New Favorite… Daiwa Arid Coastal

I fish. I fish a lot and I fish hard. My equipment suffers a great deal of abuse, especially my baitcaster reels. I use both baitcasters and spinning reels, however I use a low profile baitcaster when throwing a topwater plug and let’s fix it, I’m addicted to topwater action, therefore I spend 80-90% of my timing casting and retrieving topwater lures.

Most of my time is spent in the vast saltwater marshes of the Texas/Louisiana coast where I spend 8-12 hours per day casting and retrieving my favorite topwater baits, because of this I go through a large number of baitcaster reels. I have tried different strategies. I have purchased some moderately expensive reels that I often times have to take in for service and cleaning and I have used many cheep reels that I can just throw away when their preformance begins to falter.

My search for the prefect long lasting , well working baitcaster reel seems to be never ending. That is until I ran across the Daiwa Arid Coastal saltwater baitcasting reel while shopping at Fishing Tackle Unlimited. (By the way, they have a huge selection of reels and very informative actual fisherman/employees that can answer many of your questions.)

Arid coastal

It seems to handle the abuse I dish out as well as the extreme wear and tear afforded by extended saltwater usage.

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I have my Daiwa Arid Coastal spooled with 20 lb Power Pro braid. I can attest it casts a country mile, smooth and far.  The retrieve is fast and consistent. This has not changed in approximately two months of my hard use.

Daiwa specs

The carbon drag washers have done what they promise. I have yet to find an inshore fish it couldn’t handle.

Daiwa carbon drag

And it comes with a 100 mm “power handle” for cranking those hard fighting, larger saltwater fish in.

So far I give this reel a thumbs up and it will continue to be my go to reel. You can purchase this extraordinary reel for anywhere between $80-100.

Operationfish.com signing out,

Todd Hart

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Topwater Bassin’

Tropical Storm Bill passed through and the weather laid down so I took a friend out for an evening  trip of bass fishing after work.  We loaded up and left my house around 4pm and pointed the truck towards Lake Fayette. We passed through the last of rains on the way. As soon as we launched our kayaks the rains stopped and fish began to bite.

I caught all my bass on a pink Rapala Skitterwalk.  The first few bass I landed came over thick grass.  The extra water raised the lake level slightly so I could throw the Skitterwalk over thick areas that are usually off limits to such baits.

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My friend, Chris, followed my lead and cast into the same area and instantly pulled out a nice bass himself.

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There was bait everywhere along the shore. The bass were having a feast. You could hear and see bass hitting bait all along the shore line.  We continued working the shoreline casting wherever we heard or saw bass working.

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Most bass seemed to be in the cattails.   If I heard or saw a splash I just pedaled close and cast right to the edge. Most times I had to work the Skitterwalk very slowly.  A few twitches and pause. I tried to imitate a wounded fish. It worked quite well.

 

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I ended the evening with ten nice bass measuring from 16″ to 20″.

Todd Hart Bass 2 linecutterz

 

I missed 16 fish.  For a while, I was in slump and began keeping score.  Number of fish landed to number of lost fish/missed blows.  My score for the night was 10 landed and 16 lost or missed.

Todd Hart Bass linecutterz

 

Some areas held numerous fish. in one location under a low hanging branch I landed 2 and missed or lost 5.

 

 

 

Todd Hart Bass

It was a great night of fishing. Anytime I can have that much action using a topwater bait, I’m in heaven.  I love using topwater bait and that often leads to my downfall in the competitive fishing world. I just can’t seem to put the Skitterwalk back in the tackle box.

Operationfish.com signing out,

Todd Hart

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Kingfish Galore

The rain hit Texas hard this spring/ early summer and the rivers are overflowing their banks.  It has messed up some of my favorite freshwater spots but it seemed to have changed things for the better (for my prospective anyway) in the gulf.

Todd Hart kingfish 5

The dirty flood water is really out into the gulf at the mouth of these flooded rivers. Many people are worried about the impact this will have on the saltwater ecology. I can attest with first hand experience that it seems to be causing an “all you can eat” feeding feast at the mouths of these rivers. Normally, it is hard finding kingfish near the north Texas coast.  You really have to travel out a great distance to find the clean water the kingfish thrive in.  Right now, however, with all the bait fish being forced out of the rivers by this strong flood current the kingfish as well as other game fish have moved up close to feast on the buffet of bait.

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We found ourselves fishing close to the color change caused from the flood waters.

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At first we fished on the color change. And then we tried just outside the color change in the cleaner water, but we soon learned that the fish we sitting mainly in the dirtiest of water.

