How to manage fish and tackle when you're ready to wet a line.
HOLD TIGHT A drop of Super Glue at the top of the hook shank will keep plastic worms and lizards from peeling back off the shank, even in the densest cover.
MOTOR COOKING If your boat has an inboard motor, you and guests can enjoy a hot lunch. Keep foil-wrapped food warm by placing it on a flat portion of the manifold.
WEIGHTLESS WORMS When panfish seem persnickety, it may help to fish without a sinker. Use a lightweight, thin-wire Aberdeen-style hook on a 61/2-foot spinning rod matched with a reel full of 4-pound-test mono. With this rig, you should be able to easily cast an unweighted worm 30 to 50 feet. A cricket won’t cast nearly as far.
DROP-SHOT BREAM If you locate a bluegill bed in very shallow water, try a bank drop-shot rig to reach it without spooking the fish. Tie No. 8 or 6 bait hooks or wet Black Gnat or similar flies to your line several inches apart; then add a one-ounce bank or pyramid sinker to the bottom, 16 to 24 inches below the bottom hook or fly. Use live bait or plastic imitators on the hooks. Cast the sinker to the edge of the bank, give the line some slack and dabble the baited hooks or flies on the surface of the water.
SPONGE IT A big sponge removes excess water from leaky fishing boats better than other bailers and can be used for quick wipe-downs, too.
EASY-TO-SPOT JUGS If you enjoy jug-fishing for catfish, paint the jugs black. Black stands out better than any other color against the surface of the water, which will make the jugs easier to see when it’s time to retrieve them.
DRY UP Save those little packets of silica gel that come packaged with so many electronic products. A few packets placed in your tackle box will absorb moisture and help prevent mildew.
NICK DETECTOR After catching a fish or hanging up, detect monofilament abrasions by running the last two or three feet of line between your lips. Sensitive lips work better than fingers for this purpose.
FLAVORFUL CRICKETS Savvy sunfish anglers add a piece of banana peel and slices of the fruit to their cricket cages. It imparts a flavor and aroma to the bait that bluegills find irresistible.
SLEEVE TEST Where regulations require a barbless hook, be certain you’re complying by inserting the hook into a shirt sleeve to see if it comes out without snagging. Keep a file or pliers handy for touch-ups.
SUBSURFACE SCALING To keep panfish scales from flying all over the place, scale the fish under water in a dishpan or sink.
POTATO MOLD To mold sinkers of unique shapes and sizes, use potatoes for the molds. Cut a potato in half, carve the desired shape in the center and bore a pouring hole to the mold from the potato’s exterior. Before pouring the lead, tape the halves of the potato mold together tightly. Throw the potato away after the sinker is extracted.
CRAPPIE LOCATORS Find crappie beds in the spring by trolling a white 1/32-ounce Beetle Spin around the shoreline of bays and coves. When you get a strike and catch a crappie, note the approximate position where the fish grabbed the spinnerbait and then check it with live minnows, tiny jigs or similar lures.
CANE CURING Canes cut from riverbanks for poles must be properly cured so they don’t develop a bend at the tip while they’re drying. To cure a straight pole, tie a cord to the tip and secure the other end of the cord to a barn rafter or tree limb so the pole hangs vertically above the ground. Curing is complete in a few weeks, when the pole takes on a tannish hue. Varnish it for longer life if you desire.
LINE THREADER If you have difficulty focusing your eyes when you’re trying to tie a hook or fly to your fishing line or tippet, use an old-fashioned needle-threader to do the job for you. Push the loop of the needle-threader through the hook-eye, then drop your line or tippet through the loop and pull it back through the hoook-eye-it’s fast and simple.
ILLUMINATE A good way to find where your waders leak is to put an electric light bulb on a drop cord inside the waders and turn off all lights in the room. The light inside the waders will glow through worn or broken fabric and you can easily mark the spots for patching with a felt-tip pen.
SHELL CHUM If panfishing is slow, try chumming with eggshells saved from breakfast. Crush the shells and sprinkle them overboard. Fragments drifting down through the water attract baitfish and panfish such as bluegills, crappies and yellow perch.
RUBBER HINGES Iron and steel hinges rust easily when used for boathouse doors. Make an excellent non-rusting substitute from a section of discarded automobile tire fastened with round-headed brass screws.
Fasten the screws far enough from the bending axis of your rubber hinge to allow flexibility.
SOCK THOSE WORMS Anglers of yesteryear often carried their fishing worms in discarded woolen socks instead of bulky tin cans. It’s still a good idea, especially if you’re on foot and want to travel light. Place the worms in the sock-no soil is necessary-and attach it to your belt. The worms will stay frisky for hours.
LIGHT WORK Two tips to help eliminate the bother of having to change blown boat-trailer lights frequently: 1) drill a quarter-inch hole in the bottom of the red plastic light covers to allow water to drain rapidly out of the covers after you launch; 2) before you back your trailer into the water, unplug the trailer lights and give the bulbs time to cool.
TAIL FASTENER An ordinary office clipboard fastened to your fish-cleaning table makes the job of cleaning panfish much easier. The clip will hold the tail or head firmly while you scale or fillet your catch.
LINE MARKER If you’re catching suspended bass or crappies at a certain depth below your boat, use chartreuse plastic worm dye or a brightly colored permanent marker to color your fishing line. After each cast, just stop the lure or bait when you get to the color change. That way, you’ll be able to fish at exactly the same spot every cast.
TINY TACKLE BOX An old ink pen, one with two halves that screw together in the middle, makes an ideal tube for carrying extra split shot, small hooks, emergency matches and so on. Remove the empty ink cartridge, fill the pen with your small odds and ends and clip it in a shirt pocket so it and its contents are always handy.