(Editor's note: Mike Long is making lures! Check them out here.)
You might think that chasing the biggest bass in the world is a complicated thing, and you'd be right in many respects. But Mike Long is a fan of the KISS (keep it simple, stupid) principle when it comes to gear.
"I have a few outfits and items that I've used over the years and learned to trust," Long says. "The most important thing to consider when choosing rods, reels and line is quality and reliability. They can't fail when you need them the most, and as an angler you need to know exactly what they're capable of doing. A rod or reel might be terrific, but if it's not the right tool for a particular job, you need something else. I know the capabilities of my equipment, and I sometimes push them to the edge of what they can do, but I'm careful not to ask too much of them."
When targeting the biggest bass in a body of water, Long has a few go-to tactics and outfits that match up specifically to those methods. But when he's restricted by time or venue to just one combo, he opts for a big (7-foot, 4-inch) heavy-action model that can handle a wide variety of big bass baits.
"My favorite is the Dobyns Extreme Model DX-744C casting rod with the full cork handle," he says. "I can throw a jig or a swimbait (up to 2 1/2 ounces) with it and have caught bass up to 15 pounds on that rod. It's a great multi-purpose rod."
For swimbaits and big topwaters, Long goes a little longer and lighter with a 7-foot, 9-inch medium-heavy casting rod. He prefers his signature series Dobyns Champion Mike Long Swimbait Rod. "The handle on this rod is long (almost 21 inches), but not so long that you can't easily work the bait with the rod tip. It's one of two rods that I use for swimbait fishing."
The other is his 8-foot Dobyns Champion Mike Long Swimbait Rod with a heavy action. It features a longer handle (almost 26 inches) for extra leverage when casting swimbaits weighing more than just a couple of ounces. "The handle on that rod tucks under my arm just right, but even though it's eight feet long it's still comfortable because so much of its length is in the handle."
For truly giant baits (up to 16 ounces!), Long goes with the Dobyns Champion Swimbait Rod that's "Mag Heavy" —the 8 1/2-foot Model 867HSB, saying "It can handle any big bait on the market."
And since you never know when you might stumble across some great-looking bass water, Long carries a 7 foot casting rod in his truck at all times. His favorite is the Santiam SFC703MF, a three-piece rod that's versatile and compact.
Reels and lines
The rods get you "chunkin'," but what about "windin'"? Just as his rod selection is simple and straightforward, so is Long's selection of reels and lines.
His all-around choice for most applications is the Shimano Calais CL100 (no longer available on the U.S. market), which he spools with 15-pound-test Maxima fluorocarbon.
"The Calais is my go-to reel," he says, "and I like Maxima because it's strong and abrasion-resistant. You need to change line frequently, though. It doesn't last forever and can break down over time even when you store it properly."
While fluorocarbon gets most of the work, Long still uses monofilament for topwaters (fluorocarbon sinks, after all). And the waters he usually fishes rarely call for braid except when he's fishing heavy cover with topwater frogs.
"Most of my fishing is done with 15- to 30-pound fluorocarbon," he says. "The heavier the bait and rod, the heavier my line. When I'm fishing topwater, I usually use 18- to 20-pound mono. For swimbaits, I like the Team Daiwa Big Bass Special reel, but for the biggest swimbaits I use the Shimano Curado 300E."
Though lightning fast gear ratios are all the rage, Long eschews the faster reels in favor of more moderate speeds, saying he doesn't want to overwork his baits or make the bass work too hard for their meals.
It's a snap!
Time isn't just money; it's also bass when you're out fishing. So Long looks for ways to save time without compromising productivity. One way he does this is with snaps.
"I clip most of my baits to a 30- or 40-pound-test Duo-Lock snap. For a long time I avoided using any extra terminal tackle in my fishing, but the snap is pretty subtle and it gives the baits some extra freedom of motion. I also save on line since I can tie a Palomar knot to my snap and lose less line than if I tie directly to a large bait. There's less tag-end to clip off.
"But the biggest reason to use a snap is that it saves time. I can change lures really quickly. As my friend Aaron Martens like to say, 'If your bait's not in the water, you can't catch anything.'"
Don't take a knife to a gun fight, and don't bring a minnow net on your next bass fishing outing. When you hook a giant, everything needs to go right if you're going to put that fish in the boat. A good net will help and keep you smiling instead of crying.
"I use a big Frabill net with a rubberized mesh basket," Long says. "The rubber-coated mesh is better for fish care and takes off less of their protective mucous. The net is retractable so it stores easily, but when it's extended it's more than six feet long so I can really reach out a long way with it."
If you're looking for a good net, Long has some advice.
"It's all about handling," he says. "You want the net to be light, so you can move it quickly and get it where it needs to be. It also has to be strong —not flimsy. You don't want it flexing as you pull it through the water or lift a big bass with it."
You also don't want the mesh to be too fine. If the mesh is fine, it creates greater resistance in the water, making it tough to push or pull and get it under the fish. Anything that slows you down at that point can cost you the bass of a lifetime.
"My net is my partner out there on the water," Long says. "I keep it close and I always know where it is and have it within easy reach. Keep it on the side that you crank your reel handle with. Once you get a big bass close enough to net, you'll be using that hand to reach for the net —not the hand holding your rod."