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Bob Banfelder

Bob is an award-winning crime-thriller novelist and outdoors writer. "The Fishing Smart Anywhere Handbook for Salt Water & Fresh Water" is endorsed by Lefty Kreh and Angelo Peluso~online at Amazon.

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February 01, 2014

Scaling Back As We Get Older: From Surf Rods to Ship-Sized Fishing Vessels

by Bob Banfelder

Donna and I are not getting any younger. In fact, we are at a point where we're slowing down a bit. Consequently, scaling back has become a necessity and for more than a single reason, everything from fair-sized fishing vessels to surf rods. Most recently, I went from wielding a 12-foot Shakespeare Ugly Stik for the surf, down to a more manageable 10-footer. Similarly, Donna went from a 10 down to an 8; no, we're not talking dress sizes. Today, we walk the beach and cast our respective wands for half a day without fatigue whereas two seasons ago we were wiped after only a couple of hours. Although admittedly casting a few yards less, we still nail those stripers and blues. Ask yourself the following question while keeping this picture firmly in mind, for I know you've been there: How many times have you seen a fishing boat with anglers trying to cast as far inshore as possible while you were onshore with the suds at the top of your chest waders trying to rocket that lure several yards farther out? Here's perhaps an even better example if you'll pardon the hyperbole: How many times have you ripped your shorts trying to cast from the Long Island Sound side to the Connecticut shore only to discover that a school of bass were knee-deep in back of you?

Permit me to take a step back from the fishing forefront for a moment in order to further illustrate the need to downsize equipment in other areas of our outdoor world as we get older. I could quite candidly practice shooting my 70-pound Mathews bow in the backyard in 70 degree temperatures for half a day—and did—until the years along with cold weather atrophied those muscles while I was perched in a tree stand with the mercury plummeting into the low teens. Time to own up I had realized, so I dropped down to a Mathews 50-pound Z7 Magnum Solocam. No problem whatsoever, having taken a nice fat doe that season. Keep in mind that it's all about shot placement for openers; no pun intended. That 50-pound compound easily gets the job done.

Next, my Remington 11-87 semi-automatic12-gauge rifle-barreled slug gun has now become a backup piece as I hunt with a much lighter Remington 11-87 semi-automatic 20-gauge for wily whitetails. And for shooting skeet, Donna shed 2.6 pounds (yes pounds) by packing in her gas-operated 12-gauge Winchester pump for the far lighter inertia-driven system 20-gauge semi-automatic Franchi, imported by Benelli, USA.

Now, back to the fishing arena concerning far bigger pieces of equipment: Even our boats have gotten smaller and consequently lighter as time marched on. We downsized from a 25-foot cruiser, to a 22-foot pilothouse, to an 18-foot center console. Yet, Donna and I still cover the North Fork and beyond. We're just a bit more prudent in picking our days. Consider, too, the fact that downsizing made far less work for this Mom and Pop team, both in terms of preparation and maintenance, not to mention a significant fuel savings. So don't let weight and/or size of equipment put a damper on your outdoor activities as you're getting up there in age, for we all are headed in that direction . . . sooner or later. Just realize that whether you're male or female, big or small, or seventy-plus years young, you have viable options.

Let's take a closer look at those Ugly Stik rods mentioned at the beginning of this report, that is, the 12-, 10-, and 8-foot lengths. Specifically, let's note what these wands weigh in at so that you have a basis of comparison when shopping. You won't find this information listed on Shakespeare's Ugly Stik specification sheet. I had left a message for Mike Walsh, Ugly Stik Product Manager, a really nice young man who got back to me in a flash with precise rod weights. Too, I'll address two compatible reels that Donna and I use with the 10- and 8-foot rods for the surf, creating a lightweight package that does not shortchange us in the long-run. For I'm sure you would agree that it's better to be out there casting and covering a good amount of waterfront property over several hours than having to pack it in early due to sheer exhaustion. Remember, we're supposed to be out there having fun, not attempting something amounting to a test of endurance.