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The kingfish were everywhere in the murky water. We witnessed them jumping 6-10 feet into the air as they chased their prey.  I even had one jump over the bow of my kayak. Once locating the fish the action was fast and furious.

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We trolled ribbon fish . You can purchase ribbon fish at almost any bait store along the coast, especially those located at a marina.

ribbonfish

We placed the ribbon fish on the kingfish leaders pictured below.

kingfish rigs

It turned out that on this particular day. Pink leaders worked the best. (I wished I would have purchased more of that color.) My fishing partner, Grant, had mostly pink and he ended up having more hook-ups and ultimately more kings.

Once hooked up, hold on, for Kingfish can run with some real speed.

Todd Hart Hooked up 6-10-15

They can really put a bend in your rod and take you on a nice ride. However, their gas tanks tend to be short lived and after a couple of strong runs they die out.

kingfish

Don’t be fooled they usually have a little in reserve when they get close to the kayak.

Todd Hart running kingfish

They sometimes even make a couple of dives and circle the boat.

Todd Hart running kingfish 2

Once they tire out I prefer to just reach in and grab their tails.

Todd Hart reaching for a  kingfish

Reach in quick, close to your kayak.

Todd Hart reaching for a  kingfish 2

Give it a good yank.

Todd Hart kingfish in the sun

I recommend. Not keeping your hands in the water very long. My friend Grant had this happen twice.

Grant half a kingfish

Sharks stole his fish before he could get them in his boat.  He prefers to use his fish grips for safety reasons.  I had to do that once as I hooked a kingfish in the tail.

Todd Hart kingfish hooked in the tail

There was no grabbing that tail. And let me tell you a kingfish can run a lot longer when hooked in the tail.

Some people like to use gaffs.  That is fine and dandy but you can only keep two kings per day in Texas. I want to catch, photo and release safely and as many as possible on my trips.

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You have to work quickly to keep them alive.

Todd Hart measuring a kingfish

A good long ruler is a must. All the kingfish I caught this day were between 37″- and 45″.

Todd Hart CPRing a kingfish

Taking pictures of fish that long can be a challenge.   If you can’t use the view finder you end up taking lots of poor pictures.

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I also use a GoPro mounted on a Railblaza (swinging) Camera Boom 600.  This serves as my “selfie stick”.

Todd Hart kingfish 2

It is great for documenting fish.  And many times I don’t have a friend around to take my photos.

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When unhooking these guys, take precaution. They have sharp teeth.  Unlike a bass they can not be lipped.

Todd Hart unhoooking a kingfish

I was wishing I had some longer pliers. I recommend long pliers. LOL.

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I found if you work quickly, both landing the fish and during the CPR process (catch, Photo, and release) the fish can survive.

We did land 19 kingfish that day between the two of us.

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We also caught a a few other saltwater critters.  Grant landed two nice Jack Crevalle.  These were hooked in the cleaner water.

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We also each caught a handful of pesky sharks.

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Todd Hart small shark

The sharks make it a costly venture.  Every shark means you virtually lose your kingfish leaders as well as your bait.

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The trip was fun and well worth it.  If you go pick a day with nice (safe) weather.  And please remember the current at the mouths of these rivers can be deceiving. Once the color change completely disappeared almost instantly and we found ourselves so far out we had a 90 minute pedal back to towards shore to find dirty water once again.   We were so busy catching fish we didn’t realize how far we drifted.  A second time we stayed closer to shore but drifted a couple of miles up the coast line.  It took us another 90 minutes or more to pedal back against the current when the day had ended.

Bring lots of fluid and sun screen. Tight lines and good luck.

Operationfish.com signing out,

Todd Hart

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Top Water Bass

Memorial day’s forecast called for strong winds and rain, however the weathermen had been incorrect all weekend.  They kept calling for poor fishing conditions and the weather turned out to be nice each day. Therefore, I decided to gamble on an early morning run, hoping the weatherman would once be wrong and all the boaters would fear the worse and stay home.

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It turned out my throw of the dice would be a winner. The weather was awesome throughout the morning with a bit of overcast and the wind and rains not starting until I left the water.

I got out on the water just before day break. I arrived at my target area as the sun came up. I decided to start with a top water plug. I had a pink Rapala Skitterwalk tied on from my last speckled trout bay trip so I gave it a throw. My first cast resulted in a  blow up and shortly after a hook up however, I was disgruntled as I lost the fish.  I continued with the Skitterwalk all morning with great success.

Todd Hart bass 1 5-24-15

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The fish were scattered in the shallow water.

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I would cast close to the shore and walk the dog back to the kayak.

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I just continued working the shoreline.

