Donnerstag, 8. Oktober 2015

Popper review

Here's a review of all the poppers that I got to try out thus far. My impression was that colour and shape didn't make a big difference. Proper animation, a good rhythm and, most importantly, the right spot made the difference. With those three factors in place any of these poppers caught fish. That's why I deliberately decided to not rate how well the different poppers catch fish. In the end you have to chose one that you trust and concentrate on animating it properly.

Name Weight Maneuverability Durability Comment
Bertox Popper 150 very good: stable in the water and easy to pop unreliable: very good finish, yet terrible wiring that breaks after multiple fish I loved it but after two consecutive wire breaks I couldn't trust it anymore
Orion T-Rex 150 good: easy to pop but not perfectly stable in the water good: finish damages quickly, otherwise no problems whatsoever since maneuverability is the most important factor for me, I preferred other lures
Orion Cono Cono 180 very good: easy to pop but and stable in the water good: finish damages quickly, otherwise no problems whatsoever this lure is so short that belly and tail hook easily get tangled, which is annoying when you need big hooks
Heru Cubera 150 and 180 very good: easy to pop but and stable in the water reliable: stickers go off quickly, paint is ok, strong wiring, wooden body may soak water my preferred lure: easy to animate, reliable and affordable
Heru Tuna 100 good: easy to pop but but not perfectly stable in the water reliable: stickers go off quickly, paint is ok, strong wiring, wooden body may soak water it doesn't make a big splash, so it might be less effective when fish are far away

I have a clear winner: the Heru Cubera! It's ugly! But it works perfectly. The Orion lures both had specific limitations. The Bertox popper is beautiful and works very well but unfortunately it's not trustworthy! Apparently, a new version of it exists now (with a different shape). Let's hope they fixed the wiring on that one. And the Heru Tuna, well, it's a little small and it's limited to calm water, otherwise good.

The most important take away for me was: all these lures work well once you have figured out their animation. Some are less stable in rough water though. But the most important thing is that the lure is reliable. For me this means: don't buy cheap quality BUT you also don't need high end lures for catching fish.

Dienstag, 6. Oktober 2015

Rod review: Carpenter Coral Viper 79/40 and Carpenter Monster Hunter 80H

I just had the opportunity to test two of my fishing rods during a 6 days fishing trip in Djibouti, landing me a total of 23 GTs up to 28 kg. Here's the review.

Carpenter Coral Viper 79/40 Review

Casting: The smallest lure I cast was a 70gr stickbait. That was clearly a little too light and the rod didn't load up a lot. Nevertheless, the casting distance was quite ok. For just two afternoons of fishing for smaller species it did the job. The biggest lure I cast on this rod was a 170gr stickbait and it was no problem. It felt like the upper limit for loading the rod but it definitely wasn't too much. Nevertheless, my feeling is that the sweet spot for casting weight for that rod is between 120-150 gr.

Animating poppers: I found the sweet spot for poppers was 130-150gr. I mostly used this rod with 150gr Cubera poppers. While this was clearly a little more work than with a heavier rod, I personally also found it easier to control the movement of the popper than with a heavier rod. With the rod tip giving in a little more, I had to pull harder but I rarely pulled too hard (making the popper jump out of the water). Even though this was more taxing physically, it was more effective because the popper would spend more time fishing and less time flying around. Lighter poppers (100-130gr) were less taxing on the arm but they took me longer to adjust myself to the right pulling power, demanding more concentration. I guess for a more experienced fisherman 130 gr. poppers should be just the perfect the fit for that rod. For me 150gr. was better.

Animating Stickbaits: I found the sweet spot for stickbaits was 150-170gr. I would point the rod upwards and work the stickbait in with short pulls. That worked perfectly. With lighter stickbaits (120-140gr) it found it harder to get the right action with the rod pointing upwards. With such lures used side strikes. That worked well for their animation but I found that very taxing on the wrist. I definitely prefer shorter rods (around 7ft) for side strokes. If you don't mind side strokes with a 7,9ft rod, than I would extend the sweet spot for stickbaits to 120-170gr. It's probably a matter of technique (that I must not have gotten right yet).

