After looking at photos from last years World Champs in Holland, it occurred to me the significance and importance of one particular piece of equipment behind us! Because of the nature of the banks in Almere, all the photos were taken from the rear of the anglers', and it looked like they had a forest of pole rollers behind them. What struck me about these pole rollers, was not just the various models, but the many different combinations and positions on display.

Some used one roller, many had two, while the top teams often set-up three. There were a few using just flat rollers, some a mixture of flats and V’s, whilst others only V’s. Most of the anglers used tripods for V-rollers whilst others like Italy's Gianluigi Sorti used a bankstick for his back-roller. Stuck into soft ground, a bankstick is every bit as stable as a tripod and cannot fall over!

So why do I refer to this huge variety of rollers on display? Well, my point is that there seems to be absolutely no general agreement amongst the world’s elite, as to what is the best roller set-up or, in fact, what constitutes a good roller. Compare this to seat boxes or poles. Here, there seems more consensus as to what's best. The Rive style cassette platform boxes dominate the markets' thinking, while there is universal consent amongst top anglers that a 13 metre, 9 section technology is the correct choice, from whoever the pole manufacturer is.

So how are we 'lesser mortals' to know which is the correct roller choice, when the world’s best anglers all seem to use different models? In the end it's all about deciding what suits your own style of fishing and the venues you visit. What I cannot do in this article is tell you definitively that everyone should use two flat rollers, or that a single V-roller will cover all your fishing needs... it's not that straightforward! What I hope to do here is make you think more about which type of roller may suit you, and especially point out some of the things to look for when it comes to choosing one.

I have spent a fair amount of time researching pole rollers. This included fishing in high winds, watching just how and why poles move up a V-roller and what happens to poles when they are placed on a flat roller in a wind. I've also found out how to make a great low-cost and wind-proof back-roller and, of course, I have asked for input from some of the worlds finest anglers... Diego da Silva, Alan Scotthorne, Alain Dewimille and Steve Gardener!
The development of the modern roller
Pole rollers seem so much a natural and vital part of modern angling that it's hard to imagine a time when they were not used. But go back 40 years and a pole roller was little more than a jacket, or a rod holdall, laid on the bank. Then again, poles were rarely longer than 8 metres then. What really helped develop the roller in modern angling, was the progression of 10 metre carbon poles and beyond. This development went through a variety of logical stages, so here is my personal history, based more on the rollers I have used over the years, then anything else!

The paint roller revolution
I remember back in the late 1970’s scratching around decorating shops looking for paint rollers to make a home-made V-roller, which could be fitted on a bankstick or a small tripod. Talking to Diego, he also remembers trying to make these primitive models. Believe it or not, this was cutting edge angling at the time. To my mind, these paint rollers were the forerunners of today’s more elaborate V-rollers. But the idea hasn't evolved that much since those early years and I believe we still owe a debt of gratitude to the man who first decided that walls could be painted quicker with a roller than a brush, for without his genius, modern day pole rollers probably wouldn't exist!

Rollers on a bankstick
Amazingly, even today you can still buy a small V and flat roller designed to screw into a bankstick and stuck quite close to you as you fished. But back in the early 1980’s these were all the rage! Looking back, they look remarkably small and flimsy, but these were the first purpose-built fishing rollers.

The first tripod rollers
Manufacturers then started making an integrated roller tripod which were of heavy metal construction, often welded together, but the weight gave them some stability and anglers across Europe bought them in their thousands. Most tackle manufacturers produced one, but they all suffered the same problems... they rusted or fell to bits after a period of time and the rollers were too wide to hold any pole securely in high winds. Nevertheless, they were the best available throughout the late 1980’s and early 90’s.

Anti-wind elastic
When these first came out, they seemed to be the answer of stopping poles being blown off the rollers. This heavy duty elastic fixed across the top of a V-roller effectively stops the pole being blown up and over the top. This works well, if it is on a strong, heavy roller, however, on cheaper lightweight models it's far from it! The problem with anti-wind elastics on these cheap rollers is that they hold the weight of the pole against the most unstable part of the roller... the top of the arm, so that when the roller blows over, it inevitably falls on top of the pole causing a near certain break.

On one final point regarding anti-wind elastics. I have seen some unusual pole roller designs in my time, but putting anti-wind elastics on a flat rollers must rank as perhaps the strangest. Poles do not slide up flat rollers in the way they do up V-rollers, so why narrow down the space that your pole butt goes into... that's like trying to shove it through a letterbox!

