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Fishing Blog #3 - Hook, Line and Sinker; Gear to get started.

FishmanSep 27, 2018, 12:31:33 PM

The main question I get is what gear should I use. This is a very broad question which varies from location to location and species to species, so any general information has to be applied to the particular circumstances. However, this will give you a general idea of what equipment you will need to start catching whales.

1/ Hook - The hook is what is used to snare your prey, thus it is the most important aspect of the entire outfit. It must be the right size and pattern for the bait and the species being targeted, sharp and well secured (we will get into knots in a later blog).

There are many different patterns of hooks, each with different purposes and each with their advantages and drawbacks. I will list a few, but the range is too huge to cover, so these are the most general purpose, widely useful ones.

i/ Suicide - The Suicide Hook has a short shank a wide gape and n offset point and rear facing eye. It is great for fishing strip baits and prawns, squid and octopus in salt water and for corn, bread, cheese, worm bunches, yabbies (crawfish/crawdads) and shrimp in the fresh water. They are a heavy gauge hook, so quite weighty and not great for baits you might want to float on the surface as the weight of the hook drags the bait down, however, they are great for hard mouth and toothy critters that make a mess of finer guage hooks. The go to with a wire leader for flathead, salmon and tailor on the Australian coast.

ii/ Bait Holder/Keeper - Similar in shape and gape to the suicide, they differ in having a straight eye and point, and slight backward facing barbs on the shank, to do what the name implies, hold a bait. Great for laying out a shrimp or threading a single large worm onto as the barbs on the shank hold them nicely in shape. Also good for the baits listed above.

iii/ Long shank - As the name might give away, these have a long shank. They have an inline eye and point and are the go to for whiting and other species which take sandworms (read Most surf and estuarine species), which this hook is really useful to fish. A half hitch at the top will hold the worm on the shank. They are also pretty good for corn baits as you can really string the corn on and present a nice large bait.

iv/ Circle Hook - Pictured. Most useful hook in the world. End of. Do not leave home without them.

Other hooks include fly hooks (generally light and fine gauge, light so useful for floating baits and flies), Live bait (fishing live fish baits, heavy gauge, wide gape, for monsters) and eyeless (designed to be snelled into chains for bait catching rigs).

Hooks are sized from zero in both directions. A size 12 hook is tiny, smaller than say an 8 which is again smaller than a 4. When we get to 1, there is a change to /0, so 1/0, 2/0 etc in an upward progression.

2/ Sinker - Not strictly required, despite many people's apparent desire to attach as much weight as possible in the belief you have to cast to the far side of the lake and more weight will let you. However, most fish are caught relatively close to the bank, so casting major distances is rarely required.

Never fix a weight by tying it to the main line, as fish will feel the weight and drop the bait. 

The exception is split shot, a type of sinker that has a slit in one side that is attached to the main line by squeezing the slit shut over the line. They are usually stacked on a line that is being laid out under a float or in very deep water to regulate to rate of drop, with smaller sinker near the hooks and getting progressively slightly larger up the line. The number will vary on depth and conditions and I will discuss this rig in another blog, suffice to say, I have not used it in 20 years, it is for specific circumstances and styles of bait drifting.

The standard rig involves a pea or bean shaped sinker left to run up and down the mainline. This can be above a brass ring or swivel if a leader is desired, or just left to run to the hook. it is desirable, not absolutely required, to place a bead on the line between the sinker and the tie point to protect the knot.

Other rigs can have the sinker tied to a secondary trace, or dropper trace, to form a Y, with the hook on the other arm and the stem being the mainline. This allows enough slack that the fish will move off with the bait before the weight is felt and you can strike it if alert.

For getting started though, the running sinker rig shown above is the preferred option.

