The most popular fishing reels for shiner fishing are the Abu-Garcia 6500 series baitcast reels. They have all the features needed for this style of fishing. They have the wide spool capacity necessary for handling the higher test monofilament fishing lines. The slow retrieve gear ratio is ideal for winching in a big fish buried up in heavy grass.
The line out alarm (clicker) is the most important feature incorporated in these reels.The line out alarm performs two very important functions. First it alarms you when you have a strike or will let you know when the shiner is getting excited and takes a few short runs to escape his attacker. It reminds me of the scene from “JAWS” when the barrel started to dance and Captain Quint, glaring out of the corner of his eye, starts yelling for Hooper. Then all of a sudden the barrel takes off and they give chase. Well you won’t have to give chase but you will have to get cocked and ready for when the fish finally stops playing and eats the shiner. The second function of the line out alarm, and what I view as the most important, is that it allows you to leave the reel in free spool. Leaving the reel in free spool gives the fish a chance to take the shiner without feeling the pressure of the rod. This gives you the time to get prepared for a good hook set. The clicker gives you just enough tension on the line to hold the shiner in check and prevents him from pulling line off the spool. When drifting, the clicker keeps enough tension on the spool to keep the reel from paying out line. Sometimes the shiner will find the hydrilla and wrap up in it causing the clicker to sound off in a constant steady rhythm. Fishermen, new to this style of fishing, get excited and attempt a hook set. This will only result in ripping the hook out of the shiner. After a while and a little practice, you’ll learn to recognize the difference between a strike and a hang-up. When the shiner does this, simply put your thumb on the spool to stop the line from going out and lift the rod slowly until the shiner pops free.
I challenge you to look in any Florida bass guides boat and not find an arsenal of these reels layed out on the deck. This is by far the most popular series of fishing reels for shiner fishing.
The great news is you don’t need to spend a lot of money on a reel you may only use once a year in Florida. If you look around in your local pawn shops or tackle dealers you can come across some really good deals. All the fishing reels I use for guiding were second hand rebuilt reels that I purchased at my local dealer for $50 or less. There are several models in the Abu-Garcia 6500 series of fishing reels. They start under $50 and go up to about $130. The lower priced models work great for an occasional shiner trip. However, if you do some striper, catfish, great lakes or deep crankbait fishing, by all means go ahead and invest in a good reel. In Alabama, the guys would use them for fishing the deep running crankbaits, because of their spool capacity, they could make the really long cast needed to give the bait time to get down and keep the bait in the strike zone longer during the retrieve.
I recommend the Abu-Garcia brand because I use them and can testify, from experience, to their toughness and durability.
All-Purpose Baitcast Reels
The other fishing reels, on your fishing supply list, are your own personal preference that you’ll use for fishing with artificial. I will say this, if you’re here during the peak season and find it tough to come by shiners, you may be grateful you brought these fishing reels and rods as a backup plan.
The baitcast reels I use for just about everything are the old Lew’s BB1Ns. It’s a slow retrieve reel that works great for lipless crankbaits, jerkbaits, spinnerbaits and topwater. These are great all purpose fishing reels but this is a personal preference of mine and you should use whatever you’re comfortable with.
The few times I use a high speed reel, is when I’m throwing a buzzbait or Horny Toad. A Horny Toad is a heavy piece of plastic that will sink as soon as it hits the water. With a high speed reel you can pick up the slack and start your retrieve before it sinks into the cover. The cover you’ll find here is matted hydrilla or sparse kissimmee grass. You don’t want you’re bait sinking in either one.
The last fishing reel on your list is a medium freshwater spinning reel. Remember I said “Leave the Ultra Light stuff at home unless you intend on doing some speck (crappie) fishing”. If you are more comfortable with spinning tackle, then bring all spinning gear (except for shiner fishing). Just match your reels to a comparable baitcast reel for the same lure and line weights. I knew a guy that fished the B.A.S.S. Trail and used nothing but Mitchell 300 spinning reels.
I’ll use spinning for floating worms, small tube baits and finesse worms when the fishing gets tough. One of my guide friends uses spinning tackle for his jerkbaits and even deep crankbaits with light line. He feels that he can impart better action in the jerkbait and get the crankbaits deeper this way. I agree but then I get nervous trying to land a good fish.
One of my most successful guide trips was on spinning tackle. We were only able to find small shiners that day. After already catching a good number of fish, our bait box was getting low. We noticed that when we threw a small dead shiner out, a bass would come up and eat it. We started putting all the dead or worn out shiners back in the livewell. We then rigged my spinning rods with worm hooks and split shots to get the bait down. The trick was to keep the dead shiner moving on a slow steady retrieve. Almost every cast produced a fish or at least a strike. These guys had a blast. It’s important to note here that we were fishing sparse hydrilla patches and not heavy grass.
For the most part, the fishing reels you choose are you personal preference and ones that you’ll be comfortable with. The point of this section is to give you a good since of the assortment of fishing reels you need to bring. Even the reels for shiner fishing are your choice as long as they have the one primary feature – line out alarm. I have tested other brands with comparable features but my primary shiner fishing reels remain the Abu-Garcia 6500s for all the reasons given above.
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