Long Range Cow fishing tips Part 2

fishordie

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Aug 31, 2005
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Good evening all,

Well, we now have a bit of information on hooks and connections. It was great to see other knowledgeable folks post additional information on this subject. Since no one fisherman I know has intimate knowledge of everything regarding fishing it is wonderful to have others share their hard earned knowledge. As I have noted in the past THIS time period may be looked back upon as the Golden age of Long Range Fishing as we now have so much free information given by those who have worked hard and continue to develop and learn skills and techniques which once took a life time to obtain. I love learning from others as well as doing my own development and discoveries. Thank you to all who have shared their knowledge with me.

Lets talk about gear for the Ultra Long Range trip you are planning.

REELS:

Over the last several years reel manufacturers have really upped their game regarding more powerful and comfortable reels in smaller and lighter packages.

When I first began Long Ranging in the early 60's my first reel had a leather thumb drag and was a direct drive meaning when the spool was turning the handle was turning. Maaaan I wish I could find where I put that thing. Anyway my dad could not afford the fancy gear AND pay for the trip so we used what we could. A few years later I remember looking in the reel window at our local tackle shop at those amazing gold reels. There were both the Penn Internationals and the Fin Nor (I forget the series) but these were like looking at the finest Rembrandt in the art galleries. I dreamed one day I too would own one of these amazing reels.

Today, you have the choice of Gold, Platinum, green, blue, purple and the list goes on. Since I am writing more in regards to Long Range Cow type reels I will try and stick with that. There are several great options out there for most every reasonable wallet size but here are a few of my suggestions and opinions (We all know what opinions are like but these are mine). It is important to note regardless what drag setting a manufacturer claims their reels can put out the ability to have a high drag setting does not a West Coast Long Range Cow reel make.

One thing I would like to make clear to all is for most reel companies the West Coast Long Ranger is NOT or at least HAS NOT BEEN their target market. Jamie... Say it ain't so.....After all are we not on the cutting edge of Sportfishing??? Though I do believe we ultra long rangers do require the toughest gear we have to remember our numbers are less than 4000 folks world wide. Heck that number could be less than 3000 by now but I believe it could be climbing again. Compare that to the rest of the world whose millions of non long range angler demands are a bit different than ours and you will see, until recently, very few manufacturers really cared or at least totally catered to us. After all we are crazy enough to spend another 100- 300 dollars to have an aftermarket reel person give us another 10% more free spool or 30% more drag capability. The rest of the world was just not willing to spend that extra dough. Additionally building reels to stand up to the additional burdens we Long rangers are placing on our gear was a profit losing proposition. Until recently I do believe many manufacturers just though we were nuts.... Maybe they were right.

LINE CAPACITY: Cow fishing is not for those reels which can handle less than 650 and preferably 700 yds of line. I am not talking about the specialty reels or those anglers who live on the edge with way less line capacity (I might be guilty in some aspects of this with my Spinners and smaller reels) rather I am speaking for the majority of anglers out there looking to update their inventory.

PROPER DRAGS: Cow fishing is not for reels which cannot easily create, and more importantly maintain, 30 pounds minimum (You may actually set you drags higher or lower but for purposes of my opinion I need to pick a number) of drag at strike during several blistering runs and at least a couple of hours (yes I know some of you will land a fish much faster but that is not the point) of punishment on a big fish. Knowing about the drag ability of a reel can only be done through a series of testing or now we have these boards to give good opinions on the viability of each anglers favorite or even not favorite reels. Many reels can put out 40 or more pounds of drag but this does not mean these reels are right for West Coast Long Ranging. Drag Material durability, the ability of the reel drag system to dissipate heat, quality of bearings and materials used, etc. all go into making a proper and longer lasting cow reel. This is why, to date, you probably will not find a Cow reel under about $450.00 - $500.00 as the cost of proper quality components just cannot be gotten around. Of course the cost can go well above $1000.00 for a top of the line reel.

CRANK-ABILITY:

The ability for the angler to get a turn or partial turn of the handle at an appropriate drag setting. Here is where the design and quality of a reel translates into an easier or more difficult time for the angler to actually gather line while the fish is trying his or her darnedest to escape. The Manufacturer has to decide on how long to make the crank arm, what the quality of his bearings are, the type of grip/handle to be used and just as importantly the efficiency of the innards of all the internal components. Without getting all engineering like the more efficient reels will have tighter tolerances, better materials, better contact surfaces and better internal components. The stiffness of the reel casing it self will also come into play as any give in the casing or mounting points inside the reel will create a loss of efficiency. A cow reel should be able to spin a manually stopped spool in low gear with over 30 pounds of drag applied with no flex either inside or outside of the reel. However, just because a reel has a super long crank arm, giving the angler a bunch of torque on the reel, again does not make this a cow reel. The Manufacturers have to weigh the value of the ability of the angler to get a ton of torque on the reel Vs. the damage all that torque can do to the guts of the reel. Because of the size and weight considerations manufacturers have to consider there is a tradeoff in how much the guts of the reel can handle as it applies to loads and torque.

FREE SPOOL:

The ability of the spool of a reel to spin for long periods of time both at low or no drag settings as well as at maximum drag settings.
In the old days and still today the angler can set their strike setting at the most drag they would consider using then back the drag lever off into free spool and give the spool a spin by hand. Depending on the internal system used by the manufacturer some reels will not have any impact on free spool when you put maximum drag at strike or full and others will have a real impact on free spool. The quality of the bearings along with the type of grease or oil used for a variety of reasons will also impact the free spool. Sometimes a great reel can have a thicker grease applied at the factory which can affect free spool. Some of us crazies on the West Coast have tried changing out the factory grease for Speed butter (My own Name) using such materials as graphite impregnated oils/lubricants or other similar type slip and slide materials. The draw back to this is the manufacturers grease provides some protection against water, especially salt water, intrusion where as the high speed lubes may not be so wonderful in their protection abilities. Before going to a high speed lube consider how much additional maintenance you are going to commit to your reels. For some of us a 100% resistance free spool would be the best and we are willing to pay for it. Others who have a tendency to develop backlashes may not crave it like us but once you learn how to manage your free spool you will want as much as you can get. Sort of like those great See's Candies Dark Chocolate with Marzipan in the middle... Ooops sorry, got off on a tangent.

