THE WINNER! Scott Johnston of Converse holds the flathead catfish that earned him top honors at the first Kokomo Reservoir Catfish Tournament. Johnson’s catch tipped the scales at just over 30 pounds.

“I guess I’ve never really been that much of a fisherman,” said the old man, referring to the closed-face reel he cradled in his leathered hands as he stood along the banks of Wildcat Creek.

“It has nothing to do what’s in your hands,” I answered, “It’s what lies within your heart.”

Unfortunately, spincast reels are the Rodney Dangerfields of fishing tackle. They get no respect. Due to their inexpensive, push button simplicity, they are seen as reels for beginners. Experienced anglers use spinning, bait casting or fly gear, all of which are supposed to be more sophisticated.

But, even though these closed-face models don’t get as much press, they are probably the best selling reels in the world. Even though some anglers may think spincasting tackle is kid stuff, they are dead wrong.

Although some of the more inexpensive reels on the market are of poor quality, many of today’s models have improved features that are equal to high quality bait casting and spinning equipment. They have strong gears, good drags and are capable of taming tough fish. They also have a distinct advantage over all the other types of reels — they are easy to use.

Just like any type of outdoor equipment, remember all things are not created equal. It’s the same with spincast reels. There are large ones, small ones and some work better than others. Knowing what goes on under the hood will make you a better fisherman and a more knowledgeable teacher of fishing.

First, understand that spincast reels are for the average fisherman, which almost all of us are. They are also for average fishing, which almost all of us do. They are not suited for turning huge flathead catfish in fast water or stopping the searing run of an airborne steelhead. But, for the action most people see — panfish, walleyes and light-duty bass fishing — they work great.

Just as important is that beginners can get involved with a minimum of skill. If you are teaching someone to fish, a spincaster is the obvious choice.

But, there are some built in handicaps of which you should be aware. The small hole through which the line exits the spool cover creates friction which limits casting distance. Personally, I’ve never found that to be a problem and the design actually helps in a different way. Inexperienced anglers often get frustrating tangles on regular spinning reels when coils of slack line accumulate on the spool. As the line is wound on a spin casting reel, its narrow opening automatically removes and straightens those annoying coils.

Another drawback is that sometimes you can crank the handle to no effect. If it happens to your kid, that’s when you hear, “Daddy, my reel broke again.” It’s not broke. All that is happening is that the internal pick-up pin is failing to engage, a common occurrence among spin casters and no cause for alarm. Either twitch the rod to remove slack line or pull a bit out and it should work again.

The most important function on any reel is its drag and spin casting reels are no different. Hopefully, sooner rather than later, you or the person you are teaching will hook a big fish. Without a smooth functional drag, landing that fish may not be possible. Remember that when you are in the market for a new reel. The simplest way to check is to set the drag so that when you hold the reel in the air by the line, it will slowly descend — against drag tension — to the floor. The reel should drop slowly and steadily. If the motion is erratic, try different reels until you find one that works.

Many times, budding young anglers (and some experienced veterans alike) cast their lures or bait into bushes or trees by accident and spincast reels have a solution to this problem as well. By depressing and holding the button for a moment, you can stop line from coming off the spool. This means you can stop your offering in midair in case of an errant toss. Once you become more familiar with your set-up you can even let the line run through your thumb and index finger of your off hand and learn to feather your casts just as the pros do.

Spincasting reels are the only ones that come from the manufacture pre-spooled with line, generally 6- to 10-pound monofilament. In some cases the line retains the shape of the spool resulting in coiling. This won’t damage the line but it can impair casting distance and decrease strike sensitivity. An easy remedy to this is to cast out and let the line lie in the water for a few minutes before you fish. This soaking usually helps make the line limp again.

Because spincasting reels have narrow and shallow spools, line capacity can be limited. Most reels hold between 60 and 100 yards if line. Though you seldom need more than that, in the course of fishing you lose line through break-offs or changing lures. Because the spool is concealed under the cover, many anglers don’t realize they are low on line until suddenly they don’t have enough to cast or play a big fish. Be sure to remove the cover periodically to check and see how much line you have. The spool should be filled to within 1/8 inch of the top.

It’s not easy to screw up a spin cast reel, but you can by cranking the handle while a large fish is pulling against your drag. This will cause tiny coils of line to form on the spool, tangling so badly you will have to remove all of the line. The solution is simple. Don’t reel until the fish is coming towards you.

Tournament results

• In what is hoped to become an annual event, our area’s first catfish tournament was deemed a success as 26 anglers converged on the Kokomo Reservoir in hopes of winning the top prize.

After the midnight weigh-in, it was Scott Johnston taking the “most weight” and “biggest catfish” of the six-hour event. Johnston swept the tournament with a flathead tipping the scales at 30 pounds, 2 ounces. He hooked his trophy catch on a shad.

A portion of the proceeds went to children enrolled in the upcoming Jim “Moose” Carden Kids Fishing Clinic.

“I was impressed with the turnout we had for the first time trying this type of tournament,” said Jeramie Dodd, brainchild of the event. “The guys that came out wanted to do it for the kids, which made it even nicer.”

• The Kokomo Bass Anglers recently came off the club’s most important event of the season, its annual Husband and Wife Tourney, staged on our Kokomo Reservoir.

After all the fish were brought to the scales, it was the team of Jonni and Sam Taskey leaving with a double win taking first place and “big fish” honors. The Taskeys boated four largemouth totaling 6.65 pounds. Their biggest dropped the electronic scales at 2.35 pounds.

Second place went to Christie and Troy Freant with three bass weighing 4.85 pounds. Susan and Terry Robertson finished in third place with two fish weighing 3 pounds.

• The team of Vaughn McCarter and Dave Varnell claiming first place and “big fish” honors at last Monday morning’s Kokomo Reservoir open team bass fishing tourney. The winners carried in a five fish limit totaling 10 pounds, 7 ounces. Their biggest tipped the scales at 3 pounds, 9 ounces.

Second place went to Doug Pence and Eric Beachy with five fish weighing 9 pounds, 10 ounces. Henry Cavazos and Phil Reel were third with five bass totaling 9 pounds, 9 ounces.

• Fred Claar and Matt Temme swept the weekly Wednesday evening Kokomo reservoir open team bass tourney with five largemouth bass sporting a combined weight of 9 pounds, 7 ounces. They also earned “big fish” honors with a 2-pound, 11-ounce bass. Second were Bart Alexander and his father-in-law Don Hinkle with five fish weighing 8 pounds, 4 ounces. Tanner and Rich Fye took a third place finish with five fish weighing 8 pounds, 4 ounces.

Tribune catches of the week

Jack’s Tackle Center: Mike Roberson pulled in nine white bass with the largest stretching 14 inches in length while plying the waters of Mississinewa Reservoir. Roberson encountered his luck using a crankbait.

Malone’s Nyona Lake Bait and Tackle: Connie and Mike Hardebeck had a good day fishing Nyona Lake. Together they caught 85 bluegills averaging 8 inches in length. They fish were taken on crickets.

John Martino is the Tribune’s outdoors columnist. He may be reached through the sports department.

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