A bit of Summer in the middle of Winter

I recently returned from a trip to Cairns in Queensland, Australia where I attended a conference. Prior to leaving I decided to take a couple of days’ vacation and explore nearby fishing opportunities. I did some Google searches only to find out that a guided fishing trip would cost a small fortune, so I adopted plan B. I surveyed the surrounding area on Google Maps and to my surprise found a place called Cowley Beach, so I decided I had to go visit my “name sake” spot, approximately 120 km south of Cairns. On closer examination it looked like a remote location with a long deserted beach and a fair-sized estuary. Accommodation at the local caravan park was also affordable, so I was sorted. I packed a couple of rods and an assortment of lures and had my heart set on catching my first barramundi.

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After two days in aeroplanes and airports I arrived at Cairns in the evening and rented a car to travel down to Cowley Beach. Upon arrival my welcome wasn’t that big and nor was my room! This didn’t worry me as I knew I was on a three-day mission to catch a barra. Thanks to a serious dose of jet lag I was wide awake by 3h00 the next morning, so I got up, made a cup of coffee, packed a small tackle bag and set off on my first Oz outing. Without any knowledge of potential dangers (e.g. crocs and snakes) I walked along the beach casting small plugs and jigs along the way, until I got to the estuary mouth. I was told that the pushing tide was the best time to catch barramundi but the tide had already turned before I got there. The strong out-going tide started producing good current lines and eddies, and soon I noticed some nervous bait fish on the surface. I rigged up with a small STORM Gomoku popper and it wasn’t long before a small GT attacked the lure. My tackle consisted of my old faithful SHIMANO Sustain 2500 reel spooled with 15lb SUFIX 832 braid and a two-piece SHIMANO Beast Master spinning rod (SBMEX24XHP) that I was testing for the first time. This 8’2” rod gave me an advantage of casting light lures a good distance – almost across the estuary – and into the action zone when I noticed bait fish. I persisted with the Gomoku popper which soon got engulfed by a good sized fish, and after a first run of about 20m exploded into the air. It was a queenfish of approximately 1m in length. The battle ensued for another 5 minutes with the fish providing a spectacular aerial affair until it came off. My heart sunk to my knees as I had just lost the “bonus” fish of my trip! Hoping that others were still around I replaced the two small treble hooks with a single big treble on the back end, and continued to flog the water. Indeed, it was my lucky day because a little while later I hooked and landed a nice Queensland queenfish of about 60 cm on the little Gomoku popper.

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On Day 2 I decided to go straight to the estuary mouth before first light. We had some rain in the night and conditions had clearly changed. The water was more turbid and the nervous bait fish were absent and didn’t see any chases by bigger predatory fishes. Since I had nothing better to do I persevered and caught a few small GTs. Jet lag had set in so I called it an early day to get some much needed sleep.

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After a good night’s rest I hit the estuary mouth again at first light on Day 3.  I arrived on the full high tide and noticed lots of surface action further up the estuary, which was inaccessible on foot due to extensive mangrove stands and I wasn’t too keen to be wading in waters inhabited by crocs! Patience was the name of the game and it wasn’t long before the action started with a few small GTs which always punch above their weight on light tackle. While having fun with the small GTs using sub surface lures such as the STORM So-Run pencil and soft plastic baits, I notice something break the surface, so I switched back to the Gomoku popper. It was instant action as a shoal of oxeye tarpon moved into the estuary mouth to take advantage of the abundance of small bait fish that were feeding on the plankton in the current lines. I hooked plenty of the aerial acrobats but only landed three of them. This didn’t worry me in the least as I was in heaven, having a blast on a deserted beach thousands of kilometres away from home.

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The arrival of the mosquito squadron at sunset marked the end of my 3-day stay at Cowley Beach. Although I didn’t catch a barramundi, I was certainly entertained by other equally iconic species, and was not disappointed.

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Written by Paul Cowley

Rapala Shadow Rap

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The Rapala Shadow Rap series has all the moves that other lures only dream about. A horizontal struggle with a big kick, plus a vertical fade or a vertical rise on the pause perfectly mimics a bait fish in its last, quivering moments before the end. The kick, the snap back to life and the slow fading or rising all trigger fish to hit the Shadow Raps, and boy do they hit them hard! The Shadow Rap features a minnow or shad body style, flat sides and a metallic finish with textured scales. The Shadow Rap series of lures feature super sharp VMC black nickel round bend hooks and are available in 24 color patterns.

This fish was caught at Midmar Dam off a rock pile in 6ft of water on a Shadow Rap.

