XAVIER MERAT is best known for his eponymous salon in Sag Harbor, but he also has a penchant for big game fishing. For nearly 40 years he’s angled across the globe from ponds in France to skishing Montauk’s shores to testing his mettle with South American river monsters. Last summer he braved anacondas, piranhas, hostile natives and 100+ degree heat on the Amazon River to haul out peacock bass and man-toothed pacu fish. “You drink a lot of water and you sweat and you fish…you get eaten by mosquitos, but when you love fishing it doesn’t matter.” He gave us a peek inside his tackle box to see what reels he’s casting with.
SHIMANO STELLA SW8000
For the brand’s top-selling saltwater reel, the goal was “absolute power.” The SW models are jammed with the company’s X Concept technology, including X Ship to boost cranking power and X Touch Drag for control. This saltwater spinner is bulletproof no matter what’s on the end of the line. “[It’s] a super light reel, you can fish for hours with it, you can catch 70lb tuna. Usually I use it when I go to Costa Rica for rooster fish even groupers, it can handle anything.” $1,160; fish.shimano.com
VAN STAAL VS150 AND VM150
This reel was practically built for Long Island’s extreme East End fishing style. “It’s a new fishing technique, born in Montauk, called skishing.” It’s a portmanteau of skiing and fishing, where the angler is almost completely submerged except for his head and shoulders. And when he hooks something, well…he’s going for a ride. The VS models (not VM) have a sealed drag system that maintains the integrity of the internal gears. “You fish basically underwater with those…very resistant to saltwater.” VS, $740; VM, $450; vanstaal.com
DAIWA EXIST 300
“[This is a] new reel, mostly for smaller [fish] during the spring. [You can] catch 30lb bass with this. It’s got a new revolutionary drag to it, this drag calculates and adjusts for you. You can use it for freshwater and saltwater, that’s what I use when I go to Brazil…you can catch past a 40-pounder, but might spend a real long time with it, not that that’s a bad thing.” $720, daiwafishing.com.au