The Constant Angler
SALTWATER BFS (BAIT FINESSE FISHING) - MY INITIAL FINDINGS
A small piece of Texas Rigged Yellow Isome is a cracking method for wrasse.
Why BFS in Saltwater?
For the last two years I had become obsessed with freshwater BFS and its ability to accurately cast light lures under bridges and into little pockets of space on the far bank. As I live so close to the sea, it just seemed a natural progression. I could envisage myself pitching lures under jetties or dropping lures off the end of my rod tip into rocky nooks and crannies. Could this be a viable alternative to LRF with spinning tackle? My mind was buzzing, I just had to give it a try.
Well, tackle is very much dependent on what you are fishing for and how rough your chosen mark is.
They are no different to any of the LRF rods. They are typically rated from as low as 0.5grams up to about 10g, possibly even 12g. If you're fishing over clean ground for small fish, scale down accordingly. If there is a chance of picking up the odd Ballan Wrasse, then a rod rated up to 12g is more suited. I wouldn’t however target Wrasse in excess of 1.5lb, as you will struggle to stop that initial dive for cover. It’s not that they may not cope, just that other gear is more suited. I currently use a Kuying Teton TTC662L and it will cast lures from 2-10grams. They are fantastic rods and are very respected within the BFS community. It has a parabolic action which helps stop hook pulls when a fish hits the lure under the rod tip. If I feel the need to go lighter I can use my Kingdom Silver Needle KFCS -562UL. There really is no need for an expensive rod, but if you wish they are available from the usual top manufacturers. I buy from either Needhams Specialist Tackle, here in the UK or AliExpress depending on availability.
A small Pollack taken on a 5gr Slow Jig
They are far more important than rods. We need a reel with a shallow, light spool, that will enable us to generate enough inertia to get the spool spinning freely with the light lures we are using. It is imperative they have a good braking system, particularly for that initial surge of the spool at the beginning of the cast, they then need to back off somewhat towards the end of the cast. Do your research and find those that have good brakes. Some budget reels use cheap magnets that cannot handle very light lures. I use budget reels, but if you know how to look after your reels properly, Shimano and Daiwa have several models to choose from; the Daiwa Gekkabijin being designed for saltwater use. I am currently using the original Tsurinoya Dark Wolf DF50 for lures of 3 grams and up; should I need to fish lighter I switch to the new Dark Wolf Ultra. There is a cheap, extremely easy magnet modification which enables it to cast lures below 1gram. These reels are also saltwater approved, having carbon bodies and sealed bearings. Only time will tell how they stand up to Saltwater abuse. I will keep you posted.
They are very much a personal choice. I like a braided mainline attached to a fluorocarbon leader via an FG Knot or Albright knot. If fishing Texas Rig style along the deck, I use the FG Knot as you will get snagged and the extra strength it provides is key to losing less gear. However, I am currently finding tying it on the bank with the light braids and leaders we use very difficult, wind etc being more of a factor than with my heavier HRF lines. If I am struggling with wind, cold hands or just because my eyesight isn’t what it used to be, I turn to a simple Albright knot. It will never be as good as an FG Knot, but it gets you fishing again. Braid gives me the sensitivity I need, whilst also providing a lower diameter to higher breaking strain ratio.This is key when attempting to cast light lures. You can use fluorocarbon straight through to save tying leaders, but I find if it birdsnests it kinks easier, making it unusable. I must admit I haven't used an expensive fluorocarbon; maybe it might sit better on the spool and lead to less birdsnests? You can definitely feel bites better on a slackline at close range with fluorocarbon. Maybe I should use it purely for fishing at close range where there is less risk of a frap up. Whatever line you choose I would recommend you put no more than 50meters on the spool. This drastically cuts down on birds nests whilst still giving you plenty of line left on the spool after casting.
