and come back again! This constant feel of what was going on down on the sea bed meant you could incite an otherwise reluctant fish into taking the bait.
Overall I had around five fish from the wrecks on the Tipster, we were fishing in around 200 feet of water, depths that the tippy little rod proved more than capable of fishing. If I’d have had more time and better weather on my hands, I think I’d have easily of been able to get a double up on this gear.
I’ve touched on the versatility of the rod earlier on in this review but it is worth mentioning it again. During my trips out with Gethyn I’ve used nothing else, during my five days fishing in Portland, if I’d needed to, I could have quite happily fished away with it for the whole week without needing another rod. Working lures over a wreck, casting a plug to a bass or drifting the shambles for a flattie would be no problem. You do have to be sensible and assess your fishing situation at the time and naturally the Shakespeare Agility Tipster can’t do everything, but it’s still an all round, fun tool that’s capable of a lot.
The fact it breaks down into three pieces makes it an ideal rod to take on holiday. A rod that enables you to fish at close range on a beach or estuary, throw a lure from a rock mark or pier and if needed, take on a boat for some light tackle fun.
2017 Shakespeare Agility Tipster Changes
For 2017 the Shakespeare Agility range has had a makeover. You will notice this on rods purchased from late 2016. The major change is on the cosmetic front. Each blank is now a brighter, royal blue colour that has a metallic edge to it. The ring whippings are silver and the EVA grip is also the new Royal Blue colour as is the shrink tube below the reel seat. The rod retains the orange tip. The new 11ft and 14ft versions have also been released into this range.
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- Butt section is shrink wrap, handle is EVA.
- Rings are Zirconium Oxide
- Comes in three sections
- 9ft version has a casting weight of 10 to 40g and costs £89.99 RRP
- 11ft version has a casting weight of 30 to 120g and costs £94.99 RRP
- 14ft version has a casting weight of 120 to 240g and costs £99.99 RRP
- Prices correct as of January 8th 2017
For more information on the Shakespeare Agility Tipster Rod, visit the Shakespeare Fishing Website.