By Brando Khoo
One of the most common questions we get from members on this forum is what is the best rod? Well, the simple reality is there is no best rod. What can be said is there are many quality GT rods on the market but this is one form of fishing where getting the right rod is really critical.
So what constitutes the right rod? I would suggest that you need to ensure you get a rod that you can manage well both in terms of casting and fighting a fish and that you can fish with for long periods of time. Like with any sport, getting equipment that fits you properly will permit you to use it to the best of your ability. Getting equipment that does not suit you may see you unable to utilise the equipment effectively.
I think it is important that I point out up front that GT rods are all about compromise. A longer rod casts better but a shorter rod is easier to fight a fish with. A very stiff rod works poppers well but hurts when you are fighting a fish. A soft tipped rod is good for stickbaits but not as good for poppers and so on.
I’d suggest you consider the following when considering the acquisition of a rod:
- Are you looking for a specialised or general GT rod?
- What weight of lure do you want to use?
- How good a caster are you and how far will you need to cast where you are fishing?
- How heavy a rod do you need and what can you actually physically handle in terms of a GT rod?
- The idiosyncrasies of different manufacturers
- The most important factor – your budget!
Do I want a Specialised or General Purpose GT Rod?
Not all GT rods are the same nor are they made for the same purpose. At opposite ends of the spectrum would be a light stickbait rod and a stiff heavy rod for huge cup-mouthed chuggers.
Stickbait rods are designed with a light and flexible tip to impart action to a surface stickbait. Currently, there are only two manufacturers that make specialised stickbait rods being Carpenter who was the pioneering company for stickbait rods and Ripple Fisher. Stickbaits come in both surface and sinking versions and it is really only on surface stickbaits that the specialised stickbait rods becomes necessary. I would like to emphasise that a stickbait rod for Orion Bigfoots is not a necessity.
Stickbait rods are available up to the PE10 weight class (130lb).Carpenter goes up to PE8 with its Blue Lagoon, Endless Passion and Coral Viper offerings and Ripple Fisher now has up to a PE10 offering with its latest Ultimo.
A stickbait rod needs to have a relatively soft tip and upper section of the blank but need not be progressive beyond that segment although the current offerings from Carpenter and Ripple tend to be quite progressive through the blank. These rods are specialised tools for stickbaits. For a rod to be an effective rod for surface stickbaits, it needs to have a softer flexible tip. This characteristic which is so important for stickbaits has the opposite effect on poppers.
They are not generally suitable for poppers although the PE8 models upwards will tend to work a popper up to about 140g adequately. Going beyond this will see you start to over-saturate the rod and you will have difficulty utilising the popper effectively. You may be told that other rods are suitable for stickbaits and to varying degrees, this may be true but the only specialised stickbait rods on the market are made by Carpenter and Ripple Fisher. That said, I have noticed some new offerings on the market that have tips that are suitable. One very recent offering from Daiwa is the new S-Extreme 76GT. This rod has a tip which is as soft as what you will find on a Blue Lagoon. The only thing that perplexes me is I doubt Daiwa made this rod for stickbaits so I am not sure what they were aiming at! Still, this rod looks very suitable indeed for stickbaits and at a price of some $650, is a bargain. My only caveat on this recommendation is I have not used the rod personally and I think that the butt needs some work to be ideal for GTs.
Specialised heavy chugging rods are at the other end of the spectrum. These generally have a really firm tip which is necessary to work big cup-mouthed poppers. If the tip flexes too much, then the rod becomes inefficient as a heavy chugging tool. Heavy chugging rods are made by most manufacturers of GT rods and come in weight classes up to PE12 (170lb). Examples of specialised heavy chugging rods include the Carpenter SP78UHL, the Ripple Fisher GT78XH, the Fisherman 77 R10L or BG Jack and the Patriot Design Fire Vortex. Please note that working big poppers is not simply a case of buying one of these rods. These rods can be extremely demanding to use for long periods of time when you couple them with 250g worth of poppers and terminals and we have not even gotten to what they are like to hold on to ten minutes into a fight with a big fish.
The rest of the GT rods I will describe as general purpose GT rods. I would prefer to find a better term as general purpose makes them sound quite ordinary and many are anything but ordinary. In fact, this category has some legendary rods in it like the Carpenter Wild Violence and Smith Komodo Dragon. This type of rod is the most common in the industry although I would suggest that they have been built primarily with poppers in mind. These rods are characterised by having more progressive blanks that have a slower action that the specialised heavy chugging rods. These rods are useable but are not ideal for stickbaits and are fine for poppers up to a certain size but they are obviously not as efficient as a really stiff tipped popping rod. Obviously, the bigger the popper, the more you are pushing the rod and getting to or over the point of over-saturating the blank.
If you are only looking to acquire just one rod, then I suggest that you should be looking for a general purpose rod that can fish a range of weights and line classes. On the other hand, if your budget is bigger and you are shopping for more rods, then you have the luxury of buying more specialised tools for the lures you want to use.
Weight and Size of Lures to be used
The weight and size of lures you want to use are a critical factor in deciding on the rod you want. Manufacturers all tend to provide guidance in terms of the casting weights of their rods. I strongly suggest you look around the mid-weight of what they claim. For example, if a rod is supposed to be for 150-250g poppers, then think about 200g as being ballpark in staying within the limits of the rod. There are rods out there that are claimed to cast 250g which are groaning under 200g of weight (not to mention the angler!). Stay within the limits of your rod.
Many people want a very wide variance in terms of casting weights which is understandable. I can only say that if this is the case, a rod with a more progressive action will be more forgiving in this regard. An example is a Smith Komodo Dragon which will cast a 100g weight competently but will also cast a 200g weight. A Carpenter Wild Violence is also similar in that it can cast lighter lures better than its stable mate, the SP78UHL which is the same weight class but which is designed specifically for huge cup mouthed poppers.
I suppose what I am trying to say is find a rod that suits the weights you want to cast.
How Good a Caster are you and how far do you need to cast?
This is a rather important question and where this becomes a factor is deciding on the length and action of the rod you buy. In general, a longer rod with a more progressive action will be easier to cast. This is excepting the small percentage of people who have a very fast casting action where they can load the faster action rods. Also, a lighter outfit will be easier to cast than a heavier outfit.