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often times I would have numerous blow-ups. If the first one didn’t hook up I would slow my retrieve and hope for another chance which seemed to more more often than not.

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I missed a number of blow-ups and lost a number of fish. I had to remind myself to set the hook with a bit more force than I am accustomed to when it comes for fishing for speckled trout.

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I found that often the bass would follow the bait almost to the kayak before striking.

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The lake had far fewer boaters than I expected for a holiday weekend. It was just a pleasant morning with hungry fish and little boat traffic.

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As the morning progressed and the sun rose higher the bite began to slow. The fish became fewer and farther between.

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Unfortunately, the action slowed and I went a long time with no further blow-ups. I was losing interest in the slower lonely conditions. I usually fish by myself to get away, reflect, relax and recuperate, but this was a holiday weekend. I was about to head in to hang out with the family for the remainder of the day when I had an unexpected, but welcomed visitor.

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He just followed me around and kept me company. He gave me someone to talk to and the cool thing is he never disagreed with me or posed an argument.

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He pretty much followed me all the way back to my truck. We parted ways and headed home to hang with the family for the remainder of the day.

Operationfish.com signing out,

Todd Hart

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Aerial Display: Jumping Black Tip Shark

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Operationfish.com signing out,

Todd Hart

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A Slow Day of Fishing is Still Better Than No Day of Fishing

Philosophers throughout the world and throughout history have always agreed upon one thing:  A slow day of fishing is still better than no day of fishing. OK, well,  maybe no renowned, intellectual, well published, thinker actually said that, but I think you’ll agree, they should have.

The morning started out rough. I made some bad choices the night before, causing the drive to be brutal. But after a stop at my favorite bait shop in Winnie, TX (The Seapony Bait and Tackle) where the proprietor, Rick, made us some custom leaders, loaded us with bait and sold us his guaranteed cure for a rough night of bad choices  (BSN Powder chased with a can of iced cold Coke) we were once again ready to tackle the surf and chase some larger game found in the big waters of the Gulf.

We were greeted with waves slightly larger than the forecast predicted. This seems to be the norm.

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(Chris Harris, the self-anointed “Grammar God” of Freshman English. At least that’s what he calls himself)

You can see from the pictures the waves were slightly larger than we hoped, but still nice compared to most days.

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We quickly set-up our rigs and pedaled out to 12′ of water.  We dropped anchor and waited for some action. We had a few runs but they were soft and the fish just seemed to drop the bait.

After an hour or so we moved out to 15′- 16′. This seemed to be spot as the number of runs increased. And I soon landed this red drum.

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We had to deal with a few gafttops, the slimiest catfish of the sea.  But eventually, I hooked up with a nice shark.

Todd Hart Shark at the kayak 3

He pulled me around for a good 15 minutes or longer.

Todd Hart Shark at the kayak 5

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A couple of times I was able to get him next the boat but he wasn’t ready to give up and he made a few runs resulting in soaking splashes and tail whips.

 

 

 

Todd Hart Shark at the kayak 7

 

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Finally, I was able to tire him out and pull him up.  He posed for this shot right before being released.

Todd Hart Shark at the kayak 2

All around us there were Jack crevelles bubbling and boiling the water as they chased large bait balls. This was the one time I didn’t bring any smaller set-ups to chunks lures so I was not able to entice any bites on my cut mullet.

We ended the day early, having to leave the water at noon as my wife requested my presence at her doctors appointment. the day was ended with me only landed one Bull red, one 5-6′ Bull shark and number of slimy gafttops. But as the titles states even a slow day of fishing is better than no day of fishing.

Operationfish.com signing out,

Todd Hart

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Lake Fayette Bass

The last two weeks have proven to be great for bass fishing, at least on Lake Fayette.  I have made numerous trips over that time period  and some of those trips have yielded 30 plus bass.

Todd Hart and Kozmo Bass 2

The fishing has been great. I have been locating fish in depths between 7 and 8 feet.

Todd Hart Bass

All bass have been caught using Cotton Cordell® Super Spot® 1/2 oz Lipless Crankbaits. The two colors I have been using are pictured below.

Cotton Cordelle Super spot lipless crankbaits

The bite has been best early in the morning and right before sunset. Some bass have been caught within the first hour after sunset.

Most bass have ranged between 14-18″. They are fun to catch, but not quite the trophy size I’m seeking.

Todd Hart Bass 2

 

The largest bass measured a hefty 21″. As you can tell from the picture below he bite after dark on the way back to the truck.

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I have found bass in numerous places throughout the lake.  But often times I have to spend a bit of time searching. They tend to be schooled up in various areas, however those areas seem to change daily.  The only consistency has been the depth.

