New Okuma 350 Low-Profile Baitcast Reels: Drop The Hammer

General Motors introduced the small block 350 in 1967.  Since that time, it’s become the performance standard for speed, power and durability. Surprisingly, it’s taken more than 45 years for the fishing industry to catch up, and for Okuma to release its 350, achieving the pinnacle of speed, power and performance.

Komodo 350

Refined and compact overall, there’s no missing Komodo’s massive drop down gear case. Holding a giant stainless steel main gear, the system offers plenty of room for an inspiring Carbonite drag system, capable of delivering up to 25-pounds of max drag. And to make that drag pressure usable, the levelwind on both Komodo and Citrix are synchronized with spool revolutions as line is both taken in and going out. This feature keeps the levelwind aligned with line on the spool at all times, especially important when fishing high-power braids on hard-running fish as sharp angles in the levelwind system increases actual drag pressure immensely and can lead to break offs.

Engines are most often discussed in regards to horsepower, and the word is also fitting here.  For the Komodo 350, horsepower would be an exceptional combination of line capacity (230-yards of 14-pound monofilament and similar amount of 50-pound braid), 25-pounds of drag output, and stainless steel main gear, pinion gear and drive shaft.  Turn the crank to throttle up and the high-speed 6.4:1 gear ratio eats up 31-inches of line with every turn of the handle.

The great ones are defined by more than the engine, it’s the total package, and here the Komodo 350 does not disappoint. The A6061-T6 machined aluminum spool casts effortlessly, riding on ABEC-5 spool bearings as a standard feature instead of an upgrade. To tame more freespool than most anglers require, the 7-position velocity control system dials-in spool breaking for exact needs.

Overall, the bearing system includes 11 bearings overall, ten High Performance stainless steel bearings and one roller bearing.  Still, when you turn the handle, you’ll feel the gears.  Consider it the low rumble of a sports car’s exhaust, there’s a lot of power in the stainless, there if you need it. Hook-sets and battles are backed by dual anti-reverse systems because redundancy is good when your tied to the fish of a lifetime.

All dressed up, the question is where to go.  Saltwater approved, the Komodo 350 was designed to take on trophy stripers, angry jacks, big bull reds and full gamut of powerful inshore species.  It’s equally at home on freshwater, taking down giant musky, more stripers, trophy largemouth and big cats. When it comes to freshwater, however, the Citrix 350 is an equally formidable option.

Constructed on the exact same platform as Komodo, the Citrix 350 replaces stainless gearing with heavy-duty Dura Brass and drops 10 bearings to eight.  Like Komodo, it still features an aluminum frame, aluminum spool, rigid aluminum handle side side plate and the identical tonnage of line capacity and drag output.

Citrix 350

An overhead shot reveals expansive capacity for monofilament or braid as well a revealing that Citrix, as well as Komodo, is available in left hand retrieve with a massive optional power handle.

One key deviation in the Citrix is the availability of a lower 5.4:1 gear ratio in addition to the high-speed 6.4:1.  Northwest salmon anglers that commonly troll 10- to 16-ounces of lead, big divers and the like will appreciate the extra cranking power, as will the giant catfish anglers.

While on the subject of cranking power, both Komodo and Citrix 350’s are available in both right and left hand retrieve. When it’s time to bear down, you have the option of using your best cranking hand instead of playing the proverbial monkey on the football.  Additionally, both Citrix and Komodo are available with a Power Handle as an upgrade to the standard dual paddle handles.

Be on the lookout for more from this 350 platform. From an excellent foundation, many models will come, just like the cars and trucks.  These reels fit the hand amazingly well, delivering comfort and confidence, and the combination of capacity, strength, speed and power suits an incredible number of fisheries as you explore the potential of the 350.

Preparing for Battle: A Captain’s Formula for Tackle and Rigging for Shark Fishing

By Capt. Rich Antonino

I love shark fishing. I’ve gotten very efficient at it over the course of about 500 sharks. Most of those are released to get even bigger. I’ve learned a lot over the years, from preparation, finding them, chumming for them, catching them, releasing them and staying safe.

Let’s talk today about getting ready, with regard to the gear that you’ll need. We’ll get into the other topics at another time.

