Pacific Coast Sportfishing Blogs

Started by alantani, March 23, 2009, 01:38:02 AM

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i've been given the opportunity to write a blog for Pacific Coast Sportfishing.  it was a little embarassing, but i wasn't even sure what a blog was.  a quick run to google answered that question.  hey, don't laugh.  i'm old.  i don't even text!!!!!!  i used microsoft word to write the first one.  it's going to be different actually using capital letters at the beginning of each sentence.  the spell and grammer checkers are nice, though.  when i get a link, i'll post it.  i'll also post the blogs on this board so that you can follow them here as well.  for now, check out and some of the other blogs at
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3/22/09 - Questions about general reel maintenance are the most common questions I get.  After all, you've just spent $50 to $500 on a brand new reel and you'd like to keep it looking like new.  You'd also like to keep it WORKING like new.   Think of the dozens of reels in your lifetime that have died and gone to reel heaven.  Now you're buying a new reel to replace an old one and you want THIS one to be different.  That's the way it works, isn't it. 

Maintaining the outside is a simple matter.  Try not to drag it around on the deck, rinse it with fresh water at the end of the day, dry it with a towel, and maybe even wipe it down with a little bit of light oil.  The problem is the inside.  Do you use a lot of water or just a little?  What about Salt Away?  Should you back of the star or leave it buttoned down?  Should you leave the lever in the strike position or free?  How do I keep this reel from seizing up like the last one did?

Personally, I only use star drag reels for local fishing.  Northern California saltwater fishing is pretty light duty most of the time.  After a long day on the water we'll get home, I'll hand off the rods and reels to the kids and turn them loose with a water hose.  If I'm lucky, they might even get around to actually drying everything.  Just as often as not, the rods and reels are stowed in the garage, dripping wet, with some of the drags buttoned down and others loose.  The next week, we'll load everything up on the boat, go fish and usually not have a single problem with our tackle.  Most guys will run into problems with a lax maintenance schedule like this.  We will do fine because the reels had been serviced when they were brand new. 

The most important thing you can do to maintain your reel is to service it when it is brand new.  The mantra is greased carbon fiber drag washers, spool bearings that are open and lightly lubed, level wind assemblies that are lightly lubed, non-spool bearings that are packed with grease, grease on all the screws and a light coat of grease on all the non-exposed surfaces.  Do a thorough job the first time and your reel should last for years.  Done properly, the only things in your reel that should remain at risk are the spool bearings.  If you pack the spool bearings with grease, they will never rust, but you won't be able to cast either.  If you lube them and leave them, they will eventually rust.  The best maintenance schedule, then, is to thoroughly service your reel first.  After every fishing trip, rinse your reel with fresh water and dry it with a towel or compressed air.  Finally, lube the bearings and the level wind assembly with a light oil.  Stick with this schedule and your reel should last for years. 

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3/23/09 - In medicine, one of the first things a student is taught is the difference between the subjective and the objective.  Subjectives are things that a patient will complain of, like "Hey, doc, i ache all over, my back hurts and i'm hearing voices."  Objectives are things that can be assigned hard numbers, like a heart rate, a blood pressure, a respiratory rate and a temperature.  Back pain can be subject to interpretation, but the number of pills taken in the previous week to treat that back pain is an objective hard number.  In deciding how best to help a patient, appreciating these differences can be very helpful. 

So it is also in fishing.  Subjectively, someone can say that a reel easy to crank, the drags are smooth and the spool spins like crazy.  Objectively, a reel will have physical dimension, line capacity, a retrieve ratio, a maximum drag setting, and a freespool time.  The battle I constantly fight is trying to get guys to actually measure and properly set their drags.  What could be more simple?  You spool up your reel with 300 yards of 30 pound monofilament, tie the line off to a spring scale and rear back on the rod like you're fighting a fish.  A typical drag setting would be 25 to 33% of your line weight.  That means you adjust the drag setting for your 30 pound reel until the scale reads 7.5 to 10 pounds. 

