Fishing Reel Drag Significance

 

By Live to Fish Team Member: Josh Stewart

Every fisherman can relate to that moment when a fish makes that first strike.  It’s completely and utterly exhilarating and easily one of the most intensely exciting moments.  The strike is one of the best experiences anyone can have in life, period.  For the fishing enthusiast, simply reading those few sentences likely caused memories of strikes in the past.  Perhaps your pulse rate quickened a bit.  Memories of large snook, trout, or redfish, exploding to the surface to smash your topwater!  Perhaps thinking of the first strike invoked memories of occasions when a live bait was out and your rod suddenly doubled over; the drag screaming.  The level of excitement is one element that brings us back to the water with rod in hand, time and time again. It’s what keeps us throwing cast after cast.  Sometimes late into the night, hoping for that strike.  It’s what gets you out of bed at ungodly hours like 3:30 or 4:00 AM in preparation to be on the water before sunrise.  The passion is what can result in having more fishing gear than some of the tackle shops you go to.  Personally, I just bought a new tackle bag to fit my gear in.  I went from a normal, respectably sized soft tackle box, to a duffel bag large enough to pack a year’s worth of clothes in.  What’s worse?  I think nothing of it.   The desire is what can actually cause thoughts such as, “if I just eat just spaghetti for a week, I’ll be able to afford that reel…,” and not have the least bit of concern over whether you’re thinking is rational.

Once the fish takes your bait, the tug of war begins.  Fighting your fish gives rise to the moment of truth.  You’ll find out whether you tied your knots correctly.  Whether you used heavy enough line and leader.  Whether you chose the right rod.  You’ll also discover quite a lot about a very important component of your fishing reel –  the drag.   The drag is simply a pair of friction plates inside of fishing reels. Drag systems are a mechanical means of applying pressure to to act as a friction brake. Drags supply resistance to your line after hook-up to aid in landing the fish without the line breaking. When you take your rod’s ability to flex, the technique applied, and your drag, and combine them together, it’s possible to land a fish that weighs more than the pound test line you’re using.

If your fish pulls hard enough, your fishing reel’s drag will be engaged.  If the drag is overpowered, your spool will begin to rotate backwards.  By rotating backwards, your spool is turning in the opposite direction it would be if you were reeling in.  Essentially, your reel’s drag system is letting line out.  On a baitcaster, your spool is spinning in the same direction it would be if you were casting.  On a spinning reel, the only time your spool will rotate is when line is pulled off by a fish overpowering your drag.  A degree of resistance to use against a large and strong fish  is a benefit.  If your reel did not have a drag system, or if you cranked your drag down so tightly that you effectively cancelled out your drag system, the most likely result would be a broken line.  The exception would be if you were fishing with a pound test fishing line far above the weight of the fish you caught.  A common practice among bass fisherman is to tighter their reel’s drag down all the way, then yank the bass out of the weeds and other vegetation as quickly as possible.  One way to think of your drag is like a bungee cord.  When you see people jump from great heights strapped to a bungee cord, they don’t suddenly stop when the length of the bungee cord is reached.  There’s a stretch that occurs; resulting in the person bouncing up and down for a while.  Your fishing reel drag is not a bungee cord, but it will let line out when a fish is making a run for it.

What are those, “friction plates,” mentioned above made of?  Today, discs used in a reel’s drag system can be made from a number of different materials.  Fishing reel manufacturers have taken it upon themselves to mix varied materials together in a proprietary blend.  There are also aftermarket drag washers.  Carbon fiber is a popular material.  It’s not uncommon for people to change out their drag washers.  I recently purchased a Shimano Stradic 5000FJ.  The reel was used and did not look like it had received the best treatment.  I unscrewed the drag tension knob on the front of the spinning reel.  I removed the odd shaped retaining pin that holds the drag washers in place.  Turning the spool upside down, I shook the drag washers out.  What didn’t fall out was later removed with a small screw driver.  The reel’s drag system was pretty much shot.  The felt washers that were installed were essentially rotted to nothing.  I purchased carbon fiber drag washers for that model reel.  Replacing drag washers is probably one of the easiest repairs or maintenance duties you can do yourself.  It’s also relatively inexpensive.  Most carbon fiber drag washers can be purchased for less than $10.00.  Pay attention to the sequence in which the metal plates separate each drag washer if you’re going to replace what’s in your reel now.  You’ll also want to determine whether you need to apply drag grease to the washers to ensure it functions properly.  If you have a rather popular spinning reel, there’s likely to be a video on YouTube showing you how to do it.

Drag Washers
Carbon Fishing Reel Drag Washers

Drags used to be made of one of two materials; either felt or cork.  Felt is a fibrous, seemingly resilient material.  Hence, it became a material used in fishing reel drags.  You will still find some reels today using felt or cork, but it’s rare.  Felt is not a particularly good choice as a drag material; especially with what other options exist.  How it used to work as a drag disc material was that it was kept oiled.  The oil prevented the felt washers from burning up inside the drag stack and allowed the system to ‘slip’ under pressure. The problem was, after a period of time, the oil would burn off.  That’s where the problems started.  When a fish runs, a great deal of heat is generated – that’s what a drag system does – develop friction and therefore heat; just like your car’s brakes. When the heat is prolonged with felt washers, it will actually melt the felt; turning it in a plastic dust and leaving you with a drag system that is metal on metal friction.  Not what you want to have happen.  The result would be seized up drag, followed by a lost fish, broken line, possibly a reel that is so badly damaged it’s time for a new one, and most certainly one upset angler.  If you have a reel with felt drag washers, the felt washers should be checked regularly.  They can become compromised because of all the pressure and heat. When compressed, felt drag washers can’t hold the oil they need to keep doing what they do.  If you’ve ever heard the tip, “don’t store your reels with the drag tight,” this is why.  In order to know where to look to determine if you have felt drag washers, unscrew the drag tightening knob at the top of the spool on your spinning reel.   Felt drag washers will appear as shown in the photos below.

dragpieces
Felt Drag System Removed from Reel

Spinning Reel Felt Drag Washers

Fishing reel drags have come a long way over the years.  Thinking back to what fishing must have been like before today’s engineering efforts have paid off in terms of fishing reel drag systems, Ernest Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea comes to mind.  Written in 1951 and published in 1952, it was Hemingway’s last full – length work published during his lifetime.  Though the tale is an extreme example of what fishing without a drag would be like, it does provide a basis upon which one can learn to appreciate the systems available now.


