Soft Plastics: Light Estuary
The rods suitable for casting light weight jig heads for soft plastics are all composed of graphite, as a general rule the higher the grade of graphite the better the quality of rod, some rod manufactures rate the grade of graphite ie: im6, im7 and im8, im8 being the higher grade and better quality. Rod manufactures nowadays also talk about them in tonnage of Graphite,20 tonne, 30 tonne and 50 tonne graphite again the higher the tonnage the better the quality of the graphite, the scrims in the graphite are run tighter together and give it a stiffer yet more sensitive feel.
Graphite rods will load your jig head up better for casting and you can work the soft plastic back with a more pronounced action, there are a number of rods on the market anywhere from $60 and upwards that will do the job for you but for the sake of this article i will mention the more renowned brands and better quality that will definitely put you ahead in your chances of catching fish and enjoying your day on the water.
Shimano Fishing Australia are now the importers for Loomis rods into Australia. There is now a massive Rod selection across the range and you'ew better off going into your local dealer to fine tune your needs but the models I'd mention here for our Feeder Creek/Estuary fishing needs are the G Loomis GL2 802s which will set you back around $270. The G Loomis Freshwater, Estuary DSR820s, DSR820s GL2 SH, these models are 1 piece and for those that prefer a 2 piece model these are also available with a retail of about $300. Check out their Australian distributor website www.shimanofish.com and follow the links.
Top of the line in the Daiwa range is the Daiwa Battler AGS V2 with the 701LFS Beowolf being the model of choice for what we want to do with light Tackle work with Soft Plastics which is a 1 piece Seven foot rod with a rating of 2-4kg and will retail around the market for $699.95 if you've got the bucks to spend. There is also the standard AGS range with the AGS Feral Cat 1-4kg model coming in a bit cheaper at about $550.
There is the Daiwa Black Label V2 model of choice being the V2701LXS which retails at about $299. In the entry level there is the Daiwa Laguna LGC range which will hit you about $99. Again check their Australian website out at www.daiwafishing.com.au
Shimano have quite a few entry level rods for Soft Plastics fishing if you're on a budget and worth a mention are the 2015 Revolution Inshore range with the choice model being the Ultra Light Spin 702 though it is a 2 piece model and retails about $180. Cheapest are the Ctanas with a retail of about $70.
The Shimano Raider range have always been a favourite of entry level Shimao lovers and reatil at about $120 with choice model for finnesse soft plastic work being the 610 Flathead Spin.
A bit higher up in thier price range is the Anarchy range with a retail of about $350 with a choice model being the 701LSpin. There is the Zodias ZOD268L with a retail of about $320. Check out the full range on Shimano's website. Their Australian website is www.shimanofish.com.au
These are my rods of choice and now well established in the Australian market as avery reputable company with a full range of top products. They do a full range from entry level to top end gear at a very competitive price for the quality of product. They also do a full range of offshore and deep water jigging rods.
Their top end product for the Soft Plastic market is the ZRT 6101SL retailing around $499 but well worth every cent and more besides, it features Fuji Titanium K & KR concept SIC guides and a Fuji VSS reel seats on a very high quality im8 blank. Next in line is the feather weight light bank of the C12 Gen 2 rod range which features the latest Silicon Fuji K series guides and retails at $330.00 with the SC611 SL and the SC6112 SL being our rods of preference
My rod of choice aboard my charters is the Zing Xtreme range with the SXZ701SL accounting for all 99% of the fish you'll see under my gallery section with a retail of $199 it's a bargain at 2 time the price.They have now alos launced the Zing Gen 2 whick I will be trailing for the 2017 season. There is also the standard Zing if you can still get your hands on them and then at entry level we have the Skitch Nano retailing at about $90.
Check out all their models at www.samaki.com.au
Again this is a brief guide to the better options available for you on the Australian market, if you have any problem sourcing any of the rod models mentioned, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and I can source for you.