Now imagine getting stuck at your wife's office party.  Just to tick her off, you've worn that fish tie that the kids got you for Christmas.  Bored to death and two drinks into the evening, some total stranger comes up to you and starts to talk fishing.  He's big,  tall, a little overweight, and he's got arms like your thighs.  In a loud gruff voice, he tells you about the time he was "spooled in seconds" by a giant yellowfin tuna on a San Diego 5 day trip. You have the presence of mind not to roll your eyes.   Just trying to hold up your end of the conversation, you ask what kind of reel he was using and what the drag setting was.  You've heard this answer before.  "I don't need a scale!  I can set the drags by hand." 

OK, settle down.  You've only had two drinks and you're going to find out later that this bozo is your wife's boss.  He could be right.  He could also be a total idiot.  Either way, it is not worth arguing because you have no objective measures.  More importantly, your glass is empty and there's no one at the bar.  Just tell him that you need to find your wife and avoid him for the rest of the evening.  Know your drag settings, guys.  It really is just that simple. 
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3/25/09 - The short answer is 1 foot every 5 seconds.  This is the objective standard that I use to define a smooth drag system for a reel.  Let's say that I have star drag reel loaded with straight 20 pound mono and I want to set the drag to 25% or 5 pounds.  What I'll do is put the reel on the rod, run the line through the guides, tie the line off to a 5 pound downrigger weight and then button down the star.  Then I will reel the rod tip down to the weight and lift until I have a 45 degree angle on the butt and a nice gentleman's bend in the rest of the rod.  Ideally, the rod should be loaded up so that the rod tip is midway between the bottom of the butt and the top of the arc.  This should distribute the load evenly over all the guides. Now back off the star until the weight drops 1 foot every 5 seconds.  You now have a dynamic drag setting of 5 pounds THROUGH the guides.  Lower the rod and you decrease the drag.  Point the rod straight down and you eliminate the rod's contribution to the total drag pressure.  Good quality guides will contribute no more than 10% to the total drag setting. 

This is a little more difficult to do with a lever drag reel.  Pulling back on a scale will give you a close enough approximation.  If your drag system is not smooth, you will know as soon as you hook on a fish that's big enough to peel some line off the spool.   We've all seen a rod tip bounce when the drag is sticky.   Check your own reels to see how smooth your drags are.  If your reels have a greased carbon fiber drag system, you should easily be able to reach this level of performance.  If they are sticky, consider an upgrade.  Smooth is always better.  Having a sticky drag system is a quick way to break off a fish.
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3/26/09 - A school of 50 to 80 pound Guadalupe yellow fin tuna were working the chum line off the stern of the "Spirit."    Several of us were already hooked up.  Then it was Wesley's turn.   A yellow fin picked up his bait and line started peeling off his reel.  After an agonizingly long three count, he threw the reel into gear.  His rod loaded up in an instant.  Then came that sickening sound from his reel, "zzztttttttt, zzztttttttt, zzzzzzztttttttttttt, powwwwwwwwww!!!!!!!!!!!!"  Tail between his legs, he walked back to his tackle box, tied on another hook, pinned on another bait and flipped it out into the chum line from an empty corner on the stern.  His bait was inhaled as soon as it hit the water.  Three more seconds and threw is reel into gear.  I heard the same "zzztttttttt, zzztttttttt, zzzzzzztttttttttttt, powwwwwwwwww!!!!!!!!!!!!", this time followed by "son of a #@*% !!!!!!!!!!!!!!"   He almost chucked that rod and reel into the water. By the time he picked another rig, the bite had died.

I had serviced his reel before the trip and had no idea what was going on.  During a lull in the bite, I tore his reel down and found no problems at all.  I spooled it back up and grabbed a scale.  I hooked the line up to the scale, pulled back on the rod like I was fighting a fish and set the drag to 15 pounds.  Then, just out of curiosity, I pulled back in a straight line and got 10 pounds.  I was shocked!!!!  The rod was adding 50% to the drag setting.  A quick check revealed a ceramic insert in the rod tip that was grooved.  I pulled off the ceramic tip, glued on a roller tip, and we were back in business.  Now, through the guides, I had a 15 pound drag setting rearing back on the rod.  On a straight pull, with no load on the guides, I had 13 pounds.  As far as Wesley was concerned, that rod had bad Juju, but at least I knew what the problem was. 

