FINDING THE RIGHT FISHING GEAR FOR YOU (full version)

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FINDING THE RIGHT FISHING GEAR FULL VERSION
By Jeong McWilliam

The following information is to my taste and style of fishing. I feel it is a good starting point but each angler develops their own style, likes and dislikes over time as you will find if just starting. I hope you find this of some use and that it helps you in selecting the right gear for the job. If you have any questions please let me know as I'm always happy to help any fellow angler. (I have this broken up into shorter sections also)

For the seasoned angler, picking new fishing gear is not too hard with their past knowledge to help select what’s needed for their developed style of fishing. But for the new comer with limited experience it can seem quite a daunting task. Nowadays, there seems to be an endless selection of tackle made from all sorts of things and at all prices with manufactures making lots of claims for their products, whilst some aimed to a tailored style of fishing, eg. jigging, popper/lure casting. Yet a lot of starters buy off looks thinking "this looks good let’s give it ago" which often not surprisingly leads to the wrong tackle being purchased.
 

SO WHERE’S ONE TO START ???
I feel knowing and understanding the following things really helps in selecting the right gear to give you the best chance as different attributes do help in different situations.

1) The place you will be fishing, eg. Jetty, Rocks, Beach, Boat, will mostly effects length and weight wanted.
2) The type of fishing, eg. Lure casting, Bait fishing, trolling, will mostly effects length & action wanted.
3) The size and type of fish you’re chasing, will effect the line and rod weight wanted.
And lastly, which of these you will be doing more off as to get the most out of ONE new rod. Obviously, there are other factors that come into play but these are the most important in finding what you need.
 
 
WHAT IS ROD ACTION & HOW DOES IT EFFECT MY FISHING:
Well in short and simply put, it is the stiffness of the rod or in other words if bent, how quickly it returns to its straight position.

Firstly, you should know that there are NO manufacturing standards for each action and it falls on the maker to class the rod. This makes it very hard to truly put a name on each action, as it does differ greatly across the board. Generally speaking a FAST action rod is stiff and will return straight very quickly with most of the curve when bent in the top section of the rod. Whilst generally a SLOW action will straighten out slower and when bent be softer curving a lot lower down the rod. Actions come in a mix of fast, medium, slow and everything in between, but as mentioned it fall on the maker to decided this.

So what do you need when fishing? 
Well starting at Fast action, these are stiffer rods good for game fishing as they don’t bend as much allowing you to get more line back in each lift. Often referred to as having a good back bone for lifting/pulling power. Disadvantages are that some makes are slightly heavier due to a bulkier construction, you can lose some of the feeling through the rod and quite often, they do not cast light weights well but are great with heavier large weights.
A Medium action as such should suit a bit of everything. With a nice bend that aides in casting further whilst still have a bit of back bone for lifting.
A Slow action bends a lot more and can suite a vertical fishing situation like jigging or bottom bouncing. 
But AGAIN there is no standard for these actions and no true usage. YOU need to use a few different "actions" as such and find what you like and works for you.


WHAT ROD LENGTH DO I NEED & HOW DOES IT EFFECTS MY FISHING:
Each angler has there own tastes in use for rod length and if just starting you will find what you like. I hope the following information helps in making your decision.
 
Generally speaking, a longer rod has more spring properties to it as there is more surface area to bend. This can help you cast further as more bend equals extra stored energy, in turn helping sling your line forward. Also, when beach fishing the extra length helps keep your line above the breaking waves which in turn makes it much easier to feel and see bites on the line and rod tip. Around rocks,  extra length helps in keeping your hooked fish away from the rock edge and snags and also makes retrieving your line easier in some cases when fishing off ledges and alike. 
Biggest disadvantage to me is weight as often heavy due to the size and big beach rods 12ft-14ft+ can take a bit of casting practice. But like anything new, practice makes perfect.

The mostly used length of rod would have to be around the 6-7ft range. This size offers good cast length, all round useability and easy transport, especially if a 2-piece rod. On the shorter end, you have 5ft and under, a lot of boat/game rods used to be around this size, but trends have changed over the years and the rods used seem to have grown. Generally a shorter rod will be more stocky (stiff/fast action) and not have as much of a flex (soft/slow action) to it but great lifting/pulling power due to the low flex.