3/ The Line - All well and good having hooks, but you need some way to present them to the fish. The line is your connection. FOr this reason, it is important to use good quality line, or you risk disappointment after disappointment with tangles, breaks and heartbreak being the result of cheap, poor quality line. There are 3 main type of line, these being flourocarbon, mono-filament and gel spun polycarbonate. Each has great advantages over the others in certain uses.

i/ Mono - extruded copolymer nylon line in a single long filament. high stretch, low abrasion resistance, huge amount of coil memory. I use this line only for backing, that is, because it is cheap, I put if onto the reel first before tying on the overshot of my mainline, one of the more expensive options. It does provide good knot strength and that is about its only advantage in my eyes.

ii/ flourocarbon - flourocarbon is superficially similar to monofilament, but because of the material used to make it, polyvinylidene difluoride, it has less stretch than the mono and higher refractivity, meaning it is less apparent in the water, appearing almost invisible. It is highly abrasion resistant and makes an excellent leader between mainline and hook.

The knots are a little stiffer and slip a little more than mono, so locked knots, with the tag tucked into the knot, are preferred. Good knots are the locked half blood and the locked Uni knots. For line to line connections with mono  a locked full blood is preferred except in heavy gauges where a uni is easier to tie. Patterns for these can be found easily online and I will eventually get to a blog about rigs and knots.

iii/ My favourite mainline which goes between the mono backing and the flouro leader is the Gelspun. Low to no stretch, this line is spun together of fibres of polyethylene which gives high sensitivity, great strength and high abrasion resistance. This is what all my reels are strung with over a mon backing. Because it is opaque and readily visible in clear water, I use a flouro leader with a shock double tied into it to compensate for the low stretch.

4/ The Reel. So, you need somewhere to store your line when it is not in the water. Somewhere it is neat and usable. Enter the reel. Whilst there are a variety of hand held reels available and each has a great use, I will talk about them in their own blog as they are an entirely different kettle of - yep - fish!

This will just cover the 2 most popular casting reels, the spinning reel or eggbeater and the overhead baitcaster. Fly fishing reels, side cast reels and overhead closed faced reels again are all their own topic, except the closed face reel, that is an easy one. Unless ice fishing, do not bother even thinking about these. For ice fishing, the enclosed line area helps prevent the wet line icing up, although icing to the casing is possible if ice build up too much inside the reel. Simply warming the casing in your hands solves this problem. 

Spend as much as you can afford on a good quality reel as poor quality bearings, drag systems and other components can make casting, retrieving and fighting the fish a nightmare. Quality reels with reasonable care and maintenance will last many years and will provide many hours of pleasure for the money invested. I got my Au 2500c baitcaster back in 1993. It cost me $195. With it I got a Silstar Crystal Powertip rod (more on these in the rod section) for $50. $245 dollars was a fair amount of money 25 years ago. Sinc then I have used that rod and reel on every fishing trip I have been on for casting soft and hard body lures, baits and mongrel fly outfits for eery species of fish on the Eastern seaboard of Australia, with great success rates in fighting and landing  even fish of massive size and well outside the 3 (8#) kg line breaking strain I use on it. The quality of the casting delivery, drag system and wind is just amazing and has never failed me or led to a lost fish through reel fault, although (their has been mmmmmmany through user error). So the upshot is, if I was to measure out the number of hours service this reel has seen for what it cost me, it would be in the cents per hour that it is. Cheap reels come and go, a good reel catches fish forever.

When playing a fish, it is important that the line can give under controlled pressure. The vast majority of this pressure should be applied by the rod, however the drag on the spool also plays an important roll. It should be set at between a third and less than half of the breaking strain of your line, which should also match the rod and reel combination. This will allow a fish to run with the line without breaking it. The reason you do not ever want it to get too close to even half your line strength is because rod and water drag also play a significant role and on a fast run, a fish may exert many times the amount of pressure on the leader end of the line than is apparent at the reel end. These have to be factored into account to avoid breaking off a fish of a lifetime on a wheel warping run. Extra pressure can be applied with practiced fingers on the side of the spool, but get good at fighting the fish with rod before attempting this, it can lead to nasty little injuries and stuff if you get it wrong on a boiling run.