If you have questions about what fishing rod, fishing reel, line, leader, or any other gear is right for you, please contact us.  You can contact us through our website or email fishing questions directly to Josh Stewart at josh@buydmi.com.  Perhaps you’re trying to buy fishing gear as a gift.  Someone in your family loves fishing, but you don’t know what to get them because it seems that they either have everything, or you don’t know enough about fishing tackle to make a selection.  No problem!  We’ll walk you through ideas and provide you with some options to consider.  Visit: livetofish.com

Florida is the World’s Fishing Capital

By Live to Fish Team Member: Josh Stewart

A common concern expressed by parents and conservationists alike is that our youth is spending more time indoors and less time enjoying outdoor activities.  Most fears exist due to something being unknown.  In this case, the unknown is the actual number of people, both teenagers and adults, who participate in wildlife–related outdoor activities.
From 2006 through 2011, our country saw a dramatic increase in the number of individuals participating in outdoor activities. More than 90 million U.S. Residents, age 16 and older, took park some form of wildlife recreation in 2011.


The State of Fishing

Florida Fishing at Sunset
Fishing Florida’s Waters

While that statistic is positive for the country as a whole, the State of Florida alone brings more than its fair share to the table.  Florida has an enviable reputation for a number of outdoor sports.  Above all, our most noteworthy outdoor recreational activity is fishing.  Florida is known as the fishing capital of the world.  Florida has more fishing world records than any other state or country.  With 1,197 statute miles of coastline, 2,276 miles of tidal shoreline, 663 miles of beaches, and more than 11,000 miles of rivers, streams, and waterways, Florida provides ample opportunity for vacationers and residents to fish. In 2006, the U.S. Census Bureau did a National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife Recreation.  In 2006, there were 2.6 million anglers in Florida.  In 2013, the number of anglers in Florida rose to 3.1 million.

Economically, Florida has one of the top producing fisheries in the country.  We rank #1 in the number of saltwater anglers OUT OF THE ENTIRE COUNTRY.  Florida saltwater fishing licenses generated $37,555,602.00 as reported in the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s 2015-2016 fiscal year.  The recreational fishing industry in Florida is a reported $7.6 billion dollar per year industry that supports 109,300 jobs; according to 2014 NOAA data.


Florida’s Underwater Ecosystem

Florida Turtle Grass - Thalassia Testudinum
Florida Turtle Grass

It’s not just Florida’s numerous fishing opportunities that make the State number one.  It’s the quality of the various fisheries themselves.  All the coastline and lakes in the world wouldn’t make any difference if Florida’s fisheries weren’t inhabited by beautiful, healthy, and plentiful fish.  Personally, I’m grateful every time I leave land for the water.  Whether I’m drifting or motoring over a flat, paddling through a narrow mangrove lined creek, or walking along one of Florida’s uninhabited white sand beaches, I can’t help but to be in awe of the beauty before me.  Florida’s healthy turtle sea grass is most abundant from Tarpon Springs northward to Apalachee Bay in the Gulf of Mexico.  Turtle Grass (Thalassia testudinum) is the largest in Florida.  The approximate 2.2 million of acres of seagrass provides benefits to our marine habitat in that it helps to improve water clarity by collecting sediment, provides a refuge for fish, shrimp, and other shellfish, and helps to solidify the bottom with its root structure.


Prefishing Tactics

Snook on the Florida Coast
Photo Credit – @ferrociousfishing

When fishing the flats, look for seagrass; especially turtle grass.  The better you know the area where you’re planning to fish, the more likely you are to be successful.  Fisherman that participate in saltwater fishing tournaments, particularly the IFA Redfish Tour, engage in all manner of tactics in order to win significant amounts of money.  One of the tactics used by both saltwater and freshwater fisherman alike is to “prefish,” an area.  Prefishing is the process of going out and fishing the area in which the tournament will take place, as many times as possible, under the same tidal conditions that will exist on the day of the tournament, before the actual competition.  For your average fisherman with an actual job, prefishing is simply not realistic.  Most of us can’t just say to ourselves, “well, it’s Tuesday… and the tide is going to be high at 10:00 AM… the tournament I’m fishing in a few months from now will also have a high tide that day at 10:00 AM… so, I’d better just not do anything other than get out on the water, see what’s biting, where, and on what kind of lure.”  Though that would indeed be an enviable schedule to have, it’s not going to play out for the majority of fisherman.  Nevertheless, if you’re going to tournament fish, prefishing pays off.  On March 4, 2017, in Punta Gorda, Captain Brandon Buckner and partner Mark Sepe won $29,530.00.


Plan Ahead for Success

Use Florida’s healthy fisheries and the advantages provided by all the money Google spent to develop Google Earth, to your benefit.  Use Google Earth to scout out potential spots by looking for areas where there might be a deep hole, a sandy area surrounded by seagrass, rocks, oyster bars, and other fish holding structures.  The more time you can devote to learning about where you plan to fish, BEFORE you get on the water, the less time you’ll spend determining whether you’re in a spot likely to hold fish.  Less time spent scouting for spots means more time with your rods in the water and hopefully with fish on the end of your hook.  You’ll also save fuel.  If you have the financial resources, you may want to consider hiring a fishing guide for a half day, and preferably, a full day of fishing.  The cost varies per guide, area, and season.  It’s worth your while to find the best guide you can for the area you plan to fish the most.  You can ask for recommendations at tackle shops.  You’re welcome to contact us for any references on fishing guides.  You will learn more in that one day from a guide than you’re likely to learn in months on your own.


