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Spyda's Blog

A Hawaiian Style Fishing Blog

Browsing Posts tagged Ulua Pole Modifications

Ulua Blood

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“If she’s amazing, she won’t be easy. If she’s easy, she won’t be amazing. If she’s worth it, you wont give up. If you give up, you’re not worthy. … Truth is, everybody is going to hurt you; you just gotta find the ones worth suffering for.”
Bob Marley

It starts simply enough, a bamboo pole with Dad, Grandpa or an Uncle. That first tug of a fish on the end of your line, the fish is hooked and so are you. Like so many of us when I got to the point where my understanding was beyond just catching a fish and became more focused, Ulua became the “Holy Grail”. We wanted the secrets, because as hard as we tried, the Ulua never came. Were we really that bad?? We read, we asked questions, we watched other people, but it just wasn’t happening.

After the first two ulua poles I built failed to catch an ulua, one lost to a monster strike and the other a catastrophic failure, I realized that I had to step up my game to succeed. When the second rod I built broke a foot from the tip I was mad, embarrassed and really felt like a failure.

The rod was a 540 Saber which was a two piece blank which came with a dowel to splice the two pieces together. I drove down to McCully Bike to look for a top half to replace my broken one. I got lucky, there was a black top half which was cracked at the bottom. I took the damaged blank up to the counter and asked the clerk if they would be willing to sell it to me at a discount since it was cracked. The store manager agreed and I had my top half!

I knew looking at it I could cut off the cracked portion and still be able to use the dowel and splice it on to my old bottom half. It would be a little shorter, but, I still felt it would be fine. I had to build it better, stronger and well, something else. I couldn’t figure it out at the time, but, there had to be something I could do differently this time that would make the difference.

The first problem was getting the old top half off. I had loaded up on the epoxy when I had spliced it together so this was going to be tough. I had little experience with this sort of stuff, there wasn’t Google or Youtube to turn to, so I had to wing it, make a decision and go for it! The bottom half was a straight tube, no taper so I guessed where the dowel ended and cut it off! Second problem, not quite as serious, the bottom half was white. So, after I epoxied the butt cap on I got black butt wrap cord and started wrapping the bottom half. Part way up I decided to add some trim for accent. I found some sheets of stuff they use to dress lures with and cut some strips, red and silver placed them on the blank, that’s when it hit me! Blood! This rod would be all black with red pin stripes to represent the blood of ulua!

With the rod finished there was one thing left to do, go get that first ulua!

Well, as most of us know, that was easier said than done. I set about reviewing my entire process, knots, leader set up, where and when I went fishing, moon phase, tides, hook sharpening and drag setting. I thought about it constantly. In doing this I got a little obsessive and pushed myself a little further than I ever did. I was only working part-time back then so it did give me more time, but, even then it didn’t seem like enough.

One day a good friend of mine from work told me he was taking some vacation time and planned to spend a good part of it fishing. He planned to be out at Moi Hole out on the west side and told me to come on out if I could. Problem was I couldn’t get any vacation time off so would be working the entire time he was going to be out there. “Bummers” I thought, well, if I want to succeed I need to make some sacrifices. Like they say, “The good things in life never come easy!”

So the week comes and I figure my friend Hiro is out there pounding it already. I have to work in the morning so I pack what I can in the trunk of the car, the poles and cooler will have to wait until after work. One pm the next day I’m leaving work, I head to Tamashiro Market to look for bait. No tako so I pick up some fresh akule and ika and head home to finish loading up.

Out at Moi Hole, Hiro and a few of the other regulars have about 6 to 8 poles out and are kicking back when I roll up. No strikes so far they report, but, the weather is nice and the company is great so sprits are high! I get to work setting up. My patched up black and red Saber is the first I cast out, I slide a whole akule down on a 36 bkn. Next out is my Harrington with a Surfmaster (2’0). This one gets an akule fillet bait casted out. Soon it’s dinner time and the hibachi is lit up and everyone busts out some kau kau for the pot luck table.

One of the regulars in attendance is Andy Miyamoto, the Mayor of Moi Hole back then. Andy is a big man, I’m told he played semi-pro baseball in Japan. Casting was just casting until the first time I watched Andy cast! It was clear, when he casted he was fishing in an area we weren’t despite the fact that we were fishing right next to each other!

Dinner was great as it always seems to be out on the rocks or the beach. Just after sunset before it got real dark my Harrington takes a strike! A few minutes later a 5 pound Awa is on the rocks and into the cooler! Yes! Action, we’re all feeling energized and work our poles late into the night. I have to work the next morning so I’m the first one down.

