The most exciting development in angling recently is long-range, shore-based spinning. The volume of Natal Snoek and other game fish that have been caught from our beaches and rocks this year has grown significantly. Snoek have to be one of the more common catches, but some really good Garrick, Kingfish, Queenfish, Springer, etc., have made this even more exciting. This success is definitely attributed to the use of braided lines and fixed spool spinning reels. There is also a lot of new technology that has come to the fore with rods, reels and lures.
The much scorned and frowned upon coffee-grinder/egg-beater/hoola-hoop reel, has turned into a precise high-tech piece of equipment. There is also the evolution of the drop-shot craze that has to be taken into account. All those anglers that participated seem to have grown weary of catching smaller fish and often finding adverse weather seriously hampering their fishing. The logical progression is to heavier outfits, much longer casts and the ability to catch bigger fish in almost any conditions.
The long casts and fast retrieves are a critical ingredient for success. Having said that it is very important to also be able to put big pressure on fish, particularly in rocky environments or where strong currents can easily help empty a reel. The ability to read the prevailing conditions and the knowledge as to what species to target in those conditions and at that time of the year is also very important. We will cover this in future articles. For now, we are going to look at the equipment that is best used to help you get into the action.
Ideally one needs a rod that is strong enough to throw 1½ ounces, but is also nice and light, which enables you to spin for hours on end. There are a lot of rods that will suffice, most of which are two-piece and are very specific in the weight that they will throw. One must ensure that the casting weight specified on the rod caters for a 40g lure.
The latest three-piece Shimano Aerocasts use the same principle as the Assassin Blade at the base. This enables the rod to give you huge casting and pulling power but when turned sideways, gives one the shock-absorbing qualities that are required to keep constant, strong pressure on a fish which prevents it from shaking the heavier lures from its mouth. It also helps to dampen the direct effect of the braided line. Pulling power is phenomenal. The rod will dead lift a 3 to 4 kilogram fish if it needs to. The 8-foot Aerocast does what no other rod that I know of can do. It will easily throw from 20 to 150 grams. As pressure is applied to this rod the action starts off being quite fast and crisp but progresses to the slower, all-important action required when fishing with braids. My favourite here in the surf is the 10-foot, purely because of the extra reach when lifting lures over rocky terrain or when looking for some elevation over the shore-break or in gullys. If one is looking for some versatility and a good rod to spin with off a boat, then the 8-foot is a better option.
This is the most important piece of your equipment and it is critical that the reel offers the ability of adjusting the cone angle on your spool. Should the reel not be able to do this, it becomes almost impossible to fish with braid and the only way to be successful is to not fill the reel completely. This has obvious limitations. It is very important to be able to pack a thin braid very effectively onto the reel for those super-long casts, especially in windy conditions. Something else that is also very important is a flared lip on the spool. It is very important that the spool lip tapers upward to accommodate a freer tangle-free, flow of line. Retrieve ratio is another very important factor. The faster the reel or the more line it recovers per crank, the better, obviously to a point, because cranking power is also important to maintain an even pressure on the fish without having to physically pump the rod. This is where the strength of the gears and the length of the handle or leverage come into play. The consistency of the drag under pressure is also a vital ingredient because one often hooks very big fish that need to be reigned in very quickly. Line capacity in the salt is very important and at least 300 metres of 30lb braid is necessary. Top of the list is the Shimano Stella 5000 SW. It has all of the above and more. Next in line would be the Shimano Sustain 5000, which is a bit slower but does come with an extra spool. Ultimately the most important feature required on the reel is that it packs the braid correctly. Also check that the spool has a well-tapered lip, which makes for better casting and a higher line retrieve is obviously better for spinning.
Almost all the reels that you come across will have an auto-bale reset facility, which is permanently engaged. It is normally only on the bigger models in the top end reels that it is disengaged or not offered. You really don’t want this auto-bale reset, but it comes with the package. One needs to mechanically remove this facility to prevent the bale arm flipping over during the cast causing snap-offs and other embarrassing situations. Most leading fishing tackle outlets will provide this service.
The more spinning one does, the more you will get to appreciate how important extra spools are as they facilitate a very quick, back in the action, aspect to your fishing. Ideally one should have two spools with 20lb braid, as this is the braid that would be used the most for long-range casting. It also gives one the biggest capacity on the spool (450 metres on the Stella). Another spool with 30lb braid, will not only give one a bit more pulling power but it will help you to throw heavier lures further than the 20lb. This thicker braid tends to provide a feathering on the back of a lure, which would otherwise tumble in flight with very light braid. A fourth spool loaded with 40lb or 50lb would be a great option for the slugging matches that occur when fishing in very foul areas where it is critical to be able to dominate a dirty fight at close quarters.
