August 11, 2014
An argument for beefy tackle in Florida bass waters.
Light tackle has its place. Dragging big fish out of heavy pad cover is not one of them.
There's something to be said for one big hook. Stick a trophy fish, and you can apply the full pressure the tackle will deliver, muscle it out of whatever cover it was hiding in and bring the fish to the boat quickly.
That's one reason why large, single-hook lures (safety-pin spinnerbaits, buzzbaits, weedless spoons, jerkbaits and toad-style baits, to name a few) rank high on bass angler's lists of favorites. Not only do they feature a big hook, all have weedless properties making them ideal for the heavy vegetation Florida bass often call home.
Finesse is not needed here, and soft-action rods are a poor choice. You need force to set a heavy gauge wire hook; it's hard driving a railroad spike with a tack hammer. A light or medium-power rod may get the hook point into the bass, but may lack the power to drive that hook past the barb. A good fish might throw the bait.
A medium-heavy rod will easily cast these baits, while providing the hook-setting power required. The best length depends largely on the type of cover you're fishing. In years past, anglers making short casts in tight quarters often kept a 5 ½-foot rod handy. Today, the 6-footer is generally accepted as the “short rod” for those situations.
In most Florida bass situations, however, quarters aren't tight. These baits are normally used over some type of vegetation (eelgrass, dollar bonnets, lily pads, hydrilla, milfoil, coontail) where casts can stretch as far as the angler chooses to make them. A 6½-foot rod is generally considered a good choice, although many favor 7- or even 7½-foot sticks. Additional length provides a longer, more forceful hook-setting sweep, as well as added leverage to lift a bass to the top of the cover.
This is power fishing for bass and casting reels are the best choice. They can deliver winch-like power in a package far lighter and more compact than a spinning reel. Line also plays an important role. Most experts consider 17-pound monofilament to be the minimum, and some go up to 25-pound. Many anglers are opting to replace mono with braid, but that takes a re-think on lines.
Anglers used to monofilament often think in terms of pound test. They are comfortable with some “tests” but don't cast well with heavier lines because of their larger diameter. With braid, forget the pound test rating. Instead, look at the diameter.
Most 20-pound braided lines have the same diameter as 6-pound monofilament. Lines of that diameter are tough to use on a casting reel. Many braids in the 50-pound range have the same diameter as 12-or 14-pound mono and handle about the same on a casting reel. Braid has virtually no stretch, which definitely aids in hook-setting and fish-moving power. It also cuts through a lot of vegetation that bass often wrap monofilament lines around. FS
First Published Florida Sportsman February 2014