AFTERMARKET REEL MODIFICATION COMPANIES:

Some after market companies like Cal Sheets or Cofe have improved the innards of reels in other ways including Cal's having their own wonderful grease. They also change out certain components of the insides, machine certain areas, install sleeves, etc. For many of us over the years the contribution of these after market companies have been enormous and highly beneficial. In today's world large reel manufacturers are coming to these specialized shops and getting input into how to build better reels. None the less these after market shops will still be doing their thing as the majority of the world is not willing to pay for nor increase the maintenance factors incurred due to the type of modifications we on the West Coast are so desirous of. In short, reel manufacturers will give us stronger and more robust reels in smaller packages but affordability will limit the extent they go in this regard. Thank you guys.

MAINTENANCE OF COW REELS:

For those of you who remember the Penn Senator series, including the famous Jigmaster, you remember the days of going fishing and throwing these fabulous reels back into whatever storage facility you had. Every now and then you would remember Penn provided oil for lubrication and decide now is a good time to poke some into those little oil holes designed just for that purpose. On even more rare occasions we might even get industrious and remove a few screws, check out the insides and put it back together again in just a few minutes. These battle scarred reels would be just as good as new the next time you took them out to go fishing even years later. Who the heck ever cared about Dartanium or Wallmart Tanium or another Tanium for drag replacements?? We just went fishing. Well ladies and gentlemen when it comes to cow fishing the days of the mighty Senators are well behind us. Today Maintenance is just part of the deal. When we spend thousands and thousands of dollars just for the trip portion it is imperative we give ourselves the best chance of catching the beasts we are searching. One of the best insurance policies we can take out is keeping up on the Maintenance a care of our reels. For most of us that means sending them or taking them to the reel manufacturer for R and R or to our local KNOWLEDGEABLE LONG RANGE TACKLE SHOPS for regular maintenance. Sure some guys work on their own reels and really know their stuff but if you have any doubt send them out.... for R and R that is. NO not rest and relaxation.
Please note I highlighted KNOWLEDGEABLE LONG RANGE TACKLE SHOPS as these shops really understand the extra stresses and strains we crazies on West Coast Long Range boats put on our gear and thus are just more attentive to the little things which can really wreck the multi-thousand dollar trips.

For protection of the reels while on a trip products such as Saltex are great to spray, in properly mixed amounts, on your reels every day after use and then used in accordance with the instructions during the tear down portion of the trip. Breathable reel covers are another way to protect your reels and line especially during travel days. However, I do see Plastic bags used for this application and I am just not sure about that as I do not want moisture building up inside the bag. Though I cannot swear to the negative aspects of a plastic bag I personally would not use this in place of a reel cover or just leaving the reel exposed.

BUY AMERICAN OR NOT??

This is a tough one and a choice each of us make every day on a thousand different products. Even many of the products which claim to be made in American we cannot be sure every detail of the product is made in America. This is very much an Angler specific question whose answer cannot be made by anyone but yourself. In my opinion there is no right or wrong answer to this one but luckily for those who only wish to buy American there are choices. I for one want the best bang for my buck and certainly the best quality and given an equal choice between American and foreign it will be hands down American. However, if the gap of quality or bang for the buck is not close to being equal then I will go foreign at least to certain foreign countries. Yes, even I have places I will not buy from but to date I am not aware those places are making anything for the fishing industry.

PRICE TO VALUE RATIO:

Just like reels everyone's wallet size our demands from a reel are not the same. Each angler has to decide how they want to mix their hard earned dollars for Rods, reels, terminal tackle and of course the most important expenditure being the Long Range trip itself. Each of the reels I will note below should be able to provide the angler a life time of use and therefore amortizing the cost of the reel, in theory, can come into play. However, each angler must decide based on their own criteria how much to pay for this very important piece of equipment. Having worked in a great tackle shop I have heard most every reason why an individual wants a particular reel including the color matches the wrapping on their daughter's rod. If that is the most important thing for you then my all means that should dictate your purchase however, those who ask me my opinion for the reel which meets their wallet size I might suggest something other than pink unless you are willing to change the colors at an additional expense. Hey, who am I to question a Pink Accurate ATD???

WHAT SIZE REEL TO PURCHASE:

Another place where there are lots of different ideas but for me size and weight of the reels have always played a significant role. For decades I have used reels smaller than most folks and have been told my reels (No, not a certain part of my anatomy) were too small to handle big fish. Over the years I have watched as smaller reels have become the norm rather than the exception. Remember in the old days a 16 size Penn Senator was normal. Then an 80 wide Penn International was normal. Then 50 wides were normal and now 30 size reels are seen quite often with some of us going to smaller reels yet. Today's 30 size reels are probably putting out more power than yesterdays 50 size reels regardless of spool size. Prior to using Spectra and even thinner braided Dacron none of us suspected we could have enough line capacity to handle these big fish unless there was at least a 50W noted somewhere on the reel. Not true today. Now the decision comes down to how much drag the individual angler can handle for a reasonable period of time. Since in Part 1 of this series I explained how to become completely comfortable with your connections we will eliminate that issue as a problem.... Yeah right...

If you as an angler are not prepared to fish with 28 pounds or more of drag then line capacity will certainly be an issue. I do not believe getting a turn on the handle will be an issue but capacity could be thus getting a 50 size or 50W size reel may be the ticket. However, (I seem to always have a however) watching folks become quickly familiar with rail rodding and or fishing from a harness with today's great gear I do believe many folks, if not the majority, can easily and happily fish with a 30 size appropriate reel. Now if your goal is only to catch a 300 or 400 pound Yellowfin Tuna from a long range boat then perhaps you need a 50W but for the rest of us who are happy with a mere 100 - 299 pounder, yet knowing we still have a chance for the gold ring 300 pounder, then the 30 may be just the ticket for you.

USING THE BOATS GEAR:

For new comer's to the sport or those on a serious budget... Hmmm in these economic times that covers a whole lot of anglers, a fabulous option is to choose to use the boats gear. Gone are the days on top Long Range operations of old used boat gear, badly worn lines, non maintained reels, etc. Today, the great operations have the latest and greatest in the world of reels mounted to comparable rods, loaded with Spectra and ready for you to just pay for top shots. Though I love to sell reels this is certainly an option for those who have to choose between trying an ultra long range trip and not having enough money due to buying the gear.

