You can learn so much about fish behavior by shooting underwater video! Sometimes, you have to slow it all down to see what’s really happening…
It’s cold and stormy out…perfect for revisiting some epic Topwater Salmon Fishing from Alaska. Enjoy!
It is rare that I get super fired up about a new rod company these days. After all, there are a bunch of manufacturers producing a mind-boggling number of quality sticks.
Aside from cosmetics and subtle tweaks, it’s hard to keep track. Blindfolded, I’d be hard pressed to tell one manufacturer’s offering from another. Anymore, it kinda comes down to the classic ol’ Ford vs. Chevy argument — pick one of the top end brands and you are going to be fine.
That all changed for me, however, when I was introduced to the amazing lineup from relative newcomer Douglas Outdoors. Based along the shores of the Salmon River in New York, they’ve been in the fly market for awhile but the new conventional offerings blew my mind.
Designed by veteran salmon and steelhead guide, bass pro and globetrotting angler, Fred V. Contaoi, the X-Matrix series are the lightest, most sensitive rods I have ever fished with. Period.
Those properties come from the fact that the rods are constructed from super high modulus graphite. Typically, the problem with high end graphite is that it is very brittle. It’s awesome to fish with but rods tend to break easily.
The real magic to these beautiful instruments that Contaoi has crafted for Douglas is that they are built with a proprietary, space age resin that allows them to remain light and vibrant while being also very durable. While there are no rods that are “unbreakable,” these babies are amazingly tough.
This sweet combination of strength and sensitivity sets these sticks apart from all others on the market. The first time I tied one, it was almost disconcertingly light. Used to having much more weight in my hand, it took a little while to get accustomed to the feel. Once I got used to how feather light the X-Matrix was I knew there’d be no going back. I was, pun intended, “hooked!”
That first day, I caught a steelhead that I feel I wouldn’t have hooked up with any other rod. It’s hard to describe but I swear I felt the fish breathe on my bait before he ever picked it up. That, of course, got me thinking about all the other uses for such a light and sensitive tool!
Contaoi has personally designed each rod from the ground up and has overseen the production in the factory, constantly making sure each action is perfect and that the guide placement and handle balance are exact. That’s what also attracted me to Douglas: I can see the heart and soul that went into these rods. The blood, sweat and tears have been considerable on Contaoi’s part, but the end product is amazing.
He’s got rods for everything, too: a very thorough bass section and an impressive array of technique specific salmon and steelhead sticks. But that’s just the beginning…there are X-Matrix rods that will cover species from trout to sturgeon and beyond.
Douglas’ X-Matrix rods are not inexpensive, ranging in the $300 range (but oh so worth it!). But if you are like me, buying a quiver full of rods in that price range isn’t happening anytime soon. Luckily, Contaoi has also designed a lineup of rods for the company that are aimed at the more budget minded angler.
The LRS (Lake, River, Sea) series has a bunch of really cool multi species rods that have great feel and lack of weight. I’m very impressed with these as well. Somehow Contaoi and Douglas figured out how to make a really high end rod without the accompanying price tag.
What’s cool too is there are many models in the lineup that could serve as multi-species sticks. My current favorite, which I used for most of my salmon season on the Trinity River is the LRS C835M (which I know for sure they sell at Redwood Marine in Eureka).
Its’s an 8-foot, 3-inch casting rod rated for 14- to 25-pound line. It made an awesome plug stick for salmon and would be a hot one for trolling for stripers as well. The slow tip and solid backbone also make it perfect for sturgeon fishing as well as drifting bait for halibut. Pretty sweet, especially when you consider they run about $168 if I remember correctly.
Well, anyway, you get the point. I’m impressed as heck with Douglas. Check em out for yourself on the web at: www.douglasoutdoors.com.
If you’re like most anglers, tungsten was probably just a faint blip on the outer edge of your radar screen until fairly recently. Sure, Jeopardy fans and techno geeks probably knew that tungsten is used to make filaments for electric lamps and vacuum tubes — and waterfowlers discovered it to be an alternative to lead and steel in shotgun shells several years back. Anglers have been late to the party but we are catching on quickly!
