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Volume XVII, Issue 45 ~ November 5 - November 11, 2009

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Fish Are Biting

Breaking rockfish and bluefish are all over the Bay. Follow the birds. Trolling and deep jigging around the Bay Bridge and the rock piles work well for stripers and some big white perch. Down south around Breezy Point, lots of bigger striped bass up to 36 inches are being taken by trollers following the birds from the Radar Towers to Parker’s Creek.

Tacklesmith Shawn Smith

His “Super Tuning” brings out the best in a casting reel

My arm flexed back as I started the cast. The feeding boil of a big rockfish had just appeared in the rip near the tip of a jetty. My surface plug arced out as the reel’s spool turned to a blur, feeding line into the cast. It was a long attempt, but my bait splashed a mere two feet from the rocks and right on target. A split-second later, the plug disappeared in a smashing strike.

It turned out to be a seven-pound striper, and my success with that cast and that fish was due in no small part to the efforts of Shawn Smith, a freshwater largemouth bass angler from Texas.

Today’s casting reels for both fresh and saltwater have been much refined by engineering and technological advances spurred principally by the popularity of largemouth bass fishing and the big money competition that has grown up with it.

I don’t consider fishing a competitive sport, but I’m more than willing to take advantage of the equipment fostered by that industry. As a result, I’m a real fan of low-profile casting reels, particularly the Curado and Citica series by Shimano.

I had been looking on the Internet for information on servicing and maintaining my reels when I came across a site hosted by Shawn Smith at Shawn offered the information and services I desired — and more. The and more was something called Super Tuning, which supposedly improves significantly the performance of bass casting reels.

I wanted to know more. I called Shawn, and we ended up in a long and interesting conversation. A 41-year-old dedicated bass fisherman from Mansfield, Texas, he started The Tacklesmith a few years back as a sideline and to share his knowledge with fellow anglers.

Shawn offered to Super Tune a couple of my reels to illustrate how effective the process was. I couldn’t wait to send off a Shimano Curado E7 (a favorite of both of ours) and a Shimano Citica.

Super Tuning, I learned, involves micro-polishing all the surfaces critical to the cast. The polishing reduces friction and increases cast efficiency.

Doyle’s Field Test

When Shawn returned the completed reels, I immediately went to an open grassy field to test the results. I wasn’t disappointed with his efforts.

Comparing a Super Tuned reel to a standard factory-prepped model, I found my casting distances had increased by about 15 percent. I am able to throw a three-quarter-ounce lure approximately 100 feet with the standard model Curado reel. The tuned version turned in casts of up to 120 feet and averaged about 115.

All reels were spooled with 15-pound Power Pro braided line and the same lure was thrown, a three-quarter-ounce Smack It Jr. with the hooks removed. I used a seven-foot, moderate-action St. Croix Premier casting rod. Wind conditions were calm.

Interestingly, the tuned Shimano Citica reel, which is an inexpensive variation of the Curado, turned in a superior performance to the factory Curado, but not quite equal to the Super Tuned model.

Later, when fishing the reels during the rockfish season, I found myself always reaching for the tuned outfits. I felt that the tuned reels required less effort to cast, were more consistent and gave fewer backlashes.

Over time, however, the tuned and un-tuned versions seemed to get closer in performance. A quick call to Shawn revealed that I had neglected to maintain my reels properly. Per his instructions, I disassembled, cleaned and re-lubricated the two main bearings and the level wind gears of all the reels, a simple process.

This cursory maintenance restored performance levels to the Shimanos, with the tuned models resuming their superior levels. I now carry out this simple routine every dozen or so fishing trips or whenever I feel any reel’s performance is starting to fall off.

Being confident in reaching out an extra 15 feet or so, and doing so with a relaxed effort, is essential to accurate casting and good fishing. Getting that little extra out of your equipment and keeping it operating at that level is also a great feeling. I recommend it.

© COPYRIGHT 2009 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.