DISCLAIMER:

My opinions on Cow Reels are just that.. Opinions. Again, we have a very much personal approach to what are the best reels. My favorite choice might be another angler's paper weight. Additionally, Every manufacturer I have ever heard of have had reels fail on Cow Trips. Many folks base their opinions on their own experience with a failure but please remember this IS going to happen sometime, somewhere, on one or more of the manufacturers individual reels. Breakdowns are just the nature of the game we have chosen so be careful coming to any quick conclusions rather give each reel its proper due based on hours of the number of on the water use. A manufacturer who has learned from past mistakes and fixed the issue is a good manufacturer however making sure you do not purchase a used item which was not fixed or updated could spell disaster. Our job is to do everything we can to make sure it is not OUR reel that fails due to operator error. There are as many favorite reels as there are anglers but these are just my opinions based on whatever testing or knowledge I have had with them.

JAMIE'S REEL CHOICES (non kite use)
Lets get ready to Rummmmbbbbbleeee!!!!!!!!.

My personal preference for the last 8 years has been the Accurate ATD series of reels. Being in the Aerospace Business, more in particular the manufacturing and design end of things, I could easily appreciate the engineering and sophistication of the approach to the design and build Accurate has placed into these super high end reels. Since not all reels are created equal I took my time and decided these were the reels for me. I have not regretted that decision ever since. In my opinion, with the advent of spectra enlarging the line capacity of reels, we have been fortunate to reduce the size and weight of the reels down to tools which can be easily held for long periods of time. For me, my clear choice IF PRICE IS NOT AN OBJECT would be an Accurate 30 topless ATD. Others may say once you establish the gearing every reel is the same but my opinion is that is utter nonsense. There absolutely is an efficiency of design and build which goes into every mechanical object including fishing reels. In this case, again, all reels are not created equal. For this angler the line capacity is great for 99.9% of the fish one encounters on a Long Range trip. With the ATD series a 30 size has all the power one would expect from a 50 size reel yet is smaller and lighter. All around this reel, along with all the ATD series, has more power transfer from the crank to the spool than any reel I have found to date. Free spool out of the box is certainly better than most and increase in drag has no affect on free spool. The draw back to these ATD reels is price and a need for more maintenance. Accurate includes the price of annual maintenance in the price of these reels with the angler only paying for shipping. Of course you can save that price by picking up and delivering to the factory in Corona, California. However, this free service is limited in duration. After that time period there will be a cost. Though in the past, few outside of the factory were willing to work on these reels Accurate has sold enough of them to have others learning how to maintain these reels. I believe at least one boat has Accurate ATD's as their loaners and can work on the reels on board.

Up until recently I would have had a tough time with choice number 2 but over the last year I have experienced,seen and heard enough examples of the Okuma Makaira series successes to consider them an excellent Cow reel. In particular I am referring to the 20II, 30II and the 30SE (This 30SE could be the one cross over reel for those who just demand the capacity of a 50 but want a 30 spool height). For many this could become choice number 1 due to the cost vs. value equation. At less than half the price of the ATD this is a serious reel and may get even better as Okuma continues to LLI......Listen, Learn and Improve (I just made that up). Yes, Okuma is an offshore company but let's face it America, we all need to get on the LLI train. After all customer service and attention to what your user needs and wants is fairly cheap but is worth its weight in gold... or platinum or....?? Okuma seems to have LLI in Spades. The free spool on these reels is excellent as they have listened to expert aftermarket reel guys and implemented what they learned. Okuma is listening to both their on the water pros as well as the regular guys using their gear. After all the pros really do not pay for the R and D of these reels rather the regular Joe and Jane, who pay retail, are the folks providing the profit. Take a bow Okuma for using America's old recipe for success (Customer Service, ingenuity, Customer service and attention to detail to build a great product today. If I had to select a negative to these reels it would be the length of the crank arm. I think it could be a bit longer for Long Rangers. For all I know Okuma may be working on this.

Number 3 is a whole bunch tougher to decide but comes out as a tie. The Old Grand Dame of the industry Penn has gone through a series of ownership changes but today has the VSX line of "Gold" International Reels. Another pro active company Penn also went to aftermarket companies for input yet wanted to retain their "Bullet Proof" reputation as a reel maker. These are excellent reels at a good price point but a bit on the heavy side for this angler. However, Please remember, I am using mostly ATD's so I may not be indicative of the average user. None the less the reels free spool beautifully out of the box and have plenty of smooth drag capabilities well in excess of what we need for Cow fishing. The 30 VSX is certainly an excellent option for those who just love their Gold Reels.

Tied with Penn is American company Avet who really made a splash years ago with an affordable, lightweight and simple to use and easy to maintain reel. When these reels first came out I was a bit uncomfortable with them as cow reels. Like any great Manufacturer they listened to the market and improved their simple designs for light weight, mid priced reels with the Pro series. The Sand Diego Special 50 (SDS 50) was a real hit when it first came out and has caught a ton of big fish. The Pro series was a great improvement over their past designs while their specialty reels noted as Trex showed they could build reels designed for 100 pounds of drag. Oh my!!!!! Avet then came out with their Raptor series on their smaller reels which some, including me with a couple of the HXW Raptors, being used on big fish. At this time I would not recommend the average cow angler use their Raptor series reels for cows nor the Trex but I do believe the Pro EX/2 30W and 50SDS are both viable options. The Pro EX2 30 is another option but in my opinion a bit light on line capacity for most long range anglers.

Though I hear Tiburon has come out with some outstanding Cow reels in a 50T at around 900 dollars and 50W around 970 dollars (I do not see a need for the 50W for general long range applications) along with Shimano hosting their Talica 50 at over 1000 dollars I cannot comment on these reels as I have Zero experience with them. That said, based on what I know of each manufacturer and their products today, I do not doubt both companies will make an outstanding top of the line product. However, at those price points I am not sure how much impact they will have on West Coast Long Ranging.

Last Year Fin-Nor showed me a new prototype design which I felt had some possibilities. I do not know if they will come out with a true Long Range Cow reel as right now their products do not meet my criteria but if they do I hope they do it right. Time will tell but based on the history of most all of the reel manufacturers who have gone through periods of unacceptable quality each should have a chance to prove themselves. Fin Nor, whose reels were once out of the reach of mere mortal fishermen, is no exception.

Also, I am curious what, if any new reels, will be shown at the Fred Hall show this year. I guess we all will have to wait on that one unless you have some sort of inside knowledge. Just remember it is illegal to use your inside knowledge for personal gain... SEC.