For just casting I like around a 7ft medium fast/ fast action rod with big guide eyes and a max of 6 as this reduces drag on the line helping cast further.
I like a 12ft rod off the beach and rocks.
For estuary/jetty fishing a nice 6ft-7ft rod.
If not casting, then 5-6ft from a boat is all that’s needed and saves on space.
When game fishing I like 6ft-7ft stiff fast action sticks as you get back more line in each lift compared to a shorter softer stick.
 
 
WHAT ROD/LINE WEIGHT IS NEEDED & HOW DOES IT EFFECT MY FISHING.
A lot of factors can come into play with choosing these, I fill the following info is good to know and helps in making a decision.

First the weight refers the weight needed/taken to break the rod or line.
BUT if a rod states a 5kg weight, it does not mean the whole rod can take a 5kg load be for breaking. GENERALLY as a rule of thumb from a flat horizontal 0* angle to around a 50* lifted angle will give you 100% of the rods power. Once you lift beyond 50* the rod will start to lose power and you could snap it a lot easier under less than the stated weight. BUT AGAIN this is a rule of thumb as some rods can bend over 360* and not snap and others like jig sticks will do 90*+ and spring back.

Matching your tackle:
Find out the max drag of your reel in the size needed. Let’s say your reel does 10kg drag. You then know, that if you do not thumb the reel adding extra drag you only need 10kg line as this is the max pressure it will need to take. For safety, I go slightly heavier as you often over tighten the drag on big fish or thumb the reel. By doing this, you will fit the most line you can on your reel and may find you don't need as large a reel as first thought. REMEMBER you can use a much heavier trace line if needed, but the main line only needs to stand up to the reels drag pressure and no more. As such, there is really no need to go much heavier unless you intend to skull drag the fish from the bottom. If you risk your line getting cut on sharp reef or alike then top shot 10m-15m of a heavier line. 

Rod weight:
Once you know the lb of the line your using I recommend to people for the safety and best usability of most rods, get one that is 25% stronger/heavier than your line. With a stronger rod taking more weight than the lighter line you can now lift your rod angle higher than if lb of lb in-turn getting more line back in each lift. BUT won't I break my line now? Not if your drag is set right.

Whilst having a heavy line is nice for peace of mind, it is not always the right choice and with sports fishing growing fast, generally people are going lighter and lighter in line class, hence lighter in rod weight. In some instances, say fishing on a reef/structure you need to fish heavy as that is your only option to stop getting busted off. This is about the only advantage of fishing really heavy gear. Generally speaking lighter line is thinner and as a result it will cast further due to less line friction on the guides and drag through the air. This is why a braided line will cast further than mono of the same LB as its much thinner. Also the thinner the line, the less likely the fish are to see it. Fish are smart enough to look at line? Well 100% yes, I fish for silver trevally and kings that A LOT of people throw baits at and watch them rise to a bait and then turn. Go down in line class and BAM on right away. Also speak to avid bream fisherman and they will tell the same stories. Sports fishing is about going as light as possible and at least LB for LB, by that I mean a 3kg/6lb target fish on NO heavier than 3kg/6lb line. Also fishing lighter allows you to getaway with using smaller size reels at times.

So what do I need you ask? Well, two things will mostly decide this. First the size/type of fish you’re chasing and second where you’re chasing them. As mentioned, when fishing structure it is often not possible to truly sports fish and a minimum of 30lb-50lb is recommended depending on the fish/size. But then for bream fishing and alike 6lb gear or the lightest your game to go really is recommended. I like sports fishing as such and the following is what I use.
My all-rounder rods are around 6kg/12lb sticks loaded with a 10lb braided main line. I have used them for trevally to salmon to jewfish and have also pulled kings up to 108cm on this light tackle. It is fun and about all that most will need when starting. When fishing for larger fish without the risk of snags and structure I use these rods also. REMEMBER, you can always use a heavier or lighter trace line to suit what you’re fishing for.
When fishing on structure for kings or similar fish that pull, I run 30lb-50lb gear which can still be to light at times.
When game fishing, I run 15lb-30lb gear stand up but up to 80lb - 100lb when needed.
This really nowadays FALLS ON YOU as the fisherman to find what direction you will head in.