For local fishing in Northern California, my rods all have guides with ceramic inserts.  My long range rods are a little different.  Mind you, these are not hard and fast rules.  For drag settings of 10 pounds and less, I use rods that have guides all the up.  For drag settings of 11 to 15 pounds, I add a roller tip.  It probably does decrease my casting distance a little, but I am so lousy at casting that I think it does not make a different.  For 16 to 20 pound drag settings, I added a roller tip and roller stripper.  For drag settings in excess of 20 pounds, my rods have rollers all the way up.  To get the smoothest performance from your gear, both the rod and the reel need to work. 

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3/27/09 - There are several different drag systems that are commonly used in reels today.  Their smoothness, this lack of "start up," can sometimes be the difference between landing a fish or not.  I service an average of about a thousand reels a year and I think I've pretty much seen every drag material that's ever been used.  Remember, I would define a "smooth drag" as having less than 10% "start up."  If you have a weight that is equivalent to your drag setting and hang that weight on the reel, a smooth drag would allow that weight to drop 1 foot every 5 seconds.  A "reliable drag" would then be a smooth drag that would never become sticky as the reel ages.  Simple enough, so let's see what's out there. 

Leather was used as a drag material in the early Mitchells from France, the early Ocean City's, the early Penn's and many others.  It did not perform well.  Over the years, many different materials were developed, including felt, particle board, hard carbon and some unique composites.  They all became sticky over time.   Coarse woven carbon fiber, their famous HT-100, eventually became the drag material of choice for Penn, but this material would stick if it became wet, corroded or oily.  Shimano took it one step further by adding pure teflon grease and found that their greased carbon fiber drag system never failed.  Yes, that is never, as in not ever, not once, zero.  This wet drag system has now found its way into the flagship two speed lever drag reels of many manufacturers, including Penn, Daiwa and Okuma.  The engineers at Accurate used dry carbon fiber in 1996 with their first reels, then added Cal's Drag Grease in 2007.  They also now enjoy a zero failure rate with their drag systems.

Greased carbon fiber is only now starting to show up in star drag reels.  Pro Gear used these drag washers in the final runs of their Albacore Special and Classic Series reels, but the company is now gone.  Daiwa is using greased carbon is their new Saltist 20 and 30.  Okuma has a Carbonite drag washer, which is also greased carbon fiber.  This is admittedly a short list, but I believe that it will be getting longer in the near future.  If your reel has a dry carbon fiber drag system and has become sticky, the simple addition of a pure teflon grease is an option.  If your reel has a different type of drag material, your local tackle shop may be able to install carbon fiber.  Upgrades such as this usually involve adapting a Penn HT-100 or an aftermarket Carbontex drag washer.  The addition of a Cal's Drag Grease will then give your star drag reel the same smoothness and reliability enjoyed by the most expensive two speed lever drag reels.

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A Different Point of View

If you've been reading these blogs, then it means you have to be as obsessed with fishing as I am.  You remember the fish you've caught.  You also remember the fish you've lost.  Fine tuning our art is often just a matter of eliminating those weak links in the chain that result in lost fish.  That means taking a hard critical look at everything, from the handle grip to point of the hook.  So let's do just that, but this time let's start with a different point of view. 

