Tackle Tips for the Professional Fishing Guide

As Charter Captains, we are presented with a nearly limitless number of choices when it comes to fishing tackle. With those choices come many questions: Monofilament or Braid? How much to I spend on reels? Should I buy cheap stuff to let the clients abuse it? Should I buy top-end rods and reels so that the clients see value?

How Much Do I Spend?

As with any business investment, everything starts with a budget. You can’t spend money that you don’t have….or don’t expect to earn in short order. Create a budget to determine what you can afford to spend on rods and reels – this is the bucket of money that you can spend. THEN, you can figure out your tackle choices.

How Many Rods Do I Need?

Now that you know how much you have available to spend on rods and reels, the first thing you need to figure out is how many rods and reels that you need. Your style and tempo of your charters will dictate how many you might need. If you prefer to have a number of rods rigged up with different lures, etc., ready to go if a certain species appears, you need to budget for the appropriate number of outfits. Once you determine how many outfits you need, you can then move to the next stage: Quality and Price.

Pro Tip: Check your boat to determine how many outfits can be used at one time and how much rood you have for storage of outfits not being used. Keep in mind that outfits not being used need to be out of the way as much as possible so that clients don’t step on them or otherwise get in their way. When “cockpit chaos” occurs, you can expect your clients to turn into a bull in a china shop in close quarters. Having rods in their way will only make things worse…and cost you money.

High End or Low End?

This is an age-old question: Should I buy cheap outfits for my clients to use or do I use nicer outfits?

There is also an old saying: You get what you pay for.

The nicer the fishing rods and reels, the more you can expect to spend. You need to determine whether it is worth it to invest more or less money on tackle that you will place in your clients hands…and sometimes wind up in water.

The advantages to buying cheaper fishing outfits are:

  • More affordable
  • You can buy more outfits
  • Less heartache if the client drops the outfit on the deck or (gasp) drops it into the drink

The disadvantages are:

  • Greater risk of tackle failure, which equates to losing fish
  • Reputation risk: If you client sees cheap outfits, will they question what else on board is cheap?

If, on the other hand, you decide to invest in more expensive rods and reels, the advantages may the opposite:

  • More reliable outfits
  • The client sees expensive reels and thinks “This Captain is running a first-class operation.”

The high-end tackle disadvantages are:

  • More costly
  • Cost may lead you to buy fewer outfits
  • Higher maintenance costs
  • Client abuse of nice gear and/or cardiac arrest for you when the client drops your nice outfit over the side by accident

Mono or Braid?

I can’t tell you how many captains ask me whether they should fish monofilament or braid fishing line. As with everything listed above, this decision is driven by cost and the type of fishing you do. I could fill a book the size of War & Peace with the comparison of mono to braid. Here are the basics when it comes to mono vs. braid:

  • Braid costs more than Mono
  • Casting distance greater with Braid than Mono
  • The diameter of Braid is factors smaller than Mono at the same line strength. For example, the diameter of 10 lb test Mono may be the same as 40 lb test Braid
  • Mono needs to be re-spooled more frequently than Braid, especially when you’re catching big fish. (There are times when I have to re-spool after every trip.) Braid tends not to twist up and is much more durable
  • Braid has more abrasion resistance than Mono, which is helpful if you fish heavy structure
  • Mono – especially Flourocarbon – is more difficult for the fish to see in the water
  • Braid can more more difficult to work with than Mono. Knots can slip with Braid, Braid is tougher to cut, etc.

Pro Tip: A popular hybrid solution is called a “Top Shot.” This is when you spool up a reel with braid as “backing,” leaving room for 100-150 yards of mono. You then splice on mono to the top of the spool. This way, you get the best of both worlds: You can stack plenty of braid on the bottom of the reel in case you lock horns with a huge fish but you can also take advantage of the stretch and lower visibility of Mono/Flouro. When the Mono gets twisted up after a big fish, you need only replace 100-150 yards of Mono instead of re-spooling the entire reel.

As with many of the subjects we here at The Charter Fishing Business Kit address, there is never only one way to move forward. There are many ways to “skin the cat.” We’re merely offering up approaches that work for us. Please let us know what works for you?

Tight Lines,

Captain Mike