That was a great story, with very funny descriptions - especially this one:
I was able to trick a 7-8" smallie to take it even though it was hitting the water like a bridge collapse
That's actually a good technique for some saltwater fish and even large bass.
If you know anyone who fly fishes heavy flies regularly, they might give you some tips on how to do "constant tension" casts and to open up your loops so you aren't doing the chuck and duck all the time. That can get downright nerve wracking.
Sounds like you had a good time though and didn't stick yourself.