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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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March 01, 2014

Selecting Caliber Surfcasting Rods and Matching Reels

by Bob Banfelder

One of last month's responses to my February blog convinced me of the necessity to scribe a piece on selecting quality surfcasting rods and reels, specifically spin-type gear. There came a point in time that my older equipment was just that: old; not necessarily dated—but old in the sense that I hadn't purchased high-quality tackle for openers. Those items became worn and tired sooner than later. Most folk settle, I think, somewhere in the middle of a wide price range when selecting fishing tackle. I quickly learned to select most of my rods and reels (and Donna's) in the middle of the top-of-the-line price range as manufacturers tend to cover a broad spectrum of pricing so as to reach all markets. I don't have to tell you that a hundred dollar reel is not going to perform or last like a thousand dollar reel. Not that you should run out and spend that kind of money for starters. What you should do, however, once you know that you like—a lot—the fine sport of fishing, be it spin casting, bait casting, or fly casting, is to go middle-of-the-road at the top-end of a model series. Quality is what you are after, especially in a saltwater environment. If you have truly become a fanatic, then I strongly urge you to reach for the best of a top-shelf series. Top-shelf in the Shimano spinning reel series lineup are the Stella SW, Stella, Sustain, and Stradic series—and in that order.

Looking at a catalog is fine for gathering information referencing a particular model. Ah, but holding the item in your hot little hands is quite another matter. A box store will probably have a limited selection, if at all, of these high-end reels. A well-stocked tackle shop is your best bet. Don't feel funny asking a salesperson to set up a reel and rod that you're considering; that is, after you've spent a good amount of time waving several wands around to determine the action you're seeking. Is the rod too stiff to your liking, like a fishing friend of mine mentioned in response to last month's blog? Had my buddy held the 9-foot BWS Medium-Heavy Shakespeare Ugly Stik in one hand and the company's 8-foot BWS 110080 Medium wand in the other, he would have immediately noted a world of difference between the two rods. Such a person might have selected the latter and saved himself $125 compared to the cost of my friend's St. Croix Tidemaster Inshore rod; MSRP $180. That savings could have gone to one of Shimano's Sustain models, one step up from his Stradic model.

You generally get what you pay for. In the case of Shakespeare's Ugly Stik rods, you get a whole lot more than you bargained for. They're the best rod out there for the money, affording you the biggest bang for your buck.

To keep matters simple re last month's blog, I had addressed, in a general sense, 8', 9', 10', and 12' Ugly Stik rods for the surf. Although not specifically classified as a surfcasting rod, Donna's model BWS 110080 two-piece, 8-foot Medium-Action Ugly Stik is designed to handle ¾- to 3- ounce lures with line ratings running between 10 to 25 pounds. It's the lightest of Shakespeare's three BWS 8-foot Ugly Stiks. It's perfect for her ($54.95). As I'm getting several calls and responses about downsizing, referencing these wonderful rods as well as others, I figured I'd best elaborate, moving from general to more specific information. I'll continue with two additional 8-footers and work my way on up to even a 15-foot Ugly Stik surfcasting rod, to be placed only in the hands of gorillas, of course. Ah, I just can't resist this: Where along the beach does a guy wielding a 15-foot Ugly Stik rod fish? Answer: Anywhere he wants. :o) :o) All right, so I'm not a Jay L. or a Jimmy F. Get over it, folks.

Now, on a more serious note, don't fall into the trap of ruling out an 8-foot Ugly Stik simply because it may not be strictly classified as a surfcasting rod. First off, we are going to examine the trio of 8-foot BWS Ugly Stiks before moving on to the 9-foot bona fide surfcasting wand. If you recall my advice from last month's report titled Scaling Back As We Get Older, I'm sure most of 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.

Moving one step up from Donna's magic wand, while remaining in the same 8-foot category, is Shakespeare's 8-foot BWS 110180, also a Medium-Action Ugly Stik but designed to handle 1- to 4-ounce lures with line ratings running between 12 to 20 pounds (also $54.95).