Live In The Present

As a closing piece of advice, work to ensure you never take the beauty Florida has for granted.  When you’re fishing, think about how many people in the world would love to trade places with you.  Think about how many people pay thousands of dollars for a Florida vacation.  Whether you live here or you’re just visiting, you’re in a unique and amazing state; that just happens to be the fishing capital of the world. To help ensure you’re getting the most out of your time spent on the water, feel free to contact us with any questions.

 

 

Effectively Fish Far and Wide

Inevitably, every fishing trip ends.  What happens in between separates the good trips from the bad.  The memorable moments from the mundane.  One of our goals at Live to Fish is to ensure your fishing experiences that would otherwise be ordinary or dull are a thing of the past.  We’re happy to share our knowledge and resources.  With the benefit of our expertise, you stand a much better chance of creating some of the best  fishing memories you’ll have.  Though we can’t improve relations with your in – laws, we can help ensure you end up with more fish on the end of your line.

 

Common knowledge provides that our planet is mostly covered in water.  For fishing purposes, that means you’ve got a lot of ground… er, I mean water to cover.  For most of us, fishing trips don’t happen every day.  When they do, the duration is limited.  In order to make the most of that limited time, some suggestions are provided for you to consider.

Backwater estuary 2015Your fishing trip plan (float plan) should involve hitting several very specific spots.  Sure, you can just drift a flat and see what hits.  You can also enter an airport and buy a ticket to a location based on nothing other than how soon the next plane is taking off.  The point is, most people invest some degree of pre-planning.  If one of  your proposed spots is particularly expansive, you’re going to want to find out if fish are there as quickly as possible.  Yes, fishing is about relaxing, slowing down, and simply spending time on the water.  An article about finding fish quickly seems inconsistent with establishing the leisurely pace most associate with fishing.   A pace some believe should be the rule, rather than the exception, when on the water.   At Live to Fish, we understand and encourage adopting a laid-back attitude on the water.  We recognize the importance of reconnecting with friends and family.

Backwater creek 2015

Now, with that issue put to rest, who said, “reconnecting,” or, “leisure time,” doesn’t involve putting as many fish in the boat as possible?  No one!  Certainly no one at Live to Fish.  We’re out on the water for comradery.  We’re out there for the opportunity to teach a young son, daughter, or grandchild the benefits of fishing.  In case you’re wondering, as a matter of fact, yes… we have been aboard when the fishing slows down, and inevitably heard someone make the hackneyed, thoughtless remark, “that’s why they call it fishing and not catching.”  Ugh….That’s a pet peeve around here.  Call it what you want.  We leave the dock to catch.

So, the question becomes: what’s the fastest way to explore a large body of water to confirm the presence of fish?

If you’re offshore, high speed trolling is one option.  High speed trolling would be dragging your baits while your boat is going between 14 and 20 knots.  Such speeds result in covering more distance than proceeding at traditional trolling speeds.  Keep in mind that those high speeds are only going to attract certain predators.  Specifically, those predatory game fish willing and capable of attacking a bait moving that fast.  One such predatory gamefish is a wahoo.  Wahoo swim at speeds that exceed 60 mph.  So, trolling at 14, 16 and even 20 knots has become commonplace through using techniques developed by Capt. Ron Schatman, winner of a dozen major Bahamas wahoo tournaments over five years.  High speed trolling is not only limited to targeting certain species, it’s also a method of fishing limited by weather conditions.  No one aboard will be too thrilled about proceeding at 18 knots in windy weather and a sea state consisting of a 6’ foot chop.

If you’re inshore, consider using search baits.  A search bait refers to a type of lure you can work quickly and effectively over a large body of water.  Three of the most effective are: crankbaits, spinnerbaits, and topwater lures.  Certain jerk baits also fall into the search bait category.  When prospecting with search baits, you’ve got a good chance of getting the fish to show themselves.  Once you’ve nailed down a location, you can switch to more finesse style baits. deep-diver-crankbait

To help you paint a mental picture, imagine the following scenario:   You’ve just motored behind a mangrove wall.  This living wall of mangroves is high, thick, and about a half mile long.  A thing of beauty in and of itself, behind the wall exists a superb grass flat.  The mangroves do an excellent job of hiding this gem of a fishing spot.  You found it by accident one day about two years ago.  Since then, you’ve disclosed it to no more than one other fishing buddy.  Though you can’t imagine being the only one that knows about this spot; thus far you’ve never seen another boat here during any of your visits.

You’re careful with your approach.  At just over 100 yards away, you cut your engine.  You cover the remaining distance with your trolling motor.  You don’t dare run your trolling motor at a speed above a 2 or 3.  Particularly wary redfish will spook from the sound of trolling motor being run at high speed.  Perched on the bow with your rod in one hand, you’re panning from left to right; thanking god some optometrist figured out that polarized lenses in sunglasses would benefit fisherman.

It’s been a beautiful morning.  The seas are flat clam.  The run from the dock to this spot was like crossing glass.   The tide has been coming in for the past few hours.  High tide is only about a half hour away.  From experience, you know this spot is most productive right when the tide changes.  There’s something deeply satisfying about knowing you’re in the right place at the right time.  That sensation is what you’re experiencing now.

When the tide shFlatsifts to outgoing, baitfish are flushed from the estuaries that surround this flat.  Snook and Trout await these baitfish.  You watch the ever-changing imagery beneath your boat slowly pass by.   It’s mesmerizing.  The water is crystal clear.  Kind of like floating on air; and only about 4 feet deep.  Rich, thick turtle grass covers the bottom with intermittent patches of white sand.  A small sea turtle just swam off and away from your boat.

Just like a golfer doesn’t play a round of golf with just one club, you don’t go out on the water with just one rod.  Your favorite rod and reel combos are aboard.  Rigged up and ready in your rod holders.

