What’s in a reel? Well to the novice angler, that is a very simple question. A reel is a reel, and for a few, it generally consists of a spinning outfit spooled up with 8 lb monofilament line. That setup is used for multi-species under any condition, all season long. Well to those who get to fish a little more than a couple of times a year, the options open up as wide as Miminiska Lake.
For freshwater anglers, there are basically three kinds of reels to utilize for fishing most scenarios.
- Your conventional spinning outfit (with the bail arm and the wind knots)
- A bait caster outfit (with lots of practice and many birds nests)
- One that is often overlooked, the pop-can style bait caster (complete with lots of buttons and switches many don’t know what to do with)
Fishing live bait can be a game of subtlety. We are all used to the old reactionary bite when fishing for northern pike, walleye, smallmouth bass or many kinds of trout, but when a fish is hunting, presentation can be key. Some will say they can’t go wrong fishing a minnow or soft plastic on the end of a 1/8th oz pink jighead for walleye, or a quick–strike rig for northern pike and musky, but what do you do when things go a little negative and our fishy friends get lockjaw?
One of the keys in maximizing your chances of catching fish using live bait is to ensure the most natural of presentations. In the saltwater world, people will pay big dollars for pristine bait. That is, bait that hasn’t been touched by human hands, hasn’t been compromised in any way and is as “live” as possible. I’ve seen Goggle-eyes for sale, from bait vendors on the water for as much as $150 usd per dozen. They are as lively in captivity as they would be free-swimming in the ocean and anglers are willing to pay! Natural presentations with respect to freshwater live bait angling are equally important.
So what does this have to do with a pop-can style fishing reel? Well these specialized reels have the ability to accomplish a number of different fishing techniques – the ultimate is subtlety in live bait presentations. The key to these reels is the drag free application that is available for free-swimming baits. A fish can literally pick up hooked live bait and swim away without detecting its attached to an angler’s line.
Topside, the angler simply hears a gentle ticking as the line is peeled off the reel while the fish feels nothing – no drag at all. When this happens, the angler can simply pick up the rod (undetected by the fish) and get ready to engage the drag, and set the hook. If bait casters aren’t your game, there are also spinning reels called bait-runners that effectively work the same way. They are designed to present live bait in a pristine and natural way. Please note to use circle hooks as much as possible when fishing live bait – especially if you’re practicing catch and release.
So a reel isn’t a reel in any way – each one, be it saltwater or freshwater has a definite purpose and excels in certain situations. If you are looking to start fishing live bait or are looking to up your game fishing live bait, hit your local tackle shop and ask for live-bait specific reels.
One of the fun parts of our sport is utilizing the proper tackle for a specific technique. We are often asked why we need so many rod and reel combinations when targeting specific fish in specific situations. Would you tee off at The Masters’ with a putter? Each combination has a specific purpose and is designed to increase your chances of putting that trophy fish in the net. (Plus, it is a HECK of a lot of fun!) So do your due diligence on tackle research and pick the right rig for your live bait needs.