The false albacore were about 120 yards out, across the last visible bar, and they were tearing up the water. Gulls and gannets were diving into the chopped-up bait and anglers were lined up, but they were casting short of where the party was happening. From time to time, you could see glass minnows flipping out of the surface in a long stripe. Most of the anglers were casting spinning reels with eight- or nine-foot rods; I was using a nine-foot rod with an old Abu 6000 reel with the casting weights removed. It required an educated thumb, but I could cast a Sting Silver a little over 100 yards with it. I was using 12-pound test line to increase my distance. I only managed one false albacore before the bite moved further out, but I was the only angler in the crowd that connected. Afterwards, I got a lot of questions about using a casting reel for throwing metal in the surf. It felt good to be the only one to connect, but it only happened because I had the right rod, reel, and line combination.
I get it all the time, especially when I’m alone on the beach in my truck and rigged for surf fishing. “Do you have enough rods?” some wiseacre will ask, eyeing the six or seven rods in the aluminum rod rack on my truck. Of course, you can fish with only one rod, but I suppose you could play golf with only one club as well. The basic requirements for North Carolina surf fishing, and I firmly believe we have the most diverse surf fishing in the country, are two rods. One heavy rod for casting into the rough water where citation drum live, and a general purpose rod for ordinary fishing conditions where you never need to cast more than four ounces.
The tough conditions around Cape Lookout and Cape Hatteras often require an eight-ounce sinker to stay out. When trophy red drum conditions are optimal, that eight-ounce sinker will drift about 50 yards in the 15 minutes I allow a bait to soak before re-baiting. Other than that somewhat rough set of conditions, a nine- or 10-foot rod that can cast four or five ounces will handle almost anything else.
With that lighter rod, the Carolina surf angler can cast Hopkins and Sting Silver spoons or other lures and manage the two-hook bottom rigs many surf anglers swear by. With a shock leader and slider, that same rig can do a great job on trophy red drum, provided the current isn’t too strong. OK, so why do I have a rack full of rods? I carry multiples of similar rods because I’d rather just pick up another rod in a drum blitz than to re-spool or re-rig. I also carry an extra heavy rod with heavier line in the event I get in a drum blitz in a big crowd. I can horse the fish more and have a lesser chance of getting tangled up with another angler.
On a recent trip to the Outer Banks, I spent a few days fishing with the St. Croix Avid Surf 10-foot rod. This model has a fast taper and is designed for lure weights from one to four ounces. I chose that rod because I was thinking of distance for plugging and spoons. My idea was to be prepared to cast even further should the need arise and I can report the Avid Surf casting rod will sling a Sting Silver a country mile.
While the Avid Surf is designed just for that purpose, it also proved a viable general-purpose rod. During our recent trip, I never got into a situation where distance would make the difference, but I used the rod most of the trip, just to get a better impression. The Avid Surf is very light for its length, at just 10.7 ounces. Combined with a 6000 series reel, it makes a very light and comfortable outfit for a long day of fishing. While it’s rated for a max of four ounces, I used as much as six ounces at one location where the current was rolling hard around a small point just east of Bogue inlet. I used 12-pound test Stren with a 25-foot shock leader and the six-ounce sinker didn’t seem to overload the Avid.
Realistically, I could use this rod for 90 percent of my surf fishing and not feel handicapped. It certainly is capable of distance casting, it’s light and comfortable enough to fish all day without fatigue, and there’s enough backbone to handle a 50-inch red fish. The next time you see me driving down the beach there will still likely be more than one rod on my rod rack, but I can assure you the St. Croix Avid will be one of them.
Image by Jeff Jordan