Getting good distance is all about matching your outfit properly in terms of the rod, line, lure weight and being able to load the rod effectively. Leaning how to cast properly is critical in achieving good distance and is a critical aspect of GT fishing. Generally, the best casters will catch the most fish.
That said, at the end of the day, the length of the rod is king when it comes to casting distance. GT rods are all about a compromise. What I have always said is that I wish I had a rod that was the Carpenter Long Reef when I am casting but which then magically turns into a Carpenter OH55XHS (jigging rod) when I hook up. Longer rods are great to cast with whereas shorter rods are great to fight a fish with. Anyone who has tried to raise a big fish from under the boat with a long rod will know just how back-breaking that can be.
In general, I recommend you look for a rod that is 7.5 feet to 8 feet long. I emphasise this is a personal view. A shorter rod will not give you enough distance unless you are a superb caster and a longer rod is going to be difficult to handle when you are hooked up. I would suggest that if you are a really good caster, look for a rod around 7.5 feet and if you are not as good a caster, work your way toward 8 feet. There are a couple of rods just over 8 feet such as the Ripple Fisher 82LC which are manageable.
I think it is important to admit that an old dog can learn new tricks – my testing of the new range of Endless Passions from Carpenter in Novemebr 2010 has changed my views on the manageability of long rods. Having tested the EP88/35 and EP85/36, I found both of these rods to be very manageable notwithstanding their length
There are locations where you do require as much distance as you can get and in this event, you will have no choice but to go to the longer weapons such as the Carpenter Long Reef which is available up to nine feet in length.
The necessary casting distance is a critical factor. There is little more frustrating than finding yourself in the position where the ideal spot seems to be always just out of your reach or where your fishing companions are reaching a spot continuously before you can.
Getting long distance is not simply just about the rod. You can also match your gear and line accordingly. Obviously, PE6 Varivas with a small friction knot on a 130lb mono leader is going to cast a lot better than 130lb Jerry Brown hollow braid attached to a heavy assist cord leader. On the other hand, in a heavy reef strewn location, you will not extract a single fish with PE6. It is all a compromise.
What I would like to say is that I cannot emphasise enough just how important casting distance and accuracy is in GT fishing.
How Heavy a Rod do you need and what can you actually handle?
The weight (as in line class the rod is designed to fish, not mass), needs to be determined by the terrain you are fishing and what you are actually physically capable of handling.
As a general rule, I believe the majority GT anglers tend to over-reach in terms of their ability to handle the gear they are capable of fishing. I do not think a lot of people realise the extent to which a really heavy outfit compromises their casting ability or how hard it is to hold onto a rod running heavy drag after a short period of time. I suggest that for a heavy outfit, you focus on an outfit that you know you can hold onto for at least fifteen minutes under your preferred drag setting. If you can’t do this, the outfit is too heavy for you.
If you are relatively new to the sport, don’t allow the delusional group of inexeprienced PE12 afficionados to convince you to get this as your primary outfit. I’m not saying there aren’t guys who can fish PE12 to the limit but the percentage of guys with the fitnesss and strength to do this would be miniscule.
It is pointless to buy a rod that is beyond your capacity to fish as your primary fishing tool. A rod that is beyond your capacity will simply break you when you are fighting a big fish and I would suggest that you are much better off taking your chances with an outfit you can fish to the limit than a really heavy outfit that you cannot fish to its capacity.
My general recommendation is to go for the lightest outfit you can get away with. I have on numerous occasions seen people fishing outfits which they just cannot handle and which just breaks them when they are hooked onto a decent fish. Just remember that a heavy outfit will not land you a big fish. You need to be physically capable of handling the outfit effectively to be able to land a big fish.
Big heavy outfits have their place but for me, they are a necessity in some locations rather than what I like to fish with. I generally opt for the lightest outfit I can get away with as it is simply more comfortable to fish long periods with. I can cast further, last longer and the fishing is more enjoyable.
The Idiosyncrasies of different Manufacturers
This is actually a more important factor than many people realise in getting themselves a rod that is right for them. Manufacturers are all different and a PE12 rod from one manufacturer does not necessarily accord with another. For example, a HOT Gipang 77XXH is rated as PE12 and so is a Carpenter SP78UHL. The SP78UHL, however, feels considerably stronger for the same rating and I would suggest to you that the Patriot Design Fire Vortex is stronger again. Most manufacturers like to recommend a kg rating for drag but again, this is unreliable and inconsistent between different manufacturers.
Another idiosyncracy is with regard to drag ratings. The general industry standard is to state maximum drag ratings at a 45 degrees angle of the rod but there is no consistency whatsoever in the industry in this regard. Some companies are very conservative in this regard like Ripple Fisher although Smith takes the cake with the 10kg rating on the Komodo Dragon. Conversely, we’re seeing some new companies with no GT rod-making pedigree claiming crazy levels like 26kg on a PE8 rod. That is just plain insensible.
A common idiosyncrasy is with regard to butt lengths. Nearly every manufacturer differs here but the butt length on a Shimano Caranx Kaibatsu is some five inches longer than the industry average. This would suit a very tall angler with long arms but if you are 5.5 feet tall, you would find this rod almost unuseable.
Another is that some manufacturers like to place the reel seat in an up-winding position whereas others like it in a down-winding position.
One that is unique to the manufacturer is Patriot Design using the Fuji Low riders guides rather than the traditional Fuji super ocean guides (MNSG and ICMNSG) although I note that Patriot now offer super ocean guides as an option.
I would also suggest that if you are buying a Fisherman rod for the first time that you get the relevant information about where the reel seat is because if you are used to the reel seat placement on a Carpenter of Smith, you might get a bit of a shock from a Fisherman.
Manufacturer warranties are another idiosyncrasy and vary wildly. Some offer no warranty whatsoever to the opposite end where Ripple Fisher in this country offer their equivalent of the G-Loomis Expediter program.
I really encourage anyone looking for a rod to do their research and make an informed decision. It pays to do your research and understand what suits you.
Probably the most important factor of all!
GT rods range in price from relatively reasonable to outrageous and I will make the comment that beyond a certain point, spending more does not necessarily mean you get a better rod.
At the budget end of the market, you get rods like the Shimano T-Curve GT Special and at the stratospheric end of the market, a Fisherman with cermet guides will see little change from $2500. That is why I always encourage people to take their time with their purchases and to do their research carefully. It is pretty painful to buy a rod and find out during its first trip that it does not suit you at all.