Your mind begins to drift… You want one of those Minn Kota® iPilot trolling motors; or at least one you can steer with a remote control that hangs around your neck.  Barely audible, a sigh escapes as you think about the latest saltwater fishing technology. . . Then you snap out of that ungrateful reverie.  Fortunately, you’re quick to realize you have more to be grateful for than you’re acknowledging.  You laugh to yourself, knowing you’ll never believe you have enough fishing gear.  You continue your approach while remaining as stealthy as possible.

You’re not certain where the fish are.  You just know they’re in the general vicinity.  You unhook your lure from the hook keeper.  It hangs free at the end of the leader, slowly swinging back and forth about two to three feet from your rod tip.  Yep.  You’re ready to start making casts.

The scenario described above is one in which use of a search bait would be beneficial.  Whether you’re making casts from the bow of your boat, or casting from land, the best way to work a lure while using it as a search bait is to, “fan cast,” the area.  This simply means to cast from one side to the other, throwing your lure in a spot slightly farther away from the last place you threw it out each time.   Once you reach the other side, you move and fan cast another area.  When you’re where fish the fish are, using this method will result in your lure meeting up with one of their mouths soon enough.

At Live to Fish, we’re passionate about much more than just the sport of fishing.  We admit to being obsessive over how our business is run.  We want to ensure that each and every customer finds dealing with us to be easy, enjoyable, and productive.  If our showroom in Hudson, Florida is too far, check out our website at www.livetofish.com   You can contact us through the website.  We’ll gladly answer any questions you have.  Should you want an item you don’t see on our webpage, LET US KNOW!  We take pride in being able to find the products our customers want at competitive prices.  Although we can’t guarantee we’ll find anything you may ask, we can guarantee that if anyone can find your product, it’s us.  What do you have to lose?  Looking forward to hearing from you – Live to Fish

Stilt House Photo

Don’t Leave the Dock Without Reading This First

By Live to Fish Team Member: Josh Stewart

You planned this fishing trip well in advance.  You know you’ve earned it.  The outing is something you’ve been looking forward to.  In fact, during particularly stressful and frustrating times that took place during the days leading up to the trip, your mind would drift to this particular future fishing experience.  Thoughts of casting, catching, and being on the water, helped drown out the otherwise unpleasant experiences while your feet remained on dry land.  “It will all be worth in it in the end…When I’m finally out there…”  That’s what you’d keep telling yourself.  As the date of the excursion came closer, a portion of each evening was spent in preparation.

One of the worst feelings anyone can have while in pursuit of gamefish is to be hours into your trip and realize you left an essential piece of gear at home; or, perhaps one of your electronics or one of your boat’s components fails; leaving you to berate yourself for failing to do the preliminary work necessary to help ensure your time on the water is as hassle free as possible.  When fishing, time spent without your line in the water is time spent in which you cannot possibly catch a fish.  Increase the time in which you have lines in the water, ensure you have everything you need, and make the most of the valuable time you’ve been looking forward to by reviewing our suggestions below.  Let the trip be what you intend it to be; a source of rejuvenation and revitalization.

Lures:

Check through your crankbaits, topwater lures, jigs, hooks, and other swimbaits.  Make sure their hooks and split rings are in good condition; especially lures with treble hooks.  Replace any components that need replacing.  Sharpen any hooks that seem dull.  In fact, the most competitive fisherman will go through the hooks they’ve used before and sharpen each and every one.  Using a hook sharpener and going over the point of a hook is not a significantly time consuming process.  Ensure you’re doing it correctly and not actually dulling the tip of your hook. Check your tackle storage solutions.  Make sure there are no cracks, holes, or broken hinges.  Many anglers take advantage of the water tight tackle storage boxes. However, over time, the rubber ring that provides protection from water intrusion can wear out; or come out of alignment with the lid.  Make sure this rubber ring is in good condition.  If your lures have become tangled during storage, now would be good time to untangle and store them separately in tackle trays.  One of the most frustrating circumstances to deal with is when you see aggressive feeding activity on the water, know what lure you need to tie on and cast in that direction, only to open your tackle tray and find the lure you need all tangled up with three or four others.  There’s a saying – “luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity.”  Do the preparation necessary to maximize on the opportunity.  In essence, create your luck.

Rods:
Take each of your rods out and inspect them separately.  Are all your guides secure?  Look at the inner ring of each guide.  See the photo below to be clear on what I’m referring to when I mention, “inner ring.”

Spinning GuideThe inner ring in the photo is the gray colored area inside the round shiny metal circular outer portion of the guide.  Use your finger to feel around the inside of each guide ring.  For the rod guides that are too small to fit a finger through, take a cue tip and run it through the guide.  What you’re looking for are any knicks.  If any of the cotton from the end of the cue tip catches, you know you’ve found an area of concern.  Anytime you feel or find a crack or a knick, you should replace that guide before fishing.  Another thing to check for is that the inner rings of your guides feel solidly in place.  When you prepare your line to fish, you may end up tying a Bimini Twist or Spider Hitch to double your line up.  Then you may tie an Albright Special as a line to leader knot.  When these knots pass through your guides during a cast, they hit the guide rings.  If the ring is not securely in place, it will pop out.  If you feel one that’s loose, have it replaced. It’s sure to pop out sooner rather than later.  The reason the inside of your guides is important is that this is the area of your rod that your line moves through.  When you’re fighting a fish, a knick, crack, or other imperfection, in the guide ring can result in your line being aggressively worn and even breaking off.  Many otherwise unexplainable break offs have occurred as a result of a damaged guide ring.  Guide rings are made from a variety of materials; mostly ceramic blends.  The best guide rings are made from Alconite, Silicon Carbide (SIC), Torzite.  Is the reel seat secure?  When you secure your reel to your rod, you should be able to tighten down the reel seat until you feel confident that your reel is securely affixed to your rod.   A loose, broken, or otherwise compromised reel seat is not something you want to discover when you’re fighting a fish.  Especially one you’ve spent much time, energy, and likely money in terms of your gear and your gas, chasing after.

