Whilst seeing and sometimes catching different fish around the world is of course the most ridiculous thrill that never diminishes, as ever for me it’s the anglers I meet and get to spend time with that arguably floats my boat even more - and sometimes I come across some seriously good anglers who for whatever reasons are that step up in talent and ability, and I would suggest that a lot of this comes down to natural ability combined with an inquisitive mind plus that drive to keep on getting better…………
So whilst I don’t want to embarrass the guy, I am forever in Bull McKinnon’s debt for how kindly he has helped me out over on the famous Cape Cod Canal, and not only for spending his own time fishing with me, but also for being so open and engaging about how he goes about his striped bass fishing. Bull is an incredible Canal specialist who over many years has continued to think about and refine his approach to targeting the sometimes huge striped bass that can run through that manmade waterway - and one of the core aspects to his fishing is having the ability to put heavy surface lures a long, long way out. Distance is not everything of course, but when you are so often seeing the best fish taking bait off the top at range, it makes perfect sense to at least have the ability to get your lures out there when required.
But how on earth do you cast (with a scary amount of power I might add) say 3oz to 6oz lures out when you are fishing with braids around 10-20lb breaking strain (and yes, US line ratings are different to ours), and without a long shockleader? When I was out there last week I found that Bull had adopted the newer 12’ long Shimano Tiralejo surf rod, rated to cast 2-6oz, and bear in mind that this USA rod is called a “surf spinning” rod. I had a bunch of casts with the rod and when you get the timing it’s quite something how you can get a good say 4oz pencil popper out there, but I need to practise, put it that way! Bull though makes those power casts look so effortless, and his casting technique is something else to watch - smooth, no rush, but so much power, and his lures just frigging fly.
But how does he not crack off all the time with light braids and heavy lures? Logic says you can’t go casting those kinds of weights on braids like that, but Bull is one of those anglers who is always thinking and refining - some anglers do, and some anglers don’t, and this guy is one of those people who I consider it a privilege to have met and spent some time with. Over the years he has thought about the issues he faces with lures and lines and he has come up with a solution that works perfectly for him. How applicable is it to us? I don’t know, but I bet that some of you chuck heavier lures and worry about using light braids to do so - try this out and see if it helps.
Obviously to get maximum distance you want to be using the lightest mainline possible, and if you can avoid having a leader knot flying through your (small) rod rings then this has to help as well. Some lures cast far better than others of course, and it’s quite something how the better and bigger US pencil poppers fly, to the point that I would so love it if we could get some in say 1oz or 1.5oz for our own bass fishing in say a bit of surf.
Anyway, Bull threads his (light) braid up through the rod rings and then takes enough off so that he can create a very long loop which when tied will give him a few turns of double line (braid) around his reel, and it’s this which is giving the added strength and impact resistance for the cast. So let’s say you walk off around three rod lengths of braid from your rod tip - it’s not easy, but now you want to put a simple double overhand knot in the doubled up braid to create that long length of double line. In essence this is a very long loop you have created, and without a doubt those few turns of doubled up line (loop) around your spinning reel gives you the added strength. And as you can guess, it’s far easier to make this long loop at home! Putting a double overhand knot in a length of double line that long can be a challenge when you have to pull so much line through the loop to form the knot. I was worried that a simple loop might wrap round my rod guides or whatever, but it never did, and Bull said that it’s never happened to him.
Now what you then attach to the end of that really long loop is up to you - I always like to use a leader, as does Bull, but you could simply tie a Palomar knot to a lure clip if you don’t want to use a leader. I’ll tell you how Bull finishes it off to his lure because I think it’s bloody clever - very simple, well thought out, quick to change things, and highly effective. And from my time spent with Bull and casting far heavier lures that I would here at home, I am convinced that the length and diameter of your leader can affect how certain lures fly - put it this way, I saw it plain as day when I was casting a 2.5oz pencil popper on a Major Craft X-Ride shore jigging rod. I was getting a bit of wobble on the lure as it flew out, so on Bull’s advice I changed from a 30lb to a 50lb leader and bang, the wobble in the flight was gone.
At the end of that really long braid loop, Bull attaches a Breakaway Spinlink clip via a Palomar knot - the US anglers love Breakaway clips. I can’t get enough of the smallest Breakaway Mini Link lure clip (our bass are magnificent, but they aren’t exactly striped bass size), then there is the medium size Breakaway Spinlink clip, with the largest one being the Breakaway Fastlink clip which I used to use a lot on my rigs for bait fishing. These clips just work, and I have yet to see one fail, neither here in the UK not over in the US, and bear in mind how much stress an anglers who casts like Bull is putting that relatively small Spinlink clip through.
So you’ve got a very long braid loop with a lure clip on the end - secured with a Palomar knot remember, a perfect knot for a doubled up line, very simple to tie, and strong as hell. Bull will then carry a bunch of pre-tied leaders of varying lengths and diameters/breaking strains - bearing in mind that his leader will never enter the rod rings if that makes sense - with a small swivel at the top end to simply clip onto his Breakaway Spinlink clip that is tied onto the end of his long braid loop, and then another Breakaway Spinlink clip at the end of the leader for clipping lures on and off.
Now if this all sounds like a monumental pain in the backside, then think about it like this - setup that long braid loop correctly and secure it to a lure clip (or you could of course tie the loop straight to a leader) and it’s highly unlikely you are going to need to retie this for a long time. You’ve got a double length of mainline that helps with casting bigger lures with lighter lines, and whilst we don’t exactly need this for our more regular bass fishing, how about the anglers who are punching bigger lures into heavy surf conditions? How about if you could drop down to say a 10lb 8-strand braid and better cut through wind and waves if a bit of extra distance and control might catch you a few more bass? Let’s be honest, as much as a lot of us use say 20lb braids, do we really need mainlines that strong for our bass? This way of setting up has really got me thinking about the chance to go much lighter and reap the potential benefits for example.
But does this really work? Well I have fished with Bull a few times now, and I hope to do so plenty of times in the future if the poor bloke can take all my questions! I haven’t seen the guy crack a lure off yet, and I have watched him cast lures as large as 6oz with the sort of power that makes me think he doesn’t like his fishing rod very much! He catches a lot of fish, and quite often to the sort of sizes that make me want to emigrate to the US and spend the rest of my life doing nothing else but chase striped bass………...
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