Ray Scott is looking for a few good men — again.
Back in 1967, Scott parlayed a combination of inspiration and persuasion into the founding of the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, which grew into the largest fishing organization in the United States. Scott says, "BASS came into being because I was able to convince a few stalwarts that my ideas about bass tournaments and conservation weren't totally crazy. Those first few members were believers, and they became the core for what grew into a national fishing movement."
Now Scott has launched another crusade — "putting the sport back into sportfishing" by using light tackle. And as before, this "Father of Bass Fishing" is looking for partners. "I need another group of believers — a handful of 'Marines' who will lead the charge and help me get this new endeavor started."
Scott thinks that heavy fishing pressure and tournament-inspired techniques have caused bass to grow shy of big lures offered on heavy tackle. He preaches that by downsizing tackle and lures, anglers will get more bites and have more fun with the fish they hook.
"Lighter line is more difficult for bass to see, and it allows you to cast lures that are smaller and more natural-looking," he explains. "I guarantee, you'll get a whole lot more bites on light tackle and line than you ever thought about getting on heavy tackle spooled with 'well-rope.' "
And, Scott just happens to have an innovative high-tech rod/reel to outfit his new followers. He is offering two Sportackle spinning rods of his own design, a 6 ½- and a 7-foot model. These rods are truly radical — different from anything previously on the market. Also, he has formed a partnership with the U.S. Reel Co. of St. Louis, Mo., to sell its new SuperCaster 225 spinning reel as a matched set with his rods. Like his Sportackle rods, the SuperCaster 225 is revolutionary in design and function. Together, this rod and reel — Scott hopes — will be the wave of bass fishing's future.
For years, Ray Scott practiced the "hog-'em-out-of-the-bushes" style of fishing: using stout casting tackle, heavy line and power tactics to winch bass in as fast as he could. As the old saw goes, he'd "play with 'em after he got 'em in the boat."
Then Scott joined Tennessee lure maker Charlie Brewer on a smallmouth fishing trip to Ontario, and this was where Scott had "an almost-religious experience" in terms of using light tackle.
"Charlie Brewer owned the Slider Lure Co. The Slider is a little 4-inch worm that Charlie fished with what he called the 'do-nothing' method. That's really what he did with it — nothing. He didn't put any action in it at all," Scott recalls. "He just cast the Slider out, let it sink, then slowly reeled it back in." To match his worm's small size, Brewer fished with a light action spinning rod and 4- to 6-pound-test line.
Scott had taken his favorite heavy tackle on that trip, but he promised Brewer that he'd fish nothing but Sliders on the first day. "And the bass killed 'em!" he says. "We caught over a hundred smallmouth that day. I don't know when I've ever had more fun and more excitement fishing for bass.
"That was when my eyes were opened to the benefits of light tackle. I never touched my heavy tackle the entire trip. I didn't need to. We were tearing them up on the light stuff."
Quest for perfection
Scott returned from this fishing trip with an inspiration. He would design the best light spinning tackle he could, then he would use this tackle to introduce America's bass anglers to the joys of little lures and subtle techniques.
First, he concentrated on the rod. Scott knew that the lighter the rod, the greater its sensitivity, so he designed a rod that weighed a mere 2.3 ounces. (Comparable light action rods are typically double this weight.) But Scott's Sportackle rods didn't trade muscle for a light touch. These one piece rods have plenty of butt strength to play big bass, then they taper to a springy tip. With 4-pound-test line, their action enables casting a 1/16-ounce lure more than 40 yards.
Other unique features of Scott's rods are smaller line guides and a blank-through cork handle without a reel seat or unneeded hardware.
Concerning the line guides, Scott explains: "Conventional spinning rods feature an oversize stripper guide and standard-size guides spaced down the rod. But my Sportackle rods have a dime-size stripper guide, much smaller guides, and a rod tip guide that's barely big enough to pass the line through. I learned through testing that by reducing the guide sizes, there's less line drag and slap on the cast, and this improves distance and accuracy."
As Scott was putting the finishing touches on his new rods, he was contacted by Fred Kemp of U.S. Reels about a new spinning reel Kemp was working on. The reel body was made of aircraft-grade carbon fiber — stronger and lighter than graphite or metal. (With a graphite spool, the SuperCaster 225 weighs 8 ounces.) Its drive and pinion gears were machined from manganese bronze and stainless steel for quality and smoothness. It had eight ball bearings and a silky front drag.
And perhaps this reel's biggest innovation is its oversized spool diameter — 2.25 inches, compared to an average of 1.5 inches of other reels in its size class.
Kemp explains, "This larger-size spool allows for longer casts, and it cuts down noticeably on line twist and memory for coiling."
