Thursday, December 3, 2015

Palms ELUA Rod and Barramundi on Ultralight Gear

When the year is about to end, work and pre-holiday errands get really hectic. This means time for fishing is almost impossible to get.

This past Sunday, I managed to take half a day to the nearest spot -- Aling Nene's pond. My primary goal was to try out my new Palms/Angler's Republic ELUA Molla Jig and Worm rod -- try casting the rod with a few jerkbaits and topwater lures and if I get lucky, maybe land a barramundi with it.

Unfortunately, no barras were interested on hard jerk and topwater baits. Nonetheless, the rod blew me away with its castability and sensitivity. It has the backbone for frog fishing and the fast tip for the best action on jerkbaits and topwater.

Giving up on casting hard baits, I switched to my trusted ultralight rod and reel combo -- a Certate Custom Red 2506 and a Skyroad Aji rod. I rigged a 1.5g aji jighead and tipped it with a 2inch soft Java Stick in purple. I was aiming for the Jaguar cichlids and Ox-eye tarpon but instead of a Jaquar or a tarpon, a barra took a liking of the bait. It was an absolute blast fighting a huge fish using a very light tackle. The rod and reel did not break a sweat. The drag was stellar and the rod gave the fish a hard time. In the end, i was able to land the 2.9kg beast using this PE0.6 combo.

The catch also gave me a hint that the barramundis on the pond are no longer interested in the traditional jerkbaits that most anglers use. I guess they are very familiar with these baits and have associated them with bad experiences. This is why they are going for very small baits like the one I used.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Impromptu fishing for Barramundi

It's one of those nice after-a-storm-Sundays. I have nothing important to do, the sun was starting to shine, and it was perfect for fishing.  The first place that came to mind was Irving's pond in Bulacan. It was a nice place, lots of fish and it's virtually devoid of other anglers.

When I got to Bulacan, I realized that the rain really poured hard the previous night. Most of the fields are still flooded with water. The barangay road going to the pond was under construction and the traffic people manning the road routed all 4-wheeled vehicles to farm road that was flooded. In fact, the road was barely visible with all the water. Even though my vehicle's ground clearance was a bit high, the water was almost reaching my floorboards. I actually passed by a few sedans and a couple of owner-type jeeps that got stuck at the side of the road.

While driving through the flooded road, I realized that the place looked really promising. It was a perfect snakehead habitat -- water on both sides with lots of vegetation. I will definitely come back to that place when the water subsided.

Anyway, after arriving at Irving's pond, the weather turned and it started to rain. It was a type of rain that promised that it won't stop anytime soon. It was a good thing that the barras loved the rain and they started to get active.

I managed to land a few using hard baits --- a Rapala Husky Jerk and a Duel Hardcore Fin Tail Vibe. The bites were also special because I was able to try a couple of new rods in my arsenal. First was an Skyoard 862E Eging rod (squid fishing) from Majorcraft which didn't felt like a eging rod. It felt more like a seabass or a light shore jigging rod -- which was exactly what I was looking for. With this, I can cast jigs, plugs, and poppers up to 20 grams. My old Daiwa E-gee (which is a real eging rod -- soft and the action was slow) and I had a hard time casting bigger lures with it.

The other rod was a Shimano Scorpion EV. A 6'6" 2-piece rod. EV was supposed to mean Economy Version. The cheaper version of Scorpion XT -- which stands for Extra Tune (or something like that). The EV has cork instead of EVA and the reel seat looked cheap and awful. It also can't stay locked when a reel is mounted on it. The guides are also cheesy. They look like they have SIC inserts but the frames look cheap and they are heavy.  If you whip the rod, the rod felt like Regular Fast instead of FAST and I suspect that it was because of the heavy guides. But in fairness, the rod felt really nice, powerful, and accurate to cast. The blank felt it can subdue a monster snakehead, barra, or mangrove jack. It reminded me of my old Shimano Clarus.

The reason why I got the EV is because I got it really cheap and it is made in Japan. I heard that the XT is not. I heard it was made in Indonesia.  The Scorpion EV will be my other project rod. (I have yet to mount the guides on my Edge rod). I am going to replace the reel seat with a Fuji ECS that I have been keeping for so many years and I will get rid of the huge fore-grip and replace it with an aluminum winding check or maybe a small EVA fore. I will also change all guides to Fuji Titanium SIC. It think it's going to be an awesome rod after that. I am so excited with this build.