Most guys look at the reel first and then work their way out to the fish.  Let's reverse that and take at things from the fish's point of view.  Bait selection or lure presentation have to be addressed by the guys that fish that specific body of the water in question, so I'm going to start from the point of the hook.  In most situations, sharper is better, but I've been known to knock the point off a circle hook or two.  Pick a hook that works for the fish that you are targeting.  Test your knots with a scale.  A uni knot, Palomar or San Diego should break at 90% of your line rating.  Test a few, otherwise you may not know that you're doing something wrong until you've lost a few fish.  Pick a fishing line and stick with it for a while.  Tie a few connecting knots and test those as well.  Change your mono or fluoro topshots often.  If you use a braid, have it spooled on tightly by machine. Loosely spooled braid will dig into itself and lock up.  A double wrap of black electrical tape on the arbor will make sure the spectra does not slip on the spool.  Don't laugh.  It's a very common mistake for first timers. 

The line has to go through the guides of the rod.  We've already talked about rod selection and rod problems.  When the fish takes a run, it is pulling against the drag system.  The major reel manufacturers put greased carbon fiber drag washers in their most expensive two speed lever drag reels for a reason.  If there are no weak links in this chain, they a fish on a run has a direct connection from the point of the hook to the drag system of the reel.  That's right.  This fish's interface with the reel is the drag system.  This fish does know (or care) if your reel is graphite or gold; lever drag  or star; level wind or topless; single speed or two; domestic or foreign.  All it feels is the drag system.  If your reel comes with stock with greased carbon fiber drag washer, or if you've upgraded to greased carbon fiber, it will never be able to tell the difference between a $50 reel and $500 reel. 

Ah, but you will be able to tell the difference.  Your interface with the reel is the handle grip.  That continues through to the drive shaft, then the gears to the drag system.  And it is at the drag washers that the two of you meet.  Like I said, just a different point of view. 
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It's common on internet boards to see a guy say that he as a reel and wants to match it up to a rod.  It's difficult because rods will typically give you a line weight rating.  Just like with reels, I would rather see them list a drag range.  I believe that using a drag range is the most reliable way to establish a proper rating for a rod.  Experienced fishermen all have a "feel" for what is well balance, but have probably not thought it through in an OBJECTIVE manner.  Yeah, there's that word again!  Here's the procedure that I go through.  

Place any reel with any heavy line (it doesn't matter) on the rod.  Button down the drag.  Run the line through the guides and tie it off to a milk jug.  Place the rod in a holder of some sort so that the rod butt rests at a 45 degree angle.  Now add weight (cut a hole in the jug) until the rod bends to the desired flex that you want.  I look for the rod to bend until the tip is midway between the top of the arc and the bottom of butt of the rod.  You may desire more or less flex.  It depends upon the type of rod and your personal preferences.

Now total up the weight in the jug.  Let's say that you have a medium weight rod that flexes to a desired amount with only 10 pounds of STATIC weight.  You have now determined the proper drag setting for your rod.  Remember that guides will typically add about 10% to the DYNAMIC drag.  Remember also that I use all guides for drag settings of less than 10 pounds, a roller tip for drag settings of 10 to 15 pounds, a roller tip and roller stripper for drag settings of 15-20 pounds, and all rollers for drag settings of 20 pounds or more.  But that's just me.  

Next, choose a percentage drag setting.  Different people have different preferences.  You might typically fish as heavy a drag setting as 33% or as light as 25%.  Anything more risks line breakage (been there).  Anything less is wasted unless line abrasion resistance is a concern.  Admittedly, I fish some rigs as heavy as 40% and others as light as 12%.  Let's just say that we will stay within average parameters.  With a desired 10 pound drag setting at a 33%, you need a 30 pound mono.

