Hello again ladies and gentlemen! I hope everyone had a chance to read my last article “Survival Fishing: The BASIC Kit”. This is the second posting in a series designed to show folks that you don’t need to purchase some RIDICULOUSLY over-priced rod/reel/tackle box or bag/lures/etc. In this article I am going to explain some different rod/reel combos (generally a cheaper way to purchase a set-up), these are combos that I personally own and use regularly, as well as some that are on sale at a couple major sporting goods /hunting/fishing shops. The shops I will reference are Gander Mtn., and Bass Pro Shops.
However, I would encourage all of you to find a tackle shop in your area and get to know the folks who run it. Personally, I usually won’t even go fishing unless I can get over to “Ken’s Bait and Tackle” , I feel bad because I have been going there since I was 12yrs old, and I still can’t remember the name of the wonderful “lil’ ol’ lady” behind the counter… I just call her “sweetie”… like most folks do. I find I catch more fish when I go there, this is for several reasons, I am also gonna tell you why I LOVE Ken’s… #1 they take pride in their family owned business, and have THE BEST “shiner’s” (minnows) in town #2 They know EXACTLY what is biting, where they are biting, and how to catch them… I have NEVER got bad advice from “Sweetie”! #3 they give their regular customers HUGE discounts from time to time #4 If they don’t have it, they will get it, and you don’t even pay for the shipping! #5 by buying my tackle from Ken’s, I am helping keep money in MY community, which is always AWESOME!
OK, so let’s get down to brass tacks! The biggest factor in determining which fishing pole is right for you is what species you are going to target. For the sake of simplicity, I am going to focus on fishing rods/reels that will work for *almost* any freshwater fish (i.e. bass, crappie, catfish, carp, perch, pan fish, bream, etc.), and are easy to use/maintain. This means that I am going to be sticking to spinning reels. If you have never used a spinning reel, it is kind-of like the middle ground between a bait-caster (complicated, VERY sensitive, can provide a little more control that other options, they take LOTS of time and patience to be used properly and everyone is different) and one of the old Zebco-style, push button enclosed reels (clumsy, difficult to fix tangles and other problems, hard to control).
The spinning reel is pretty user friendly compared to the other options, I have seen people who are completely mechanically challenged, and so clumsy that it’s a wonder they are alive pick up a spinning reel and within minutes be able to cast, retrieve, set the drag, and even fix any tangles or simple malfunctions that may occur.
So here is what I like:
Figure 1Photo from cabelas.com
This is a Shakespeare Ugly Stick SPL 1102
It has a simple “trigger” attached to the bale, which makes it simple to do 1 handed casting.
It is a medium rod, made out of graphite and some patented combinations of materials which give the Ugly Stick incredible strength and flexibility for the weight/size/price.
The reel is easy to disassemble/reassemble, which means that maintenance is simple, and it’s pretty easy to open the reel for cleaning/lubrication.
I have had the model that this particular model replaced; it has served me well for about 6 years. I have used it extensively in both salt and freshwater with no issues.
I can personally attest to the toughness of this rod/reel combo. The manufacturer recommends using UP TO 15lb test line and not much heavier fish. However, I usually run 25lb test line (10lb test diameter) and have caught 35-40lb spiny dogfish (type of shark) on it in 200ft of water while wreck fishing off the VA coast… SHE’S TOUGH.
Average Price- $35-$50
Bass Pro Shops, “Cat Buster” Spinning Combo
I couldn’t get the picture, because it was some weird one that you can zoom in and out on… but here is a link to it, so you can see for yourself “Cat Buster”. Now this is a catfish pole, most folks would think “Well ChefBear, since it’s a catfish pole guess you just want us catching catfish huh?!”… NOTHING could be further from the truth.
This is another example of a newer model combo that I own the predecessor to! You may notice that in the picture the reel has “Shakespeare” written on it… But wait a second… Isn’t that a Bass Pro brand they are selling it as??? As a matter of fact it is! One thing I REALLY like about Bass Pro, is that their “store brand” gear such as Red Head, Offshore Angler and many others are made by some of the best companies out there, and are sold under the Bass Pro Shops name, which *sometimes* saves you some money. Personally, I don’t care what name is on my fishin’ pole, I don’t need to have everything “Browning”, “Abu-Garcia” or “Penn”. As long as the gear functions properly, and I know it will get the job done it could have some writing in Japanese and be purple with pink polka-dots!
So here is what you need to know:
This rod/reel combo is a medium/heavy set-up, which means that the rod will not be as flexible as the previous combo. However, it will stand up to MUCH heavier fish, and will probably tolerate more abuse (like being tossed in the back of a truck!)
This model has a 2-piece rod which you can get in a length of 7’, 8’ or 10’, so even if you don’t have a truck bed, or large car to put your combo in, you can still have it fit. I drive a JEEP Wrangler, AWESOME vehicle, but it makes it tough to fit some of my gear because of the lack of space. All I do is “break-down” my rod, stash it in the back and I am on my way to fishin’ Nirvana!
