Editor's note: This year, the Johnston brothers will share a monthly column where both will offer insight and information on a variety of topics.
Cory: We're kicking off 2020 with a bunch of changes. First was our change to Mercury Marine engines, which I wrote about last month. Second is that Chris and I are going to write this column together now. Two people talking back and forth in a column isn't something you see every day, but we're excited to try something different, and we think it'll be pretty cool.
Chris: And third is the news that we've made another major sponsor change. We're now on the Daiwa pro staff for both rods and reels. We'd been with Shimano a long time, but Daiwa approached us this past year. They have some really good products, and the Daiwa Canada reps have been our good friends for a long time. They let us play with some of their product.
Cory: At that point Chris and I took the time to talk to some of the other guys on the Daiwa pro staff. Daiwa has probably one of the best field-staff teams in the industry, not only because of who's on the staff, but how Daiwa uses the staff for R&D and input on the rods and reels.
Chris: Also, Daiwa promotes their anglers very well — in advertising, social media, rod design. And they're going to send a dedicated camera guy to a couple of events to get some media coverage for them and us, so it works both ways. Daiwa wants to build out our image, grow our social media following, and use us for R&D as well. Which is all really cool.
Cory: My biggest challenge is definitely going to be testing the Daiwa rods and finding the right actions for the right baits and the right techniques. I've been playing around with some stuff in the garage, but there's only so much that can show you. Everything felt really good, but I'm excited to make some real casts in the next few weeks, because you need that to figure out exactly which combos you're going to use.
Cory: So far the Ish Monroe Tatula 7-foot, 6-inch Elite Flippin' rod has felt very good, and I'm thinking that's going to be my milfoil rod. It's very similar to the rod we used to use. It's maybe a touch softer, and I'm really looking forward to flipping it and seeing what I think about it.
Chris: That'll definitely be my go-to for flipping, but I also like the 7-foot, 9-inch Ish's Frog Rod for punching. It has a little extra length. It's a little heaver. I don't throw as many frogs as I used to — I just haven't been on a good frog bite for a while — but for punching it seems like the right match for me.
Cory: For finesse, Daiwa makes two drop-shot rods. One's by Brent Ehrler, the other's by Cody Meyer. Brent's is a little bit heavier and Cory's is a little bit lighter. If I had to pick one right now, I like the feel of Cody's a little better, but that could change once the fishing starts.
Cory: When it comes to our first rod design for Daiwa, that's a tough one, because there are so many rods I can think of that we'd like to make. But I'm thinking, for a first one, mine will definitely be something in the 7-foot, 6-inch range with very light action — something that'll work for spybaiting and some other presentations.
Chris: That 7-foot, 6-inch is a big one for our bass fishing. For my first rod, I'll probably go for a 7-foot with light action for 6-pound finesse fishing. We have some other ideas we've been working on. I won't get into too many details, but they're generally centered around both finesse smallmouth rods, and heavy-duty rods — the kinds we use up north a lot.
Cory: I'm spending some time getting familiar with the Daiwa spinning reels and there are three I'm liking right now. The top-of-the-line Exist is the best that there is, and I've got a few of those. I've also got some Ballistics, and for my tubes and Ned rigs, I've got the Tatula spinning reels. I have them in a little higher gear action than normal — you want that higher ratio for snapping tubes and dragging Ned rigs.
Chris: I'm definitely liking the Tatula SPS for cranking. It's a 6.3:1 gear ratio, with a little more line capacity. A big part of my tournament strategy is making lots and lots of really long casts. That's where this reel comes in.
Cory: It's a bit funny, but we literally have everything we need except for our boats and motors. They're on their way as we write this, and we plan to spend a full day rigging them, then hitting the road and driving to Florida.
Chris: The boat rigging is complicated because we have so much new stuff coming. We're with Mercury now, which is a big change. And we're using Lithium Pro batteries, plus the new Power-Pole Charge. We're going to Florida to fun fish and get used to all this new equipment.
Cory: We'll not only be testing all the boats and motors, but also our new Spro baits and Seaguar lines. Those are two new sponsors for us as well. Like we said, everything takes testing and getting used to, and the only way to do that is time on the water — preferably before the Elite Series actually starts. The Seaguar Smackdown braid is a good example. This is going to be the first year we use it, so I'm anxious to start tying the knots, throwing it, all that stuff. I also plan to use the Seaguar Tatsu fluorocarbon on our spinning gear, and the AbrazX fluorocarbon for our baitcasters, or anything with a lot of bottom contact. It'll be our leader material as well.
Chris: We were new to the Elite Series last year, and we feel that was a great choice for us. All this equipment is new for us too, but we're confident that we made the right decisions there as well, and we can't wait to get this season started with these great companies solidly behind us.