THE KIT YOU NEED...
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