Surf Casting Gear-Scaling Downby Capt. Terry Rand
Surf fishing is most often perceived as casting large sinkers paired with various types of live and dead baits with the aid of a stout spinning rod exceeding 10 feet in length. A large spinning reel spooled with hundreds of yards of 20 – 30 pound test monofilament line has historically been the norm. And, of course, with this comes the fatigue brought on by hours of casting this rig into the rolling waves. It is often necessary to use outfits of these specifications to get baits into proper placement when the surf is high, rolling and crashing against the beach. But in many surf situations this just ends up being overkill and the angler winds up exerting much more energy than is needed. With recent advances in fishing technology, the surf angler can put together rod and reel combos that are lighter, shorter and easier to cast than the traditional surf sticks that tend to be so unwieldy.
For example, many areas in the northeast provide excellent opportunities for surf fishing where the tidal currents are not excessive and the waves are relatively tame. In addition, some of these areas may not necessarily be known for large fish but they are known to hold numbers of smaller sized striped bass and bluefish with some occasional bruisers mixed in. This is the perfect situation for scaling down to a graphite surf rod in the 7’ – 8’ length and a spinning reel in the 4000 size range. The length of these rods will still provide an angler with enough length to afford them long distance casting with a 1oz. – 3oz. lure.
In addition, recent advancements in braided fishing lines have made distance casting much easier for the novice. One can now spool up a 4000 size reel with some monofilament backing and 200 yards of 30 lb. test braided line because these new lines have a significantly smaller diameter than the traditional monofilaments. The smaller diameter line also creates less friction against the rod guides, increasing the overall casting distance. The one thing that all surf casters should be aware of is that braided lines do not have the same abrasion resistance that monofilament lines have. Many beaches are littered with rocks and boulder fields and can be a surf caster’s nightmare when casting braided lines. One thing that will help in this situation is to attach a long fluorocarbon leader to the braided line before tying on a lure. This will give the angler some insurance against a break off if a large fish heads directly for the rocks.
Young anglers will also enjoy the sport much more and find the experience much less frustrating than trying to learn how to handle a 10 or 12 foot surf rod. Using tackle of this size will also make fighting those smaller sized specimens so much more fun than winching them in on oversized gear. In the event that a large fish is hooked on this gear it will put the angler into the position of doing everything in their power to successfully land the fish. Nothing could be more sporting!
Large surf rigs certainly do have their place and will always be here. For the angler who fishes bait with 5-6 oz. sinkers and are always on the hunt for the largest fish in the area, nothing will replace them. But, if you’re tired of lugging those heavy rigs across the beach with you when all you are really doing is targeting fish in the 5- 20 lb. range then it’s time to start thinking about scaling down, scaling back and sporting up!