Mercury Outboards


Published: Sep 30, 2010



2010: A look at the most modern of modern long range gear and tackle
By David Choate/Special to Western Outdoor News

OROVILLE —I feel I needed 2010 in the title of this gear article, as things change from season to season. And speaking of that, I fielded a question on the other day by an angler who has not fished long range since 1992.

That took me a few minutes to comprehend: how much gear has changed since 1992. We fished straight mono on Penn Internationals that were blueprinted, had new bearings installed, with sleeves between the bearings by wizards like Cal Sheets, Larry Coffeen, and prior to that, Ray Lemme.

The rods were short, with all roller guides; we fished 60-pound test mono on 30-sized reels, 80-pound test on 50-sized reels, and 100-pound test on 50W and 80-sized reels. Yes, 100-pound was considered heavy back then, whereas now there’s the whole “friends don’t let friends fish 100-pound” moniker for cow fishing on the Lower Banks.

There was no Spectra being used, or maybe John Pandeles was toying around with it at the time — and getting some dirty glares for trying it.

As compared to now, all the above is like another time altogether. In 2010 we’re fishing with step-spliced Spectra, small two-speed reels filled to the brim with the white line (right out of the box ready to fish), short fluorocarbon topshots, on a seven-foot long tuna rod with ringed guides. Yeah, tackle has come a long way along with this long range fishery we love so much.

So, let's get down to it and get ready for long range trips of various lengths.

3-8 day trips, and 10-11 day trips before November

• TOPLESS TWO SPEED REELS have become all the rage. Most every manufacturer offers topless two speeds, including Okuma, which has the newest topless two speeds around in its Makaira, pictured.

• FISHING COWS means doing everything from flylining sardines to fishing big baits on the kite, like Paul Oster did with an Accurate 80W on a Calstar 760XH to get his first 300-plus pounder on the Red Rooster III. Note the smaller flyline gear in Leo ?????????? hand as Joe D’Acquisto throws on a tuna over 100 pounds. (WON Photos by Brandon Hayward)

• FISHING YELLOWTAIL on long range trips could mean flylining them up on 30- or 40-pound, yo-yoing them on 50-poud of dropper looping for them with 80- or 100-pound in heavy structure. Yeah, one fish can require multiple outfits based on locations and conditions.

• WAHOO FISHING is another one of those fishing styles that requires several outfits. Bob Cherry was fishing bait on his 20-pound outfit when he finessed up this wahoo gaffed by the Red Rooster III’s Joe D’ Acquisto.

Things change in November, with a fairly good chance of catching huge yellowfin tuna on fall 10-day trips. I want to talk about the gear for a trip with variety. (In other words, trips not dedicated to big tuna.)

Start with a 30-pound outfit. It can be single speed reel (which some overlook in this age of two-speed everything); it doesn't have to have Spectra on the reel, but it will save you money in the long run.

Lots of reels fill the bill here. It could be an old-school Jigmaster 500 to a state of the art Accurate Extreme 400NN. This on a 7- or 8-foot rod. There are lots of models to choose from, here are a couple of examples: Seeker Black Steel G670-7, Calstar WC-870-C.

This rig won't get a lot of use, maybe to catch bait, fish a kelp for dorado, small tuna, or even flylining a bait for wahoo with a wire leader.

The workhorse of your quiver will be the 40-pound outfit. This is such an important line class outfit to me; case in point: I have three that I bring on trips in this genre of trips. Again, reels could be old school Penns and Daiwas, and two speed is not at all necessary in this line class. But when I get here in this size tackle, I prefer to start stepping it up and use much newer gear. Again, there are many choices in reels, as we are blessed with lots of fantastic models that work in this range: Accurate Extreme 500 (I prefer the single speed 4.6 to 1 gear ratio), Daiwa Saltiga 30T, Shimano Trinidad and Torium 16 or 20, Avet LX and JX, with models also available by Okuma, Penn, Newell, Pro Gear and Tiburon. (Buying a reel is like buying a car: you buy what you like to drive, not what someone else likes to drive.)

When I fish this level of gear, I have my reels filled with Spectra, some up to the brim for a very short topshot of fluorocarbon, some with not as full of Spectra so I can fish a longer mono topshot.