I will provide a very brief run-down of the market and the brands. Please understand that this is not exhaustive by any means.
At the entry end of the market, I will start with the Shimano T-Curve GT Special. There are other rods available at a budget from various other producers but I have no experience with these. In fact, I will make the point here that buyers should do their research as some of these new entrants have no established reputation in the market. None of you would believe that a company such as Daewoo is going to be producing a performance car superior to a Porsche so please do not expect a new company to produce a rod that is going to be comparable to the 15 years of experience that Fumio Suzuki puts into his Fisherman rods.
Coming back to the GT Special, I have seen this rod as low as below $400 although average retail price seems to be around the $500 mark these days. This is a very capable rod although it is relatively heavy in comparison to some of the premium offerings on the market. The Asian market also sees Shimano offering the Caranx Kaibatsu range of rods and they are also selling for around the $500 mark. This is a big range covering the full spectrum of weights for GT fishing. The Kaibatsus are also a capable rod but as stated earlier, have an unusually long butt length. Any decent rob builder will be able to shorten this easily. These rods will do the job competently.
Moving into the middle part of the market, you have the Daiwa Saltiga range although this really only comprises rods in the PE8 category comprising the Muramura 76 and the GT86 and a new rod which I have not used, the S Extreme 76GT. These are generally around the $$650 to $700 mark. Saltigas are excellent rods but I have never quite understood why they have not produced a heavier GT rod in the range. Daiwa have superb graphite technology and it would be great to see them expand their range in this market. The GT86 used to be a very popular rod for anglers acquiring their first GT rod but I have always been of the view it is six inches too long.
A little upmarket from the Saltigas sees the HOTs and Zenaqs and a new range from an established company (Ripple Fisher), Yamaga Blanks (not blanks though but only rods notwithstanding the name). These are all excellent rods and there is a wide range of rods covering the full gamut of weight classes. Prices are around $700 to around $950. Yamaga currently only have one PE8 offerings but the range will be widened significantly in 2011 with a very impressive looking range of rods from PE6-10. It is my view that these rods are not in any way inferior to the next category up being premium rods but are priced at a lower level.
Beyond this sees you into the premium end of the market where you will find manufacturers like Smith, Carpenter, Ripple Fisher, Sevenseas, Patriot Design, Fisherman etc. These are all excellent rods that are well constructed and they should be at their prices! The prices also vary quite significantly for reasons which I cannot always understand myself as in general, the components are largely the same (excepting some of the more specialised components used by Fisherman). These rods range in price from below $1000 to over $2500 and at the prices of these rods, it really pays to have done your research as a poor buying decision may end up being a costly one. At this level, I do not think it is really appropriate to say that one rod is better than another as they are all quality rods and your decision will be this is heavily influenced by personal choice. You will not go too far wrong with any of these names provided you find a rods that suits you.
Just remember that it is the tradesman and not the tool. The tool of course helps but a capable angler will land the same fish irrespective of whether he is using a $500 T-Curve or a $2,500 Fisherman.
I cannot wait and I have to buy a rod so HELP ME!!!
If this is the position you find yourself in, then I probably will not be able to talk you into delaying your buying decision for at least one rod. That said, I really do need to emphasise that if you have the patience, it really pays to do at least a trip first before you rush out and start building up your rod collection. You will be in a much better position to know what you like and what suits you after a trip.
That said, most of you cannot wait so if you fall into this category and need to rush out and buy a rod, then I suggest you should probably consider a general purpose rod. The main reason for this is you will almost certainly buy a rod you can handle this way. I have a few suggestions below but please note, these are only intended as examples and are rods that I have used personally. I am not in a position to recommend a rod I have not at least used myself and certainly, I can’t recommend a rod for you without having seen you fishing first. With the rods below though, I have identified rods that the vast majority of anglers will find comfortable to fish with and are rods that can handle both poppers and stickbaits. I still feel the need, however, to say that only the Coral Viper can be considered as a decent rod for surface stickbaits.
Heavy rods (PE10)
If you need to find yourself a heavy rod to fish PE10 (130lb), an excellent all-rounder for you to consider would be the Smith Komodo Dragon. I have had two of these since their release and while I have moved away from them in more recent times, I think they are an excellent all round rod. Notwithstanding the recommended figures from the manufacturer, I recommend you fish PE10 and lures weights from about 150 -200g. The Komodo will cast heavier and also lighter weights but I think the 150-200g is about ideal. It is a comfortable rod to fight a fish with although at 7.5 feet, it will not be the longest casting rod you find. The only caveat I will make is that you should be sure you can handle a PE10 outfit first.
If you are looking for an even heavier PE10 rod, you could consider a Carpenter Wild Violence WV80XH. The only caveat I will make here is that you could be looking for a long time! The Wild Violence is a legendary GT rod and will fish heavier than the Komodo Dragon but you will want to be sure you can handle one. This rod is extremely powerful down low and can hurt on a big fish.
Mid-heavy rods (PE8-10)
In this weight class, I regard the Ripple Fisher GT79R as an excellent choice. The rod is very comfortable to fish with and while PE10 is pushing it, will handle that weight class with a bit of sensibility on the part of the angler. Casting weights from about 120-160g is about ideal for this rod although it will handle slightly heavier and lighter weights. This rod will pretty much suit anyone fishing for GTs. In fact, I would probably go so far as to say that if you can’t handle this rod, you really should be spending more time in the gym first before you go fishing for GTs.
A slightly heavier rod in this category and a personal favourite for me today is the Fisherman GT Game T-RSH. This rod has largely replaced the Komodo Dragon in my rod tube now. I use this rod with PE10 and it is my favourite rod for fighting a fish. If you are interested in this rod, then you will want to be sure you are a decent caster because at its length, it is not by any means the best casting rod in the market and to be more succinct, it’s an awful casting rod!
Another rod that is suitable is the Carpenter DJ83MH. This rod has been designed to be a starting rod and pretty much has it all. It casts well, pops decently, ok for the odd stickbait, action is fine for most anglers.
A new entry into the market is Carpenter’s Monster Hunter MH80H RF40.This rod is fine for casting weights up to around 200g in my view but for poppers, I’d probably be thinking up to around the 170g range.