Fighting: I fished that rod with 10 to 12 kg of drag. 12 kg drag seemed to be the upper limit when fish got under the boat. At that moment the rod bent in a beautiful parabolic curve but I would not have wanted it to bend further as that seemed to the limit (with no more reserves in lifting power). So, if 12kg drag is enough for you, no problem. If you want to go higher, you might want to consider a heavier rod. I personally found that 12 kg was just the perfect drag setting for me and a nice bend provides a good thrill. From that perspective: the perfect rod for good fun. Yet, with a really big GT I would probably have gotten nervous, feeling that I have no reserves if it started spooling me on 12 kg drag.

Carpenter Monster Hunter 80H Review

Casting: I threw lures between 150 and 210 gr with that rod and it loaded up very well. In fact, I could even throw a little bit further with this rod than with the Coral Viper. I have not tried lighter or heavier lures so I cannot tell the lower or upper limit. Yet, at more than 180gr throwing would just become quite taxing on the arms, not because it was too heavy for the rod but simply because it is actually heavy! So, yes, you can easily throw 210 gr lures with that rod but I wouldn't recommend using such heavy lures in general. I personally feel that at 180gr you have poppers that already do an enormous splash and that at 170gr you can already get a really huge stickbait. So why go heavier anyway? In the end it's up to you.

Animating poppers: The rod was perfect for working all poppers that I tried out on it (150gr Cubera up to 180gr Orion Cono Cono).

Animating stickbaits: I only used stickbaits between 200 and 210 grams on that rod and I found it quite taxing. The stiffness of the rod tip seemed just right for that weight but I guess heavy stickbaits on long rods are generally not my personal thing.

Fighting: This is were I fell in love with the rod. I used drag settings between 12 and 14kg on it and while it quickly starts bending parabollically it never feels like its running out of lifting power. I admit that my biggest GT on that rod was (only) 28kg but I felt like I was in charge having fun with the fish (instead of the fish having fun with me). I would personally advice a drag setting of 13kg on that rod. You can go higher and the rod will make it but at 14 kg you really have to have a good balance if you don't want the fish the drag you into the water.

Comparison of both rods:

With the Monster Hunter I had a little bit more confidence when fighting fish and I threw lures a little further. That's why I preferred it over the Coral Viper in most cases. Yet, it's a heavy rod and it's neither much fun on fish under 15kg, nor is it good for throwing smaller lures. So, it depends: when you're in big fish territory and you don't mind throwing big lures then I would advise for the Monster Hunter, whereas in other cases I'd recommend the Coral Viper. Plus: if you prefer using stickbaits the Monster Hunter might be too stiff for most of your stickbaits (unless you really want to go big). In fact, the two rods are no actual alternatives but they are complementary. But if you just want to buy one rod, then I would say: make your decision based on your location and whether you expect a lot of big fish or not. I really liked both rods and you won't go wrong with either.

Sonntag, 17. März 2013

Hooks and their weights

When you are looking at your rod's casting weight you should be aware that some manufacturers refer to the weight of a rigged lure (e.g. Carpenter, Smith) and some seem to refer to the weight of the lure excluding hooks and all (e.g. Ripple Fisher). In the first case, it is important to know how much your hooks and split rings weigh. Hence, I ordered some different hooks and weighed them. Here are the results:

Triple hooks:
Owner ST-76TN 3/0 8,9 grams
Owner ST-76TN 4/0 12,7 grams
Owner ST-76TN 5/0 18,9 grams

Single Hooks:
Owner Jobu 9/0 12,3 grams
Owner SJ-41TG 13/0 9,8 grams

Split rings:
Kazax 180-300lb 1,7 grams
Owner HyperWire #11 1,8 grams

And since I was already weighing stuff I also weighed two of my lures (Heru Wahoo 125 and Gunz 120 Sinking) and I noticed that both of them weighed about 7 grams more than indicated by the manufacturers. So be aware that what you buy is not exactly what you get.

Let's put all that together and assume that I rig my Heru Wahoo 125 with a baker rig at the belly (consisting of the two Owner SJ-41TH 13/0 hooks plus one split ring) and one single assist hook (Owner Jobu 9/0 plus one split ring) at the tail then the rigs alone would weigh 35,3 grams all together. Consider that (plus a split ring and a swivel on the nose of the lure) and your (supposedly) 125 grams lure suddenly weighs about 170 grams!

