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Handy hacks and fishing DIY

By Tom LuskNZ Fishing World
Handy hacks and fishing DIY

Tom Lusk applies some good old-fashioned kiwi ingenuity to fishing with these simple and cost effect DIY fishing hacks.

Ever found yourself exasperated by line that keeps looping off the spool of your reel in transit, fixed rod holders that aren't in quite the right place on the boat, or breakout sinkers that won't easily fit into any bag or tackle box? The following 'hacks' are quick, simple, and cheap solutions to niggly fishing problems. Please note,  I don't claim that these are my own creations, so if you're the inventor, great work, and please take their publication here as testament to your resourcefulness!

 Loading up on a gutsy little kingfish.

Keeping it together

When my land-based game fishing ambitions were at their peak, I'd sometimes take seven rods to the rocks, plus a gaff. This massive bundle of long poles had to be fixed together securely for easy transport. A lot of my fishing mates were using string or bootlaces to knot their rods together, but this has the drawback that the rods will usually move around under the knot, causing the string to loosen. This makes the bundle harder to carry and can mean that thinner rod pieces wiggle loose, exposing them to damage or loss. 

There are commercially rod wraps available, which are pretty good, although they tend to deteriorate fairly quickly when exposed to salt and sun. Here are some cheaper everyday solutions to the problem:

1. Thick rubber bands. Don't wrap the band around the butts and tips of the rods, which seems to be the most obvious way to go. Instead, bundle all your rods and pieces together, then loop one end of a band around the biggest eye closest to the ground. Stretch the band around the rod bundle as many times as necessary to get a firm hold, and pass it back around the eye. Repeat this about two thirds of the way up the bundle, choosing the sturdiest eye you can find. If it's a really massive bundle, use three or four bands, and take extras, as they can fling off into the drink when packing and unpacking. 

Bike pannier bungee creating a secure bundle of rock/surf rods.

2. Bike pannier bungees. These are excellent for this purpose ñ just make sure you get the ones with a plastic toggle, where the bungee feeds through a hole and locks. 'Zap bike rack bungee cords' come in a pack of 8, are good quality, and retail for about $30, although there are cheaper options out there. Bike bungees also have a variety of other uses, such as attaching items of gear to your pack, or joining together to make a short berley cord.

A final useful application is when leaning your rods against your car as you get your gear ready: simply loop the bungee and the rods around part of your roof rack (provided you have one) for a secure hold. Otherwise, you risk the horrible, familiar sound of rod eyes screeching over your paintwork as they clatter to the ground!

Hook holders 

For some reason, rod manufacturers no longer include the very useful hook holders that used to be a feature of virtually every rod ever produced. The absence of these holders can make safe hook storage tricky when moving between spots. One option is to secure your hook to the first, largest eye on the rod. Any jiggle of the rod, however, can release the hook, allowing it to flail about and bury itself where it's not wanted. 

 A double-looped rubber band makes an excellent flexible hook holder.

A medium-sized rubber band does an excellent job because its elasticity allows the hook a lot of movement, even if it is a heavy softbait jighead. This is useful if you're on a bouncing boat, or pushing your way through undergrowth. Simply loop the rubber band through itself twice at the base of the rod blank where it enters the handle, and you're away. Experiment a bit with the best rubber band size for your needs. The best ones for me are about 2mm across, with a diameter of around 50mm.

Makeshift rod holder

As a newbie to the world of boat fishing, I have yet to set up my tinny, the Weasel; with proper rod holders.

 Jack Lusk, the writer's brother, with a 76cm king taken from the rocks on fly near Napier.

A satisfactory stopgap measure has been to take along big plastic spring clamps to lock the rod to the Weasel's rails or bows. If placed correctly, the clamp holds the rod safely parallel to the water, which is great for straylining, as it allows fish to run off with the bait without feeling the tension of the rod bending as it loads. This style of clamp is also very quick and easy to attach and detach, which is important if you are an excitable kind of fisherman like me, who becomes all thumbs and elbows once a decent fish comes along. I suspect this method would also have applications for wharf or bridge fishing.