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The Shadow Rap is such a versatile bait. This bait can be fished in just about any area you can think of. However my favorite area to fish this bait is on rocky banks and rock piles. This is where I find it most effective. I have caught fish with this bait in almost every season too! From the spawn to it being late Autumn I have caught fish with the Shadow Rap. My favorite colour would have to be Ghost Shiner. Overall this bait is a must have in your fishing box!

Written By Gareth Potgieter.

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Rapala MaxRap 17cm

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The Rapala MaxRap 17cm is by far my favourite multi species lure of choice. It is a long thin type lure with three sets of trebles. You can cast this lure about 60 to 70 metres. It has a very realistic swimming action. I normally like to retrieve this lure with a sweep of the rod but keeping a constant retrieve of the reel.

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The MaxRap is weighted with two metal balls which give the lure a bit more weight, a good swimming action and a rattle that will bring the fish in to investigate. These weight aqlso move to the front of the lure when casting and assist in getting the lure to fly aerodynamically thereby assisting with the dist you can throw it.

On this lure I have caught some memorable fish that I will never forget.  They include a shad of 6,2kg, a Black tip Kingie of about 6 kg and a beautiful Giant Trevally of approx 4kg. I would recommend this lure to not only shore anglers but also for those fishing deep sea.

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Shimano Spheros 6000

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It’s taken me some time to find a sutiable universal fishing reel for me to use in many types of fishing application from spinning off the surf using it on the ski boat for tuna and dorado and suitable for slow pitch jigging and high speed vertical jigging.My next bit of excitement will be using the Spheros 6000sw for light tackle fishing in the surf with a 11ft Shimano Surf Exage which will be perfect for targetting kob, stumpies, rockcod  and many other species.I’v got all the conferdence when fishing with my Spheros with the strength and ability to land bigger stronger game fish with the new cross carbon drag system which can be tighened to 10kgs I feel it’s very important to have a smooth drag as one will part there leaders and pull hooks from a good fish because of a sticky and worn drag.As for looks the reel really sticks out with awesome Shimano quality finishes, it is a perfect all round fishing reel tough,smooth when retrieving your lures at higher speeds making your fishing more comfortable with the aluminium and rubber handle.I’v loaded my Spheros with 20lb Sufix advanced 832 braid which the reel takes 275meters with a 10meters of 40lb braided leader and 1.5meter of 50lb Double X floracarbon leader the braid is layered just perfect on the aluminium spool giving me all the conferdence when casting bigger spoons and lures with no wind knots and allowing me to load my rod alot more giving me that massive distance.The Shimano Spheros 6000Sw is for me a very affordable reel on the South African market as for the quality you getting it’s a big winner as long as you keep your daily maintenance up you will never be disappointed with Shimano reels.

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Persistance is Key

The start of 2017 had been a really frustrating one for me on the fishing front. I had fished in 2 league events and a couple social sessions and yet to get a bite. I was feeling rather despondent as there were some awesome fish being landed by others. Although during the week and me being busy at work, I was still green with envy.

Eventually a weekend was about where the weather played along and I called up a mate and said we are going fishing to one of the spots on the upper south coast that had been producing some fish of late. We checked the tides and decided on the perfect time to get there. We would only be able to fish for a couple of hours before we ran out of water on the beach.

Upon arriving at the area I just had that feeling in my bones that today I would get the monkey off my back. The water was perfect. We had some color and a good formation. Didn’t take us long to put the rods together and get a bait in the water. We were expecting fireworks as every angler does when conditions are perfect. Unfortunately things were rather slow and we had to work hard for the fish we eventually landed.

Mike was the first one to get a bite, sticking to his roots and using his trusted Shimano Trinidad 20DC with 0.47 double X he went on with what seemed to be a smaller fish, with a rather tricky shorebreak to negotiate he waited for the perfect moment and we grabbed the juvenile sharpnose brown skate and pulled it up for a quick picture and then released the little guy tIMG-20170211-WA0007o fight another day.

Thinking this could be the change in our luck we quickly put out some fresh baits and it wasn’t long when I got an enquiry. The fish ate very funn
y and eventually pulled me flat and the line started to peel off my Shimano Stella. I was now confident that my VMC 9/0 tournament circle had him properly and I started to apply the brakes. I didn’t pull it too hard, for once I was going to enjoy fighting this fish. After all, it was now middle of February and I’ve just had my first bite of the year. A few minutes later we had the fish in the front and again waited for the right moment and pulled a beautiful female guitarfish out the water. Quick picture and a ORI tag, the fish was released safely.

