Marketing doesn't stop on the door step of your local tackle shop and it has to be said that most of the gear we buy bears little resemblance to the hype surrounding it. In the last few years fishing tackle has generally got much cheaper at the expense of quality. What seems initially as a victory for the consumer, is nothing more than a lowering of standards, brought about in no small part by mass-production.

Now whilst mass-production should mean that every item is of equal quality, this is in my experience not the case. Whilst all of the companies I have dealt with have always strived for maximum performance, mass-production does inevitably lead to some poor quality product getting through. Once you come to terms with this fact then you can see why tackle testing becomes absolutely essential.

All items of terminal tackle are mass-produced and so will inevitably suffer from some variability in quality, yet some factories seem able to maintain standards much more rigorously than others. Even when paying premium prices the occasional poor quality example does comes to light. Over the last year several products have come to light that would almost certainly have cost me fish if I had not taken the time to test my gear before use.

In April, when I began my serious bream fishing for the year, I purchased a new batch of my favourite hooks as a back-up to my remaining stocks. After a few weeks I came to use the new stock, only to find that the wire had not be tempered properly and that they would open out under very little pressure. When the pressure was removed the hooks sprang back to almost their original shape, so without testing them I am sure that it would have taken me several lost fish to work out what was going on.

Although it hasn't happened to me for a few years now, I did suffer a spate of poor quality hooks once. In around a quarter of the hooks in each packet the points would be poorly formed, or bent right over, making the hooks totally useless. Had I not tested every hook I would have missed a lot of bites using these dodgy hooks. Even when a hook comes out of the packet in a useable state, contact with gravel and snags can often lead to hook points becoming blunt. When fishing with baits on the hook this is often easy to pick up on as the bait will burst or be more difficult to get on the hook when the point is damaged. When using hair-rigs this can be more difficult to recognise and so I make a point not of always feeling the point and catching it in the skin on the end of my finger to ensure that it is still straight and sharp. I don't use the old trick of pulling the hook point over the finger nail for fear of blunting the point.

More recently I was talking to an angler who was being broken by roach before he even had the chance to pick the rod up! It transpired that his spool of 2.6lb line was actually breaking at less than a pound and the shock of the fish hitting the bolt-rig feeder was enough to part the line. Again, a simple pull to check the strength of the line would have alerted him to the problem.

Even when you think you have a good spool of line it doesn't necessarily mean that it is consistent all the way through. I have been using a new brand of line just recently with good results, yet after tying around fifty hook lengths I came across a few metres of line that broke much easier than the rest. After stripping off and re-testing I have so far found the rest of the spool of line to be fine. Even when the line has come from the same batch, slight changes in moisture, the alignment of the machine, or inconsistencies in the nylon mix can make big differences in performance.

I hope these examples point out the importance of testing each and every item of tackle you use. Testing the strength of each hook length and each hook takes only a few seconds and is really all about getting into a routine. Certainly, I would never cast out a rig these days without first giving it a good pull with my John Roberts knot tester and checking the sharpness of the hook. A few seconds effort now will ensure that when that fish of a life-time does come along you will not be left thinking what might have been. After all, what is such a fish worth? Add it up, tickets, petrol, days off work, bait. Saving a few pennies on some cheap hooks, or a dodgy spool of line that you never bothered to check won't look so clever when they inevitably let you down.