Evolution is happening all around us at a rate of knots, and angling is not being left behind for a second.
But before I get into too much detail about the topic of angling evolution, I feel I must touch on a rather sensitive subject, namely conservation. We as anglers are evolving very fast and fishing tackle is being improved at a rapid rate, which gives us that small edge on the fish to successfully catch them. Our fish stocks are under so much strain and being thinned out by commercial operations from countries around the globe that we as recreational anglers have to make a concerted effort to conserve by practising catch-and-release. In my opinion, a motto we should all live by is: ‘Keep only what you can eat today, let everything else go free’.
Ok, that’s enough of that, back to the subject of angling evolution. I would like to talk about the grinder in particular. From a shore angling perspective the grinder – aka, coffee meul, coffee grinder or spinning reel – has come a very long way over the last five years. Five years ago only your weekend angler would be seen sporting a coffee grinder on the beach. The main reason for this was that the coffee grinder of old simply did not have the features needed to catch a feisty saltwater fish, or even to stand up to the corrosion effects of salt water; in fact, most grinders back in the day would only make one or two trips to the coastline before they were retired due to seizing caused by salt damage.
That’s not to mention the number of sizable fish lost due to the inferior parts like drag systems and gears giving up during a fight.
Things have definitely done a 360-degree turnaround since the ‘good old days’ of the grinder. Of late, competitive anglers, especially of the Natal region, have started using the grinder for targeting all sorts of fish species, ranging from sharks to giant kob and even kingfish.
The reels that are being used are the ‘new age’ design with drag systems even more superior to any of the surf casting multipliers available on the market, large capacity spools capable of holding in excess of 700 metres of braid, oversized powerful gears and large powerful handles for cranking power, not to mention the completely sealed bodies and drag systems that protect the interior workings from any negative effects of salt water.
These reels are fast becoming more popular along the South African coastline and I am pretty sure that we will soon witness the grinder making its surf-angling debut all along the coast.
Personally I don’t think that the grinder will ever replace the multiplier when it comes to shore angling but it definitely has its place in any serious angler’s arsenal of reels. In my opinion, the main benefit of the grinder is the fact that it does not cause an overwind if you do things a little wrong; the other great benefit is the fact that it is easier to cast when wading – when the waves are breaking over your head, you no longer have to concentrate on thumb pressure on the drum as you would with the multiplier.
The other great feature of using the grinder is the fun factor. This is mainly because the braid used to optimise line capacity has no stretch and one can feel everything that touches your bait; the bite of any decent fish is transferred through the line to the angler far more powerfully and directly than with nylon braid, making it a lot more exciting.
The negatives of using the grinder have a lot more to do with the line used and your ability to tie knots and select the correct braid for your application, so I will cover what knots to use and how to set it all up so that you don’t have a bad grinder experience.
The first thing is the braid. The reason we use braid on the grinder is because of line capacity and, because braid has a much thinner diameter-to-breaking-strain ratio, you can fit far more braid onto a reel than nylon. An example of this would be: nylon with a 40lb breaking strain would have a diameter of .55mm, while braid with a 48lb breaking strain has a diameter of 0.17mm. This means that you can now fit a lot more braid on the reel than nylon of a similar breaking strain.
There are many braided lines on the market these days, but not many of them are good enough for use with long-casting reels. I have experimented with many braids and have discovered a few really good ones. My favourite is the 48lb Triple Fish braid in yellow, followed closely by the 50lb Daiwa Saltiga casting braid, and lastly the Mustad 48lb yellow braid. These braids have proven themselves time and again, and perform very well under most conditions.
Other less expensive – and even more expensive braids – wear out quickly and cause more wind knots, and some I have even found to break far below their stated breaking strain, so sticking to the above braids will definitely work, otherwise you have to experiment, which can become a fairly expensive exercise.
Braid, being very thin and usually very visible under water, has to have a leader added; the problem arises with the leader knot – when joining nylon to braid only specific knots are strong enough.
The other problem is that the leader knot should not enter the rod eyes as the knot hitting the guides causes guide wraps and wind knots. Then, on top of this, the thin braid either cuts into your finger due to the pressure of the cast or breaks off on the bionic finger (if you are using one). So the answer is a double leader made up using 6m of 100lb to 130lb braid connected to the mainline on the reel, then joined to a thick nylon leader of around 1.5m.
Joining the thicker braid to the thin braid can be done using a 7-turn uni knot; however, I have found that stitching the braid leader to the mainline using a needle works far better. I then join the nylon leader to the braid leader by creating a stitched loop in the end of the braid leader, then joining the nylon to it using the Frenchy knot. This has proven exceptionally strong and, if done correctly, you will generally part off on your nylon leader or trace and very rarely on the mainline, so you usually don’t have to whip out a needle and do the stitching on the beach or rocks.
The last thing about using a grinder matched with braid is the bite detection – because of the lack of stretch in the braid, you are far more directly in touch with your bait in the water. At first, you tend to strike too soon when using braid, so leave the fish to move away with the bait before striking.
There are not too many grinder-style reels out there at the moment that are suitable for fishing in the surf, especially if you intend doing some wading. The best reels so far have proven to be the Shimano Ultegra 14000 and the Daiwa Saltiga 6500.
These two have been extensively used by many anglers and have proven themselves time and again, saving you the ‘school fees’ of testing reels for yourself.