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Selecting Your Saltwater Fishing Gear: Fishing Rods, Fishing Reels, Natural and Artificial Bait
Fishing Rods - The Essential Tool
In its most raw form, a fishing rod is a stick used to dangle a string tied to a hook used to catch fish. However, a modern fishing rod is generally a more sophisticated casting tool fitted with line guides and a reel for storing line. Fishing rods vary in thickness, flexibility, and length, and can be 2 to 20 feet long. The longer the rod, the greater the mechanical advantage in casting.
A fishing rod also extends the angler’s reach and leverage. Essential to casting and presenting the bait or lure to attract fish, the rod absorbs the shock of a fish striking and helps set the hook and play as well as land the fish. Rods also hold the reel and guide the line on and off the spool.
Rods are generally fitted with guides, wire loops that direct the line to the tip-top, the guide at the top of the rod. Grips are the part of the rod that you hold in your hand, usually made of synthetic EVA foam, or cork on good casting rods. The seat holds the reel, usually using some form of screw ring or lock device.
Use spin casting rods for active styles of fishing where you frequently cast and retrieve the bait or lure. Conventional spinning rods are heavier and suited to fishing for larger fish such as salmon. Surfcasting rods can run more than a dozen feet long, with massive construction to hurl a heavily weighted lure or bait out beyond the surf’s breakers. Fly fishing rods are long, thin, flexible, and lightweight, they are designed to cast flies.
Trolling for large tuna or other big game fish requires a shorter, stiffer rod, not suitable for casting. Most spinning and casting rods range from 5.5 to 7.5 feet. Fiberglass is the most economic material for fishing rods; graphite is lighter, stiffer and more sensitive but may also be pricier. Regardless the type of fishing you enjoy, match your rod, reel and tackle to improve your chances of making a catch. For novices and casual anglers, a prepackaged combination of rod, reel, and tackle enables you to spend more time actually fishing.
The Reel Story
Fishing reels store, deploy, and retrieve fishing line. They increase your mechanical advantage to handle strong fish and have a “drag” system used to pressure a fish during a fight. Bait casting reels store line on a revolving spool and are mounted above the rod. Their spools sit perpendicular to the rod and range in size from compact to massive multi-speed offshore saltwater reels, weighing many pounds. They require a bit more technique when casting to avoid backlash and tangled lines.
Natural Baits, the Most Effective Choice
The Challenge of Using Artificial Baits
- Trolling lures are extremely popular for big game saltwater fishing. Trolling enables anglers to cover a lot of water and find the active fish. Carry a variety of lures so you can adapt to what the fish are feeding on.
- Hard baits is a term that encompasses crankbaits, topwater lures, stickbaits, and other hard baits that imitate bait fish. These lures are very effective around piers, canals, inlets, rivers and in the surf, especially when retrieved with a twitch and pause motion.
- Jigging spoons are one of the most popular—and traditional--saltwater lures, used from boats, off of piers and in the surf. They work because they resemble a wounded baitfish, flapping and fluttering. Jigging spoons are fairly heavy, enabling long casts and quick descents to the proper depths.
- Bucktail jigs have a jighead and some type of hair or feathering that covers the hook. Attractive to a variety of species, heavier bucktails work in deeper water. Tipping the bucktail with shrimp, cut bait, or live bait can increase your chances for a catch. You can also effectively cast these jigs around piers, inlets, rivers, and in the surf.
- Soft plastics for saltwater generally resemble crabs, shrimp, minnows and small bait fish--the primary food for bigger fish. If soft plastics are your choice, select the forage that fish are feeding on in your area.