I've been on a little bit of a Spectra kick in my writing for my Tackle Room column, and this week will be the second in a series of three columns on fishing with braid and fluorocarbon.
It wasn't until 2003 that I had to deal with Spectra. Read: had to. After making the jump from the First String to the Excel all of a sudden there were a lot of changes, while also a lot of similarities. After all, fishing is fishing, especially when your purpose is to load bait, scrub toilets, find kelps, work tangles and smile with just 6 hours of broken sleep in between.
I had never done a Spectra to monofilament connection until that summer. I think it was one of the Flecks (maybe Joel, who I jumped ship from the String with?) who showed me the bimini to Albright, which, kind of incredibly given the progression of things, is still the preferred connection method on the Excel.
There were no short topshots being used, and the Spectra was pretty much just backing. I remember being really stubborn to the change — which is a pretty standard line for most fishermen — and not digging the whole Spectra thing. After all, I had just came off an overnight boat that wouldn't let a guy put Spectra in the water. Tangles, props and saw offs were all reasons why Spectra was the enemy.
But Spectra and I became buds. First, ’cause it meant not having to strip and respool 500 plus yards of 80-pound mono off a Penn 50. Then I realized how much better a short topshot gets bit at a place like Alijos Rocks. Ironically, it was on my first long range trip as a passenger, an 11-day on the Royal Polaris, where Spectra got a loop around my heart. The trip also showed me the power of the small two speed--an Avet JX that I wrote about extensively upon in that year's Long Range Preview. At this point it was a 50-foot mono topshot of 40-pound Big Game that was short...
Then my lifelong buddy Wes Flesch showed me the kelp cutter rig when he worked on the Phantom. This was after the guys from Performance Tackle showed it to him. From there, the floodgates to fishing Spectra were opened up.
Everything always seems to come full circle, and I found myself back on the Excel on an October 10-day trip as a passenger. One with reels filled to the brim with Spectra and wheels of fluorocarbon. A hurricane kept us at Guadalupe for a couple of days, which was cool because the 30- to 80-pound yellowfin were really biting. Actually, they were really biting the shoulder hooked sardine fished with a six-foot topshot of Big Game fluorocarbon (which is no longer on the market and a mistake, in my opinion, of the Big Game brand; it was the only tinted blue fluoro and it was the shit!).
I was getting bit really, really good on the short topshot. To the point where it let me do some fun stuff, like see how many fish I could get on the same piece of 40-pound Big Game connected to 65-pound Big Game Braid with a uni-to-uni with ten turns on the braid and five on the fluoro. It never broke, even after catching and cutting off however many 30- to 50-pound yellowfin it was a Westy's.
It also let me see how short of a topshot would still get bit, which made me realize that even the somewhat picky tuna in super clear Guadalupe Island water were so keyed into the bait that was swimming so good thanks to the shoulder hook/thin diameter braid/blue tinted fluorocarbon combo that they didn't notice the white braid as short as three feet or so behind the bait. Neither did the picky wahoo outside San Pablo at the end of what was a trip that really progressed my fishing and the way I look at it.
I had not yet penned my "Theory of Fishing" in The Southern California Angler by this point. Cliff Notes: when you do something different, or better than the other anglers you get bit better than the competition.
My wheels really got spinning on a lot of levels while on the 10-day trip. Being the only one fishing with a set-up that offers such a huge edge helped me realize a lot on a lot of levels... leveling... like a book's worth. And now the short topshot is standard, so there's been other tweaks given to the short topshot rig to scratch out an edge, just like how there's been tweaks to the poker game to keep the win rate up as players progress and don't spew chips like they used to.
A lot of what I've leaned — on the fishing Spectra front — is in the next two columns and the last, but here are the 10 big things that I typed up over a Ballena of Pacifico one night last week. Can you think of any others? This is kind of the frame work, but there's plenty of other nuances to becoming a Spectra angler...
Adjustments for fishing Spectra
LEARN (AT LEAST) TWO CONNECTIONS
YOU CAN FISH SHORT — REALLY SHORT
FACTOR IN ABRASION RESISTANCE
WET THE SPOOL/SLOW DOWN ON THE CAST
DON’T SET THE HOOK—AT LEAST NOT AS HARD
FISH YOUR DRAG LIKE YOU ARE FISHING MONO
YOU CAN’T WORRY ABOUT PULLING HOOKS
LONGER ROD, SOFTER TIP
FOLLOW THE TIP
In no way did my experiences shape how much Spectra would permeate the SoCal fishing culture. John Pandeles was the long range guy who paved the road, and on the local front all paths lead back to Marc Higashi at Performance Tackle as being the originator of the kelp cutter rig. (Not so much for the kelp cutting ability, but for how the thin-diameter Spectra lets a savvy seabass guy swim his squid fished on a light slider.)
But Spectra surely took my fishing to another level. It was last November on the Red Rooster III where it all set in. It started when Jack Nilsen of Accurate said, "You're my number three." I had no idea what he was talking about. But I wanted to know. After all the guy goes on like four long trips a year. So I asked. His response was the biggest compliment I've been given since working at WON. "A lot of guys ask me who the best I've ever seen are," Jack answered. "I always say Kevin (Leong) and Stas (Vellonakis) are the best, but from now on I'm saying you are right behind them..."
For a 32-year-old in an industry where I am always "kid" or "son" it was a pretty flooring compliment. Then the next morning I got five wahoo on the surface iron out of a beyond picky bite and looked up at Jack. He kind of tipped his beer to me and gave me this huge smile that reminded me of my passed-on grandfather. It brings a tear to my eye and makes me feel that warm Clarion sun just rethinking it. And it was at that moment — just like the 10-day on the Excel some four or five years earlier — that I realized that fishing really is about progressing and staying one step ahead.
With my fishing it's all about the Spectra and the ability to cast the furthest and trying new things — which sometimes ends in disaster — but it's also what pays dividends down the road.
Try new stuff, progress and don't do the same stuff just 'cause it worked fine before and it is a subconscious "rule" developed for your fishing (or life). Maybe trying more Spectra fishing or adjusting your Spectra fishing will help.
If it does, or did, let me know!