With a rod/reel that you plan on having good-sized thrashing fish on the end of, gear ratio starts becoming important! In this model you can choose 2 ratios, either 4.9:1 or 4.4:1… Higher gear ratios will allow you to retrieve line quicker. In my opinion lower gears tend to work better for larger fish, and higher gear ratios are better for fish that will “run out line” or fight by swimming fast/away from you. Higher gear ratios also may be needed for particular lures, such as some crank-baits. I tend to get this confused, so if I am wrong, someone please correct me, but this is how the ratio works- 4.9:1 means that for every 4.9 revolutions of the crank/handle you get 1 yard of line back on your spool.
The version of this combo I own works great for bass, catfish (obviously), smaller striped bass (striper, rockfish, salt/brackish water), but I have also caught flounder, small sharks, pike, chain pickerel, croaker, puppy-drum and redfish. It will work for smaller species (like pan fish), but you will need to use lighter line, and because of how rigid the pole is you do lose some sensitivity that lighter weight rod/reel combos have.
Average Price- $35-$45
Figure 2Photo from gandermountain.com
This is the Guide Series FD Spinning Combo. Much like Bass Pro, Gander Mountain also has some of the best companies produce their “store brand” products, in this case although it says “Guide Series” (Gander Mtn. store brand), it is made by Shimano! Again, I don’t particularly care about the name that’s on my gear, as long as it performs through whatever conditions I expect it to. In my and many other avid fisherman’s opinion, Shimano makes some of the best fishing rods/reels around. This is the reason I included it, even though it is a *little* more than $50.
These guys have several different sub-models you can choose from, with all kinds of bells-and-whistles. For example, at Cabela’s you can choose from at least 5 different sub-models, then you can choose the pole length, pick medium –OR- medium/light, you can chose a 1 or 2 piece pole, and there are a few other options to choose from… The best part… They are ALL the same price! AND they all have graphite poles, which means good flexibility, control and “feel”
They have an average gear ratio of 5.2:1, and recommend line between 4 and 10lb test… On paper this combo is looking like a pan fish/crappie CHAMP! It should also be good for running most lures used in large/smallmouth bass fishing.
I am SERIOUSLY considering picking up one/two of these combos!!! They should be very lightweight, the graphite rods, while they can be brittle if impacted from either end tend to be very strong through the body of the pole.
For the types of fishing I would use this combo for include finesse fishing for bass (typically use finesse style plastic worms); simple “hook & float/bobber” fishing for crappie, bream or pan fish; Fishing structure, such as brush piles, rock formations, shallow drops and isolated holes (usually found behind large rocks in fast water.
I also think that this would make a great combo for trout… YES I did say TROUT! Not many folks consider going for trout using a spinning reel, in fact some of the “purist” fly-fishermen out there will probably blast me for even mentioning such blasphemy, BUT it can be done, I have done it, and it doesn’t do to bad! Granted, I am not saying you should attempt flies on a rig such as this, but trout hooks with hellgrammites, crickets, grasshoppers, small grubs, natural/artificial salmon eggs and even just plain old corn work pretty well!
So, I bet with all the extra little fancy bits that tis combo includes, plus the “big name” manufacturer, plus the fact that I told you ahead of time that this combo was over $50 has you thinkin’ this is one of those fancy “yuppie” set-ups huh?!
WRONG! This is a slim, trim, fishing dynamo that will take care of roughly 85-90% of the freshwater fishing you might want to do… AND it’s only… are you ready for this… It shocked me… $%4-$59!
OK, so to recap what we discussed.
#1. You don’t need to take out a second mortgage on your home to get quality fishing gear, that should give you years of reliable use, and many fried fish dinners!
#2. Although there are many options for types of reels to use for fishing, the spinning rod is the most “user friendly”, and easiest to repair/maintain.
#3. Make sure to find a local tackle shop and find out what rig will best suit your needs for the species in your area. They are generally a wealth of knowledge, and most have “bragging boards”, where you can display pictures of your “monster fish”!
#4. Higher gear ratio = faster retrieval; Lower gear ratio = slower retrieve, generally better for larger fish.
#5. Just because a rod/reel combo is supposedly designed for a specific species, does not mean that you can’t use it for something completely different.
#6. The heavier the rod, the less sensitivity you will have, but the rods are less prone to damage and you can catch larger fish with them (they even make super-heavy models that are used for LARGE sharks and gators!) ; Lighter rods give you more control, both wile casting and while your lure/hook is in the water, the lighter the rod the more sensitivity you have (ultra-light models are joked about by some as “you can feel the fish thinking about biting your line!), they are much more fragile than heavy rods, in *most* cases the lighter rods are more expensive than most heavier rods.
#7. If you want a good balance between durability, flexibility, strength, control and “feel”/sensitivity… Then get an Ugly-Stick!
#8 Check the “store brands”, and do your research, you may be able to get a really high-end combo for a fraction of the price, unless you absolutely HAVE TO HAVE the brand name sticker on your gear!
Sorry guys, I know that was even longer than usual. Even for me!! I hope you found this interesting, and hopefully you guys learned something… As usual, if you have any questions/comments/concerns, all you have to do is ask!
In the next installment of this series, I plan on covering line selection, and if that doesn’t take too long we will cover hooks and weights.