Finally, decide how much line you really need.  Typically you only need 300 yards of line capacity.  What kind of fish can take a 300 yard run on you if the drags are properly set?   Fer cryin' out loud, guys!  That's the length of three football fields.  Why in the world would anyone need 1000 yards of line?  In the vast majority of cases, it's lack of confidence, low drag settings or you're fishing WAY back.  Remember out friend at the dinner party?  Yeah, very few fishermen actually check their drag settings with a scale.  I'm sorry that this is so harsh, but unless the fish is larger than 5 times the line weight, I see no excuse for getting "spooled."
Finally, select a reel. It has to have the capacity to hold the required amount of line, deliver the required amount of drag and still maintain the required amount of free spool.  Luckily, you've got just the perfect reel!
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... what would it be like?  Hmm, now that would be interesting.  I would want a set of three reels.  The first would be my 30-pound-class reel, holding 300 yards of 50-pound spectra and a 50-yard topshot of 30-pound-test mono or fluoro, capable of delivering an easy 15 pounds of drag.  The second would be a 40-pound-class reel, holding 300 yards of 65-pound spectra and a 50-yard topshot of 40-pound test mono or fluoro, capable of delivering an easy 20 pounds of drag.  The third would be a 50-pound-class reel, holding 300 yards of 80-pound spectra and a 50-yard topshot of 50-pound mono or fluoro, delivering 25 pound of drag.  Yes, these would be very small reels!

I'm fine with a star drag design.  I would like the spool to be "boxed out," meaning that the spool would be as wide as it is tall.  Tolerances between the spool and frame have to be tight enough to not allow the spectra to be "eaten" in between.  Anodized aircraft-grade aluminum is fine for the topless frame, side plates, and spool.  A bronze main gear is quiet but maybe a little soft.  A stainless steel main gear is noisy but much sturdier.  Let's go with an oversized stainless steel main gear, pinion gear, and drive shaft, all hardened.  I would like all stainless steel guts, clicker assembly included.  Softer 304 stainless is fine.  We really only need two bearings, one on each side of the spool.  Standard ABEC 5 bearings will work, but let's leave them open and lubed with one of the new dry Teflon lubes.  I'd like a stack of three or five greased carbon fiber drag washers inside the main gear and one underneath.  The anti-reverse system should have double spring-loaded dogs and a single anti-reverse roller bearing (just for looks).  The handle arm should be stainless steel with a monster offset machined delron handle grip.    A stamped stainless steel reel seat with four screws and a delron rod clamp with a stainless steel bolt kit will finish it off.

A 6:1 gear ratio for a 30-pound reel may be a bit fast for many, but there definitely are advantages, so 6:1 it is.  The 40-pound reel can be 5:1 and the 50-pound reel can be 4:1.  Let's have a right side plate that is held by three to four screws.  Pop the side plate, and you should have easy access to the pair of spool bearings.  Now you can easily lube the bearings after every fishing trip.  No more excuses for not maintaining your reel.  Don't forget grease on all the screws and on all the non-exposed metal surfaces. This would mean "zero maintenance" for the entire right side plate and frame.  Unless I have forgotten something, you now have a truly spectra-worthy reel.  Now I just have to find someone to build them for me! 
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4/15/09 - There a four different lubricants that I use in fishing reels.  A "one size fits all" approach will work in some situations, but not this one.  This continues to be a work in progress.  As of this writing, April 2009, here are the four lubes that I've settled on. 

Blue Grease – There are several different manufacturers that market blue greases for fishing reels.  These products are all hydrocarbon based, salt water resistant, they never harden, (important to a service center) they stay blue forever and cost only $5 to 15 per pound.  You can service a reel, open it up 10 years later and know that you've worked on it before.  These blue greases can be packed into non-spool bearings, applied to all screws, gears and other non-exposed metal surfaces, and provide a lifetime of corrosion resistance.  The product that I use is the $5 per pound Yamaha All Purpose Engine Grease.  Don't use these blue greases on drag washers.

Drag Grease – There are currently three drag greases on the market, available from Shimano, Cal Sheets and Xtreme Lubricants.  These products are Teflon-based and cost from $25 to 50 per pound.  One way to separate these products is by melting temperature.  Shimano's drag grease melts at 300 degrees Fahrenheit, Cal's drag grease melts at 500 degrees F, and the Xtreme drag grease melts at 1000 degrees F.  Water, of course, boils at 212 degrees F at sea level.  Unless you see steam coming from you fishing reel, you are nowhere near the melting temperature for any of these products.  Under the heaviest drag settings with several hundred yard runs, there is a phenomenon called "high speed runout."  Cal Sheets describes a decrease in drag pressure when a big fish is running long, hard and fast with lower melting temperature Teflon greases.  This would not be a concern in the vast majority of situations.  The product that I am currently using is the $25 per pound Cal's Drag, although the Shimano and Xtreme products perform equally well in the light tackle applications that I am commonly faced with. 

