Y'all know the drill. The fishing conditions suddenly become perfect, but because life is always busier than it should be, we just hitch up and gallop off in a hurry. Unfortunately all of our "stuff" isn't so perfect. So when we finally arrive at the ramp with a less than tidy boat, after smoking a wheel bearing along the way, we find a few more attention-demanding demons. The single working navigation light will be blinking an SOS, our lures are worthlessly rusted up, and our reels will cast only a few yards. You wonder what else could go wrong. The answer is plenty!
In a recent TSFMag reader survey, "how-to" articles scored very high. This one probably won't qualify as any "Manswer-class read," but since fishing is the culmination of all sciences, let's look at some applied elbow physics to help our gear, tackle and trim stay buff, tuff and ready to go.
Concerning those reels, besides disappointingly short casting distance, how often do we suddenly start back-lashing two out five times for no apparent reason? Numb thumbs aside; an often overlooked factor is the reel's centrifugal braking system. Those little plastic brake collars weigh heavily in the casting distance equation and anything short of OCD clean on either the collar, collar stems or brake case ring robs distance and makes performance inconsistent. Eyeglass lens cleaning cloths (essential gear anyway) make excellent rescue pads. Wiping down the ring during the day can make a huge difference, as even one drop of water can make the spool sputter and you spit. If you really want to cast out loud; a little Reel Magic on the whole assembly will make even the best of thumbs deploy another brake.
Lures take an ugly corrosion beating just living inside the tackle box. Hard plugs are easily rescued, but even those nearly destroyed favorite Corkys can twitch unashamedly again. First step is removing nasty rust stains. Several products will almost instantly remove most traces, but the better ones contain oxalic acid, which only attacks iron oxide and not other precious metals or even paint. (Good to remember for the trailer and truck!) A little soak time with some rubbing encouragement even gets those deeper stains embedded in teeth marks and tears. Follow with a bath of citric acid and watch the brilliance begin. Most any orange or green house cleaner will work. That sexy clear coat will be gone, but easily restored with a quick dip into a 50/50 mix of clear PVC glue and MEK. Hang to drip-dry smooth. A skinny shampoo bottle and coat hanger works great. Even those little holes and rips will be healed.
As far as finding and keeping stuff in good order, I finally resorted to using old pill bottles as a simple way to keep jig heads, hooks and such from becoming a corroded, scattered mess after the packaging gets wet. Those rust inhibitor plastic chips are another great cheat. They are cheap and actually work very well, so tossing a couple in your topwater box or onboard tool kit is invaluable to avoid surprises.
One of the coolest organizers I've found comes from our troops. "Ruggedize" those zip-lock baggies by laminating them with duct tape, and you've got yourself an official "Ranger purse" - a nearly indestructible waterproof pouch with many designer choices available for that "poser" in you. (Thanks Capt. Clint!)
Koozies can cool down more than just cans, including making convenient padded sleeves to contain those runaway bulk spools of line. Another mighty fine use is making your shades much shadier by creating quick side-shields out of them. It's an excellent throw-down to fight blinding glare when you really need to see. I couldn't believe the difference, like when sight-casting to some big midday trout last week. It helped so well they are standard gear now.
Other quickie gear tamers are those stretchy, self-adhesive athletic tapes such as Coach Tape by Johnson's. Also excellent for harnessing big spools of line, extra rods or whatever else tries to get away. Reusable, porous and grippy, one of the best uses we've found is protecting bodily "hot spots" such as blisters under booties or shin abrasions from the tops of stingray guards during long marches.
Our boats can get nasty pretty quickly on us just by sitting, but most detailing issues are easily ransomed as well. For general cleaning starters, a product which absolutely rocks is LA's Totally Awesome cleaner. It effortlessly removes just about everything, harms nothing, is non-toxic and even effective at a 50/1 dilution. I've just been spraying down some "needy" areas, and after cleaning the catch of the day, it's now simply hose and go with totally unprecedented results. There's a lot of sparkle in that bottle for about three bucks and most dollar stores have it. Sometimes thousands of internet reviews are right.
Does your hull look like an old yellow tooth from absorbing the scummy topping on the surface of the water? If Totally Awesome doesn't get it, cruise over to the fruit juice section and throw a dollar or two at a bottle of Real Lemon. We were using toilet bowl cleaners, which worked great, but rather harsh on things like skin, eyes, and most plastics. Spray on, wipe down with a terrycloth rag, and citric acid once again whitens and brightens even the worst stains. (Thanks Andie!)
After she's clean, that fiberglass skin can glow like new about as fast as you can walk around the boat. Vertglas Gelcoat Restoration System is a polymer-type sealer, absorbing into the gel coat instead of just covering it. It incredibly restores damaged surfaces and improves the good ones. It's a thin solution that applies incredibly fast with basically a plastic trowel wrapped in fine chamois leather. It will last all year under heavy use. It's just flat out cheating compared other products.
Even those battered rub rails can be coaxed back to luster with a little can of xylene and a rag. Heavy scratches and rashes can even be "liquid-buffed" using a fine Scotch Brite pad. Results are impressive.
Top mounted instrument gauges can get badly glazed and cloudy from sun exposure, and mine went to non-readable, useless ornaments in three short years. A headlight restoration product brought the clarity back to crystal. The final stage polishing compound also works well for dulled windshields, and even resurrects those scratchy sunglasses you've been attempting to peer through.
On a lower side of higher tech, smart phones have become invaluable for inshore boaters with hundreds of critical helps such as animated radar and other real-time conditions. They can even display your emergency location on Google Maps when out of cell phone range (checkout BoatUS). Never mind instantly sharing those catches and comical gaffs. However, most have capacitive touch screens…hard to use with greasy, wet or winter-gloved hands. The solution is a stylus, or to be a bit more precise, pen-like extension of your finger. These are available in stores of course, but depending on where you are they can be hard to find and darn sure easy to lose. I read several DIY ways to make your own, but many bordered on overkill or flat out silly. Enter the 'McSpongeinator', a little disposable that works as well if not better than most for mere pennies and seconds. Swipe a sponge off the sink and simply roll up a pencil-sized slice of it with aluminum tape. It's actually fun to use, and definitely more accurate than a fat, wet wading finger.
There are many chores left and we haven't even touched on critical "metal health", but if you like this sort of stuff, creative problem solving is fun. For me, half the fun is being a "fishing technician" which indeed makes us hackers of many sciences. Sure, we can always buy new stuff but I prefer the character of homemade. Let's remember though, "A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it." Have fun, and don't let your passion get rusty this winter.