The most important part of the spare spool aspect is that in the midst of some hot fishing action, a tangle or cut-off means that one can simply wind everything back onto the reel to be sorted out later at leisure and then simply pop on the spare spool, thread the No. 6 power swivel that is attached to your 1½ metre 40lb Flouro Carbon leader through the eyes, re-connect your spoon, plug or jig head with a split ring and you are very quickly back in the thick of it before it is all over. Each spool is obviously fitted with an appropriate leader and a no. 6 power swivel, which threads through the guides. This is all kept in place with a neoprene line guard and the spool is kept in a small waterproof plastic container to prevent damage. Don’t leave wet spools sealed in these airtight containers.
What is very important with the braids is its long-term durability on continuous casts and retrieves. This is where all the cheaper braids fall apart. YGK’s Jigman has been used extensively and certainly seems to have proved to be a extremely long-lasting braid when spinning. Prior to Jigman, one would continually have to replace lines that wore out due to lots of casting. Most other braids tend to start getting a bit furry from use and soon after that start breaking randomly on fish and casts. The ability to measure casts is also very important. YGK’s Jigman comes with five different colours, each in a 10-metre length. This makes it so simple. If the colour tied to your leader is green, then when you cast, the first few colours will disappear quite quickly but it is quite easy to see the next 10-metres of green go – that is 50-metres. If the next green goes, you have thrown 100-metres and if there are two colours after that, it was 120-metres. If you lose line off the front, it doesn’t affect your ability to measure casts at all. The same obviously applies when fighting a fish. As the line screams off the reel, you can assess exactly how much line has gone out and what you have left.
Your most expensive braids, such as Jigman Ultra, are very smooth through the guides and very strong for their diameter (PE 1.5 = 26 lbs, whereas in standard Jigman it is 20 lbs). It does however tend to be less abrasion resistant on a very rough surface such as sandstone. First choice is Jigman Ultra in PE 1.5 and PE 2 (30lb in Standard; 33lb in Ultra).
Obviously these braids are pricey and come in 200 or 300 metre rolls. It is therefore necessary to back it up with a braid that does not have the same durability on prolonged casting, but definitely packs better as a backing. Here the choice would be Berkley Whiplash in 20lb or 30lb.
When joining braids, especially Jigman, a Uni to Uni-Knot is most effective and the thinner the braid, the more turns one will need to have in the Uni. When joining 30lb Jigman to 30lb Whiplash for example, one should do ten turns on the Jigman and eight on the Whiplash. It is very important that your leader knot does not come anywhere near your top guide during use. Continual touching and pulling through the topguide definitely has an effect on whatever knot you tie. Try to leave at least ten centimeters from your tip to your leader-knot with a normal drop to the lure. On a ten-foot rod, 1 metre to 1½ metres is the normal leader length. To join 40lb Fluoro to 20lb or 30lb Whiplash, one should use an Albright with ten turns on the knot and the tag end going out the same way as you came into the knot with a reverse half-hitch and four turns to secure the tag end. Dip this into some super-glue and dab to dry.
There are three basic sorts of lures that one should carry. These are metal spoons, surface plugs or poppers and plastics with jig heads.
It is best to try to keep it simple, stay with the proven colours that work and don’t over-complicate the variety. The number one lure in the arsenal is undoubtedly the lead bullet spoon. It is very important that your spoons have wire eyes for easy rigging and de-rigging.
The Iron Candy Bullet spoon in Glow in the Dark (don’t ever use a torch to charge this, rather have the more subtle enhanced glow from natural light as the lure sinks), Hot Orange, Pink and Chartreuse are proven fish-catchers. They can be fished in a variety of ways, from a super-fast retrieve to very slow and from the bottom to the surface. Most successful is to get the spoon to the surface and then a moderate retrieve, especially early in the morning. Later in the afternoon you want to get the spoon down near the bottom, either by means of a very slow retrieve or by fluttering the spoon down to the bottom and then cranking it up for about six or seven metres and then fluttering down again. A general rule of thumb is that the calmer or cleaner the water, the faster the retrieve should be and the less kick there should be on the spoon. Remember one does not necessarily have to fish these spoons in the conventional way with the hook rigged to the weighted end. They definitely cast better and have more action when rigged with a stinger off the swivel on the toe end of the spoon (like a vertical jigging spoon). When fishing in this fashion, make sure that the curve of the hook sits just below the bottom of the spoon and always ensure that the gape of the hook is at least 1½ times the width of the spoon (hook just protrude from the side of the spoon).
