Sunday, July 26, 2009

Cheap Saltwater Fishing Rigs so You can GO FISHING!

If you read the books about fishing, particularly about salt water fishing, they generally implore you to buy a rod and reel that are a few steps up from entry level, or what I refer to as a "starter" outfit. They tell you, and probably rightly so in most cases, that the cheapest gear will often not last for 4 or 5 trips of salt water fishing, no matter whether you are bay fishing, pier/jetty fishing, surf fishing or some other kind of salt water fishing.

I know lots of people going to the beach for a summer vacation don't fish, but I want to encourage you to think about doing some fishing to liven up your time by the water. You can easily take along a few items from the house and buy the other necessary equipment for less that $75, or less than $5o if you already have some equipment or make judicious purchases.

I was going through some rods and reels today, preparing for a hoped for brief trip down to the coast for some early morning surf fishing. I came across one of these so-called starter rod and reel outfits that I bought 14 years ago this month. It is still going great.

I have some pretty nice fishing rigs for both fresh and salt water. Although the Shimano Curado has more or less captured the immediate spot of 1st string bay and light surf fishing go to reel, for different types of fishing I often like to use different types of rods and reels. Also, many of the rigs I have see duty in both fresh and salt water. A good rinsing with fresh water and a light oiling and greasing of the interior parts is the key to keeping a reel serviceable for years.

I was at a coastal location with some friends, and although I did have a tackle box in the trunk of my car, it was the rare occasion that I had not brought a rod and reel along. Unbelieveably, there was no WalMart or KMart around, and the only store that was open at the particular time that had fishing gear was a Sears store. It was one of the smaller ones, and by 1994 the Sears fishing gear selection was slim.

Still, for $35 they had what I though was the perfect general purpose salt water fishing rig, and with an 8' 2 piece rod, it would fit in the trunk of my car quite nicely.

It was a combo salt water spinning reel and rod made by Abu Garcia. The rod is model 200 Conolon and the reel is a model C508GLX. It's pretty much a cheaper version of the standard Abu Garcia spinning reel design. But it's lasted through at least 25 salt water fishing trips since I got it, and it's really just in tip top shape.

Most of the general purpose salt water fishing low price rod and reel combos that you see at Walmart or Academy go for anywhere from $35 to $50. They can be a spinning reel, a level wind reel or a spincasting reel paired with a medium to heavy duty rod. Most come with line prewound on the reel, and if given a preference for general salt water fishing, 20 lb test is a good all purpose line. You can get away with a lighter test in the surf and bays, but I've found that when pier or jetty fishing that 20 lb test is about as light as I want to go.

Some recommended items and lures for saltwater are as follows:

-needle nose pliers, as salt fish often have mouths you don't want to be sticking your fingers into. I use a pair of needle nose pliers to hold them by their mouth and use a cheap plastic hook remover to get the hook out with a minimum of pain and damage to the fish.

-a fillet knife and a cheap "ginsu" type knife about 5" long from the dollar store. Ideal for cutting up bait and the fillet knife is for cleaning any of your catch that you decide to eat.

-The following lures will get you a long way on a few dollars:

-a red and white topwater plug about 4-5" long;

-some gold and silver spoons medium and large sized

-some mid-depth running green and silver rapala like plugs

-some plastic tail type and imitation shrimp baits, with weighted jig heads to fish under popping corks or on the bottom.

-Some Berkley Powerbaits in sand eel or crab or any of the other types and brands of these types of lures. Several companies make these soft plastic lifelike lures that are impregnated with fish attractants, and I've had good luck with several of the salt water kind in my California fishing.

Popping Corks, torpedo and bottom weights, a variety of circle hooks ranging from small (8) to large and some nylon and steel leaders.

This selection of lures will again work on most Texas beaches and salt waters. Don't be afraid to ask at the bait store what the fish are hitting or where they are biting. The guy at the WalMart might or might not know, but the guy at the baitstand more than likely has heard the recent fishing reports of the day and knows where to go.

