Online With Jay Yelas
By David Hart Photography by Yasutaka Ogasawara
Yelas says that loops and the tangles they create on spinning reels are just part of the equation, but there are ways to minimize the number of "bird's nests" you encounter when fishing. First, make sure the mono goes on the reel the same way it comes off the spool when you load it with fresh line. |
Another tip? "Instead of using your reel handle to close your bail, use your hand. That prevents that loose line from forming a loop when the bail turns as it closes," he says.
A third trick is to give the line a light tug just above the reel after the bail closes. That pulls out any loops that may have formed. It's a ritual that can be tough to follow, but once you learn to do it after every cast, you'll stay loop-free.
Yamaha pro Jay Yelas has to dig deep to recall the last fish that broke his line. It was a 7-pounder, he remembers, that ate a tiny crankbait tied to 12-pound test Trilene XT. The big bass took the lure deep - common for big bass and small lures - and the line rubbed across the fish's rough lips during the tussle, separating Yelas from that all-important tournament bass. It was just one of those freak events that just happens on rare occasions for Yelas. For other anglers, however, broken line is nothing more than an annoying, yet common, part of fishing.
"My co-angler partners are constantly losing fish because their line broke. There's really no excuse for breaking off a bass" says the respected pro.
Nothing, besides the actual lures a bass angler uses, is more important than that fine thread that attaches the bait to the rod and reel. Everything rides on the line.
Yelas uses four different lines for all of his bass fishing: Trilene XT, Berkley Sensation, FireLine and Berkley Vanish. Like any bass angler who has to boat every bass that he hooks in order to make a living, Yelas is adamant about using the right line for specific applications.
Ties That Bind
The first line of defense against broken line and lost fish is constant vigilance over the line itself. Yelas reties his lures repeatedly throughout the day, so often in fact that his partners often comment on his seemingly obsessive habit.
"Any time there is the slightest nick or a fray, I'll cut off 3 or 4 feet of line above the nick and retie my lure," he says. "If I catch a big bass, I'll retie. I just don't take any chances."
When he does snip off and retie his lures, Yelas uses one of two quick, simple knots: an improved clinch or a Palomar. Either knot works fine for standard monofilament line, but when he uses fluorocarbon, he says an improved clinch knot is much less likely to break.
On the other hand, a Palomar knot won't slip when used with FireLine. A clinch knot will. When so-called "super lines" hit the market a decade or so ago, anglers rushed out in droves and bought spools of these new products and immediately stripped the monofilament off their reels and replaced it with products like FireLine and Spider Wire. Their expectations were often met with resounding disappointment. Many of those that were first to try the lines revolted an switched back to monofilament, cursing the day they switched.
"I use FireLine for about 15 percent o my fishing. A golfer doesn't use his nine iron for everything, and bass anglers shouldn't try to use a single line for every type of fishing. FireLine is not a substitute for monofilament," Yelas says.
Although standard mono factors into the bulk of his bass fishing, the Texas pro favors FireLine for a few pinpoint applications that demand low stretch and high breaking strength. A prime example was when he fished an FLW Tour event on Lake Okeechobee in 2001. The lake had been low for years and dense vegetation sprang up in dry sections of the lakebed, but the water came back up and the bass invaded that flooded vegetation.
"It was like fishing in a thick hayfield," he recalls. "There was no room for fighting the fish. If you didn't winch him up out of that cover, he would just dig down and bury himself. I'd say it took me less than five seconds between when I got a bite and when I got a fish in the boat. That's where FireLine really pays off."
Yelas also likes to use it in heavy grass, thick brush and timber in clear water, adding that the line tends to blend in with all the other cover. The low stretch allows him to make long casts and still have enough hook setting power to stick and land fish.
"FireLine is also great for fishing buzzbaits around thick lily pads. I'll use it with topwaters when I need to make real long casts over open water," he adds.
Monofilament, made from nylon, is still the top choice for Yelas and every other pro on the Wal-Mart FLW Tour. It comes in a variety of strengths and can be used for such a wide variety of applications. Yelas uses Berkley Trilene XT for about 60 percent of all of his bass fishing and sticks with lines between 12- and 25-pound test.
"I'd say the number one reason my partners lose so many fish is because they are using line that's too light for the job. When I'm using 25-pound test, my partners are probably using 14, and they think they are using heavy line. I always tell people to err on the heavy side when they are fishing heavy cover, and that it's probably better to err on the light side when they fish clear, open water," he says.
When he does fish heavy cover, Yelas typically uses line no thinner than 20-pound test, even when he's pitching in clear water. For the heaviest wood cover, he bumps his line up to 25- pound test XT. Crankbaits work best on 12- or 14-pound test line. That thinner diameter helps the bait get down a little deeper.
"I use mono for just about all my topwater fishing, all my spinner baits and for all shallow crankbait fishing. It's perfect for any type of short-range fishing, except those rare exceptions when the cover is so thick I need to use FireLine," he says.
The other monofilament he uses is Berkley Sensation, which has somewhat less stretch and more sensitivity than standard mono. It accounts for about 15 percent of all his applications. Although the differences are subtle and most recreational anglers probably wouldn't notice, Yelas says Sensation is ideal for crankbaiting in open water and casting Texas-rigged plastic worms.
So what's the next big thing? Fluorocarbons. Made from the same materials as Teflon (fluorine and carbon), these lines offer the advantage of near-invisibility under water, a critical factor in clear reservoir fishing applications. Still, Yelas only considers Berkley Vanish one more tool in his bass fishing repository.
"If I'm fishing light lures on a spinning rod in clear water, like drop-shot rigs or tubes, for instance, then I'm going to use 6- or 8-pound test fluorocarbon. It's perfect for that," he says. "I like Vanish better than Berkley XL, which is the easiest handling line there is, because it has less stretch and more abrasion resistance."
Fluorocarbon line has about half the stretch of mono and more sensitivity, making it ideal for the long casts necessary in clear water. But like other fishing lines, it has its limitations. Although Yelas tried it on his baitcasting outfits, he quickly learned that heavier fluorocarbon line just doesn't work well on a baitcaster.
"It's a nightmare on baitcasters. I backlash it every time, and I fish to make a living. That should tell you something about how hard it is to use on a baitcaster," Yelas says.
When To Strip
How often Yelas changes his line depends on the situation. Prior to tournaments, he strips all of his reels and loads fresh line on each. After that, he'll strip a reel only if he used a particular outfit frequently or around heavy, abrasive cover.
"If I'm fishing open water, I'll cut 6 or 8 feet off the end and just go from there. I also inspect my line for kinks and nicks, particularly if I backlashed a baitcaster. Backlashes can really damage monofilament, so you need to be real careful about that," he says.
But what about recreational anglers - the ones who fish once a week or less and who can't afford a new spool of line every time they hit their favorite bass water? Yelas figures changing line every two or three months is adequate, but that depends on the type of fishing the line was used for. If you have doubts, replace your line.
"Just remember, making the wrong choice about the line you use or how often you change it may cost you a fish of a lifetime," he warns.
Content provided by Bass Fishing Magazine, the official publication of FLW Outdoors