Fishing Reels photo

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn more ›

By Joe Cermele

For the last few days I’ve been bumming around Key West with some friends from Quantum, and fishing with some renowned anglers in these parts like Robert “R.T.” Trosset, who probably has led more clients to IGFA line-class records than any other captain in the states. In other words, the man knows how to handle very mad, very fast fish on very light line, so it stands to reason that when a challenge was issued involving a Zebco 33 combo in the bluewater, R.T. (below) won with ease.


That challenge went like this: Whoever in the group lands the biggest fish during the trip on a 33 combo wins serious bragging rights and some new pliers. While everyone else tempted snappers and little mackerel with their 33s, RT went for the throat and pitched a live pilchard to a school of fired-up false albacore. The rules stated that if you got spooled you could not respool the 33, and you could only add a short leader to 110 feet of 10-pound test that comes on the reel. The tricky part is that once a fish starts taking line, you can’t see the spool, so you have no idea how much line is left.


For 15 minutes I watched R.T. battle this falsie. With each run we all winced and cringed, but he just took his time, put on all the heat the little rod could take at just the right times, and before long we saw color ten feet down. All this fish had to do was make one more smoking run and it was over, but R.T. finessed the 10-pound pelagic right to the gaff like the pro he his.

He must be a great teacher, too, because his son Chris won the same challenge last year with a 15-pound dolphin. I tried to score a false on the 33 right after R.T. and failed.

It just goes to show you that those combos many of us used in the early days to spark our angling obsessions are actually tougher than you think.