Soft Plastics: Offshore
The Reels that we use for Soft Plastics are Threadline or "Egg-Beater" type style reels as they are affectionately known in Australia. Shimano and Daiwa who are the more prevalent brands on the Australian market size their reels a little bit differently with Shimano's smallest size reel being a 1000 then up to a 2500, 3000, 4000, 5000, etc. Daiwa do a few different sizes in between with 1500 and 2000's , 3000's being examples and though not exactly to scale so to speak the sizes are pretty compatible.
The size of reels that we use for offshore Soft Plastics vary between a 3000 size and 4500 size, most people make the mistake of going too big and heavy with their outfits, with the advent of braided line and good quality rods there is no need to go with heavy outfits that can not get the sensitivity required to work this form of fishing. It's the age old addage, the lighter you fish the bigger fish you will catch....big fish did not get big by being stupid, i'ts the same throughout my inshore fishing, the lighter the gear and leader material the more and better sized fish I catch.
Shimano's reel size of choice then is their 3000 and 4000 sized reels and obviously again there is a full range of quality and then obviously compatible price to suit. Their top of the line model therefore is their Stella FD range which will set you back currently about $700AU. You will see they do what is called an offshore range but their sizes start at a 5000 which I consider too heavy to be matched to the line class of rods that we use for this sort of work. The Sustain SA3000FE and SA4000FE Twin Power 4000FC and Stradic ST 4000FI are your other options in the Shimano range with the Sustains kicking in at about $300, The Stradic at about $200 and the Twin Power at $450 . You can check out their product range on www.shimanofish.com.au
Daiwa do some top quality reels for this sort of work and are really beginning to dominate the market place in top of the line spinning reels. They have just released a new Certate 3000 with a revolutionary magnetic fluid sealed system which will be the flagship of their offshore reels. Their Real four range particularly their tournament reels, the Exist, Certate Hyper Custom, Morethan Branzino and Certate HD are about as good a range of reels that you will get for the sort of work we will do with Soft Plastics offshore and Light Tackle spinning. Their Saltiga Game 3500 is also an exceptional reel for this sort of work and the beauty of Daiwa's gear is that they do a full range of accessories to customise your reel and of particular use is their round ball power knob handles that make them so much easier to use. Thier Tournament reels will cost you from $500 to $1000 depending on the model you choose but are well worth the expenditure. Check out their full range on www.daiwafishing.com.au
Once again you will find other companies that will have products that suffice but don't improvise too much on quality for price as fishing with quality gear makes a world of difference, particularly with light tackle.
The Rods that we use for this sort of work are Graphite or Graphite composite rods and again most people make the mistake of fishing too heavy. Most Graphite rods will have a line class rating from minimum to maximum ie: 6-10lb. The line class rod ratings we use for soft plastics offshore will be 8-17lb, 10-20lb or 12-25lb. Some graphite composite rods are just rated at their top end line class ie: 16lb or rated at a PE equivalent which I touched on under Deep Water Jigging ie: PE2 being 20lb. Again there are hundreds of rods out there on the market for this work and even the bigger companies have too many models to mention, I will briefly touch on the better models as with rods it is very much a personal choice.
The T-Curve Bluewater in the relevant line class rating as set out above which currently retail at about $399 ( May 2010 ). The Raider rod range in the relevant line class is a cheap alternative at about $130. The T-Curve Flight and the Fireblood rods are other rods in the Shimano range that in their relevant line classes will do the work required for Soft Plastics offshore.
Again Daiwa do an extensive range of quality and suitable rods pertaining to Soft Plastic work offshore, I run the Saltiga range with the Dorado 70s matched perfectly to a Saltiga Game 3500 and Morethan Branzino 3000 reels. The Saltiga rods will currently cost you around $575 AU. Other rods in the Daiwa range are the awesome Steeze Hot Dog which will set you back a cool $700 or cheaper alternatives are the Team Daiwa Saltwater and Team Daiwa Advantage range along with quite a few other models. You are better off going to their website www.daiwafishing.com.au and scrolling your way through their range yourself to find the model that suits you best. I am in favour of rods in the 6' 10" to 7' range.
