Fishing Report:

Breaking In My New Van Staal

Author: Patrick Meek

The Dog Days of Summer have arrived and with the surf temperature as warm as it is, it's not uncommon to still catch a few Pompano or Redfish with all the bait that is swimming around plus there are plenty of sharks cruising the back side of the bar.

I just recently purchased a new Van Staal 250 X-Series spinning reel and loaded it with fresh 50 lb Bullbuster braid and paired it with one of my 12' custom surf rods. With the SW wind conditions we had along with the high crashing waves, made the surf fishing conditions miserable for several days making it very difficult to fish. When the wind direction finally shifted out of the north and laid the surf down a bit, my wife Heather and I hit the beach late one Saturday afternoon and I was hoping to get a chance to use my new spinning reel. After setting up and finding a few sand fleas, it wasn't long (just a matter of minutes) that we were catching large Ladyfish to use for shark bait.

While Heather focused on trying to catch Pompano or Red's, I was determined to catch the biggest Blacktip shark I could to break in my new reel. Before arriving at the beach, I had already rigged up my 7' Bullbuster Grander Leader on my 12' surf rod, so all I had to do was add fresh bait, a 5 oz pyramid sinker and cast. I cut the bloody head section off one of the Ladyfish we had caught and sunk the 11/0 circle hook under the jaw through the top lip section to keep the bait from drifting. Once I cast the bait out, the waiting game begun.

After about an hour of patiently waiting, I finally saw my 12' surf rod bend over. I rushed over to my surf rod and watched the braided line ripping off the new reel as I listened to the clicker screaming. I was excited that I was finally going to break in my Van Staal. I let the shark eat for a few more seconds and as I was about to adjust the drag knob, the shark dropped it.

"My gut told me to not reel in and check the bait, so I listened and let the bait continue sitting."

I sat back down and told my wife that the shark knows where the bait is and will come back for it soon. 15-20 minutes passed and the bait still hadn't been touched. My gut told me to not reel in and check the bait, so I listened and let the bait continue sitting. The sun had already set and darkness was approaching, so I added a glow stick to the tip of our rods for better vision once darkness fell. Over an hour had passed since the shark had picked up the bait and I was getting a little worried. Was the bait still there? Had the crabs devoured it? My gut told me to leave it alone and I'm glad I listened.

All of a sudden I saw the green glow stick attached to the tip of my surf rod take a quick dip toward the sand and stay in that position. I ran over to my rod and patiently waited while letting the shark eat as it was running south towards Cuba. After I gave it time to eat, I tightened the drag knob and felt instant pressure. I couldn't see that far out due to the darkness, but I could feel the shark going airborne and thrashing. I knew I was hooked up to a nice Blacktip or Spinner shark and as I made a little headway reeling, it would take another fast run south. The shark finally cut left, then right, then left again. Each time it cut, I had to maneuver over or under the other rods we had in place.  After over 12 minutes, I was able to finally see the dorsal fin cut through the surface near the wash. Once I had gotten the shark close enough, I handed over my rod to Heather and grabbed the 500 lb Grander Leader and landed a nice size female Blacktip.

After the catch we decided to call it a day. We packed up and drove over to meet my good friend Joey P. who was camping nearby and delivered the fresh shark to him to cut into steaks to feed his family during their week long camping trip. Other than a nice size Blacktip, we left the beach empty handed, but still had a great time enjoying the beauty of Florida and I finally had the chance to break in my new Van Staal.

Until next time...

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