Beginners to Sea Fishing are often perplexed when it comes to choosing the right tackle. There is certainly a vast range of tackle available to suit the many different methods and styles of sea fishing and if you’re not sure what to buy, you could end up wasting your money. This guide attempts to explain the different methods of sea fishing and the best tackle to buy for each.
The tackle that is ideal for you will depend on how you want to fish. Are you looking to drop your bait in the sea and patiently wait for the fish to bite or are you interested in a more dynamic way to fish? Hopefully by the time you’ve digested this guide you’ll be a lot more clued up on which style suits you best and what you’ll need to give it a try.
Ways to Catch a Fish
Broadly speaking, there are two ways to catch a fish. By scent and by visual or behavioural attraction. Although there are many different methods of sea fishing, they can generally be attributed to one of these two categories.
To catch a fish by scent, bait that closely matches the scent of the fish’s natural food source will be required. This might for example be a lump of squid, a strip of mackerel or a lug worm.
To catch a fish by visual or behavioural attraction, a ‘lure’ that closely matches the appearance and behaviour of the fish’s natural food source will be required. Lures come in many different forms. Some are made from hard materials including wood, metal and plastic, some are soft and have a jelly-like feel. Either way, they are designed to mimic a real fish or certain attributes of a real fish such as the glint as it moves through the water or the vibrations that it naturally emanates as it moves or reacts to distress.
Traditional Sea Fishing
When most people think of sea fishing, they imagine standing on a beach or on a boat with a baited hook in the water waiting for a fish to bite. This is the more traditional way to catch fish and is still the most widely practised method. This falls into the ‘Fishing by Scent’ category. It’s a method that requires patience as once the baited hook is deployed, the angler must wait for a fish to follow the scent trail to the hook and take the bait.
To fish in this way from the beach, a beach caster rod is required. These rods are usually 12 or 13 feet long and are designed to cast a baited rig from the beach into the surf. Generally speaking the further you can cast the deeper the water you will encounter and the better your chance of catching a fish. Having said that many fish come close into shore to feed and so success can still be had at shorter cast distances. Beach caster rods are rated by the weight of the lead that they can comfortably cast and most will be rated somewhere between 4 and 8 ounces. For UK waters, a 5 or 6 oz lead is most common.
As well as the standard length beach casters, a number of ‘long rods’ are now also available. These rods are designed to allow the angler to achieve greater casting distances without the need for specialist casting techniques such as the Pendulum cast.
There are two different types of reel for this method of beach fishing, the Fixed Spool Reel and the Multiplier Reel. The fixed spool reel is the simpler of the two. It’s easier to learn and less susceptible to line over-runs and ‘birds nests’ (tangles) but it’s also slightly less efficient in the way that it delivers line during a cast due to the spool being fixed. The multiplier reel is more compact and efficient due to its moving spool but it’s more difficult to learn as the speed of rotation of the spool has to be manually controlled during a cast to prevent over-runs. Modern multiplier reels have advanced magnetic and centrifugal braking systems which makes them easier to control but an element of manual intervention is always required.
To fish in the traditional way from a boat, a different type of rod and reel will be required. From a boat, there is no need to cast long distances as the boat will already be located at the target area. Also much deeper waters are more easily accessible from a boat and this means that there is a greater potential to catch larger and more aggressive fish. For these reasons, boat rods are usually much shorter, typically 6 to 9 feet long and much stiffer than beach rods. Instead of having a cast rating, boats rods are rated by the range of line strength that they are designed to work with and they will typically have a light, medium or heavy rating corresponding to around 12, 30 or 50 pounds respectively.
For traditional boat fishing heavy weight boat multiplier reels are normally used. These multipliers are designed with a focus on strength and durability to allow the angler to pull heavy fish up from deep waters. Fixed spool reels can also be used for traditional boat fishing but this tends to be for more occasional use.
Lure Fishing (Spinning)
Lure fishing, sometimes called spinning, is fast becoming more popular amongst sea fishermen largely due to the increase in availability in the UK of lure fishing equipment. Fishing with a lure relies on visual attraction as opposed to scent and requires the lure to imitate the appearance and behaviour of the fish’s natural food source. This is more dynamic than traditional sea fishing as constant effort is required to make the lure act like a real fish. This might be a simple case of casting and retrieving the lure continuously through the surf or it might involve more advanced techniques with lures that have greater technical ability and can be made to dive or surface according to the tension applied to the line for example.
There are many different types of sea fishing lure including hard lures (wood, metal or plastic), soft lures (rubber or jelly-like plastic) and spoons or spinners which normally consist of simple metal plates and attractors that mimic the reflective effects of a moving fish. All of these lures will normally be much lighter than a weighted rig, tending to weigh only 20 or 30 grams. For this reason, a beach caster rod will not be suitable for lure fishing as it won’t have the flex and response required to cast such a light weight. Beach caster rods also lack the sensitivity required to make the lure behave like a real fish. For lure fishing or spinning a dedicated rod is therefore required. Lure fishing rods have a much lighter cast rating to allow the lure to be controlled with the required degree of accuracy. These rods are usually 6 to 11 feet long, are very light and have a high degree of flexibility.
Lure fishing reels, often referred to as spinning reels, are normally fixed spool reels just like the type used for traditional beach fishing but in a smaller form with greater emphasis on line control. These will often have the drag adjustment setting at the rear (rear drag) as opposed to on top of the spool (front drag) like their traditional beach fishing counterparts. This enables the drag setting to be adjusted more easily when playing a fish and allows bigger fish to be landed even with lightweight line and tackle. A number of multiplier type spinning reels are now also available and again these are much like the traditional multipliers but smaller and more refined. Whether to use a fixed spool reel or a multiplier reel for lure fishing is a matter of personal preference.
Again, lure fishing can be practised from the beach or from a boat. In this case the rod and reel type is fairly universal although a shorter rod may be far more practical for boat use.
To summarize, there are two main ways to sea fish. Firstly, the traditional method, using a baited hook and relying on the scent of your bait to attract a fish. This method requires patience and focus as once your baited hook is deployed it’s a waiting game. Secondly, lure fishing or spinning. A far more dynamic method of sea fishing whereby constant effort is required to ensure that your lure imitates a real fish as closely as possible.
- Traditional beach fishing
A beach caster rod and a large fixed spool or multiplier reel will be required.
- Traditional boat fishing
A boat rod and a boat multiplier reel will be required. A large fixed spool reel can also be used in some scenarios.
- Lure fishing (spinning) from the beach
A lure fishing (spinning) rod and a lure fishing (spinning) reel will be required.
- Lure fishing (spinning) from a boat
The same equipment can be used as from the beach but a shorter rod might be more practical.