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Ultralight Fishing Tackle

The challenge of angling with the lightest tackle is not for lightweights, but mastery is rewarded with more fish.

By Gibbs Milliken

The proliferation of anglers using ultralight tackle has spawned a wide range of spinning, spincasting and fly fishing gear, from freshwater line weights of 1 to 4 pounds to 6-pound class rigs for saltwater. What's the ultimate appeal of ultralight gear? In slow fishing conditions or highly pressured locations, ultralight anglers are most likely to be the ones catching fish when others go empty-handed. The key to success is a limber rod, smooth drag, patience and skill - and lots of open water in which to fight a fish.

Ultralight Spin Fishing

Ultralight spin fishing uses soft-action rods intended to function with 1- to 4-pound test monofilament like micro-thin Tectan ($7.49, Cabela's, (800) 237-4444) or braided Fireline ($15.45, Pure Fishing, (877) 777-3850) and thumbnail-size 1/32- to 1/4-ounce lures. By bending, these flexible rods allow a fighting fish to be shock-dampened, thus preventing low test lines from breaking on the first strong run. The rod length varies greatly, starting with a very short, 4'6" stream or pond rod like the innovative Wrist Saver Rod and Reel ($114.95, Wrist Saver, (877) 721-0020). Built with a special ergonomic grip to reduce wrist fatigue, this one-piece rod feels like a natural extension of the arm.

The longest ultralight in production is the 11'6" GL Noodle Rod ($180, G. Loomis, (800) 456-6647), made originally for finicky steelhead and salmon in crystal-clear waters, but now favored in Texas for crappie and white bass. Between these extremes in length are the soft-tipped snap-cast rods like the reasonably priced 6'6" Daiwa Procaster-S-B ($34.95, Daiwa USA, (562) 802-9589). This two-piece rod has a custom look, but beyond aesthetics, it offers outstanding rod action, especially when combined with the Daiwa SS II 1500-C Spinning Reel ($149.95, Daiwa USA). This multi-bearing reel features an oversize reverse-tapered spool for longer, tangle-free, smoother casts and can be used in either freshwater or saltwater. For micro-spinning, the most advanced rod is the three-piece, 6'3" Escape ($225, G. Loomis), with a classic action for tiny reels like the T-2 Pinnacle ($49.95, Pinnacle, (803) 794-8521).

Saltwater Ultralight

For saltwater, the best choices are spinning rods 7 feet or longer, reels with corrosion-resistant parts and larger spools holding at least 170 yards of 4- to 6-pound Fireline ($29.59, 300-yardspool, Pure Fishing). The terminal tackle also may require a leader section of a stronger line or light wire to prevent toothy species from instantly cutting loose. An excellent combination is the two-piece, 9' Fin-Nor PowerLite Rod and MegaLite 2000 Reel ($49.95 rod, $129.95 reel, Fin-Nor, (888) 886-2064) built for marine conditions.

Ultralight Spincasting

Finding good-quality spincast rods in ultralight is difficult. The best currently available in 7-foot length is the two-piece Intrepid Titanium IM7 Rod ($35, #CA3070UL-2, Shakespeare, (803) 754-7000). A great spincast reel to combine with this rod is the new Abumatic 275 ($29.95, Pure Fishing) featuring a small star drag and instant anti-reverse.

In saltwater, a longer casting rod, like the Wally Marshall Pro Series 9-foot IM8 ($49.99, Bass Pro Shops) matched with the larger Abumatic 1275 Reel ($64.95, Pure Fishing) and 6-pound fluorocarbon line, makes a fine bay fishing outfit for sea trout and reds.

Ultralight Fly Fishing

Smaller fly rods, weights 0-4, are considered in the ultralight class. They perform beautifully when properly balanced. The 4 weight Adventure Series Rod and #3 Reel ($190 rod, $100 reel, G. Loomis) are quality entry-level products. The ultimate in line lightness is the 0 weight, three-piece, 8-foot SLT Sage Rod ($500, Sage, (800) 533-3004), used with a special line for the most delicate presentations.

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