Light Tackle Surf Spinning

by Frank Daignault

Lighter gear for smaller stripers in more comfortable conditions.

In the casting world, high surf requires about the heaviest spinning tackle made. Unlike inland fishing, the surf rod is cast with two hands that are swung with a force about equal to that used in hitting a ball in baseball or a tee shot in golf. Repeated for many hours, that can represent considerable expenditure of energy. Therefore, it is necessary to select the most comfortable and efficient equipment which will contribute greater distances with less expended energy.

One solution lies in lighter tackle because there is notable sport in casting small, half-ounce plugs with 10 or 12 pound line using a one-handed rod. This is particularly the case if striped bass are known to be in an area or if the fisherman is working a tidal estuary. Indeed, such tackle calls upon all of the surfcaster's skills to fight and land larger specimens, say, over 20 pounds. And a five inch Rebel/Red-Fin type swimmer, which so perfectly balances out with such "schoolie tackle", is a formidably effective way to coax a brute lineside into taking. It certainly elevates the level of spin fishing to a higher order of sport fishing. When an angler is confronted with such a fish using this equipment, it is not unusual to be engaged for a half-hour or more. Our son, Dick, landed a 40-pounder on such tackle when he was 10 years old.

One of the joys of such equipment is the variety of rods -- developed for Great Lakes steelheading -- that have come to the market from the big tackle companies. All offer graphite, two-piece models of seven or eight feet with ceramic guides that, accident that it might be, are both perfect for the mission of light spinning and dwarf any efforts that "custom" rod makers in scattered shops around the Striper Coast might put forth. For all that can be said about the virtue of custom made, full sized surf rods, the same can be said of schoolie tackle from the big name tackle companies.

Before any surf angler, even those of you with a moderate wealth of surfcasting experience sets out to take on a big striped bass, be forewarned that such a fish is not beaten by simply waiting it out with a mile of line. We have lost many trophy linesides when, after changing direction in the fight, they managed a coil of line around their bodies. It is an easy thing for a big fish to do when it is allowed its head, which is a necessity with light tackle.

Once such gossamer thin lines find their way under one of the many quarter-sized scales which armor plate a striper's body, the flexing of that body during violent efforts to swim off will so damage the mono as to render its remaining strength unworkable. This is why it is possible to fight such a fish and survive great forces early in the contact, then suddenly have a line go limp form the break-off when no force at all was exerted later. When seasoned striper fishers complain that neophytes are the last ones that should be fishing light tackle, such experiences are usually the reason. Light tackle may be more fun, but be careful.