CHOOSING MY FIRST SHARK REEL
Over the years I’ve always used Abu Garcia brand saltwater fishing reels. I currently use the 7000 and 6500 series reels. I’ve generally packed them with 20lb monofilament, and they hold a sufficient amount of fishing line for my purposes. I think the Abu Garcia 7000 has a max drag of about 17lbs, depending on the model.
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While fishing the Texas coast I’ve tangled with some formidable rivals including broad shouldered bull reds, morbidly obese black drum, and torpedo-like sharks. My Abu Garcia reels have always gotten the job done. I’ve generally targeted large drum, but I’d occasionally catch a shark. The biggest sharks that I’ve caught were all around 36 inches or so. I thought those were pretty big. But as I started peering into the world of Land Based Shark Fishing, I quickly realized that I had been taking a knife to a gun fight, or better yet, been trying to kill a grizzly bear with a BB-gun. The size of the sharks that I saw in pictures was almost unbelievable, and the size of those fish was only rivaled by the size of the reels used to drag those monstrosities onto the sand. I saw some reels that were damn near the size of a basketball. By this time, my current fishing arsenal was starting to feel pretty inadequate…and watching YouTube videos only added insult to injury. I saw this one video of a guy using a spinning reel who had hooked something huge, most likely a big shark. Talk about peeling drag! Whatever was on that hook never stopped, and it didn’t even slow down. After a couple minutes of a non-stop blistering run, the reel was emptied and the line popped! I felt the adrenaline just watching the video.
Then I watched some videos of some shark fisherman who were a little more serious; you could tell that they were targeting sharks. They had huge fishing reels and they used harnesses to help manage the big gear and heavy drag. That is the type stand-up gear you might see used on a deep sea saltwater fishing boat. I might have thought that these guys were over gunned for surf fishing, but once they were hooked up, and I saw that rod bend and the line peeling off the fishing reel, I was convinced that the heavy gear was warranted. After seeing those videos I said to myself, “I have to experience that!” Then I started thinking about my last saltwater fishing trip when I felt the sobering power of something huge when it pickup the chunk of sting ray I had kayaked out. If the hook hadn’t of pulled, my Abu Garcia 7000 probably would’ve been spooled. If I truly wanted to catch a big fish, then I needed a new fishing reel!
CHOOSING MY FIRST SHARK REEL: RESEARCH
When it came to the fishing reel, I basically wanted something that would give me peace of mind. I kept thinking about the possibility of losing a trophy shark because I didn’t have the right fishing gear. So I wanted to go big. My mind frame was, “better to have it and not need, than need it and not have it.” At the same time I needed to stay within a budget. An Italian made Duel 12/0 costs almost $2,000, and I needed more than just a reel.
So I began looking for a big game fishing reel that could handle Moby Dick, but which also presented the best value. The main specifications I researched were line capacity and maximum drag. When fishing Texas, to reach deeper water, longer bait drops are required. I’ve generally fished beaches that have three sandbars, and I’ve usually fished the gut between the second and third sand bar. From what I’ve read, dropping baits past the third sandbar would be the best chance for a larger shark. That would be at least 200 yards off the beach, and I’ve read that 500 yard drops are common. So I would need 500 yards of line just to get my bait out! The next question I had was, how much reserve line would I need if I hooked a 20 year fish? You know, a 12 or 13 foot shark that can empty a fishing reel without even knowing its hooked. I watched countless YouTube videos and read a ton of articles. I read this one news article about a record mako shark, weighing about 800 pounds, that was caught off the coast of Florida. It said that at times the fish ran up to 900 yards without stopping, and it was pulling 60lbs of drag! Taking into account all the videos that I had watched and all the I articles I read, I decided that I needed a total of at least 1,500 yards of line; 500 yards for the bait drop and 1,000 yards of reserve line in case I snag a record.
The fishing reel brands that I researched were Okuma, Shimano, Daiwa, Penn, Duel, Fin-Nor, and Accurate. I’d have to say the Shimano Tiagra 130 was my favorite; besides Shimano reels have excellent brand recognition. It seemed to be a rugged fishing reel, had more than enough line capacity, and boasted almost 100lbs of drag. I read nothing but rave reviews. For a 130 class fishing reel, the $1,250 price tag wasn’t that bad, but I had to pass because I didn’t want to blow the majority of my shark gear budget on only the reel.
The Penn Senator reels were the cheapest. Penn reels are extremely popular for saltwater fishing. From what I read the Penn Senators have rich history and at one time they were the go to fishing reel for a serious shark fisherman. The Penn Senators use a star drag system, which I’m pretty familiar with. But after studying about lever drag systems, I felt that lever drag was the way to go.
CHOOSING MY FIRST SHARK REEL: FINAL DECISION
So while the Penn Senator fishing reel is extremely budget friendly, with a 14/0 costing about $500, I passed. I ended up determining that the Avet 80 EXW-2 fishing reel presented the best value. It has 57lbs of drag, and it has capacity to fit 1,500 yards of 130lb line on it; 1,200 yards of 130lb braid backing and 300 yards of 130lb monofilament top-shot. It not only has the level drag system that I wanted, but it also had a 2-speed retrieval system. When retrieving line it has a high gear which helps quickly reel in line from those five-football-field bait drops, and it has a low gear that can be used to wench in a stubborn shark that doesn’t want to budge. The $750 price tag was just within my budget. Here is a picture of my new Avet 80 EXW-2 next to my Abu 7000 CS Pro-Rocket.
I can’t wait to make my first bait drop!!