KITE REELS:

My first two choices for the majority of long rangers is to use the boats gear. Come to think of it the boats gear is also my third choice. Three reasons to spend the money on kite reels. The first being some of us just love owning our own reels knowing exactly what kind of maintenance, line condition and use our reels have experienced. The second is we just love owning all of our own gear not having to worry about the availability of a boats kite rod during a red hot bite. Yes, the boat gear can get used up in these situations and you will just have to wait your turn. It does not happen often but it does happen. And third we want a reason to own a larger than average reel.... AS if we really need a reason. However, I am not convinced for those who go long range often and are targeting those coveted 300+ pounders a 50W used as a kite reel then, when not in Kite use, rigged for big bait or even sardines, if you do not mind holding these beasts, is just not a bad item to have in your arsenal as long as the expenditure does not affect your ability to go on trips, tip the crew, pay your mortgage (This one is iffy) or purchase other needed long range items. If these three meet your criteria then I would still go back to my order of manufacturers to purchase their 50W 2 speed reels. For me I use an Accurate 80 but clearly I am making up for a lot of issues I had as a child as I also own a Corvette.... Okay, that one is a factory race car but that is another story for another site.

TROLLING REELS: Refer back to my suggestions for kite reels as far as when to use the boats gear and when to purchase. Because Trolling gear tends to take a pretty good beating while just in the racks, in the trolling straps giving the gear more exposure to saltwater intrusion, being exposed on most boats dirty exhaust, having both other trolling lines and sliders lines crossing over them possibly causing damage and and generally only gets used a few times per trip, owning trolling gear might not be your first choice especially if it impacts the ability of the angler to pay for other items as noted above. However, if you do decide to purchase then here is Where I would purchase a decent 30 wide or 50 size reel for the job. Getting that troll fish in quickly really helps pull the school in so the bigger gear is great. However, since we have reasonable priced options I would again go to one of the reel choices noted above in the 30W, 50 or even 50W options I have noted.

Okay, I have to get back to my other life now. Hopefully this Part 2 will be informative for a few of you.

Jamie
 

Fishybuzz

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Great read Jamie.......

I agree with all that you have said...especially the part about Okuma's innovative practice of actually listening to the requests of West Coast Long Range cow fishermen....I like you have fished With Accurate ATDs for the past few years.....they are IMO top of the line both in price and performance...they are also high maintenance......But back to Okuma.

I had hear the hype about the new Okuma's and won one and went out and bought 3 more just to see what they were really about......I LOVE trying new gear and This gave me the perfect excuse to buy some ..lol

Well I used them caught lots of big fish with them and they performed as advertised.....how unusual is that in this day and age....they are cow ready out of the box......and they listened to the feedback I and other anglers gave them and will roll out the improved version of the Makaria with a longer crank arm, a lower low gear and even better freespool ( IMO the reels had great freespool to begin with)... this is as Jamie said a case of a company actually listening to the end user.....and to top it off they have a FIVE year warranty.


I still have and use my ATDs but I seem to find the Okumas In my hands more and more when fishing cows.

Jmo but the Okumas are the best bang for the buck in cow reels today....tomorrow who knows .........let's see if the other reel manufacture's step up and start listening to the end users.....

isn't competition great......fishermen getting
better gear for less money
 
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Garibaldi

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Good post as it summarizes the thoughts of many anglers who have contributed to the LR board. I agree with everything stated here and would just add that the "30" size big game lever drag reels have come into promeninence in LR fishing because they afford the angler greater casting distances than the traditional heavy 50 big game size reels when using the standard live bait, pen cured sardine, which is the primary chum bait used on LR trips as well. Like several LR anglers have stated in previous posts the newer high quality 30 reels put out more consistant higher drag ratings than the stock 50's of old, and with the advent of Spectra, line capacity is no longer an issue 90+ percent of the time, and the superior casting of a 30 can be a big benefit when tuna fishing where getting your bait as far away from the boat as you can initially may often be the difference in getting bit well or not. The 30 size reel truly makes a lot of sense when you consider the game changing advances that have been implemented via R&D coupled with modern technology.


The other major advance IMO has been in RODS as the newer, lighter weight, better recoiling composite rods have made it easier to use the smaller reels and be successful. Using boat lift and leveraging the rail more effeciently with longer rail rods has changed the way many anglers fish LR today.


Perhaps there is a PART 3 on rods in the works here... then someone should eventually combine all the Parts into one post and have a basic "LR 101" reference guide for those who are interested in a "one stop" post (overview) of today's trends and proven methods.


Tight lines!
 
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HermosaJoe

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Perhaps there is a PART 3 on rods in the works here... then someone should eventually combine all the Parts into one post and have a basic "LR 101" reference guide for those who are interested in a "one stop" post (overview) of today's trends and proven methods.
Tight lines!

good idea
 
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etwizard

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Terrific write up. For the first time in a long time, I didn't think someone was trying to sell me something. Much appreciated.
 
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fishordie

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Jaime,
So, what should I use my old Tiagra 50's for? Maybe dropper loop weights?

Yo Dennis,

The Tiagra 50's have caught lots and lots of big tuna over the years. I prefaced my post noting the information was for those who were adding to or upgrading their inventory of Cow reels. The post was also for Newbies or those who had no Cow Reels or thought their reels were suitable for big Tuna but perhaps were not as appropriate as they thought.

For those who are happy with their existing gear there is no reason to spend another dime unless it is to make sure they are in good working order. However, for those looking at something more efficient or have no reels to use there are options which in my opinion are superior to the Tiagras or the old Penn Internationals. Again, both older reels have caught a ton of giant tuna and for those who are happy with them there is just no reason to change.

Now, if you happen to need a boat anchor or a paperweight AND you want to buy a new reel or reels, then perhaps your Tiagra will do that job just fine... At least the paperweight portion.

Jamie
 
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Atuna

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Jamie,

Just curious about the TREX version of the Avets. What seems to be the issue/concern?

Lance

Maybe...
There's too much drag and it's not fair to the Cows!
or (to paraphrase a famous movie line)
"You want the drag? ...You can't handle the drag!"

I fish the 50W, 50 topless and 30W TRX's. My experience has been that they are all capable cow reels.
They are heavy. The 50's weigh about a pound more than a comparable Accurate ATD. In my case, I'm a big guy and it's not an issue.
Having 100+ pounds of drag is overkill for tuna. There is no doubt about that. Heck! ...pullin 40 lbs. is work!
The advantage to me is that the drags are smooth, consistant and I don't have to push the reel to its design limits.
Look at the new Okuma Makairas. They're rated at 85lbs!

