by Ric Burnley
Electric reels are changing the way anglers fish. Time to join the electric revolution.
Joe loves fishing. He spends almost every weekend on his 30-foot center console. When a blue marlin comes in hot on his teaser, he frantically cranks in the squid chain by hand. When Joe hooks a white marlin, one crew member is assigned to crank in the dredge. When he deep-drops for daytime swords, three crew members take turns reeling in the bait from thousands of feet deep. When Joe goes bottom fishing for grouper, snapper and tiles, his wife and kids refuse to join him.
Jim also loves fishing. He also spends almost every weekend on his 30-foot center console. When a blue marlin comes in hot on a teaser, he pushes a button and the reel automatically retrieves the teaser. When Jim hooks a white marlin, one crew member pushes a button to bring in the dredge. When Jim goes swordfishing, one button brings up the bait in less than five minutes. And Jim’s whole family loves bottom fishing.
What’s the difference between Joe and Jim? Jim uses electric reels and Joe does not. Powered fishing reels have come a long way in the past few years. Not only has technology improved dramatically, but anglers are finding new uses for these user-friendly and reliable fish winches. From the bridge to the bottom, electric reels are finding new life with recreational anglers.
Power at the Bottom Line
One of the most popular applications for electric reels is bottom fishing in deep water. Not only does an electric reel make deep-dropping for grouper, tiles and wreckfish easier, but it opens up more fishable bottom to anglers. “You have to be Superman to fish in 800 to 1000 feet of water,” laughs Elias Rodriguez, co-owner of Miami Fishing Supply, “but electric reels make it easy to check new spots without wasting time and energy cranking in the bait.
Rodriguez shares the story of one such exploratory drop off Miami. “We decided to make a drop in 1,900 feet of water,” he recalls, “and we had no idea what we would catch.” The drop was quickly answered with a big bite. “We brought up the line and had these two huge fish,” he remembers. “We had no idea what they were.” After showing photos of his catch to experts and other anglers, he learned that he had caught a 79- and 75-pound wreckfish. “We tapped a totally new fishery,” he says, “there is a lot of weird stuff down there; you never know what you are going to catch.”
Rodriguez recommends two electric combos for bottom fishing. “You should have one combo for fishing inside 800 feet and another for fishing deeper than 800 feet,” he explains. For shallower water, Rodriguez recommends a 50-pound class outfit that is light enough for steady action on smaller fish. “Since we’re fishing in shallower water and not dealing with huge sharks, the lighter outfit makes fishing easier.”
Many anglers are using power-assist reels to target blueline tilefish, sea bass, snapper, grouper and other bottoms species that inhabit from 50 to 100 fathoms. Curt Arakawa, a marketing manager at Daiwa, explains that these reels can be switched between electric and manual power. “You can use the electric retrieve to check the bait then switch to manual retrieve to fight the fish,” he explains. Daiwa’s Tanacom Bull 1000 is a popular choice for deep droppers. Arakawa recommends matching the rod with a heavy-action boat rod and spooling the reel with 80 pound depth-coded braided line. Attach the braid to a double-hook bottom rig tied in 100-pound test mono and add a pair of 5/0 to 8/0 bait-holder hooks. Arakawa claims that the power-assist reel can increase the catch because the angler spends less time checking baits and more time reeling in fish. “People start out skeptical,” he chuckles, “but after a few drops they are believers.”
For bigger fish in deeper water, Rodriguez recommends a heavy-action rod and reel combo. “When we’re fishing over 800 feet of water for fish over 50 pounds and dealing with a lot of sharks, we need the construction and drag of a high-quality reel.” For super-deep applications and monster fish, Elias Rodriquez recommends an Elec-Tra-Mate system. “ The Elec-Tra-Mate motor hooks into an existing reel,” he explains, “so I get the quality and drag of a Tiagra, Fin-Nor or International with an electric retrieve.”
Modern electric motors have allowed manufactures to build smaller, lighter reels that are fast and powerful. Hooker Reels combine an existing Tiagra or International reel with a brushless motor that uses electromagnets and computers to produce more power and less heat. The Hooker can be operated with a push button, remote control or cranked on with a reel handle. “The reels runs faster than other electric reels,” brags Trista Evans, part owner of Hooker Reels, “and the motor has a variable speed.” Evans recommends using full speed when checking baits but keeping the reel on half-speed when fighting a fish. “Lower than that when fighting a swordfish, which have a soft mouth,” she adds.
To target deep water bottomfish, Elias Rodriguez spools his reel with 80- to 130-pound test braided line and attaches a bottom rig constructed of 300-pound test monofilament with 12/0 to 15/0 hooks. “Place the hooks four feet apart,” he recommends, “and only use two hooks on the rig.” Otherwise, a double-header of big fish could tangle the rig and break the line. Rodriguez will add water-activated strobe lights above the rig. “You can dress it like a Christmas tree if you want,” he laughs. He matches the reel to a 6-foot, 9-inch Calstar fiberglass bent-butt rod with an Aftco swivel tip. “I like a longer rod to absorb the shock of the fighting fish,” he explains.
Power on the Bridge
In the past few years, electric reels have grown in popularity as kite, teaser and dredge reels. Not only does the power application save the skipper’s energy, but digital reels can be programed to retrieve and pay out the line to a pre-set stopping point. “One push of the button and the kite or dredge comes in and stops automatically,” raves Elias Rodriguez. “That way, crew members can concentrate on catching the fish not clearing lines.”