In 2007, I took my young family up north to visit my parents in the Seattle suburb of Des Moines, WA where I grew up. At that point in time, I was a once or twice a year kind of fisherman. During the visit, my dad suggested we take my son Jacob to a trout farm. Jake had so much fun fishing the pond trout that when we got back to Southern California, he motivated me to follow the lead of my dad and take him out fishing. We started out at the piers and eventually worked our way up to going out fishing on the sport-boats.
We were finding our way on the fly. I made a lot of rookie mistakes. I saw brand names and not types of rods and reels. I made a lot of bad purchases and fished inappropriate gear for the various scenarios we encountered.
I started getting a clue after reading Brandon Hayward’s classic first book, The Southern California Angler (2008).
That book was like finding water in the desert for me. One of my key learnings from the book came in Chapter 4: SoCal Style – a look at rods & reels. In this chapter, Brandon discussed building an arsenal. He talked about how with just 3 rod and reel combos, you’d be geared up to fish everything from calico bass to 100+ pound tuna!
The recommended setups were something to fish 12-20 pound test, a combo for fishing 25 or 30 pound line, and lastly a heavier setup to fish 40 or 50 pound line.
It’s been about 10 years now since I first read the book. After literally hundreds of trips, I consider myself a seasoned Southern California saltwater angler now. What I learned reading Brandon’s book, I’ve put into practice. I’ve adapted it to my personal preferences and expanded on it to optimize the effectiveness for specific applications. I feel like at this point, I have built up my arsenal to have the perfect setup for pretty much any scenario that we fish here in Southern California.
And then recently, I switched out all my rods to Fishing Syndicate.
It wasn’t an easy choice to make. It’s hard to all of a sudden not use rods that I’ve landed many prized fish on. You develop of level of trust. And like many anglers, I’m a little superstitious too. Some of my previous arsenal I considered “lucky” rods. But the more I’ve used these rods, my trust in this brand has been built. Many of my Go-To rods now can be found in Fishing Syndicate’s All-Purpose Composite Series.
About the All-Purpose Composite Series
By composite, that means that these rods are a combination of both graphite and glass (fiberglass). Brandon discussed in his book how the iconic Leon Todd of Calstar introduced composite rods in the Grafighter series to develop rods possessing the ultimate strength to weight ratio. Development of these rods was probably the second biggest technological advancement (next to braided line) in the development of So Cal fishing gear as we know it today. Fishing Syndicate builds on that history using the latest advanced materials, while maintaining an understanding of the fiberglass rods and actions that became the standard for how we fish here in Southern California.
Going back to the three rod premise from The Southern California Angler, three multi-purpose rods can cover 80% plus of the fishing we do. The foundation of your three rod arsenal will be that 25/30-pound rod.
The Fishing Syndicate FSC-800M perfectly fits that niche.
This rod is rated 20-50, so 30-pound line falls squarely in its sweet spot. It retails for $280, so it offers a tremendous value versus similar high-quality rods of the same type.
I’ve been using this rod to do everything from the deep-water rock-fishing that we do in places like Punta Colonet, San Nicolas Island and the Channel Islands; to high-dropper loop applications while island fishing for yellowtail and white seabass; to fly-lining a live bait offshore for tuna.
I pair my FSC-800M with either a Shimano Trinidad 16A (spooled about halfway with 50-pound braid and topped with fresh 30-pound mono as needed, or a Penn Fathom 25NLD2 fully spooled with 50-pound braid for rock-fishing or fishing a vertical jig like a flat-fall (just not for the jumbo bluefin) to either rockfish or drop in on the slide offshore.
Dropping down in line class to fill that 12-20 niche Brandon talks about, I like to use the FSC-900L. This rod is rated 15-30 pounds and retails for $300.
I use this rod primarily for inshore applications. It excels as a straight 20-pound bait rod when yellows or schoolie tuna won’t bite 30-pound. In that application, I pair it with a Shimano Trinidad 14A, again half spooled with braid and topped with 20-pound mono. For other applications, I pair it with a Shimano TranX 400 and use it for things like a “kelp cutter” rig fishing for calicos, white seabass, and yellowtail in the kelp. I also like it for throwing plastics or smaller surface irons like a Salas 7X Jr targeting the same species. It also works well for dragging a sardine along the bottom for halibut.
For the heavier, 40 or 50-pound rod, my pick is the FSC 800H. This rod is rated 30-60 pounds and retails for $300. Paired with a Shimano Talica 12II, I use this rod for my 40-pound fly-line bait setup for bluefin. Add a rubber band and a torpedo sinker and you’ve got a sinker rig for the same fish when the captain says he’s marking them X feet below the surface. I have complete confidence I could land a fish up to (and exceeding?) 150 pounds using this combo. I also used it at Colonet as my yo-yo yellowtail rod using a Shimano Trinidad 30 spooled with 65-pound braid to a short 50-pound mono leader for a Tady 4/0 or Salas 6X.
Three Fishing Syndicate All-Purpose Composite Series rods, paired with the appropriate reels and you’re basically covered for almost anything.
The other one I use a lot is the FSC-900M. That rod I pair with a TranX 500HG spooled half with 65-pound braid and top-shotted with 40-pound mono. This combo is my surface iron setup. I’ve also cut-off the jig and used it in a pinch as a 40-pound fly-line bait setup. As you grow your arsenal, you may want to explore some of the other models, or even double up on some of these ones so you don’t have to re-tie in the middle of a hot bite. Call or drop by the Fishing Syndicate (www.fishingsyndicate.com) shop in La Habra and the guys will be happy to help you out. Good luck when you get out there!