Left: The original Boss double roller. Right: Daiwa's model.Left: The original Boss double roller. Right: Daiwa's model.The Boss flat roller
The biggest single improvement in flat roller design came when a company called Boss made the first top quality roller in the early 1990’s. These had four thin adjustable bankstick-style legs which turned out diagonally offering stable support. It featured a double-row of rollers, which helped greatly reduce pole twist. The design of these double rollers further evolved to include a tilting head, which would follow the weight of the pole as it slid across them. The Boss design was copied by many other companies and its design-legacy still lives on today. The design rights were eventually purchased by Daiwa and are still very much in evidence on the bank today in the form of the 'Rocking Roller', still the No.1 choice for many top matchmen.

The camera style tripod
Tripod rollers have evolved in recent years with the development of lighter camera-style modes. These enabled companies to make rollers that go higher than was ever possible before and seemed to be the answer to every matchman’s dream. However, the latest and best rollers on the market today have moved away from lighter approach, to a heavier, more substantial solid stainless design which offers greater stability on the bank. I will be discussing this type of tripod design in detail later. In general anglers have always been torn between the desire to reduce carrying more weight to the bank, and the need for stability in their rollers.
Diego definitely has a preference for tripod rollers!Diego definitely has a preference for tripod rollers!The recent success of heavier framed tripod rollers, like the Milo Prince and the Daiwa Tournament Pro, show that in the end, stability and security are more important, when using an expensive pole, than reducing weight. Diego has been testing the latest prototype heavy rollers from both Rameau and Garbolino and they are proving much more solid because of their heavier construction. I'm not surprised at this because, ironically, the very best camera tripods are quite heavy. If you want a stable tripod that can cope with hours and hours in the pouring rain, able to deal with unexpected gusts of wind that constantly push heavy pole butt sections up and over rollers, as well as giving you 'peace of mind' and security, then you need a strong construction. Look at a cheaper lightweight tripod after 6 months use on the bankside to see what I mean!

The bearing roller
Currently the most up-to-date type of roller. They are featured on many of top of the range V-rollers and even on the new Milo Brooklyn flat rollers. The tubes of the rollers have ball-bearing mounted inside, giving them a smooth and effortless motion as the pole runs across them. To tell if a roller has ball-bearings in it, simply use your hand to give the rollers a spin. If they make a smooth whirring noise and roll for ages then they have bearings fitted!
Steve Gardener shows fellow England international, Stu Conroy, a new roller design he's testing out for Milo.Steve Gardener shows fellow England international, Stu Conroy, a new roller design he's testing out for Milo.Stu tries to work out whether it's better on the bank, or in a modern art museum!Stu tries to work out whether it's better on the bank, or in a modern art museum!Italian design flair
The latest and most exciting developments in today’s pole rollers are without doubt coming out of Italy. The Milo Prince 'W' design has been so successful in the UK that there is now several months waiting for delivery into many tackle shop, and these are rollers that cost £150 (170 euros) each! The reason is because they are made from stainless steel and feature a well-designed 'W' roller system. It is ideal when you need to break a pole down twice, for instance, when fishing a short line and a main line at 13 metres, as each each length of pole is held in its own independent part of the roller system. Colmic and Milo are now developing even more radical V-roller designs, where they are looking at stopping the pole from running right up the arms of a V-roller, which will effectively put an end to poles being able to reach the top of a roller arm and topple the roller over. We have a sneak preview of one of these innovative rollers, taken at this years World Championships in Spain. These will be the next major development to come out of Italy within the next year or so.

Functions of a pole roller
Do you think that a pole roller is just there to move your pole forward and backwards? Not quite! Rollers not only have a vital role to play in protecting your pole, but also assist in overcoming barriers, security, speed and stability. All are issues which determine whether your roller is up to the task, whilst helping you fish much easier with it, than without it. Here are several points which highlight the importance of a pole roller and its uses.

Function 1: To roll smoothly
The most obvious, yet basic and important task performed. To put simply, a pole roller should roll! The individual roller tubes are designed to spin round on an axis, so that when you ship your pole in or out, the roller turns WITH your pole in either directions making movement effortless.

Pole twist
The biggest problem with some rollers when sliding a pole over them, is that the pole can often twist round as it rolls forward or backwards. This can cause a rig to become tangled around the pole tip. It’s also a nightmare when cupping out feed, as the cup can get turned around and generally slows you down if you have to keep adjusting the poles level. Generally this happens when a pole runs along a level and revolving surface, so wide flat rollers are more prone to pole twist than narrow ones. But even a wide flat section in the middle of a V roller can generate twist. Pole twist can also be caused when a pole is sliding against two rolling sections that are not quite turning at the same speed. For example, when rolling against the arm and the flat base of a V-roller.

There are some things that help reduce pole twist. First, look for double rollers, be they on a flat roller like the Boss/Diawa, or in the middle of a V. This double roller, helps stop the pole twisting as it moves forward. Next, try to avoid V-rollers that have rollers section which are too wide in their middle. This encourages the pole butt to slide sideways as you roll the pole back, and actually has little or no real use in operational terms. Look for rollers that have smooth and free running bearing. These may cost a little extra, but if all the rollers are spinning smoothly on bearings you will find that they will work much better together. However, it is not enough to go into a shop and just give any model a quick spin with your hand to see if the rollers turn! If possible, try and run a couple of butt sections across a roller to check that it is not turning the sections round as you move them forward and backwards.

