Monday, March 16, 2015

Grande and Chiquita Island Shore Fishing

I've heard of Grande Island as a great fishing destination for god knows how long. The funny thing is, Grande is very near my wife's house in Olongapo but for almost 15 years of going back and forth from Manila to Olongapo, I never really visited the place. I wanted to, but I always seem to miss the chance to go there.

Last week, I got an invite from Naks Nakamura. Our Japanese fishing mentor and JDM tackle supplier. He organized a fishing trip because the resort recently offered a great deal. Instead of the usual 10:30am-4pm day trip, it will be a 7am-5pm pm fishing outing. I immediately grabbed the chance and went. I always imagined the big trevs and queenies from the shore using very light tackle. And as a bonus, I might even get to tussle with the famed GTs (Giant Trevallies) in Chiquita -- a small uninhabited islet next to Grande.
Photo by Joseph Gueco

We arrived at the Grande ferry station at around 6am yesterday. Me and Richmond did not waste any time and rigged our UL gears while waiting for the boat that will ferry us across. After around 5 minutes of casting, a big trev grabbed my sinking pencil and took it for a dive under the dock. It was a long drag-screaming run and when it was about to reach the rocky pillar, I was forced to tighten the drag to stop it. The fish was too much for my #16 treble and straightened all of the barbs. It was a great sign that fishing was going to be exciting. Minutes past and the rest of the group arrived and we immediately boarded the boat to the island.

At a round 7:30, we got to the island and started rigging. A few minutes and we were off casting our UL gears in the beach. Fishing Grande means you really have to get wet. At times, up to chest deep while casting. I got a few takers from rock fishes including a feisty Parrot fish. After the warm up we went straight to Chiquita island for some serious GT fishing. While we were crossing the channel that separates Grande from Chiquita (about waist deep), we saw a big shadow lazily swimming the shallows. It was a black tip shark. Our guess was about 20-30kg. We had to create some sort of commotion to scare it away. Bebong, our guide and GT fishing expert guided us to cast to a lagoon at the northern tip of the islet. It wasn't long when something tried to snatch my cheap 40-gram popper. I frantically set the hook on reflex --- which I learned later was a wrong move. The rod bent but the hooks did not connect as the popper came flying back, narrowly missing my face. I learned later that I have set the hook too early. Naks advised that I had to wait for about a second before setting the hook --- just enough time until the fish gets to turn around giving the hook the right angle to connect. I tried casting again for a good half hour but no takers so Joseph and I moved to another spot further north leaving Bebong behind. Ironically. a few minutes later, Bebong was able to land a 6kg on that very spot using a 120gm popper. Pure skill and luck.

I tried following Rich to where he caught his 15kg GT but I chickened out when I learned that I had to literally swim to the casting position. I cannot imagine how he was able to get there pass through the sharks with bleeding foot and all. I tried with all my strength and waded after him but had to turn back fearing I might drown, dunk my gears, and get eaten by sharks.

Anyway, the Chiquita GTs were not cooperating so we changed our game plan and went back to Grande for UL fishing. UL from shore in the north of Grande was tough. Lots of wading and swimming over barnacle-crusted rocks. We ended up with lots of cuts and bruises instead of fishes. Fortunately for us, Bluefin trevallies were plenty in  the beach near the pier and most of them are very eager to take sinking pencils and ultra light jigs. I hooked and lost a few but managed to land my first Bluefin Trevally. The fight was absolutely fantastic. I didn't think the hooks would hold. Luckily I ended up with one, saving me from getting heckled by my wife when I got home.

At around 5pm, we left Grande. It was a wonderful experience highlighted with great fishing action. I also realized that the fishing style there was great exercise with all the walking, wading, jumping from rocks to rocks, and swimming. I honestly think that I lost a few pounds from that day trip.

I will definitely go back and perhaps stay the night to maximize the fishing time.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Take 2 on the Ryoga 2020HL

I regretted getting rid of my Ryoga 2020HL a couple of years ago, Back then, the reel was way overkill for my type of fishing. Then late last year, light jigging started to pick up and became interesting. It became even more so when I got myself an open water kayak.

Early this month, I was able to get another Ryoga from a friend who lives in Japan. This time, I got me a Ryoga made specifically for PE line and designed for light jigging. The Ryoga Bay Jigging 2020PE HL.

Like all Ryogas, this is a tank. I am going to pair this with a Daiko Spear 66MH Light Vertical Jigging rod. I will try to cram 200 meters of PE2 line. I can't wait for summer vacation. I hope I get lucky with those Diamond Trevs back home.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Gary Loomis Edge EFX 714-1 Update 2

Almost 3 weeks since my last testing of this rod, I went back to Pantabangan to try and perform another set of field testing. But this time, I did a little modification of the rod.

I said during my last update that I will upgrade the guides to Fuji Titanium SIC Guides and I did just that. It sounds a bit crazy but I did it for the love of science and curiosity. Anyway, I got the rod for a great price and adding $70 for the Titanium guides will still make the rod cheaper than it's actual market price.

Anyway, I ordered the following Fuji guides Plat Japan:
  • 2 x FUJI T-LSG 7 
  • 1 x FUJI T-LNSG 8 
  • 4 x FUJI T-LSG 6J 
  • 1 x FUJI T-LNSG 10 
  • 1 x FUJI T-LNSG 12 
  • 1 x FUJI T-FST 5.5-1.8
The guides I ordered were correct except for the 4x T-LSG 6J and 2 x FUJI T-LSG 7. The sizes I got were 2mm bigger than I had imagined. I had to order smaller replacement guides. It's a good thing that Plat was very accommodating with these kinds of requests.

While waiting for the new guides, I replaced the tip with FUJI T-FST 5.5-1.8. The stock tip is just way overkill and overweight. I think that tip is killing the blank's sensitivity. You can see the side by side picture as the stock guide dwarfs the Fuji guide. Also, when take a close look at the stock tip, you will see that the end of slightly crooked support arms are welded to the tube but the squared end is protruding on top of the tube, which can snag your knot during cast especially when you are using braid to leader connections.

On the left is the Titanium-framed Sic tip from Fuji and on the  right is the stock Edge tip with stainless frame and rings.
When I replaced the tip, I immediately noticed that the difference in response of the rod tip. The usual "whippy" action when swinging the tip from side to side was reduced considerably. With the new titanium tip, I would say it is almost as crisp as my KS' Labo and NRX.

To find out the change in real fishing scenario, I went back to Pantabangan using the same reel, same line, same hooks, sinkers, and worms but this time, the rod tip is different. I was blown away as difference is very evident. From zero bass on my last outing, I manage to get about 12 and this is when bass fishing was extremely tough, the wind was howling, and the water's too cold. The fishing was so tough that my boat mate got skunked. The difference was sensitivity --- the rod was like 5 times more sensitive compared to when it was using the stock NFC tip. When I tried the rod at 2 in the morning, with the moon as the only source of light, the sensitivity was outstanding. I can feel the subtle bumps and thumps from brush and rocks and even small bass. I even managed to catch a couple of bass. When we got to the peacock bass lake the following morning, I tied on a small crappy-style spinner bait around 1/4 oz in weight, Amazingly, I can feel the subtle vibration of the blades like they were huge spinners on steroids. This is the type of sensitivity that I did not find on my other rods.

What does this mean exactly? For me, it shows that Gary Loomis is still the man when it comes to designing bass fishing blanks and the Edge EFX IM blank is no exception. It's just that the cheap guides are killing it's sensitivity.

I can't wait for the remaining replacement guides especially  the T-LSG 5 to arrive. I am certain that these will reduce the tip weight even further which I hope will increase the sensitivity further.