- Some serious advances have occurred with the tackle today, leaps and bounds really. Reels have butter smooth drags that last and last, fluorocarbon leaders and Spectra have changed the way we fish completely, yet some things remain the same. All this wonderful technology means nothing if you never hook a fish. To get that fish you are targeting to bite you need to pick that perfect bait, make a long cast and use all your senses to make that opportunity into a reality. The question is, when you do everything right and don’t get the bite, then what?
You drop down in line class, that’s what.
There is a whole new generation of anglers now that read that last sentence and cringed. What with all the fancy reels with smooth drags and teflon/boron composite super rods that make fishing almost unfair, why not? Did the reel manufacturers make these state of the art drag systems for fishing 80#? Yes, the new gear is capable of fishing heavy line but it really shines when you fish the lighter stuff. With heavy line you don’t even need drag, so why the dirty looks when someone breaks out the 20#?
Whether you are on your own boat or a charter, everyone wants to catch lots of big fish. When the moon and the stars align perfectly and that once in a lifetime wide open ripper happens you can break out the broomstick with 100# and put the wood to them.
How often does that happen, really? Most of the time we are just trying to get picked up, and land that one big fish for a snapshot and bragging rights. Finding that perfect leader that is neither too heavy to get a bite, or too light to land the fish is what you are looking for, and it may change from spot to spot, minute to minute. That is why we have so many different outfits and not just the one with 80#.
Spectra brings light line fishing to a whole new level. 65# braid is like fishing 20# mono in both feel and line capacity. Its not uncommon to see calico bass guys with high tech gear that looks much like the freshwater largemouth arsenal on steroids with 65# or even 80# braid. Then add in the abrasion resistance and low visibility of fluorocarbon leader and “presto”, its a whole new ballgame. That does not automatically mean you will get the same amount of bites on 40# as you would on 20#. The whole package with 20# fluoro is still miles ahead of an old school outfit with the same line in mono. You have less stretch, more pulling power, kelp cutting capabilities and abrasion resistance far beyond what was available only a few years ago.
What is missing today is anglers that actually know how to fight a fish from bite to gaff, therefore we get guys that insist on fishing the heavy lines. More than ever I see guys take that $400 rod with all the technology and point the tip at the fish and grind away, wondering why the fish spit the hook halfway to the boat. Lift your tip! The fish did not get away, you lost it. I can see why charter boat Captains are screaming at passengers to “fish nothing less than 50!!!” They are sick and tired of putting the boat on the fish only to see most of what is hooked, lost. It all comes down to a lack of talent, period.
When you hook that big seabass or yellow on a kelpline and it gets its head down and swims right into the kelp, loosen the drag. Let the tackle do its job. The braid will only cut the kelp if its moving, you’ll need to let the fish run and tire before you begin the tug of war. Even then its more of a seesaw battle, with you pulling for a while, then the fish pulling for a while. Its the back and forth of the braid on the kelp that does the cutting, while straight pulling hard causes heartaches.
My grandfather used to call this, “playing the fish.” He’d say it while fighting a 120# bigeye on 25#, then my Uncle would gaff it. We’re talking Penn Jigmasters with plastic spools. I can still hear the “THUD” of the fish hitting the deck, time and time again.
Its become a common conversation for me, some guy saying “why would you even use 15# when fishing for seabass?” I find myself in defense mode when its the guy pointing the finger that needs angling lessons. I’ve driven the boat for a lady angler that got a striped marlin to the boat on 6# for a tag and release. (We got that fish in 27 minutes) Most angling clubs don’t even recognize anything caught with line over 30#, and the Tuna Club of Avalon encourages its members to fish with linen line in 3 and 6 thread sizes (like 6# and 15# respectively). At last years Avalon Tuna Club Seabass tourney I caught a 22 pound seabass on 6 thread linen, and didn’t even place in the top 10!
Not much ever changes back to where it was, but light line fishing is being seriously overlooked these days. With the hotbed of young kids today out making a name for themselves through websites, videos and social networking it sure would be nice to see one take on the challenges of light line angling skills. I can hook and hand seabass and yellows on 30# all day and most get gaffed, but when I hook one on 12 or 15#, its mine. I tie good knots, test them all and lift my tip. In the end, its me getting the typical “grip-n-grin” photo taken with a fish heavier that the line it was hooked on. The guy taking the picture probably never got a bite, and was fishing 40#. Fishing seabass on 50# is like fishing trout with 20#. Tie good knots and learn how to actually fight a fish and use the tackle to its full potential. You’ll not only hook (and land) more fish, but have way more fun doing it.