Perseverance and the art of rigging a line

July 18, 2011 

Do any of you remember the picture of that big tarpon that was in my column a couple of weeks ago? In that picture I was standing next to Aaron Dowell, owner of Bluffton Marine Sports & Supply and another friend.

Does this ring a bell? The point is, Aaron was the angler who caught that tarpon and not me. The fact is, I hardly ever reel in a fish and that's a fact.

Surprised? You shouldn't be because if you think back to any of my articles, nearly every fishing picture I put in my columns has someone else holding up a fish whether it be a redfish, dolphin, wahoo or whatever. My forte is not as much reeling in fish, but rigging and finding the fish and then if a fish should hit, I almost always leave the reeling to others.

Don't get me wrong, I have reeled in some monsters over the years but what excites me more than reeling is making sure that the cockpit is run smoothly and the rigging is perfect.

Take blue-water fishing for instance. Luckily, I had some excellent teachers as I was growing up, and they taught me that the smallest tweaks can make a huge difference between catching and not catching. Is the drag on the reel set just right? Is the lure running straight? For instance, when I am trolling, it's amazing how I can reel in three feet of line and the lure runs through the water with twice the action.

If you want to be really successful at fishing, no matter what the species, you always need to pay attention to the conditions and fine-tune your approach to subtle differences -- such as wind, tides and waves -- as the days progresses. A perfect example is when you are trolling baits in the Gulf Stream. Using the same rig, it will act completely different if you are trolling into the waves versus running down sea.

As anyone who has fished with me knows, I can get pretty darn cantankerous in the cockpit if I notice something is not quite right. I pretty much stay in perpetual motion the entire day, changing out baits so that they are always fresh, mixing up colors to see what works and what doesn't.

One thing is for certain, all that perseverance pays off.

If I were to give you three words of advice about rigging it would be "less is best." So many fisherman have so much crap on their rigs, it's surprising a fish can find the hook. You know what I mean: beads; crimps; large, silver snap swivels; leader material that could horse in a marlin; and weights as big as your hand. I won't go as far as saying fish are smart, but they are accustomed to eating critters that aren't wearing gobs of bling. So it makes sense that the closer you can match their food source, the better your chances of getting them to grab your offering.

Another pet peeve of mine happens when the anglers I fish with feel they need to rip the face off a fish when it bites. Frankly, I think they have watched too many bass fishing shows. The only two fish around here that requires that approach would be a sheepshead and a tarpon. But for all the others, simply reel, and your hook-up ratio will improve tenfold.

Since I am on the subject of pet peeves, another would have to be lifting a hooked fish out of the water with your rod. Why? The rod is bent is double and acts like a spring that is stretched to its limit. So what happens should the fish shake loose from the hook? You got it, the hook flies through the air and sooner or later you'll find yourself in the emergency room with a hook impaled in your hand or other body part. Believe me on this one because I am talking from first-hand experience (and second-hand and third-hand, and ...).

So there you have it, Collins doesn't reel in fish. Even if I happen to be holding a rod when a whopper hits, I can't hand off the rod quick enough. My back has a lot to do with it, but reeling in fish is just not my thing. My true love is the art of rigging and figuring out how to get the most out of different ocean conditions. Just ask my fishing buddy Don McCarthy, who usually ends up being my designated "reeler." Quite honestly, I get a big kick out of watching him grunt and groan -- as I do with all the folks I have handed rods off to.

So there you have the "reel" truth!

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