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Left-Thumb Fishing Education


Photo William Taylor and Hugh Cobb at Pacific Coast Bait & Tackle, Oceanside, Calif.

EDUCATED LEFT THUMB--William Taylor (left) of Purglas rods, and Hugh Cobb of Pacific Coast Bait & Tackle, Oceanside, Calif., and a 12-foot 8-inch rod with the reel seat located eight inches from the butt. Built for long-distance surf casting, the rod is designed so a right-handed angler thumbs the reel with the left hand. Photo by Gene Kira.


By Gene Kira, October 27, 2003, as published in Western Outdoor News:

Last week, I spent an enjoyable, educational afternoon with surf fishing and casting expert William Taylor, of Carlsbad, CA, who imports high-performance Purglas rod blanks into the U.S. from his native South Africa.

We met at Hugh Cobb's Pacific Coast Bait & Tackle store in Oceanside, Calif., an ideal location because of Hugh's ample selection of surf casting rods.

Struggling to keep up with William's fast-paced, South African-accented English, I got a intensive lesson on the differences between rods, and what makes some cast farther than others.

A good, practical surf rod for fishing the Baja coast is maybe 11 to 13 feet long, lightweight, fairly stiff and powerful, fairly high modulus, and with a medium-fast action that has a relatively stiff butt section and progresses smoothly to a fast, stiff tip.

After looking at a number of rods, I picked out a Purglas Model 350-1 for my next Baja fishing run. This is an all-around, 12 foot 8 inch, medium power rod rated for 3-ounce sinkers and up to about 22-pound line, and I figured I could learn to handle it fairly quickly, except for one little problem:

The reel seat on this rod is located only 8 inches from the end of the butt. For a right-handed caster, the conventional reel is held in the left hand, and you thumb it with your left thumb, holding nothing in your right hand except the shaft of the rod.

According to William, this technique originated about a century ago in South Africa. Its purpose is simple: to let you cast powerfully with your hands very far apart, but nevertheless to have the reel in a comfortable position for fighting fish.

With William's enthusiastic assurances that this left-thumb deal would work, I headed for a local lake, early on a weekday, so there would be no witnesses, but unfortunately when I arrived, who should be there to watch but a very attractive young lady, an elderly couple eating fried chicken, several construction workers, and--I swear--an old guy who looked just like Fred Hoctor.

Trying to act as casual as possible, I made a couple of preparatory swings, just like Igor Galvan at L.A. Bay, and I silently repeated sixteen times: "Left thumb, left thumb, left thumb..."

With the powerful blank hardly loaded at all, I let go a very weak warm-up cast, and was shocked to see the three-ounce sinker fly across the lake like a cruise missile, on a dead flat trajectory 15 feet above the water.

About 50 yards out, my eyes focused on the sinker, and I was horrified to see it was headed straight toward the only bird on the lake, a mud hen about 75 yards out. In a panic, I thumbed the spool ("LEFT THUMB! LEFT THUMB!") and was rewarded with a tremendous pain and a dull white spot next to my left thumbnail. At that speed, there was no way to stop it in time.

With unbelievable accuracy, the sinker struck the mud hen in an explosion of water, and it disappeared from view. I looked around. Nobody had witnessed the assassination except the Fred Hoctor guy, who sat there expressionless.

Then a miracle happened! The mud hen popped to the surface and began paddling around, seemingly none the worse for it. I rewound, and enjoyed a great morning of left-thumb education, making about a hundred easy throws of just under a hundred yards, with only about a dozen backlashes (okay, three of them were pretty ugly). It really was a big help being able to put my right hand anywhere I wanted, and just like William said, the left-thumb technique felt completely natural after a short while.

Ready for Baja!

(Related Baja California, Mexico, articles and reports may be found at Mexfish.com's main Baja California information page. See weekly fishing news, photos, and reports from the major sportfishing vacation areas of Mexico including the Baja California area in "Mexico Fishing News.")