Baitcasters for Brookies? You can't be serious.
I'm serious! The Shimano Cardiff NS B42UL-3 and Cardiff NS B47UL-3 baitcasters are rated for lures as light as 1 gram and line as light as 2 pound test.
If those aren't little wild brookie numbers, I don't know what is.
Casting a one gram lure with a baitcaster was unthinkable before the advent of Bait Finesse System (BFS) reels.
I may be a BFS Bum, but I'm certainly no pro. I have a Shimano Aldebaran BFS XG, for which I bought the Avail 16ALD15R replacement spool. With that spool the Aldebaran BFS XG is said to cast lighter lures than any other baitcaster (at least, it was when I bought it). I took it out yesterday for the first time since installing the Avail spool. It was indeed an eye-opener.
No brookies were caught in the making of this report.
That is only a matter of time (and going to a stream that actually has brookies). I went to a stream where I knew I would not be bothered by large trout. It isn't actually a headwaters stream, but with a flow of only 9 cfs and a population of 5-7" wild trout it might as well be.
I spooled the Aldebaran with 9X tippet, which has a stated breaking strength of 1.6 lb. I did try a 1g lure briefly - the Cultiva JH-85 .7g jighead and 1.3" Cultiva pinworm, which together weigh exactly 1g. Although I've caught trout with that lure I generally do better with micro spoons, so I didn't fish it any longer than it took to realize I could indeed cast it. I then tried a .9g Forest Marshal Tournament spoon, with which I got a hit on my second cast. I missed the fish, but it proved that I could cast a .9g micro spoon with a baitcaster, and far enough to catch fish!
I switched to the 1.2g Lupin spoon because even though I could cast the .9g Marshal Tournament spoon far enough, I didn't have acceptable accuracy. I was fishing a fairly large pool, so while it would have been nice, pinpoint accuracy was not actually required. For the rest of that stream, though, errant casts would have meant lost opportunities at best and lost spoons at worst.
The stream I was fishing flows into a reservoir that has a good population of largemouth bass. Although I hadn't caught a bass in the stream before, it was only a little surprising that the first fish I caught with the 1.2g, 1.6lb, Aldebaran combo was a little largemouth bass. A least it was brookie sized.
Fishing was slow, but I did manage to catch a little brown trout, which shot out from under a log to grab the silver Lupin spoon. If you can catch a 6-7" wild brown trout from under a log in a 9 cfs stream, I'm going to take that as confirmation that "baitasters for brookies" is a reasonable approach.
Backing off a bit from this article's opening paragraphs, you don't actually need to cast 1 gram lures, and you don't actually need to fish with 2 lb test line. The above shot was taken in June of 2017. The Aldebaran reel was straight out of the box, with no aftermarket parts. The line was 3 lb Sunline Troutist Wild rather than 1.6 lb 9X tippet. The lure was a standard Mepps size 0 spinner, which weighs 2.5g. How many brookies have been caught with a size 0 Mepps over the years? Has to be in the thousands. Many thousands.
And I was a rank beginner with a baitcaster. It was the second time I'd fished with a BFS reel and just a few weeks earlier was probably the first time in over 20 years that I had fished with a baitcaster at all.
That shot was taken before I stopped fishing treble hooks - actually that fish is largely WHY I stopped fishing treble hooks. I wouldn't fish a Mepps spinner again (because of the treble hook), and I prefer spoons to spinners in any event (less line twist), but the point is that a straight-out-of-the-box Aldebaran and a Tenryu Rayz RZ53UL-BC would cast a 2.5g lure (which is small enough to catch 5-7" trout), and will cast it plenty far enough to catch fish in the tiny streams where little wild brookies live.
Baitcasters for brookies is not an outrageous thought. With an ultralight rod and a BFS reel, you can fish small streams with small lures.
For my own fishing, though, I'm going to make at least one change. No more 9X for me. On this trip I really, really missed having a hi-vis line. With thin, clear tippet material for my line and with such a small lure, it was often impossible to see the lure in flight. On many casts, the only way I knew where it landed was seeing the splash. In a pool, that's not a problem. In riffles, even gentle riffles, seeing the splash of a small lure might be impossible.
Even more important than that is seeing where the lure is going before it gets there. When casting to small targets near shore or near logs, you need to be able to stop the flight to prevent losing lures to snags. For almost any cast in a small stream, though, you have to get the distance just right to make sure the combination of the current and your retrieve will allow the lure to follow the path you want.
A baitcaster (and an experienced thumb) gives you excellent control over casting distance, but for that control to be of any value you have to see the lure in flight. With smaller lures, that pretty much means hi-vis line. I think I'll spool up with the Varivas Bait Finesse PE. It has the best trade-off of high visibility and low diameter.