Oils – For years, WD-40 had been a popular lubricant in fishing reels, but it turns to varnish over time and has generally fallen out of favor.  Many other light hydrocarbon-based oils are available and provide excellent lubricant properties without turning to varnish over time.  The product that I have used for the last ten years is Corrosion X.  The polar molecular bonding that Corrosion X, Reel X and Speed X offer will give these products excellent lubricating properties and long life.  I use these products on any parts of a reel that need a lighter lubricant that a heavy grease.  Handles, levers, level wind assemblies, bearings and bushing are the most common places in a reel that are oiled rather than greased.  Corrosion X sprayed into an old rag, after a fresh water rinse and towel dry, is also an excellent way of wiping down your reel after a day of fishing. 

Dry Teflon Lubricants – For the last 2 months, I have been using a dry Teflon lubricant from Xtreme Lubricants on spool bearings.  After cleaning out spool bearings and lubricating them with hydrocarbon based oils, freespool times of 30 to 60 seconds are typical.  Lubricating these same spool bearings with one of these dry Teflon lubricants will increase the freespool times from seconds to minutes.  Larger spools with a great deal of rotational inertia can spin for up to 5 minutes when the bearings are lubed with these newer dry Teflon lubes.  Hydrocarbon-based oils can form can actually form a hydrodynamic wedge (like a standing wave on a very small scale) in front of the balls of the bearings that will actually slow your spin rate.  The improvement in freespool time is dramatic!  Another reel tech and I had independently tried this product, saw the improvement, and decided in a microsecond that we were going to use this product in our own personal reels.  At issue is what to do for a customer.  Corrosion resistance is still a concern, but even my tried and true Corrosion x does not last forever.  So how good (or bad) is the corrosion protection from these dry Teflon lubes?  I will have a final answer for you next year.  For me personally, I know that better freespool will give me longer casting distances, and longer casting distances will catch me more fish. 
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4/25/09 - Servicing a Bearing

You're serious about fishing.  You're serious about your gear.  You can strip down and rebuild your reels in your sleep.  Sometimes you do.  The drags in your reels have all been upgraded to greased carbon fiber, the internal surfaces have a light coat of grease, and you even have some custom handle grips.  Bearings, however, have been that last little item that have continued to plague you.  You would like more freespool to improve your casting distance.  Adding different lubes have increased your freespool times, but you can't seem to break the 60 second barrier.  You would like to pack other of these bearings with grease to protect them a little better.  Well, it's time to open them up. 

What you really need to do is get more distance in your cast.  In the past, you would clean spool bearings by soaking them in lighter fluid, white gas or try to spray them with carburetor cleaner.  The spool would spin well for a day or two, then start to slow down.  What's happening is that there is some residual grease still inside the bearing.  If you could open it up, that's what you would see.  Like many, you've never even considered the possibility of removing the shields or seals of a bearing.  Well, someone put this bearing together.  That means someone else can take it apart. 

Bearing design is pretty simple.  You have an inside race, an outside race, the balls and a cage to hold the balls in place.  To protect the balls, there are metal shields or plastic/phenolic seals to keep the dirt out and hold the grease in.  Let's take a peek inside. 

The most common metal shield design is one that is held in by a retaining ring.  Use a small hook to pick out the end of the retaining ring.  You can then use the point of the hook to remove the shield.  The advantage of this system is that the shield can be replaced if you want.

The other metal shield type is one that is just pressed in.  From a manufacturing point of view, this is a quick and easy system to work with.  To remove this type of shield, you need a sharp point to puncture the metal shield and pop it out.  This might appear daunting, but with a little practice it can be quick and easy.  Once these shields are removed, they will be too damaged to replace and will have to be discarded.

