Fiddling with Fishing Stuff

Fiddling with Fishing Stuff
Leaving early will be essential. So too will be good lighting.
Unfortunately I haven't been fishing much lately, especially not guiding. I'm not sure whether I fish to tell stories or tell stories to fish but, if I do make it out on the water for two days I have to lay on my back for three. It's way past time to lay on a surgeon's table instead. Yes that procedure is in the works, but even when I have been able to go it seems like I've been scratching my head right along with many others down this way.

Wacky conditions usually have us fishing where we can and not where we normally want, and for whatever reason guided, non-guided, and even tournament weights seem way down. We all know fishing is cyclical but we sure hope things change for the better soon, and we all sure hope it's just these temporary conditions. Time can either fix or tell, so we shall wait and see.

In many senses however, we all fish for something larger than just the fish. To me, the whole act is a pleasant exercise in problem solving, and the best part is that it happens in a God-granted and fascinating waterborne laboratory. Since problems can be easier to solve with proper and well-suited tools, I have a few new (to me) toys and tips to mention, which have at least helped the whole process become more enjoyable if not more productive. In order of operation, let's work our way from the slip to the "if we get lucky" cleaning table.

First tool up is a new boat, not yet here but on its way. Mine and Capt. Tricia's Haynies were long-awaited game changers, basically shrinking the Laguna for us in a faster, more comfortable and economical way. Well suited for the demanding work we have to do in extreme conditions, it eats chop like crazy and without it I'd probably have been forced to bow to the scalpel much sooner. It's an easy choice to go with the same 23' Cat design - just a few minor changes.

My good friend and sometimes tournament/music partner, Doc Saenz, named mine the Black Pearl. I'm not sure if that came from the black console or Capt. Sparrow of Pirates of the Caribbean but the biggest change is bumping 200 ponies up to 250, Mercury Pro XS, of course. Besides the power, it incredibly gets 13-15% better fuel economy than most 4-strokes. It really doesn't need more horses (by any means), but it's getting harder to compete for fewer areas these days, and, why not? I am excited.

Another upgrade will be the beefier torque master lower unit, and nothing's going on that shaft but another custom prop from Louie Baumann. The performance difference is significant, plus higher iron content in the alloy makes the all-critical diameter last much longer running skinny water.

The next pleasurable upgrade will be the Safe Floor, the granulated rubber deck coating Tricia and clients have been enjoying the past two years. For me it's a must-have product for too many reasons to list here but suffice to say it makes the whole experience more pleasurable and practical.

With summer's many challenges you will need to bring your best game daily and leaving early will be an essential part. Good lighting will be necessary for early morning navigation and I found a ridiculously lightweight and compact spotlight that solves many issues in this category. It is a Waypoint cordless pistol-grip LED from Streamlight with a bright, tight beam. Its lithium ion battery can last up to 15 hours full-on! That's crazy sweet, and so is the simple Power-Cap, a well-made hat with coin-battery LED lights right under the bill. I well remember the old days of night wading, having to lug around 6V batteries and a neck stretching coal miner's lamp. Excellent upgrade, and why didn't I think of that?

When on the water, the better we see the better normally we do. I cheat and use binoculars all day, scanning variously for bait, birds, bikinis, or perhaps even enemy boats. After much research I ended up with a Marine 7X50 binocular from Steiner. There are definitely cheaper optionsbut the quality and clarity of this optic competes with the highest-enders. What a treat. And the night-vision capability is "peeping tom" scary. I see you!

I was given a new reel recently for some on-the-water testing and it has turned out to be another pleasant surprise. From what I have seen thus far I'm probably going to upgrade the whole arsenal. A quick look at the handle alone shows considerable attention to materials and construction and the same class of workmanship exists throughout. Ceramic bearings allow "casting to the backing" and the drag is as smooth as the cast. It's made by 13Fishing and the model I've been using is the Concept-C. It's their middle price-point model which is another surprise, about 180 bucks, which is less than many other quality reels.

Another product I'm finding indispensable, especially for reels, is an aerosol spray penetrant-lubricant-rust buster made by Lucas Oil Products. Larry the Cable Guy must have been involved because it's called Tool Box Buddy. I've had pliers locked up for months at the dock that loosened with a day's soaking and we've had some "grinder" reels settle down decently after a good dose. The lubricity of this stuff is awesome and the corrosion resistance it provides is incredible...up to a year, even in saltwater. Spray the inside of the reel and you can literally swim with it and your boat's exposed electrical connections stay pretty and clean. The only place I've found the stuff is at O'Reilly's Auto Parts. The only negative is that I have to return regularly for another can because friends and clients latch onto it as soon as they see what it will do.

I'm still using Sufix braided line but recently went to the 30-pound 832 Advanced Superline, simply because that was all they had on the rack. It has proven to be a real keeper, but I also use a rod's length of leader and that has continued to be a pain. Leader material can be expensive, hard to carry, and some can't handle much shock or gets cut easily by the braid at the joining knot. Throwing your favorite lure off in the heat of the moment can cause loud breaches of acceptable language. A simple and practical solution for me has been a little spool of T-Line made by Mason. It's just heavy mono, but fixed most of those nasty shock-breaks. It fits easily into a pocket and only costs about $1.19 for 25 yards. Hey, it's the little things, remember?

Now should we happen to get lucky out there, we need a good rope to skewer them on when we're wading. Several good stringers are available from several good guys but the one I'm enjoying most is the green one from Grind Terminal Tackle. It has an innovative Chinese-fingerlock type of release for the cork, easy to remove, doesn't tangle, and can easily be controlled for carry purposes. Some solid polymer stringers can be as unruly as a Slinky, especially in cold water, and the coated stainless cable styles may not be the greatest idea around summertime sharks. Sorry, but I want one they can bite through, not a tow rope.

Back at the table can be a real chore. I am not an electric knife guy and enjoy the art of filleting with a straight blade. I'm faster and my cuts prettier. I received another gift recently that makes cleaning fish, even redfish, fun again. Time-honored choices are Dexter, Cutco, and the newer Bubba Blade has made a mark, but this one seems a cut above. If you are a real knife lover and not just a knife user, the 9" fillet by Hammer Stahl might be worth a look. The steel is German, X50 CrMoV 15 high-carbon stainless, and pleasingly sounds like a tuning fork. No sawing required, just push-flip-push, and with a good starting edge it doesn't seem to need sharpening beyond an occasional swipe on a leather strop. Although the handle is a bit slippery and it's probably a bit high-priced, it's a piece of pleasurable artwork that can turn you into a Benihana performing chef. You knife gurus will know more than I but I have to think it's the steel.

Fiddling with our stuff is a lot of the overall fun we can all have as fishermen, but beyond fun is finding the right tools to make everything work better. Some are cheap, some ain't, but hey, what is all of this worth anyway? Hopefully I'll be back behind a console soon, a new one at that. In the meantime, it will be scratching my head, one day, one fish, and one problem at a time. Y'all take care of your back and have fun shopping.