Mid weight rods (PE8)
In this weight class, the Carpenter Coral Viper CV79 RF40 is highly recommended – if you can find one. This truly is a personal favourite for PE8 and is also a favourite of my good friend, Malcolm Crane who I would regard as one of the best GT angler in the country today. We’ve found the rod plenty strong enough and both our CVs have knocked over enough respectable fish in the 40-45kg category for us to know they can handle big fish. I love this rod as it is so comfortable to fish with and I have at times fished PE10 hard with it although that is not recommended. This rod is ideal for poppers in the 100-140g range as well as stickbaits from 100-160g.
Another rod which I have used recently which is quite suitable is the Ripple Fisher Ultimo UG79H. This is a PE10 stickabit rod but is good with PE8. It handles poppers up to around 140g very comfortably and has the advantage of being able to cast big stickbaits. It also has a hell of a lot of grunt down low.
I’m also going to throw a new rod that is going to be available in 2011 from Carpenter, the Endless passion EP85 RF36. This rod is longer than standard but still very manageable and while I regard it as more suitable for stickbaits, it will still handle a popper up to around 130, posisbly 140g. This rod will make a difference for you if you are not a strong caster.
Another rods that is suitable is the Smith 80P/35. It is not a rod I have used for any period of time myself but it is one which is hugely popular with many anglers.
I have not covered weight classes below PE8 as I don’t tend to fish at that weight and from my experience locally, that class is just a bit too light.
I will also make the point that if you are thinking of buying more than one rod, then I would suggest you buy a rod specifically for chuggers and one specifically for stickbaits.
So where do I buy my rod from?
This is something only you can decide. I do have some strong views on local tackle stores and these vary from one end of the spectrum to the other. Excepting a very small number of stores, I think it is hard to get good advice on this form of fishing. I have been in numerous stores where the salesperson is really spinning some rubbish and I am probably not quite the right person to try to have on in this regard!
On the other hand, a store which is prepared to stock a good range of gear and which will go to the effort of arranging for you to cast a range of rods and pop some lures with those rods is serious about their business and in assisting you to get the right rod. Quite frankly, if they go to this effort, they deserve your business.
If you have the opportunity to cast the rods, please take advantage of this. You will find this to be really helpful with your choice. Ensure that you can cast the rod comfortably and are confident that you can repeat this for long periods of time. If the rod feels like a crow bar, I would suggest you look for something more comfortable.
They are also likely to stand behind you in the event of an inexplicable breakage which may be the difference between you getting a replacement or not. If you do get the opportunity to test the rod casting, do one additional test and that is take your gimbal belt and feel what the rod is like in the gimbal while loaded up. This will give you a good idea on whether the butt is of a suitable length for you and whether you can handle the rod under heavy load.
Coming back to the rods, you of course have the option of buying from abroad which may save you some money but I think this needs to be balanced against the above. As I wrote, only you can make that decision.
Dos and Do Nots with GT Rods
These issues are not directly related to your buying decision but I thought they might be helpful seeing the purchase of a GT rod is an expensive investment.
GT rods are some of the sophisticated rods made utilising cutting edge graphite technology. They are made to be incredibly strong for their weight and to be able to take a high level of abuse during a fight but there is a limit.
I am sure most of you would be familiar with the concept of high-sticking. Can I say though, this is a poorly understood concept with GT fishing. There is nothing wrong with high-sticking (within limits of course) when a fish is 80m from a boat but high-sticking when a fish is near or under a boat is death. I have seen some of the best anglers in the sport high-sticking like anyone else when the fish is a long way from the boat but once the fish is under the boat, they are extremely cautious. The large majority of GT rods broken happen when the fish is under the boat and the angler continues to get the rod into a high stick angle.
I once saw Damon Olsen react in time to save his rod (and ultimately land the fish) when I believe 99% of anglers would have had a broken rod. He was fighting a solid fish that was under the boat when the fish decided to make one more screaming run to the other side of the boat. Damon managed to lean over and stick the whole rod in the water where the reel was almost in the water. He then managed to swing the rod underneath and around the boat and continue fighting the fish. All of this happened within a couple of seconds.
It is really important to have an awareness of where the fish is and to be able to react to it. If not, the rod is what takes the brunt of your mistake, often with fatal consequences.
Do invest in some rod wax and ensure you keep the joint waxed at all times. This is a very cheap and very effective way of preventing slippage at the joint. If a rod slips out through a day of fishing and you hook a fish, you may get one of those unfortunate breakages that occur just around the joint.
I suggest that at the end of each day of fishing, you separate the rod and wax the joint if necessary. Many people have found that at the end of a trip, they cannot separate the two sections of the rod. I find that separating it at the end of each day mitigates this.
Do invest in some rod wraps. Most of the Japanese manufacturers produce these under their own names. These are basically just a rubber strap which have Velcro on the ends so they are used to wrap rods together but they also are incredibly useful in getting a grip on a rod so you can separate the two sections. I also use rod wraps to prevent rod chatter when the rods are bouncing around in a boat. Having rods continuously knocking against each other when the boat is bouncing around is a very bad idea. I use wrod wraps to secure the rods (and the poppers) so they don’t knock against each other.
I cannot separate my Rod!
If you have this problem, do not panic. Whatever you do, do not try to force the rod apart using clamps. I have heard a couple of horror stories where uninformed tackle stores have done the most stupid things. If this happens to you, wrap the joint area with a bag of ice and let it sit for a while. You will find that the rod should separate quite easily after this if you use rod wraps. This method has always worked for me. If the rod still will not separate, I expect some spray on lubricant will work but I cannot recommend any as I have not had to resort to this.
We are currently seeing a lot of innovations in the GT rod market. This has primairly been driven by Ripple Fisher who have continued to update their rods regularly and release new models. Ripple has the advantage of manufacturing their own blanks and it really shows with a number of superb new models. Their graphite technology is really cutting edge. Ripple seem to be very focussed on rods that are more manageable in terms of their flex and although they make one true beast (GT78XH), the rest of the GT rods range from quite to very comfortable to fish with.
We have also recently been seeing a fair bit coming out from Carpenter in terms of new products. This company of course needs no introduction being arguably THE most famous company producing GT rods and lures. It’s is quite apparent that Carpenter have had a change in design philosophy over the recent few years as their current range of new offerings are significantly easier on the angler with much more progressive blanks. As I wrote in my review of November 2010 on the new Monster Hunter and Endless Passion range, Carpneter is back, and back with a vengeance.