This barra fell for a Duel Hardcore Fin Tail Vibe. The rod handled it really well.

The Scorpion didn't even break a sweat when fighting this fish. It took a Rapala Husky Jerk in gold.

My last fish before giving up fishing in the rain. A bigger barra that also fell for the Duel Fintail Vibe

Monday, September 14, 2015

Downsizing the bait

Recently, fishing time was limited to half a day at most. With that, the most logical fishing destinations are nearby spots that are easy to get to and are sure to deliver that scratch. Among the usual spots are ANP, Kap Larry's, and Horseshoe. But nothing beats SOF when it comes to the fishing 'ambience' and the fishes that you might catch if you can find that very specific lure that they want.

If you are pressed for time and the fishes are finicky, getting something to bite quickly with the least amount of effort is very important. During my visits to SOF, that's what I discovered. You have to really downsize the bait to get the fishes' attention.

Every time I arrive in the area, the fish were almost always not in the mood. Maybe because the water was muddy or maybe they are so familiar with our baits that they have learned to avoid them. I tried all the hard baits that I had but, except for an occasional dim-witted Janitor fish, no takers.

I also tried my tried and tested soft plastics in different shapes and sizes but still no takers. I even tried my brightly colored plastics with glow in the dark jig heads but I still wasn't able to get any attention.

That's when I discovered to try to and really downsize my baits.  I tied on a 2-inch Berkley Power Minnow and a 2-inch Java stick on an Owner 2x 4-gram jig head. As soon as I dropped these baits, they got hit by Pacus and Barras instantly. It felt that the water lit up with excitement every time I use these baits. When fishing for these fishes, I use a PE 1.5 main line and a 15lb flouro leader. With a slightly heavier line and leader, landing them was not a problem. Just make sure that you are using quality jigheads because cheap ones will only get mangled.

When Pacus take the bait, the plastic is almost always torn apart. I had to replace it after each and every fish. The barras were not that huge but they are acrobatic fighters and they can't seem to get enough of the bait. After a couple of hours or so, the action would stop and just like that, no more bites as if the fishes are telling me to go home because your visa had expired. Not a problem because 2 hours of non stop action was more than enough for me.

If you will try this method, make sure your main line is at least PE 1.5 and your leader is a fluoro carbon leader with a minimum breaking strength of 15lbs. This will allow you to land the fish quickly without tiring the fish. Always make sure you have a landing net, a long nosed plier or better yet a surgical forcep (you can get one really cheap from popular drug stores). This will allow you to remove the hooks without damaging the fish.
Irving did a great job in imposing Catch and Release for Barramundis and Pacus. Catching and releasing ensures that anglers will expect a fish and bigger fish when they come back. Barras and Pacus take years to grow to adult size. By releasing them rather than killing them will ensure their continued growth for years to come.

If you plan to go to SOF, check your gear and make sure that you have the correct baits and appropriate line, leader, jigheads. Making sure you are using the correct tackle will help Irving's very wothy cause.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Project Reel: 05 Daiwa Luvias 2004

More than a month ago, I got myself a new toy as a project reel. It was one of those rare occasions when I open eBay and on that lucky day, I chanced upon this nice reel that very few were bidding on. I had to stay really late to bid at the last second. It was pure luck, I won the auction and the price was an absolute steal. I got the reel this afternoon after a long agonizing wait.

The reel is an old 2005 model Daiwa Luvias 2004. Japan made.

Why an old 2005 Daiwa reel when there are plenty of new high tech reels out there?

I can't say that it's because it's cheap. As a matter of fact, these oldies remain pricey even after 10 years out in the market. I just got lucky at eBay. Some are costing more than their newer versions.
The truth is, this is one of my most admired spinning reels that Daiwa has released. You could say that this is collector's reel. It's well designed, well engineered, and sexy. The look is an absolute Daiwa classic. Megabass came out with their own version using the same platform/look. Goes to show that even the savvy Yuki Ito recognizes the nice design of this reel.

This reel is a pre-Real Four design and it has very few siblings that can be used to interchange parts with. Getting a 3rd-party custom part was also limited. The reel's magic is inside the schematic --  It's brilliantly designed. No skimping on engineering. One interesting feature is the double-bearing supported spool. One CRBB bearing under the drag washer and another on the shaft. Daiwa usually reserves this design for heavy duty spinners.

