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BASIC SURF FISHING EQUIPMENT

 

There are several different types of Rods and Reels you can use but to keep things simple we will only discuss basic Spin cast and Baitcast equipment.

BAITCASTING REEL

When it comes to big Saltwater fish, a baitcasting reel is a good choice.

Saltwater game fish are usually big and strong, and the conditions in which they live can be very rough on anglers and their tackle, particularly their reels. You can use a cheap reel on small freshwater fish or saltwater bait fish and get away with it, but tough saltwater game fish will quickly Burn out your smaller reels. I've learned this lesson the hard way, and I've found that baitcasting (revolving spool with or without levelwind) reels handle the demands of saltwater fishing better than most other reels.

There are several factors that make baitcasting reels better when it comes to Surf Fishing. They usually have a well built drag system. A simple thumb adjustment on your star drag will make things easier when you are in a battle with a large game fish. For that matter, By lightly rubbing your thumb on the revolving spool you can add a bit of quick tension on the line without making any drag adjustments. Baitcasting reels can be very light with the new composites they are being made with such as Graphite and Titanium this makes them much easier to use for repetitive casting. It is easy to thumb-control the accuracy of the cast. Many "Old Salt" fishermen have known this for decades. And all things considered such as weight, size of a lure, Line capacity and diameter, Rod length and it's action, Any baitcasting reel can actually cast farther in the hands of an experienced angler than a spinning outfit will.

Take Care of Your Reels
Baitcasting reels used in the saltwater always need a more maintenance than spinning gear. The inner workings involve more complicated designs and many more moving parts. If you have no experience taking one of these reels apart, Your best bet is to pay a qualified reel repair shop to give your reels a simple maintenance check and cleaning. This will usually run you about $8 to $10 a reel. If you decide you want to try and do things yourself, you should only try it with the reels manual handy so you know where all the part go and how they fit into place. With a little practice, you will be able to clean oil and lube your reels on your own. If you are friendly with a reel repairman, Offer him $10 to teach you to clean your reels yourself, This way if you mess up you have an expert there to help.

Cleanliness and lubrication is important
You should rinse all your equipment off completely with fresh water after each trip to the beach, if you've been fishing in a dirty discolored lake you should rinse your equipment off as well. Don't use high pressure to rinse either because you may wash saltwater or sand into your gears causing more damage than if you left the equipment unwashed, Just run the water straight from a hose onto your equipment. This includes your fishing rod. Make sure to clean your rod guides too. Sand and saltwater left on your metal parts will cause later failure and damage that you don't want.

Accidental dunking
If the reels have been dunked in saltwater, remove them from the rods and place in a  bucket of fresh water water for at least a half hour (If I do this I let the reel's ride home in a bucket of fresh water) you may want to remove the side plate to let any water trapped inside drain out. Some reels, for instance the new Penn International baitcasting reels, have drain holes on the bottom of their side plates.

Use the right Oil and Grease
If you plan to oil and grease your own reels, make sure it is not heavy gear grease or oil because it will gunk up in the reel slowing it down considerably when you cast it the next time, Most tackle store sell reel grease and oil that works well in most equipment. Some of the name brand oils and lubes will not only do a good job but will prevent corrosion in your reels. Just make sure to oil all the moving parts including the handle and levelwind worm gear (If you hold the reel upside down it's the long one with the zigzag cuts in it)
Keep a tube of oil handy for re-oiling your reel during a particularly long day of casting.

Filling your reel with New string
keep the reel filled to the proper level indicated by the manufacturer (Usually about 1/8" of the edge) too much line will cause backlash problems, and too little line shortens your distance. If you're like me and every time you get a nick or kink in the line you cut it back, Eventually you wind up with too little line on your reel.  To save time and money, I'll pull off about 50 to 75 yards of line and tie a uni-knot to some new line and refill my reel to the correct capacity. Sometimes I'll simply tie the end  of my line to a smaller reel and fill it with as much line as it needs from my larger reel, this way nothing goes to waist. If you buy a large capacity spool of string instead of several smaller ones it will be cheaper over time. I seldom buy very expensive line since I change it so often.

Line Strengths
This all depends on what you're fishing for and how big your reel is. As far as line strength goes, I prefer 15 to 20 pound line for most big Game Fish. This size is good for a Bull Redfish, Tarpon to about 100 pounds, 3 to 5 foot Blacktip Sharks, Jackfish, Sow Trout etc. For the smaller rods and reels, I use 8 to 12 pound test. Regardless of line strength, You want to have at least 200 yards on the reel.

What to Buy
I don't own any fancy equipment, the only "NAME BRAND" reels I have are a few of PENN reels which consist of 209's and a Jigmaster or two. Like I tell everyone, If you take care of your equipment it will last you a long time no matter what brand it is, Although some cheaper reels are meant to wear down and stop working altogether (This logic I don't understand since I won't buy that brand of reel again) With the popularity of baitcasting reels nowadays, they are getting cheaper by the year. You can get a good reel for around $50. I strongly suggest you ask the tackle dealer if the reel you are buying is meant to be used in Saltwater, I usually only buy a reel that can handle saltwater since I fish both fresh and saltwater areas.