As I said, I take three 40-pound outfits myself, and they aren't all the same. I have a 6 ½-foot rod for when they are really biting, a 7 footer for scratch fishing, and an 8 footer for extremely touchy bites when a good cast is a must. Once in awhile I bring a 9-foot 40-pound rod and it has paid off. Seeker has a couple of 9-foot models I bring fairly often. Loads of choices here for rods. My Seeker favorites: 660H, 6465H, 6470 The John Grabowski Special, 6480H. Calstar choices:660H, 765XL, 700M, 800H.

Which brings me to an important point: These rods can hurt you if it's not suited to your body. It drove me crazy for years, go into a tackle shop, pull on a rod and try to "guess" if that was the right rod for the line class I'm hoping for.

The method I choose is not always practical, but I find a way to make it work. If I'm trying out a 40-pound rod, I somehow or another get a rod of the type I'm hunting for wrapped, put a reel on it, guide the line through the guides and tie on an appropriate sized weight, say 10 or 12 pounds for a 40-pound rod.

Now, lift that weight off the floor! You can get an idea of what that is really going to feel like fighting a fish with that sort of drag setting. I try to employ this method of testing for myself on rods 40-pound through 60-pound. Above that line class, I'm a rail guy.

Next in class is the 50-pound yo-yo/wahoo jig and bomb outfit. One of these will be fine. You will need a high speed reel, single speed works fine here. Accurate Extreme 600 6 to 1 gear ratio, Newell 533-5.5, Penn Baja Special, old school Penn Master Mariner 349H, Penn 4/0 (high speed gears), Trinidad or Torium 20, 30, or 40. Lots of reels work well here, I fill my spool about halfway with Spectra, as I fish a fairly long topshot of mono on this rig. I have also been using a two speed Accurate Extreme 600NN, and an Accurate B2-30NN with great success as of late. I have been experimenting with a short fluorocarbon topshot of 60-pound for wahoo, but it's still in the developmental stage. But I felt it might have a spot in the quiver in the future.

Personally, I like a fairly short stiff rod here. I am currently using a Super Seeker 6465XH, and I used to have a Calstar 765M as my wahoo rod. Seeker 660H, 6463XXH, Calstar 610, 7465M — all are worthy candidates.

When I was new to long range, I thought it was all about a long cast for wahoo, and I found out by watching Stas Vellonakis, it wasn't. Here I was making these long casts, and had not hooked one yet, and Stas was simply underhand casting his jig and let it sink down 50 to 100 feet, and he had caught 4 already that day.

Another important outfit is the 50-pound bait rig. Here, I really like having a small two-speed reel. I love my Accurate Extreme B2-500. Shimano Talica, old school Shimano TLD20-2 speed, Avet, Tiburon, Okuma, Penn all make reels that fill this bill. Some guys love their Newells, which freespool so well they get plenty of bites. But I like that button (as in two-speed button) on the side of the reel when fish are nearing or surpassing the century mark.

Again, carefully select the rod to fit your body physically, as you might be on a fish for quite some time, and nobody wants to hurt from a fish. I use a Super Seeker 6470H, a Super Seeker 6465XH, a Super Seeker 6480H. Calstar models like the 765L, 7465L, 700H and 800H are part of the options list.

This is a rig, or rigs (again, I like to have more than one with me depending on the bite), that I fish a fairly short topshot of 50-pound Seaguar Premier fluorocarbon on. The bait can swim so much easier if it isn't dragging a hundred feet or yards of mono around with it, thus I feel I can acquire more bites. My reel can be filled with either 50-pound or 65-pound solid spectra and connected to a short length of 80-pound hollow spectra, then served or crimped and glued connection with the fluorocarbon inserted into the hollow Spectra 3 feet. I prefer the Sato crimps myself, but nothing wrong with a good serve or nail knot. I make the choice of 50-pound solid Spectra or 65-pound solid Spectra by this simple item: If I can get 330 yards of 65-pound on the reel, I do that. If I can't get that much, I drop the Spectra down to 50-pound solid. This rig could double as another wahoo/yoyo rig if you needed to.

This next outfit, the 60-pound bait outfit, I wonder if we really need it. I bring one every trip, and it is rare that I employ the use of it. But I am packed for my next trip already, and yes, I have one packed.

Again, a two-speed reel is a must here. And again, we are so blessed with choices on reels. Accurate Extreme B2-600, Shimano Talica, Avet, Tiburon, etc all have models that will work just fine for this line class.

Rods to fit those reels for this outfit might be a Super Seeker 6465XH, 6470XH, 6480XH, Calstar 765ML, 700XH.

