If I was asked to pick from Preston Innovations’ vast portfolio of poles then it would be the boldly titled One that I would make a beeline for. Together with the GiS 14, these two models have sat right at the top of Preston’s tree for the past 12 months. With the same £2,999 luxury price tag as each other, the GiS 14 is without doubt the lighter but the One is stronger and more suited to heavy-handed anglers like myself. I’m not averse to making the odd ‘wallop’ strike and the One, with its tougher fourth, fifth and sixth sections, was right up my street for this style of fishing. That’s why my eyes lit up when I first saw its replacement: the One XS. Like its predecessor, it’s a top-of-the-range pole that is purpose designed for tackling UK waters.
For my test I decided to really put the pole through its paces in a five-hour midweek contest at Tunnel Barn Farm. For those who don’t know, this place is rammed full of fish. However, they are pretty clued up so you have to work hard to catch them. At this time of year that means searching every bit of available water in front of you and constantly changing and rotating swims to keep in touch with those crafty carp and F1s.
Dipping my hand into the draw bag I pulled out Peg 39 on New Pool. To be honest, it’s not an area that I ever fancy and what I call the ‘nursery’ end because it tends to be home to smaller fish. Excuses aside, I still had miles of room and plenty of scope to test the pole at every length. If the fish were not in front of me I still had five hours to search for them as far out as I wanted.
Before going on, I have to mention the exceptional package that this pole comes with. You get five spare match top four kits, five power kits, a short No4, cupping kit and 10-tube holdall. That’s a total of 11 top kits, including the one in the pole. The fact that you get five top fours is a massive bonus for anyone who fishes deeper venues, be they rivers, canals or lakes. They also make very handy spares to carry around if you are as clumsy as me!
I kitted out a couple of match kits with 9h and 11h Hollo elastic and found that a white 2.8mm Preston Innovations internal PTFE bush slotted snugly straight into the No2 section. With the No1 removed, these top kits are 2.22m long and perfect for anglers like me, who prefer them relatively short. Shorter kits are also particularly good with hollow elastic, which I feel can offer too much stretch when fitted inside a longer kit. I also trimmed back a Pulla Bung quite a long way to fit inside the base of the top kit and this, combined with less elastic, all adds up to less weight at the tip end. It is only when you elasticate a pole and ship out past 13 metres that you can really appreciate how stiff and responsive it is and I was suitably impressed with the One XS.
In all honesty, the fishing was a struggle. At least for me it was! We had just experienced a sharp frost and the fish I did catch were like blocks of ice. In fact, I went nearly an hour before I caught an F1, which is almost unheard of on this venue! The first few fish were tiny ide and a couple of 2oz ‘stockie’ mirrors and commons. For some reason the water directly in front of me seemed devoid of anything more substantial and it wasn’t until I added more sections and poked the pole right into the left-hand reedy corner that I finally connected with a 1lb-plus F1.
It seemed like the fish had definitely backed off and the answer was to fish as long as possible to try to find them. The fish also didn’t seem to like pellets being tipped on their heads. Instead, the best ploy was dripping in just a few and then fishing somewhere else for a few minutes. As soon as I dropped back onto the swim I would get a chunky F1 almost instantly. I told you these fish were clever!
With nothing to lose, I experimented by tipping in half a pot of maggots and the same amount of groundbait over an unproductive swim and that yielded a 3lb common carp – my best fish of the day. From this point on the fishing became steadily better and my elastic was zooming out of the top kit with much more regularity.
I didn’t catch anywhere near the 80lb needed to win but my 36lb effort was still hard earned on such a chilly day. More importantly, I was really impressed with the pole. I found myself fishing all over the lake for bites and that meant having to precariously balance it at times as I tried to locate my pole rollers. As ever, the Sun Core finish was excellent and it slid through the hands well without any sections catching them. The most important couple of things for me, were that it handled really well right up to 16 metres and that it was reassuringly robust in all the right places. Not everyone can afford a top-of-the-range pole like this but, if you can, you want to be confident in its construction. It has to cope with the rigours of catching big fish at short and long lengths. The One XS does that and more!
Preston Innovations One XS
Stated length: 16m
Actual length: 15.98m
Closed length: 1.79m
Match-kit length: 2.89m
Match-kit length with No1 removed: 2.22m
Power-kit length: 2.6m
Match kit elastic rating: No12
Power kit elastic rating: No20
Other features: Sun Core, Magic Steps, Fusion
Package: 16m pole including match top three, five power kits, five match top fours, short No4, cupping kit, cups, 10-tube holdall
Spares: Match top three £140; Match top four £240; Power kit £89; Pulla Kit £50; Short No4 £70