Samaki: These guys do a couple of classy rods with the top of the line model being the Zecton 701sm retailing at about $350 and the Vamp 701Sh and Vamp 701Sm retailing around the $279 mark.
Once again have a look around the shops yourself and you will find quite a few models out there but compare apples with apples in the relevant price range, Put a quality rod in your hand like a Daiwa Saltiga Dorado 70s and compare it to a $200 rod and you will feel the difference in your hand let alone what it would be like on a quality fish.
Braid is the line of choice here because we have no stretch and with it being a lot thinner than mono it will give us the line capacity required for the smaller reels that we are using to fish deeper reefs. Braids as I mentioned in Deep water Jigging are woven from strands of spectra and the better ones are your 8 strand braids. For soft plastics work we generally use a PE3 ( 30lb ) braid though we require the thinnest possible to give us our maximum line capacity.
Once again there is a variety and different qualitiy of them out there on the market, I prefer the jigging braids as you can work out when you are getting close to the strike zone and again the Daiwa Tournament Acudepth and SW 8 strand are my personal favourites.
Fluorocarbon is without a doubt the way to go for fishing Soft Plastics-as light goes through the water it refracts and normal leader material and line will stand out, Fluorocarbon has the same light refractive index as water which basically makes it invisible in the water. once again as well most people make the mistake of fishing too heavy with their leader material, I generally use a 30lb Fluorocarbon leader material for most of my reef species going up in strength as I need to do so. There are a number of Fluorocarbons out there on the market with the better ones being a triple resin Fluorocarbon which will give them more abrasion resistance on the reef structure. I like the Sunline range of Fluorocarbons and use the FC100 range offshore.
Jig Heads are come together as an individual unit but are sized in two ways, the weight size of the Jig Head and the hook size of the Jig Head. The Weight that you will choose will be determinable by the depth of water that you are fishing in ie: the deeper you are fishing or the heavier the tidal flow the heavier the Jig Head you will need to reach the bottom or reef that you are fishing on. They act basically the same as a sinker so it makes sense the deeper the water the bigger the weight of the Jig Head. Keep a variety of sizes in your tackle collection from 5/8oz up to 3oz. You will find the more common ones you will use will be 1oz and 1 1/2oz.
The Hook size of the Jig Head that you choose will be determinable by the size of the Soft Plastic that you are fishing with. The Bigger the Soft Plastic or longer the Soft Plastic then the bigger the hook size that you will choose ie: there is no point having a small size 3/0 hook in a 7" Soft Plastic as it will sit too far forward at the front of the plastic and two things will happen. No1: The fish will hit behind the actual hook point hitting the Soft Plastic a 1/3, 1/2 or 3/4 way down missing the hook and No2: If you are using a 7" Soft Plastic and a fish is going to hit it you are getting a fish with a bigger bite radius hence you will need a bigger hook size to hold in it's mouth. Hook sizes that we use offshore to generally match 5" and 7" Soft plastics are from 6/0 up to 9/0 matched with the relevant weights above.
There are an abundance of Soft Plastics out there on the market-walk into your local tackle store nowadays and there is just wall upon wall of Soft Plastics, different manufactures, different styles and then different colours. I could fill this website with a whole tackle guide on Soft plastics alone but again will briefly mention the more established ones on the market as well as the current phase of bay rubber/ lucanus and intruder jigs which fit in the same realm.
Anyone into their offshore Soft Plastics fishing will tell you that the good old 5" and 7" Jerk Shads are their number one choice and are definitely well proven around the reefs with the Nuclear Chicken colour again being the number 1 choice. Other colours in this range that I find effective are Blue Pepper Neon, Lime Tiger, Pilchard, Peppered Prawn and Pumpkinseed. Again they do a full different range of colours, you can check them out on their website www.purefishing.com.au I also like their Saltwater 6" grub in the Nuclear Chicken, Pink Shine and Sardine colours.