Jaime did say that he didn't recommend them for the "average" fisherman, so it'll be interesting.
 
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fishordie

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Jamie,

Just curious about the TREX version of the Avets. What seems to be the issue/concern?

Lance

Hi Lance,

When the Trex series first came on the scene I thought they were amazing... from an engineering point of view. Big, simple, tough and drag up the Wazoo. The entire drag system and approach was really cool... Literally as the design used large discs to spread the load, reduce the heat and the materials used were class A. Pricing at that time made this a true specialty reel for those looking for a monster reel or to fish with their rigs in a rod holder and just cranking when needed. Some Giant Tuna And big Shark fishermen do this technique to this day. The advantage these types of fishermen have, besides the obvious not having to hold onto a rig loaded with drag, is these same anglers normally use very big tuna or shark hooks which do not have a tendency to pull under high drag pressure. This is generally not a stealth type fishing operation. The ability of these reels to put out that kind of drag was very impressive. Pricing has since come down to reasonable levels or about a 25% reduction from the original. For those Looking for a Monster of a reel this could be great for you.

But.... Stand up Cow fishing, West Coast Long Range style, is very much about time at the rail. This means holding your rig for long periods of time under normal conditions. This also means the angler should be fairly aggressive in taking time to keep a fresh and lively bait in the zone, winding in when that bait is no longer active, and starting again. The same aggressive angler also does NOT put his or her rig on the rail, (Something we have all been guilty of at one time or another) rather keeps up that constant feel to know if the bait is working properly and just as importantly to know if that bait sees or feels something is about to do it harm... Such as a big Tuna.
(I will write why that can be important later in the series). This is where weight has an effect on the fisherman by wearing down the angler even if they are just holding the rig. The difference in weight of the reel compared to its competitors is not a few ounces rather it is in the 3/4 - 1.5 pound range which is a significant difference in weight for stand up fishermen.
Even big bait fishermen are holding their rigs for long periods of time and thus the weight can be a factor.

And finally the extreme drag capability of these reels, though impressive as heck, just cannot be used by Long Rangers at this time. Because we tend to use hooks, when flylining Sardines or small Mackeral, which are smaller and may not lodge in the fishes mouth as well as the old fashioned Tuna hooks, We just cannot use anywhere near that kind of drag potential. Thus the trade off for this wonderful series of reels may be too much for most anglers
(Weight vs. Power/monster drags).

However, with the newer, lower price these reasonably affordable reels certainly can be looked at if an angler is not too concerned with weight and just wants this big, Baaad Azzz, beautiful, easy maintenance reel. It is a brute and certainly can handle kite duties, big bait duties, etc. on most anything that swims in the ocean. For the lower price this is one heck of a lot of reel. Again, does the average West Coast Long Range angler have the need for this kind of beast while adding to the amount of weight they are holding onto?? My answer is no, this reel is not for the majority. As always this is just my opinion and by no means holds true for everyone.

Jamie
 
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DV4701

Almost A Member
Sep 16, 2010
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San Bernardino County
Thanks Fishordie and ATUNA. I just figured that at 30# at strike there was more than enough for the end game. Never thought once of going max. 30# at strike is enough for me and I'm 6-4 240.
 
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Steve K

Hey, I'm gettin' bit...
Jan 2, 2005
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18' Bayrunner, but I like the American Angler and the Red Rooster III
Jaime,
So, what should I use my old Tiagra 50's for? Maybe dropper loop weights?

Although it's nice to have the newer topless reels for managing a flylined Sardine, there's certainly an application for reels like yours and my venerable old Penn 50S. When you fish down in the Lower Zone there are opportunities to fish big baits (Salamis) at Clarion and Hurricane Bank as well as Chunks. Don't really need the latest Gucci gear for this. However, these reels sincerely benefit from a trip to one of the Hot Rod shops like Cal or Cofe. The work they do make these reels better in regard to fishing heavier drags with no binding of the handles and good freespool.

Similar to older rods in the quiver, some of the guys are stripping off their roller guides and replacing them with ringed guides like the Turbos. Nice for casting a Sardine, but these roller guide rods still have an applications in the arena we call the Lower Zone.
 
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Dave Malone

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Feb 28, 2014
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Dave Malone
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Good evening all,

Well, we now have a bit of information on hooks and connections. It was great to see other knowledgeable folks post additional information on this subject. Since no one fisherman I know has intimate knowledge of everything regarding fishing it is wonderful to have others share their hard earned knowledge. As I have noted in the past THIS time period may be looked back upon as the Golden age of Long Range Fishing as we now have so much free information given by those who have worked hard and continue to develop and learn skills and techniques which once took a life time to obtain. I love learning from others as well as doing my own development and discoveries. Thank you to all who have shared their knowledge with me.

Lets talk about gear for the Ultra Long Range trip you are planning.

REELS:

Over the last several years reel manufacturers have really upped their game regarding more powerful and comfortable reels in smaller and lighter packages.

When I first began Long Ranging in the early 60's my first reel had a leather thumb drag and was a direct drive meaning when the spool was turning the handle was turning. Maaaan I wish I could find where I put that thing. Anyway my dad could not afford the fancy gear AND pay for the trip so we used what we could. A few years later I remember looking in the reel window at our local tackle shop at those amazing gold reels. There were both the Penn Internationals and the Fin Nor (I forget the series) but these were like looking at the finest Rembrandt in the art galleries. I dreamed one day I too would own one of these amazing reels.

Today, you have the choice of Gold, Platinum, green, blue, purple and the list goes on. Since I am writing more in regards to Long Range Cow type reels I will try and stick with that. There are several great options out there for most every reasonable wallet size but here are a few of my suggestions and opinions (We all know what opinions are like but these are mine). It is important to note regardless what drag setting a manufacturer claims their reels can put out the ability to have a high drag setting does not a West Coast Long Range Cow reel make.

