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Bending Branches

"Getting ready for 2008"

By Jerry White

Here in Florida it was 80 degrees on Christmas day. I fielded calls and e-mails from my paddle-angling brethren, inviting us to join them as they field tested their "presents". Last year, we (my wife and I) would have been all over these invites because some of these folks are paddle fishing guides and will certainly "go where they know" so they can test their toys against their pet fish. This year, I had to graciously decline, and was actually glad to do it. I know, you're shaking your head right now. Let me explain

After noticing some gradual loss of movement in my right hand, I got an MRI and some x-rays right before Christmas. The translation of the MRI analysis, x-rays, and nerve study states that I've got 4 herniated discs in my neck, (but wait, there's more) and a pinched nerve in my right elbow. The good news, surgery will most likely fix all of this. The bad news (short term) is that casting, paddling, and lifting a kayak into the back of my truck ain't gonna happen. I take that back, it *can* happen, but I'll pay the price later. Oh, and if you're one of those folks that muscles your boat off the roof rack by yourself and then balances it on your head for the short portage to the water, STOP. My advice is to buy a cart, and take a buddy trust me on this one.

So, rather than whine about what I can't do, I'll revel in the things that I can do - and there are plenty. Rather than fishing on sometimes less than stellar days for the next few months, you'll find me doing some prep work, getting ready for the piscatorial mayhem that will happen here in Spring, much sooner than we all think.

I'm infamously slack when it comes to reel maintenance. Knowing this, I don't spend a lot of money on reels, saves tears when they ultimately pass on to the other side. Still, there are a few things I do to keep them in the game a little longer.

  • Take them to a reputable reel repair person. My guy charges $15 a reel to clean, lube, and inspect. He does this work day in and day out and certainly has more experience doing this than I ever will - this is a no-brainer for me. And, there's just something about that reconditioned reel smell.
  • During the course of the year I manage to cut out enough wind knots in my braided line to warrant re-spooling. Better to start the season with 150 yards of known good line rather than ??? yards of questionable line. For this, I also consult a professional. My local tackle store has my line in huge spools, has a neat-o little machine to wind it up properly, and sells all sorts of other stuff that most likely I'll need. Hmmm, "tackle store" and "need" in the same sentence there's an oxymoron for ya
Rods are pretty tough and don't need a lot of love. So, this section will be pretty quick. Check those guides for burrs. Ceramic guides are awesome, unless they get a crack. A tiny crack will fray up my precious new braided line. Use a cotton ball to check those guides. If you get fuzz after you pull the cotton ball through, you've got a crack. Replace the entire guide. To replace a broken guide I'd take it to my tackle store. You see a pattern developing here?

Getting all misty-eyed during a Brad Pitt movie is a sign of weakness. Rust is also a sign of weakness. So, as you clean out last year's tackle trays, check lures closely for rust on hooks and o-rings. I can do this myself, thank you very much. Remove the hooks and o-rings (using that pair of o-ring pliers you purchased at the tackle store while your new line was being installed) clean the lure body using soapy water and a green scrubbing pad. Replace the o-rings and hooks, the lure will be better than new. I'm serious. Aftermarket hooks are almost always superior to the original equipment. Jigs and jerk baits are relatively cheap, so if they're rusty, just replace them. Buy more while you're getting that new line.

Check the ferule for dirt and grime. Just clean this area well with soapy water, and let it dry. No need to lube it afterwards. You want this to be a tight union. But should you need a little help, spit on it. Some solutions are quite non-technical I specialize in such solutions.

Last, but certainly not least. My ortho doc says I shouldn't lift anything heavier than 30 lbs. I've ignored this advice and shortly afterwards I looked like I'd been to a Brad Pitt movie. So, do like I *will* do. With assistance, put your boat on a dolly, tug it in to the garage, and prop the bow on a milk crate.

  • Wash your boat, then inspect the vessel for cracks. If you're like me, you paddle a plastic boat. The plastic is most likely to fail at the joints, anywhere that bottom becomes top (affectionately known as parting lines and scupper holes). If you don't trust your eyes for the inspection, go steal some of that soap your kid uses on their bubble wand, spread it on the seams and then use a hair dryer to blow into the drain plug hole. Bubbles = problems. Also check around rivets and screws that penetrate the hull. Expect to be surprised - these fittings aren't as watertight as you'd expect. And understand that any place that will blow a bubble will also pull in water as you get out of your boat.
  • A dose of a good petroleum based protectant like "303" will be much appreciated by that plastic hull, especially if your boat is stored outside.
  • Check the hardware on your seat for rust and corrosion. I learned the hard way that wrestling with a seized seat hook is no way to start a day of fishing. This is also a cheap fix, should you decide to replace this hardware.
*DING* You are now free to move about the waterways.

2008 looks to be an awesome year. We have much to discuss. I plan to have another vessel added to the fleet soon, and I plan to trick this boat to the max. We're talking anchor trolley, GPS, fishfinder, rudder, and who knows what else. I'll be sharing the mods as they evolve - digitally documented, of course. I'll be hiring a guide, and picking his brain a bit and sharing that with you. There will be lots of other points of interest as well - you'll just need to stay tuned.

I'm hoping that if they replace my bad discs that they can super-size them and make me a few inches taller. I'll look goofy, but wearing a neck tie will be a lot more comfortable. And, I've been assured that after the elbow surgery heals I should have no problem playing the banjo... always wanted to be able to play the banjo.

What's YOUR drill for getting ready for Spring? Thanks for your input.

See you out on the water...

"Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after"
~ Henry David Thoreau

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