 Spring clamp in action. Just make sure that the line is clear, and the reel can operate without snagging on the clamp.

One consideration with these clamps is that the teeth might well damage the cork handle of your rod, but this could be avoided by fixing foam buffers on the inside of the spring clamp. So far, it hasn't chewed up my handles at all, but it's something I'll keep an eye on.

Transporting breakout sinkers

Shake the pipe firmly to dispense a sinker

Breakout sinkers can be a real pain to store, as their spikiness means that they don't easily fit into a tackle box or bag, and if they do, they take up a lot of space. One option is to use a length of PVC pipe about double-to-triple the diameter of the lead part of the sinker. I use pipe of 32mm internal diameter, which stores all weights of sinker. Engage the spikes (so the sinker is in 'ready to fish' position), and push them in, one after the other, at the top of the pipe. Each sinker will force the one ahead a little further in to the pipe. When you want to get one out, just give the pipe a firm downward shake, and the bottom sinker will poke its nose out so you can grab it. This method means you can fill your backpack with gear, then jam the PVC pipe in, or attach it to the outside of your pack. I've never had a sinker work its way out on its own, but if you do, consider bending the spikes out more, or using a narrower pipe.

Fish stringer

The fish stringer makes carrying lots of small fish a breeze.

If you are shore fishing and need to transport your catch from place to place, a fish stringer is a good short-term option. At its simplest, a stringer is a wooden spike and a cord with a loop in the end, onto which the fish are threaded. The wooden spike acts as a needle to thread through the fish's gills and out through the mouth, and is also a handle for carrying the catch. Once all the fish have been threaded on, the spike is fed through the loop in the end of the line, forming a noose to securely hold the fish.

To make your own, you just need some parachute cord about a metre long, and a piece of wood to form the handle. While simply knotting the cord to the handle and tying a loop in the other end will do the job, your stringer will be a lot easier to use if you streamline everything. This allows the spike and line to pass more easily through snaggy gill rakers and mouths. I recommend drilling a countersunk hole in the spike, feeding the cord through and knotting it, so that the knot disappears into the countersunk hole when pulled. Then epoxy the knot securely in the hole, and form the loop in the end of the line by binding the cord to itself, creating a smooth profile that will travel through the fish's mouths with ease.

Fishing scissors

I like to have a super-sharp knife for bait cutting, and regard it as a matter of pride that I can shave my arm hair with my bait knife. 

However, even the sharpest bait knife can be outshone by a strong pair of scissors. This is especially true with super mushy pilchards or similar baits, which need delicate treatment. A sturdy pair of scissors will snip through virtually all manner of bait, and are also able to cut line, trim knots, and shape mangled softbaits, all one-handed. They're also good at removing bait cotton/elastic from destroyed bait, and have the added advantage that if you are excited or clumsy, there's a reduced risk of lacerating yourself. Even a cruddy pair from the supermarket or $2 shop will do a better job than a poor-quality, blunt knife ñ although the cheaper ones will need more anti-rust treatment than quality stainless steel.

The Weasel in action taking fishos to the rocks

Quick tips & hacks

  • Reduce or eliminate rust in your hook box by putting a pad of cotton at the bottom of each section, and soaking it lightly with olive oil.
  • Increase the appeal of your livebait balloons by getting some tiny bells from a craft shop and putting them into the balloon before inflation. It’s also a good idea to use “helium quality” balloons from a party supply store, as they are a lot more resilient than supermarket cheapies.

  • A “Warwick Velcro Homework Bag” in the largest size is a good receptacle for every piece of terminal tackle you use during a session. Chuck all your used stickbaits, hooks, flies, sinkers etc in it for cleaning and desalination at home, and avoid putting them back with your other tackle. 

Final word

Most of these hacks are arguably not as good as something purpose-designed but they're cheap and easy to put together and will hopefully help you get fishing more enjoyably and effectively. Tight lines! 

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