You can fish any technique you desire. Baitcasting setups do enable you to perform flatter casts, underneath structure and even skip cast lures right under it. I have found it ideal for lowering rigs off the end of the rod tip, down the side of harbour walls or into holes between rocks (noodling, I think the LRF boys call it). You have no need to hold the line as you might with a spinning reel as you can simply disengage the reel spool and control the descent with your thumb. Should you get a bite, you can instantly wind to engage the spool and set the hook. This is also a great attribute when slow jigging as you can control the drop of the jig with your thumb and even stop it’s progress to jig at different depths. You can gain even more sensitivity by passing your line over your index finger on the retrieve. Great for shy biting fish.
Line twist is virtually eliminated as the line returns straight onto the spool and isn’t wrapped around the spool by a bail arm.
Accuracy is improved when flipping and pitching lures. It’s easier to skip cast under structure as a flatter cast can be made.
You have more control of a descending lure; apply whatever thumb pressure you require to slow/stop it’s descent.
It’s far easier to use your thumb to stop the lure in flight and lay it quietly on the water's surface. If fishing shallow water for spooky fish such as mullet I can see this being a real advantage.
I don’t seem to get as many wind knots but maybe that's just me. More birdsnests but less wind knots, if that makes sense.
You can use a very short drop off the end of the rod tip. This would be enough to load the tip of the road and allow you to cast good distances, giving a distinct advantage when space is tight or you have a sloping bank close behind you.
Saltwater ingress. Yes there is no denying it, you will need to clean your reels more efficiently. You will need to pay more attention to the reel spool lip, to avoid it corroding and rubbing against the reel frame. The reel foot and level wind mechanism will need to be regularly cleaned/greased. It is probably advisable to also do a minor strip down fairly regularly.
It’s not as easy to cast very light lures. Below 2 grams can be done with modifications to reels, but however you look at it, spinning tackle makes this easier.
It’s definitely easier to get birds nests, particularly when casting into a head wind.
You need to watch the tolerances between the reel spool and frame, some of the cheaper reels have too large a gap, and the line can then easily pass through, thus tangling around the spool spindle.
You need to fish with less line on the spool to prevent tangles, this therefore reduces the amount of line you have left on the spool after casting. Should you hook an unusually large fish that runs, things might be tight.
You will definitely need to use a homemade knot puller, rather than a straight pull to free yourself from a snag; otherwise there is a possibility of warping the extremely light spools inherent with BFS reels.
When changing between lures of differing weights and profiles you will have to adjust the brake settings accordingly. Something you do not have to do with spinning tackle.
Buy the best reel you can afford, as the build quality will be better.
If buying budget reels, stick to brands like Tsurinoya and Fishband, as they have good brakes and tight spool to frame tolerances.
As with any baitcasting reel, get into a simple regular maintenance routine.
Practice your casting technique. Keep it smooth and allow the lure to load the rod for you.
Learn how different weights and profiles of lures affect your rod and reel; adjust the brakes accordingly.
Set-up your baitcaster to fish the conditions on the day. I usually adjust the end tension so there is little or no side to side play, set the brakes to maximum and cast tentatively at first to see what happens. You can always work your way down the brake settings until you are happy.
Don’t be afraid to add a little end tension and slow the drop of the lure off the rod tip to tame the reel. Purists will disagree with me here, but if it allows you to continue fishing it’s all good in my book.
It’s certainly got my mind buzzing. I intend to fish more metal jigs, jig heads and spinners for all manner of species. I will be experimenting with different jigs and how they descend through the water column or move on the retrieve. I shall fish more tiny plastic lures on micro jig heads throughout the year to ascertain what species will take them and how presentable they are on BFS gear.
Regarding my ambitions for BFS they are as follows:
Fish baited spinners for thin lipped mullet.
Sight fish a flounder.
Fish light jig flies for bass in my local estuary.
Catch gurnard on small metal lures.
Fish small surface lures for pollock, which I imagine will be great fun until a large bass turns up! I should be so lucky.
BFS is not a replacement for spinning tackle, more an alternative. Will it ever be able to fish sub 1 gram lures as easily as spinning gear? I think not, but once mastered there is a distinct satisfaction in being able to effectively cast and present lighter lures on BFS tackle. I know it is not for everyone, but more and more of us are beginning to realise the opportunities it presents.
Thanks for taking the time to read this article.
Cheers, The Constant Angler