When I began bass fishing back in the early ’90s, I made myself a pretty simple promise: I would NOT spend a lot of money on my rods and reels.
Back then, $100 was a lot of money for either of these pieces of equipment, and I just couldn’t understand why anyone would want to spend that much to catch fish.
Of course, I was coming from a bream-fishing background, where all you needed was a stick, a string, a small hook and a worm.
It didn’t take me long to figure out that cheap equipment didn’t perform very well when bass fishing.
Sure, I caught fish, but as often as not I was grinding my teeth because my drag let go on the hook set or my two-piece rod (the absolute worst invention ever) fell apart before I could get that fish in the boat.
That began my quest for quality gear.
My first good reel was a Quantum, on which I spent about $80. My wife thought I had lost my mind.
And then I discovered the reel to end all reels — the Shimano Curado. No, not the shiny reel that today bears that name, but the original green monster.
Man, it was indestructible. And I am still upset the company had the nerve to “improve” that reel.
My rods also transformed into high-quality versions that could stand the strain of a bass or redfish without disintegrating.
Today, my arsenal ranges from Quantum and Shimano reels and myriad rods — all of which range upwards of $200 or more. I even lost a $700 reel on a float trip (please, don’t ask for details; I still get mad about it).
But do you have to spend that much money for quality equipment?
To find out the answer, I turned to a couple of guides who have to put their clients on redfish and trout day in, day out, and can’t afford to have crappy equipment.
“In a month, I fish more than most people fish all year,” Capt. Brent Roy said.
Here’s what they had to say about their equipment.
Capt. Brent Roy, Venice Charters Unlimited
Roy maintains a combination of spinning and baitcasting equipment, which he doles out to his customers according to their fishing skills.
And he uses nothing but Shimano gear.
His spinning reels are Stradics and Saharas, with the 3000 and 4000 models being his preference. Stradics run about $180 each, while the Saharas are a steal at about $90.
“That Stradic holds up a little longer than the Sahara,” Roy said. “But with the Sahara, for $500 I can get five brand-new reels.”
The current Curados, which run about $180, are exceptional baitcast values, Roy said.
“In my opinion, the Curado is just as good as any of the $200-plus reels,” he said. “They seem to be a happy medium to me. When I burn up one of those $300 Calcuttas, it hurts. But when I burn up one of those Curados, I can throw it in the canal and go about my life.
“It’s all about that happy medium; I’m trying to find that reel that’s dependable and won’t break the bank.”
When it comes to rods, Roy has rods custom-built. But he still doesn’t spend a lot on them: Each Speedeaux rod, which is built in Mississippi, measures 7 feet long and comes emblazoned with his guide service’s name.
“They only cost $65, so when (a customer) breaks one, I don’t have a heart attack,” the guide said.
But All Star offers some exceptional rods through Academy, he said.
“Go to Academy and get one of those 7 1/2-foot All Star rods with the cork handles,” Roy advised. “They are absolutely the toughest rods I put in my boat. They won’t break.”
Capt. Anthony Kyzar, Cajun Fishing & Hunting Charters
This Houma-based guide said he exclusively uses spinning tackle to make it easier for his customers. And he moved away from Shimano, finding Penn spinning reels hold up better.
“I am using Penn Battle 2500 spinning reels,” Kyzar said. “They have 6:1 gear ratio, so you can catch up with a big redfish charging the boat.”
He also said they are designed for use with braided line, so he doesn’t have to use any backing when spooling up the 20- to 30-pound Spiderwire Stealth he prefers.
“With any other spinning reels you have to put mono backing on them or the line will slip on the spool,” Kyzar said.
He matches these reels with 7-foot medium-action Penn Battle rods with extra-fast tips.
“They have cork handles and quality components,” Kyzar said. “I bought six Penn Battle combos last fall, and I have not had any problems.
“Two rods broke, but they were stepped on, and one broke in the Power-Pole,” he chuckled.