Best Combos For The Southeast
Rod And Reel Setups For Fresh And Saltwater
The diverse array of fishing opportunities in the Southeast offers opportunities for anglers of all persuasions, be it fly fishing quiet ponds, casting plugs along river shores, surf casting, or trolling the deep blue Gulf Stream.
Best Saltwater Rod And Reel Setups
As a general rule, gear used in saltwater must be designed to withstand corrosion. Rods and reels sold as “freshwater” models may have lower-quality stainless steel, ultralight magnesium or other metals, which corrode quickly in the saltwater environment. Line capacity is another big issue for saltwater fishing. Whereas largemouth bass rarely pull more than 10 feet of line from the reel, a large snook or redfish can easily strip 100 feet or more… and a large king mackerel or sailfish can take 100 yards in the blink of an eye. Reels used for most near-coastal fishing should carry at least 200 yards of line, and those used in the deep ocean, at least twice that.
Spinning tackle is probably the most commonly used gear in coastal Florida. Inshore fishing in the Sunshine State is about big water, wary fish and the need to cast small lures far. Florida is also windy much of the year.
A typical inshore fishing rig for seatrout, redfish and snapper would be a 7- or even 7 ½-foot, fast-action rod rated for ¼- to ½-ounce lures and 6- to 12-pound test line. Most manufacturers’ line-test recommendations, of course, are based upon monofilament lines, which are of considerably larger diameter than braided polyethylene of similar weight. Thus a reel capable of holding 120 yards of 8-pound monofilament might hold 200 yards of 10-pound braid, which is a safe margin for fast-swimming fish hooked in open water.
A step-up spinning rig, again about 7 feet in length, rated for ½- to 1-ounce lures, and paired with either 12-pound monofilament or 20-pound braided line, is an excellent tool for larger bay and some open-ocean fishing. With 300 yards of line, a spinning rig in this class is plenty for king mackerel, cobia and sailfish.
A special category of spinning rod is for surf fishing. These are generally 10- to 12-foot rods with large reels holding 17- or 20-pound-test monofilament. Because surf-casters are contending with high seas and currents, they commonly cast sinkers weighing 3 or 4 ounces; this needs to be factored in when selecting a rod by lure-weight ratings.
Great Bass Rigs
For largemouth bass, baitcasting gear, like seven- to 8-foot, heavy power, fast-action flippin’ sticks, with 50- to 80-pound braided line and ¾-ounce-plus lure ratings may seem like overkill for fish rarely exceeding 8 pounds in weight, but most Florida lakes are vegetation-rich and it’s a normal part of the day to haul in a fish along with a big mass of weeds. Lighter rods (both in terms of power and action) are sometimes used for casting crankbaits or spinnerbaits, or for other special applications such as finesse fishing.
Offshore gear runs a wide gamut. A basic trolling setup for coastal waters would be a 6-foot conventional rod, rated for 1 to 3 ounces, with a revolving spool, lever-drag trolling reel holding 400 yards of 20-pound-test monofilament. This is well-matched for trolling ballyhoo, small feathers and spools, typical lures for school dolphin, blackfin tuna, sailfish, king mackerel and others.
For targeting large wahoo or yellowfin tuna, many anglers step up to 50-pound tackle and troll an array consisting of a planer or trolling lead, followed by a long shock leader, terminating in a large crankbait or rigged horse ballyhoo. This application demands sturdy gear, a flawless drag system and at least 800 yards of line. The capacity is due not only to the size of the expected catch, but to the fact that 100 yards of line may be already off the spool while trolling—and the rate of loss is multiplied by the speed of the boat.
True big-game fishing tackle is reserved for swordfish, sharks and occasional forays into the deep Gulf of Mexico or east side of the Gulf Stream. However, some inshore fishermen use 80- or even 130-pound line to haul goliath grouper or giant hammerhead sharks to the boat or to the beach, all for release, of course.
Bottom fishing rods and reels should be selected based on the fish you are seeking, the depth and the structure. To wrestle a tough grouper, weighing 30 pounds or more, away from a tall reef requires a rod with backbone, line with heavy breaking strength, and a reel with a stiff frame, durable gears and a strong drag.
Fly Rods & Reels
Fly fishing offers a similar panorama of options, depending on the environment and the target species. A 9-foot, 9-weight fly outfit is probably the closest to a universal fly rig as you’ll find. This class outfit will cast popping bugs for bass one day, streamers for mackerel the next, and bonefish flies on the flats the day after that. An 11- or 12-weight outfit is standard for large tarpon. A 4- or 5-weight outfit can be a joy when fishing for bluegills and other panfish.