When I first started fishing here in Southern California, I didn’t really know what to expect.  I had some odd bits and pieces of gear that I pieced together from Big 5, Craigslist and the like.  I’d see guys on the boats who had what I thought was “really nice gear”, but that perception was based more on looks and brand names than really knowing which stuff was good for this fishery or not.  So naturally I bought some nice brand name gear and used it in inappropriate ways.  Slowly, from observing and talking to the regulars and crew, I started to get a better idea about things.  The light really turned on for me though when I came across The Southern California Angler by Brandon Hayward.

One of the key sections of the book was a guide on what to buy.  The premise was that if you had 3 rigs, one for fishing 12-20lb test, another for 25 and 30lb test, and one for 40 and 50lb test; then you’d have everything you’d need from fishing for calico bass to 100lb tuna.  With some experience under my belt now, I can attest to this premise being true.  Once you have the 3 basic setups, you’ll want to have other rigs for very specific purposes (ex. a specific jig stick just for throwing iron), but you wouldn’t NEED to.

These are my 3 main setups:

12-20lb rig: Shimano Crucial 711 Heavy with a Abu Garcia Record 50

The Record 50 has 40# braid on it, and then I usually end up tying on a few feet of 15 or 20# fluoro leader.  This is my bass setup.  I can cast a mile (not literally) with this setup.  The braid is also great when you are flylining ‘dines for calico in the kelp.  The braid cuts right through it.  The rod is stiff, so you turn that calico or sandy quickly.  I even caught a 31 lb halibut using this rig in 60 ft of water.

25 & 30lb rig:  Shimano Terez TZC80H with an Avet MXJ

The Terez is rated for 50-100lb braid (equivalent to 25-50 mono).  I have the Avet spooled with 65lb braid, then I tie on whatever leader I need…usually 30lb mono.  This setup is going to be your workhorse setup…everything from deep water sculpin and rockfish, to halibut, seabass, yellowtail, and even smaller tuna.

40 & 50lb rig:  Coast Customs FHS / Seeker G6470 with an Avet MXL 2 speed/Accurate 665

More and more, I find myself using a Coastal Customs “Fred Hall Special.”  You know the guy…in the Leadmaster booth, selling rods for $59.  The one I have is rated 15-40, but it shuts off pretty quickly so I have no problem fishing 40 on it.  I use it with the MXL for yoyo fishing and for heavier rockfishing (when I need to use a 12 or 16 oz. weight).  The Seeker rod is rated for 40-60 lb mono.  I fish 50 on it and would feel comfortable taking on 100lb class tuna with this setup no problem.  If that’s what was happening, I might go with my Accurate 665 reel, but this heavy of a setup can handle a lot.  I often refer to this setup as my “in case things get stupid” rig.  I like to fish it when I’m going heavy to start the day, or if things get stupid and it’s a wide open bite and the fish will bite the heavy setup.  I’ve also used this rig deep water (400+ ft) rockfishing in Mexico where you can go 4 hooks.  If you’re reeling up 4 big reds or some combination of rockfish + a ling from that deep (plus a lb. of weight or more to get it down that deep), it’s nice to have this heavy of a setup.  The 2 speed reel is key when it’s that last up and down part of the fight.  The Avet has 65lb braid on it and I tie on the appropriate leader.  It’s also good for heavy jigging in deep water.  If push comes to shove, you could use this setup for throwing surface iron, but I like throwing with a longer stick and a reel spooled with only 30 lb. mono (Newell 338).

The main thing I want to point out, is that this gear lineup is what I’ve come to after a lot of time on the water and understanding what I need for a given situation.  It works really well for me.  It’s also true that MANY times, I’ve seen a rent rodder take jackpot with a pretty basic setup.  A lot of it is luck.  The other side of it is learning how to properly fish the gear.  Try not to obsess about your gear and spend more time to learn the small details that added up make sure you are one of the guys always in the hunt to take jackpot and come home with a full sack of fish.  As I’ve heard many captains and deckhands say, “The fish doesn’t know you’ve spent $1000 on your gear.”