WHAT REEL DO I NEED & HOW DOES IT EFFECT MY FISHING
What do you need? Well take a look at what you’re fishing for and how you fish, this will be the decider in the type and size of reel needed. The bigger the fish and deeper the water the larger the reel generally needed.

How does gear ratio effect my reel?
In short, it’s like bike gears, the higher the gear the faster you go. So if states a 5:1 ratio this means 1 full revolution of the handle makes the bail arm wind around 5 full revolutions in the same time. So a 1.5:1 means 1 revolution of the handle makes the bail arm wind around slower with 1.5 revolutions. Obviously, the faster 5:1 is better then your thinking?.?.? Well not always. When on a bike and you hit a hill you down gear because it make it easier to go up it. This transfers to trying to lift a heavy weight on your reel. A lower gear ratio in this case will actually make it much easier to wind in the heavy weight.
So when speed is needed for say poping lures, a large spool size coupled with a high ratio is the way to go. When lifting power is needed then a lower ratio is the way to go. But what if you need both? Well you need a 2 speed reel but these are only found in an over head style.

What do ball bearings do & how many do I need?.?.?
In short they reduce friction between moving parts, helping keep your reel moving freely and nice and smoth under loads created from your drag and winding. Let's say you had 2 of the EXACT SAME reels but 1 was a 2 ball bearing reel and the other a 5. If you spun them both freely at the same time and speed then let go, the 5 ball bearing reel should spin longer than the one with 2. Also the 5 ball bearing reel should be smoother than the 2 under the same drag load. Lastly as the same reel, if both were constantly winding you would expect the 2 ball bearing reel to give in first as more friction and heat is created by the moving parts due to having less.
So then how many do I need in my reel you ask? Well I advisee people if you dont really fish much then a 2-3 ball bearing reel would suite but for the person fishing a bit then go 5+ to help with wear and tear. Lastly the amount of ball bearing in a reel does NOT reflect quality of build but more so how smooth it should be.

The humble SPIN/EGG BEATER reel is the same unit regardless of what you call it, the spin reel has advanced in leaps and bounds over the years. In days passed, all big drag reels were overhead game reels and if applying 10kg of smooth drag this was good. With modern technology able to make parts strong and smaller we now have spin reels doing 20kg+ drag with super high gear ratios allowing amazing line recovery speeds and still simple as ever to use. The biggest disadvantages of a spin reel to me is the line twist due to how the line is wound around the spool, line friction from coming off the spool and not knowing exactly how close to max drag you are, but these things are minor and forgiven for their easy usability.

BAIT CASTER reels eliminate line twist as they roll the line up as to wrapping it around which is the cause if the twist. Also once mastered they allow for very accurate long casting making it able to get your lure/bait into tight spaces a bit easier. Again found with high gear ratios and loved by most lure fisherman and used on all sort of fish, but generally thought of as a smaller size reel that’s hard to use, which is not true so long as you shown how. Not as simple as a spin reel though best casting reel.

OVER HEAD/GAME reels are thought off as a larger version of the bait caster reel. Often open faced requiring the user to evenly distribute the line across the spool. Still the favourite for the big game and deep water fisherman as they can offer kilometres of line capacity, big drags and the ability to strap in making long fights a lot easier. With 2 speed reels now being able to haul up massive weight or wind in at high speed, this again gives the angler a better chance. Not often thought of as a casting reel.

The information is to my taste and style of fishing. I feel it is a good starting point but each angler develops their own style, likes and dislikes over time as you will find if you’re just starting. I hope you have found this useful and it helps you in selecting the right gear for the job. If you have any questions please let me know as I'm always happy to help any fellow angler.

The Sydney Marine Man
Jeong McWilliam
 
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