There always seems to be that one guy on the boat who struggles to catch as many fish as the rest of the crew. Sometimes it’s because of skill level while other times it can be chalked up to just good old- fashioned bad luck. The one factor that I notice most often, however, is the use of inferior equipment. This month’s issue couldn’t come at a better time to provide gift ideas for those who are in need of some upgrades in the fishing gear department.
If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it…well, you know, “Man, I haven’t had a bite in a while.” Well sir, part of the reason may be because the rod you’re using would be better suited for a jetty bull red trip or even a self-defense weapon. Sometimes trout bites are subtle, especially this time of year. Sensitive lightweight rods are one of the primary tools available to give us the upper hand. If you can’t feel the bite your chances of catching are very slim.
There are more than a handful of top quality fishing rods on the market. For more than a decade my choice has been Waterloo. Waterloo has found its niche by custom-making rods tailored to fit the needs of both salt and freshwater anglers. Over the past 20 years or so they’ve communicated closely with hardcore anglers who spend hundreds of hours on the water each year. The feedback provided by these anglers who employ various styles and tactics goes into every rod made. Not only do Waterloo Rods put us in direct contact with the fish via their sensitive high-modulus blanks, but the personal touch from their staff and even the owner, Jimmy Burns, is something most big box stores cannot provide.
Waterloo’s HP Lite is a softer tip rod which is perfect for fishing with soft plastics. The Carbon Mag is a very lightweight faster tip rod that works phenomenally well with twitchbaits, Corkys and topwater plugs. In my opinion, the Ultra Mag is the Swiss Army knife of all fishing rods. I use mine for all the above. It has a slightly softer tip than the Carbon Mag but carries a strong backbone throughout the length of the blank for superior fish landing power.
I think it’s kind of cool that certain trends and styles tend to be somewhat cyclical. For example, my daughter tells me that bell-bottomed jeans are popular again. Apparently, the retro-70s look is a thing. What’s not cool is when someone shows up on my boat with a retro reel. I understand the whole “durability” concept and that’s great. However, a reel used to catch speckled trout and most any other inshore species we’ll be targeting doesn’t need to weigh one pound and have a 400 yard line capacity. For Pete’s sake, take it off of your telephone pole of a fishing rod, have it professionally cleaned then put it in a glass case on your fireplace mantle because it’s a damn antique! Oh, and leave the Dacron line on it for style points. Jeez!
There are so many great options out there these days when it comes to fishing reels. My choice has been 13 Fishing’s Concept line of reels ever since they’ve entered the saltwater scene several years ago. They have a reel for every price point so putting a quality reel on your new rod doesn’t have to break the bank. From the Inception or the Concept A all the way up to the TXZ, their reels are extremely lightweight and sensitive. The casting distance is unreal and you won’t find a smoother drag system.
Now that we’re set up with a top quality rod and reel let’s get lined out on what kind of line to use. There are obviously many types of line from which to choose. A lot of it comes down to personal preference. That being said, there are standard guidelines that we should follow when we’re talking about fishing for trout and redfish so let’s get those out of the way first. The three most common problems I witness are having your reel spooled with line that is too heavy, too much line, or not enough line. Let’s start with the line weight issue. When choosing monofilament backing I prefer 10 or 12 pound test. Higher tensile strength line is typically not needed for anything we’re going to catch in the bay. In addition, the smaller diameter of the backing enables our reel to hold more line, which allows us to cast further. With braided line we need not go any higher than 30 pound test (8 lb. diameter), but 20 pound (6 lb. diameter) is plenty good.
Many times I see reels spooled with way too much line, which usually results in backlashes of epic proportions. The other extreme is not having enough line on your reel. Talk about not getting any distance! My standard rule of thumb is to fill a baitcast reel to slightly below the bevel at the edge of the spool.
With regards to monofilament, I prefer Trilene XL Smooth or Sensation. Both have very little memory which greatly reduces the “Slinky” effect. Trilene Sensation has a bit less stretch, which can assist in better bite detection. The advantage of using mono over braided line is that it gives a little on a finicky trout bite. In other words, the fish will feel less resistance, thus enabling you to use a “wait and let ‘em take it” approach. This same attribute can also cause you to miss a bite because of not feeling it in time to set the hook. When using mono, I recommend attaching a 20 pound fluorocarbon shock leader (about 16 inches long) to reduce break-offs. Fluorocarbon is also invisible in the water. My preferred brand is Seaguar. I like to use a #8 (50lb test) SPRO Power Swivel to fasten the leader to the line.
Of the hundreds of brands of braid on the shelves, my top three choices are Seaguar Smackdown Tournament braid, Suffix 832 and Fins Windtamer. Braid has several advantages over monofilament. Because there is very little stretch, bites are more easily detected. However, we have to be careful having too itchy of a trigger finger. We can sometimes set the hook prematurely on those gradual “spongy” bites. One way I’ve found to help prevent this is to add a 5-or 6-foot fluorocarbon leader of 20 pound test (as opposed to an 18 or 20 inch). The added leader length should provide that little extra “give” and the trout should feel less resistance prior to hookset.
There are a variety of different line-to-line knots to use when tying your leader to the backing. I prefer a uni-to-uni because it’s fast and easy. Braided line also allows us to muscle fish away from line-cutting structure such as rocks, towheads and pilings. Braid also helps anglers in live weigh-in tournaments get trout and reds to the boat quicker, causing less stress. It’s important to remember to start with about 15 or 20 yards of mono backing on your baitcaster before finishing off the spool with braid. This prevents the braid slipping on the spool and reduces the amount of expensive braid required to fill the reel.
Now that we’re in the colder months, waders will be a necessity on days we choose to jump out of the fiberglass. To me there’s only one choice when it comes to waders, jackets and boots, and that’s Simms. Simms has been around a long time and they are proven topnotch quality with the customer service to back it up. You can choose from the Freestone all the way up to the G4 waders. I personally use the G3 Guide stocking foot waders and the G3 Guide boots. My G3 Guide Tactical wading jacket keeps my upper body warm and dry. The last thing you want is to have leaky waders during these colder months. This is one area you definitely do not want to cut corners.
Lures make excellent stocking stuffers and I know just the ones to recommend for this time of year. Of course, we can never go wrong with soft plastics. MirrOlure Lil Johns and Provokers will fit in the toe of the stocking perfectly, as will Saltwater Assassins. MirrOdines, Custom Double Ds, Leles, Skitter Walks and Paul Brown Original Corkys will top it off nicely.
I do have to mention the tackle boxes I’ve been using the past year or so. The Lure Lock tackle boxes have revolutionized the industry with their Tak Logic technology, which is a tacky gel that holds your lures in place preventing them from shifting or bouncing around. This technology protects the paint and hooks on your hard and soft baits without affecting their integrity and enables you to neatly store all of your favorite lures in the most organized fashion ever.There are many other tools I could discuss but there’s just not enough time and certainly not enough paper. But, I’ll leave you with this all important question; If we’re going to spend our precious time and gas money to go fishing, then why wouldn’t we want to possess the best gear to give us the greatest opportunity for success? It may be time to upgrade. Merry Christmas to all!