When I wrote the last article in RSD on the shore-game style of angling (Issue 35), I was still fairly new to this exciting, relatively new, form of beach spinning. Well, I now have many, many hours of spinning under my belt and have learned a lot more about the do’s and don’ts of this fast-evolving facet of angling that seems to be becoming more and more popular – especially on the KZN coastline.
In the following few paragraphs, I will focus on snoek and will share with you some of what I have learned by watching the experts and learning from my personal mistakes. All the tackle I refer to, I have personal experience with and I will only promote something that I believe to be of the highest quality. This is not to say that there aren’t many other brands out there that are just as capable of doing the job, but it is only my personal opinion and my experiences that I can talk from. I will start with a few notes about a suitable rod for snoek spinning.
One of the many challenges with catching snoek is that they have a very ‘soft’ mouth and it is easy to pull the hooks out of them, especially when fishing with braid. For this reason, you don’t want to fish with a rod that is too stiff. A softer rod acts as a bit of a shock absorber and keeps a more constant tension on the hook when the snoek shakes its head in an attempt to rattle the spoon out of its mouth.
There is, however, a fine line between having a rod that is stiff enough to cast far, but not so stiff that it pulls the hooks out.
The most effective length for a suitable shore game rod appears to be 11ft. This is long enough to throw the required distance, but not so long
that it becomes unwieldy, as you have to keep in mind that you will be spending many hours casting with this outfit.
The first proper shore game rod that I got was the standard Assassin Amia and this is a lovely rod on which I have caught a lot of fish. For a while, I thought that this was the ultimate rod for snoek spinning, but I have since been proved wrong. I have had the privilege over the last month of testing the new model Amia that was scheduled to be launched in June – all going well – and this rod has blown me away all over again.
While the standard Amia throws an absolute mile and has a lovely backbone to pull a strong fighter like a kingie, the new Amia is just that little bit softer, which makes all the difference with the snoek and still has enough of a backbone to throw almost the same distance and put the heat on a good fish if necessary.
So, best case scenario: have two rods – the standard Amia to punch a spoon into a wind or when that extra 10m is necessary to get the bite or to target a bigger fish off the rocks where you have to pull hard, and the new Amia, which will be your go-to rod for snoek specifically. Both of the Amias load just about perfectly with a lure weight of between 1.5oz and 2oz, but the new model does allow more for the casting of lighter lures.
The softer, slower action of the new Amia also makes it more suitable for casting stickbaits and other hard plastics like the Rapala MaxRap. The new Amia has both standard guides and micro guides. The micro guides serve to contain the coils of braid very quickly as they get thrown off the spool in the cast. This means that the line comes out of the tip guide very straight, which makes a positive difference when it comes to casting lures such as the MaxRap and other baits that have the potential to tumble in the air.
With their small size, the micro guides also make the rod a bit lighter and a bit faster through the air during the cast. I am not yet convinced, however, that they are the best way to go as they are very new and still in the trial phase and only time will tell as to whether they take over from standard guides. The micro guides do not allow for the casting of a braid leader as the knot tends to get wrapped on the first guide occasionally.
The next important piece in your arsenal is the reel. One of the most important things with snoek spinning is the high speed at which you can wind that spoon. For this reason, you need a reel that has a fast gear ratio so that you don’t have to wind your arms off to get the desired action out of the spoon.
Another thing to take into account is that the spoons do have a fair resistance in the water when winding them back, especially at high speed, so you have to choose a reel with a strong gearbox that can cope with this punishment. Also, your reel is going to be getting splashed regularly and if it’s anything like mine – which lives in my bakkie on my rod ready to go – it won’t have the luxury of too much TLC on a regular basis. There is always the chance that you are going to hook that couta or yellowfin tuna, which could take in excess of 300m of braid, so a good line capacity is also very important.
For all of the above reasons, the reel is the item of tackle that I would be inclined to spend the most money on as unfortunately, quality comes at a price. I fish with a Shimano Sustain 5000 on my Amia and this is a beautifully balanced outfit. I know of guys who fish with as big as an 8000 and even a 10000 Sustain for shore game and others who use a 4000. They all do the job but, in my opinion, for local fishing, the 5000 is the best size.
It is important to remember, however, that the reels bigger than a 6000 are designed to be fished with heavier braid, so if you load a big reel with light braid, it doesn’t pack on the spool properly and increases the chances of wind knots quite drastically. The Shimano Stradic is a cheaper option and has all the qualifications required to do the job, while the Shimano Twinpower and Stella are without a doubt the holy grail of shore game reels.
There are many braids on the market that are capable of doing the job, and anything with a breaking strain of between 15lb and 30lb can work. As with everything else fishing-tackle-related, you have to pay for quality and I would rather bite the bullet and pay more for a product that is going to last longer, do the job better and not let me down when that fish of a lifetime blows up on my spoon and heads off for the horizon. Personally, there are two casting braids that I have used extensively which have never let me down. The first one is the good old Berkley FireLine, which is tried and tested, and the second one is Gosen.
Gosen is pretty new on the market but is asserting itself very quickly. While FireLine is very strong and about as abrasion-resistant as you will get in a braid, Gosen is soft as silk and throws effortlessly through the guides. Because of its better casting ability, I have put Gosen on all my shore game reels and – touch wood – I hardly ever throw wind knots, which is another major plus, as nothing can ruin a spinning session like repeatedly throwing a windknot. Personally, I like the 15lb and 17lb Gosen for spinning for snoek as the low diameter allows for long, effortless casts, and also means that it doesn’t get affected as much when there is a bit of a crosswind.
This relatively light braid is more than enough to handle most snoek, but should you find yourself in a situation where there are more kingfish than snoek around or you do almost all of your spinning off rocky points, I would advise that you go for a 25lb or 30lb rather. You will be surprised as to how far you can still throw with 25lb Gosen and it provides that little bit of extra muscle to help turn that kingie’s head away from the reef.
FireLine is also still a good option, and I would advise either 8lb to 10lb for snoek and 14lb if you want something a bit stronger. Keep in mind that FireLine breaks well above what it is rated on the packaging. My two outfits are a Sustain 5000 with 15lb Gosen on the new lighter Amia and a Sustain 5000 with 25lb Gosen on the Standard Amia. These are the two outfits that I take fishing with me all the time and. while I use the lighter of the two 95% of the time, having the two rigged up means that I can change from one to the other in a matter of not too many seconds should a bigger fish show itself.