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Monday, September 04, 2006

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INSHORE FISHING BASICS: CHOOSING
TACKLE AND EQUIPMENT - EASY AS 1 - 2 - 3


Fishing is a great sport. Its popularity is increasing every day and more and more people are getting involved. The result of this continued growth is a large number of eager beginners. Beginners know that knowledge is the key to success. Reading, attending fishing schools and lectures, and asking questions of those with experience is the key to knowledge.

Traveling in the circles that I do, I usually end up talking about fishing. The people most eager to talk fishing are the beginners or those that are relatively inexperienced. The questions they ask are good questions, to the point and relevant. They want, appreciate, and deserve answers that are direct and honest. In trying to answer all these questions over the years, I have noticed that the most commonly asked questions are related to inshore fishing and specifically to tackle, the tools of the sport.

I have my theories about this observation. Fishing involves a lot more than just having the right tackle. Knowledge of areas to fish, techniques to apply, bait to use, tides, weather and numerous other things all are involved in the sport to some extent, but are not as frequently asked about as is tackle. Why is this? I believe that having the correct tackle is the best starting point for the beginner and he probably feels the same. It is something that can be immediately achieved with a modest investment of time and money. Amassing the proper assortment of tackle and related equipment provides a feeling of accomplishment and a firm base with which to begin the real job of learning how to fish. I think the beginner accepts the fact that such knowledge will come slowly with time and experience. Having the tackle however, is of immediate importance!

Talking tackle is a really big subject and often very confusing for the novice, lacking the hands on experience. In trying to provide some help, I have organized a list of what I believe to be the most important concerns for tackle and related equipment. I have tried to keep this list as simple as possible, listing only three specific suggestions. Wherever possible I give specific reference to the particular type or product that I use. I feel this is important because when people ask me questions, they want to know exactly what product I have used and been successful with.

ROD AND REEL COMBINATIONS

1. Medium/light weight bait-casting.
Penn PPG 4971 rod and 930 reel with 15 lb. Ande line. This outfit would be appropriate for flounder, fluke, weakfish and small blues.

2. Medium/light spinning.
Penn PSG 4871A rod and 722Z reel with 10 lb. Ande Super Soft line. This would take care of casting jigs and lures for blues and weaks and school size bass.

3. Medium/light conventional.
Penn PC 3801L rod and 320 GTi levelwind or 25 GLS reels with 25 lb. Ande line.

BOAT EQUIPMENT

1. Chart, navigation and bottom contour, waterproof.
"Carmark" bay chart for sportfishing. This chart provides information about fishing areas and local names. In addition, a NOAA regulation navigation chart should be aboard for precision navigation and buoy information.

2. Bait cutting board and knife.
Preferably a rod holder mounted teak or nylon version which is available in most marine supply houses or the popular and inexpensive bucket mounted board. Dexter or Russell fillet knives of 7 or 8 inches serve well for both bait and fish cleaning purposes.

3. Landing net.
I prefer a telescoping model that stores easily, with at least a 30 inch wide opening. Several different manufacturers produce such nets but be sure it utilizes a polypropylene mesh. This material is light, nonabsorbent and long lasting.


SPECIAL TACKLE BOX ITEMS

1. Fisherman's pliers.
Parallel jaw pliers with wire cutters, spring loaded, and in the smaller of the two sizes available, 5 inch. Sargent, Manley, Sampo and Berkeley make good pliers and stainless steel varieties are available if you can afford the high price.

2. Sharpening stone.
For keeping knives and hooks in top shape. Several different manufacturers, styles and shapes are available. Keep it as simple as possible.

3. Swivels.
Assorted sizes of high quality barrel and combination barrel/snap swivels should be on hand. Sampo makes excellent swivels both standard and ball bearing, in all varieties.

HOOKS

1. Pre-smelled and packaged.
(various local brands) Have at least one dozen (two packages) for each of the most sought after species.
Recommendations are:
Fluke - 2/0 English wide gap.
Flounder - #8 Chestertown with yellow beads.
Blackfish - #5 Virginia style.
Weakfish - 2/0 Bait holder.Stripers - 4/0 to 6/0 Bait holder.
Bluefish - 5/0 with 6 inch single strand wire leader.

2. Loose hooks for live bait.
use size 7/0 O'Shaugnessy short shank Gamakatsu hooks for stripers and size 5/0 for weakfish. These hooks are exceptionally sharp right out of the package.

3. Miscellaneous hooks.
For backups, special conditions, and custom rigs tied as needed, I carry an assortment of O’Shaugnessy style short shank hooks in sizes from #8 to 6/0. Mustad hooks are excellent quality and reasonably priced for this purpose. Sharpen them before putting them in your tackle box.

WEIGHTS

1. Sinkers for still and drift fishing.
The basic variety of bank style sinker which is available in all tackle shops will suffice. Cover the range of 3 to 8 ounces with the bulk of them in the 5 ounce size. This is the weight I most often use.

2. Drails for live bait fishing.
In areas where water depth is rarely over thirty feet, 3 ounce drails will be just right in most cases. I also carry a few four ounce and two ounce versions for the odd occasion when they may be needed. Bead Chain brand is an excellent choice.

3. Small weights for special applications.
On many occasions small specialty weights are useful. I carry an assortment of Dipsey swivel sinkers, Rubbercore torpedo weights and egg sinkers covering the range from 1/2 ounce to 2 ounces in each style. Water Gremlin is the brand I use.

CASTING LURES

1. Hopkins 1 1/4 ounce no-equal #3SB with single hook white bucktail.
This is a very versatile productive lure which can be worked at all depths. It will catch bass, blues and weakfish. As with all lures, if bluefish are around, a short trace of stranded wire leader should be used to prevent chopped off lines. Berkeley makes pre-rigged leaders for just such purposes. I use the 6 inch 20 pound test version.

2. Rebel #S3001S, 5 inch sinking minnow in silver with black back.
This will also catch all gamefish but is particularly deadly for mid-water use and when fish are on the shy side. This is a super lure for big weakfish in water up to 15 feet deep. It is also a great lure for school bass along the banks and edges of channels.

3. Atom #58P, 1 1/4 ounce "Talking Atom" surface popper.
The best all around surface lure. This lure it most effective with calm water conditions, in fairly shallow water, or when fish are feeding near the surface. It also casts a long distance.

ADDENDUM

Those things that I think are a must, but mentioning them where I should have would have broken my self-imposed rule of only three recommendations.

1. Lead head hooks. These are a must for rigging plastic lures such as jelly worms and salty dog shrimps. These are still very effective lures. Mann makes excellent lead heads in two sizes. I carry at least half a dozen of each size.

2. Diamond Jigs. These jigs are best for working schools of fish in a vertical fashion rather than casting. Ava brand jigs are popular and work very well. For bay fishing I use the 007, 17 and 27 sizes both with white tubes and with plain hooks.

3. McClane's Fishing Encyclopedia. This is a most informative and useful addition to any fisherman's library. I would have to consider it a part of the basic equipment required. It can provide information about the life history, feeding habits and basic behavior of the fish you will pursue, the basic rigs you should use and the knots you will have to learn to tie. I still consult it frequently and can't imagine not having it.All that I have mentioned may seem like a lot but it is what I believe to be essential for the person that really wants to be successful at catching fish. I am also sure that other people might have recommendations that differ from mine. What I have written is not the last word, but simply my suggestion. Hopefully it can serve as a guideline for someone that has made up their mind to quit playing games and do it the right way.

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