I may be headed to Florida for a few months, and was wondering if anyone could give advice on rods, reels, lines, and other equipment. I'm mostly a midwestern trout and panfish guy.
The job is out of Boca Raton, and I'm not sure what the fishing prospects are there in that area- but I figured I'll need an outfit for warmwater bass and a moderate saltwater rod- I'm really interested in fishing saltwater canals or something similar for baby tarpon and snook if that's available.
I'm sure that others will chimb in on the topic, but here is my take.
Saltwater fishing is the most brutal type of fishing that you will ever do. These fish are very pissy because there is always something bigger that will eat them. This puts more demand on your gear. Quality will matter! The worst thing that can happen is equipment failure.
For your situation, you can use the same rod. You may need a different lines. I'm sure that Frank W. has an opinion on that.
For the rod, look into an 8 or a 9 weight. You need a stout rod that can break the spirit of an angry baby Tarpon. The rod also has to be able to cast big 1/0 or 2/0 flies that can be very wind resistant. In 9 foot rods, I'm a big fan of the Sage Xi3 and the Scott S4S. Another rod that I like is the TFO Axiom in the 9 weight. That stick has a lot of power. For the canals, you may want to consider some short bass rods like the Sage BASS 330g. I have heard some good buzz about the Redington Predator Series rods. These rods are very quick. They are better for tighter areas, but can throw a long bomb if necessary. I think Cliff has a lighter weight one.
For reels, you want something with a powerful drag unit. Baby Tarpon and Snook are known for short powerful bursts that can bird's nest one's line. The first brand of reels that I will pull out for my customers who are going saltwater fishing is Abel. It's hard to beat the quality and performance of such a simple design. If that's to steep for your pocketbook, look at Bauer Rogues, Ross Momentum LTs, Galvan Torques, and Nautilus CFs.
As for lines, get something that has a tropical core. Standard core lines will wilt in the tropical heat. The line that I use on my 8 weight for baby Tarpon fishing is the Scientific Anglers Mastery Redfish Taper. It has a short head and thicker running line. It's designed to be picked up off the water and shot without multiple back casts. I also upline my line by one to put more load in my rod for shorter distances. One line that I would like to try out next time I go out baby Tarpon fishing is the Rio Tropical Outbound Short. I have heard great things about it.
As for flies, I still use the traditional splayed feather flies like Black Death and Marquesa Sunrise, but I am willing to try some newer generation of floating flies like Neutralizers and Gurglers. Fly size should be 1/0 and 2/0. I have been told about some guys using as small as size 2 flies. I'm sure Clouser Minnows and Lefty's Deceivers can get you fish there, too.
For leaders, my total leader length is no more than 9 feet. One of the great things is that baby Tarpon are not very leader shy, so you can use monofilament. I start with a four foot butt section of 30 pound test. Tied to that (loop to looped actually) is a two foot class tippet of 15 pound test. Tied to that is a three foot bite tippet of 40 pound test. Some people use tapered fluorocarbon with the tippet end being around 20 pound test. I have seen some baby Tarpon bite through that light of tippet.
I'll agree that an 8wt is the way to go, but there's a species you've left out that are much easier to get to and just as fun as the small tarpon: peacocks. South Florida's freshwater canals are getting thoroughly infested with peacocks and they will eagerly take a fly. I can't give you any specific spots, but I would keep them in mind as well.
An ideal low budget peacock rig would be an 8wt Predator rod, a Sage 1680 reel, and a SA Sharkskin Magnum line. (I'm loving the 6wt version of that rig) Yes, low budget = $400 in this case, but welcome to saltwater. If you want a more normal length rod (Predator is 7'9") I'd go with the new TFO Clouser 8wt. It will be a little softer and lighter than the Axiom, and thus I think make a better freshwater rod back home.