Smith have responded with some new rods as well although I have only seen one prototype at this point.
All of this is great for the consumer as it has increased the range of offerings in the market although I wonder how big the market is and what it can actually absorb.
So there we are! I hope that the information above will at least prove to be useful in assisting you in buying your first or next GT rod.
I get asked often what I use myself and my first statement here will be that what I use should be of no influence in your buying decision. I have traditionally used a lot of Smiths but my favourite brand is and remains Carpenter. In the past couple of years, I have developed a liking for Fisherman as well and I have also started carrying a couple of Ripple stickbait rods. I started off with Smith because they were the first brand I really became familiar with. I got into Carpenter soon after for the simple reason that the name Carpenter is synonymous with GT fishing and I got into Fishermans for something different. The Ripple Ultimo stickbait rods speak for themselves. They are really superb blanks and have a beautiful action to them. I have never been disappointed with any of these rods.
If I can leave you with one thought, take your time on your buying decision and find a rod(s) that suit you. Do your research properly. That is about as far as my recommendation can go. Be careful where you get advice from particularly from a tackle shop that stocks one brand and knows nothing or from people who may mean well but do not have the knowledge or the experience to give you the right advice. Also, don’t take what you read in Fishing magazines as gospel. There are journalists writing about GTs and GT equipment these days who have a very poor knowledge of the topic and who simply sprout rubbish. You will never go too far wrong doing plenty of research and taking your time.
I have, however, really only scratched the surface in terms of information on rods. If you feel you need more assistance or I have only confused you even more, feel free to ask
From Tuna360. com
“In to popping by Gman… reference for beginners”
Here is the scene and why its so addictive …..
You get the call, “We found them, boiling tuna, get you ass over here”. In an instant your heart is racing as the throttles of the boat are pushed to full and your off and racing 10 miles in 3-foot seas with pouring rain in your face. The small spec on the horizon gets bigger and bigger, which is your friends boat. On the way you frantically check and re check your hooks, your leader, your connections as you’re pounded by the waves, hoping & praying you’re not to late. You wipe the burning salt water out of your eyes to get a better look at the horizon.
The first thing you notice as you get closer is the black sky and the white water beneath it but as you near the area you realize that the black sky is birds diving frantically into the white water below. It’s hard to make at first what’s under the birds but as you slow down and approach with the wind at your back you can see the spinner dolphin feeding and there is rolling tuna everywhere. WIDE OPEN BITE … a once in a lifetime bite
A wide-open natural feed predators, baitfish skyrocketing everywhere desperately fleeing for their lives. You can sense the desperation as baitfish are frantically jumping anywhere and everywhere including the boat. Absolutely pure chaos all within a small area and as you arrive you see your friends on the other boat in obvious pain and bent over fighting the unknown.
You calm yourself down, steady yourself in the bow and with a strong powerful cast launch your popper into the violently frothing ocean … Flip the bail of your Stella … long pull CHUG … Long pull CHUG … long pull CHUG a boil behind you!!! C’mon take it take it, take it Biatch zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz ZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzz you’re tight. The huge yellowfin races along the surface for a moment before plunging to the depths below peeling off massive amounts of line.
Your about to do battle with a beast in an un conventional way, I hope you brought you’re A-Game because he bought his. The battle goes vertical after an initial long run and after a battle the circles get smaller, and the goal is in reach one more turn, that’s all I need. Stick her, stick her!!!!!! The gaff reaches out and the shot is made in the head. All you see is blood red water; all you hear is your heartbeat and that tail whacking the water. Another gaff goes in and over the side she goes with a thud on the deck your dream has been realized. Now put away so I can cast again..
WELCOME TO HEAVEN … isnt it frigging awesome !!!!!!!
TIP – Make sure you buy a high-speed reel that can accommodate at least 300 yards of 65-80 pound braid and produce at least 25 pounds of drag. Chasing big tuna can get hairy on the first run and having enough capacity always helps you land that trophy
I also really suggest using a reel like the new Shimano Stella because of the new Casting lip, it makes the line flow off the reel at a much more efficient manner and helps your distance significantly
I will not be covering conventional reels, as 99 percent of anglers will be using spinning reels. The general rule of thumb for casting is to use the highest gear possible. This will allow you to work your artificial properly whether it’s keeping a swim bait moving during the whole retrieve or chugging a big popper.
You can use a lower gear reel if that all you have for poppers but not swim baits, and I don’t suggest it but sometimes financial situations may not allow you to have both models and will make life very easy on you.
TOP SHELF INVESTMENT Spinning Reels – My first choices from $600-$1,000
SHIMANO STELLA – JPD or Japanese Domestic Models
1. Stella 18000 HG at 5.7:1, 55 pounds of drag,
2. Stella 10000XG at 5.8:1 and 55 pounds of drag
3. Stella 8000HG at 5.6:1 and 55 pounds of drag
SHIMANO STELLA USA model
1. Stella 18000SW at 5.7-1 and 55 pounds of drag
2. 10000SW at 5.8 and 55 pounds of drag
3. 80000SW, which is 5.6:1, and 55 pounds of drag
1.Diawa Satiga-Z 6500 Dogfight at 6.2:1 and 60 pounds of drag
2.Diawa Saltiga Z 6000GT at 6.2:1 and 60 pounds of drag
1. Accurate Twin Spin SR 30 at 6:1 and 40 pounds of drag
2. Accurate Twin Spin SR 20 at 5:1 and 30 pounds of drag
MIDDLE OF THE ROAD $200-$650
1. Shimano Twin Power 12000HG at 5.6 and 40 pounds of drag
2. Quantum Cabo 80PT at 4.9:1 and 30 pounds of drag
3. Shimano Spheros 14000
4. Penn Sportfisher SS 850 at 4.6:1
5. Quantum Boca 80 at 4.9:1
TIP – Pick a rod that suites your needs not the “IN” rod. Everyone’s bodies are different therefore each rod will fit you different. If you know you will cast 105g rods pick the best rod in that class that you love, not what everyone else buys because only one person will fight that trophy and its you not them. Match your body and fighting style to the right rod
The length debate continues the sooner you come to grips with using a longer rod the better you will be because in casting length is an important factor especially on those days when the fish don’t stay up on top for long. You may get 5 casts into the school before they dive so you need to make them count
FEATURES & BENEFITS …. WHAT TO LOOK FOR
For the most part the descriptions I used for jigging rods really hold true here as well with some minor differences
Lightweight – weight is very important, especially when you are throwing 100g (3.5 ounce) – 200g (7 ounce) poppers all day in the sun so you will need a light rod so you can cast all day without fatigue.