Spinning reels or eggbeaters as they are often affectionately named in Australia are sized from 1000, 2000 etc upwards, 1000 being the smaller size, there is a slight variation between companies in their sizes, the sizes suitable for the rods listed above should go no bigger than a 2500 reel, there are obviously a lot of specifications to consider when purchasing a reel for soft plastic and lurework in general, the main two factors are ball bearing quantity and quality and reel body weight, the lighter the better when you are flicking lures all day.
The top of the line in the Shimano range is their Stella, the two sizes we look at here are 1000 and a 2500, the more recent model in 2013 is the FE, These are a 14 ball bearing reel with the 1000 size giving you 3kgs of Drag while the 2500 amps up to 10kgs of drag with a 50 gram weight difference. The 2500 size also has a higher rate of retrieve as well as the extra line capacity. The 1000 will cost you between the $650 to $700 bracket while the 2500 will come in at about an extra $80.
The Twin Power is a reel favoured by Shimano fans in the mid to high end range, it's a 9 ball bearing reel plus the roller bearing retailing around the $500 price range available in a 1000, 2000 and 2500 sized reels with the 1000 and 2000 weighing 195 grammes and with 3kg of drag, the 2500 weighs a bit more at 240 grammes and has 4kg of drag.
The Nasci reel is an entry level reel new for 2016 reatiling around the $200 dollar mark available in both 1000 and 2500 with the 2500 offering an impressive 9kg of drag and weighing 235 gram. The 1000 model offers 3kg of drag with is quite proficent and weighs a 210 gram.
The Biomaster FB is the next model worth a look at again in both the 1000 and 2500 sizes, these will set you back around the $340 mark and run 8 ball bearings with 5kgs of drag on the 1000 size model and 8.5 on the slightly heavier and bulkier 2500 size.
Then worth a mention and popular amongst a lot of the Shimano fans are the Sustain and Stradic models with the Sustain FG and Stradic C14. Again Shimano sizes we look at here are 1000 and 2500, The Sustain runs 8 ball bearings in the 1000 size with 5kgs of drag and weights in at 200 grammes while the 2500 model runs an extra ball bearing with 8kgs of drag and weights in at 260 grammes. They will both cost you about $300. The Stradic C14 runs 7 ball bearings in both the 1000 and 2500 size while the 1000 weights 176 grammes with 2.7kgs of drag with the 2500 weighing 198 grammes with 7kgs of drag. The 2013 range of stradics will cost you about the $330 mark.
Again for further details and more involved specifications check out the Shimano website.
Top of the field in the Daiwa fleet is the Exist, the top end models also run additional features like Mag seal and Air rotors, the exist is a 13 ball bearing reel and exceptionally light at 165g for their smallest sized model the 1025, also the 2500 size which comes in fractionally heavier at 195g with 7kgs of drag, bear in mind Daiwa's 2000 size is slightly smaller than that of a similar Shimano. The range of 2016 model Daiwa Exists retail around the traps at $850 mark.
The Daiwa Steez model in a 2508H size with 7 ultimate ball bearings and Tournament drag capable of 7Kgs and weighing in at 195g is a fishing machine and will set you back around $790.
The Daiwa Battler is available in a 2000 size and runs a quality 10 ball bearings plus the roller bearing weighing in at 190 grammes with 2kg of drag.
The Daiwa Certate model has always been high on my list with the 2016 models boasting 11 ball bearings and are an excellent reel of choice in the $550 to $600 bracket with the 1003, 2004 and 2500 and 2506 sizes covering all the bases you need, I run a 1003 size myself and have caught Barramundi to 90cms and metre plus Queenfish on it.
There is also then the Luvias in a 2004 and 2506 size, this is a 8 ball bearing reel plus the roller bearing with the 2004 weighing in at 185g and the 2506 weighing 200g. The Luvias will cost you about $450.
The Caldia B range are an excellent reel which I've been using extensively for 2016 with the 2000 and 2500 sizes being the two more favoured to our pursuits with Soft Plastics. These are a 7 ball bearing reel and retails around the shops at $349.
The 2015 Freams is another model to consider reatiling about the $250 mark available in a 2000 and 2500 size running 4 ball baerings plus the roller bearing.