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We called it quits after that as a rather large storm was rolling in and we had decided a early start the following morning before a South Westerly front hit us would be a good idea. Alarm bells rang at 3:45 and I packed the bait box and headed off to a new spot this time on the middle north coast of KZN. Seems I was late to the party, when I arrived Mike was already on. This wasn’t for long tho as the fish managed to find a rock in the deep and cut him off.

With a big bait in the water and with the sun now starting to peek up on the horizon, I picked up my spinning rod in the hopes of catching a queen mackerel or a Bonnie I could use for bait. Another friend had joined in on this and he had the first bite on the spoon. He unfortunately got bitten off, now we know the queen mackerels AKA snoek are in the area. A couple winds into my next cast I felt the big thump, I was on! Line peeling off my Shimano Stella 5000 and my 10ft shimano speedmaster bending. This was a decent fish. I took my time and waited for the right moment to pull the fish over the ledge. As it came over Craig was there and grabbed it by the tail. First snoek of the season landed! Or maybe not…It managed to wiggle itself loose and fell into a rock pool. Luckily for me the 8117ss VMC hook was firmly in the corner. Second time round we did not let go! Lovely specimen of 83cm which was a treat on the braai that evening!

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While this was happening, the guys fishing with baits were getting smoked. Two proper fish on and both cut off. Seems like the big sea we had the week before scoured out the reef a bit. Landing fish just became a lot harder. While I was getting my big stick ready again, Craig managed to hook a Bonnie on the spoon. I didn’t hesitate one second cutting its head off and letting it go on the Shimano Stella with 40lb power pro. Within minutes I had an enquiry, an extremely slow bite. I knew from word go it was one of 2 species and I locked up on the Stella and started to pull as hard as I could from word go. The fish didn’t take much line, it did however look for every stone it could find  and had me running in all directions to avoid getting cut off. I had pulled the fish to the front and it came to the surface on the back of the ledge. Our suspicions of the species had now been confirmed. It was a beast of a ribbon tail. How this fish hasn’t cut me off up to this point was rather surprising and I’m just hoping that it doesn’t do it. With a lot of pulling and me squealing in pain I managed to get the fish over the front ledge with a bit help from a few waves.

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The fish however still needed a bit of convincing to get into the shallows and it took a fair amount of swimming to help it miss the rocks on the way in. Eventually we had this beautiful fish in an area safe enough for us to handle her with the care she deserves. A couple pictures and an ORI tag she swam off strong to go torment another unsuspecting angler one day.

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Written by Stef Germann

Upside-down Fishing

tn_63 cm grunter taken of RAPALA Skitter V

It is the season when the sun stays above the horizon the longest – summer! This means that the days are longer and hence giving us more time to spend on the water. As an early riser, I love summer and one of my favourite summer activities is fishing for spotted grunter with surface lures. I call it “upside-down fishing” because it involves enticing a fish that usually has its snout tucked in the mud (blowing prawns out of their burrows) to change its behaviour and grab an artificial lure off the surface. As bizarre as it may sound, it is undoubtedly the most exciting top-water fishing one can do. At times it can be very visual and you will see the fish come up behind lure, with its back out the water as it inspects the lure. The best strike occurs when it engulfs the lure off the surface with a huge suck. However, most hook-ups come from a strike I call the “smooch” as it rises to the surface and gently sucks the lure in! The dominant strike, called the “kiss”, can get very frustrating because as the fish comes to look at the lure it plays ‘hard-to-get’ and disappears after giving it a little kiss.

This type of fishing requires patience and perseverance but once you master the technique you will become hooked! Herewith answers to questions I have asked myself over the years of upside-down fishing.

Why in summer? Although grunter can be caught throughout the year, they appear to be more active and far more willing to take surface lures in summer. It is most likely in response to temperature, as warmer water speeds up their metabolism and they feed more frequently…… and more aggressively.

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Where and when to fish?  To best place to target grunter on surface lures is over mud banks in shallow water with depths ranging between 0.5m to 1.5m. High tide fishing is best, but as long as there is water on the mud banks you have a chance of catching one. Look out for tailing fish to get an idea of where they are feeding. However, often they will be in very shallow water on the edges of weed beds. The best time of the day is very much tide dependent, but definitely early mornings and late evening (with the right tide) are the best.

What tackle to use? Spotted grunter are strong fighters, which is amplified when hooked in shallow water. Light tackle with a good drag is essential. My rig consists of a 2-piece 6 foot 6 inch Shimano crucial road, a Shimano Sustain 2500 reel equipped with 10 pound SUFIX 832 braid and a 0.45mm nylon leader.