The plastic or phenolic seal is the last type used.  These are by far the easiest bearing types to service.  Use the point of a very small blade to gently pop out the seal.  If the seals are removed without damage, they can easily be pressed back into place and the bearing will still spin well.  If the seal is damaged at all, it will commonly rub against the inside race and slow down the bearing considerably. 

Once these bearings are open, you can easily clean them out with carburetor cleaner and gentle compressed air.  Then you can use your lube of choice and get this bearing to really spin.  You can also hand pack the bearing with grease and make sure that are no air pockets that will hold salt water.

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What Makes a Great Kayak Reel?

Bushings!  That's right, not bearings.  Bushings.......

There is a small group of fishermen here in Northern California that fish the inshore waters for rockcod, halibut and lingcod.  They tend to be young, physically fit, well educated and fanatically dedicated to their sport.  When I am looking to fill an open spot or two on my boat, I will often go to their website with an invitation.  I have always had good success in finding hardworking deckhands.  There is not a whiner in the bunch.  After all, these guys normally fish from a 14 foot long piece of Tupperware.  They have to launch through the breakers, paddle one to five miles and sit in a cold wetsuit for hours.  Such is the sport of kayak fishing in Northern California's 55 degree water!  Give me the comfortable deck of a boat any day.  I say this with the deepest respect.  These guys are nuts!  They are also very hard on their reels. 

To survey this group, you will find an impressive array of very fancy reels.  TE's, Luna's, SX's and 197's top the list.  Because they are local, I have either personally serviced many of their reels, or they have been serviced by their owners at one of the many seminars that I have offered.  They have all come to appreciate the benefits of greased carbon fiber drag washers and additional grease throughout the reel to prevent corrosion.  Bearing continue to be an issue.  More bearings a replaced among this group than any other.    But could we eliminate the bearings and eliminate the problem?
The answer, of course, is yes!  Spool bearing are the primary concern.  Handle and side plate bearings can always be packed with grease.  Spool bearings cannot, if you still need good free spool.  Bronze bushings could prove to be an acceptable alternative in many reels.  The Jigmaster 500 is an excellent example because it already has bushings.  Sadly, the gap between the lip of the spool and the inside rings is so large that it will eat anything smaller than 30 pound monofilament.  An excellent alternative is the Shimano TR 100G/200G and heavier TLD Star 15/30 and 20/40, which come with bushing stock, not bearings.  Another light tackle alternative would be the 4000/5000/6000 series Ambassaduers.  These reels come stock with bearings, but a 4x10x4mm bushing is available from the manufacturer and makes a most excellent "upgrade" for the kayak fisherman.  The advantage of the Shimano and Ambassasduer reels is that the gap between the spool and frame is tight enough that it will not eat spectra.  These few reels alone could handle nearly ANY inshore application. 

So to all of you kayak fishermen, the next time you get caught by a wave and roll your kayak in the surf, remember to clean out your reels and pay particular attention to the bearings.  If you find that your bearings are all ready rusted, consider an upgrade to a bronze bushing!  Oh, and remember.  Don't turn the handle!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Bearing Sleeves to Increase Freespool Time.

Most of you are familiar with this process by the name "Blue Printing," from Cal Sheets.  Since last summer, I've been cutting bearing sleeves on a small scale for a few lever drag reels.  The purpose of the bearing sleeve is to prevent pressure from building up on the inside races of the spool bearings.  An axial load on these bearings will decrease the freespool time in a lever drag reel and decrease your casting distance.  Using thin walled brass tubing from your local hobby shop, you can cut a bearing sleeve yourself.  The results can be dramatic! 

All you need is a tubing cutter, a drill with a half inch chuck and a mill bastard file. Here is the tubing that you would start with.  A standard mill bastard file will shave off 3 to 5 thousanths of an inch with every stroke, depending on how sharp the file is and how hard you lean on it.  After a few tries, you will get the feel for it.  Plan on having to do this a few times before you get it right.

