How many times haven’t you looked at a piece of tackle and said to your mate, ‘If only this rod/reel/lure could talk, what stories it could tell.’ Well, I too have many items of tackle that have stories to tell, but none quite so worthy of respect, in my opinion, as my humble little Shimano Stradic 4000 coffee grinder. So much so in fact, that if you have the time to read further, I will tell you just a few of the most memorable moments we have shared.
I got the reel when we were filming for the Blackfin DVD series and one of the first times I got to use it properly was during the filming of the two dropshot DVDs that we did.
During this time, we had one of the most memorable weekends that I have ever had at Kosi. Soft plastics were pretty much brand new to the area, so the fish were dumb to them. On top of this, there was just a super-abundance of predatory fish of all species. I had loaded my Stradic with about 220m of 10lb Smoke FireLine and was planning to use it to target fish in the 2kg to 5kg class as, at that stage, I thought that would be about its limit.
The first day of our weekend at Kosi, we fished Rocktail Bay. By the afternoon, we had accounted for some good green-spot kingies, a few big wave garrick and some nice reef fish on plastics and were really happy with the day’s fishing. I was throwing off the point at Rocktail and working the plastic up off the sand over the reef and back to the ledge.
All I remember seeing was a big blueish-grey shadow coming up onto the reef where I knew my plastic was and the next thing, the reel was howling in distress as the kingie realised it had made a mistake and took off for the outside reef. I did not for one second think that I had any chance of even slowing this fish and honestly thought that the reel was probably going to blow up in my face.
I hung on, however, and tightened the drag right up. To my surprise, after about 100m the fish started slowing and eventually turned and started swimming parallel to the beach. Unfortunately, this fish swam into the bricks and cut me off shortly after that, but I had stopped its initial run and it opened my eyes to the amazing stopping power of the drag on such a small reel.
The following day we were fishing the Banga Neck beaches and again, by the afternoon, we had accounted for some lovely greenspots, some big bluefin kingies, a big mata-hari and a kaakap.
We were walking out to throw off the front of the one ledge on the pushing water when my brother Ewan shouted that there was a shoal of kingies in the waves. We ran forward and threw and, as I lifted my rod for the first twitch of the plastic, it was almost pulled out of my hands. What followed was one of the most stressful fights I have ever had with a fish, as I was painfully aware that I was stretching the limits of the tackle I was using.
I shouldn’t have worried, however, as the reel performed flawlessly and within about 15 minutes I had worked the fish back into water shallow enough for it to be grabbed. The fish was a giant kingie and converted to 23.4kg. I would never have believed that a fish of that quality could be beaten off the beach by a 4000-size coffee grinder.
My next memorable experience with this reel was at Kwanza Lodge in Angola. We were driving out of the river mouth to spend the morning looking for tarpon when we saw a patch of ripples on the surface that Carlos, our guide, informed us was a shoal of jack crevalle. We had no idea what size these fish were and both Wes and I threw towards the shoal with medium outfits, expecting the fish to be in the 5kg range. The size of the swirls that greeted the arrival of our plastics was slightly intimidating and within a few seconds we were both tight onto good fish.
What followed has led me to qualify the jack crevalle as arguably the strongest fighting fish that I have ever had the pleasure of challenging on rod and line. It took me a long time to get the fish to the boat where we could get a hand to it and lift it for some quick photos. It was a good fish in the region of 20kg and, once again, the Stradic 4000 performed flawlessly and never complained once during the fight.
A few months later, we were back in Angola. This time however, we were in the south of the country, staying at Flamingo Lodge. One of my chief objectives for this trip was to catch kob on plastics and for this I chose my Stradic 4000 as my primary weapon. For the first five days or so of the trip, we fished hard on the beaches around Flamingo and had some good success with kob, garrick and oversized shad. For the last few days of the trip, we went south through the desert to the mouth of the Kunene River.
Not even the wildest stories that anyone could have told me would have prepared me for what we experienced there. It was kob fishing like I can guarantee I will never ever have again in my life. In the three days that we ended up staying there, I personally caught in the region of five hundred kob, ranging in size from 2kg to 15kg.
All but one of these fish was caught on artificial lures and 95% of them were caught on my Stradic 4000. Keep in mind now that this reel hasn’t been serviced since I first got it and it has just spent a week being fished hard on one of the most windswept and rugged coastlines I have ever visited – without a sniff of any lubricant. It performed flawlessly for the entire duration of the trip and was just as smooth on the last kob as it was on the first.
The final story I am going to share with you went down just south of Hell’s Gate in southern Mozambique. Wes and I were there for a few days fishing soft plastics – just for a change – and we had been taken to a spot down the beach where there was a ledge against the side and then a sandy gutter a few hundred meters wide with a beautiful reef at the back. After getting a few fish off the front ledge, Wes and I decided that we should swim out into the gutter until we could reach the back reef. This involved swimming about 150m, and then treading water while throwing onto the back reef.
The bites were there, but it was easier said than done to get the fish out as fighting fish while treading water is a novel idea but far from practical. It meant that the reels were totally under the water and being forced to perform. We played around like this for about an hour in which we both accounted for some blue emperors and a few smaller kingies. If nothing else, it provided entertainment for the onlookers who had decided to remain on dry land. On getting back to dry land, I shook most of the water out of my Stradic and carried on fishing as normal for the rest of the trip.
These are just some of the more interesting stories that I have told you now, but there are many, many more. This little Stradic served me for four years and literally hundreds of hours fishing before it got sent in for its first service. In this time, the most love it ever got was a blast of fresh water from the hosepipe after fishing and a few drops of oil down the shaft or through the inspection hatch in the sidpelate every now and then. I got it back about two weeks ago and I am pleased to say that it feels as smooth again as the first day that I took it fishing. So, if you are thinking of buying a middle-sized coffee grinder to match up with a 7ft to 9ft rod for spinning or throwing plastics, I highly recommend the Stradic 4000. A more reliable and capable fishing partner, you will battle to find for the price.