Six am, after a little coffee I jack-up my poles and leave them by Hiro’s car, I’ll be back àfter work.

One pm and I’m driving to Tamashiros again. This time they have fresh tako. I buy tako and ice then hit the freeway back to the west side!!

When I get there Hiro kids me saying “Eh, you better not catch again, I never even get strike yet!!“. We all laugh except Andy, who just gives me a wry smile. Andys wife has come out and is in their tent cooking up a storm, she cooks for everyone. Good people the Miyamotos!

I work my poles hard, but save one whole tako for the big tide in the morning.

Five am music to my ears! The bell and rachet on the black Saber are goin off!! I had forced myself out of my warm cot about 3 in the morning to slide the whole 1.5lb tako I had saved for the morning rise. My mind is a blurr, but, quickly getting jacked with adrenelin! Is this it? The fish is straight out, now starting to angle to the right. it slows then swings to the left and runs again. I feel like I’m lost in a dream. Hiro is standing next to me coaching and giving me encouragement. The fish surges again then slows and swings back to the right. I’m gaining some line now, holy smokes! It this happening?! Suddenly someone yells “Color!!” I look down and there it is, the broad silver side of an ulua is shimmering underwater below us. I hear Hiro’s calm voice telling me “Easy, easy…watch the tip…let um take line if he like…” My anxiety is soaring! After what seems like forever it pops to the surface! “Kagami!!” “Hit um, hit um!!” The gaff hits home and the fish is hauled up on to the rocks, unbelievable!!

My first Ulua! My first and only (to this date) Kagami Ulua! What an amazing feeling!!

Later after breakfast, I pack to leave and say my good byes and thanks to everyone. The only thing not packed is the slide rig with the still fresh tako on it. I walk over to Andys tent and place it on his cooler. We say nothing, just nod and exchange wry smiles…

Blitz

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It happens now and then in the fishing world, you just happen to be at the right place at the right time. Some crazier than others, much more common for boat fishermen, the fish just get crazy and the bite is on! For Ulua fishermen it’s much more rare, but, it does happen.

Back in the eighties Mel Hamada and his friends were out at Kaawaloa near Kealakekua bay when they experienced what most of us would consider a once in a lifetime thing. Being such a long time ago I’m not sure of the exact number, but, it was something like 8 to 12 Ulua on that one trip!! A couple were big boys I think one was in the 90+ range. Incredible trip for sure, these days I’m sure some of the fish would have been tagged and released, but, Ulua tagging programs had not been implemented back then. I seem to recall that the late Mike Sakamoto was with them and documented their awesome outing on his TV show “Fishing Tales”.

Our gang experienced something similar, no where nearly as impressive size wise, but, for sure a once in a life time deal for us. It all started about a month before when my friend Carl came home from a solo outing with a nice Omilu in his cooler. He said he was out at a near by spot that both of us had fished before. The fish in his cooler was not the exciting part, he told me he had seen a huge school of Omilu pass by while fishing, “Not just a few!!” he said, “too many to even guess!!”

Naturally this peaked my interest, so, a few weeks later Keith and I decided to “scout” the spot for our gangs annual summer camping/fishing trip. I’ve mentioned this trip a couple of times before as there were some memorable things that happened on that trip, both good and bad. I mentioned the good in “Catch or no catch” http://spyda.ifishhawaii.com/?p=596 and the bad in “When Fishing Friends Leave” http://spyda.ifishhawaii.com/?p=50 The good was catching 4 Omilu Ulua on that overnight trip and the bad unfortunately was finding out someone had died there the day before.

A week later we arrived at the same spot with the gang for our summer outing. That first afternoon Judys son Greg experiences “beginners luck” when he catches an 18 pound white ulua with the first bait on his first time using an ulua rig!! He had caught the first bait fish of the day, a Moana and used it to catch his first Ulua!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Later that afternoon I picked up a 12 pound Omilu on my spinner using a live Mamo for bait. We were off to a good start, but, while we had hopes we would catch more we had no idea how many would come!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day my spinner takes a hit again and a 15 pound Omilu is in the box! That one took what I call a black mamo, don’t know the Hawaiian name for it I believe it’s a Rock Damselfish. Looks like a Kupipi, but, much darker colored with no discernible spot like the Kupipi has.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Later that afternoon a 10 pounder takes a Mamo on my spinner again and as I am walking back to camp with my fish, Steve’s pole takes a hit and lands a 16 pound Omilu! Five fish in the box! Never happened to us before!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Needless to say dinner was joyous occasion that night the beers were flowing and even a bottle of bubbly popped! Boy did that cot feel good that night! But wait!! Bell and ratchet!! My 6’0 is going off!! I had slid down a live moana before going to sleep, a 24 pound white Ulua decided to join the party!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, the fun had to stop sooner or later, the final day of the trip Keith takes a vicious strike, his first on this trip, a screamer! After a 40 minute fight he gets cut off….oh well, it’s a real bummer for Keith, but, how can we complain?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The happy campers!!

