While thread line reels dominate most of my fishing pursuits these days, I still prefer the use of quality overhead reels when surf fishing. I personally favour the control and length of casting an overhead reel offers in this situation, but it also comes down to what style of reel you practice with and become confident in using.
I love my surf fishing, and we’re pretty fortunate here in SA with the surf fishing options we have on our doorstep. I enjoy grabbing a couple of 40g Raider lures and walking along some nearby surf beaches, firing casts out into the fringing gutters for salmon.
Australian salmon may not be up there on a lot of people’s seafood list, but if you want a southern species that hits lures hard, jumps, fights until the bitter end and grows to a respectable size, than our salmon ticks all those boxes. And as well as being a great sportfish it also doubles as top bait for many other predatory surf species.
As well as salmon in the surf, we regularly target jewies, plus gummy, school and bronze whaler sharks in the suds down here in SA. Obviously jewies are the ultimate prize in the surf, but there’s nothing wrong with passing the time on a few smaller to mid-sized sharks when the jew are quiet. They also provide some good feeds of flake – especially the gummies.
When targeting these larger predatory species in the surf, we opt for bait fishing in the deeper holes along our ocean surf beaches. Just being on a surf beach for a few days and camping under the stars is awesome in itself, let alone the superlative fishing that can be on offer.
Many of the beaches we fish are quite remote, and often take a couple of hours of 4WDing to access. Being in a remote setting and without a backup tackle shop just down the road, the necessity for quality equipment that won’t let you down is a must. The surf fishing environment is pretty harsh with constant salt spray and sand covering your equipment, plus repeated casting and retrieving heavy sinkers and baits. We’ve seen inferior reels fail out here, and unless you bring a spare reel or parts, there’s not much you can do.
I’ve been using Shimano Calcutta overhead reels in the surf for several years now, and can honestly attest they’ve never let me down. I use a CT700B for my heavier bait fishing; casting live baits and fillet baits for larger jewies and sharks in the surf. It’s a great reel for casting these larger baits when matched to a suitable surf rod.
We mainly use 6oz star sinkers in the surf, so when combined with the weight of the bait, we end up casting around 300gms of weight. Just casting this kind of weight repeatedly is taxing on reels, and it’s easy to see why substandard reels fail under these conditions.
I prefer the use of mono mainline in the surf for a few reasons. We have issues with floating weed along some of our beaches, which doesn’t gel well with taught braid. We also find that our surf sinkers hold their ground better with the slight stretch of mono allowing for a bit of give when the water surges past the mainline.
Even running mono there’s still more than ample line capacity on a CT700B to deal with anything you’re likely to hook off a beach. I’m running 15kg mono on my CT700B, which holds around 230 metres of this diameter line. If you dropped down to 10kg you’ll be able to hold around 280m of line.
For lighter bait fishing and for flicking lures off the beach I use a Calcutta 400B. These reels are amazing for casting, and boast one of the smoothest drags on the market. I’m running 8kg mono on my CT400B, which holds around 240m of line.
Even this smaller model is great for bait fishing, and while it may not be able to cast the same weights of the CT700B, it fires out 4oz star sinkers and smaller strip baits with ease. And they still handle the weight of a good fish in the surf; you’ll just end up playing the fish out a bit more. If I’m going to be standing and holding my rod, then I’ll opt for the lighter CT400B, but if I’m going to set a big bait and place the rod in the holder, that’s when I’ll use the larger outfit.
As well as boasting a flawless drag system and smooth casting, they are a very well sealed unit, meaning the 4 bearings and internal gearing remains as salt-free as you could wish for a reel in this environment. At the end of each beach fishing session I wash my reels down in fresh water, give the moving parts a quick spray with a water-dispersant, then I back the drag off and leave to dry. I rarely have to remove the side plate of the reel, and when I do the reel has been surprisingly clean within.
Calcutta’s really are the cream of the crop for surf casting overhead reels in my opinion. If you’re in the market for a new surf reel this coming beach fishing season, check out the Calcutta 700B for heavy surf work, or the 400B for lighter applications – you won’t be disappointed.