Right knife but wrong gun fight

Right knife but wrong gun fight

I've raved before about the value of a decent two-handed 2.1m spin stick in the fisho’s rack of tools. That sort of outfit falls into three different ranges – well it does for us. There’s the lighter side at say 4kg, the mid-range at 6-8kg, and then into the heavy-as-you-need range of anything 10kg and over.

We needed another mid-range spin outfit in the 6-8kg bracket and this is far and away our most used piece of two-handed spin gear.

That sort of line class is more than adequate for the big reef tailor we like to chase and it’s sporting without being stupidly light on salmon. It will easily handle targets like school yellowtail kings and samsons, most mackerel (shark problems aside), big queenies, school trevs, average tuna, mahi, any pink snapper, black snapper, spanglies (if the country isn’t too nasty) and so on. From shore all the same targets apply within reason as well as flicking baits into tropical estuaries for jacks, threadies and even barra. It really is a versatile piece of gear.

We usually have 6kg mono on these outfits, but we also run lightish 9kg braid when the situation calls for it to remove line stretch (which helps fish take ground) from the equation.

There are so many reels and rods in that bracket that it was about narrowing the field by having a very clear set of ‘must haves’ to even make the shortlist.

The reel had to feature ali body rigid rotor, manual bail return option, smooth drag under pressure, water intrusion protection, quality bearings, a decent retrieve speed and enough grunt to handle up to 9kg braid.

The rod needed a similar broad pedigree but had to include a crisp tip section for bite response and castability, and lots of grunt down low to be able to put some pressure on fish – a definite lockup point. One or two piece was not an issue, but I didn’t want it to be heavy or sloppy in the hand, and preferably it would be from a reputable stable.

Of the near 50 rods we looked we narrowed it down to just three and finally settled on a Shimano Ballistix Offshore Spin 702 5-10kg (2.1m, two piece). This rod is from Shimano’s TC3 T-Curve blank range of rods. We have a few T-Curve rods and they are all great tools to use. This 702 showed the same good pedigree, nice and light in the hand, very crisp and responsive, good action in the tip for great casting ability and lots of grunt for that 6-8kg line bracket. I always under-gun our rods rather than overload them, which is to say we fish line classes at the minimum to mid-point of a rod’s stated load rating rather than push them way up over the maximum rated load.

The reel was not as easy as I thought it was going to be. I was a bit stuck between choosing another from a range that we already had plenty of or jumping up considerably in the budget for something that I knew was way over spec for the task at hand. I was a bit snookered. I put our dilemma to Phil Gee at Compleat Angler Rockingham and he suggested we a consider the new 2017 Daiwa Saltist in the 4000 or 4500 size.

I did some searching online and uncovered a few unfavourable reviews of the earlier series Saltist spin reels, but not so for the 2017 series. the price tag jumped up quite a bit from the old series to the new, suggesting the Saltist had indeed gone through a spec upgrade. In the hand both reels felt good, but we opted for far greater line capacity in the measurably larger 4500 reel. The 4500 is the size point at which strength features for the bigger reels starts to get built in and on paper this Saltist would not be phased one little bit by the sort of job it was going to do.

Filled with new Platypus Pretest white 6kg mono it looked and felt the goods, but the proof would be in the pudding.

I teed up an outing with the boys with a plan to put this new gear to the test. There had been plenty of salmon about and if they weren’t at our local reefs there were bound to be some tailor or YTKs in the washes, and if all that failed surely there’d be a pinkie sniffing about.

Talk about the best-laid plans going to mud, what a crap day it turned out to be! We left the ramp with a north-easterly zephyr of not more than three knots across our wake. It stayed that way for about two miles then as we went farther offshore it started to turn more northerly and freshened the longer we travelled.

By the time we covered the nine miles or so to get there it was a horrible 18-knot-plus northerly blowing across a determined 2.5-3m swell. Shallow reefs aren’t the nicest place to be on a big swell and nowhere is nice to be in a lumpy northerly – combine the two and it’s about as bad as it gets for offshore west coast boating conditions.

My heart was almost as empty as the esky when we bowed to better judgement and headed back inshore to find some light tackle skippy out of the wind. That didn’t work too well either. We got a few small snapper, some unexciting fish for the cats and not much else. We were running out of options on a morning when this stinking northerly was doing what it does best and simply shutting everything down.

Out of desperation I headed for one last shot at some shallow reef country in 4m of water about a kilometre out from shore which might just hold some skippy, herring, salmon … or at least something. We anchored up to hang just off the north-west corner of the reef, within whitebait casting distance, but not so close that we wouldn’t have time to react if the pick pulled in the fresh breeze.

There were no herring or skippy there either as it turned out. Not long into this last-ditch effort I retrieved an unweighted whitebait that washed too far off the reef and a long, fat brown shape torpedoed it back to the boat. The fish ID part of my brain that is hard wired to the back of my eyes was in overdrive trying to come up with a species which would fit given the area we were in and the thing I could see. It wasn’t a salmon, tailor, king or north-west blowie so I concluded it was a samson fish! Not huge at around 6-7kg but it was way outside the scope of the light herring/skippy outfit in this sort of country.

I grabbed one of the 6kg spin sticks and cast a mulie down the same line. What happened next started an exciting albeit frustrating 90 minutes of fishing action that surprised me no end. The mulie was shadowed back to the boat by two samsons and both would have given 25kg a serious nudge. That changed my chances of success markedly.

We threw all manner of lures and some more mulies over the ground where the fish were holding with amazing results. We had samsons smacking lures across the surface, two and three at a time, following to the transom and milling around under the motor, but not one would commit to a hookup. None were less than 10kg and some were over 25 kilos.

Turns out they wanted little baits like whitebait or really small mulies, or a live bait – getting anything to the boat to use as bait was the biggest challenge.

The good news was the new rod and reel performed very well.

It had a good sharp, responsive casting action and I threw heavy and light lures plus unweighted mulies, and it handled them all equally well. In its intended role of casting a range of different sized baits it will perform just as needed. It has a great crisp action for casting lures and a little bit of weight enhanced its casting. The all-round castability of the rod will have it right up there with anything else we use for the same role.

The reel was a pleasure to use. It has a good turn of speed which was fast enough to get the stickbaits and poppers working as they should. It was good and firm in the hand with no winding resistance and while some reels just seem ‘too tight’, this Saltist had little of that initial retrieve inertia to overcome.

I didn’t get to put a bend in the rod on a fish or have the chance to feel how the reel and the drag performed under full load, but my son Scott did. He hooked a handful of sambos on whole small mulies, plus a lone wrasse we managed to get past the samsons. The rod showed it had a beautiful action under load and had good power in the lower half of the blank, which translates into pulling pressure getting transferred down the line.

The drag on the reel was silky smooth under as much pressure as 6kg mono could handle, both in close and during a sustained run when one fish decided to bolt for a navigation marker about 100m away at top speed. There was no chattering or sticking of the drag under load or at speed.

Overall the combination of the Saltist 4500 reel and the Shimano Ballistix 702 rod matched to the 6kg mono was a great success. Although the reel could easily handle much heavier line, we had the spool capacity we’d need for such things as mackerel, tuna and mahi mahi. I will also fill a second spool with 9kg braid.

I am very pleased with my choice, but none of this made any difference on the day and from something like nine samson hookups we didn’t get to land and release a single one. But it was a whole heap of shallow water, big fish fun!

Tight lines.

Captions: The new outfit performed superbly under load.
Ando is delighted with his new Saltist 4500 and Ballistix 702 outfit