 

Rolling Your Own

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I was ten years old, we had recently moved to Oahu from Maui and my cousin Ken had come for a sleep over and some fishing at the marshland nearby. He had brought his brand new rod and reel with him. It was a Garcia-Mitchell 304 spinner and a beautiful emerald green rod also made by Garcia-Mitchell. At that age I had not seen or maybe never really paid much attention to many other fishing poles, but, I was absolutely sure that the shiny green rod was the most beautiful one in the world!

A beautiful rod is definitely eye candy for anyone involved in our sport! Even a beginners eyes light up at the sight of a shiny rod in their favorite color! The Nitro rod importers got it right bringing in a bunch of candy colors to mix in with the standards like black and yellow and even some new wave stuff like chameleon!

Me, I’m still kinda old school, most of my ulua rods are 20+ years old. Even got a half and half I built some 25 years ago. I recall hearing about a comment made about that rod by a friend and very well respected  angler, a hundred plus member in fact that, well, was not too complimentary. However, being that he is not a rod builder himself, it didn’t really bother me. Rod building for me is a personal thing, I put as much time into the design of the rod as I do building them. My rods are built for function not beauty and I can proudly say all the ulua rods I built for myself with the exception of the first two (I’ll explain), have caught more than one ulua. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to say I’m some kind of bad ass builder, far from it, there have been failures along the way, that’s how you learn. After losing the first build out to sea on a monster strike, the second rod I built snapped on a big strike out at Laie point. I got hit up with everyone’s theory about why. Didn’t spine it correctly, drag set too tight, blah, blah, blah…..what ever! My friend Edmund who caught his first ulua on a rod he built, later had that rod snap in nearly the exact same spot on the blank, which was the same brand blank I used for mine. It happens, you inspect it carefully, learn what you can and move on.

My old half and half, sitting in the spot I took two unstopable strikes two years in a row!

For professionals it becomes an art, truly, a custom built rod made by a pro is, in an anglers hands like a diamond necklace, the Mona Lisa and a Ferrari all rolled in one! For amateur builders/fishermen like myself, the thrill is two part, first designing and building exactly what you want, second and perhaps even more thrilling is catching an ulua with a rod you have designed and built yourself!

I’ve never built a “jewel” like the professionals do, not saying I didn’t try, it just takes a lot of practice and a ton of patience. Those of you just starting out building your own rods, don’t fret about it, concentrate on balance and functional strength. This will catch you fish, not bling!

Fish Tech

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There many things that we all still do as fishermen that haven’t changed at all since the invention of the fish hook. Yet fishermen & women remain at least in my mind, some of the most inventive, creative sports people in the world! Constantly trying to reinvent the wheel or at least make it work better, there seems no end to innovation and refinement. Some have made the transition from hobby tinkerers to small businesses.

When we started getting serious about our pursuit of Ulua back in the early eighties, there wasn’t much in the way of specialized, purpose built tackle as we see today. Back then if you wanted an ulua pole you either had to be lucky enough to have a dad or uncle that was into it and had equipment to hand down or you had to find a custom rod builder and the money to have one made. There was a third option, build it yourself!

Edmund was the first of our group that went the build your own route, interestingly, he was also the first to catch an Ulua! I also went that route and Keith, although he was the only one who inherited ulua gear from an uncle was next to give rod wrapping a shot.

March 1982, 23 lbs. Laie Point

 I unfortunately didn’t have the same kind of luck with my first pole as Edmund. I had built a Sabre 540 and mounted a brand new Penn 6’o with a Newell Black Marlin kit. We were out at Mokuleia and I had slid down a large Oio head. The rig was so heavy I had barely got it out 25 yards, if that far! The rod was 50 yards away from our camp and we were partying pretty hard when it went off! The ratchet was screaming as I ran as hard as I could across the soft sand! As I ran I could see the pole leaning more and more over, the spike was going down! I was about 10 or 15 yards away when the pole flew out of the spike and zipped across the sand into the water, never to be seen again!! I would build two more rods before finally scoring my first Ulua out at Moi Hole in August of 1984.