Balanced – Because of the amount of casting you will do you will need a well balanced rod so u can properly work the popper. Plus with a totally balanced rod you will have more control and leverage over your fish
Power – You want a rod that will have backbone but at the same time bend with the fish. Too much backbone and your back with kill you and the rod will be heavier, not enough and it will take hours to land your fish. Most casting rods power will be about 6” above the upper grip.
Action – Unlike jigging rods where you have the ability to chose a parabolic rod in casting you really don’t use parabolic rods because of the length. A good casting rod with proper backbone will deflect stress off you and into the fish.
Tip – Depending on your choice of weapons, stick bait or popper the tip sections will become more important but the tip must be flexible so you can properly load the rod when casting to maximize casting distance but still have enough stiffness to work the lure
Popping Tip – The tip should be the stiffer of the two so you can pull larger chuggers through the water in a violent fashion but also light enough to load properly
Swim bait & Stick Bait Tips – The tip can be softer and lighter to twitch your baits through the water. This is more of a finesse type technique so stiffness is not important
Length – Look for a two-piece rod, as it will make traveling much easier. Unlike jigging where shorter is better in casting long rods rule anything from 7’9”- 9’ is the norm with 8’ being around average
Understanding Popping rod ratings
Most casting rods are rated in several different ways rods are rated in two ways by the GRAM (jig weight) and the PE Rating (line Rating) & Style.
Gram rating: Casting rods will have a range of weighted lures to use
EXAMPLE: Rods with a 50-100g rating means the rod was made to throw a lure in the 50-100 gram range. This takes into consideration the ability to properly load the rod while casting. Under this example on a 50-100g rod you should not use a 160g lure, as it will not throw correctly.
PE rating: The PE rating is the same for both jigging and popping. Almost always a heavier gram rated rod will have a heavier PE line rating which translates into a higher drag capacity. You will be able to apply much more drag on a PE8 rod than a PE3 rod.
Drag Rating: Casting rods are longer therefore you have more of a chance of mis using rod therefore most manufactures will list a fighting drag and max drag rating to let you know the rods limits under load. It is advisable to stick within the ratings for successful use.
DO NOT HIGH STICK RODS or YOU WILL BREAK THEM
Personally I will only use PE6-8 rods because I know my popper size is 200-400g and my drag will always be high because of the fish I pursue
TOP SHELF CASTING RODS in no specific order prices range from $400 and up
**POPPER ROD FIRST, SWIM BAIT ROD SECOND based on PRICE**
Carpenter 78UHL, Carpenter TN-87
Ocean Revolution BLACK DEVIL 100, 200 & Stealth
HOTS Gipang 79XH, HOTS Gipang 83H
Smith WRC 80P/35, TOKARA 60
Zenaq Fooketo Trevally 83-5, Zenaq Fooketo Tuna 83-4
Ocean Tackle International Tuna Sniper 40/60, 60/80
Second Tier – great rods up to $250
OTI Ocean X-Treme Popping rods 40/60, 60/80
Lamiglass Tropic Pro 70/30
OTI Tuna Sniper in action
Black Devil 200 in action on large Tuna
Black Devil 100 in Action
Line & Leader
TIP Line – Never spool up your casting reel to the rim, this will create wind knots from excess line. On casting reels always back away from the brim enough so your leader is Braid is still beneath the spool lip
Example of spool being filled properly
You do not need PE lines but they are very nice if you want to spend the money if not normal braid will work fine. Basically in a nutshell you have two types of braids. Normal braids and PE braids.
REGULAR BRAID – I would strongly suggest the use of Braid, there are, as you know many good choices, personally I have used and been happy with several non colored braids such as Suffix, Tufline XP and JB solid & Hollowcore. I am not a fan of using windon leaders with Spinning reels but some swear by it. I have had issues with power pro so I have shied away from it, plus I do not like a coated braid. These braids are all cost effective and can used with confidence.
POPULAR BRAID COMPANIES
JB Solid or Hollowcore
PE LINES – Unlike the intro to jigging, colored braid is not needed unless you are using a reel as double duty. A softer braid is highly recommended because it will cast farther. I have used Tufline XP, Suffix, Jerry Brown Hollowcore, Varivas GT Max and my suggestion of Varivas GT Max SMP. This line is very expensive but is the single best casting line I have ever used. Soft but strong like bull.
POPULAR PE COMPANIES
Understanding PE Lines
They began with diameter, using a long-established numbering system that fits a small range of diameters into a number – for instance, a No. 4 Japanese line will be close to 0.35mm diameter, regardless of whether it’s braid, nylon, fluorocarbon or whatever. In gel-spun polyethylene braids, these Japanese numbers are commonly used from 0.6 (about 0.14mm) to 12 (about 0.7mm); and they’re usually prefixed with PE (for PolyEthylene), so now you’ll often see Japanese braids referred to as PE1, or PE4, or PE8 or whatever.
One of the most noticeable differences is the line is completely soft and limp and non coated therefore it is very easy to tie a knot into
AVERAGE PE RATINGS – FOR TUNA I WILL USE PE6 – 80# AND UP
PE5 – 70
PE6 – 80
PE8 – 100
PE10 – 120
PE12 – 150
POPULAR PE LINES
Varias Casting Line
YGK Casting line
TIP: You do not need Fluro Carbon Leader IMHO. When you are casting a popper your leader is being pulled through the water surface so the fish don’t really see it similar to trolling. If you are using a swim bait like a Smith Baby Runboh then maybe but 99% of the time I use regular shock leader.
Now the important factor here is to use SOFT leader so its casts correctly which is another reason I do not suggest Fluro as it tends to be stiff which affects the movement of your lure and your casting distance. Regular shock leader, which is a very soft subtle leader, which has very elastic properties and is extremely easy to tie knots with up to 240-pound test.
IMHO Proper Leader length is several wraps around spool and then back out of rod tip atleast 24-36″ example below. Notice how popper ends up being between first and second guides.