One thing I would like to make clear to all is for most reel companies the West Coast Long Ranger is NOT or at least HAS NOT BEEN their target market. Jamie... Say it ain't so.....After all are we not on the cutting edge of Sportfishing??? Though I do believe we ultra long rangers do require the toughest gear we have to remember our numbers are less than 4000 folks world wide. Heck that number could be less than 3000 by now but I believe it could be climbing again. Compare that to the rest of the world whose millions of non long range angler demands are a bit different than ours and you will see, until recently, very few manufacturers really cared or at least totally catered to us. After all we are crazy enough to spend another 100- 300 dollars to have an aftermarket reel person give us another 10% more free spool or 30% more drag capability. The rest of the world was just not willing to spend that extra dough. Additionally building reels to stand up to the additional burdens we Long rangers are placing on our gear was a profit losing proposition. Until recently I do believe many manufacturers just though we were nuts.... Maybe they were right.

LINE CAPACITY: Cow fishing is not for those reels which can handle less than 650 and preferably 700 yds of line. I am not talking about the specialty reels or those anglers who live on the edge with way less line capacity (I might be guilty in some aspects of this with my Spinners and smaller reels) rather I am speaking for the majority of anglers out there looking to update their inventory.

PROPER DRAGS: Cow fishing is not for reels which cannot easily create, and more importantly maintain, 30 pounds minimum (You may actually set you drags higher or lower but for purposes of my opinion I need to pick a number) of drag at strike during several blistering runs and at least a couple of hours (yes I know some of you will land a fish much faster but that is not the point) of punishment on a big fish. Knowing about the drag ability of a reel can only be done through a series of testing or now we have these boards to give good opinions on the viability of each anglers favorite or even not favorite reels. Many reels can put out 40 or more pounds of drag but this does not mean these reels are right for West Coast Long Ranging. Drag Material durability, the ability of the reel drag system to dissipate heat, quality of bearings and materials used, etc. all go into making a proper and longer lasting cow reel. This is why, to date, you probably will not find a Cow reel under about $450.00 - $500.00 as the cost of proper quality components just cannot be gotten around. Of course the cost can go well above $1000.00 for a top of the line reel.

CRANK-ABILITY:

The ability for the angler to get a turn or partial turn of the handle at an appropriate drag setting. Here is where the design and quality of a reel translates into an easier or more difficult time for the angler to actually gather line while the fish is trying his or her darnedest to escape. The Manufacturer has to decide on how long to make the crank arm, what the quality of his bearings are, the type of grip/handle to be used and just as importantly the efficiency of the innards of all the internal components. Without getting all engineering like the more efficient reels will have tighter tolerances, better materials, better contact surfaces and better internal components. The stiffness of the reel casing it self will also come into play as any give in the casing or mounting points inside the reel will create a loss of efficiency. A cow reel should be able to spin a manually stopped spool in low gear with over 30 pounds of drag applied with no flex either inside or outside of the reel. However, just because a reel has a super long crank arm, giving the angler a bunch of torque on the reel, again does not make this a cow reel. The Manufacturers have to weigh the value of the ability of the angler to get a ton of torque on the reel Vs. the damage all that torque can do to the guts of the reel. Because of the size and weight considerations manufacturers have to consider there is a tradeoff in how much the guts of the reel can handle as it applies to loads and torque.

FREE SPOOL:

The ability of the spool of a reel to spin for long periods of time both at low or no drag settings as well as at maximum drag settings.
In the old days and still today the angler can set their strike setting at the most drag they would consider using then back the drag lever off into free spool and give the spool a spin by hand. Depending on the internal system used by the manufacturer some reels will not have any impact on free spool when you put maximum drag at strike or full and others will have a real impact on free spool. The quality of the bearings along with the type of grease or oil used for a variety of reasons will also impact the free spool. Sometimes a great reel can have a thicker grease applied at the factory which can affect free spool. Some of us crazies on the West Coast have tried changing out the factory grease for Speed butter (My own Name) using such materials as graphite impregnated oils/lubricants or other similar type slip and slide materials. The draw back to this is the manufacturers grease provides some protection against water, especially salt water, intrusion where as the high speed lubes may not be so wonderful in their protection abilities. Before going to a high speed lube consider how much additional maintenance you are going to commit to your reels. For some of us a 100% resistance free spool would be the best and we are willing to pay for it. Others who have a tendency to develop backlashes may not crave it like us but once you learn how to manage your free spool you will want as much as you can get. Sort of like those great See's Candies Dark Chocolate with Marzipan in the middle... Ooops sorry, got off on a tangent.

AFTERMARKET REEL MODIFICATION COMPANIES:

Some after market companies like Cal Sheets or Cofe have improved the innards of reels in other ways including Cal's having their own wonderful grease. They also change out certain components of the insides, machine certain areas, install sleeves, etc. For many of us over the years the contribution of these after market companies have been enormous and highly beneficial. In today's world large reel manufacturers are coming to these specialized shops and getting input into how to build better reels. None the less these after market shops will still be doing their thing as the majority of the world is not willing to pay for nor increase the maintenance factors incurred due to the type of modifications we on the West Coast are so desirous of. In short, reel manufacturers will give us stronger and more robust reels in smaller packages but affordability will limit the extent they go in this regard. Thank you guys.

MAINTENANCE OF COW REELS:

For those of you who remember the Penn Senator series, including the famous Jigmaster, you remember the days of going fishing and throwing these fabulous reels back into whatever storage facility you had. Every now and then you would remember Penn provided oil for lubrication and decide now is a good time to poke some into those little oil holes designed just for that purpose. On even more rare occasions we might even get industrious and remove a few screws, check out the insides and put it back together again in just a few minutes. These battle scarred reels would be just as good as new the next time you took them out to go fishing even years later. Who the heck ever cared about Dartanium or Wallmart Tanium or another Tanium for drag replacements?? We just went fishing. Well ladies and gentlemen when it comes to cow fishing the days of the mighty Senators are well behind us. Today Maintenance is just part of the deal. When we spend thousands and thousands of dollars just for the trip portion it is imperative we give ourselves the best chance of catching the beasts we are searching. One of the best insurance policies we can take out is keeping up on the Maintenance a care of our reels. For most of us that means sending them or taking them to the reel manufacturer for R and R or to our local KNOWLEDGEABLE LONG RANGE TACKLE SHOPS for regular maintenance. Sure some guys work on their own reels and really know their stuff but if you have any doubt send them out.... for R and R that is. NO not rest and relaxation.
Please note I highlighted KNOWLEDGEABLE LONG RANGE TACKLE SHOPS as these shops really understand the extra stresses and strains we crazies on West Coast Long Range boats put on our gear and thus are just more attentive to the little things which can really wreck the multi-thousand dollar trips.