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What lures to use? This is the secret to success. The typical “walk the dog” lure equipped with rattles are the best lures to use, however I have also caught them on a range on small very buoyant lures, including my old balsa wood RAPALA bass lures. With time I have learnt that lures with built-in rattles are by far the best. I have tried and tested many “W-t-D” lures with rattles and the results proved that the RAPALA X-Rap Walk was dynamite. Other good lures include the STORM Chug Bug retrieved with at a very slow pace. However, the new RAPALA Skitter-V is making waves… and probably the best lure currently available for “upside-down fishing”. Recently, I have also been successful with the STORM Arashi Wake Crank, which at slow retrieve speeds produces a rattle with a frequency that the grunter cannot refuse.

tn_65 cm grunter taken on RAPALA XRap Walk

So get out there and get addicted to “upside-down fishing”.

Written by Paul Cowley

Gearing up for Summer – Rock & Surf

This summer holidays I am lucky enough to be spending my time fishing on the KZN North Coast. When spinning, this area is known to produce a lot of edibles such as Black Tip Kingies, Green Spot Kingies, Pick handle Barracuda, Shad, Yellowtail and many other fish. It is also well known for rock and surf fishing with bigger non-edible species such as the Giant Guitar fish, Diamond Rays, Honeycombs, Browns and more being targeted.

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When getting ready for the Summer fishing season there are some important checks you can carry out.

  • I always check the guides on my rods. Cracked or chipped guides can damage your braid resulting in a good fish being lost.
  • I always check my rods for weaknesses. I do this by asking my Dad to hold the top eye low to the ground while I pull the rod upwards, exerting maximum pressure on the Rod without breaking it.
  • It is always good to send your reels in for a service before the season starts.
  • I check my braid to make sure there are no weak points. I do this by tying the end of my braid onto a solid structure. I then walk out about 200 metres putting pressure on the braid.
  • It is also very important to check your knots.

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Spinning

Rod: the rod I use for spinning is the Aerocast 11’’

Reel: the reel I use for spinning is the Twin Power 5000.

The reel is loaded with Suffix 832 20LB braid.

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Rock &Surf

Rods: The rod that I use for catching non-edible fish is the Technium Surf Elite Medium.

Reel: The reels that I on this rod is my Saragosa 20000 and 10000.

The braid I use on my Saragosa 10000 is Suffix 832 30lb, and the braid I use on my 20000 is Suffix 832 40lb.

I also use the Beach Master Surf Pro when targeting smaller non edibles or edibles.

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This tackle which I have geared up for summer will never let me down….

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Written by Craig Bashford.

Gearing up for Summer – Ski Boat

Summer is here time to gear up for the strong summer game fish species with my reliable Shimano equipment.I have all the respect for my Shimano Trevala 6,6″medium fast it has to be the ultimate ski boat rod being, reliable, strong with all the back bone and very light making fishing so comfortable. What makes the Trevala the perfect rod for me it’s  totally universal for my type of fishing allowing me to do most spinning, slow pitch jigging and high speed vertical jigging.
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With my Shimano Trevala I have my old favourite Shimano Symetre FJ 4000 which has has been one of the toughest little spinning reels i have owned, it has proven it’s quality on my fishing sessions. I’ve loaded my 4000 with 30lb sufix 832 advanced superline braid which just finishes my setup perfect.
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The Storm Koika jigs have been a new lure for me in which I have been using in the past few months with a bit more patience and technique using the 60gram in our shallow water reefs and having a blast on all types of fish species from rockcod, false englishman, yellowtail and small tuna. The Koika jigs can not only be used for slow pitch jigging but spinning off the rocks and the ski boat,the beauty of using the koika jigs for slow pitch jigging is effortless in which getting the technique right it’s very rewarding.
Changing fishing plans is always a important factor if the fish have lock jaw as I call it, trolling with the Rapala X-Rap Magnum is a big plus for me the beauty of the X-Rap Magnums there is no wasting time trying to tune the Rapala as they swim so perfect straight out the box. I tend on putting a spread of different size Rapala’s to work out what depths and colours the game fish are feeding on, Rapala X-Rap Magnum have got such an awesome colour range which plays an important part in ski boat fishing.
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Written by Justin Alborough.

Gearing Up for Summer – Gamefish & Marlin

I am a total fanatic with preparing my tackle for summer, everything must be perfect. I pay attention to every little detail and this takes time and so I already start my summer preparations in winter.

I run 3 sets of rigs 30lb, 50lb and 80lb line class each consisting of 7 rods and reels and so I start with servicing these.

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I always start with 1 line class and complete it, reels first, then rods and finally the line.

