Sea Angler (UK) - - BOAT ANGLER -


To cover a lot of op­tions, a spin­ning rod be­tween 8-9ft in length is per­fect, but 10ft is too long and lever­age starts to work against you. It needs to be rated to cast up to about 80g.

The rod’s ac­tion is im­por­tant. A soft, all-through ac­tion is not what we’re look­ing for. We need a true fast-ta­per ac­tion that sports a sup­ple tip sec­tion that pro­gres­sively feeds into a fast stiff­en­ing mid-sec­tion with a stiff­ish butt.

The tip sec­tion gives the bite in­di­ca­tion. The mid-sec­tion is the work­ing length where power is trans­ferred in the butt, which holds the power and gen­er­ates the lift nec­es­sary to fully work the line and pres­sure a fish that is deep down.

Light tackle does not mean small fish. Of­ten a switch to light gear sees oth­er­wise wary, ed­u­cated, big ter­ri­to­rial fish throw cau­tion to the wind and make a rare mis­take.


Even when tar­get­ing big­ger fish, the 4000-sized fixed-spool reels are gen­er­ally more than up to the job. Se­lect a reel that is tough, with a good rep­u­ta­tion, be­cause big fish re­ally work light tackle to the max­i­mum.

There is a check­list to con­sider. Firstly, see how much twist there is in the reel foot stem by hold­ing the reel body and try­ing to twist the leg of the foot. Any un­due twist or flex and the reel is not strong enough. There’s noth­ing worse than play­ing a big fish and feel­ing the rod foot leg dis­tort un­der load.

The bale-arm needs to be over­size. It should be closed man­u­ally to elim­i­nate any short sec­tions of slack line on the reel spool, help­ing to elim­i­nate wind knots and giv­ing a cleaner line pro­file on the spool for cast­ing, or when deep drop­ping or fast jig­ging.

Gear­ing needs to be strong. Cheaper reels in­vari­ably have less ro­bust gear­ing, and they come un­der very heavy di­rect pres­sure when worked hard. Try to pur­chase the best reel you can af­ford.

I like a fast re­trieve ra­tio. Some­thing in the re­gion of 6.2:1 is ideal be­cause it gets tackle back from the depths quickly and gives the op­tion of fast jig­ging lures up through the wa­ter col­umn. It also al­lows you to get small amounts of line back on the reel spool rapidly when pump­ing big fish up us­ing short up­ward strokes of the fish­ing rod and re­triev­ing line as the rod drops.

The drag needs to have a wide work­ing arc, so you can set grad­u­ally in­creas­ing in­cre­men­tal pres­sure across a wide band from light to tight. The drag needs to be ul­tra-smooth and give line with­out hes­i­ta­tion at all pres­sures. If a drag hes­i­tates, sooner or later when us­ing light gear, it will cause a line or knot break, or a hook-pull.

You can feel how good a drag is by pulling line off by hand against a de­cent drag pres­sure. If you ap­ply pres­sure and the line purrs off smoothly with­out hes­i­ta­tion, the drag is fine. If you have to re­ally pull be­fore the spool sud­denly re­leases and it feels in­ter­mit­tent and sticky, then it’s not an ideal choice.

I use a Penn Con­flict, as an ex­am­ple. It has the gear ra­tio and qual­ity of gears, the smooth­ness of drag that can achieve a di­rect 15lb pull pres­sure, plus it is light in weight, com­pact in size, and has the line ca­pac­ity I need when us­ing braid.

Mul­ti­ple ball-bear­ings add more smooth­ness to the reel when re­triev­ing un­der heavy pres­sure and make life more bear­able when you’re tied to a big fish for long pe­ri­ods. Ball-bear­ings spread load, which is why a higher bear­ing count helps.


Nor­mally, I load with about 20lb braid for gen­eral leger fish­ing over reefs, or when us­ing lures at depth over reefs or wrecks. It’s also my first choice when tar­get­ing big­ger fish in Nor­way, tope over clean ground, or wrasse and pol­lack fish­ing over reefs.

If I’m af­ter plaice over shal­low­ish clean sand­banks, then I’ll use 15lb braid be­cause it re­duces the amount of lead weight I need to stay in con­tact with the seabed. Re­mem­ber, the lighter the braid, the more sen­si­tive it is.

For three main rea­sons, I still add a short fluoro­car­bon shock­leader of the same break­ing strain as the main­line. Firstly, it gives me some abra­sion re­sis­tance from the seabed

and con­tact with the rough hide or teeth of a fish. It also pro­tects ex­pen­sive braid.

Sec­ondly, it gives me a slightly stretchy cush­ion when a big fish is close to the boat and be­ing played on a short line. Ex­ces­sive pres­sure caused by us­ing braid di­rect to the rig or lure can see hook-holds tear free, and the braid is open to wear and tear from teeth.

Thirdly, the leader knot is a de­lib­er­ate weak link built into the tackle. If I get snagged, I’ll lose my lure or rig, and likely the shock­leader, but that’s cheaper than shear­ing off large lengths of braid.

I make my lead­ers about twice the length of the rod. This al­lows me to get the leader knot on the spool with the fish still in the wa­ter.

The men­tion of a ‘weak link’ fills some an­glers with panic, but mine is de­lib­er­ate and strong, but still a weak link. When knot­ting light braid to fluoro­car­bon, I use the Al­berto knot, which is slim, com­pact, and, when tied cor­rectly, very strong.

It’s sim­ply a case of form­ing a short open loop in the fluoro­car­bon, pass­ing the tag end of braid through the loop from un­der­neath, and pass­ing the tag end of braid down the loop stem in tight touch­ing coils six times. Then, take it back up and over the six coils a fur­ther six times, and pass the braid tag end back through the loop from the top the same way it came in. Wet the whole knot, then pull it tight slowly so that the coils form a neat cylin­dri­cal knot. Cut the tag ends off and you should be left with a com­pact knot that slides eas­ily through small rings.

Bulkier knots will jam in the tip ring and can cause is­sues when play­ing big fish tight to the boat. In­ci­den­tally, I find three turns com­ing back up and over the first six turns is enough.

Play­ing a fish on ul­tra-light spin­ning gear

4000-sized spin­ning reels are strong enough for big fish

Braid around 20lb and a 20lb fluoro­car­bon shock leader can land huge fish

A blue shark taken on light spin­ning tackle

How to tie the Al­berto knot

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