Supporting and positioning the weight of your pole
It's important that you adjust your rollers to the correct height.It's important that you adjust your rollers to the correct height.Pole rollers', positioned correctly, will let you slide the pole backwards and forwards smoothly, without feeling any transition or jerking. What determines this is the correct weight balance relating to where you the position of the roller(s). Bearing in mind that the heaviest parts of a pole are the thicker diameter butt sections, as you move up the pole there is less material, therefore the sections become lighter. Therefore if you are fishing with a nine section 13 metre pole, then breaking down at the top three sections will mean you have six section constantly being shipped in and out. So you will need to position your roller so that it is on the balance point of these six sections. If you have a roller placed too far back, then the weight of the butt sections will cause the pole to bounce off the roller. If you set the roller too close to you, then the unsupported heavier butt section's will put too much strain on the smaller thinner joints and possibly cause pole damage. As a general rule you should never have anymore than three heavier sections behind a single roller... even if breaking down at the No.2 section! In most cases, the optimum balance point for a pole will be with two heavier sections behind the roller, but opinions vary slightly on this!
A double roller setup will give stability, smoothness and comfort throughout the course of the match.A double roller setup will give stability, smoothness and comfort throughout the course of the match.Diego will fish with more pole behind his roller than Alain Dewimille. His reasoning being that the quicker you get the big sections onto a roller, the faster you can ship them back. Steve Gardener will often fish with two rollers, even at 13 metres, as it supports the weight of the pole much better than one roller on its own and, of course, it becomes much faster because he gets the main weight of the pole onto a roller closer to him, much quicker than an anglers fishing with a single roller positioned further back. When breaking down at a top three, Steve will set his first roller about 2.5 metres behind his box, with the second one 3.5 metres behind that. He now has only to ship back his main heavy sections 2.5 metres behind him, then let them roll smoothly on to the rear roller. When using just a single roller breaking down on top 3’s at 13 metres, you would need to have at least 4 metres of pole shipped back behind you before it can be set on a roller!

Alain Dewimille's TOP TIP
When quickly shipping in and out over a roller, your pole will be subjected to lots of tiny vibrations. These can be enough to cause sections to work loose and come apart without you realising it, with the results proving costly. To overcome this problem, Alain tapes his pole sections together with electricians tape, at the start of each session as follows: 
Alain expects to use about six rolls of tape a year doing this, but feels it worth the effort as it gives him the extra confidence of not having to constantly check that each joint is secure after shipping in and out at speed.

Function 2: To securely hold your pole sections when not in use
This is a vital job for any pole roller. There are many occasions when fishing, that we need to break a pole down to the top kit and then have the heavier and more expensive bottom sections of our pole held securely and safely. It might only be for the time it takes to rebait, or it could be much longer!

There are many dangers associated with having a pole on a roller... like wind and people passing by. We shall discuss what makes a good flat and a good V-roller in a moment, but remember, if your pole is blown off a roller it will normally suffer quite an impact and probably become damaged. If you use a wind elastic to stop the pole being blown off, you'll need to be certain that the roller itself does not fall over and thereby possibly land on the pole. With a flat roller you need to make sure that a butt section cannot slide along the roller in a sudden gust of wind, because even that can damage a section as it slams into the short end roller. Generally, if your pole gets blown off a roller, or if a roller topples over, you will have certainly weakened, if not damaged, at least one of the sections.

Then we have the 'people-factor'! There is no conclusive data on this, but it's highly probably that people break more pole sections than the wind or hurricane! Our towpaths have now become leisure paths for joggers, walkers and cyclists and many poles have simply not been spotted by them. The dangers can also come from other anglers. I have seen more than one senior angler try to straddle a pole section resting on a roller and then break it with his trailing leg. Alain Dewimille gets so fed-up with passers-by on some towpaths, that he lays a flat roller on top of his car, if possible, so that it's high enough for people to walk under it. On a personal note, I had two sections of a pole broken deliberately by a cyclist on our local canalised river last year. It was blatantly deliberate, as the cyclist was walking with his bike at the time and simply went straight through the pole, which had been broken down twice. The result was, we ended up in court and the cyclist was ordered to pay damages and compensation for the breakages to my pole. It clearly shows the level of annoyance that both cyclists and anglers feel towards each other, regarding poles across towpaths.

