The latest surf casting trend in South African waters is the movement toward fixed spool reels and braid. It is far easier for somebody starting out to learn to cast with a fixed spool reel. It is also a lot easier for people that battle to throw big baits to do so with these reels. At the end of the day it takes the frustrations of down-time out of the equation. Braid too comes with huge advantages. Braid is a lot thinner than mono-filament which means you can hold and fish in stronger current and wind than before. Bite detection is also much easier and one can feel peckers that one would not normally feel with mono-filament. It is little wonder then that there is this strong movement toward fishing with coffee grinders and braid.
This relatively new style brings with it a whole new set of technical issues that somebody starting out needs to overcome. In this document we are going to cover the frequently asked and common issues.
All the bigger brands make two types of fixed spool reels that are suitable for surf casting. The first is the “big pit” type reel that was developed primarily for casting long distances with relatively fine lines. These reels are used in the carp, catfish and surf casting fisheries throughout the world, historically with monofilament and more recently with braid. This is the ultimate casting fixed spool surf caster. Generally this type of reel comes in two sizes, for example in the Shimano range there is the Ultegra 4500 and 5500 and then the Ultegra 10000 and 14000. The 4500 and 5500 have exactly the same gearbox and are physically the same size, but you will find that the 4500 will weigh a couple of grams more than the 5500 because it has a much shallower spool (for European surf casting and carp fishing with fine lines), whereas the 5500 has a deeper spool and therefore less metal, but better capacity (600 metres of 30lb braid). The same applies to the 10000 and 14000’s, same reel, different spools with the 14000 taking 600 metres of 50lb braid. These big pit reels were never designed for cranking huge baits or giant fish at maximum pressure but are perfectly suitable when used with a little finesse. Should one really need to put a lot of pressure, a “pump and wind” approach can be used when fighting big fish or when retrieving stubborn sinkers or huge baits.
The second type of reel is the one that lead the vertical jigging and popping revolution. These reels are incredibly tough, very little frame flex, extremely strong drag systems and heavy competent gearing. These reels start in smaller sizes – reels that take 300 metres of 30lb braid and go right up to the seriously heavy reels that are designed for 150lb braid, but for shore fishing we load them with 680 metres of 50lb braid. The drags are phenomenal and the cranking power is huge. To use the Shimano range as an example, we would be talking about the Shimano Stella type reels. At the top end they make an 18000 and a 20000, the same size reel, different gearing, different sized spools. The 20000 is the jigging reel with more capacity and a slower retrieve and the 18000 is the popping reel with less capacity and a faster retrieve. Ideally a 20000 spool on an 18000 reel gives you the best of both worlds for bait fishing in the surf and off the rocks. With this type of reel you can put your head down, crank as hard as you can and really bully the fish if you are up to it.
Anything outside of these two types of reels is going to be problematic. There is no doubt, the rule is quite simple. If it is a well-known brand and it is a “big pit” reel, or a reel designed specifically for jigging or popping, it will do the job. There are far too many obscure brands and cheap reels in the market that appear to be suitable for doing the job but are far from capable, for many technical and capacity reasons.