For protection of the reels while on a trip products such as Saltex are great to spray, in properly mixed amounts, on your reels every day after use and then used in accordance with the instructions during the tear down portion of the trip. Breathable reel covers are another way to protect your reels and line especially during travel days. However, I do see Plastic bags used for this application and I am just not sure about that as I do not want moisture building up inside the bag. Though I cannot swear to the negative aspects of a plastic bag I personally would not use this in place of a reel cover or just leaving the reel exposed.

BUY AMERICAN OR NOT??

This is a tough one and a choice each of us make every day on a thousand different products. Even many of the products which claim to be made in American we cannot be sure every detail of the product is made in America. This is very much an Angler specific question whose answer cannot be made by anyone but yourself. In my opinion there is no right or wrong answer to this one but luckily for those who only wish to buy American there are choices. I for one want the best bang for my buck and certainly the best quality and given an equal choice between American and foreign it will be hands down American. However, if the gap of quality or bang for the buck is not close to being equal then I will go foreign at least to certain foreign countries. Yes, even I have places I will not buy from but to date I am not aware those places are making anything for the fishing industry.

PRICE TO VALUE RATIO:

Just like reels everyone's wallet size our demands from a reel are not the same. Each angler has to decide how they want to mix their hard earned dollars for Rods, reels, terminal tackle and of course the most important expenditure being the Long Range trip itself. Each of the reels I will note below should be able to provide the angler a life time of use and therefore amortizing the cost of the reel, in theory, can come into play. However, each angler must decide based on their own criteria how much to pay for this very important piece of equipment. Having worked in a great tackle shop I have heard most every reason why an individual wants a particular reel including the color matches the wrapping on their daughter's rod. If that is the most important thing for you then my all means that should dictate your purchase however, those who ask me my opinion for the reel which meets their wallet size I might suggest something other than pink unless you are willing to change the colors at an additional expense. Hey, who am I to question a Pink Accurate ATD???

WHAT SIZE REEL TO PURCHASE:

Another place where there are lots of different ideas but for me size and weight of the reels have always played a significant role. For decades I have used reels smaller than most folks and have been told my reels (No, not a certain part of my anatomy) were too small to handle big fish. Over the years I have watched as smaller reels have become the norm rather than the exception. Remember in the old days a 16 size Penn Senator was normal. Then an 80 wide Penn International was normal. Then 50 wides were normal and now 30 size reels are seen quite often with some of us going to smaller reels yet. Today's 30 size reels are probably putting out more power than yesterdays 50 size reels regardless of spool size. Prior to using Spectra and even thinner braided Dacron none of us suspected we could have enough line capacity to handle these big fish unless there was at least a 50W noted somewhere on the reel. Not true today. Now the decision comes down to how much drag the individual angler can handle for a reasonable period of time. Since in Part 1 of this series I explained how to become completely comfortable with your connections we will eliminate that issue as a problem.... Yeah right...

If you as an angler are not prepared to fish with 28 pounds or more of drag then line capacity will certainly be an issue. I do not believe getting a turn on the handle will be an issue but capacity could be thus getting a 50 size or 50W size reel may be the ticket. However, (I seem to always have a however) watching folks become quickly familiar with rail rodding and or fishing from a harness with today's great gear I do believe many folks, if not the majority, can easily and happily fish with a 30 size appropriate reel. Now if your goal is only to catch a 300 or 400 pound Yellowfin Tuna from a long range boat then perhaps you need a 50W but for the rest of us who are happy with a mere 100 - 299 pounder, yet knowing we still have a chance for the gold ring 300 pounder, then the 30 may be just the ticket for you.

USING THE BOATS GEAR:

For new comer's to the sport or those on a serious budget... Hmmm in these economic times that covers a whole lot of anglers, a fabulous option is to choose to use the boats gear. Gone are the days on top Long Range operations of old used boat gear, badly worn lines, non maintained reels, etc. Today, the great operations have the latest and greatest in the world of reels mounted to comparable rods, loaded with Spectra and ready for you to just pay for top shots. Though I love to sell reels this is certainly an option for those who have to choose between trying an ultra long range trip and not having enough money due to buying the gear.

DISCLAIMER:

My opinions on Cow Reels are just that.. Opinions. Again, we have a very much personal approach to what are the best reels. My favorite choice might be another angler's paper weight. Additionally, Every manufacturer I have ever heard of have had reels fail on Cow Trips. Many folks base their opinions on their own experience with a failure but please remember this IS going to happen sometime, somewhere, on one or more of the manufacturers individual reels. Breakdowns are just the nature of the game we have chosen so be careful coming to any quick conclusions rather give each reel its proper due based on hours of the number of on the water use. A manufacturer who has learned from past mistakes and fixed the issue is a good manufacturer however making sure you do not purchase a used item which was not fixed or updated could spell disaster. Our job is to do everything we can to make sure it is not OUR reel that fails due to operator error. There are as many favorite reels as there are anglers but these are just my opinions based on whatever testing or knowledge I have had with them.

JAMIE'S REEL CHOICES (non kite use)
Lets get ready to Rummmmbbbbbleeee!!!!!!!!.

My personal preference for the last 8 years has been the Accurate ATD series of reels. Being in the Aerospace Business, more in particular the manufacturing and design end of things, I could easily appreciate the engineering and sophistication of the approach to the design and build Accurate has placed into these super high end reels. Since not all reels are created equal I took my time and decided these were the reels for me. I have not regretted that decision ever since. In my opinion, with the advent of spectra enlarging the line capacity of reels, we have been fortunate to reduce the size and weight of the reels down to tools which can be easily held for long periods of time. For me, my clear choice IF PRICE IS NOT AN OBJECT would be an Accurate 30 topless ATD. Others may say once you establish the gearing every reel is the same but my opinion is that is utter nonsense. There absolutely is an efficiency of design and build which goes into every mechanical object including fishing reels. In this case, again, all reels are not created equal. For this angler the line capacity is great for 99.9% of the fish one encounters on a Long Range trip. With the ATD series a 30 size has all the power one would expect from a 50 size reel yet is smaller and lighter. All around this reel, along with all the ATD series, has more power transfer from the crank to the spool than any reel I have found to date. Free spool out of the box is certainly better than most and increase in drag has no affect on free spool. The draw back to these ATD reels is price and a need for more maintenance. Accurate includes the price of annual maintenance in the price of these reels with the angler only paying for shipping. Of course you can save that price by picking up and delivering to the factory in Corona, California. However, this free service is limited in duration. After that time period there will be a cost. Though in the past, few outside of the factory were willing to work on these reels Accurate has sold enough of them to have others learning how to maintain these reels. I believe at least one boat has Accurate ATD's as their loaners and can work on the reels on board.

