John W: What would you consider the best Fly Reel & Rod combination for Large Tarpon? Money is not an issue!
Great question! Money can be an object for some anglers and there are some absolutely fantastic combinations that are not the top tier financially. However, to answer your question, I will tell you exactly what I prefer.
As a professional guide and angler, I have the absolute luxury of being able to fish with whatever I want. This being said, I sometimes choose the most expensive and newest gear, and sometimes my favorite things are not the most expensive. For a tarpon fly rod and reel, my choice lies somewhere in the middle.
Tarpon fishing requires 2 things from your gear.
1. Present the fly correctly in a variety of conditions
2. Fight the fish effectively
Not every rod that is capable of casting beautifully is a great fish fighting tool and few rods that can whip a 150 pound tarpon quickly are delicate casting tools.
Of every rod in the industry either new or old, I choose these as my go to tarpon rods
#3 Scott Meridian 8'10" 11 weight. This rod retails for $865 and is brand new for 2015-16. I just got a full set of these rods and LOVE them. It is #3 on my all time list right now, but may be making a move over the S4S after this season.
#2 Scott S4S 11 weight. This rod retails for $775. It casts beautifully and fights a fish extremely well. It is the toughest rod I have ever fished.
#1 Scott STS 12 weight. This is the finest tarpon rod ever created in my opinion. Cost: Priceless $$. This rod is not listed on Scott's website. They could probably make you one from their custom rod shop, but they are not available retail right now. This is an absolute classic.
Other rods that definitely make my list of classics include the Sage Rplx 11 weight overlined with a 12 weight line.
When it comes to reels, I am pretty old school. There are so many great reels on the market today of varying price. As for new reels, the Nautilus reels are nice and have always performed very well for me. My 3 favorite reels are
#3 Nautilus NV 11/12. Definitely the new style reel with ultra light weight and more space than metal. Awesome reel that has caught TONS of fish. Retail $600
#2 Tibor Gulfstream or Tibor Riptide As soon as these reels came out, they were an instant classic. Following up on the unbelievable reliability of the Billy Pate reels, Ted Juracsik created the Tibor. These reels are bulletproof, light and consistent in their performance. I have never seen one fail. Retail Riptide $670 Gulfstream $735
#1 Abel Super 11/12 N or Super Old School, Abel 4N. The 4N (old labeling not new) and the Abel 4 are the reels that may have caught more tarpon than any other. Fitz Coker has caught more tarpon on an Abel 4 than most other anglers will ever see in their lifetime. The 4 and 4N are no longer available. Price: Priceless. However, the new Abel 11/12N is a lighter, larger arbor version of the timeless classic. The new reel retails for $880
I like 2 lines for tarpon fishing.
#2 Monic. This is a clear line and has significant advantages. However, the Monic is not for everyone. Some people are not ready for a clear line and have no idea where their fly is or when a fish is moving toward the fly. If you get used to it, it can be great. I like it personally, but do not really put it in everyone's hands.
#1 Rio Tarpon Taper This is my favorite line. I like the floating version best but also use the sink tip and full sink lines on occasion.
I also asked my friend Capt. Doug Kilpatrick what his favorite outfit was and this is what he said:
"I love the Scott S4S 11, matched with a Charlton Mako. I do not own a Charlton, but many of my clients do. I am still using my Tibors, which have served my clients and myself well over the years. As far as lines go, I believe that it's a personal preference. I personally use the cortland 444 tropic plus, As well as the Airflow Ridge line. Lots of experienced anglers have made the switch to clear lines, which is great, but I am a big believer that if your going to go clear, you must fish the line often, and be very focused on where your fly lands at the end of the cast. The better feel you get, of where your fly lands, the more in touch you will be with your fly after you strip it with relation to the fish, that is hopefully approaching to bite it. I still like the Monic best, but Airflow is a good clear line as well."
I hope this helps
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