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July 30, 2010

Using the Power Assist

Well-designed power assists keep the sport in deep-drop fishing

Good Company
Capt. Steve Huddleston (954-562-0051) is one of the very best at catching swordfish both day and night, and he joined me on my outing. On this particular day, we had a calm sea and about a 2- to 3-knot Gulf Stream current over the swordfish grounds. Dropping a bait to the bottom some 1,800 feet below required a 12-pound weight. Once it was there, we took several cranks on the reel handle to lift the weight 30 to 50 feet above bottom, to avoid snags. We power-drifted over the spot, with all eyes watching the rod tip for either a slight tap or its straightening up, indicating a fish swimming upward with the bait. It didn't take long. Huddleston and I caught four swordfish on that outing. And the Turn-A-Mate performed admirably and flawlessly!

When we attached the drive, it took 15 to 18 minutes to retrieve the line, weight and bait from 1,800 feet of water - not bad considering it required just as long to set the bait and get dialed into position. The unit was comfortable to hold, and it brought up the braid at a speed that I didn't consider dangerous when levelwinding. When it wasn't in use, it rested on top of the console seat, within easy reach. I have used this prototype several times since my outing with Huddleston, and it now has become the Turn-A-Mate model 570T.

Faster Horses
Huffman wanted to hear the negatives, which were critical to his improving the unit, and not so much the positives. The only improvement I recommended was a bit more speed. The weight of the unit was perfectly manageable, and I never tired holding it for those 15- to 18-minute retrievals. The end result is a slightly larger and heavier (20-pound) Turn-A-Mate drive model 830T. According to Elec-Tra-Mate tests, this unit retrieved a 20-pound weight from 2,000 feet of water in five minutes. Beware: When dealing with such a fast assist and attempting to lay line evenly on the spool, consider using a tool to guide the line. Should your fingers get caught under the braid, the speed and power of the assist - well, you get my drift. Not pretty.

The Sporting Way
Considering the tactics used to catch daytime swords off south Florida and how the game is rapidly spreading to other coastal states, Elec-Tra-Mate's Turn-A-Mate 830T stands to be a hot commodity. And the smaller model, the Turn-A-Mate 570T, is well-matched to handling line for recreational deepwater grouper fishing and tilefishing, where drops are often 400 to 700 feet. Think of how easy it would be to bring up those rigs to check baits with an electric assist and how much energy you could save until it's really needed for fighting a fish up from those depths.

These two models represent worthy pieces of tackle that go a long way toward putting the sport back into several deep and exciting fisheries while holding costs down. I wouldn't have it any other way. But if the deepwater grouper, tilefish and swordfish could talk, I'm sure they'd have an entirely different opinion!


Easy as 1-2-3
Attach a Reel Crankie to the reel handle, then attach the Turn-A-Mate for easy rig retrieval: