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May 07, 2023May 07, 2023

You won't believe that a fish this big and powerful — a sturgeon! — could be caught on such a small rod and reel.

This must-see fishing video somehow eluded me for a year, but as the saying goes, "better late than never." Frankly I’m shocked the video has only 19k views at the time of this writing. Sure that number is bigger than 190 or 1,900, but the content is good enough to have hundreds of thousands of views.

Let me set the scene: The young host of NorthWest Fishing (5k YouTube subscribers) is targeting sturgeon at the Swan Island Shipyard on the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon. And this is not a misprint: He's in a kayak.

This is big water, and as you’ll see, there are several other anglers in much bigger vessels attempting to catch sturgeon, too. The host calls his adventure the "Kayak Barbie Fishing Rod Challenge." Yes, you read that correctly; he's using one of those tiny rod-and-reel combos designed for toddlers.

Well-known fishing rod manufacturer Shakespeare builds the Barbie Beginner Kit, which helps explain what you’re about to witness. As you might remember, Shakespeare (now under the Pure Fishing umbrella of brands) also builds the world-famous Ugly Stik series of rods, which have the well-deserved reputation for being nearly indestructible. You can bend a fiberglass Ugly Stick nearly in a circle without breaking the rod blank, and the company must use the same type or quality of fiberglass when building the Barbie rod, too.

Note: The Barbie Beginner Kit (MSRP: $14.99) comes with a 2.5-foot rod, and a tiny spincast (push-button) reel. As you watch the video, I know you’ll be impressed with the drag on the inexpensive reel. It's truly amazing that the reel handles the fight with the sturgeon so well.

The reel comes spooled with 4-pound-test mono, which is perfect for catching small sunfish off a dock or from shore. But there's no way it would handle a big sturgeon, so it's no surprise to learn the angler replaced the line. He respooled with 30-pound-test braid, and also used a Dacron leader. He rigs Pickled Sturgeon Candy (smelt) on a barbless 6/0 hook, and a large sinker pulls the smelt to the bottom.

The only word that accurately describes what happens after the angler hooks the sturgeon is "chaos." (Fast-forward to the 3:00 mark if you’re in a hurry.) I assumed if he did hook one, that he’d gingerly fight it due to his rod/reel choice. Wrong! He leans on the fish with all his strength.

Now, I’ve never caught a big sturgeon, so I can't say whether the one that jumps in the background at the 3:50 mark is his hooked fish. I suppose it could be, but the line angle seems wrong, so I think this giant just decides it wants to be famous for a split-second on YouTube. (Later in the video, a second one breaches.)

You must watch the fight. (What happens at the 4:26 mark is the sturgeon must decide to quickly swim toward his kayak.) And if you’re wondering why the angler sometimes pulls his sleeve down before grabbing the rod, it's because the braided fishing line is burning his bare skin when the fish goes on a fast run.

Even after the rod blank splinters near the tip section, it never fails. Crazy. And check out those final runs after the angler first attempts to grab the fish. Again — crazy!

It's a miraculous accomplishment to catch a sturgeon of this size on a Barbie fishing rod. I can't think of another video I’ve seen on YouTube that impresses me as much as this one. Check it out!