Fishing for predatory fish in the rivers of Virginia can be quite the undertaking. The potential for hooking into a very large musky or feisty smallmouth is quite high. Making sure your tackle is up for the task is so critical to getting these trophy river fish in the net!
Let’s start with musky and what it takes to avoid heartbreak. Now for most of the musky fishing we do here in Virginia you will need a pretty stout rod that can handle at least 4-6 oz. lure weight, but more often than not a 10-12 oz. lure weight is required. I personally build all my own rods so that I can control the quality of parts used. But there are several musky rods on the market that will get you started.
The St. Croix Mojo Musky is among the most popular for beginners and seasoned anglers alike. You will want a rod at least 8’ long. 8’6” or even 9’ will help so much to reduce fatigue, cast further, and figure 8 deeper!
Now we have several options for reels. My favorite and the only reel I will use now is the Shimano Tranx 300 and 400 HG (High Gear). But you also have the Diawa Lexa, Okuma Komodo, Abu Garcia Revo Beast, and a few others that are built to withstand the torture of musky fishing.
We spool these up with 80 lb. braid, and I personally use Suffix 832 80 lb. I top that off with either a steel leader or 80-100 lb. fluorocarbon with a StayLoc or snap on the end for quick and easy lure changing.
When fly fishing for musky I’m using a custom built 12 weight I designed specifically for throwing big heavy 12-14” streamers and getting good leverage on the figure 8. Most fly anglers use a 10 – 12wt 9’ rod , full sink 400-500 gr line , and 18” or so inches of fluorocarbon leader.
For bass tackle it’s good to have a small assortment of rods to cover a variety of tactics and baits. Most smallmouth rods are 6’6” – 7’11” ranging from medium to extra-heavy action and covering a lure rating of 3/16 oz. – 1 ½ oz. Your lighter action rods are going to be used for finesse baits such as NED Rigs, Senkos and drop shot. A shorter heavy action rod can be used for crankbaits, jerkbaits, swimbaits and some smaller top water baits. And your extra heavy rods are good for fishing jigs, spinnerbaits, and other larger swim baits / top water.
I like to run a Shimano Stradic 2500 spinning reel or a Shimano Curado DC casting reel. Again I’m using Suffix 832 braided Super line usually in 20-30 lb. with a fluorocarbon leader ranging from 12-20 lb. depending on the bait I’m throwing. I will join the leader to the mainline with a double Uni knot. It offers a clean and strong connection that allows you to run a braided mainline with an invisible yet tough leader. This is crucial to my success with smallmouth!
I hope this insight into the gear I’m using helps you this year on a river and your triumphs outnumber your heartbreaks.
Author Sam Scott is a guide on the upper James River and owner of James River Outfitter in Eagle Rock, Virginia. Contact him at email@example.com