Many New Year’s resolutions try to make us “better” in some way, but aren’t much fun if we have to cut down on juicy burgers, frosty beer and sweet desserts. So here’s a New Year’s fishing tackle resolution that will make you a better fisherman, and at the same time deliver a lot of fun if you start the New Year light.
The offshore guys have cut down the size of their marlin, tuna and shark tackle; inshore fishermen have done the same for jigging, bottom fishing and trolling; but many anglers devoted to back-bay action seem stuck in the 20-pound tackle mode, and use this pound-test for gamefish like weakfish, school stripers, bluefish and fluke. If we can catch a 200-pound mako on 65-pound braid, why not a 15-pound striped bass on 6- or 10-pound?
Well, of course, we can, and today’s tackle is certainly up to the task. There are plenty of micro spinning reels on the market today, but one that really caught my eye is Shimano’s NASCI 1000. It’s a petite, sweet-water size reel, yet it’s gutsy enough to deliver 7 pounds of drag. Using the general rule to set a drag at one-quarter to one-third the breaking strength of the line, means this little gem can handle 15- to 20-pound test line; in fact, it holds 85 yards of Power Pro 15-pound braid, which is enough capacity to handle mid-size striped bass, and any weakfish, bluefish or fluke that swims.
Wanting to stay light as possible with braid, I filled my NASCI 1000 with 10-pound Power Pro Super 8 Slick for open water fishing on flats and open areas where the fish could run off some line without danger of obstructions. The spool capacity with this line is about 100 yards, which is more than enough to get your point across to most any back-bay gamefish. Around bridges and dock pilings I switched to Power Pro Maxcuatro 20-pound to give me a little more “gotcha” to turn fish in cramped spots. This line has 25 percent less diameter and is not much thicker in diameter than the 10-pound I started off with. With the Maxcuatro the little reel held about 85 yards of line and I never had an “Uh, oh” worry of getting spooled, plus the reel could deliver more stopping power for close-quarters fishing.
For light-line fishing, a rod with a slightly softer butt section can be a huge help to cushion any sharp, sudden runs, especially when a fish is at boatside. If you’re using 10-pound, that unexpected jerk could cause the knot connection between leader and braid to fail if the rod action is too stiff – goodbye fish, goodbye lure. An example of a light-tackle stick is Shimano’s Teramar TMS-70M. It’s a good choice with a medium-action blank for good casting qualities yet it provides that vital cushioning action to prevent break-offs and knot failures. Another good candidate is the G. Loomis PRG 821S rated for 6- to 10-pound line and with a progressive action that increases power gently as the rod bends more into the butt.
Speaking of knots, a reverse Albright is usually a good choice to make the leader-to-braid connection, but with the very fine diameter of the wispy 10-pound braid, many light-tackle guys prefer a five-turn surgeon’s knot. It’s a tad easier to tie and the overlapping coils pull down neatly to form a strong, low-profile connection.
Casting, fishing and fighting fish with very light tackle pushes the needle on the fun dial way, way up. It’s not only feather-light in the hand, but fishing for several hours making cast-after-cast is a not tiring at all.
Fighting the fish presents some challenges. Some micro-tackle sharpies dial in a little less drag and add more drag as needed by using careful pressure against the spool with their finger tips. The drag can’t be too light, however, or the full fish-fighting power of the rod will be diminished. And, keep in mind that the rod butt can only deliver its full power if the rod is never raised more than 45 degrees to the water – 30 degrees is even better. The higher the rod angle, the less actual drag you’re applying against the fish and the longer the run, the longer the fight and the longer the time to allow a failure.
Shimano’s NASCI reels are a great bargain at around a hundred bucks. The lighter versions in the series use a slick-smooth felt-washer drag stack, which for the past 60 years has proven to be the ultimate light-tackle drag system for spinning reels, while the big 5000-size uses a cross-carbon fiber system. To keep the NASCI 1000 drag performing perfectly all you need is a drop or two of oil to “feed” the washers occasionally. Extra care should be given to the roller line guide to be sure it’s clean and well lubed so it rolls freely and protects that light line from abrasion.
Today’s remarkable technical advances that allow the miniaturization of spinning reels without loss of strength, durability or fishing capability is a big bonus to light-tackle anglers. Every major tackle company has good stuff to select from, so take a winter’s night and Google around the internet to collect the latest manufacturer’s info, and then make your plans to “Start the New Year Light.”