Why am I telling you all that? Well, my rod supports 200 grams casting weight so I thought let's buy a Heru Wahoo 150. But then I though twice and decided to get some terminal tackle first and weight it and that was a good decision. Because, if I rigged the Heru Wahoo 150 then it would weigh about 200 grams and while that might be just ok usually the maximum limit is not the comfort weight. So in case you don't have a Ripple Fisher rod (that apparently refers to the lures weight excl. terminal tackle) then you might want to consider the terminal tackle's weight before buying lures.

I will buy some more different hooks in the future and update my list accordingly. Hope this helps. Tight lines!

UPDATE: There's a list of hook sizes and weights here in the Hammerhead website and another list here on Gamefishing India's Blog.

Donnerstag, 28. Februar 2013

Jigging rods

After having written about popper and stickbait rods before, I also did some research on suitable jigging rods (for jigging for GTs). Please notice that in the meantime I have updated this post and I have replaced many rods by lighter versions. For most cases jigs from 200gr to 300gr will be perfect (also for dogtooth tuna) and most rods were to heavy for those sizes. For exactly that reason I have also removed the Carpenter and Fisherman jigging rods. Even though they are highly recommended, only the lightest models work such jigs and those models may be slightly too "weak" for GTs.
All models listed here are for spinning reels (not for conventional reels). Which one you prefer is mostly up to your preference. So here we go:

Manufacturer Model Lure Weight PE Class Rod Length Transport Length Rod Weight (gr) Max Drag (kg) Price
HOTS Fake Lez 63H 280 4-8 6.3 192 - - 55,650 YEN
MC Works Southern Blue Akabara 556 200-400 5-8 5.5 168 300 13 850 USD
MC Works Southern Blue Akabara 535 150-300 5-6 5.3 162 - 12 ~50,000 YEN
JiggingMaster Three Kings 53S-L 250-400 4-8 5.3 33 623 USD
Ocean Tackle International Fathom Blade 300S 225-300 4-8 5.4 - - 10 310 USD
Ripple Fisher 568 320 6 5.6 171 - - 56,000 YEN
Ripple Fisher SELFISH 597 Vertical Model 180-240 6 5.9 180 261 - 58,000 YEN
Shimano TCurve Revolution Offshore 200-400 6 5.2 160 - - 300 AUD
Smith AMJ S52EX 400 4-8 5.2 159 280 14 39,900 YEN
Synit Venom V350FT (Blank) 200-400 4-6 5.4 165 120 (only Blank) 14 only custom made, price on request
Synit Kaha KH300 200-400 5-6 5.3 162 - 14 only custom made, price on request
Valley Hill EXP-53XS The Deep Quaker II 250-480 6-8 5.3 - 313 - 630 USD, 45,000 YEN
Xzoga Taka-SA 350-56 350 5-8 5.6 174 - 15 419,00 EUR

You might wonder why I did search for jigging rods but the answer is simple. Casting heavy lures the whole day is tiring (I know that from pike fishing) and jigging (even though physically demanding by its own means) is a different type of movement and allows me to relax some parts of my muscles. Furthermore, you can reach different species and why not fish something else than GTs?

All you experts: please help me improve my rod list. In case you feel there are important rods missing or some don't fit the list, just let me know.

Sonntag, 3. Februar 2013

Chosing a (popper and stickbait) rod

Searching for a nice rod has always been one of my favorite parts of preparation. Actually chosing (i.e. deciding for one) is not that easy though. There are multiple selection criteria and you never get it all in one package (unless you take the price out of the equation). My decision depends on: technical parameters, quality of the components, feeling, design, reputation, price. The technical parameters (lure weight, rod length, max drag, PE class, transport length) must be suited for the task and they are the most important criterion. But since I never fished for GT before (not even any other tropical species) I can only rely on other people's experience in this case. In order to do that I browsed internet forums (such as Big Game Board, GT Popping or 360 Tuna) and read through recommendations of fishing guides (such as Andres Expeditions (German) or Green Fishing (French)). From all those different sources I tried to collect information about the typical lure weight, the required line strength (that reflects in the PE number of a rod) and the typical rod length. Here is the result:

