Tourists from all over the country come to Sarasota and Siesta Key to go fishing, whether on their own or out on a fishing charter. The first thing any angler needs to start enjoying the sport of fishing is equipment. This is true of most hobbies and fishing is no exception. This basically consists of rods, reels, line, and terminal tackle as well as a few tools and other accessories.
RODS and REELS
Spinning tackle is the best choice for the majority of fishing situations than an angler will encounter while fishing in Sarasota Bay and all of the inshore waters of Florida. It is easy to use and a quality outfit can be purchased for around $150. Spincast gear (many of us started out with this, catching bluegill in ponds) just does not hold up in saltwater. Conventional or baitcasting tackle certainly has a place in saltwater fishing, particularly when using heavier lures and terminal tackle. But for most anglers, particularly those just getting into the sport, spinning tackle is the way to go.
Walking into a tackle store can be intimidating and overwhelming. But, it really isn’t that complicated. A local bait and tackle shop will give an angler better advice and service than most “box” stores will. They will also have a good selection of tackle and lures that works well for that local area. The best all-around choice is a 7’ medium action rod with a matching reel. There are many brands to choose from along with a wide range of prices. A $60 rod and $75 reel will work well for years with decent care. A 7’ rod will allow and angler to fish structure such as bridges and docks and still be light enough to fish small lures and baits. My second choice would be a 6 ½’ rod with a matching reel. This lighter outfit is better for casting jigs and smaller live baits. These two outfits will cover just about any inshore fishing situation.
There are many line choices out on the market, all have advantages and disadvantages. Monofilament line is the least expensive and the easiest for a novice angler to use. It has been used for many years and is a fine choice. Braided line has become very popular in recent years. It is more expensive but lasts a long time. Braid has almost no stretch and greater sensitivity, however line management is critical; snarls are difficult to remove. Also, knots are a little harder to tie with braid. In between are hybrid and fluorocarbon lines. These are kind of the best of both worlds and are also excellent choices, though a bit pricey. 10 to 12 pound monofilament or 20 pound braid would be the best choices.
Terminal tackle consists of the hook or lure that is tied onto the end of the line, along with any leader, weight, or swivels that might be used.
HOOKS and ARTIFICIAL LURES
Hooks come in many shapes, sizes and designs. For the vast majority of live and frozen bait situations, a 1/0 live bait hook will work quite well. If larger or smaller baits are used, the hook size should be changed accordingly. Anglers should match the hook to the size of the bait being used more than the size of the fish being targeted. A small hook will catch a large fish! Cut-offs from Spanish mackerel, bluefish, or other toothy critters will require a switch to a long shank hook. Some anglers prefer “circle hooks” and these are required for fishing the offshore reefs. Sizing is a bit different and when using then, the hook is not “set” but instead the line is just reeled tight while the rod tip is raised and the fish will hook itself.
There is probably nothing more confusing than artificial lures when it comes to fishing. There are endless choices of colors, sizes, and styles, but it can be simplified to some degree. Many anglers assume that live bait will always out-fish “fake” bait, but this is not always the case. There are situations where lures will out-produce live bait. The three basic types of lures used often here on the Suncoast are jigs, spoons, and plugs.
A jig is a simple lure that consists of a hook with a piece of lead molded into it. Some type of “tail” is then added and when worked properly imitates a baitfish or crustacean. Tails can be bucktail or synthetic hair or a plastic body. The plastic baits are very popular as they are relatively inexpensive and they can be easily changed. Jig heads in 1/8 ounce and 1/4 ounce are most popular. Gold, Glow, pearl, olive, red/copper, and chartreuse are all effective colors.
A spoon is a curved piece of metal with a hook in it; pretty simple but they catch fish! Silver and gold are the two most effective colors. Silver works best in clear water and gold is more productive in stained water. These lures can be cast a long way and are very easy to use. Weedless spoons are very effective in shallow water.
Plugs are plastic or wood lures that usually resemble a baitfish. They are very effective however they have a couple of drawbacks; they are fairly expensive and usually sport a pair of treble hooks making them potentially dangerous and also resulting in more damage to a fish that is to be released. There are very effective cast or trolled and account for some very large fish!
In most angling situations a leader will be required. This is sometimes called a “shock leader”. Many of the species encountered in our area have sharp teeth and/or raspy gill plates. Tying the hook or lure directly to the line with result in a lot of lost fish. So, a short piece (18”-24”) of leader is used. 30 pound is a good all-round choice but can be bumped up to 40 or 50 pound if larger fish are around or in stained water. Conversely, if the water is very clear, a move to 20 pound leader may be required. Flourocarbon leader is the best choice but inexpensive monofilament leader can also be used. Anglers should purchase several spools of different strengths. As a convenience, most shops offer pre-made rigs with hooks, swivels, and leader all tied up and ready to go.
SWIVELS AND WEIGHTS
The final pieces of terminal tackle are swivels and weights. A swivel can be used between the leader and main line and will greatly reduce line twist. It is crucial when using a spoon. Weights come in a variety of sized and shapes. Split shot are small weights which are pinched onto the line. Sliding sinkers knows as “egg sinkers” are popular and easy to use.
TOOLS and ACCESSORIES
Lastly, there are tools and accessories. Every angler will need a pair of pliers. Nail clippers can be handy for trimming knots. A landing net, bait bucket, filet knife, and a release tool (A MUST in my opinion) are other options. Now, let’s go fishing!