I will start with length, I normally put about 4-6 wraps around my spool and then out of my rod tip by 2’ so maybe 15-20’ of leader. Just enough that if I get bit off several times I still wont have to re tie
POPULAR SHOCK LEADERS
Varivas Shock Leader
Fisherman Stealth Leader
TIP – Whatever knot you decide to use make sure it is short and slim, you are casting therefore the knot must pass through 8’ of casting rod. Super short and slim. If you are doing a Page Ranking Knot you should make it half the size as your normal one so it does not get caught up in guides during casting 1.5 – 2” max
There is no perfect answer here but many choices as I tell everyone the best knot to tie is a knot you are comfortable tying. Period end of story. Some love the uni-uni, some love the Albright, some like the midknot, personally I use a Page Ranking knot because of it low profile and strength
YouTube – Page Ranking Knot Bobbin
But there are many knots that will work. Another connections would be wind on leader, which is gaining in popularity. This loop-to-loop connection is very easy to make and has no knot at all
BHP Tackle – Wind-On Leaders – Topshots – Fluorocarbon Wind-On Leaders – Hollow Spectra
Connections to Popper
TIP: You should use extra large split rings to accommodate larger hooks and the depth of popper cup if not you will not have clearance
Any knot will work like a uni, trilene etc. You have two major ways of connecting your leader to your jigs after your knot. As you know it can become very time consuming to re tie while the bite is hot so most incorporate a very simple connection.
WHEN YOU WANT TO CHANGE POPPERS
The benefit to these connections is you never need to re tie you just take the popper off the split ring to change out with the split ring pliers. Simple and easy and quick to do.
1. Swivel to split ring to popper – Personally this is the way I connect everything. As you are casting your line as a tendency to twist because of the motion and as you know line twist can leader to damaged or weekend line so I always use a swivel. It’s the safest way to prolong the life of your line.
Owner 200-300 pound swivels and split rings from 400# and up.
Types of Lures
TIP – Always carry a variety of lures from small to large so you can try to match the size of the bait being pursued not necessarily the color. When casting to Tuna I will carry an assortment of lures from 1” metals to 10” long poppers and stick baits. You will have two very different types of lures to throw at your fishSURFACE OR SUBSURFACE
Both can be deadly under the right circumstances and both will drive fish absolutely mad. Generally if I’m not seeing fish I will throw poppers or if I’m fishing underwater structure I will throw poppers. If I see fish I will throw subsurface for the most part unless they aren’t interested then I will switch and sometimes it’s the opposite but that’s my initial thought process
TOP- Surface Popper
Middle – Surface Stickbait
Bottom Subsurface Swimbait
Surface Lures – Poppers
This 3”- 15” lure has a cupped face and is made to “POP” & throw water, when pulled correctly you should be able to chug massive amounts of water. They attract fish upwards towards the surface. These lures are effective in any type of water whether it is flat seas, big swells or choppy conditions. Poppers are extremely effective when fishing for GT’s, Cubera Snappers or Rooster Fish that generally hang around rocky structures below the surface. The chug will pull them up in an attacking fashion and the strike will be Violent. They are also deadly for massive tunas … the larger the chug the bigger the fish IMHO.HOW TO CHOOSE A POPPER:
Generally I look for a deep wide cup face this will displace the most amount of water with the least amount of effort. I also look for a great finish and vibrant colors. I also look for a wood construction with adequate through wire construction. Cypress wood holds up the best while foam injected poppers tend to break consistently near the narrow part of the neck
Example of cup face, the deeper or wider the cup the larger the splash
COLORS:Personally while throwing poppers in light or clear waters I tend to use BLACK as it is a nice silohette on eth waters surface. In darker waters like Mexico or Panama I tend o use brighter colors like PINK, PURPLE and YELLOW.
Surface Lures – Stick Baits
Stick bait’s – Stick bait’s are similar in size to a popper and similar design BUT lack the cup in the front, instead most have an angled nose which makes the lure dip and thrash from side to side like an injured bait fish. These are extremely effective as well and should be in any tackle bag. They are normally floating and longer than most poppers.HOW TO CHOOSE A STICKBAIT:
Generally I choose an angled nose stickbait because this shape tends to make the most commotion while fatter stickbaits like the Squid Pen tend to make more of a darting wobble effect. Depending on how it is weighted also depicts the action.
COLORS: Unlike poppers stickbaits are made to mimic real baitfish therefore I tend to like the longer models that are very similar to the local baitfish such as FLYING FISH & Sardine.
HIGH END Lures from $40-90.00 dollars
Hammerhead I Cup & G Cup
Craftbait GT2, GT3 and GT3 Ultra
Fisherman Brand Big Mouth
Skagit Pump King
Nomad Poppers CRAFTBAIT IN ACTION
SKAGIT PUMP KING IN ACTION
MID RANGED LURES UNDER $40.00
Page Ranking Labs Joker, Back Bone, Fly, Bone Eater
FCL Labo EBI Pop
Ocean Tackle International Komodo, Goanna & Wombat
Strike Pro Tuna Hunter
Yozuri Surface Bull
FCL LABO IN ACTION
Heru Poppers in action
OTI in Action
Presentation of Poppers/stickbaits
You are trying to mimic baitfish busting on the waters surface therefore the bigger the splash the better, in order to accomplish this you can use two techniques or a combo of the two1. Slower Technique
– Rod tip down after cast and pull violently towards the waters surface with a pause every once in a while. You know that you are doing this right when you actually here the popper digging into the surface causing a very loud noise
2. Faster Technique – with the rod tip up you can chug faster mimicking a baitfish being chased, pull, reel, pull, reel. One rotation per cycle with an occasional pause so do this with the rod tip up and a faster pace or you can combine the two techniques
Really funny video of us bored when we were blown out last weekend full of casting it HQ for better resolution
YouTube – Casting technique
Subsurface Lures – Swimbaits
These lures are absolutely deadly and can make the difference between a skunk and a massive slob fish on the deck. Honestly these are the first out of my bag and the Smith Baby Runboh is the deadliest tuna lure I know. Period end of storyDON’T HAVE A HEART ATTACK … they are expensive but worth every figgin penny.SOULS BARABUS IN ACTION
VOLADOR IN ACTION
The subsurface lures are all flash, dash and wiggle. They imitate baitfish under the surface. They are generally smaller in size about 5” long and shaped like a baitfish generall most effective when a pause or a twitch is added to presentation.
