Over the last week, there were a couple of posts on our message boards that caught my eye. The first asked which low profile bait-caster was best suited for calico bass fishing and the second regarded choosing a weedless swimbait. As expected, both questions received multiple replies and also as expected, most of the replies contradicted one another. I understand that everyone has their favorite brands, but if no one can agree on a clear favorite, their recommendations don’t do a lot to answer the original questions.
In hopes of answering those questions, along with a few others that those who are new to swimbait fishing may have, I’m going to breakdown the tackle that I use when targeting calicos.
But before I do, I feel it’s important to include a disclaimer: There are a lot of companies that produce quality fishing tackle and while I’m very happy with the brands I use, others are equally satisfied using alternate brands. So don’t take anyone’s word (including mine) that any particular brand is the only one to use. Instead, use the advice you get from others to help you decide which brands and products fit best with your fishing style.
There are three basic rod and reel combos that will allow you to cover all of your bases when targeting calico bass with both hard and soft plastic lures.
Light Set Up
If you were to buy only one rod and reel to fish calico bass, this is the set up you’d want to get. I fish an Abu/Garcia Revo Inshore matched with a custom built Rainshadow ISWB 945 or a factory wrapped Abu/Garcia Volatile 80-6. Both of these rods are around eight-feet long, rated as medium/heavy and have a fast action. On this set up I use 50# Spiderwire Spectra and a short 25-40 pound fluorocarbon leader.
While this combo will fish all of the baits you’d use when targeting calicos, it is best suited for small to medium sized lures. I use this set up for casting; 1 oz. Bladerunner Tackle spinnerbaits, 5 & 6 inch MC Swimbaits (as well as their 5 & 7 inch Viejos Series) rigged on ¾ to 1 ounce Bladerunner Tackle Weedless Swimbait Heads and Lucky Craft 128 Pointer Minnows.
Heavy Set Up
The second combo that you should add to your calico bass tackle arsenal would be a heavy swimbait rod. I fish an Abu/Garcia Revo Toro NaCl 50 matched with a custom built Rainshadow ISWB 946 or a factory wrapped Abu/Garcia Volatile 80-7. Like the light set up, both of these rods are eight-foot and fast taper, but these are rated as heavy. The Toro is rigged with 65# Spiderwire Spectra and a short 40-60 pound fluorocarbon leader.
This is the combo that I will always use when throwing big baits, like the 9” MC Swimbaits Viejos Series on a 1 to 1 ½ ounce Bladerunner Tackle Weedless Swimbait Head or an 8” ABT Lures Banshee Hard Bait. This combo can also be used with the smaller baits listed above, but you’ll be sacrificing casting distance with the heavier gear.
Weedless Set Up
The final piece of the tackle puzzle is a weedless swimbait set up. And while this isn’t a necessary combo for someone who fishes weedless baits occasionally, it’s a must for anyone who fishes them regularly. I fish an Abu/Garcia Revo Toro NaCl 50 matched with a custom Rainshadow IMU 72MH or a Seeker 709 Inshore Pro. Both of these rods are seven-foot, medium/heavy and have a fast action. The reel is spooled with 65# Spiderwire Spectra and a short 60-pound fluorocarbon leader.
I use these rods to fish the 7” Weedless MC Swimbait on a 9/0 Trokar weighted hook. Like I said, you can get by with fishing this bait on your heavy set up, but if you spend a lot of time fishing calicos, a dedicated weedless rod is a worthwhile investment. To understand the advantages of these rods, you first need to understand what’s involved with fishing weedless baits.
Fishing the weedless means making a lot of casts throughout the day, most of them along kelp stringers or into pockets, this requires making accurate casts. And while you’re making lots of casts, they are mostly going to be short ones so you don’t need a long rod to do it. Finally, since most of the bites you’re going to get are from fish that eat the lure very close to the boat, you’ll need a rod with a soft enough tip to absorb the violent strike without pulling the bait out of the fish’s mouth.
Join me again next week when I’ll be taking a look at putting these combos to use and the presentations involved with the lures I mentioned.