I’ve been a fan of kayak fishing for several years. Combine kayaking in the coastal waters of South Carolina where sharks in the 4 – 8 foot range are so common during the summer that they can be a nuisance, and you have a recipe for adventure. A friend and I prepared for a kayaking excursion, launching from the beach of Edisto Island some 40 miles south of Charleston.
Attached to my two Silver Cat Magnum rods were brand new Cabela’s Salt Striker Baitfeeder reels spooled with 65 pound braid, a length of 100 pound mono shock leader, and a 6 foot section of 135 pound steel leader. At the end of the steel was a 10/0 circle hook.
After launching through the surf at dawn, we paddled a little over a mile to an offshore site where ballast rocks from colonial days littered the bottom in 15 feet of water. Bait for sharks is easy. Bottom fish with cut squid or shrimp and whatever you catch goes back on the big hook. From this spot, the bait was mostly whiting and Atlantic croaker in the 8 – 10 inch range.
The first fish to hit the live bait was about 4 feet long and weighed maybe 60 pounds. The Silver Cat bowed to the fish and rapidly brought it to the boat to be released. The same occurred with the next dozen sharks that measured in the 3 ½ to 4 ½ foot range.
We changed locations with the tide, moving further offshore to a line of sandbars 2 miles off the beach to look for bigger fish cruising the drop-off. Anchoring on a sandy finger in 7 feet of water, we cast our baits on either side of the bar in 10 – 12 feet.
A word about the performance of the rod here is that you can’t cast steel leader off the reel. The mono shock leader will wind on the spool but it’s also bulky and hard to cast, especially with a meat pole casting rod that’s typical of big shark fishing. The Silver Cat casted the rig better than I expected. It got the bait and leader out away from the boat without a lot of hand-feeding.
The wire leader negates the need for additional weight in shallow water. In fact, I often tie a balloon on the mono leader a few feet ahead of the steel to keep the bait at the surface in tidal currents where sharks cruise.
Probably the closest you’ll ever get to living that scene from JAWS is when a yellow rubber balloon, blown up to basketball size, suddenly starts plowing through the water past your boat half submerged before the line starts screaming off the reel.
The ultimate test of the Silver Cat came with the last fish of the day. My bait of choice is a 12 – 18 inch sharpnose shark and I had one was floundering in the current when the bait runner reel began to sing off line. After about 20 yards I engaged the reel and the big circle hook sank in the corner of the predator’s mouth.
The most common big shark species in Carolina waters are blacktips and spinners. The fish on the line dumped nearly 250 of 300 yards of line in under 30 seconds combined with a quadruple series of spinning jumps with the entire fish out of the water. That’s when the rod takes a ton of abuse and this spinner was giving it without mercy.
A hard charge with braided line singing off the reel can easily gouge grooves in rod guides. The Silver Cat’s super slick guides were impervious to the raspy line. I checked after it was all over and they were just as slick as ever.
During the 45 minutes fight, with the rod bent nearly double the whole time, the big fish, a 6 footer that would weigh close to 150 pounds, made her first approach to the kayak. One thing about kayak fishing for sharks is as soon as the fish’s nose hits the boat, it goes nuts and surges off on another hard run. The Silver Cat passed this test where many other rods would have snapped or caused the line to break.
Progressive runs get shorter but more demanding on the rod tip as it is used to control the fish to the side of the boat, hold the fish’s head up, and then lift the head to remove the hook. A firmer grip on a slick rod would not be possible without the cord-wrapped handle. After whipping the big shark, the head was lifted and the hook slid free.
Not to demean catfishing, but I cannot imagine a catfish putting this kind of abuse on a fishing rod. The Silver Cat passed with flying colors. Sometimes you just have to step out of your element to see that.
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