Personally I feel an 80- to 100-pound outfit is fairly important on a trip like this. This rig could be your trolling outfit, dropper loop rig, flyline a big bait for grouper rod and/or kite outfit.

Starting with the reels again, step it up this time, towards big game gear. Accurate ATD 12 or 30, Penn 30, Avet 30, Shimano Tiagra 16 or 30, Daiwa, Tiburon, Okuma, all make reels that would be wonderfully suited for this application.

Stepping over to the rod rack to pick out something, a rod rated 60- to 100-pound will work out depending on how it feels to you. Roller guides are fine, but so are ringed guides. Seeker 6463XXH, Calstar 765H, the 6460XHs of both manufacturers are great choices as well. I fill my reel fairly full of Spectra, but allow enough space to comfortably put 50 to 100 feet of 80-pound or 100-pound mono on the reel.

There you go outfit wise. Most the boats have good loaner or rental equipment, or watch for trips sponsored by Accurate, Shimano, Newell, Avet, as they might have gear to loan out and try on the trip. The boats vary on charges, but most only charge for the line they install, and most of their reels have Spectra backing, keeping that line charge fairly inexpensive.

Terminal gear: Hooks: 1 box each Mustad 94150 2/0, 3/0, 4/0, and 5/0. 1 package each of designer ringed hooks like Mustad Hoodlum 10827BLN, Mustad Sea Demon circles, Owner Gorilla & Super Mutu, Hayabusa, or Gamakatsu in 1/0, 2/0, 6/0, 7/0. Two packages each of designer hooks sized 3/0, 4/0, 5/0. A few big hooks for grouper or the like, perhaps a Mustad 7691-10/0, or equivalent Owner Jobu.

Jigs: A nice selection of jigs in different colors and sizes will get you by. Be in mind that sometimes small jigs work if the fish are feeding on small bait, and at other occasions they want the full size jig. Not all the boats stock their jig selections up all the time, so bring enough that you don't need to purchase any.

Wahoo jigs: Catchy Tackle Sea Strike 33s in Chrome, Gold or Black. Raider 125 and 200 gram models in Chrome and Gold. Salas 6X Jr in Tar Baby, Wounded Soldier.

Bombs: Catchy Tackle spinner bombs, and there are quite a few others available.

Yellowtail Jigs: Catchy Tackle Sea Strike 33s in blue zebra, banana split. Salas 6X Jr in blue/white, green/yellow, sardine green.

Surface Iron: Sea Strike 22 lights, Salas 7X, Tady 45, Candy Bar. Bear in mind something green seems to work well.

Sinkers: I don't bring any, I buy them on the boat.

Mono: I don't bring any, I buy mono on the boat.

Fluorocarbon: I fish mainly Seaguar Premier now; I really like the stretch and knot tying it affords me. Buy a good quality fluorocarbon, and don't rely on the boats for having this for sale. Bring your own.

Wire: I bring single strand wire in 32-pound, 44-pound, 58-pound, 69-pound, and 86-pound. I bring multi strand wire in 60-pound, 90-pound, and 170-pound.

Big fish trips: 10-18 day trips, November to June Heat

This time of year, it's time to gear up. We are talking cows and super cows, and so you have to beef up the tackle to withstand the pressures of fighting these big huge tuna.

I feel you still need that 30-pound rig to catch bait, wahoo, or dorado. And one 40-pound rig from the above list will suffice too. I would beef up the wahoo/yoyo rigs to two outfits on trips 13 days and up where Hurricane Bank is a possibility.

Once in awhile, that 60-pound outfit comes in real handy on trips this length. I know "Friends don't let friends fish 60," (or on the Lower Banks 100-pound, as mentioned earlier), but I have seen twitchy bites at Hurricane where it took dropping down in line size to gather a bite.

That is five outfits, and I like to get 5 more outfits dedicated to big fish.

I start off with the Accurate ATD12, it’s the small finesse reel I use in the middle of the day when getting a bite is tough. Avet, Tiburon, Shimano, Daiwa, Okuma and Penn with its 16VSX are all excellent choices.

Choosing a rod, think longer than we used to. Longer rods are one of the progressions of long range anglers. The Super Seeker 2X4, and the 7-foot Calstar rods in the 770 series have all caught super cows in excess of 300 pounds. The stock rods are fine, and if you choose to have a custom rod built, think of the strong light guides such as the American Titans. Roller guides are fine, but they add weight, which changes the action of the rod.