That Sharkskin line isn't built for tropical heat, but works just fine below 90 degrees. If you'll be in hotter weather, something like Rio's Tropical Clouser or Tropical Outbound (short?) might be a better fit. www.reelflyrod.com has all that (sans sharkskin)
I also agree that an 8wt is your best choice for an all around rod for FW & SW.Any good 8wt rod will do you fine as long as it fits your casting style.TFO has a couple of models like the Pro or the TICRX that a lot of people like.The new Remington Predator rods that BigCliff mentioned would be fine.I use a Sage RPL and a Scott Heliply for the bulk of my SW fishing.You really dont need a top shelf reel occasional SW fishing.I have Tibors and a Pate but I mostly use a J Ryall just because its lighter and I like it.There are plenty of mid priced reels that will serve you well from Orvis,Lamson or a Teton and Tioga that can still be found.One line not mentioned that you might take a look at is the Wulff Bermuda taper.Its a tropical line but some guys use them here in the NE for stripers in water down to 40 degrees with no problems.Thats about as good as an all around line as you will find.
One note on TFO, the TiCRX is a fine rod but too damn stiff for most folks. The TiCR is still plenty fast but a bit softer.
I came across one of their Mini-Mag rods at Tailwaters in Dallas last week and that's about the coolest looking finish on a rod I've ever seen. It looks like midnight blue abalone. The 8-10wt would be about as perfect a baby tarpon/peacock/snook rod as can be.
I have to agree that an 8wt rod would be good for all around fishing down here. For "winter" the snook start heading into the canals so having an 8wt would help out. For peacocks you can use anything from a 5-8wt and chartreuse/orange clousers work well against them. Lake Ida and Lake Osbourne from what I heard are amazing for Peacocks and LMB's. You might be able to hook up on a Clown Knifefish too, though I think they're more active at night. Peacocks aren't leader shy nor are they afraid of people. I've had a few stare me down 2ft away while I tie on a fly. I've been using 8lb fluorocarbon for my tippet and land 6lbers, but people usually use 10-15lb tippet. By the way these fish love fast moving flies, so strip as fast as you can. If they don't keep up with the fly just SLOW DOWN A LITTLE or they will completely ignore it. You can use a floating or intermediate line doesn't really matter. Unfortunately I haven't gone SW fishing yet so any advise I give would be a lie. Hopefully WJC can jump in and give you some advise for that. Oh yeah you can also check out the florida wildlife website and find tons of info there www.myfwc.com/Fishing/Index.htm. Just go to the fishing section and you'll get info on anything there.
I fish with TFO rods almost exclusively now. If you think the TiCRX is too fast, stay away from the Axiom. I used an 8 wt. Axiom with a a Teton Tioga large arbor 8 wt reel on the Venice, LA redfish last August. That rod easily shoots 70 feet of line with a 2/0 lead eye clouser. The boron re-enforcement makes it laser fast. Caught redfish up to 20 odd pounds on that rig. The temperatures rose over 95 a few days, and the wind waqs ferocious. If your going to fish the canals, i seriously doubt if casts over 30 feet will be necessary.
Thanks guys, I appreciate the help. Would the TiCR make a serviceable striper rod as well? I may wind up in North Carolina
Yes. It would be a servicable striper rod, but I would rather fish the Axiom instead. The Axiom has a more refined feel than the TiCr. It is a much smoother casting rod that has more punch.
Here are some line choices.
Floating - Scientific Anglers Redfish Taper uplined by one line weight. You need to be able to load that rod for some close in situations. Rio Tropical Outbound Short. Buy it in the matching line weight as the rod. The line is already uplined.
Shooting Head - 300 to 350 grains for an 8 weight, 350 to 400 grains for a 9 weight.
I'm not bemoaning the prior poster, just explaining my take: When recommending any rod or commenting on how it performs, I'm referring to its behavior with a matching line. I don't understand how a rod can be called more refined if it has to be overlined to perform ideally. I'll call most anything a fly, and am generally open minded of FF methods, I just don't go for overlining.
Once again, not trying to ignite debate on the topic, or insult the prior poster, just explaining my take.
BTW, MP, have you tried their Clouser rods yet? They're quite sharp looking and I'm wondering how they compare to their others.