The very popular Daiwa Sol range and is now the Sol 2 which is an 8 ball bearing reel featuring Mag seal and Air rotor and the two sizes in our sights here are the 2004 and 2508 which sell around the traps at about $300.
Once again check out the Daiwa website for full specifications.
With line for soft plastic work gel spun or braid is preferable over ordinary mono filament or nylon line mainly for two very important factors.
1) It does not stretch, if you place a metre of mono filament line between your hands and pull you can feel an actual pull or stretch, now imagine if you have 30mtrs out and are trying to impair a natural action on a lure, the stretch is enhanced plus when you do hook up it's enhanced even more whereas with braid you can impair an action on your lure a lot more easily and give it a much better and natural action thus improving your chances of hooking up which is what it's all about.
2) Braided line is a lot thiner than it's equivalent breaking strain of mono filament lines, a 6lb breaking strain braid for example would be the equivalent in diameter to a 2lb mono line. This in return benefits you in two ways, it will give you a lot more line capacity on your reel thus you can use a small reel that will still carry lots of line and will not be as heavy on your rod so you can cast easier and for longer without breaking your wrist and because the line is thiner it will have less wind resistance and will cast further.
All true braids are woven from strands of spectra and like everything else you get different quality ones, the more strands the better quality of braid. Our enemy when we are casting lighter jig heads and lures are air knots or little birds nests which are more commonly caused by bda and cheaper reel choice and purchasing cheaper quality braids.
1) Number one choice for me these days is Daiwa J Briad, it's an 8 strand braid and I've had a lot of different braids thrown at me over the years but by far this one excels the rest of them in it's abilty to cast and avoid air knots. I use a high visibilty green line in 8lb breaking strain, the high viz helps me detect bites on the drop and I can often yell out to the client to strkie before they even realise they have a bite.
Stren micro-fuse which is as the name suggests a micro-fused line which comes in a high visible fluoro blue, i'd recommend the use of either the 4lb or 6lb, you can get this line in 125yrd spools. Remember to back your reel with some mono-filament line of equal or greater strength as this benefits you in two ways. The fuller the reel is to the lip the better it will cast plus it gives your braid something to bite into, if you don't and run it straight on there is a chance the line will slip on itself and the whole spool of braid will turn at the base, a weird feeling when it happens!
2) Rapala titanium braid, again in either the 4lb or 6lb, this also comes in a hi-vis blue and is available in 125mtr or 300mtr spools.
3) Berkley fireline which is available in two colours, smoke and fluoro green, I prefer the green as it enables you to see what your line is doing at all times. Again in either the 4 or 6lb breaking strains and this is also available in 125 or 300mtr spools.
I can't emphasise enough the importance of using fluorocarbon leader, as light passes through water it refracts and stuff stands out under water to fish like a sore thumb. Fluorocarbon has the sane light refractive index as water thus making it practically invisable.
But some fish are more cautious and have better eyesight than others, the lighter the fluorocarbon you use the better your chance of hook up. If you are targeting bream you can go as light as 3lb but you do then run the risk of a Flathead nailing your lure and getting bitten off.
You should run about a rod length of leader material, this is so your lure should run about 6 inches below the tip of your rod when you are ready to cast and the knot where it ties to your double of braid, (I will post the rigging and knots for you in a separate post) runs just outside your bail arm so as not to catch on your spool lip.
There are a number of Fluorocarbon leader manufacturers out there, my number one choice for abrasion resistance is Siglon, others are Niton and Vanish. The japanese stuff tends to be the best. Most come in a variance of 2lb strenghts from about 4lb upwards, a good range to carry is 4, 6, 8, 10 and 14lb.
There are a number of different jig head manufacturers on the market which basically produce the same type of jig heads, the main difference between them is the quality or type of hook they use to mould their jig heads to. Gamakatsu jig heads are of good quality and as they name suggests they use gamakatsu hooks, they do a variety of different styles, check out their website www.gamakatsu.com.au. The round 25 and round 26 style are the most popular and will cover you for most estuary species .If you run a good quality outfit like those mentioned above you will be able to cast jig heads down to 1/22oz.