Here is what the spool shaft assembly looks like, out of the reel, with the bearing sleeve in place.  Ideally, you want zero load and zero endplay.  If you cut it too short, you may as well start over because the bearing sleeve will not work at all.  If it's too long, the spool can move around while in free and you may note that the spool stops when you roll it to the right.  You want to be not more than 10 thousanths long ( piece of paper is 3 thousanths of an inch thick).  This one was perfect.  With just the bearings and sleeve in place, you should be able to push in on one bearing and feel just the slightest amount of pressure on the other.  If you can push in on one bearing and actually MOVE the other bearing completely, the sleeve is too long. 

To check the function of the bearings and bearing sleeve, place the spool shaft assembly in the spool and give it a spin.  You should get about 30 seconds of freespool.  Now place the drive plate (key #117) on, press only half way to put pressure on the left side bearing spring (key #41) and spin it again.  If you get the same amount of freespool, then you know that there is no axial load on the bearings and it works. 

Cal Sheets is the one that actually coined the term, "Blue Printing." The actual blue printing procedure involves several different steps, all very precise, very time consuming and very expensive. He starts by machining down the drag plate to make it perfectly true. That's step one. Then, a piece of heavy stainless steel tubing is turned on a lathe to make a bearing sleeve. It's accurate down the a few thousanths of an inch. In my garage, I'm lucky to get it within 10 thousanths. Finally, he uses a combination of belleville spring washers to give you the exact drag range that you specify. This is not so much science as it is art! Want 22 pounds of drag? He will set it up so that you get a smooth progression to 22 pounds. So if you want the ultimate in performance in your two speed lever drag reel, absolutely go to Cal Sheets. If you want to squeeze out a little more performance and stay within budget, consider doing the work yourself.

For the complete post on rebuilding a Penn 30S International at home, go to
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It's Been A Brutal Winter.....

.... But fishing season is finally here!  I just love the ocean and I pretty much limit myself to ocean fishing only.  I fish inshore during most of the May to November season.  Right now that means only rock cod and ling cod.  In Northern California, our salmon fishery has collapsed, halibut has always been spotty, and white sea bass are like ghosts (you don't find them, they find you).  In late summer months, we may or may not get a shot at albacore.  Last year they hop scotched right over us and landed in Oregon.   

With the entire sport fleet facing the same problems, the inshore reefs within 15 miles of every harbor have pretty much been picked clean of larger rock fish.  That means that you have to make a 25 to 40 mile run, past the range of most of the smaller skiffs, to get to some decent fishing.  My Grady White 258 can make that kind of run easily, but it still makes for a very long day.   This year, I am going to concentrate on kid's trips.  I am also going to work the NorCalKayak Club to mothership out the kayak fishermen to waters that they would normally not have access to.  I hope you will enjoy the reports.  For me, it will simply be nice to be back on the water again.

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Offset handle grips.

The fish's interface with the reel is the drag system.  Once you upgrade your drag washers to greased carbon fiber, the fish will probably not be able to tell the difference between your $90 ambassaduer and your $350 calcutta.  Your interface with the reel is the handle grip.  In between the handle grip and the drags is a reel with single or two speeds, leverdrag or star drag, graphite or aluminum frame, level wind or no.  Once you're on a fish, your reel may as well be a black box.  It's you on the handle grip and the fish against the drag.

So why are most handle grips about the size of a peanut, even on the big reels?  Tiburon addressed this issue with their patented T-Bar handle, featuring a very large angled grip.  Their patent covered offset angles from 10 to 25 degrees.   Not to be deterred, Avet came out with a large grip that featured a 9 degree offset.  Recently, Accurate introduced a grip that also featured a 9 degree offset, Alutecnos a curved grip, and Shimano finally introduced a "bellbottomed" Offset Ergonomic Power Grip Handle on their larger Tiagras.  The trend towards larger offset handle grips is unmistakeable.

If you've never tried a large offset grip before, find one of these reels and give it a spin.  You're in for a real treat!

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