Reels:

Entire articles have been written on reel maintenance.  We’re not going that far in depth here.  You should know when your reels are working properly and when they’re not. If there are any  new noises coming from your reel when you crank the handle, if it’s harder to reel in than it always has been, or if there’s a wobble – you need to have the reel serviced.  Having a reel serviced is not usually something that can be accomplished overnight.  Make a habit of keeping your reels in good working order on a regular basis and you’re much less likely to have a last minute emergency.

Fishing Line:

When was the last time you changed your line?  Before there was braid, we all fished with mono-filament.  With mono-filament, changing fishing line was more common and occurred with greater frequency.  Then braided line came along.  With its higher prices and obvious advantages in strength and resiliency over mono, a greater reluctance to change your line exists.  However, it’s important to know that people have lost huge fish and expensive rigs simply because they failed to change their line.  Continuing to use your braided line beyond a period of time that’s safe will greatly increase the risk of a break off.  The most disappointing stories of line break offs involve details such as the loss of an expensive trolling lure and an enormous hooked gamefish.  Offshore trolling lures can be quite costly.  It’s not impossible to lose a lure that’s worth more than what new line would cost.  There are several factors to consider when determining how often you should change your braided line.  Some factors are:  The lower the pound test braided line, the more often you should change it.  The more often you fish in areas that have heavy amounts of floating seagrass with small barnacles attached, the more often you should change it out.  When your line meets with seaweed upon which small barnacles have grown, it’s like moving your line across a very fine cheese grater.  If you’re doing a lot of fishing around rocks and oysters, keep an eye out for any parts of your line that appear frayed or worn.  Generally speaking, if it’s been 6 to 12 months, and you fish three to four days a week, make a habit of changing your line.  The easiest way to remember to do this is to set a simple calendar reminder at 6 to 8 month intervals.  Make sure your line is in good shape before you head out.

Polarized Glasses:

I’m sure you’ve heard of the benefits polarized glasses for fishing.  Polarized lenses are perfect for boating, fishing, surfing or any time spent on the water.   By cutting down on the glare, you’ll be able to see fish you wouldn’t normally be able to see at all.  Just keep in mind, when you can see the fish, they can see you.  There are a number of manufacturers that churn out some high quality polarized sunglasses.  One of the most popular for fisherman are made by Costa Del MarCosta developed the 580 lens.  The technology involved in the manufacturing of this lens, particularly the 580G, greatly enhances your time on the water.  You’ll feel less eye strain and see more fish.  Believe it or not, I’ve been out on the water with people who forgot their polarized glasses.  You may think polarized sunglasses would be one of the last things people would forget.  Well, think again.  When you’re leaving the dock before daybreak, you’re not going to be wearing your sunglasses.  Not everyone keeps them around their neck.  Especially if they’re stored in the console of their vehicle on a regular basis.  Of course, no one is wearing their sunglasses or even thinking about doing so in the pre-dawn hours.  If you are someone who happens to be wearing your shades in the dark, I can promise you won’t end up on my boat.  Make sure you remember to  put these around your neck or in a shirt pocket before you embark.

Chum:

If you’re going to chum for baitfish, make sure you remember to bring all the ingredients.  A popular saltwater inshore bait is a small fish known as a “greenback.”  They’re properly called menhaden.  A mixture that works well for bring them close enough to the boat to throw a net over them consists of menhaden oil, sardines in soybean oil, and the least expensive white bread you can find.  You mix all these ingredients together and throw it out in small amounts where you expect the bait to be.  If you’re not sure where fisherman are catching the bait, read local forums, ask a bait shop, or contact a friend who gets out on the water more often than you.  An easy way to forego the time consuming and messy process of making your own chum is to buy pre-made chum.  In years past, pre-made chum wasn’t much to speak of.  Most often, it came in the form of a frozen block.  Now, there’s a much better and effective option.  A company called Aquatic Nutrition, Inc., makes a product called Bloodstream Top Predator Chum.  Use this and be ready for some non – stop action.  What makes their proprietary blend even more attractive is that it doesn’t have to be kept cold or frozen.  You can store it on your boat or keep it where you normally store your tackle.  Just make sure you have it with you for your trip.

Cast Net: 

At this point, a quick reminder on how to inspect your cast net is in order.  If you can, hang your net from a tree or rafter, high enough to allow the weighted bottom to just touch the ground.  Alternatively, you can spread your net out on a flat, clean, smooth space.  Make sure you remove any obstructions or debris from the area where you plan to lay your net down.  Inspect each panel for any holes in the mesh.  Not only can your bait escape through these holes, they can also do what’s called, “gilling,” themselves.  When baitfish gill themselves, their heads get stuck in the mesh while their body remains trapped behind.  You must remove each gilled baitfish separately by hand.  Removal of the gilled baitfish is a time consuming, messy process.  Unfortunately, it’s absolutely necessary.  I don’t have to explain what a net will smell like if it’s stored with dead baitfish ready to rot away.

Batteries:

Are all your batteries aboard fully charged? It’s easy enough to check and it’s certainly a pre-trip procedure you should absolutely incorporate into your pre-trip checklist.  Certain flats boats, bay boats, and large center console fishing machines, often run a myriad of electronics.  Besides your starting battery, power is needed to run all those bells and whistles.  Pumps, lights, sonar, radar, radio, etc.  Of course, you also need power to start your engine, or engines.  Unless you’re using a very small, very low powered, outboard engine, your engine’s alternator will help to maintain the charge on your starting battery.  When your boat isn’t in use, hooking up a charger is critical to maintaining a healthy charge.  If you’re not going to use your boat for a period longer than 4 weeks, the charge needs to be maintained.  Keep in mind, a lot of people use auto batteries instead of the more suitable deep cycle marine batteries.  Auto batteries are less expensive and sometimes more readily available.  The problem is that they aren’t designed to handle the frequent charge cycles or the loads put on them in a marine environment.  One of the best batteries we’ve worked with are Optima Blue Top Marine batteries.  These batteries can handle up to three times more charges than other marine batteries, have more than 15 times the vibration resistance, are spill – proof, capable of being mounted in virtually any position, and are maintenance free.  That means no need to check water levels on a regular basis.