Another big-reel feature is the anti-reverse. If you look closely, the AR bearing contains two big bearings supporting the load bearing parts -- the AR stopper has a big flanged bearing while the pinion sits on a really big bearing. The flanged bearing, as far as I know can only be found inside a Saltiga or the Emeraldas Colossal. A Certate doesn't even feature this overbuilt anti-reverse assembly.

It also has a worm gear for that really nice line lay that ensures that the line won't dig in.

I meant 'Worm Gear'.

The only problem is that the handle needs an update. You cannot upgrade the handle knob as it's rivetted in place. The only option is to get a ZPI RCS handle adaptor and get a machined RCS handle and perhaps a really cool wood knob. Or perhaps, I might get a Livre hex handle which costs more than the reel itself. That's if my wife will not find out. Otherwise, I might need to look for a new place to crash for a few months.

Anyway, I love this reel. It's smooth, very light, and has a lot of possible customizations. All I need to do is look for them and find the funds to get them. Too bad they don't make this kind of reel any more. The newer Luvias reels and even Certates fail to impress me.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Jigheads, and jaguars

I was bored and had nothing to do so I decided to visit the nearest and most relaxing fishing hole that I know -- Aling Nene's pond in Coloong. My goal is to catch a few buwan-buwan or the local tarpon. My lure is a soft plastic on a small 4-gram jighead.

When I got there, the wind was awful and casting light lures was difficult. At around noon, the wind started to die down and I was able to fish properly. Unfortunately, the tarpons were not cooperating, I got a lot of bumps and nibbles but they refuse to swallow the bait. 

Instead of casting far out, I switched to bouncing jig head near the banks. On the first cast, I immediately got a bite. It was a jaguar cichlid. I think it was not a native specie but an introduced pet that managed to propagate uncontrolled in the ponds. 

I didn't even have to cast far out. I just flicked the lure a few feet parallel to the bank, let it sink, and then bounced the lure at the bottom. Every time I cast,  jaguar takes the lure.

I lost count of how many I landed. They are not hard fighting fish but on an ultralight gear, they are fun to catch.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Finesse or ultralight fishing 101

It was around 5 years ago when I started trying lure fishing --- also called by our Asian neighbors as luring. Luring, for the most part, is an enjoyable and fulfilling fishing style because of its effectiveness and the range of catches that can be had. And the best part is, you don't have to look for and bring stinky baits every time you go out.

But lately, catching fish from luring has gotten harder and harder. Probably because more and more bait fishers have adopted this new style and the competition to catch something from a very limited number of fishing holes has gotten fiercer. It could also be because our regular target species have gotten familiar with the lures that we are using and has learned to avoid them altogether. As a matter of fact, I can't remember the last time I caught something exciting using my regular plugs, jerkbaits, poppers using my trusted baitcasters.  Even our favorite hole in Pantabangan for bass has shown significant decline (in catches). Perhaps the growing number of take-home anglers has depleted majority of the accessible holes. Probably there are not enough fish to go around.

With this, trying new fishing styles is now a necessity. One style that is growing in popularity is finesse or ultralight fishing. This style can be done in saltwater and freshwater holes. It's main feature is the use of very light line, tiny and shallow-spooled reels, and very light and thin rods- spinning and sometimes bait-finesse casting rods.

From what I understand, this style was made popular in Japan by Aji (horse mackerel) and Mebaru (rock fish) anglers. In the past couple of years or so, more and more anglers from all over the world have started using this style and for good reason. The barely visible line, the tiny lures, and extremely light rod are able to fool even the most wary of fishes -- small or big. The usual tough or pressured spots are able to produce catches that we can only dream of using traditional baitcasters and plugs. The setup is so versatile that you can use it for big queen fish, trevallies, squid, small rockfish, and my favorite Horse mackerel or Aji -- aka matambaka. And because the outfit is so light, fishing the entire day will not wear you out.


The line that I use is 200 meters of  PE 0.6. Some even go lower to PE 0.3, In terms of pounds, the general rule is PE 0.6 is equivalent to 6lbs while PE 0.3 is 3 pounds. But recently, that is not the case. Newer Japanese lines are now stronger than before. My PE 0.6 has a breaking strength of 12lbs. Japanese PE lines are recommended due to their smoothness, roundness, and strength. There are markings on the line spool x4 or x8 which means 4-weave and 8-weave PE. The 8-weave lines are considered rounder and smoother thereby giving improved casting distance and additional strength. In addition to the main line, I use 2-3 feet of 6-10lb flourocarbon leader. This leader is very crucial to entice wary predators to bite. Flourocarbon leaders are less visible when in water compared to mono.