The Iron Candy S/V spoon proven colours are as with the Bullet. The joy of this spoon is that it is so predictable in the way it rides through the water. Just like a boat would, with the V pointing down and the flat to the top. A single hook rigged on the back pointing up will ensure that you can bump along on the rocks and over the sand without burying the hook into the rocks or the sand. S/V’s have a much stronger side to side kicking action and are generally fished fairly slowly, but can be fished anywhere in the water column. Generally work best in your more turbulent and lower visibility type environments.
A lot of the fish that eat these spoons are toothy critters and one can use a 100mm to 200mm piece of reasonably light wire above the lure. Having said this, many fish have been landed using absolutely no wire and there is no doubt that one gets more bites this way, but for those occasions that the fish are really thick and not very fussy and generally all toothy, first choice is 150mm of Malins Boa Wire, tied to the swivel and joined to the leader using an Albright. This incredible wire never kinks and is a lot less conspicuous on the trace than any other.
Surface Plugs or Poppers
Generally most of this sort of fishing is done very early in the morning and again the conditions are generally fairly calm, glassy and clean. First choice here should be the subtle flutter from the GT Ice Cream Needle Nose. The variety of fish that this lure has been catching is unbelievable (Dorado, Natal Snoek, Rockcod, Garrick, big Shad, Barracuda, to name but a few). This is probably attributed to the fact that one can put your rod down and crank this lure at top speed without fear of it tumbling or you can high-stick (rod in the vertical position) the plug slowly along the surface at a gentle flutter. Another favourite is to throw the plug very high especially when fishing in deep water. In doing so one can achieve the dive-bombing effect associated with feeding birds, which undoubtedly attracts fish from deeper down. Also very successful is the long flattish cast, clamping the hand over the reel before the plug hits the water to achieve the belly-flop type splash followed by the very fast rod in low position retrieve. The very solid hook-sets that one gets in the corner of the jaw from the rear stinger that is rigged on this plug also make it a firm favourite, but again where super-long casts and a lot more action are required, a much longer stinger rigged from the swivel on the toe-point works an absolute treat. Always carry a few of the conventional GT Ice-Cream Cones for use in the choppier, rougher and more discoloured water. There are many debates with regards to colour on surface plugs. Experience shows that with sinking surface lures that are continually retrieved across the surface, colour is of little consequence. You will find that colour becomes more significant when fishing floating, chugging or blooping type surface lures. There is no doubt that more translucent white GT Ice-cream is eaten around the world than any other colour. Why complicate a successful recipe?
Plastics with Jig Heads
On the sort of rig that we have been talking about, it is best to carry a couple of 1oz and 2oz Astro Jig Heads – Glow in the Dark and Red are hot colours. You will see that once rigged with a 5” or 7” Riptide Jerk Shad, they have a very convincing life-like action in the water. In trying to keep the plastic bait simple, make sure you are never without Pearl, Chartreuse, Opening Night and then a dark colour like Natural Blue. You only need two shapes or styles. The Rat-Tailed Jerk Shad and a Paddle-Tail Mullet. Because we tend to be fishing for bigger fish, 5”, 6” and 7” are the order of the day.
Tools that you will use a lot are:
- a good pair of small split ring pliers,
- good braid scissors,
- a pair of normal pliers for wire work,
- a container to carry a few spare hooks, a sharpening stone, spare stingers, spare split rings (only use top quality strong ones), no. 5 or no. 6 power-swivels,
- a craft tool with cone-shaped stainless-steel point (for unpicking braid knots at home or on the beach if you don’t have a spare spool).
The exercise and fitness aspect are a darn good reason to go spinning every morning, even if it only while you are on holiday. You can travel fairly lightly and put all your needs into a shoulder or sling bag. However, should you find you need a really good workout or when your fishing activity becomes an all-day affair, you will find it necessary to have a good backpack that carries a few extras (torch, sunglasses, sun cream, hat, rock shoes, extra reel) and definitely an extra rod attached to the side of the bag. This means you won’t have to cut your trip short due to a broken guide, or not having the right equipment for the task at hand. A good quality, comfortable bag is therefore very important. Any zippers need to be given a squirt every now and then with a corrosion inhibitor especially before being put away for an extended period.
The benefits of this type of fishing are fantastic. Fitness levels go up, fishing sessions are a lot more focused and more rewarding. The hours are more sociable for the rest of the family and if you enjoy eating fish, there will be a lot more fish in the pan. Should you have any enquiries or require more information please do not hesitate to contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website www.basilmanning.co.za .