SUPER FISHING TACKLE To the Rescueby: theangler
Rich Belanger knows a little about fishing trends. Promotions manager for legendary St. Croix Rods, Belanger has helped pioneer some of the industry’s leading rod trends at the most advanced rod engineering facility on earth. A recent project undertaken by the 60-year-old rod-crafting company has been to produce a generation of elite sticks that match seamlessly the new generation of microthin fishing lines.
When you cast this stuff on spinning gear, you’d swear that fishing line as you knew it was bunk—and in a way, that’s exactly right. Then add a reel like Shimano’s non-metallic Stradic CI4 Microline and you’ll take the game to entirely new dimensions. But without the optimal rod, everything else is irrelevant. And that’s where Belanger and St. Croix’s Legend Elites enter the picture. “By nature,” says Belanger, a ‘super’ angler in his own right, “a light action blank is not a powerful blank. So when we set out to build a super light rod capable of both casting microlines and battling big bass and other fish, it was one of the more difficult challenges we’ve faced.”
The first step, Belanger suggests, is to understand the difference between rod “power” and rod “action.” “Power refers to how much pressure it takes to flex the rod. We engineer different rod powers to efficiently handle a specific range of lure weights and line sizes.
“Action, on the other hand, is determined by where a rod flexes along the blank. Faster action rods flex mostly near the tip. While slower action rods flex down into the butt section. To build a truly superior microline rod—one that could both cast light lures and handle large fish— we felt it was critical to use the fastest blank possible. It needed the lightest, strongest material in existence. This isn’t the classic ‘ultralight,’” he offers, “but a rod that goes well beyond the things an ultralight has historically been capable of.”
Ultimately, says Belanger, St. Croix used its exclusive SCV/NSI resin, a rarified high-modulus/high-strain graphite fiber, as the blank material for the Legend Elite LES70LF. A 7-footer rated for 4 to 8-pound test, this rod fishes like 3-ounces of pure magic wand. Matched with the Shimano CI4 Microline reel and spooled with 100-yards of 6-pound test Sufix 832, the Elite can launch 1/16-ounce jigs completely out of sight. The rod possesses a forgiving tip that catapults small baits, while its initial two-thirds (spine) produces ample power to subdue 5 and 6-pound smallmouth bass, as well as 10-pound walleyes or equally large trout and salmon. And the microlines themselves, 4 and 6-pound Sufix 832, sail through the guides, transmitting subtle “tick” bites, and setting hooks and holding fast, even at remote distances. None of this was possible until these three elements—line, reel, rod—came together in the past year.
The “super-combo” totals an air-light 9 ounces of rod, reel and line, weightless enough for a toddler. Yet it’s capable of presenting previously unthinkable lures for some of the most selective fish on God’s blue planet. Tiny swimbaits, finesse worms and even mini-crankbaits fished on 1/16 and 1/32-ounce jigs feel like pebbles at the end of your line; lure control is that solid, that connected.
The Trigger X Probe Worm is a shoe-in for mega bass—especially mongo smalljaws. Rig this thing on a 1/16-ounce VMC Half Moon Jig or Shaky Head and you’ll rarely fail to connect with the most turned-off bass. And to swimbait bass, crappies, and walleyes into submission, Yamamoto’s 3-inch Swim Senko is a superfishing freak. Weighted heavy itself, this bait fishes supremely well on a 1/16-ounce leadhead, pinging lateral-lines with its active thumper tail. A final jig option that nearly always produces in tough conditions is a 1/16 or 1/32-ounce hair or feather jig. Microjigs tied with strands of marabou, fox hair or fine deer hair remain, perhaps, the finest overlooked finesse baits ever created. The VMC Dominator Marabou Jig being perhaps the best example.
For faster search-style fishing, consider, too, one of Rapala’s hot new micro crankbaits—the Rapala Ultra Light Minnow and Ultra Light Shad. At 1/8-ounce each, these lively downsized swimmers carve out that key 4 to 5-foot deep strike zone, and do it with Rapala’s inimitable underwater appeal. Ever cast a 1-1/2-inch crankbait a country mile? Throw it on super-tackle and you might not see it come back for awhile. But as you’re cranking it back, the “super” line-reel-rod combo will connect you more intimately with your lure than you ever thought possible. The connections’ so seemingly close and direct that it lets you do things with lures that simply can’t otherwise be done on regular tackle. Every rod tip pop, twitch, pause or shake immediately makes the lure react accordingly. And you feel it happen. And when that big bass inhales your lure, you detect it—you see it, almost before it even happens. Just like Spiderman.
Added: Sun Mar 18 2012