1/ Spinning reel or Eggbeater reel.

Spinning reels are the most common reel. They are the ones most people think of when a reel is pictured. Mounted in a clamp on the underside of the rod, these reels are easy to cast and retrieve, although care has to be taken to avoid line twist when fighting a fish or using sinner lures. A swivel tied between the mainline and the leader can alleviate a lot  of these issues, however and many top range lines are designed to minimalise line twist.

The basic concept is a barrel that contains the line is mounted on a spindle system that attaches to a crank handle. The line is passed off the front of the reel, under the bail arm, which hold tension on the line when it is closed so it does not just fall off the spool, and passed on through the eyelets of the rod. When you cast, you open the bail arm and the line can pass freely off the spool and allow the weight to carry the line. Closing the bail arm traps the line and allows you to engage the crank, turning the spindle and rewrapping the line on the spool. The spool moves backward and forward to lay the line evenly on the surface of the spool.

NEVER wind the handle if the fish is running against the drag! This is guaranteed to cause the line to twist and it will then wrap onto itself causing nasty snarls. This is a particular problem with mono, as it has a lot of stretch and memory and twists badly when stretched only to retract and snarl when the pressure is released. Gelspun it is not such an issue, but best to avoid through the simple practice on not winding while there is pressure being applied to the line. The way to fight the fish is to hold the rod tip high if it is running to keep its head up, as its run slows or stops, drop the rod tip slowly back towards the fish, winding at a rate to keep the line taught and a bend in the rod to keep the pressure on the fish. Lift the rod back up using your wrist and forearm, the lowest position is 10 o'clock, the highest 11:30 if holding the rod out at right angles, perpendicular to your body and parallel  to the ground is 9 o'clock and straight up is 12.00. This might not seem like a lot of movement on your end of the rod, but small movements, over a 6-10 foot length are quite large at the top of the arc. Keep everything calm, measured ans steady, no sudden jerks, not trying to muscle the fish is going to win a fight for you. Playing a fish until it is ready to be landed is all about awareness and patience.

During a fight, the rod is used to apply the pressure to the line and through the line, the hook. This is important as it is this pressure which secures the hook into place, along with the barb it the hook has one. Allowing slack to develop in the line is a good way to let the fish throw the hook. If the fish runs towards you, lift the rod tip to the 12.00 position and wind like buggery! be ready for sudden dives, lunges and changes of direction and have soft hands to absorb any of the impact to avoid break offs.

This video shows a good fight and indicates the methods well on a large carp, about 3-4 times the line weight.

2/ Baitcaster Reels - These reels are the overhead reels beloved by artificial lure tossers the world around. Sitting atop the rod, the line passes over the rod top, rather than underneath it, meaning their ins more rod interaction and feel through the rod and bellying (space the line pulls away from the blank of the rod between the guides as a bow develops on the underside of the rod) is eliminated. This mean you have a lot more sensitivity through the rod and much greater control of lures and fish. My favourite reel, they do take some learning. The basic concept is that there is a barrel on a spindle that sits across the rod, perpendicular to the rod length. This contains the line and as you cast, it spins with the line to allow the weight to strip line from the reel. Attached to the crank, it turns to retrieve the line onto itself directly. There is usually a line guide on a worm arm which lays the line from side to side to ensure even lay of the line for smooth casting. Casting is where many people have issues and give up with these reels. The reel itself spinning means that if the lure flight is impeded or too much uncontrolled force if put into the cast, the reel will continue to feed line into the system on the reel end as it stops being carried at the terminal end. This will create an unholy mess, called a birdsnest, which is a nightmare to sort out, particularly with mono or flouro. Whilst tangles are less severe with GSP lines, they can and do still occur, but with a little patience can usually be picked out, where as the other two pack into themselves and often have to be cut to work out the snarl. Careful use of pressure from the cast brake and feathering the spool with your thumb are important things to master if you want the best from these reels.

#fishing #blog #angling #fish #hobby

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