Manufacturer Model Lure Weight PE Class Rod Length Transport Length Rod Weight (gr) Max Drag at 45° (kg) Price
Carpenter Monster Hunter 80H 250 8-10 8.0 167 430 13 75,000 YEN
Carpenter Coral Viper 79/40 200 6-8 7.9 168.5 385 12 75,000 YEN
Carpenter The Blue Lagoon 80/40 240 8 8.0 170 400 13 75,000 YEN
FCL Labo UCB81 Extreme 180 8-10 8.1 177 380 800 AUS
Fisherman GT-GAME-T 220 8 7.6 151 - - 101,600 YEN
Hammerhead Faube 77M+ 180 10 7.7 167 385 11 -
HOTS GIPANG 79XH 230 6-10 7.9 - - - 51,975 YEN
Patriot Design World Combat GTZ Black Mafia 76 230 8-12 7.6 - 515 17 95,000 YEN
Race Point (by Saltywater Tackle) Race Point 250 180 10 7.5 - 395 16 700 USD
Ripple Fisher Fanta Stick GT79 reversal 120-180 10 7.9 - 390 - 887 USD, 895 EUR
Ripple Fisher Final Spirit GT79H 170-220 12 7.9 - 395 - 887 USD, 63,000 YEN
Ripple Fisher Ultimo 79MH UG Swim 160 8 7.9 - 357 - 63,000 YEN
Shimano Kaibutsu Surface Monster 250 - 7.8 147 - - 350 EUR
Smith WRC-Komodo Dragon 300 12 7.6 162 430 10 82,950 YEN
Smith WRC-Tokara60 250 12 7.6 - 420 13 610 EUR, 74,550 YEN
Temple Reef Reefer 711-10 170 10 7.11 174 410 14 690 USD
Xzoga Taka Pi 7708 450 (officially), ~150 (in practice) 8 7.7 - 410 20 414 USD, 419 EUR
Zenaq Fokeeto 80-10 230 7-10 8.0 175 - 423 -

Notice / Update: in the meantime I have removed and added some rods. The ones removed were either rarely recommended in expert forums or no GT rods. I've added some rods like Racepoint or Temple Reef but for those I couldn't find a lot of reviews / feedback in the internet.

The next thing I did was analyzing all that data and deriving average numbers. Why? Well, I do not trust one single person's opinion (since there is a lot of hidden advertisement). But when you aggregate all those people's opinions than you get a quite reliable look at the essence. And here it is:

The average popping rod is 8 ft long (244cm) and it is optimized for lures weighing up to 190 grams and PE class 8 (which means 100lb braided line). It should be able to support a drag force of at least 10 kg (22lb). It consists of two parts: the handle and the main rod, where the main rod part is longer, around 175cm in average.

What I couldn't find out from reading through internet pages is the feeling of the rod. This is the biggest drawback of my research and here in Germany there aren't a lot of shops where I could touch those rods. That's too bad, since the feeling is a very subjective quality, I believe.
Speaking of design: well, interestingly, the cheaper rods look fancier (in my opinion) where the more expensive ones almost look alike, very simple. But this is understatement, guys. Apparently, it's the feeling that sets them apart. And honestly, I haven't fished for GT yet but from freshwater fishing I can confirm that this is the most important aspect. So I trust the experts here.
Speaking of reputation and price: the more expensive, the more praise. Interestingly, I noticed that there is a difference between the information that you find in global forums and country-specific forums. Apparently, some manufacturers focus their marketing on single markets (e.g. OTI (on USA), Xzoga (on Germany), Tenryu (on France)) which raises my suspection but you may think of that what you will. One thing is safe to say though: Fisherman, Carpenter, Smith and Ripple Fisher are the most praised brands, and the most expensive ones. Carpenter and Ripple Fisher introduced quite a lot of innovations over the last years, where Fisherman and Smith rely on models that were mostly introduced some 10 years ago (but still get praise).
Now, let's talk money finally: all these rods aren't cheap exactly. (Notice: the prices that you find in the table above are subject to changes.) Usually, I start with a medium-prized rod. Only here, there is none. Another approach is to look at availability. Many Japanese rods aren't available outside of Japan or their price is considerably higher in US or EU internet shops. I compared Japanese prices to US or EU prices using X-Rates and I identified only one EU shop that resells Japanese rods at a reasonable price. I'd advice you to do the same before chosing a rod. The best thing you can do for sure is to buy rods in Japan (if you happen to go there or have a friend travelling there).

There is a very useful guide (by Brandon Khoo) to buying popping rods on Read it!

Have fun deciding for yourself.
Tight lines.