The mean, no mercy ferocity of a deep water Conger Eel is the legend which generations of European sea anglers have had to measure their angling abilities against. It is one of the few fish in European waters with the ability to brutally heave your rod into a carbon cracking hoop, rip yards of line off your reel with a scream of tortured clutch washers when it bores back into the dark sanctuary of the shadow danced depths.
This is a wish list scenario that is alive and well, living and thriving in the minds and aspirations of thousands of boat anglers throughout the British Isle’s and Europe.
The Conger can swim almost as powerfully backwards as it can in a forward direction. Its tail is almost solid muscle, once it is wrapped around a piece of the wreck or the conger is curled like a dogfish into a constricted space, you do not have much of a chance of getting the eel into free water.
The crucial few seconds after the steel of the hook stings the eel is a critical time, you have to be able to pile on tremendous pressure in those first few seconds to catch the eel off balance, using the full power of the rod to exert an irresistible pressure to get the eel away from the wreck before it can wrap its muscular tail around a piece of wreckage or jam itself into a crevice.
Good quality, heavy duty tackle is essential if you want the best chance of watching the eel surface alongside the boat. Whether you then choose the glory of weighing it in, or satisfaction of the soul by releasing it, is a matter for yourself and to some extent the size of the eel.
I have seen good anglers bust a gut with a thirty pound class rod trying to get a big eel out of the bottom, if it really is a big eel they have no chance. The modern day stumpy stand up rods have tremendous power when they are put under maximum compression. Even with a full harness, few anglers are strong enough to maintain one of these strong stumpy rods in full compression for more than a minute or so, but getting the eel into free water only takes a few seconds if you can hit the fish with sudden and overwhelming force. Then immediately setting up the rhythmic, pump and reel, pump and reel, which will eventually defeat the largest of fish. To apply this sort of force, your gear has got to be better than just adequate, otherwise you are not going to get a really big eel out of the wreck or eventually to the surface.
So which is best, the stumpy stand-up rods or the conventional European style 7ft 6inch boat rods?
The stand-up rods have a tremendous amount of reserve power in the butt and are best suited to anglers who are physically able to use that power. For an angler who wants a specialised Conger rod and expects to tangle with a lot of big eels, the standup rod is probably the best buy.
If on the other hand, you want a rod capable of being used for other things, as well as an occasional conger trip, then the conventional rod is probably the better buy. But whatever type of rod you buy, get yourself a 50lb class rod for deep water Congering.
In Europe we have a problem with line classes in so far as some rod makers don’t know fishing rods from feather dusters. So go for a reputable make such as Penn or Daiwa then at least you have a chance of getting a rod that is in the ballpark.
The classic Conger reel is the Penn Senator 4/0 or if you really want to play with the big boys, a Senator 6/0.
Shimano have given Penn a real fright in the past couple of decades and with reels such as the Beastmaster 12/30’s a popular choice, it is not difficult to see why. The TLD two speeds and the standard TLD’s do the job well and are ideal for use with Superbraid line.
Shakespeare sell several heavy duty multipliers which are popular buys, such as the much improved, value for money Fulmars and the expensive Italian made Albacore series.
Daiwa, as usual, weigh in with several beautifully engineered heavy duty boat reels, their Sealine series are very capable, conventional reels which have landed some very big Conger over the years.
Here we go againmore arguments.
Are the new Superbraid lines worth the money and are they better than monofilament for Congering? - You pays your money and takes your choice there is no other answer!
I have been using 50lb Mason Tiger Braid from Veals for three seasons and have got on very well with it. I am also using the Berkley Fireline, the second generation Superbraid line which is proving to be truly excellent. I like using this line because I thoroughly detest having to haul three pounds of lead up from forty fathoms. With the Superbraid lines I can often get away with just a pound of lead and still nail the bait to the bottom, which is absolutely essential if you want to catch conger.
Super-glue the knots or use the more complicated but superb Bimini hitch and Albright knot connection to connect a ten yard monofilament shock leader to the front of the Superbraid line.
Nylon monofilament main line is still preferred by many anglers because it is tried and tested, the knots are well known and reliable, besides which it is cheap by comparison with Superbraid lines.
Most anglers content themselves with a simple strap-on butt pad such as the ever durable Eddystone pad(also sold under the Shakespeare brand). Little butt pads are fine for most fishing, for such as cod, pollack, coalfish etc, but if you really want to shake your stand-up stick at a big conger, a "wi-i-ide" butt pad such as the new Eddystone/Shakespeare pad which will sit across the front of your thighs and allow you to really crank on some heavy pressure is best.
If you really want to prise a big eel loose, use a shoulder harness as well, better yet use a kidney harness, which I think is more comfortable and just as effective as a shoulder harness.
Some noddy anglers have a little snigger when they see someone kitting up with a big pad and harness, they are usually the ones that have never tangled with a big fish and have never felt the need for every bit of help they can get. Believe me the big pad and harness can make life a lot more comfortableif you have got to show the world what a macho masochist you are, try to land a Gold Medal Conger eel without a pad and harness, the conger won’t mind!!
Tackle is only as strong as its weakest link and very often the weakest link is at the business end. More big fish are lost through bad knots or poor quality crimping than for any other reason. I believe that there are an awful lot of poor quality commercially made conger traces sold to anglers who really ought to know better than part with hard earned cash for what is clearly rubbish. Roger Bayzand sells Conger traces at reasonable prices, as a skipper he wouldn’t risk the wrath of customers by selling duff kit, so give him a call on 01 590 674 652.
Clip on a sinker heavy enough to get your bait down on the bottom and hold it there so that the eels can find your bait. If you use sinkers that are not heavy enough, your baits might eventually hit the bottom twenty or thirty yards downtide from the wreck, the scent from your bait will be going away from the fish and if an eel finds your bait it will be more by luck than judgement.
A strong boom is needed to carry the pound or more of lead that your sinker is going to weigh. The Knotless Heavy line Slida’s or the Ashpole white triangular booms both do the job very well indeed, both are simple and strong, look no further.
Final Comment: Put this lot together and you will have tackle fully capable of landing a Record Breaker.
Get on the right boats, talk to the right skippers, make sure that you fish with a like minded crew. Join the Conger Club if you really want to get it together with like minded anglers.
Just remember "Good Luck is the coincidence of good fortune and a lot of preparation!"