As it turns out, tungsten is really useful!
Before we get too far along here, let’s take a look at exactly what this mystery substance is. Simply put, tungsten is a hard metal that has a high tensile strength. It’s extremely dense for its size — more so than even lead — and is quite resistant to rust and oxidation. It can be forged, extruded and spun into many different forms such as foil, powder, rod, mesh and wire, which makes it highly versatile. So multipurpose is tungsten, in fact, that it is being hailed by some as “the new lead.”
At roughly 20 times the price of lead, tungsten’s largest drawback is cost. That aside, however, there are many attributes that make it extremely attractive to anglers.
Quite possibly tungsten’s greatest quality is the fact that it is non-toxic. We’ve been using lead sinkers for so long now that nobody really thinks twice about it, but the simple fact is lead is extremely poisonous to humans and can be lethal to water birds and other critters. To that end, there’s a large movement towards getting lead out of our lakes and streams. Great Britain banned the use of all lead sinkers in 1987 and since 1997, it’s been illegal to use sinkers and jigs weighing less than 50 grams in Canadian national parks and national wildlife areas.
On the home front, New Hampshire became the first New England state to outlaw lead weights in fishing tackle in 2001 and Maine has since banned the sale of lead sinkers weighing a half-ounce or less. In May of 2004, New York State followed suit. Additionally, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently discussing the ban of lead sinkers and jigs on National Wildlife Refuges where birds such as loons and trumpeter swans breed.
Weights and lures made from tungsten are non-toxic, which is a good thing for the environment — and anglers who handle them. From a lure manufacturer’s standpoint, tungsten products are a lot safer than lead to produce.
Tungsten is also attractive because it is more dense than lead. That means anglers can use smaller weights to get down. Bass pro and past Bassmaster Classic Champion, Skeet Reese, of Auburn, CA, is a big fan.
“Tungsten weights are cool because they are much more compact than lead,” he says. “When practicing a technique like flippin’, the smaller sinker will more easily penetrate the cover and get you where you need to be. You also get a quicker fall rate when your offering hits the water. From a cosmetic standpoint, I like that I can use a tungsten sinker that is a lot smaller than a lead sinker of the same weight. A smaller sinker gives you a more natural presentation.”
Tungsten is also starting to replace lead in lure body design. Terminator has a tungsten spinnerbait which has a small body profile without compromising the lure’s weight. Lucky Craft has puts tungsten bearings into some of its rattling plugs and several other lure manufacturers have plans for tungsten as well.
Sensitivity and Sound
Reese says that one of the largest advantages of using tungsten weights is that they are much more sensitive than lead.
“Tungsten sinkers are hard and that helps to transmit a lot more of the action through the line,” he says. “Tungsten really allows you to feel what your doing down there. And when you’re drop-shotting, shakin’, Carolina rigging or fishing a Texas-rigged worm, these sinkers will create a lot of noise when they tick the rocks.”
While bass fishing is a hotbed of tungsten use now, there are many other arenas in the world of fishing where it’s being employed. Tungsten beadheads have become quite popular for tying natural-looking nymphs that need to get down deep and its even found its way into fly lines.
“All of our sinking lines are made with tungsten now,” says Simon Gawesworth of Rio Fly Lines. “We use the powdered form in the lines. Being more dense than lead, we can make a thinner diameter line that sinks quicker with it. Steelhead fishermen, in particular, have really taken to the stuff. Tungsten is also environmentally friendly and safe to produce at our factory.”
Some cooler fall-like weather is moving in and that’s got me thinking about throwing big hunks of floating wood and plastic and watching striped bass blow up on them. Ah, yes…Fall is Topwater Time! And in honor of that, here are a collection of surface frenzy videos to get you pumped!
Welcome to TOPWATER WEEK!