ORLANDO, Fla. — Downsizing is not a real popular word these days, but when it comes to inshore saltwater tackle, experts say if you don't downsize the equipment, you could end up downsizing your company.
But anglers, as they often do, want the best of both worlds: a slender, light setup with all the strength and durability of a larger, cumbersome setup.
"It's about running smaller diameter lines on smaller equipment," said Gary Schaefer, Product Development Manager for G. Loomis rods. "It has to have the balance of being super light and super strong."
Schaefer was promoting the new PGR8825 rod, which is saltwater specific and is marketed to "the aggressive angler who prefers to fish artificial baits." Schaefer said during a recent trip to the Texas Gulf Coast he was surprised to see more anglers using artificial bait.
"Now they're running smaller diameter lines, you don't need these big reels," Schaefer said. "You hook a fish and you can play with it a little because you're not holding a bunch of heavy equipment."
John Bretza, Director of Product Development at Okuma, said its new Serrano line of reels target those inshore anglers trying to land huge fish on small equipment.
"Guys are fishing braided line for big fish with these low profile reels," he said. "They're capable of landing a big fish because they're using aluminum frames and you can get more line capacity."
Line capacity seemed to be what manufactures felt was the biggest concern for consumers. Durability and power were important, but both of those are also important in freshwater equipment. The major difference between the freshwater and saltwater equipment seemed to be the amount of drag it can handle and the amount of line it can hold — anglers in saltwater need a heavier dose of both.
There are about 100 different ways to cut corners on weight and not sacrifice quality, but Bretza thinks the new saltwater specific Serrano line, which is only slightly larger than its freshwater look-a-likes, does it best.
"A lot of guys who in the past might have used round reels because of the line capacity and structure of the reels, they're switching to low profile because they're smaller," Bretza said. "When you're doing a lot of this type of fishing, most of it is artificial bait, so you're casting all day long. A lot of it is comfort. It's a market trend that everybody is identifying."
John Mazurkiewicz, a representative for Shimano, said it's a trend that could be coming full circle. A lot of anglers, especially those on the Texas and Louisiana coasts, substituted their round reels for low-profile gear because they felt more comfortable. But spinning rods are making a lot of the same adjustments — going smaller and allowing more line — and Mazurkiewicz said it's converting some of the baitcasting anglers.
Schaefer gave credit to braided line, almost as much as advances in metal strength and weight, for opening the door for inshore anglers because they can use thinner line and not lose strength.
"Spinning rods are getting more sophisticated and downsizing, and the braid keeps everything small and finesse," Schaefer said. "I noticed a lot of anglers along the Texas Coast had converted to mostly spinning rods. It's still predominately low profile baitcasters, but it looked more like 60/40 instead of the 90/10 it used to be."
The choice between low profile and spinning setups seems to be a matter of preference for an angler, but both are going smaller and tougher, which is making a wave among inshore anglers.
Now the question is how big is too big when it comes to catching fish on smaller equipment? How long until anglers can start deep sea fishing with a baitcaster in hand? Bretza said they were catching 40- and 50-pound bull redfish in testing on the new Serrano line.
"It's as bullet proof as possible," he said. "It's got a lot of power to it."