Scott adds, "I tested the SuperCaster against other reels on the market, and it consistently made casts that were 8-10 feet longer than any other reel I used. Also, this reel takes up 27 inches of line in one turn of the handle, so you can wind your bait in quickly when you're ready to make another cast."
The SuperCaster 225 will accommodate line from 2- to 15-pound test. It comes with a spool arbor for filling the spool with smaller line sizes. This reel also matches well with heavier action rods and line and is highly versatile through a broad range of tackle options.
Ultimately, Scott and Kemp formed a marketing partnership, and the reel is now officially named the Ray Scott SuperCaster 225.
Not for sissies
Scott says that for anglers used to heavy tackle, taking up light-tackle fishing is like a gun hunter getting into bowhunting.
"It certainly puts excitement back into your marriage," Scott says, figuratively. "Again, you get more bites when you go light and little, and when you get used to light tackle, it's amazing what you can do with it.
"For instance, I flip and pitch with it," he continues, "but I'll cast to the edge of the cover — to the front porch step instead of into the living room. Usually, when you hook a fish at the edge of a weedline or a brushpile, it'll swim away from the cover instead of back into it. Then you just hold on until the fish plays out, and you've got it."
Scott says another light tackle trick is to use a sweep-set instead of employing a "cross-his-eyes" hook set. "Little hooks will penetrate better," he explains, "so you don't need a lot of power. Instead, when you feel a bite, you just put pressure on the fish, and he'll usually hook himself."
Scott adds that a whole range of lures can be fished on the Sportackle/SuperCaster combo, including worms, jigs, grubs, crankbaits, spinnerbaits and topwaters. "You name the lure type, and somebody's got a downsized version of it that's just right for fishing on light tackle.
"This concept and tackle system is not for everybody," he declares. "It's not for 'sissies.' But it is for visionary anglers who understand the benefits of using light tackle and who aren't afraid to try something new."
Light line tournament fishing
Some of north Alabama's best anglers stood up to the test — the 4-pound test — on Guntersville Lake in April, after a challenge from BASS founder Ray Scott to use his Sportackle spinning rods and light line on one of the best lakes in the nation.
Most of the 60 anglers who competed are members of the North Alabama Tournament Anglers (NATA) of Huntsville. Last December, an intermediary put Scott in touch with the club, which agreed to host the tournament out of Goosepond Tackle & Grill. Scott put on a similar tournament in Arkansas in 2002, prior to his Professional Bass Fishing Hall of Fame induction. But the members of NATA were the first to test their skills with 4-pound test, under his rules.
Each angler had one Sportackle spinning rod and a spinning reel of their choice, spooled with International Game Fish Association-certified 4-pound-test Ande line. They could have no other rods, reels or line in their boats. Nets also were prohibited. The anglers would have to battle the bass by hand, further heightening their anxiety.
Guntersville's notorious hydrilla and milfoil were growing, bass were found from 2 feet to 8 feet, and there were more than a few broken hearts to go with their broken line.
"I want to put the challenge back into bass fishing," Scott said. And he did.
Contestants learned that not only would light line lead to more bites, but also that 4-pound-test mono would hold up — most of the time. Hadley Coan and Donny McElvoy of Huntsville won the tournament with five bass weighing 17.10 pounds, including a 5.8-pound largemouth landed by McElvoy.
Brad Yates and Sam Bass of Scottsboro were second with 16.51 pounds. Bass topped the field with a 6.3-pound largemouth, which will be an Alabama line-class record, pending IGFA approval. Bass caught the lunker on a tube.
Coan and McElvoy caught a limit in a couple of hours with 5-inch Senkos, then switched to 7-inch Senkos in watermelon with red/green flakes on 2/0 Daiichi Bleeding Bait hooks. They were pitching the baits into the shallow hydrilla beds and letting it fall, then snapping the rod tip a couple of times to imitate a fluttering bluegill.
The day before the tournament, Coan and fellow NATA club member Len Nelson weren't getting any bites on their 14- and 17-pound-test lines. Coan switched to his Sportackle rig to become familiar with it.
"I started using it and catching fish," he said. "I probably ended up with 17 to 18 pounds, and Len didn't get a bite. I think that showed the difference line size can make sometimes. I definitely will not go out again without at least having a spinning rod with 8-pound-test line on it. If the bite is aggressive, I probably wouldn't use it. But if it's tough, I'll have that rod ready to go."
— Alan Clemons
For more information, e-mail Scott at email@example.com, or phone 800-518-7222. To learn more about the Ray Scott SuperCaster 225 reel, log onto the U.S. Reel Web site: www.usreel.com, or call 888-587-7335.