Up until recently I would have had a tough time with choice number 2 but over the last year I have experienced,seen and heard enough examples of the Okuma Makaira series successes to consider them an excellent Cow reel. In particular I am referring to the 20II, 30II and the 30SE (This 30SE could be the one cross over reel for those who just demand the capacity of a 50 but want a 30 spool height). For many this could become choice number 1 due to the cost vs. value equation. At less than half the price of the ATD this is a serious reel and may get even better as Okuma continues to LLI......Listen, Learn and Improve (I just made that up). Yes, Okuma is an offshore company but let's face it America, we all need to get on the LLI train. After all customer service and attention to what your user needs and wants is fairly cheap but is worth its weight in gold... or platinum or....?? Okuma seems to have LLI in Spades. The free spool on these reels is excellent as they have listened to expert aftermarket reel guys and implemented what they learned. Okuma is listening to both their on the water pros as well as the regular guys using their gear. After all the pros really do not pay for the R and D of these reels rather the regular Joe and Jane, who pay retail, are the folks providing the profit. Take a bow Okuma for using America's old recipe for success (Customer Service, ingenuity, Customer service and attention to detail to build a great product today. If I had to select a negative to these reels it would be the length of the crank arm. I think it could be a bit longer for Long Rangers. For all I know Okuma may be working on this.

Number 3 is a whole bunch tougher to decide but comes out as a tie. The Old Grand Dame of the industry Penn has gone through a series of ownership changes but today has the VSX line of "Gold" International Reels. Another pro active company Penn also went to aftermarket companies for input yet wanted to retain their "Bullet Proof" reputation as a reel maker. These are excellent reels at a good price point but a bit on the heavy side for this angler. However, Please remember, I am using mostly ATD's so I may not be indicative of the average user. None the less the reels free spool beautifully out of the box and have plenty of smooth drag capabilities well in excess of what we need for Cow fishing. The 30 VSX is certainly an excellent option for those who just love their Gold Reels.

Tied with Penn is American company Avet who really made a splash years ago with an affordable, lightweight and simple to use and easy to maintain reel. When these reels first came out I was a bit uncomfortable with them as cow reels. Like any great Manufacturer they listened to the market and improved their simple designs for light weight, mid priced reels with the Pro series. The Sand Diego Special 50 (SDS 50) was a real hit when it first came out and has caught a ton of big fish. The Pro series was a great improvement over their past designs while their specialty reels noted as Trex showed they could build reels designed for 100 pounds of drag. Oh my!!!!! Avet then came out with their Raptor series on their smaller reels which some, including me with a couple of the HXW Raptors, being used on big fish. At this time I would not recommend the average cow angler use their Raptor series reels for cows nor the Trex but I do believe the Pro EX/2 30W and 50SDS are both viable options. The Pro EX2 30 is another option but in my opinion a bit light on line capacity for most long range anglers.

Though I hear Tiburon has come out with some outstanding Cow reels in a 50T at around 900 dollars and 50W around 970 dollars (I do not see a need for the 50W for general long range applications) along with Shimano hosting their Talica 50 at over 1000 dollars I cannot comment on these reels as I have Zero experience with them. That said, based on what I know of each manufacturer and their products today, I do not doubt both companies will make an outstanding top of the line product. However, at those price points I am not sure how much impact they will have on West Coast Long Ranging.

Last Year Fin-Nor showed me a new prototype design which I felt had some possibilities. I do not know if they will come out with a true Long Range Cow reel as right now their products do not meet my criteria but if they do I hope they do it right. Time will tell but based on the history of most all of the reel manufacturers who have gone through periods of unacceptable quality each should have a chance to prove themselves. Fin Nor, whose reels were once out of the reach of mere mortal fishermen, is no exception.

Also, I am curious what, if any new reels, will be shown at the Fred Hall show this year. I guess we all will have to wait on that one unless you have some sort of inside knowledge. Just remember it is illegal to use your inside knowledge for personal gain... SEC.

KITE REELS:

My first two choices for the majority of long rangers is to use the boats gear. Come to think of it the boats gear is also my third choice. Three reasons to spend the money on kite reels. The first being some of us just love owning our own reels knowing exactly what kind of maintenance, line condition and use our reels have experienced. The second is we just love owning all of our own gear not having to worry about the availability of a boats kite rod during a red hot bite. Yes, the boat gear can get used up in these situations and you will just have to wait your turn. It does not happen often but it does happen. And third we want a reason to own a larger than average reel.... AS if we really need a reason. However, I am not convinced for those who go long range often and are targeting those coveted 300+ pounders a 50W used as a kite reel then, when not in Kite use, rigged for big bait or even sardines, if you do not mind holding these beasts, is just not a bad item to have in your arsenal as long as the expenditure does not affect your ability to go on trips, tip the crew, pay your mortgage (This one is iffy) or purchase other needed long range items. If these three meet your criteria then I would still go back to my order of manufacturers to purchase their 50W 2 speed reels. For me I use an Accurate 80 but clearly I am making up for a lot of issues I had as a child as I also own a Corvette.... Okay, that one is a factory race car but that is another story for another site.

TROLLING REELS: Refer back to my suggestions for kite reels as far as when to use the boats gear and when to purchase. Because Trolling gear tends to take a pretty good beating while just in the racks, in the trolling straps giving the gear more exposure to saltwater intrusion, being exposed on most boats dirty exhaust, having both other trolling lines and sliders lines crossing over them possibly causing damage and and generally only gets used a few times per trip, owning trolling gear might not be your first choice especially if it impacts the ability of the angler to pay for other items as noted above. However, if you do decide to purchase then here is Where I would purchase a decent 30 wide or 50 size reel for the job. Getting that troll fish in quickly really helps pull the school in so the bigger gear is great. However, since we have reasonable priced options I would again go to one of the reel choices noted above in the 30W, 50 or even 50W options I have noted.

Okay, I have to get back to my other life now. Hopefully this Part 2 will be informative for a few of you.

Jamie
 
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Dave Malone

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Feb 28, 2014
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Dave Malone
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Jamie

The explanation is a work of art, carefully written, articulate and most of all informative!

Thanks for taking the time!

Dave
 
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