When it comes to filling your reel up with Spectra, I use a similar formula as I do on the smaller rigs, only now bigger line, and the total amount of line I like is to have 600 yards. I fill my ATD12 with 550 yards of hollow 80-pound, step spliced to 15 feet of hollow 130-pound, with a small section of hollow 200-pound spliced in for my connection to my either 80-pound, 90-pound, 100-pound, or 130-pound fluorocarbon leader.

The next outfit I use, I have three of, because I fish this rig almost all the time. I use an Accurate ATD30, and I fill this reel with 675 yards of hollow 100-pound, 50 yards of hollow 130-pound, a short section of hollow 200-pound for connection to the fluorocarbon, which could be 100-pound, 130-pound, 150-pound, or 180-pound fluorocarbon leader.

One on of these reels, I use a Super Seeker 2X4, and then I have two Super Seeker 6463-XXXH for the other two. I have my rod wrapper not cut any length off of the 6463XXXH rods, and thus they end up about 6 feet 9 inches long. I use the titanium American Titan guides on my rods, as they are light, strong, and low maintenance.

The last rig is an optional outfit: The kite rig! Most boats have kite rigs for those that don't have them. Now if you are on the edge of going fishing, and have enough equipment to go except for not owning a kite rig: GO FISHING! Use the boat rig, it is fine.

But to me, if I can use my own rig on possibly the biggest fish I am going to catch that trip, and sometimes the topshot doesn't get changed out or the reel or rod is over worked, just does not make sense to me. Borrow one from a friend, or try to get one when you can, but eventually if you do this enough, get your own kite rig. I have seen the scenario where all four kite rigs are in use, because they are really biting the kite, and they pass the angler by until they get one in. You might miss the bite.

Kite rigs consist of a 50W or 80-sized reel, filled with 130- or 200-pound Spectra, with only a 20-or-so foot 200-pound or 300-pound leader. I use an Accurate ATD50W, but any 50W or larger reel will work. My personal kite rod is a Seeker Black Steel 6463XXXXH, all rollers, regular AFTCO HD guides, not the big giant wind on style. Calstar makes some fine models that will make wonderful kite rods.

Jerry Brown of Line One Spectra used to sell spools of 130-pound hollow Spectra specifically sized to fill a 50W-sized reel, with 833 yards on line on the spools. A small section of 200-pound hollow step is spliced in, then the 200 or 300-pound leader from there.

Terminal gear for longer trips

Hooks: Same as the above hooks I listed, but add a few more of the Mustad 7691-10/0s for kite or skipjack fishing.
Either buy or make up your own chunking hooks, a circle hook with a swivel on it. I like the Mustad 39960, and the new Mustad 39942 in 9/0, and 10/0. Owner Super Mutus in 7/0 to 9/0 work well also.
And a few more designer hooks in the 5/0 and 6/0 sizes, as these will be used most.

Bombs and wahoo jigs: On 13-18 day trips, beef up to four bombs and maybe as many as a dozen wahoo jigs. Sometimes you can lose some jigs to these toothy speedsters.

Fluorocarbon: Make you bring enough to get you through the trip. Sometimes it pays to have the larger sizes, 130-pound to 200-pound.

On these longer trips, look into a pad and harness combo and try them out at a show or tackle store. They might have them on the boat, but better if you bring your own and have it adjusted perfectly to fit you. Practice getting in and out of the clips, practice getting from low gear of your reel to high gear.

Most of us have these tackle boxes that accept the plastic trays. Buy a lot of extras, fill some with trips for over night, for 5-day trips, 10-day trips, and then long trips. Label the ends so you can see where you have them stored what their contents are. This has made my preparation for trips so much quicker: I just look. Yes, I need a surface iron tray, yoyo iron tray, hooks, and albacore stuff. Put it in the box and I'm done.

In conclusion

Now, this is a list of tackle that might take a few seasons to fill out. I have been long ranging a long time, and finally have outfitted myself perfectly. Don't focus on totally filling out your gear before you go. Instead, buy one reel and rod a year, but keep fishing. The gear doesn't get obsolete — my Penn International 30Ts are still valid big fish catching reels.

It is a fine line of balance, but stay the course my friends.

David Choate fishes long range just about as much as anyone else out there every year. His first big fish trip this year will be his Nov. 13-24 Wahoodad/Willy open 11-day trip.

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