I fish on the East Coast, north of Cape Cod, and the sharks we see are typically 200-lb-plus blue sharks. We have seen them pushing 500 lbs. however, and we usually see at least one more than 300 lbs. on every trip. The  Makos we see are typically 85 to 90 inches long and 220 to 300 lbs. They can reach more than  1,000 lbs. in the Northeast. Threshers are usually 200 to 400 lbs. Porbeagle sharks are commonly 300-plus lbs. Yes, we have good sized sharks regularly. Since we often catch 10-20 sharks in an outing, having backup gear and extras is very important.

That being said, I wouldn’t recommend fishing 80-sized reels here as most sharks would be outmatched by them. We have fished Okuma Makaira 50’s and 50-wide 2-speed reels since they were created. They are the perfect reel for this task as they are small enough to give proper battle to the average shark, but they have the guts for any monsters that come our way. We match them up to the Makaira XH Trolling rods. I feel that once again it’s not too much, but enough. I think that attitude fits sharking well – I have enough “just in case.”

What happens if you hook that monster? It’s going to take a ton of line, so be ready. We spool our reels with 600 yards of 100-lb. test Tuf-Line Guide’s Choice hollow core as backing on the reel. Then we splice 200 yards of 100-lb. test mono into it. Like I said – “just in case”. Most sharks won’t get you into backing. On several occasions, however, we’ve needed every bit of backing because a giant tuna took a bait or because that monster mako came into the slick. Extra line equals extra time to get ready (to chase it if you have to or to tire it out if you can’t chase it).

Holding onto a rod with a big shark on the line is tough, so we use a variety of harnesses to make the battle easier. For big fish, we use a Black Magic Fishing Harness. You get to use your whole body to fight the fish. We also use a general gimble belt for smaller sharks and quicker battles. We also use the Cush-It rod butt cushion for more active battles.

For leader, safety is an issue. I like to use wind-on leaders (400-lb.mono). We can reel in the entire leader, getting us within “release distance” to the shark safely. We crimp on a 4/0 snap swivel to the end of the leader. Then we connect our 9-ft.  single-strand 174-lb. or 240-lb. wire leader to this snap swivel. Our hook of choice is a 16/0 circle hook underneath a 13-in. octopus skirt.

Why do we set it up this way? We catch and release a lot of sharks, so quickness and ease is important. Circle hooks do their job by hooking the shark in the corner of the mouth..We cut the wire and leave the hook—it falls out within weeks as they are cheap hooks (never had one break). We cut the wire off as close to the shark as possible and just tie another hook on using a haywire twist. This way, we can catch 5-6 sharks on one leader without having to re-rig. Once it’s “too short”, we start with another 9-ft. leader.

Wearing sunglasses is very important at this stage – when the wire is cut, sometimes it will snap back towards the boat. Spitting blood one day, my mate wondered where it was coming from. It came from his cheek! The wire had pierced his cheek completely. It could have been his eye. Always wear glasses!

Now that you have the rig set up how do we keep the bait at the right depth? We use cheap water balloons and we keep extras in our pockets. Blow them up and tie them onto the line at the right depth. If you are using 8-oz. of lead or less, you can get by with only one balloon. We use these balloons because they tear off of the line easily and because they are so cheap. Speaking of sinkers – we use electrical tape to tape weights onto the wind-on leader just above the snap swivel. It doesn’t bother the line and they are easily removed if you ever want to switch them off.

Our chum is frozen into 4-gallon buckets. We take the cover off of the bucket and invert the bucket into a milk crate box. This way the chum flows out nicely as it thaws and is easily reused if there is any left at the end of the day.

If we are going to keep a shark for the table, I prefer to harpoon them, but a flying gaff is also good. You need a straight gaff to secure the tail as you tail rope it. This is one of the most dangerous parts of the battle that I’ll go over in another article.

If you do keep a shark, we find that the best knife to use is a serrated knife. Serrated knives cut through the skin the best and they maintain their edge very well. They are the best at removing fins, jaws, and head.

In addition to the chum, we have a multitude of different baits that we use. It is nice to have a variety on ice, but an old standby is the rack of a locally caught fish. Sharks are used to scavenging around fishing boats, so having local selection often works. We hook the rack in the tail and hang it that way under the balloon or along the side of the boat.

Hopefully this will give you an idea of how we prepare to target sharks.

Best of luck out there!

Capt. Rich Antonino owns and operates Black Rose Fishing Charters. For more information or to book a trip, visit his website at www.blackrosefishing.com.