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Anchovy Tackle and Techniques

Fishing Anchovy

It’s been a long time since any of us has had to fish with anchovies as bait. In fact, it’s been so long that a lot of the younger guys have never had to do it. Well, a lot has changed since the late 80’s when my go to finesse combo for tuna was a Penn Squidder 145 with a plastic spool full of 20-pound mono matched with a Sabre 800. While the return of the anchovy still requires the same finesse, today’s tackle is going to make it a whole lot easier to not just fish the bait, but land the fish you hook on it.

In hopes of getting some insight into anchovy fishing in the new millennium, I asked a couple of industry experts to share some tips on choosing and using the right tackle. My first call was to Robby Gant of Shimano who was more than happy to share. “When fishing the chovy there are a couple things that need to be looked at when putting together the proper rod and reel combo.”

Gant continued, “This past decade we’ve been spoiled with fishing the Sardine as it’s a heavy and for the most part lively bait. So, when fishing the Sardine you can use a heavier action rod and also use lever drag reels. The spools on these reels are much heavier than those on star drag reels so your start up inertia is much slower; but sardines are heavy enough that you don’t lose any performance in casting.”

But when you take your lever drag outfit with let’s say 30-pound on it and try to cast an anchovy you’ll notice that the spool weight doesn’t allow for a proper cast. The only way to really cast a lever drag reel with an anchovy is to bump the spool at the beginning of the cast. It takes hundreds of hours practicing on the water to properly bump the spool without getting a backlash. Which is more time than most want to invest. That’s why back in the good old days, which most people have already forgotten, star drag reels were so popular.

In my opinion, to properly cast and fish an anchovy, a star drag reel is a must. Again referring back to the spool weight or start up inertia a star drag reel shines. It just makes casting and flylining an anchovy that much easier. The next key point is choosing a rod with the right action.

A longer rod, like an 8 footer, is great but many people prefer the pulling power of a 7 foot rod, which is fine. A rod with a ML (medium light) or M (medium) rating is needed but you really need to look at the tip section, that part that would load under cast. It needs to be very soft, as an Anchovy doesn’t weigh much so you need a rod that will load without damaging the bait.

Also going back in time glass rods were very popular when there were anchovies as bait. Why? They had soft tips that gently cast the bait.

“So looking at what Shimano has to offer, there are a couple outfits that we built specifically for the Anchovy.”

While we haven’t sold very many of them and I fight to keep it in the Shimano lineup I know that once the chovy comes back they will fly off the shelves, as the normal fast action rods just won’t work properly.

Here are my recommended outfits:

  • Trinidad 12A with Terez 80ML: 30-pound Power Pro double uni to 15lb Flouro
  • Trinidad 14A with Terez 80ML: 40-pound Power Pro Hollow Ace with Loop to Loop 20 or 25-pound Flouro
  • Trinidad 16A with Terez 80M: 40-pound Power Pro Hollow Ace with Loop to Loop 30-pound Flouro
  • Trinidad 20A with Terez 80M: 50-pound Power Pro Hollow Ace with Loop to Loop 40-pound Flouro
  • Trinidad 30A with Terez 80MH: 60-pound Power Pro Hollow Ace with Loop to Loop 50-pound Flouro

anchovy bait

After speaking with Gant, I approached Ben Secrest of Accurate Reels to find out if lever drag reels really won’t work for anchovies. “Not all lever drag reels are ideal for fishing anchovies” Secrest explained,

“But we have specifically designed the new Dauntless with a sleeved spool to be able to cast a small bait.”

The initial start up inertia for the spool when casting is pretty much nothing with the sleeved spool giving an educated caster the ability with a longer rod to hit the fish zone easier and increase the odds of a bite.”

“With the introduction of braid, it’s gotten easier to cast and fish a smaller bait. In the late 80′ and early 90’s we were forced to fish with small diameter monofilament, which resulted in lower breaking strength, just to get the baits farther away from the boat. But with braid, we have the ability to cast a smaller bait using a smaller and narrower reel filled with heavy line (like 50-pound braid).

The best way to cast a light bait is using a pendulum cast. The guys that are proficient at this casting style will use 8 or 9-foot rods to cast their bait a significant distance from the boat. This casting method is also very easy on the bait, so it will actually swim away when it hits the water.”

Not everyone is a proficient pendulum caster, so Secrest has some ways to cheat. “I use to take a lot of tricks from my inshore – freshwater fishing and use them in the saltwater arena. The one most memorable is the use of a clear Carolina Keeper and a plastic bubble for skittish fish, especially bluefin.”

anchovy bobber

“If I could not get the distance I needed to get my bait into the zone I would take a plastic water bubble bobber fill it with water and test it in the bait tank for buoyancy. Then I’d slide that on the line and push a Carolina Keeper on behind it. Once I’d tie on my hook, I’d set the carolina keeper about 2 1/2 feet above the hook. The extra weight due to the water filled bobber would allow me to get my bait out just a little farther when casting and that lead to me getting a few more bites than the guys not using one.

Another trick when fishing anchovies is make sure you use the right size hook. People freak out when you tell them to use small hooks because they think they’re going to lose fish. But those skittish fish can tell when a baitfish is not swimming natural, due to a hook that’s too big, so I’d rather run the risk of losing a fish due to a small hook than to not get a bite because my hook is too big.

If you match the bait to the right size hook, it will swim naturally and get more bites. Sure, when it’s wide open it doesn’t matter, but more often than not, you’ll have to work for a bite and having the right size hook will help.

My last tip for fishing smaller chovies is to tie a uni-knot but instead of cinching it on the hook, I cinch it upward to create a loop in the line. Which gives your bait a more natural appearance and works the same as a ringed hook. The cool thing about the loop is that the line does not hamper the bait’s swimming ability as much as it would it the knot was cinched down. But once you hook a fish, the knot cinches itself down on the eye of the hook; giving you maximum line strength.”

Erik Landesfeind is BD's Southern California Editor and has over 30 years of experience saltwater fishing for a range of species in both California an...