Shakespeare's 12-foot (3.60m) Ugly Stik BWS 1100 Heavy Action two-piece rod is designed for 12–40 pound test line. The rod weighs in at a mighty 27.7 ounces. That's 9.4 ounces heavier than my 10-footer. Just like my 12-guage Remington, the 12-foot stick is now my backup rod should I run afoul. In its stead is the far lighter 10-foot Shakespeare Ugly Stik, which I wield indefatigably.


Top to Bottom: 12-foot Ugly Stik
10-foot Ugly Stik coupled with a Shimano Stella SW 8000 reel
8-foot Ugly Stik coupled with a Shimano Stella SW 5000 reel

Shakespeare's 10-foot (3.05m) Ugly Stik BWS 1100 Medium-Heavy Action two-piece rod is designed for 12–30 pound test line. I couple the rod to a Stella SW model STL8000, spooled with 185 yards of 20-pound test monofilament line. This fantastic reel can put the brakes on with a whopping maximum drag setting of 55 pounds! The reel tops the Toledo at 23.7 ounces; the rod weighs in at 18.3 ounces for a total of 42 ounces in lieu of wielding 51.4 ounces. Shedding 9.4 ounces makes a world of difference.

Shakespeare's 8-foot (2.40m) Ugly Stik BWS 1100 Medium Action two-piece rod is designed for 10–25 pound test line. Donna couples her rod to a Stella SW model STL5000, spooled with 136 yards of 14-pound test monofilament line. This precision reel applies the brakes at a maximum drag setting of 29 pounds; nothing wrong with that kind of stopping power. This beauty comes in at a bantam weight of only 14.3 ounces. The rod weighs in at 11.8 ounces for a total of a mere 26.1 ounces. Donna could probably handle a 9-footer, weighing in at 14.6 ounces, but that 6.5 ounce drop from a 10-footer made her happy, so why argue with success. With a 9-foot rod, we'd only be talking a difference of 2.8 ounces anyway. And believe me when I tell you that Donna doesn't catch less or smaller fish from the surf.

Shimano's Stella SW flagship spinning reel model series also come in three larger sizes: STL 10000, STL 18000, and the STL 20000. Unless tackling bluefin tuna from a boat, these larger capacity reels are really not needed for the surf. The Stella SW models STL 8000 and STL 5000 are more than adequate for the suds. Smooth? All Stella SW models boast 14 ball bearings and 1 roller bearing. Yes, they're positively smooth. Of course you'll pay a premium for these top-of-the-line reels: $1,159.99 and $1,059.99 respectively. Are you still with me? In many an article, I try and convince readers to justify (if not rationalize) the cost by realizing that you are purchasing the best of the best when you acquire Shimano's high quality spinning reels, which are Stella, Sustain, and Stradic models. For the surf, you want a bullet-proof spinning reel, and the Stella SW series is the ticket. Offset your cost by marrying these reels to a nominally-priced, quality Ugly Stik wand, and you've got a bargain in your hands. Why? Because you'll spend two and three times the amount of money for a comparable rod that will give you a bit—and by a bit I mean a tad—more flexibility. Compare Shakespeare's Ugly Stik prices with other manufacturers, and you will see this to certainly be the case.

Let's look at the cost of several Ugly Stik rods. A 12-foot will run you $74.95; a 10-foot Ugly Stik $59.95; 9-foot Ugly Stik, $54.95; 8-footer, also $54.95. Put these rod savings toward precision Shimano's Stella SW spinning reels, and you'll thank me in the long-run. Again, when it comes to serious surf fishing, you want the best equipment. The lightweight surf outfits I suggest here will not disappoint.

Aging does not have to mean hanging up your rods and reels, bows, guns, fishing vessels then retiring to a rocker. It simply means scaling back a bit. Again, the options are many for the outdoorsman and outdoorswoman.


Robert Banfelder
Award-Winning Thriller Novelist, Outdoors Writer, "Gifted" College Instructor & Creator of a Unique Writing Course Guide
Senior Editor, Broadwater Books
Cablevision TV Show Host, Special Interests with Bob & Donna
www.robertbanfelder.com

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