For a fishing challenge, try ultra-light tackle

Written on 03/16/2024
Outdoors with Bud, by Bud Fields

Some of the most fun and challenging times I have spent fishing were done with ultra-light fishing tackle. Why is that? Ultra-light fishing is accomplished by using lighter weight fishing rods, smaller reels, and lightweight fishing line.

Using this specialized type of equipment is so much fun because it can make smaller fish feel like monsters, and when you catch a three-pound fish, you swear you have caught Moby Dick.

I have used ultra-light spinning tackle for many years for crappie, bluegill, perch, bass, goggle eye, and whatever wanted to bite. And when they do, you have a battle. It can be addicting. You will want to do it again and again.

The initial outlay of money is not that expensive, and regardless of your age, you will never outgrow it. Oftentimes, ultra-light fishing will produce more bites than conventional fishing techniques.

For an ultra-light rod, I suggest visiting your sporting goods store or fishing tackle shop and searching for a spinning rod that states “ultra-light” action on the rod. This will be the perfect action for ultra-light fishing. It will also state on the rod a “lure rating” between 1/32 and ¼ oz. and a “line rating” between 1-6 lb. test. I prefer to use 4 or 6 lb. line.

Just remember that ultra-light means the smallest lures and line rating for best performance. The best rod length, for me, is between 5-6 feet, which works extremely well for casting smaller, lightweight lures accurately over short distances.

If you want to use a “slip bobber” with your ultra-light set up, you may want to choose a somewhat longer rod, which will enable you to pitch your bobber rig to the right spots. A longer rod will allow you to “pick up” the slack line when you need to “set the hook.”

For a reel, you need to match it to the rod. The best way to do this is by choosing a reel with a similar line rating to the rod. The reel should be in the “1,000” size spinning reel. Some reel manufacturers might refer to their reel as a “10” size.

Just because they are a smaller size reel, does not mean they are not durable. I have an older Garcia 308 ultra-light reel that I know is well over 40 years old. I have taken great care of it through the years, and it works as good now as it did when I bought it.

I have it disassembled every year and properly lubricated. An ultra-light reel will be noticeably smaller and weigh just about 6 oz. I recommend trying to find a reel with a 6.0:1 gear ratio or higher.

When you start selecting line, many anglers look for 1-6 lb. maximum, and there are three types of line for you to consider: monofilament, fluorocarbon, and braid. But, if you use braid, you will need to have a fluorocarbon leader to reduce visibility in the water. If you select monofilament or fluorocarbon, you can tie your main line directly to your lure or rig.

For lures, there is a huge selection available on the market, but just make sure they are smaller than 1/4 oz. Experiment with a variety of shapes and sizes and colors. A great place to start is by getting a collection of micro jigs, jerk baits, and swim baits. You can also use some small minnows to catch panfish and perch, but don’t overlook using other live baits such as pieces of mealworms, bee-moths and wax worms. You can also add a small “split shot” sinker under your bobber and tie a size 8 or 10 hook at the end of the line.

You can really have a blast fishing with ultra-light tackle, and you can fish most bodies of water and have fun. Some of my best ultra-light fishing has been in farm and retention ponds. I would just walk around the perimeter of the bank and make random casts around just about any form or structure, make a slow retrieve, and bam!

I would set the hook on a fiesty bluegill, perch or bass, and if you happen to get a bite from a catfish, you think you have snagged a tank. The battle is on!

I was fortunate to catch a 4-pound smallmouth bass using my ultra-light fishing outfit, and I swear I have caught largemouth Bass over 10 pounds that did not fight as hard as that smallmouth bass caught on ultra-light. Try it yourself. You will do it again!