Function 3: Your pole needs to be shipped back safely over obstacles behind you
A roller should be able to guide the pole over all obstacles behind you, such as railings, mounds of earth, low hedges. These types of obstacles are more relevant to natural waters, rather than the purpose-built commercial in the UK where the ground is normally clear behind a peg. This is why many anglers have a two roller types to cover different bank profiles. Diego uses V-rollers almost exclusively, yet he still carries one flat roller which can be laid flat on the ground if there is a steep bank behind him which he simply can’t get over with a V.
Alan Scotthorne, like Diego, also likes the option of a flat roller when fishing.Alan Scotthorne, like Diego, also likes the option of a flat roller when fishing.

Steve Gardener has no problem getting over high obstacles with his 'Prince' of rollers!Steve Gardener has no problem getting over high obstacles with his 'Prince' of rollers!Alain Dewimille is a fan of flat rollers generally, but has a large V for steep banks when he needs to ship the pole back higher, or those other situations when the ground behind is actually lower than that of the bankside. It helps if you know the nature of the venues bank you are going to fish, because you can then take the correct roller type. It's one of those questions that you don't usually ask when getting information on a venue, but it's actually something you should be aware off... is the bank behind you flat or sloping? … does it slope away from you or uphill? … is it concrete or grass? … is there a road behind you?

Many canals within town boundaries, both in the UK and abroad, can have high walls or fences behind the towpath, and a normal flat roller will not allow you to get the pole high enough over them. In these cases, the flexibility of of a height-adjusting V roller can sometimes overcome the problem, but not always. When these particular obstacles become too high, anglers, in some cases, set their rollers almost parallel to the canal. This forces them to swing the pole round – anywhere from 10 to 13m out – in a full 60° arc, before being able to ship back along the bank! (SEE ILLUSTRATION BELOW) This creates a problem of undue pressure, because you're using the elastic in the pole to pull a hooked fish further in the water towards the bank, some distance away from you (assuming you have enough space left and right). Inevitably, some will get bumped-off the hook because of this extra time in the water, so in these situations Alain Dewimille prefers to reduce any unnecessary pressure by breaking the pole down twice.
Function 4: To get your pole coming back at the perfect height for you
This maybe an aspect of pole roller positioning which is perhaps not so obvious to less experienced anglers. The height that you set a roller to, will directly determine the height your pole tip is above the water as you ship in and out, so it's worth thinking about. Several years ago, there was a trend of setting rollers very low to the ground. I can remember watching Milo fish this way during an early Open Declic at Amiens, where he shipped the pole, in and out, by almost by crouching down on his box as he ran it back over two low flat rollers. Steve Gardener pointed out that if you set rollers too low, you get problems cupping out feed because the pole bends under the strain, which means you risk dragging the pole cup in the water. He favours setting rollers at around the same height as your knee resting on your footplate, so that you can ship out a cupping kit without it hitting the waters surface.

But it is the height at which you require your pole tip at, when playing fish, that is important, and it's here that we have some differing opinions amongst our elite. Alain Dewimille likes to play fish with the pole tip close to the surface, or even just under it, so his roller height is set low to the ground to help this. He feels this offers the smoothest, resistance free, way of getting fish in without too much pressure on the fish. Steve, on the other hand, plays fish with the pole tip out of the water, where he can judge more clearly the amount of pressure needed to bring different size fish to the landing net, and this is where the higher roller height helps.

Alain has a preference for just a single roller set-up (above). This allows him to pivot the pole, if he needs to adjust the pole tip slightly, when bringing a fish back. Steve prefers the Milo prince 'W' rollers and often uses a two of them to keep the pole at a constant and level height when shipping in and out. Although these anglers have adopted a different approach with their roller set-ups, both have done it to suit their own individual styles of fishing.

Function 5: To determine the angle you bring fish in
This is another key function of the roller and, again, one where anglers are not of the same opinion. Take Alan Scotthorne and Diego for example. Alan fishes with his main rollers set just to his right... no more than a metre away. This means he strikes and ships back fairly straight, whereas Diego prefers more of an angle when shipping back, perhaps 2 or 3 metres to his right. Once again, this difference is all down to how both men approach fishing.

Alan uses an economical strike and likes to lift into a bite, then move the pole back with a relatively restrained set of movements. Diego’s natural instinct is to give a fuller strike, then bring the pole round to the side and ship back. He uses the wider angle on his pole roller to help keep tension on a fish as he brings it in. Alan prefers to let the fish do the pulling, not him. Once more we see that each man's individual style dictates how they position their rollers.

I trust you see why getting the opinion of top anglers proves so fascinating. Just because they don’t all agree on the height of a roller, the angle it’s at, or even the type of roller to use… it doesn't mean that any of them are right or wrong! All they have done is adapt their roller set-ups to suit their particular style of fishing. These anglers work extremely hard at ensuring all their techniques are smooth and efficient, and in this respect, a roller's function plays a major part.

NEXT TIME: Part 2: Choosing the right roller
Some helpful tips from our expert panel, to steer you in the right direction when it comes to picking the right roller for you!