Florida Fish & Wildlife Pre-Boat Trip Checklist

  1. Alternate propulsion (i.e. paddle or oar)
  2. Anchors & Line
  3. Batteries (fully charged and encased in plastic boxes)
  4. Bilge device (bilge pump operable, alternative bailing device)
  5. Boat lights
  6. Bright flashlight or searchlight
  7. Boat & trailer registration, permits, licensesBug repellant
  8. Clothing
  9. Compass
  10. Drinking water (1 gallon per person, per day)
  11. Fire extinguisher (right number, size, and class for boat; charged, not corroded, nozzle clear, bracketed, readily accessible)
  12. First aid kit i.e. Band-Aids, first-aid Cream, Campo-Phenique (good for minor burns, cuts and scrapes), Tums, lip balm.
  13. Food
  14. Fuel
  15. Kill switch (check with motor started)
  16. Map/Charts (in waterproof container)
  17. Matches/fire starter (in waterproof container)
  18. Navigation lights & spare bulbs
  19. Boat plug
  20. Pocket knife
  21. Sound producing device (i.e. whistle, horn)
  22. Spare trailer tire (check condition)
  23. Toilet paper
  24. Trailer lights (and brakes if applicable)
  25. Sunglasses
  26. Sunscreen
  27. Spare prop and lock-nut or shear pin
  28. Weather radio
  29. Tools
  30. Visual distress signals (check current dates on flares, proper number)
  31. Watch or clock
  32. Night before list
  33. Hook up trailer and check lights and brakes (if applicable)
  34. Charge batteries
  35. Check fuel
  36. Check boat lights
  37. Turn on batteries, “check 1, 2, all switch” make sure it is functioning
  38. Turn on and check all electronics
  39. Check boat plug
  40. Secure straps and tie downs

    Copyright 2017, Live to Fish, All Rights Reserved.

Proper Fishing Reel Drag Settings

 

By Live to Fish Team Member: Josh Stewart

Fishing reels have come a long way in the past 10 to 15 years but the basic engineering concepts remain the same. Progressive changes are seen in terms of the materials used and the construction methods employed with advanced materials. Engineering, design, and material improvements keep your reels working longer, harder, and more smoothly.  With advancements regarding a fishing reel’s drag, bigger fish are capable of being safely landed with smaller reels. By, “safely landed,” I’m referring to fishing with equipment properly suited to the species you’re after. If you choose to chase down a large Tarpon with an unreasonably underweight light tackle spinning outfit, chances are you’ll lose that silver king.  However, if you were to pursue that Tarpon on such light tackle while your buddy drives the boat chasing after it on an open flat, you’re creating conditions that will lead to a battle that could easily last for hours.  An unnecessarily prolonged battle is what becomes unsafe. Fish mortality rates dramatically increase when the battle to bring them boat side is prolonged.  If you know you’re going to be practicing catch and release, make sure you don’t cancel out the main purpose of releasing the fish by engaging in conduct that renders its likelihood of survival remote.

Setting Your Reel Drag Properly

Now we’ll move on with discussing your fishing reel drag setting. Whether you’re fishing with a spinning or baitcasting reel, the reel has what is called a drag. When you hook a fish, they’re going to make a run for it.  When they do, your drag works to provide resistance. You can compare a fishing reel’s drag to the brakes in your car. Both work with friction to either decrease the speed of your car or slow the run of a hooked fish. The study of friction is a complex science called tribology. Without a drag to provide the proper degree of resistance, you’d hook that fish, they’d make a run for it, and you’d likely lose it.  If you set your drag too tight, you’re likely to lose the fish due to your line snapping or a knot failing.  Set your drag too lose and, depending on the species, you could either get, “spooled,” meaning, the fish swims off with all your new and expensive fishing line; or the fish swims for cover.  If the fish makes it to cover, which consists of things like mangroves, dock pilings, weeds, tree trunks, etc., then your line is likely to snap as it’s pulled hard against one of these objects.  There’s an exception to the above general rules for bass fisherman.  Bass fisherman have the option of hooking their bass, cranking down the drag on 20lb test line, and pulling the bass out of whatever cover they hooked him in. That technique doesn’t work for people after cobia, snook, redfish, sharks, and other pelagic species. What’s the correct amount of drag pressure to have? Technically, you’re supposed to set your drag to 25% of the breaking strength of your line. If you’re using 20 lb. test line, 20 divided by 4 = 5 lbs.  The only way to accurately determine if you’ve set your drag to 5 lbs. is to use a scale.  Though a scale will give you accurate feedback, I’ve never seen anyone actually go through the process of measuring their drag setting with a scale; nor do I even know anyone with such a scale.  The most direct and simple way to determine if you’ve set your drag properly is to gauge how difficult it is to pull the line off your reel with your hand against the drag.  By, “against the drag,” I mean with your bail closed.  You want it to be hard to pull the line, but not too hard to where pulling it causes the line to cut into your fingers, or is otherwise uncomfortable.  If you can pull the line off with complete ease, it’s way too loose.  Remember, you can always adjust your drag settings during the fight with the fish.

How Reel Drag Systems Work

Some of you may wonder how a fishing reel’s drag tension is created?  Most fishing reel drag systems work in the same manner as far as the fact that friction is used as the method to produce resistance.  A fishing reel’s drag usually consists of two or more discs, also called drag washers, working face to face.  These discs are made of material that will provide resistance when they’re moving against each other.  One of the oldest materials used for a fishing reel’s drag is cork.  Some companies still use cork today.  In principle, the tighter the two discs are pushed together (through the drag adjustment), the more resistance you create, thereby requiring more pull to cause the line to slip from the spool.  Reels vary in the different washer systems used and in the material the drag washers are made from. When you tighten your drag down, you’re increasing the pressure between the drag washers. Loosen your drag, and you’ll loosen the pressure between the drag washers.

Questions on Setting Your Reel Drag?

