Choosing My First Shark Reel

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.

abu 7000s

Abu Garcia 7000 CS Pro Rocket; Abu Garcia 7000iC3

I NEED A TRUE BIG GAME REEL

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!

abus

My Other Abus

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.

Choosing My First Shark Reel:  Duel 12-0

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.

mako

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.

Choosing My First Shark Reel:  Tiagra TI130A

Shimano Tiagra TI130A

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:  Penn117l

Penn Senator 14/0

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.

Choosing My First Shark Reel

Avet 80exw-2 and Abu Garcia 7000 CS Pro Rocket

I can’t wait to make my first bait drop!!

 

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Land Based Shark Fishing: Quest For Adrenaline

LAND BASED SHARK FISHING:  QUEST FOR ADRENALINE

I love saltwater fishing, specifically surf fishing.  Last summer, July 2014, my old man and I went on a 5-day surf fishing trip to the Freeport, TX area.  We fished Quintana Beach (AKA Bryan Beach), Surfside Beach, and even went down to San Luis Pass.  The seaweed was horrible, I couldn’t keep a line in the surf without pulling back loads of that brown crap.  We were able to wade to the first sandbar and when we fished from there, the seaweed wasn’t that bad.  When saltwater fishing I like soaking big baits and using rod holders, and then kicking back, soaking up some sun and sipping some hoppy suds.  Standing at the first sand bar wade fishing with live shrimp is good for a morning trip, but I wasn’t going to do that all week.  I needed some relaxation medication.  Eventually, we were able to find some cuts, and depending on the tide, we were able to fish without struggling with the seaweed.  We were finally able to bust out the fishing pole holders and icy brews.  I’m a big fish hunter, so I fish big baits, and my favorite bait is large mullet just big enough to keep the little fish away, but small enough so that a bull redfish can inhale it.  Shrimp is an excellent bait, and I’ve caught many large fish with it.  The problem with shrimp is that little fish can steal it quickly, and it can become a lot of work keeping your hook baited.  I like fishing larger baits because it enables me to kick back, relax, and wait for the rod to double over.

Exif_JPEG_PICTURE

During this saltwater fishing trip is when I first tried my hand at land based shark fishing.  I have been looking for a renewed adrenaline rush, and after watching some YouTube videos I figured that land based sharking was the ticket.  Additionally, over the years, while saltwater fishing, I’ve randomly caught sharks about 3ft in length and they’ve always put up an enjoyable fight.  Before the July 2014 trip there was minimal “shark” preparation, and I just used my usual surf fishing reels and saltwater fishing gear, Abu Garcia 7000s and 6500s.  In order to give myself a fighting chance, in case I did hook something big, I backed the Abu Garcia 7000s with 300 yards of 30lb braided fishing line, and finished them off with a 50lb monofilament topshot.  Additionally, I paired the Abu Garcia 7000s with 12ft Okuma Solaris surf rods rated at 40lbs (enough to handle max drag).  I really like the Solaris fishing poles and get good distance with my casts.  I use casted bottom rigs using spider weights to make sure the rigs hold in the surf.  The hook trace is steel leader.  The pre-made leaders that you can find at your local bait and tackle shop or saltwater fishing gear store are okay, but if you make your own leaders it’s so much better.

 

Usually when I surf fish, I’ll wade out to the first or second sandbar, and I will cast my baited rig as far as I can.  With the fishing reel in free-spool I’ll walk back to the shore, tighten the slack and then throw the rod in the holder.  Well, shark fishing requires bigger baits, but because they’re bigger they’re also harder to cast.  Additionally, reaching deeper water is recommended to increase the chances of a bigger shark.  In Texas the prime deep water is usually out of casting range.  From what I’ve seen, using a kayak is the deployment method of choice; paddle beyond the breakers and drop the baited rig in deeper water.  I had a little 10ft Heritage Angler Kayak that I had purchased at Academy sports and outdoors.  I did some kayak fishing in lakes, and even though it was cheap, it was a good little kayak.  I hadn’t used it for saltwater fishing yet.

Well, we found a good area of the beach that didn’t have any seaweed, so I decided this was the spot to break out the kayak and try to get a big bait out.  Remember, I like using baits that I can leave soaking until the targeted fish picks it up.  I don’t like constantly having to reel in and check baits, and then find that little fish have picked it clean.  From my research sting ray seemed to be the bait that sharks loved, but that other fish would leave alone.  This was the bait that I kayaked out.  In the area of the beach where we were setup the water was beautiful.  It was a deep green, but lighter than usual and almost aqua. The swells were pretty big and the wind was blowing pretty hard too.  It was work paddling out, and after I dropped the bait and returned to shore I was exhausted.  Not to mention that little 10ft heritage angler kayak was very unstable and uncomfortable in the ocean.  I was too tired to do that again, so for the second rig I hooked on half a horse mullet, waded to chest deep and casted it as far as I could.  The casted horse mullet ended up resulting in the first hook up.  I didn’t measure it but it turned out to be about a 4ft shark.  It peeled drag, and it was really fun to catch.  It gave me a nice burst of adrenaline.