Today's baitcasting reels are much easier to cast because of the new Antibacklash systems which include centrifugal counterweights and magnetic brakes that prevent backlashes if properly adjusted. Expect to pay more for reels with special features such as these. And even with a lot of Saltwater use these reels will last a long time if you follow these simple steps for taking care of your equipment. I have a couple of very old reels that cast better than some of my newer ones.

Baitcasting Tips

Learning to Baitcast

This is a trick for learning to use a baitcasting reel with smaller Backlashes. Make a nice long cast (without a backlash) and then pull out a few arms lengths of line, Take a piece of tape and wrap it around the line in your reel. This trick won't keep you from back lashing but it will keep your backlashes from running deep into your spool, damaging all your line

SPINNING REEL

Some fishermen  think spin casting tackle is for kids or beginners, but they're wrong.

Although some of the cheaper spin casting reels on the market are of poor quality, many models have improved features that are equal to high-quality baitcasting and spinning reels. They have strong gears and good drags and are capable of taming tough fish.

A spin casting reel's main advantage is its ease of use; just about anyone can learn to toss a lure or bait effectively with a spin caster. Like all tackle, however, spin casting reels require certain care to keep them running smoothly. Here is how to address their most common problems.

Coiled and Twisted Line
Spin casting reels come from manufacturers prespooled with line (generally 6- to 10-pound-test nylon monofilament), which is wound on a stationary spool under a cover or hood. The line often retains the shape of the spool, resulting in coiling. This won't damage the line, but it can impair casting distance and decrease strike sensitivity. To prevent coiling, soak the line before use to make it limp. One easy method is to cast out and let the line lie in the water for a few minutes before you fish.

Twisted line, on the other hand, not only reduces casting distance but also leads to snarls and tangles. You can prevent twisting by putting line on correctly, by using a swivel with lures that are likely to spin in the water, and most important, by not reeling against a slipping drag. Some spin casting reels have a drag system built into the drive shaft so line won't twist when you reel against the slipping drag. But most reels twist line when the handle is turned as the drag slips; don't do it.

You can also avoid twist by maintaining some tension on the line as you reel in, especially when taking in slack line or retrieving a light object. Let the line flow through the thumb and forefinger of the hand that holds the rod and reel, which may require holding the outfit toward the heel of your palm. You should only use your fingers to apply moderate tension when retrieving lures or hooks that offer little or no resistance, however, not when playing a fish. The purpose is to try to control slack line and keep whatever spring may have built up in the line from unloading.

Spool Capacity
Because spin casting reels have narrow, shallow spools, line capacity can be limited. Most smaller spin casting reels hold between 60 and 100 yards of line. Though you seldom need that much line at once, in the course of fishing you often lose line from break-offs and changing lures. Because the spool of a spin caster is concealed under a hood, many anglers don't realize they are low on line until suddenly they don't have enough to cast or play a big fish. Be sure to remove the reel hood periodically and check to see how much line you have; the spool should be filled to within 18 inch of the top. Also check for tangled or frayed line when the hood is removed.

If you overfill the reel or have excessive line slack, the line may get under the spinner head, causing the line to stop dead in the middle of a cast. If this happens, remove the reel cover, press the push button, and clear the spinner head, usually by unwinding the line. Rewind the line under tension.

Casting Accuracy
Casting with a spin casting reel is done by pressing the push button with your thumb (or the trigger with your forefinger), holding it throughout the back cast, then releasing it at the optimum point in the forward motion.

Most people cast with one hand, which is fine when there is no need for pinpoint accuracy. For more control, however, you should use two hands. Assuming that you're right-handed, place the rod and reel in the palm of your left hand so that the handle of the reel is facing up toward you. Extend the left forefinger to trap the line against the opening of the spool. Hold the rod in your right hand, and depress the push button with your right thumb as you point the rod tip at a target. Make a two-handed casting motion, keeping the rod and reel out in front of your body and making the rod follow an imaginary line from your nose to the target. As the rod accelerates forward, release the line and the push button simultaneously to cast the plug toward the target. While the lure is in the air, the line should flow across the tip of your left forefinger. With practice, your left forefinger will develop the correct feel for how much or how little pressure is needed on the line to place your lure on the target. Practice will also teach you when to release the line and the push button during the forward stroke to achieve the proper trajectory for accurate placement.

Distance Casting
The design of these reels hinders casting for supreme distance; more areas on the reel come in contact with the line during casting than on spinning or baitcasting reels, reducing distance.

If you'd like to get the most distance out of your outfit, use a reel that has a large line opening in the cover, so line comes off the spool without encountering the inside of the cover. This only works, however, if the larger coils of line that flow off the reel, which have to be necked down at the first rod guide, meet guides that are similarly large.