To start with let me come straight out with my thoughts on buying gear... it does not have to be expensive to catch fish!! Be very careful when you start off to buy sensibly and dont be drawn in to the bling. Yes there are some amazing pieces of gear out there, yes they MAY help you catch more fish, to a degree, BUT, you need to learn the basics first to enable the use of that better gear. However, I would also say that if you can invest in some good gear to start with it will put you in good stead long term. Buy the best you can afford!! If the next stage up the ladder is just short of your budget, wait!! Save that little extra then buy that slightly better gear. I hope that comes across ok and doesnt sound contradictory :)
So how did I start out. Well I had some good advice from local LRF crew Mark POWER and Mike SULLIVAN. I decided to wait and went for a middle of the road price bracket. I ended up buying the Major Craft Zaltz ZAT 7'3" and matched it with a Shimano Rarenium 3000.
The ZAT I own is the solid tip version as I wanted the flexibility when casting that this type of tip offers over its tubular cousin. I planned to do more cast and retrieve style fishing. The solid tip is a softer tip to allow less resistance when a fish "inhales" your lure. Tubular rods tend to be stiffer and are designed around jigging (jerky vertical style angling) and deadstick (no action and let the movement of the water put movement on the lure) fishing styles. Generally a tubular rod will be more sensitive but with the quality of rods these days a beginner would struggle to tell the difference.
This rod is priced very reasonably for the quality and ability to detect the smallest of bites. It handles anything from the smallest of goby to a quality fight with a disgruntled Mackeral. Im yet to experience a small bass or similar but have faith that this rod will cope with anything I can reasonably throw at it on the Light Game range. However there are a number of lower priced reasonable rods and some exuberate pieces of art available to purchase should you wish.
Some rods in each bracket worth mentioning are
Entry level rods - Awa-Shima Q-lite spin 220/240, Garbolino Magister 220, Cormoran Carb-O-Star or the Shimano Catana 24MLS
Mid level - Joining the MC Zaltz you have the Graphite Leader Calzante and Corto range, Reins RAZ aji range, Varivas Violente or the Shimano Diaflash 220m light.
Upper level - If you want the top of the range you can go to the Jackall range including the Onda or Calico, Graphite Leader's Finezza or THE daddy of the LRF rods Nories with the Slow Retrieve or Rockfish Bottom rods.
The Shimano Rarenium 3000 is a work horse of a reel. The reason I went for this reel was due to the shallow spool (ideal for loading small diameter braid for LRF as well as thicker diameter braid for HRF), the spare spool to make it dual function (one loaded for LRF, one for HRF) and a smooth action through the retrieve. My current setup for LRF still uses the MC Zaltz rod and this reel. The main spool is now loaded with Sunline Rockfish braid at 0.4 PE with a leader of Sunline Siglon leader at 6lb. I have yet to load the other spool with Flourocarbon throughout for those windy days or to facilitate LRF dropshot style fishing. When I do get to it Ill be using the Sunline Siglon flourocarbon in 4lb.
Now dont get too worked up about reel sizes. Many people think a 1000 size reel is the LRF reel to get. Not necessarily true. If you look at some of the Japanese LRF style anglers they seem to favour a 3000 shallow spool style reel over a 1000. So neither is wrong, its down to your choice. One advantage of the 3000 reel is the fact you can dual purpose the reel, which as a beginner is a huge saving straight off the bat. I would always suggest speaking to your local dealer and fellow anglers to match the reel best suited to your type of fishing. Reels like rods come from the entry level to the sublime with all manner of stages in between. Again some of the reels in each bracket worth a mention are
Entry level reels - Shimano range of Exage 1000, Nexave 1000 and Catana 1000. The Rovex Crosa 2000 and the Daiwa Caldia 1500.
Mid level - Shimano rarenium 2500/3000
Upper level - Daiwa Certate and Luvias ranges in various 2500 sizes and Shimano Stella 1000/3000.
The lists I have put up are the more popular rods and reels in the price ranges but by no means the only choice. Again a good chat with your local dealer and local anglers will give you a guide as to the best fit for your style of fishing and budget. A balanced set up is the best thing you could acquire at the start of your journey into rockfishing. By this I mean having a rod, reel and line which compliments each other. Having a reel that compliments your rod and gives you a centre of balance just above the reel seat is what your looking for. Having a suitable gauge line work with your reel and rod, not against it.
So you have a rod, reel is loaded and seated what else do you need. Well a good selection of jigs and lures. Now the list is endless here but I will share some of my favourites. I can summarise most of my LRF fishing, when I first started, in one word.... Ecogear.
Ecogear is by far a simple and quick way to start LRF. The Pocket In sets are invaluable and great to give you a superb launch pad. They can be easily purchased from Art of Fishing here. These sets, in particlular I would recommend the Aji set, come with shirasu jig heads and a mixture of minnow, straw tail grub and power shirasu lures. These will be very effective in retrieve style fishing. Other ecogear lures that are catching fish include the awesome aqua katsu aji lures in 2". Having equipped yourself with some jig heads (0.8 and 1.8g are good weights to have a selection of) another must have lure is another soft plastic in the form of the legendary Marukyu Power Isome. This lure is the ultimate for LRF in my opinion. Rigged on an ecogear shirasu jig (not the fine shirasu jigs for small isome as the retainer on the jig splits the lure) these lures will catch most species of fish...well !! Power Isome is a rag worm type immitation and comes in 3 sizes. I tend to stick with the small size in pink. Red also catches well. On the subject of jigheads there area lot of new jigs coming on to the market all the time. I would mention here the Ecogear Bottom Head and Illex Gambit Straight. These are on my list of must tries and I will update here when I get to use them.
Other companies to look out for in the LRF soft lure range are delande and of course Jacks LRF who do one of my favourite lures of the moment, Yoshikawa 2" paddle tails. It amazes me how many small fish make best efforts to cram all 2" of this paddle tail into their mouths. Scorpion fish seem to be a particular fan of this lure.
Due to a rather windy session lately, as posted here, I have started to test a few metal lures in the 3.5-5g range. The three I selected were the ILLEX Shobu at 5g, the FISH LEAGUE Tiebo in 4g and the ECOGEAR VX35 in 3.5g. I have tested the Shobu with amazing results and will post about that after i finish here.
For all the above pieces of gear at a cracking starter price I have to point you in the direction of Art of Fishing's LRF starter kit. Im not here to plug product but this is a really!! good deal and I wish it was available when I started out. If your looking to start out I would seriously recommend you have a look at the kit here.
So we have the basics. A rod, reel, jigheads and lures. How do we keep mobile and all this kit together and manageable? I introduce the subject of luggage. Now this can come in many forms. Sling bags, waist bags the list goes on. My preferred, and one I use at this time, is the awesome hPa TROOPER BAG. This is a serious bit of kit and carries everything I need for a good LRF session with minimal fuss and extreme mobility.
As you can see there is a lot of gear in there. The bag has a waist and leg strap and it sits comfortably on your hip making it easy to access at all times. Within my bag I have spare leader, lures, jigs heads, beetle light game grips, pliers and even space for the mobile. I cant sing the praises of this lil beauty enough. It has changed the way I fish LRF in the past couple of months since I acquired mine.
So there we go. What I use to fish LRF style. Like I said before you have to be sensible with this gear. I get so excited buying new bits I can sometimes lose track of the cost. Buy the best you can afford. Use what you buy and try your best to avoid those bling buys that are there to hook us, the angler, rather than the fish :)