Todd Hart Bass 3

The highlight of my recent bass trips has been the introduction of my dog, Kozmo, to kayak fishing. He really seems to enjoy it and I really enjoy his company.

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I learned real quick he needs to wear a lift jacket.

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After retrieving him from the water, I suited him up with the doggy PFD I brought along. It is made by Outward Hound and works nicely. The handle on the back of the jacket comes in handy.

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He seems to get excited whenever I hooked a fish and he always wanted to be part of the action.

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I think I’ll have to fasten a platform to the front of the Pro Angler. He really likes to stand up front. I guess that will be my next project. As soon as the winds die down I’ll be back out on the water seeking that trophy fish.

Until next time, tight lines and bent rods.

Operationfish.com siging out,

Todd Hart

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Early May Sharkfest

Sharks arrive off the Texas coast every summer as the waters begin to warm.  This summer the sharks seemed to arrive early, storming the beaches in force. I planned on catching some bull reds during the first weekend of May, but instead was greeted with shark after hungry shark.

The first fish I landed was indeed a red fish as I hoped to catch. He measured a healthy 41-42″.

Todd Hart bull red2 5-1-15

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I quickly and safely snapped a few pictures and released him to the calm ocean waters. I baited my size 10/0 Eagle Claw Circle Sea hook with a 4″ chunk of cut mullet and threw my line back out in hopes of catching another. It wasn’t long before I had another run. I was a bit grieved to find a small shark at the end of the line.

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He was quickly unhooked and released so I could try again. A few minutes alter I had yet another run. After a few quick drag pulling run I was once again let down by small black tip shark.

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He measured roughly 48′ and was also released safely.

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The baits were put back into the water with hopes of another red fish and within minutes I had another screaming run. What was  on the end of my pole was much bigger and stronger than the last couple. I quickly unhooked from my anchor line and went on a 20-30 minute “Kayak Sleigh Ride” through the cloudy greenish blue waters of the north Texas coast.

I almost had him to the boat when he encountered my rubber fins on Hobie Mirage drive. This would be the first time I have ever had a shark take bite out of my fins. (Nothing some duck tape couldn’t repair.) Then he dove and spent the next 10 minutes slowly swimming across the bottom. He finally got tired and my Trilene 30lb Big Game Mono line pulled him up. He would prove to be a nice 6′ plus bull shark.

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Once again he was released and I tried yet again for a red fish. I was fishing in shallower, much dirtier waters than the other kayakers in the ggroup. This should have landed me more redfish ,but that would not be the case as I soon hooked up on another black tip shark. This one put on a nice aerial display.

jumping shark

He came out of the water twisting and turning a number times. He finally ended up spitting the hook only to have it lodge in his pectoral fin which made it even harder to reel in.

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It turned out I would end up catching approximately 8 sharks all ranging from 30″ to about 78″ There were black tips, spinners, atlantic sharp nose and even bull sharks.

Todd Hart holding a small shark 5-1-15

The smaller ones were easy to handle. The larger sharks posed slightly greater problems.

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Some seemed to ask nicely for you to remove the hooks. They almost gave an inviting smile as they patiently await for you to remove the hook.

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Check out those some nice pearly whites. I’m assuming with all those teeth they must have some hefty dental bills.

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Operationfish.com signing out,

Todd Hart

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2015 “Fishing Tackle Unlimited” Spring Kayak Demo Days

2015 FTU spring Demo Days

Come by the Hobie Kayak area and give them a try. I’ll be there all day to answer any questions you might have.

Todd Hart

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A Frugal Beginner’s Guide to BTB (Beyond the Breakers)

May 1st would be my first trip “Beyond the Breakers” in 2015. The forecast called for little to no wind and what limited breeze there would be came from the north affording an almost flat surf.  These would be prime conditions for an enjoyable day on the surf.

Todd Hart bull red3 5-1-15

Before you can venture out into the surf and past the breakers, you have to be prepared. First and foremost, pick the correct day with the right conditions.  Always check the weather and pay close attention to the wind. Winds in the single digits make for the most comfortable day. The direction of the wind is also helpful.

I  use a couple of trusty websites /phone apps. And then I apply some common sense.   Sites like “magicseaweed.com” and phone applications like “windfinder“are great for giving you wind speed but tend to  underestimate the surf and water conditions.  For example, if you are fishing the upper Texas coast and desire flat conditions you want a Northern or Western wind.  Look at the wind forecast and compare it to your local map.

Below is a screen shot using “MagicSeaweed.com”.

