A stainless-steel D-ring makes a great addition to a well-equipped surf belt.
When fishing in the surf, you have to be organized and efficient. The elements – water, sand, rocks, wind, etc. – are ruthless in finding and exploiting any weaknesses in your gear or planning. This is particularly true at night, under rough water conditions, or if you’re a wetsuiter who wades or swims to distant rocks. Changing plugs can be difficult in these situations, and as such an angler may forgo switching to different profiles and presentations. This can add up to missed opportunities and catching less fish simply because the angler has deemed it too difficult to swap plugs.
One hurdle to overcome is what to do with your rod when changing plugs. This also goes for when you’re unhooking fish, need to re-tie, or need to adjust some piece of gear. The vast majority of anglers will put the rod under their arm so they can use two hands. However, there is always a risk of dropping and losing the rod when doing this. Putting it under your arm also makes it hard to get to your pliers to unhook a fish because you are trying to hold onto the fish while simultaneously not releasing the rod from your armpit. It can just be awkward! I’ve also seen fish lost at the last minute prior to measuring because the angler couldn’t hold the rod and use a Boga Grip at the same time due to rough water pushing the fish and angler around. You certainly don’t want to have to make the choice between weighing a 50 and losing your rod!
A great little tool to help with these obstacles is a stainless-steel D-ring. These were initially invented to be used on scuba belts to hold various bits of gear. However, when used in surf fishing, they make an excellent rod holder. You simply put the D-ring, which typically comes on one- or two-inch belt webbing, on your surf belt, and have it positioned lining up with your belly-button, ring hanging down. Then, when you want to safely secure your rod but need two hands, you slide the butt of the rod through the ring and down between your legs. There, it will sit securely, while you change plugs, or retie, or need both hands for some other purpose, like grabbing an especially big fish. The rod is unable to swing around since your legs trap it in place. While it is rare that I will use it when I have a fish on, I use it every time I change plugs, which can be every three casts under certain conditions. The D-ring simply makes this very convenient and simple.
There are several options for D-rings that are specifically made for surf fishermen, including those made by Gear-Up Surfcasting and Aquaskinz. The Gear-up ring in particular comes with a lifetime warranty, so for $12 you are making what is essentially a single life-long purchase. While these are fine products, and made to work specifically with those companies’ belts and virtually all others, there are numerous other options. I personally prefer a D-ring with a very thick and strong webbing attachment; thicker than either of the aforementioned rings. When thinking about putting a $400 rod and $800 reel in the ring, and then letting it go, I want to make sure there is as little chance of it being lost as possible. After all, that is the point of the ring in the first place – to keep your rod safe while you do something else. Therefore, I use a JCS Scuba D-ring, and my current ring is seven years old and it shows almost no signs of fatigue. This ring has extremely thick, stiff webbing. Simply put, it is rugged. However, when it does start to show any weakness, I will replace it with another since there is no sense in risking my rod and reel to save $10.
A final word of caution on using D-rings. Once the rod is in the ring, you have to be certain you have ultimate control of the fish if it’s still attached to the line. It’s not easy to quickly get it back out if the fish takes off. Therefore, I almost never put my rod in the ring with a fish still attached to my plug, especially if the fish is big. If you drop it (the fish), and it thrashes or takes a run, you’re liable to break your line or rod, because of the extreme line angle from the tip of the rod down to the water. Therefore, I will not put my rod in the ring until I have it firmly in the jaws of a Fish Grip or Boga.