Click here for Merit McCrea – WHEELHOUSE SCOOP

Wednesday, January 23, 2019
The cod map
Thursday, March 7, 2019
Tagging Giants

The inside story: two tackle manufacturers
This past week I took the opportunity to stop by two of our many tackle manufacturer's offices, United Composites in Huntington Beach and Daiwa US in Cypress. It was an interesting dichotomy of scale, UC on the small-scale, custom production end, and Daiwa on the big multi-national end of the spectrum. Both make great products and provide personalized service. I hope to get around to several more shops as we spin through the spring season.

ONE OF THREE walls of rods and reels at Daiwa US Headquarters and Service Center in Cypress. On the left you see the fighting/testing chair, then pegboard displays of terminal tackle and line offerings, then begins about a third of a wrap-around display of rods and reels offered here in the USA. A bent-butt, unlimited big game outfit leans juxtaposed to some of their lightest bass and freshwater gear.


Randy Penny is the man at United Composites. As you walk in the front door of the shop, first is his office, then right behind that, production — right there. First were walls of irons. You see, in addition to blank and rod building, Penny produces PEP jigs and Killer Jigs and supports the S.I.G. website, surfaceiron.com. So you can kind of see the direction of drift. SoCal long rods and surface iron are key aspects here at UC.

Building a full range of custom quality offerings, there is definitely extra attention to those sticks and styles indigenous to SoCal salt fisheries, rail rods, plastics and iron. He has lots of graphite composite variety in the longer selection of single piece sticks, out to 10 feet.

Single-piece sticks past the 9-foot mark really are a localized phenomenon, a niche market unique to our area. Transporting anything longer to and from fishing sites requires such dedication, in almost all cases longer sticks are made multi-piece.

As one steps past the irons, there are racks of mandrills, upon which his small staff hand lays graphite "flags," custom building each blank by hand on two tables. An aspect of these rods is their use of an interior helical backbone, which adds strength and supports higher power builds with less weight gain.

Over this the flag's fibers are all laid longitudinal for primary power. Much that goes into these sticks is part of their proprietary process, one following an evolution from Graphite USA's original designs.

Blanks go from the cutting and rolling tables, onto racks destined for the oven, where final lamination takes place. Two things Penny noted were his use of a weighted rack that holds the blanks and mandrills perfectly vertical, and their practice of ultra-cleaning mandrills so blanks can be allowed to fully cool on the mandrill before removal, preventing blanks from taking on a set of any sort.

While initially offered exclusively as blanks for custom wrappers to finish, now about 60 percent of the sticks produced hit the market fully finished. It's not industrial scale production on factory complete sticks. UC has a pair of wrappers who hand wrap off-site, and twice each week bring in wrapped rods for decals and coating.

Daiwa Headquarters

THE NEW TANACOM 500 with a quarter for scale. Daiwa's palmable small electric reel is a brand new offering with SoCal's newly accessible deeper water bottom fish and braided line in mind. It fishes like a low-pro, until you plug it in.

Just a few miles away I was met at Daiwa Fishing Tackle's US headquarters and service center by Toru Takahashi, Curt Arakawa and Mark Mills. Their show room is impressive, walls of rods, examples of each they offer. Displayed below them the reels that go with them.

This big corporation has proved impressively responsive at the local level, with uniquely SoCal product lines as bites, angling opportunities and methods change and tackle technology evolves. At this point they were already gearing up for the advance to fishing deeper waters, with a "palmable" small electric reel.

Looking a bit like a low-pro on steroids, the TANACOM 500 – a fully variable speed e-reel with up to 33 pounds of drag, counts line in and out and can be left on auto to stop winding as terminal tackle hits the surface. As a conventional reel it can easily be used unplugged just as one would any other reel.

Plugging in to any 12v power source leaves you free to stuff it in a rod holder to attend to other matters as it does the work of winding in from the depths. It's this reel's larger predecessors like the TANACOM 750 and 1000 that transformed kite fishing, serving as the ultimate in kite handling reels.

Already, those deep into the sanddab fishery have put e-reels into service with great effect. Today's smaller, lighter and more powerful rechargeable batteries have changed the e-reel game dramatically too. What used to take a second trip to haul around, can now fit in a coat pocket as an afterthought.

When I saw this reel and learned of it's capabilities, it was its potential utility in descending and releasing deep water fish that came to mind. Set it and forget it.

Another interest I had was in their Lexa/Proteus combos for surface iron fishing. I'd test casted a setup at the Long Beach Fred Hall Show casting pond. It's casting ability with straight braid and long effortless launches with a stick under 9 feet in length was truly impressive.

That 9-foot mark is the line between easily transportable, shippable and fly-able. As you pass it, a rod's "care and feeding" requirements increase exponentially. Stay under it, and it the quiver fits in almost any vehicle, ships and checks in at the airport.

Their Proteus series' guides all sport line-loop-shedding streamlined profiles. Nothing's quite so frustrating as spooning a deep jig hard or trying to shake free of a hang-up, only to have it tie a knot ’round the rod tip – especially if you get bit right at that moment and bust off.

A unique aspect of Daiwa's low-pro reels is their clutch system. It allows the angler to simply flip the free-spool bar up with your thumb to engage it. When fishing in free-spool, whether with live bait or on the sink, there's no need to grapple for the handle before setting the hook.

Also new on the market is their J-Braid Grand, a tightly woven 8 carrier braid designed to be smooth, quiet and abrasion resistant. Out of the box it's smooth and handles stiffer than the average braid, verging on monofilament like characteristics – very promising for its potential castability – can't wait to give it a test toss.

They have a new popper series, the MEBACHI (big eye) POPPER in 8 patterns. The Red-Head and Bone are bound to be hot producers. Also new is their DR.MINNOW jerk-bait series.

Daiwa's latest local offerings include the Saltist Power Gear series, their already popular WINN wrap which enables one to trade out rodbutt wrap and customize factory sticks and reels. There are several new TATULA reels and C-80 series reels.

Arakawa said these will all be on display at the coming Fred Hall shows.

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Merit McCrea is saltwater editor for Western Outdoor News. A veteran Southern California partyboat captain, he also works as a marine research scientist with the Love Lab at the University of California at Santa Barbara’s Marine Science Institute. He can be reached at: merit@wonews.com.

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