Anglers are nothing without the proper tools. Equip yourself for success with these saltwater fishing gear essentials.
A vast range of saltwater fishing rods are available, and each is built for a different technique or style of fishing. As a result, it’s important to get good advice before deciding what to buy. Your choices vary from light spinning rods suitable for snapper, speckled trout or bonefish, right up to powerful 80- and 130-pound-class big-game rods built for large marlin and tuna.
Some rods are designed for trolling lures; others for casting lures or bait. There are rods for bottom fishing with bait or jigging lures in deep water and others still for fly fishing. The right rod for you will be determined by where you intend to fish, the technique you intend to use, and the species you intend to target.
Reels are usually bought to suit the rod you require. Fixed spool reels are a popular choice when casting various sizes of lures and baits. Multiplier reels also are used for casting both lures and baits and are widely chosen when fishing bottom baits, trolling, or jigging in deeper water. Fly reels, of course, are used for fly fishing.
Both nylon monofilament and modern micro-thin, non-stretch hi-tech braided lines are widely used in saltwater. Increasingly, braid is the line of choice for a wide range of different situations. Line is generally sold by breaking strain or ‘test’ into pounds. For example: 8-pound, 12-pound, 20-pound, 30-pound, 50-pound, 80-pound and 130-pound test. Braid is considerably thinner in diameter than monofilament of a similar breaking strain. Accurately casting a lure or bait using thin braid is much easier than when using monofilament, and the non-stretch quality makes it much more efficient at setting a hook on the strike. When using monofilament or braid a ‘shock leader’ of either monofilament or fluorocarbon is typically tied at the end of the braid to attach the lure or terminal rig. This provides additional protection against abrasion.
Someone once said there was no such thing as bad weather; just inadequate clothing. He was right. Today there is no need to feel cold, wet or get badly sunburned when fishing offshore, because clothing suitable for all extremes of weather is widely available. Buy the best you can afford, it will be worth it. Don’t wait until you start to feel cold or get burnt before you cover up. Even if it’s calm and sunny when you leave the dock, always pack a rain slicker, and depending on location, additional warm clothing, too. Don’t forget a hat and a pair of deck shoes, sneakers or boots for your feet. Good sunglasses are essential for eye protection both from the sun and hooks and greatly assist spotting fish.
A sharp knife for cutting bait and filleting fish; a pair of scissors or snips for cutting line; a gaff or net for landing fish; gloves for handling fish; pliers or a specialist tool for hook removal; a club or ‘priest’ for humanely dispatching fish; and don’t forget an ice-filled cooler to keep bait and dinner in prime condition.
This is a seemingly endless list. Figure on a selection of lures in a variety of types, sizes and colors as well as several sizes of hooks. Factor in swivels, sinkers, and wire leader to prevent anything getting bitten off by species with sharp teeth such as mackerel, wahoo, and sharks. Pack a tape measure to ensure fish you intend to harvest are above minimum or below maximum size limits, and don’t forget a tackle box or bag to stow everything.
Today even the smallest fishing boats boast an impressive inventory of marine electronics. Buy the very best ship-to-shore VHF radio you can afford, because this is your lifeline should ever you require assistance. A good sonar or fish finder is a huge advantage for locating submerged fish-holding structures such as wrecks and reefs, along with other features such as sand banks and gullies. Combined sonar/chart plotters that feature high-definition LCD electronic navigation charts are now widely used. These make specific ground location and safe navigation much easier. Don’t forget a compass and paper chart to help navigate to a place of safety should your electronics fail.