The very fine PE line is usually spooled on a 2506, 2004, or 2508 spool (Daiwa) or 2000S, 2500S (Shimano) reels. These spools are considered shallow spools. For Daiwa reels, the xx06 means 100m of #6 Japanese mono, xx04 is 100m of #4 Japanese mono, and xx03 means 100m of #3 Japanese mono, and so on. Shallow spools are recommended to hold at least 150m of very fine PE line. Being shallow means the spool can provide extra casting distance for light lures as well as protection from wind knots. Another characteristic of shallow spools is the finesse drag usually just around 3lbs. If you open the drag stack inside a shallow spool, it normally contains one felt or carbon washer and another metal washer. This makes the drag ultra smooth and consistent. In UL or finesse fishing, this drag system is the key to ensure that the light line won't break when a big fish strikes.


The rods are around 7 to 8ft in length and are extremely light but surprisingly tough. It can throw lures weighing just a mere 2 grams and up to around 7 grams max.  My personal choice of rods are the Aji or Mebaru rods. There are two types of Aji/Mebaru rods. The tubular and the solid tip. Rods with tubular tips are designed for plugs and lures while rods with solid tips are recommended for jigheads and bottom contact due to rod's extra sensitivity. Example of affordable rods are from Majorcraft. Daiwa has Gekkabijin rods and Shimano also have their own versions.

You can see the kind of rod based on the anotation on the model. In the example below, Majorcraft's KG Lights AJING series rod, the models with S are solid tips while the ones with T are tubular tips,


You can use either a floating or sinking pencil, diving UL plugs, tiny casting jigs, and even 1-inch plastic worms attached to a jighead. The lures range from 2 grams to 7 grams. The usual length is anywhere from 35mm to 55mm. Their size is their biggest advantage against the usual plugs and lures. When you cast these lures, they barely make a splash or noise when they hit the water. Less disturbance means lesser chance of spooking the fish. I was once with a fishing party in Subic. Most of the angers were casting 2-3 ounce-skip bunnies. They are what we call bombs because the amount of racket they make when they hit the water. At that time, there were around 5 local anglers casting the that rig. Every time their bunnies hit the water,  they would naturally spook everything in the water. It's like throwing rocks to a school of fish and expecting them to bite. So there we were, watching the bombers doing their thing, waiting for our turn to fish After around an hour of casting without any bites, they stopped and packed their gears. Just before leaving one of them said "Nope, no fish here! It's a waste of time". After they left, we started fishing using our UL pencils. After a few minutes, we were landing big queenies one after the other.

My first exposure to this style was from Naks, Joseph, and Richie - members of the San Fernando anglers fishing group. Through the mentoring of our Japanese friend Naks, they have transitioned from traditional spinning and baitcasting outfit to the new finesse fishing (or sometimes called Ultralight UL fishing.). Intrigued by their success rate in saltwater or freshwater, I decided to join them in one of their outings. I was amazed by the sizes and variety of their catches considering they are using tiny rod and reel combos and throwing barely visible lures. They kept landing fish left and right. Right there and then, I decided that I have to get my own UL setup.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Testing a DIY Ultralight Sinking Pencil

I have been experimenting with DIY epoxy cast ultralight lures recently. The reason being is that the commercially available lures are soo expensive and because these lures are normally used with very light line, losing them because of fish is more frequent compared to other lures. If you do the math, it is twice more expensive than other styles of fishing. Besides, finding commercially available lures locally is a pain.

One of the designs that I have is a miniature anchovy. I wanted it to be as lifelike as possible. But because raw materials, like epoxy and hook hangers are limited, everything had to be sourced locally or made manually. The end product is not as pretty as I would have hoped.  One example is the epoxy that i initially used. It was so smelly and when hardened, it was still tacky to the touch and when you touch it, the details will flatten and eventually fade. Good thing that I eventually found a better brand, although more expensive. The other raw material that I still don't have are the 3D lure eyes, the hooks, and the split rings. Up to now, I am still waiting for my orders to arrive from overseas.

Anyway, I made one prototype lure using the new epoxy and some local hardware wires for the hanger and the weight. It looks crude as it doesn't have the 3d eyes and I was using old hooks and split rings. It's around 50mm in length and weighs approximately 3grams.