If you’re unsure of what type of reel and drag to use, please don’t hesitate to contact us, or comment below with questions. We’re happy to help make any recommendations you need.

 

Fishing Reel Gear Ratios Explained

If you’ve ever shopped online for a fishing reel, you’ve likely come across a product description for a specific model you’re interested in. That description contained a reference to the model’s gear ratio. A specification expressed using three numbers. For instance, 7.0:1, and 6.3:1, are examples of fishing reel gear ratios. One of our goals at Live to Fish, is helping you understand anything and everything about fishing, the gear, tactics, etc. After reading what follows, you’ll never wonder what those figures mean again. When you turn the handle on a fishing reel, you’re engaging gears inside the reel. Those internal gears are what turn the spool. As you know, the spool of a fishing reel refers to the part of the reel that holds your fishing line. Understanding what those numbers mean is easy.  The number before the colon denotes the rotations the spool makes per one complete turn of the reel’s handle. So, a 6.3:1 ratio means the spool revolves 6.3 times with each (1) handle turn. Larger numbers in the first section means that more line is retrieved each time you turn the reel handle because the spool is turning that much faster. See how easy that was?  That’s another thing you’ll come to know about us – we’ll always give you the advice and information you need straight up. As you know, there are spinning reels and casting reels.  Other terms for casting reels are conventional reels and bait casting reels.   Whether you’re shopping for a spinning reel or a casting / conventional reel, the gear ratio explained above will always be expressed in the same manner and have the same meaning.

Technically Speaking
For those who would like more technical specificity in understanding fishing reel gear ratios, this next paragraph is for you. Turning the handle on a fishing reel engages a flat, circular shaped spur gear. This spur gear is located on the internal shaft of the handle. Teeth on the spur gear are precisely machined to interact with a smaller gear that resides on the center shaft of the reel spool. In most reels this is called a helical gear.  This helical gear is shaped like a small barrel. Turning the handle engages these gears which rotate together and turn your spool. How smooth your reel feels when turning the handle is largely a result of how finely these gears match up inside your reel. Some other factors that contribute to the smooth feel and durability are how exact the specifications and tolerances are between these gears, and what type of metal the gears are made of. When you cast a bait casting reel, your spool is spinning freely. The spool’s ability to spin freely is the result of the disengagement of the gears. When casting a bait casting reel, you push down on the thumb bar; also, called the spool release button. With the thumb bar down, the gears are disengaged and you’re able to cast. When you turn the handle after making your cast, you hear the same click encountered when you first pushed the thumb bar down. That audible, “click,” is the sound of the gears re-engaging. For a spinning reel, casts are possible when you flip the bail wire over. That allows your line to flow freely off the spool. The spool itself doesn’t spin like it does on a bait casting reel when you cast.  For anyone who has used both kinds of reels, you know that without the spool spinning on a spinning reel during the cast, you don’t end up with the dreaded, “backlash,” “bird’s nest,” or, “professional overrun.” The foregoing are all terms used to describe the tangle of line that ends up on your spool when a cast goes awry with a bait casting reel.

Low Gear Ratio Reels vs. High Gear Ratio Reels
The lower the gear ration, the more torque the reel provides. However, the downside is less line is recovered with each turn of the handle. The higher the gear ratio, the more line you’ll recover with turn of the handle; but the disadvantage is often a loss in power necessary to subdue large fish. Determining the proper gear ratio is done by considering the species you’re after and the fight you expect to encounter. Just like a golfer doesn’t take to the golf course with just one club, most experienced fisherman don’t head out to go fishing with just one rod and reel combo. A selection of rod and reel combinations accompany fisherman serious about getting as many fish on the line as possible. The selection contains rods capable of handling different size lures or baits and reels with varying gear ratios and line capacities. Certain lures are better fished with a lower gear ratio. Big crank baits that swim deep benefit from the additional torque. More torque from a lower gear ratio means that reeling this lures in requires less effort; as does fighting the fish you hook up with. Another scenario that favors low gear ratios is when fishing in cold weather with low water temperatures. In Florida, when the water temperature is in the 70’s; and certainly below, baits and lures need to be fished more slowly. A slow retrieve matches the generally lethargic behavior exhibited by fish in colder conditions. Working your lure too fast in cold water yanks the lure out of the water column that would encompass the strike zone. The strike zone in colder water is smaller than in warmer temperatures. Moreover, fish are less willing to travel to feed. A slow retrieve and accompanying presentation will result in more strikes.

Pairing Gear Ratios with Lure Types
If using fishing reels with a high gear ratio, you can gobble up more line with each turn of the handle. High gear ratio reels are also called, “high-speed,” reels as a reference to how many revolutions the spool makes. For example, the Abu Garcia Revo Rocket has a gear ratio of 9.0:1. The result is a recovery of 36.5” inches of line per turn. Examples of a high gear ratio are those above 7.1:1. Types of fishing best done with a high gear ratio reel involve fishing with jigs, large jerk baits, large worms, Texas and Carolina rigs, top-water lures, and any lipless crankbaits. In summary, you’ll benefit from a high-speed reel any time you’re fishing a lure that requires you to use your rod to achieve the desired action.  Fishing the types of lures mentioned above creates slack in your line. Especially when working a top-water lure. Slack line can cause problems when a fish strikes. Without tension on the line, you either won’t notice the bite or you won’t be able to properly set the hook. Lastly, if fishing an area exhibiting numerous means through which the fish could break free, a high-speed retrieve is beneficial. Such areas would be docks, bridges, mangrove shorelines, and weeds or lily pads.  Getting the fish away from structure in a hurry increases your chances of landing the fish rather than losing both the fish and your lure in the process.

