While walking around the Chesapeake Sportfishing Show at Annapolis Armory today, or maybe while strolling down Fisherman's Row at the 42nd edition of the Chesapeake Bay Boat Show Jan. 13-21 at the Baltimore Convention Center, the temptation to buy a new fishing outfit is going to hit you like a hammer.
By the time you wrap up the first tour of the BASS EXPO set for Jan. 18-21 at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium, temptation will have passed into the "got to have it" phase.
Years ago, most serious bass and striper anglers invariably bought level-wind baitcasting reels. Spinning reels were thought be fine for freshwater trout, smallmouth stream bassin' and saltwater panfishing for spotted trout, spot and the like. Being called a baitcaster was like wearing a badge of honor.
Traditional largemouth and other heavy hook-and-line fishing techniques evolved from baitcasting gear. For decades bass were hunted with one basic approach: throwing plugs, plastic worms, spoons and jigs into heavy cover. For this work, the baitcast rig is unbeatable.
Heavy cover and big fish call for stout 14 pounds or higher test line, which loads easily onto any standard level-wind reel. This reel then can be matched with a suitably short, light but strong rod. That's also why you see so many level-wind rigs on saltwater charters trolling after big bluefish and striped bass.
However, some years back some big-name bass anglers admitted that they favored spin tackle for jobs such as casting crankbaits a long distance.
They also prefer such lightweight rigs for finding scattered bass because a 6 1/2 - to 7-foot rod and matching high-speed reel loaded with 10- or 12-pound test line enables tangle-free long distance casts that quickly cover lots of water. Spinning reels are also invaluable for casting light lures in the wind, a situation guaranteed to drive a baitcaster nuts.
Line weight is really the deciding factor in spinning versus baitcasting tackle and most serious anglers (especially bass anglers) carry both types of tackle. My own rule of thumb is to opt for the baitcast gear if I'm using line heavier than 12-pound test. For lighter line, give me spinning tackle.
If I'm fishing a southern Maryland or Eastern Shore largemouth bass pond or river or maybe shoreline casting for rockfish in the Bay, I want level-wind reels and matching rods. But, if I'm split-shotting, in which a 4-inch twistertail worm is rigged 2 feet behind a split shot on 6-pound test and cranked slowly over fairly open bottom, give me a spinning outfit.
Also, I use spin gear exclusively for darter jigging, using a leadhead jig and a curly-tail jig or worm on 4- to 8-pound test line. You also might want to consider a baitcast reel and rod for chum fishing for Chesapeake bluefish and striped bass.
Outdoor show season
In addition to the above noted shows, you won't want to miss next week's Fly Fishing Show at the Reckord Armory at the University of Maryland, College Park.
Everything you could possibly want to know about fresh and saltwater fly fishing will be covered via casting and fly-tying demonstrations and classes and seminars, plus over 100 booths of exhibitors. Admission is $12 Saturday, $10 on Sunday and a $20 pass is available for the entire weekend.
On Jan. 27, the same site plays host to the popular Saltwater Sportsman magazine's national seminar, which only gets around this area every three years or so. Just about everything you want or need to know about fishing the Chesapeake or off-shore is covered by local and national experts.
The fee is $35 and includes a textbook and magazine subscription. You can register by calling (800) 448-7360 or by sending a check to Outdoor Associates, Inc., 9930 N.W. 59th Court, Parkland, Fla., 33076.