Popular swim baits …. Absolutely deadly. In order my top list
1. SMITH Baby Runboh – first lure out of my bag no doubt about it
2. Tackle House Shibuki or Souls Barabus – same lure although Souls is slightly heavier
3. Shimano Ocea Pencil – Badass lure that produces big fish
4. Tailwalk Gunz – Newer lure that has shown to be effective with brilliant colors
After cast you should let the lures sink for at least a 5-10 count depending on where the fish are located, then use one of the following techniques
1. Rod tip down – Long sweep motion across body … reel slack , long sweeping motion across body … reel slack and Pause then repeat process. This will imitate a squid to perfection as they have long burst followed by a pause
2.Rod tip up or down – Slow steady retrieve with a periodic twitch and pause, then repeat motion back to boat
TIP: ALWAYS GO BIG & REINFORCED …..
Tuna and Pelagic Fish with Poppers & Stick baits1. Generally you need to use heavy, heavy treble hooks the larger the better. I strongly suggest the use 5/0 Owner ST-76. The only hooks I will use. They are super strong and unlike the ST-66 I haven’t heard of any opening or being straightened.
4/0 ST66 ON LEFT versus 4/0 ST76 ON RIGHT
2. Using a Heavy larger treble hook on belly and then a large single on tail, I have fished with people that swear by using a single trailing hook. The jury is out and I have had mixed feelings on the subject. For meat fish I like using double 5/0 treble but this is another option
Tuna and Pelagic Fish with Swim Baits
Swim baits are much smaller and they swim hence the name swim baits therefore it is very important not to change there motion. I would strongly suggest using a size 3/0 Owner ST-76, there is enough of a hook to catch flesh but not screw up its motion
Marlin & Billfish
Most people do not understand that Marlin & Sailfish are very attracted to poppers and swim baits. While in Cabo I successfully caught & released Striped Marlin on poppers and then in Panama two large Sailfish were also released.
Idealy you want to sightfish for tailing Marlin then cast in front of them or troll live hookless baits and then as fish enter spread toss them a popper similiar to bait and switch mode when fly fishing
I will only use single hooks and would only suggest you do the same so release is easier and you do the least amount of damage to the fish. You can rig the popper, stick bait or swim bait with the single attached through the split ring or you can tie assist hooks with Kevlar and attach that way as well
*** Please note if you are casting to Marlin, make sure you let them eat for a 3 count before setting the hook so the swinging hook gets lodged in the mouth. You can use any large single like a Jobu or a Varivas
Striped Marlin of Cabo San Lucas with Mangrove studio popper with dual single hooks
There are some keys to casting that will allow you to gain some additional yardage with some practice you should be able to throw a lure 80 plus yards without issue on a pitching boat.The motion is very much like normal casting with some slight differencesGRIP: Personally I grip the reel between the ring and pinkie finger and then use my pointing finger to hold line while I flip bail
LEADER LENGTH: The longer your leader to popper connection is outside your rod the longer your cast should be. I keep my lure approximately 2-3 feet outside my rod tip this helps create velocity while casting.
NON REEL GRIP HAND – should be used to pull rod butt down while casting.
TIMING: Always cast WITH the pitching boat
Putting it all together, first I get the proper grip, good balanced stance, I flip my bail and hold line with my pointer finger. I leave my popper dangling approximately 2’ from the tip and over the side of the boat … I rock back with boat and in a strong compact movement I come forward with power ahead of my target.
This isn’t rocket scense but tricks like keeping your popper out far from rod tip and pulling down with opposite hand while casting will increase your distance. Here is a short video of me screwing around at a gold course lake last weekend the lake is about 80-100 yards wide in certain spots.
In order to cast far you must load the rod, which means extreme stress will be put on your hands therefore gloves are basically Keep in mind when selecting a pair of gloves that you should get them tight fitting and find a pair that is light and has a protected finger. They come in every color. Hint of advice make sure you order a size larger if you are planning on buying an overseas brand, as they tend to run very small
POPPING GLOVE COMPANIES
Ocean Revolution (in development)
Belts –Its important to use a low profile belt while casting so it doesn’t get in your way. Most of the Japanese jigging belts ride higher in waist but you can lower them personally I use a lower belt for leverage
FISHERMANS FLAT BELT
JIGGING BELT COMPANIES
Ocean Revolution (in development)
Split ring Pliers
Split ring Pliers will make your life easy and will also be able to serve duel purposes as in cutting braid, leader and changing poppers. I would strongly suggest keeping your pliers in a sheath on your fishing belt connected with some type of tether so you don’t lose them over board
SPLIT RING PLIER COMPANIES
My FAVORITE – Fighting
STYLE OF FIGHT – In the beginning of a tuna fight I believe in sticking it to the fish as hard as I can with heavy drag to se how it reacts, it will either come up quick or become what some of us refer to as a demon fish. Either way if you get on them quick you can determine the style of fight.
Fighting with a spinning rod and reel and no harness looks hard but with the right technique you should be able to fight even the largest tuna for extended periods of time without severe trauma. The biggest mistake made is to pull with your arms.LOCKED ARM TECHNIQ
UE – Lock your support or non reeling arm straight and high on grip, then bend backwards with your legs and waist this will reduce your fatigue. Similar to using a harness but instead of straps your locked arm is the leverage point. Think of using your arms like a brace/lever instead of a joint, if not it will kill you on long fight to pull at the elbow. Whenever you pull back use both arms locked out NOW when you start to tire use … one arm high BUT this is KEY pull with the other from the reels HANDLE not the high arm, this can help you get your arm back
I was fighting a 200 pound class yellowfin in this sequence and at no time did i feel really fatigued with close to 25 pounds of drag and 30 minutes of fighting time
FIGHTING ANGLES – If your feet are at the 6 o’clock position and your head is at the 12 o’clock position your fighting range should be from 8-11 o’clock. Shorter more powerful strokes on big fish. With stripers and smaller tuna your fine From 11-12 o’clock you are actually working against your self because you are creating slack you cant catch up with which means the fish has room to wiggle
TIP – remember when fighting a big tuna … line either comes off the reel or on the reel. No resting if you’re resting so is the tuna. Max pressure equals shorter fight time