How does one even define “inshore”?
That question is one that really hit home for me over the course of 2020. I spent the first 3 months of the year in typical fashion for a Southern California saltwater angler. January and February involved surf fishing for some perch, but mostly targeting halibut. Skiff fishing for spotted bay bass and halibut. Sport-boat wise it mostly involved lead-head and squid, bass and sculpin fishing, and the big highlight for this time of year fishing Punta Colonet.
Other than light-line surf fishing for perch, and deep water yo-yo yellowtail and rock-fishing at Punta Colonet, everything in between I would consider inshore fishing. That’s a lot of different scenarios and I used a variety of different rods to cover these scenarios.
Over the rest of the year though, my life and thus my fishing journey took a drastic change of course. I ended up spending most of the rest of the year in the Pacific Northwest. When I wasn’t up there, I was traveling by car to and from Southern California. It was a really interesting period of time where I was introduced to a myriad of inshore fishing scenarios where I did everything from jigging for chinook salmon off a pier, to drop-shotting for halibut in Downtown San Francisco, to catching a legal lingcod atop a 60 foot cliff!
Having these experiences expanded my horizons in terms of what could be defined as inshore fishing.
Considering that I didn’t have the full complement of gear that I keep inside my tackle cave at home in Southern California, I really came to appreciate gear that had the versatility to be used across a variety of applications. Naturally, this kind of approach involves making some compromises, but the upside was not having to import a significant chunk of the tackle cave to Washington.
One piece of gear that I really came to really appreciate the versatility of during this period of time was the Fishing Syndicate FSG-IS 800XL.
This rod is an 8-foot long casting rod rated 10-25 pounds and 3/8-1 ¾ ounces lure rating. I picked up the rod in October of 2020 and immediately I was able to use it. I had a 2 day tuna trip on the T-bird coming up out of Point Loma Sport-fishing. I like to get down early in order to avoid traffic, so I killed some time at the Shelter Island Pier. Paired with a Tranx300, it excelled throwing a 1.5 ounce weight in a drop-shot presentation with an artificial plastic mimicking the abundant smelt near the pier. The rod was sensitive enough to set on even light halibut bites. It was also a fun fight for the many bass and halibut that bit.
After my tuna trip, on my way back to Seattle, I stopped in Morro Bay for a rock-fishing trip. One thing I really like about rock-fishing is that the further north you go up the coast, the better the opportunity to do it in shallower water. At one point in the trip, we spent a lot of time over a reef in about 70 feet of water. It was fun catching rockfish on this rod using lead-heads and plastics or even a 60 gram flat-fall type jig.
When I got back to Seattle, it was almost Halloween. Time to chase the Halloween fish in the Pacific Northwest, the chum or dog salmon. Of the five different species of salmon, chum are considered the bottom of the barrel in terms of table fare…but they’re fun to catch. As they head upriver to spawn, they undergo a physical transformation. Their bright chrome turns into dark green background with pink and purple streaks. The male of the species gets a big hooked nose. I went on a quest to catch one. The dominant presentation for catching this fish is a technique called flossing. You use a ball-style weight with a 10-12 foot leader after the sinker that’s terminated with an octopus-style hook adorned with yarn and/or a bead.
I have to be honest, this is not the ideal application for this rod. The long leader really needs a longer rod. I had to compensate with a side cast that given the brush at the bank of the river would sometimes get hung up. The application also calls for a softer tip to do the funky river bank cast they do up there, but it was the best I had at the time. That said, I found a way to make it work. I didn’t catch the male chum in full pre-spawn color, but I caught!
If versatility is the mark of a great inshore rod, then the FSG-IS 800XL (10-25) definitely fits the bill!
Once I returned to Southern California, I was excited to put the rod to use for fishing lead-head and squid winter bass fishing. This style of fishing dominates Southern California local sport-boat activity in January and February. The FSG-IS 800XL (10-25) was a little light for this application. If I had hooked into a bigger fish, I’m not sure it would have been able to keep it out of the rocks. I caught though and had an utter blast fighting bass and even a feisty triggerfish on this rod. At no time did I feel overmatched, but I didn’t have the confidence to bounce them on deck for fear of high-sticking the rod.
I really needed to step up to the FSG-IS 800L (15-30) in order to have full confidence fishing this application.
Luckily, I had that opportunity when the guys from the Fishing Syndicate invited me out to test drive the full complement of Inshore Rods. I fished with Capt. Ed Zamora on his boat Matame. When we fished at greater depth, 100 feet and deeper, the FSG-IS 800M (20-40) was the right choice fishing a 6 or 8 ounce weight in a dropper loop application for fishing bass, sculpin and halibut. When we were shallower, the FSG-IS 800L (15-30) felt right. In either case, the sensitivity of the rod was a tremendous asset in feeling every tick of a bite. The bigger brothers in the series, the FSG-IS 800L (15-30) and FSG-IS 800M (20-40), were the right choice when fishing deeper and/or heavier lure and line weight.
Appraising this lineup as a set, I feel like each rod fits every niche of all the applications we might encounter here in Southern California…not to mention applications outside our immediate area. I’ll be excited to feel these rods later on in the year the first time I hook into something bigger, like a yellowtail or white seabass, but I have full confidence in using them.