When you get into fishing offshore, on reefs or other deep-water structures, the definition of high-speed changes based on the different dimensions of the reels. Bigger, heavier, fish tend to live in deeper water. Bigger, heavier, fishing gear is used to bring these fish up from the depths, or otherwise counter their power. Fishing gear rated for offshore use will have the necessary combination of both speed and power. Some offshore gamefish reels have spools that when filled to capacity with line, boast a circumference measuring approximately 8” inches. The recovery rate when reeling in is a whopping of 4’ feet, or 1.33 yards of line with each turn of the handle. Blue Marlin, Sailfish, Bluefin Tuna, Yellowfin Tuna, and Dorado are some examples of popular off-shore gamefish species. Stories of a large Blue Marlin making a run towards the boat are not unheard of. The ability to quickly recover line and take up slack is critical.  One of the reasons large fish are lost is due to a suddenly slack line. The slack line means the tension on the hook is lost; causing loss of the fish.

We’ve Got What You’re Looking For
Our fishing tackle at Live to Fish contains conventional fishing combinations suitable for offshore fishing. In addition, you’ll find rods and reels suited for pursuing inshore gamefish and freshwater species. We want you to have the right gear for whatever you’re after, so we’re happy to answer any questions you may have. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have questions about the appropriate gear, or any of the items we sell.

By: Josh Stewart

 

 

5 Tips for Fishing with Kids & Newbies

Unfortunately, getting out on the water for a fishing trip happens less likely than most of us would want. A fishing trip involving a newcomer or young children can be even less likely. Having a newcomer to the sport of fishing, child or adult, is a valuable opportunity to pass on your passion for fishing. Additionally, it’s an ideal occasion to teach the less experienced fisherman about ethical fishing and boating practices. This article will help ensure trips with people not accustomed to fishing proceed as smoothly as possible. If you think back to where your passion for fishing first developed, you’re likely to recall going out with a fishing enthusiast. That ambassador to the sport of fishing likely contributed to your experience in ensuring it was favorable and unforgettable. Meaningful positive memories are ensured when helping someone with less experience end up with a fish on the line. The newcomer doesn’t necessarily have to be related to you, nor do they have to be a child. Witnessing the pure excitement exhibited by someone who hasn’t fought a fish before results in a rewarding experience for everyone involved. Follow the tips below to ensure that any fishing experience is one in which the chances of everyone enjoying the opportunity are increased.

  1. Don’t Focus on Targeting a Specific Species
    At first, the goal is simply to catch fish in general. This tip is especially true when fishing with children. When kids are along, remember that those under 10 years of age have a very short attention span. If they aren’t catching fish, boredom will soon follow.  If boredom sets in and isn’t relieved with a fish on the line, it will be all that much harder to convince them to go along with you in the future. For the first few trips, focus on going after whatever species is easiest to catch during that time of year. For the inexperienced fisherman, it’s not about the size of the fish, or the species. Gamefish or not, the newcomer will be happy that a fish goes from swimming freely to being caught. Go through the necessary preparations that you would normally follow before heading out. Such preparations include checking the tidal conditions for your area, among other things. If you don’t know what’s biting, ask a local bait shop employee or contact us.
  2. Don’t Try to Fish in Rough or Extreme Conditions
    Though you may cast concerns over wind and waves aside when heading out, someone new to the sport has not yet come to understand the fun and enjoyment that fishing brings. Your motivation to fish through uncomfortable conditions comes about as a result of the fond fishing memories you already have. Regardless of whether fishing from shore or from a boat, keep in mind that the experience is entirely new for your guest. They don’t yet share the same level of commitment and enthusiasm that you share for the sport. Exposing them to rough wind and waves may result in the person being skeptical to try the next time.  After a few successful trips, you can better gauge their endurance and willingness to deal with adverse conditions.
  3. Shorten the Duration of Your Trips
    Long trips require a similar type of endurance and enthusiasm as is required for fishing through adverse conditions.  Save the full day adventure for another time. Preferably after the novice shares your interest in the sport. How long should you plan the fishing trip duration?  Three to four hours is plenty of time to take someone out, put them on fish, and bring them back. Before you head out to catch whatever swims, make a note to pack plenty of snacks and drinks as well. You want to focus on maximizing comfort during the first trips. We sell a number of accessories to help make your trip as fun and enjoyable as possible.
  4. Cater Your Tackle to Beginners
    If you have children along, work to avoid use of treble hooks. Getting a hook in your hand or elsewhere has probably occurred to you at some point (no pun intended). Safe removal of the hook is difficult and even harder to do in a completely pain free manner. You want the hooks you remove with newcomers to be those stuck in the mouths of fish, not your guest. Fortunately, we offer a wide variety of single barb hooks.  You can easily exchange treble hooks with single barb hooks  without fear of losing the opportunity to hook up. Also remember that some manufacturers also make their lures with single barb hooks, so these types of lures are a good addition to any tackle box. Since we’re on the topic of lures, here’s another important point to consider – unless you’re simply trolling, lures require specialized knowledge involving how to work the rod and the rate at which to reel in. Each artificial bait is fished differently in order to attract strikes. When fishing with someone new to the sport, their concerns are likely to exist on a much lower level on the totem pole of fishing expertise. More likely than not, they’ll just want to make sure they nail learning how to cast. In this case, use of lures is not advisable and you should try live bait instead.
  5. Focus on Your Guests
    If you’ve ever hired a guide to take you out for a day of fishing, recall how much attention that guide provided to you. No, you don’t have to suddenly become as attentive as a professional fishing guide. The idea behind recommending that you keep your focus on your guests is to help them feel more comfortable doing something new. If you happen to hook one, hand the rod off and let them fight the fish. Valuable lessons are learned in how to properly handle a fighting fish, so it’s worth taking the time to pass on any knowledge you might have. Allow your guests the opportunity to take a close look before releasing the fish. An exception to giving you guests the chance to take a closer look would be if you happen to catch a large shark or saltwater catfish. In such instances, the risks likely outweigh the rewards. If you are going to release the fish, follow proper catch and release methods to ensure a safe release of the fish.

Be Patient & Encouraging
If they do something wrong or the fish shakes the hook, be sure to offer quick positive words of support and encouragement.  If you follow these tips, the chances of passing on your love of the sport increase.  Comment below or contact us if you have any other questions or for any further tips or suggestions.