If I could have only one lure for fishing in the surf, it would have to be the gold spoon. I went on a North Padre Island fishing trip a few years ago where we chased the birds down some remote areas of the National Seashore park and when they stopped to feed on schools of shrimp and baitfish, we fished hard with large heavy gold and silver spoons. I had far better luck on the gold spoons when fishing them in schools of baitfish and shrimp. The key is being ready to move down the beach as soon as the birds are, because like the birds, schools of fish are often also chasing the bait fish and shrimp.

This is not the only cheap fishing rig I have had good luck with. Back in 1997, Billy Ray and I were visiting our good friend and earstwhile bandmate Ricky Ray at his place in Celeste, Texas. Celeste is just outside of Greenville, which in turn is just outside of Dallas, and back then Ricky Ray and his wife were living on the old home place up there where his family had run cattle for the past 10o years.

It was in January but it was unseasonably warm. One of their stock tanks was just brimming with bass, and as we were walking his property lines one afternoon we noticed the bass hitting whatever they could on the surface of the lake. Ricky Ray didn't have any fishing gear, being more of a guitarist and an artiste than a sportsman, so I hot footed it on down to the local Greenville WalMart and bought a nice Zebco 808 reel and a 7 foot rod and a few lures and headed on back to the lake.

Almost always a good selection for farm ponds in Texas are a few of the following:
-some weedless soft plastic frogs in lime green and dark brown
-some topwater heddon plugs in yellow with silver scale markings on the side
-a yellow or green Jitterbug or Hula Popper
-a white medium size with silver sparkle Hellbender
-a mid-running medium sized rattletrap slabsided lure in green with orange and silver highlights
-some grape or red plastic worms rigged Texas or Carolina style
-some abu-matic spinners in yellow with white dots and white with black dots
-some silver or gold spoons
-medium and large Beetle Spins, particularly grape, blue and black

These lures, plus either earthworms or minnows, will take care of 99% of your fishing needs on just about any Texas farm pond with bass or perch. If it's catfish you're after, in addition to worms or minnows, they also favor a wide variety of stink/blood baits and the ever popular chicken livers from the meat market.

Billy Ray and I traded off fishing with that outfit, catching nice sized 2 and 3 pound bass with nearly every catch. We were catching and releasing, so the prospect exists that we were recatching some of the same fish, but it matters not. We basically fished until we were too tired to fish any more, changing lures every so often and we could not find a lure they wouldn't bite. That's my kind of fishing.

So a few years later, Billy Ray came by on the way to an improptu fishing trip to St. Joseph Island and had of course forgotten to bring a rod. I wasn't going on that trip, so I loaned him that zebco rod and reel to take, because it is heavy duty enough for surf and pier/jetting fishing.

Billy Ray decided to appropriate that rod and reel, and to this day has it at his house, ready to go fishing. Fair enough, we've traded lots of stuff over the years, and I still owe him for a big ass saltwater rod and reel we spent $200 to go catfishing back in 1989. That expensive rod and reel got stolen from the back of a truck on a ill-fated fishing trip to Matagorda about 12 years ago, and I still haven't replaced it.

So I guess the point to the story is stick to major brands if you're buying an inexpensive fishing rig for some salt water fishing. Shakespeare, Abu Garcia, the Zebco Saltwater series reels, Pflueger and Daiwa are the better brands to look for at bargain basement gear.

And if you remember my earlier post, The Kings of the Gulf of Mexico, about my friend who caught a HUGE KINGFISH on the beach using only cut mullet, I'd suggest getting some mullet at the bait store near the beach you're going to be fishing and hoping like heck you get lucky he they did and catch a king. And they were using a bargain basement rod and reel and just casting not very far out from ankle to knee deep surf.

Lucky folks.


  1. I just bought an old Abu Garcia C508GLX rod and reel combo from an auction. I'm gonna take your advice, good pointers.

  2. Hey friend, thanks for stopping by! I'm having comment problems and have to comment as an anonymous. I hope you get the same kind of milage out of your new rig I have out of mine. And to top it all off, mine casts and reels in very nicely, much nicer than a lot of reels that cost twice as much. For me, it's all I need and I wish I had a couple of more of them because I seem to cast fairly well with that particular reel, regardless of what rod it's on.

    Good fishing and let us know how the new rig treats you!

    El Fisho