It’s a lot easier to get decent equipment these days! So much so that there’s even a lot more used equipment available because of it. Heck, you can even buy an Ulua pole at Sears and Ace Hardware! The technology applied to the manufacturing of the blanks available these days is nothing short of amazing when compared to the old fibreglass blanks we had. High carbon graphite and graphite blends have made rods stronger and lighter. The process of rolling these blanks has been refined to such a finite level that despite small diameters and wispy looks the high tech blanks today generate an incredible amount of power while weighing considerably less than the old standard fiberglass blanks!

The evolution of the Ulua rod in just the  last 15 years is really amazing! 14 years ago I sold my house in Kona and moved back to Oahu to get married. This meant a serious cut back on my time spent fishing. So, as I have worked my way back into it in the last year or so, I have discovered the changes that have taken place since I lost touch have been quite dramatic! The move forward actually started a few years before my departure from Kona. Joe Kimura rods were already showing up in local stores in Kona and Kenneth Kimura had started up Island Rod Wrap (IRW). I know the latter part of that only because a friend and former fishing partner of mine in Kona, Carl, designed the logo for IRW in exchange for a custom rod. Carl was renting a room in my house at the time so I had chance to admire the beautiful candy apple red rod up close when it was still a cherry! As I look back at that now I see that it was a sign of things to come in the future. The one thing I didn’t expect was the number of manufacturers that are now building rods specifically for the Ulua fishermen. Ulua rods are no longer exclusive to the custom builder.

No pic of Carls IRW rod, but, here we are admiring the 55 lber that broke it's cherry!

In an earlier post I described trying some rods my friend Jeff had custom built himself. He built these rods using Daiwa’s Ballistic blanks. Now, I’m just slowly getting caught up with all the new stuff out there and have not tried all the custom blanks like the ones IRW has custom made for them, but, if the ballistics are not on the cutting edge then I  just can’t imagine what cutting edge blanks would be like!

There are a lot of high-tech rods on the market these days. High-tech = high dollar. Not all of us can afford that stuff, so, we make do with what we can. My favorite big spinner rod broke two summers ago in the middle of our annual one week get away out country. So I had no choice but to drive back in to Kaneohe to look for an affordable replacement at Nankos. I ended up spending about 35 or 40 on a 12 foot Penn Pursuit. Nothing fancy, but, it has served me well the last year and a half. I’m finally getting around to making some modifications to the rod I’ve been thinking about for a while. First on the list, add some weight and few extra inches to the butt of the rod.

First step is pry the stock rubber butt cap off. It’s glued on, but, not too well so this was easy to do.

Nice and easy does it!

Carefully push a small flathead screwdriver in between the butt and the blank, gently prying the rubber away from the blank. Just do a little at a time and work your way around slowly. Avoid digging into the blank and damaging it.

A little rubber is left on the blank, better than gouges!

Step two, remove the bottom section of hypalon grip. This is to make room for the stainless steel butt that I’m putting on. I’m not planning to reuse the grip so I just use an X-Acto knife to cut it off. On the top edge there is a little resin build up that needs to be cut away.

Cut a slit down the length of the grip. Carefully cut it away from the blank, again avoid gouging the blank.

Here we see the three components that will go back on the rod. Top, the stainless steel butt, middle the wooden dowel and bottom a piece of electrical conduit.

The dowel adds strength to the bottom of the blank and creates the extra length I want. The piece of conduit will slide over the dowel to match up to the size of the blank and it will add a little weight. The added weight of the three components will balance out the rod for throwing big baits. The blue tape shows me how far to push the dowel into the blank. Then epoxy the conduit on and finally the stainless steel butt cap is epoxied in place.

One final step, seal the top edge of the butt and at the same time replace the build up of resin where the decorative wrap meets the butt. For anyone interested the conduit is one inch OD with approx 9/10 ID and the wood dowel is probably sold as one inch, but, is actually about 9/10. I got lucky and had the dowel and conduit in my garage. I didn’t measure the length of the dowel, but, I cut it about a half inch longer than the stainless butt. My thought was to spread the stress point a little, if it was even with the butt the stress is on the top edge of the butt, with the dowel sticking into the blank a little it moves some of the stress to the softer edge of the dowel.

All done!