Yesterday was Pasig day and since our office is in Pasig, we have no work yesterday. What better way to celebrate Pasig day than to go fishing (in Subic. )😜
We left past 4am and arrived at the spot at around 6:30am. I tried my Jackson pygmy lures, a monsoon gusty lure, and some chinese lures but no takers. It was getting really frustrating when I remembered that I needed to test my DIY lure. I really wanted to know if it will cast right and swim right. Because I came late from work last night, I forgot to glue the eyes into the lure. A few casts later, I am pretty certain that it swims funny and casting was not really impressive. I decided to give it another cast before putting it away. While reeling it in, I was thinking about fixing the weight and balance then all of a sudden a swirl engulfed the lure. A few minutes later, i landed a nice queenie. There must be something in it that made it appealing to the fish, i thought. To test if it wasn't a fluke, I tried again. A few casts later, another fish was landed. Still unsure, I gave it another go. Not soon after it landed on the water, something enhaled the lure and swam straight to deeper water. It was a big queenfish. More than 2kg I think and it swallowed the lure, leader and all. 
Judging on how the prototype lure performed, I would say that it's worth pursuing to further improve it. I might add some more weight, and finally add the correct eyes and other details, so stay tuned. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Restoring a Daiwa Saltiga Z4500H

On very rare occasions, I would visit, a local online store for mostly second-hand stuff hoping to find interesting fishing items, which most often than not, the search would end up with nothing. Then out of the blue I decided to search for the term Daiwa reel. I almost went ape when I found this Daiwa reel. The ad did not say that it was a Saltiga but just Daiwa Z4500H. As far as I know, there is only one Z4500H and that's a Saltiga. I quickly checked the photos and it was indeed a Saltiga. I immediately called the seller and made arrangements for the following day to check it out. Long story short, I drove 2 hours the following morning to check it up close. As expected, the reel was in a very poor shape. It was completely rusted and the handle and the knob would barely turn. You could feel metal parts grinding from the inside. For a newbie, it's one of those reels that would be useless in the end. The quality that a Saltiga offers as described by online articles convinced me to buy it. I was able to haggle for a very good price considering the state that it's on. To be honest, I was not sure I would be able to make it work.

I started work on the handle knob and as suspected, the bearings were completely rusted as the outer traces of the bearings were stuck inside the knob leaving it completely useless and had to be discarded. The spool initially would not budge so I had to soak the inner part of the spool that is connected with to shaft with Selly's Rust Stopper. I knew the bearings were also completely rusted and need to be melted away to release the spool. After a day of soak, I was able to remove the spool and the bearing inside was intact but the bearing sitting on top of the shaft was rusted out and had to be replaced. The exterior has shown corrosion, but they are not too deep, only the paint was affected so it should be ok for some time. 

After removing the spool, I was able to remove the rotor. The AR housing has some stains, but it was pretty much intact. But opening it was another story. It took me an hour or so to get the cap out --- using the biggest vice grip that I have. Inside was also filled with salty cake, bits of rust, and hardened grease.

After opening the side plate, that's when I saw the extent of damage on the reel. Saltwater and rust has caked the internals.
You can see that this was probably the first time that the reel was opened. The red Loctite in the screws is still present. The bearing on the side plate was completely rusted out and all the ball bearings were scattered inside the body. I had to forcibly remove the outer and inner races of the bearing from the side plate and the gear. The Anti-revers dog was rusted but after a bit of cleaning and polishing it was back to its original luster.
The main gear is supposed to be brass, but it sure looked like rusted steel. Luckily, after a bit of cleaning and polishing, the gear was still flawless and there were no marks or chips on its teeth.
The Anti-reverse bearing, the big shaft bearing, and the pinion were massive. The amazing thing is that these parts were still clean and were not affected by the salt. I guess that the anti-corrosion properties of the Saltiga is really true.

 The oscillating gear was missing a few teeth and needs to be replaced. It's a good thing that the bearing supporting it is still in good condition.

The stainless main shaft was still ok and has no pits or stains. I cleaned everything using my cheap Ultrasonic cleaner, lubed, polished, then re-lubed everything and then set them aside until I got the replacement parts.

After a few weeks of wait, I got the 17 new parts from After reassembling, the reel is back in action.

It is a tank and more so after the fact that it came back from the dead, smooth as ever and ready to catch some serious fish.

And that's what it did. I think this reel is lucky! Every time I take it out, it manages to catch something awesome. Its latest catch, an 8.5kg GT from shore. :-)