A Crappie Day with OPST – by Chad Mason

In this edition, we share a report from one of our customers, Chad Mason, who has used OPST Commando Heads and tips on his local Midwestern lake. He shares some insights on why these lines make fishing more accessible. And now I'll leave it to Chad.

Chad Mason – St. Louis, MO
May 1, 2018

After fishing for over 30 years with conventional integrated fly lines, I recently purchased a set of Commando heads and tips. The micro-Skagit concept seemed like a great way to tackle many situations I encounter in Midwestern fishing, both in cold and warm water.

For nearly 20 years I’ve fished a 50-acre lake in Iowa that grows big bluegills and crappies. Most of the shoreline is developed, so access is difficult. I’ve fished the lake from a kayak at times, but prefer the stable platform of casting from shore. I have friends who live there, so I can fish the lake from their property, and also access the lake from the dam along the road. Back-casting room is somewhat limited in both places. Along the dam there is a high bank with a walking trail alongside the road. On my friend’s property, mature trees restrict back-casting room to a maximum of 20 feet.

Such restrictions are actually quite common in suburban mid-America. A friend of mine recently snagged a jogger on his back-cast while fishing on a public suburban pond. Even a small jogger puts up a great fight, especially on a 3-weight rod, but you need to have a lot of backing. So it’s better to keep your cast entirely in front of you for the safety of all.

On Saturday afternoon I fished the lake with a cheap, 7’-6” 3-weight rod and an OPST micro-Skagit system. My setup consisted of the following

• Running Line: OPST 30-lb. Lazar
• Head: OPST Commando, 150-grain
• Tip: OPST 5-ft. Commando, Floating
• Leader: 2 ft. butt of 20-lb. Maxima, 4 ft. tippet of 8 lb. fluorocarbon

My “fly” was a 1/80 oz. chartreuse marabou micro-jig, about two feet below a foam indicator. This is a popular and deadly presentation for panfish, which I’ve used for many years with conventional 5- and 6-weight floating lines. Incidentally, I’ve discovered that an old-school, toothpick-pegged indicator stays on the leader during water-anchored Skagit casting much better than today’s more popular “football” style indicators with rubber tubing.

With this system, I could reach places I have never before been able to fish. My friend’s property sits on a small cove with rip-rap banks. In places where no back-casting room existed, I used a simple snap-T, water-anchored Skagit cast, which was good for 50-foot casts along the near bank. I picked up a few nice crappies and bluegills that way, plus a small bass or two. However, the overhead casts blew me away.

The opposite bank of the cove is about 70 feet away, but trees prevent you from aerializing enough line on the back-cast to load a rod for distance – at least with conventional lines. With the Commando head and tip, only 17 feet of “fly line” needs to go airborne. I found that I could simply pick it up, give a short haul on my forward stroke, and land the micro-jig a few feet from the opposite bank.

I was in disbelief. I stretched the line out on the ground to measure the cast. (Over the years I’ve seen a lot of “80-foot” casts that were only 50 feet.) I measured 21 long paces, which roughly equates to 63 feet for me. That’s phenomenal, especially for a 3-weight throwing a jig.

I should mention that I found a somewhat elliptical casting stroke helpful, much the same way you’d cast a heavy sink-tip or full sinking line. This involves a slightly sidearm angle on the back-cast, then elevating the rod tip before the forward stroke. Take it smooth and easy. If you try to cast a Commando head with the same back-and-forth staccato rhythm of a WF-F line, you run the risk of smacking the rod (or yourself) with your fly.

Oh, along that opposite bank I caught several more crappies ranging from 12 to 14 inches. Thank you, OPST, for delivering this perfectly crappie day.

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