All these little things help you out for distance. Obviously like a bait caster, you can’t just pick one up and throw cast “8 and bait” over 100 yards. It’s something that you really need to practice with. Every rod and reel loads and casts a little differently; it’s just a matter of practice. A good example: one of my heavers is 11ft 6in long. On a good day with the right wind, if I put everything into the cast and I don’t “blow it up” when casting with 6 ounces; I can cast almost 150 yards.
The rest of the rods I use for surf fishing have spinning reels. Whether it’s my bait rod or my lure rod, I prefer a spinning reel. I feel I can get the distance I need with lighter weight using a spinning reel. There are a bunch of different manufacturers out there that make many different types of reels. Find one that you like, that fits your reel and feels comfortable in your hands. This can also apply to your heaver. If you have a rod already, take it with you when looking at reels. If you find one that you like, see if they will let you put it on your rod so that you can see how it feels. The worst thing is to find after casting over and over again is that your rod doesn’t feel right or is uncomfortable or too heavy, too bulky, etc.
Another important thing to keep in mind when purchasing a reel is how much line it holds. On my bait rods and casting rods I want at least 100 yards of whatever weight I am using. On my heavers I prefer to have at least 275-300 yards (if not more). I have had several people ask me why I would want that much line on my heavers. Well a great example is the citation Cobia I caught this year. When he took the bait he ran, and ran hard. I had casted my bait out at least 80-100 yards on that fateful cast, and when I hooked the monster, he ran another 100 yards easily on his initial run. I have also hooked into large sharks and rays that have tried to take me to Europe. My point is you want enough line to accommodate any long run that you may encounter.
Fishing Line – One of the biggest misconceptions about surf fishing is that you need big line to catch big fish. That is not true. The 75lb Cobia I caught off the beach was caught on 20lb main line with a 50lb shock leader. I have friends in Maryland that have caught 8 and 9 foot sharks off the beach using 17 and 20lb line!
My heavers are spooled with 20lb and 15lb test mono. There are many different manufacturers that make really good line for casting. Some of them are better than others, but a lot of it is personal preference. I prefer to use either Berkley Big Game or Offshore Angler’s Tight Line, but like I said, that’s just my preference. For my shock leader, if my main line is 15lb test, I will use 40lb for my shock leader. if my main line is 20lb, I will use 50lb for my shock leader. The shock leader does several things for you. First, it allows you to put everything you’ve got into casting 8 ounces plus bait without snapping the line. Secondly, if you catch a large fish, after you get a few wraps of shock leader on your spool, you can sometimes maneuver/horse it a little bit more. One thing to keep in mind is the diameter of your shock leader. I have shopped around and found a small diameter 50lb test line. If the shock leader material is too thick, you will have a big knot that could possibly affect your cast or get hung up on one of the eyes of the rod. As far as the knot goes, I typically use the Albright special to join my main line to my shock leader. However, there are many other knots that are good and strong that can be used as well.
The shock leader length is also personal preference. I prefer at least 20 feet, but some like more for drum and striper fishing. The idea is that when you’re ready to cast, you want the shock leader to run from your bait all the way down your rod and then have several wraps on your reel. You don’t want to put too much because the difference in size between the diameters of your main line and shock leaders will cause the spool to spin differently when casting. In other words, if you find that you are constantly blowing up your heaver when you cast, try a shorter/thinner shock leader.
Some people have asked me about whether or not I use braid on my heavers. Although I know a few people that do, I never have and don’t plan on it. There are advantages and disadvantages of using mono versus braid. For example, mono stretches, while braid does not. I think braid moves more in the water then mono does. With braid you can go up in pound test and be at the same diameter of mono. I think the biggest disadvantage with braid is, if you blow up the reel using braid, and a loop grabs your thumb, it could potentially do some damage. Additionally, blow ups/back lashes are harder to get un-done with braid.
The other rods that I use are all spooled with braid. I like braid on these rods for several reasons. The main one is that my brand of choice for 20lb test braid has the same diameter as 6 lb mono. That means I can fill my reel with heavier braid and still get the amount of line on there that I need. This allows me to fish a smaller, lighter reel. For example, my bait rod reel is more or less a fresh water reel. It will normally hold 300 yards of 10lb mono. Therefore if I fill it with 30lb braid, which has the same diameter as the 8lb mono, I can get just as much line on the spool but the braid is much stronger.
Even though I mentioned before that braid tends to move more in the surf, if you hook a large skate or ray on your bait rod, you want to make sure your line can handle it. I have caught some giant clear nose skates on my bait rod before and I like having the comfort of knowing I will be able to drag the skate in without breaking my line and losing my rig. I like having braid on my metal rod as well, however I normally use 20lb because I know the lighter the line, the farther I will be able to cast.
Most of the time I will not use any sort of mono or fluorocarbon leader on my metal or lure rods, unless the surf is extremely clear. It doesn’t happen often, but there have been a few days this year where the water was super clear up to about 4 feet. I was standing in water up to my waist one day and could clearly see my toes. In fact that day I was standing there throwing a sting silver and looked down and watched a 2ft Butterfly Ray swim past my feet. Kind of exciting and scary all at the same moment!
I hope this write up has answered many of the questions you may have had. Like I said earlier, if you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me. If you’re not already a member, I invite you to join the forums of VBSF.net.
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