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  • Reels are removed from the rods.
  • Each reel is opened and completely re-greased all bearings are inspected and if there are any bearings that are even in the slightest way suspect I replace them.
  • I must add that even when I buy a brand new reel, I open it, remove the seals from the bearings and grease them up properly. Removing the seals prevents water stagnating inside the bearing as it can run out.
  • I also completely strip the crank handles, clean and re-grease them thoroughly, I find that often I need to do this again mid season as I am on the water so many hours in the summer and the crank handles tend to silt up quickly.
  • Ratchets are of utmost important as for some reason these really like to silt up and so they need to be greased properly and kept clean.
  • The feet of the that go into the winch on the rod must also be cleaned and greased before they go back onto the rod as this is an area where corrosion takes place unseen.
  • Rod winches are also cleaned up properly including the threads which I clean out using a nail brush and once clean I apply a thin layer of grease.
  • My 30lb rigs have eyes and these are all thoroughly checked and replaced if needed.
  • My 50lb and 80lb rigs all have roller guides and I open each on up clean, re-grease and replace any bearings, which is often needed.
  • Again on my roller guides when I buy the rod new, I remove the seals from the bearings and grease up properly before I even use the rod.
  • Roller guides take hard punishment with salt spray when out trolling and so need to be checked after every trip.
  • I don’t like to use any of those salt removing chemicals as I find they do more damage than good, particularly that they tend to dry up grease which in turn causes bearing failure.
  • After each trip my rods and reels are washed with sunlight dish washing liquid in warm water and then sprayed with WD40 which is silicon free. DO NOT USE any spray oil that has silicon in it as the silicon leaves a thin coating which dries up and will affect all moving parts and bearings. When washing the reels I always use a nail brush to clean any silt from the crank handles and ratchets.
  • It is important to keep you reels in tip top condition as you do not want failure on that day you hook the big one.
  • Never pack rods and reels directly into their bags, let them drip dry first or they will get internal condensation which will cause corrosion.
  • When washing your reels always keep the drag up tight until they have drip dried properly and then pack them away with the drag just slightly engaged. Keeping the drag tight will prevent water getting into the and just engaging the drag when packing them away will prevent the dag washers getting distorted and prevent any dust from settling in there.
  • I remove the top shot from all my reels and replace this. Suffix IGFA Big Game is perfect for the job and will last the whole season unless you hook into a really big fish.
  • GUFS Top Shot to Braid
  • I always replace my top shot and reset my drags after a really big fish.
  • Finally once reels are assembled back onto the rods, I set the preset drags on each reel according to the line class 5kg for 15kg (30lb) line, 8kg for 24kg (50lb) line and 12kg for 37kg (80lb) line.
  • One should be checking the drag presets before each trip with a digital scale.
  • GUFS Drag Preset

 

This has worked for me for 1000s of hours on the water over many years and I can honestly say that I have never lost a fish due to tackle failure. For me this usually takes 2 months over the winter in my spare time as I have 21 rigs to prepare and I like everything to be ready and in place by 1st September each year.

Once my rigs are ready I go about checking hooks, rings, leaders etc. on all my Konas and Rapalas and replace where necessary and sharpen everything.

On sharpening of hooks, I give every lure a check and sharpen before deploying them in the water, and always after a fish. Sharp hooks set better.

Written by Mike Laubscher

 

Rapala DT Series Crankbaits

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Over the past 8 years I have received many samples in the Rapala DT range. There is not another Rapala product that has received as much water testing time as these range of crankbaits for me. “Field testing” included some of my most testing tournament situations. Those who know me will tell you that it is no secret that the Rapala DT10 is my favourite hard bait for targeting bass. Over the years it has contributed to many of my tournament wins and it has also accounted for more fish over the 4kg range than any other crankbait I have ever thrown.

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Other popular DT models for me is the DT6, DT14 and DT20. “DT” stands for “Dive To” while 6, 10, 14 etc. stand for the depth in foot it can reach. The reason for the DT range being my favourite crank is simple:

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  • It has better cast ability than any crank I have ever thrown and it does not spin or “helicopter” when you cast
  • It has some fantastic colours in its range that is well suited for SA conditions and closely resembles our bass fodder fish
  • On a long cast and with the right tackle it is the smallest profile crank to reach the deepest in my arsenal of crankbaits
  • It catches lots of bass and big ones too

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My favourite colours are Bluegill and the whole “Ike custom” series. Caribbean Shad, Old School and Smash have been particularly good. I am very excited to hear that there are a “natural” range of colours on the horison and cannot wait to take them for a test drive.

Written By Martin De Kock.