Once I get that done I need to get to some brookie streams.
Baitcasters for brookies just might become a recurring theme.
After trying a few different PE lines, I concluded that the Sunline Small Game PE-HG was the easiest for me to see against a background of green foliage - which is a given on any eastern brookie stream. I then went in search of brookies.
Luckily, a friend who was curious about a particular rod asked me to come fish with him. It turns out he lives near a stream that has brookies. What is even better, he promised to take me to his secret spot.
His secret spot has brookies!
Actually, his secret spot has very nice brookies! (And his secret is safe with me!) It turns out that I had already found and fished that spot, but it was shared with me in confidence. A secret is still a secret (even if you already knew it).
The brookies were a pushover for the Shimano Slim Swimmer spoons. Although I was able to cast the 1.5g Slim Swimmer with the Daiwa Alphas Air Stream Custom, and I caught fish with it, I found that I could cast the 2.5g and 3.5g spoons a lot more accurately. Of the two, I did a little better with the 2.5g spoons. The 3.5g spoon was not too large for even the 5 and 6 inch brookies, but they were able to wriggle off the barbless hook more easily with the heavier spoon.
Baitcasters for brookies? But of course!
I couldn't help it. I had to go back.
My goal for the day was to try different weights of the Shimano Slim Swimmer spoons. The day was pretty much a replay of the 7-28-19 trip. I caught brookies on the 1.5, 2.5 and 3.5 gram spoons. All the fish I hooked with the 3.5g spoon appeared to be in the 5-7 inch
range. That pretty much proves, at least to my satisfaction, that you
don't have to fish tiny little lures even if you expect to catch tiny little trout.
I am increasingly of the opinion that the desire to cast the lightest possible lures with BFS reels is a lot more about the casting than the fishing. Casting the lightest possible lure is a challenge - whether or not it results in more fish. In my experience, at least for wild trout in streams, it does not result in more fish.
(For bluegills in office park retention ponds, though, it absolutely does result in more fish!)
Almost a year has passed and I have a couple new rods that I got just before Covid-19 essentially shut down fishing. Technically, I could go but after realizing how much hand sanitizer it took to disinfect a rental car and wanting to avoid the crazy drivers who were using nearly deserted highways as speedways, I decided staying home was the wiser choice.
I finally got out and went back to the stream I fished in the first segment above. I started out fishing a Shimano Cardiff Native Special B42UL-3 with a Shimano Aldebaran BFS XG spooled with 2.5 lb Sunline Troutist Wild and a Smith AR-S 2g spinner. The combination worked very nicely indeed.
As is usually the case in that stream, the fish were small but quite willing. They wouldn't leave the little 2g spinner alone.
A little later in the day I switched to the new Tenryu Rayz RZ4102B-UL paired with a stock Shimano Calcutta Conquest BFS HG, Varivas Bait Finess PE line and a Daiwa Eve 1.2g spoon. It did take a while to get used to casting the light spoon, but I was surprised at how well the rod/reel/line combo could do it. The RZ4102B-UL is just a bit stiffer than the RZ53UL-BC it replaced, so I was afraid it would need slightly heavier lures. I needn't have worried. I was also a little surprised that a stock Calcutta Conquest could cast a 1.2g spoon so well. The factory spool is just a bit heavier than the Aldebaran's, and quite a bit heavier than the Avail aftermarket spool for the Aldebaran. Casting distance was plenty far enough for fishing a small stream.
The fish certainly seemed to prefer the small 1.2g spoon over the 2g spinner. Despite what I wrote about smaller lures in my 8-4-19 update, I did feel that the smaller lure worked noticeably better today. I think I'll order a wider selection of the Daiwa Eve spoons! (The small spoon also makes a real possibility of Baitcasters for Bluegills if you don't live near a brookie stream!)
For small stream work, the shorter rods (Tenryu Rayz RZ4102B-UL, Shimano Cardiff NS B47UL-3 and Shimano Cardiff NS B42UL-3) and the BFS reels with lighter spools (Shimano Aldebaran BFS XG, Shimano Calcutta Conquest BFS HG or Daiwa SS Air) are even better than the Rayz RZ53UL-BC and Daiwa Alphas Air Stream Custom I used last year. The Air Stream Custom was designed specifically for fishing in trout streams, but in Japan that usually means minnow lures weighing 3 to 5 grams. For lighter lures, I'd choose a reel with a lighter spool.
The hooks are sharp.
The coffee's hot.
The fish are slippery when wet.