Picture from magicseaweed

You can gain a lot of information from sites like these, but always use caution.  It is best to fish with other people and always wear your PFD (Personal Flotation Device/ life vest).  I recommend having a water proof VHF. They float and can hold a charge for many hours. They can communicate with your fishing partners, check the weather conditions and if really needed contact the coast guard or nearby vessels.

Other items to take include.

  1. Sun screen
  2. Hat
  3. Fluids (water, Gatorade, etc) / snacks
  4. Medicine to avoid motion sickness (for some fishermen)
  5. Bait knife
  6. Anchor w/ float or a way to tie off to a rig (depending on your target and/or destination)
  7. Pliers with a good wire cutter
  8. Camera
  9. Fishing rod and reels
  10. Leaders and hooks.. Lots of leaders and hooks
  11. VHF radio (or phone)
  12. Fish grips

Todd Hart landing a bull red 5-1-15

Let’s talk gear. The more time you spend on the water the better idea you’ll get for what you actually desire. But let’s start with something simple and inexpensive for even the most frugal of fisherman.

Let’s begin with a fishing rod.  You need sometime a bit beefier than what you would use in the bay or a local pond.

  • Many beginning fisherman use the Shakespeare Sturdy stik. It ranges from $12 -$25. This is good entry level rod and I have used it to land many bull reds, sharks and kingfish.
  • A nice upgrade would be Shakespeare Ugly Stik Tiger rod. It ranges from $45- $65. It is a great rod, very strong but with some flex to it.

shakespeare tiger stik

Let’s move onto reels.  You could spend untold amounts on a good fishing reel.  But let’s start inexpensive.  Trust me you will eventually find the reel you want. And if you are anything like me you’ll drool over it while fishing with the reels I’ll mention below.

  • I often fish with reels as inexpensive as the Quatum Optix 60. It ranges in price from $20-30. Armed with 30 lb mono and a good leader it can handle most any fish you’ll hook up to.  When the salt water starts to wear at it, You won’t feel bad deposing of it and purchasing another.
  • A nice upgrade would be the Okuma Classic. This reel features a level wind and ranges at a very affordable price between $35- $60.  You can’t beat this little reel. I have landed countless sharks up to 9′ on this very rig.  For the same price or less as getting an “upper end” reel cleaned and serviced you could just depose of this reel and purchase a new one.

okuma classic

I basically arm all my “BTB” rods with 30lb mono. I tried braid which is what I use on all my smaller action rods and reels, but I came back to mono for the big stuff.  I prefer Trilene Big Game it’s rather affordable.

trilene 30lb

 

Leaders and hooks vary depending upon your target species. I would dare to say this is where I spend most of my money.  This determines if fish are hooked and landed.

  • Bull Reds (Oversized red fish). Leaders aren’t so important for these. But a good sized hook is. I prefer to use the Eagle Claw Lazer Sharp Circle Sea 10/0. This is an easy hook to remove. The gap is slightly wider than many circle hooks ensuring more hook ups. My bait of choice cut mullet.  I prefer 4″ pieces.  Smaller sizes means more undesirable fish.
  • Sharks. A long leader is a must. I prefer to use approximately 4′ of cable with a swivel on one end and a Eagle Claw Lazer Sharp Circle sea 10/0 (or larger) on the other. Sometimes with Sharks I float my bait under a balloon. Just a standard party balloon tied onto your fishing line. For bait I tend to use mullet, ray, or bonita. Heck, I have even thrown out gaftop.
  • Kingfish. This requires a steel leader as their speedy bullet like attacks mixed with their sharp teeth cut through most any line.  You can purchase kingfish leaders at most any coastal bait shop. If you plan on trolling baits like commonly used ribbon fish, I would recommend a leader with 2 to 3 hooks (I like treble hooks, but many people like a simple “J” hook as it is sometimes safer in a kayak with a lively fish jumping around next to your legs. (Trust me I learned the hard way.)

kingfish pro rigs

  • Red snapper. 12″ – 18″ mono leader armed with a Cirlce hook and a slide weight when using live bait. Just hook it through the lip and drop it down. Or try jigging with a butterfly jig on a leader.

shimano butterfly jig

  • Small bait fish.  Sabiki Rigs. These little rigs are set up with multiple tiny hooks and can be use to jig for bait.

sibiki rig

This guide is by no means a tell all to BTB (Beyond the Breakers) kayak fishing, but it should help you get started with just a modest budget. I am by far one of the most frugal fisherman around and these items I have listed have passed my rugged test of value per-cost.

I hope you find this article helpful. Until next time happy fishing.

Operationfish.com signing out,

Todd Hart

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