The big chunk of sting ray had been soaking for a little while.   I was at the truck baiting one of my smaller rigs in order to try my chances for a speckled trout or slot redfish when all of a sudden I hear my old man say, “HEY!!!!”  I turned and looked and saw my 12ft Okuma rod bowed over and line was peeling from the Abu 7000.  I ran to the holder, picked up the rod and leaned into a hook set.  I immediately felt the power of the fish, and I’m pretty sure my eyes dilated from the adrenaline.  The line was peeling off the reel, making it sing, and then all of a sudden the line went slack.   I furiously reeled trying to keep the line tight, thinking that the fish had turned and started swimming toward shore, but it was gone.   The hook had pulled!!  Here is a video my old man filmed as I lost that fish.  The agony!

During that saltwater fishing trip I did land some really good fish.  They included a personal best redfish and a personal best shark.  We caught lots of fish and it was a truly good time enjoying God’s creation and spending time with the old man.  But losing that big fish was heartbreaking.  Since then I’ve been preparing for a rematch, updating my saltwater fishing gear for war.  New large capacity fishing reel, new heavy shark fishing rod and surf fishing rods, new rigs and tackle, and a better kayak.  If he bites again, I guarantee I’m gonna take his picture.

         

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Taking it to the Next Level

I’ve been fishing since I was knee high to a grasshopper, maybe since I was about 5 years old.  As I think about one of my earliest memories, I can picture myself sitting on my old man’s tackle box on a rocky shore soaking a bait.  I remember eyeing the bobber like a hawk waiting for something to hit.  During that trip I recall snagging a blue crab.  Another early memory that I have fishing with the old man, was one evening when he took me out after work.  I remember he was still in his work clothes, and I even remember the pocket protector he had in his shirt pocket.  I hooked a fish, and if my memory serves me correctly, it was a flounder.  When I got it close to the shore it started splashing and it startled me.  I remember screaming, dropping my little rod and reel, and seeing it being dragged to the edge of the water.  I can still see my old man running after the rod and grabbing it just before it got dragged into the drink.

As I got a little older I became the anchor boy on my dad’s boat.  As the boat would approach the area where we wanted to fish, I’d be positioned at the bow with with the fluke anchor in hand.  The old man would be intently scoping the area, looking at the fish finder, and using the fisherman’s gut to determine if this was “the” spot.  He’d say “drop it”, and I would throw the anchor into the drink.  Once I could feel the anchor digging into the bottom I’d tie down the anchor rope.  Then the old man would shut off the boat engine, and say those words that always made me smile, “Let’s Fish!”

DSCN4864 (2)

When I turned 16, I got my first car,a mustang.  I remember the back seats would fold down and I could fit a couple rods running the length of the interior, from the trunk poking into the front seat. During the school week I would take my rods with me in the morning when I left for class.  As soon as class would let out, I would drive to the beach.  I can remember hooking a bull red in the surf, and it kept taking line.  My hands were shaking and I was just hoping that I could get that fish to shore.  I remember that fish ended up being about 35 inches, and it was injured toward the tail, possibly from a large crab because it was one straight gash.

When I was young, just getting out and catching fish, any fish, is what made my day.  As I got older, catching keepers to take home was the goal.  In recent years when I go fishing I only target large fish, preferably fishing from the surf, or canals with deep water around 50 feet or so.  This type of fishing provides the perfect balance of relaxation and action.  After I cast my line out I’ll put the rod in the holder, grab a seat, and pop open an icy cold brewski.  But when that rod doubles over the action begins!!

     

Recently I’ve felt the need to take it to the next level.  I don’t know, maybe these bull reds and big uglies just aren’t doing it for me anymore.  So, I’ve been gearing up for land based shark fishing.  Basically, its the same type of surf fishing I’ve always done, except its targeting sharks up to 12 ft long, possibly bigger for that 20 year fish.  This type of fishing entails using heavier equipment, reels with large capacities and heavy rods.  Additionally, you have to be able to get a large bait out about 300 to 500 yards off the beach to reach deeper water.  Using a kayak seems to be the common method, but I’ve seen guys use zodiac boats or even jet skis to get the baits out.  Anyway, I am in the process of gearing up for a June 2015 trip.  I’m in full preparation mode, doing everything I can in anticipation of hooking a monster shark.  I want to feel, see, and hear that drag peel!!! I want to take it to the next level…

 

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