The most common sizes I run are 1/16, 1/11 and 1/8oz, I use Maple softie jig heads which you can buy in 20pc packs which run more economical than the 6 packs most companies market, they run Zukuri hooks in a fine wire type pattern and have a good soft plastic keeper ribbing the same as the gamakatsu style holder. Their Website is www.maplefishing.com.au Other jig head manufacturers are Tackle Tactics jig heads, Bassmaster jig heads and Squidgy jig heads. If you are really keen and have access to cheap lead you can buy the actual moulds and hooks and make your own.
There are too many numerous soft plastics on the market to mention every brand, breed and size, what I will attempt to do here is mention the few that i find work best on a regular basis for me and my customers in the various conditions I encounter on the Sunshine Coasts waterways. As a general rule I find if the water visibility is murky or about two foot of visibility the brighter colours work better and if the water clarity is good then the more natural colours work better. The worst mistake you can make with regard to soft plastic selection is having a favourite, what will work great one day may not fire the next and the lure you had no good with previously will suddenly fire on the day. Unfortunately we are all guilty of this mistake and usually revert to our ol' favourite.
These are a favourite of mine, again they do a few different varieties, the more popular ones for estuary work being Rack Gliders, Dune Bugs, 65mm Curl Tails and 55mm Shad Fish. These guys are made out of a really resilient plastic which will stretch beyond belief without breaking, thus saving you money. I have often caught six or more fish on the one plastic whereas with other plastics one fish and they are ripped and you have to get another one from the packet. Again their website is www.maplefishing.com.au
Starlo & Bushy's Squidgies have been around for quite some time and are available in every tackle shop in Australia. They do a large range and an even bigger colour range, for a full selection check out www.squidgy.com.au The more popular ones that work for me are the 65mm Wriggler, 75mm Shad, the 70mm Bugs and the 50mm Stealth Prawn.
In the Wrigglers the Flash Prawn and Coral for the murky water with Silver Fox, Dusk and Blue Oyster my choice for clearer water conditions. In the Shads Red Rum and Black Opal for less visibility and Lemon Chicken, Evil Minnow and Foxy Shad again my choice for the clearer water. The bugs work good at or near the surface with resin jig heads for finicky Bream. Coral, Jelly Prawn and Bloodworm my choice here but all of these will generally only work if conditions are pretty clear. With the Stealth Prawns Coral will work in the dirtier water again and Tiger prawn and Flash my other Two choices for clearer conditions.
Berkley do two forms of Soft plastics on the Australian market worth a mention, Power baits and Gulps.
In their Power Bait range the more popular ones for estuary work are the 2" powergrubs,the better colours i find that work for me are Pumpkinseed, Pumpkinseed (tournament), Bloodworm and Black Marble. The Dropshot Minnow in the 3'' is also worth a flick, best colours here are Pearl Watermelon Shad, Smelt, Pumpkinseed and Bloodworm.
In the Gulp range again they do a 2'' jigging grub, recommended colours Pumpkinseed and Smoke. Also Gulp Minnows in the 2" and 3'' range, best colours that work for me Pumpkinseed, Nuclear Chicken, Smelt and Watermelon Pearl. The Shaky Shad in the 3" is definitely worth a cast Pumpkinseed and Smelt my choice. There is also the Gulp Alive range which comes in a tub of its juice, the Gulp Alive 3" Minnow in Pumpkinseed being my preferred weapon.15
The following knots will give you the best performance out of your terminal gear.
The following Video clip will show you how to tie a plaited double, the reason why we do this is that it will bring you from your single strand of breaking strain line to twice its strength so that when we tie off to our leader material even if we lose 50% strength in the knot we are still back to the breaking strain of our main line.
We use this knot to tie our leader material off to the above double we have just tied....your length of leader should be about a rod length or just so that your improved allbright knot sits just outside the bail arm of the reel when you cast.
Improved Blood knot
This is a pretty basic Fishing Knot that most of you are familiar with and we use this to tie off to our Jig Head with.