Advancing yet another step up the ladder is Shakespeare's two-piece, 8-foot BWS 110280 Heavy-Action Ugly Stik, designed to handle 1- to 6- ounce lures with line ratings running between 12 to 30 pounds (also $54.95).

As we move into the 9-foot realm, matters become less involved because Shakespeare offers but a single surfcasting rod. That is, a model BWS110090 Medium-Heavy Action Ugly Stik, designed to handle 1- to 4- ounce lures with line ratings running between 12 to 30 pounds (also $54.95). The single selection two-piece rods will hold true as we cover Shakespeare's lengthier Ugly Stik surfcasting rods.

The 10-foot BWS 1100100 Medium-Heavy Action Ugly Stik rod is designed to handle 1- to 6- ounce lures with line ratings running between 12 to 30 pounds ($64.95).

The 11-foot BWS 1100110 Heavy Action Ugly Stik rod is designed to handle 2- to 8- ounce lures with line ratings running between 12 to 40 pounds (also $64.95).

The 12-foot BWS 1100120 Heavy Action Ugly Stik rod is designed to handle 2- to 12- ounce lures with line ratings running between 12 to 40 pounds ($69.95).

The 15-foot BWS 1100150 Medium-Heavy Action Ugly Stik rod is designed to handle 2- to 12- ounce lures with line ratings running between 12 to 40 pounds ($89.95).

Unless you have unlimited funds to purchase any number of the rods covered here, it is my suggestion that you select one rod of a single length that you can comfortably handle and, if you are so inclined, select a second of a different length. For example: one rod from the 8-foot group, and either a single 9- or 10- foot pole. Instead of selecting a second rod from the 8-foot category, I'd rather see a surfcasting angler select a longer length, provided, of course, that he or she can handle it. It could serve as a backup rod and/or one with a bit more backbone if needed. After you know the length of rod that you can comfortably handle and are happy with the wand's action, determine the weight of the lure(s) that you will be casting. Rest assured that line rating will affect a lure's distance performance, so be sure to have an assortment of lures on hand. Too, this additional (generally heavier) rod choice will serve for a wider range of fishing conditions such as a heavy wind playing havoc with your lighter outfit, whereby you might need a weightier lure and added power to get beyond those breakers. This heavier piece of artillery will, indeed, wear you out quicker, but at least you'll be back in the game after you catch your breath. A backup rod has on more than one occasion saved the day for us.

Pictured below is Donna fraught with cabin fever, pushing the season on February 20th, 2014. No, I did not hear, "Fish on!" She's geared up and anticipating spring action with her 8-foot Ugly Stik coupled to a Shimano Stella 5000 spinning reel. Good to go.

A sound word on Shimano's top-of-the-line spinning reels for the brine: When I wrote my fishing handbook The Fishing Smart Anywhere Handbook For Salt Water & Fresh Water [covering a host of other on-the-water related activities such as kayaking and canoeing, clamming and crabbing, smoking fish and preparing gourmet seafood recipes], published in 2013, the MSRP for Donna's Stella SW 5000 spinning reel was $729.99. Today it is $1,059.99. My Stella 8000 SW spinning reel was $829.99. Today it is $1,159.99. Are they worth it? For the most serious saltwater anglers, they are wise investments both in terms of longevity and lasting love. They are Shimano's newly designed flagship series; hence, the added costs; six model sizes from which to choose, ranging from $1,059.99 to $1,259.00. After heading to the bank for a hefty withdrawal or maxing out your credit card to secure these superb reels, don't leave home for the shoreline without them. If those price tags are tantamount to swallowing horse-sized pills, consider Shimano's Stella (not to be confused with Stella SW), Sustain, and Stradic models. They are high-caliber quality spinning reels, too, for considerably less money.

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

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