2014 Year in Review and a Look Ahead to 2015

Part 1: The Past

As 2014 draws to a close and we look forward to the New Year, I would like to share a few thoughts about this year, as well as express my extreme gratitude to our valued customers and friends for a truly wonderful year. All of our guide services were blessed with another very busy year guiding some really wonderful customers. We loved fishing with our old customers, and we relished the opportunity to fish with new customers as well.

Sport Fish Michigan’s Captains and Guides enjoyed fishing with their customers, as always. Traverse City Bass Guide Service had another incredibly busy year. Bassmaster Magazine ranked Grand Traverse Bays in the top 10 for best bass fisheries in the world. This brought additional attention to something many of us already knew—just how special this fishery really is.

Wolfe Outfitters and Manistee River Salmon Guide Service were both as busy as ever. With multiple Guides working, we enjoyed lots of guide trips fishing for everything from salmon and steelhead to brown trout, lake trout, smallmouth bass, and even panfish. Wolfe Outfitters became the only permitted guide service allowed to fish inside the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. This opened up the door to giving customers access to world-class fishing for coho salmon near the Platte River—the birthplace of the entire Great Lakes multi-billion dollar salmon fishery.

We received quite a bit of great press as well, which is always appreciated. Traverse! Northern Michigan’s Magazine was nice enough to include our ice fishing in its newsletters, as well as sending out a writer and photographer to do an upcoming feature story on wintertime river fishing. Conde Nast Traveler released a terrific mention and photo of our guided ice fishing services in their story about the top things to do around the country in ski towns other than skiing! What a huge honor to be mentioned in this long-standing and very popular travel magazine. The Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau covered our ice fishing in both a newsletter and web story. Mountain Life Magazine, published by Crystal Mountain, also did a story about us in a feature article. We are working with a couple of writers out of Chicahgo for upcoming stories. The Angler Magazine did a feature article on us, showcasing the outstanding vertical jigging opportunities for lake trout on the Grand Traverse Bays.

9 & 10 News interviewed me for a story about bass fishing the Grand Traverse area, and Sport Fish Michigan sponsored the very popular national television show, Hook n’ Look. Hook n’ Look airs on the Outdoor Channel, and has the kind of loyal following any fishing show would want. In addition to the many small video clips we filmed ourselves, we also filmed a couple of different shows with a new fishing show that will air in January called iFishigan. This new show will air on the World Fishing Network.

The fishing was outstanding in many ways, and odd in others. With the extremely cold winter we experienced, the spring thaw was delayed by almost a month. Downstate, the walleye fishing was outstanding on the Detroit River. Surprisingly, the cold waters didn’t cool the bite at all. Lots of walleyes, many of them impressive in size, were caught by Sport Fish Michigan’s Captains and Guides. The walleye fishery on the Detroit River is stunning, and anglers vertical jigging with our Guides had great catches most days. Bass fishing on Lake St. Clair was incredible, as usual. The winter, although brutal, didn’t seem to faze the fishing much, and the bite turned hot almost right out of the gate at the start of the season. Not surprisingly, Lake St. Clair’s incredible fishery kept its reputation intact, despite falling a bit in the Bassmaster Magazine top 100 best bass fisheries in the world.

In northern Michigan, the cold took its toll a bit more, and it took longer to warm up. River levels were very high from the huge amount of snow that fell, and the spring steelhead run lasted much longer than normal. We were even fishing steelhead in late May on the Manistee and the Platte rivers! The walleye fishing on the rivers like the Manistee and Muskegon rivers was also very good. The opener to the season played right into the hands of anglers due to the cold water making for a later run. Normally, the run is over on the rivers before the season opener, but this year we were able to get on the walleyes in great fashion.

Wolfe Outfitters guide trips not only were able to target trout and steelhead, they were able to keep many of the walleyes that were caught after the season opener. Throughout the season, the trout fishing was incredible and, even now, it continues to be stellar. The salmon and steelhead runs are something that many are talking about. Not only has the DNR decreased the amount of king salmon stocked into Lake Michigan, the conditions were such that we did not have a good fall run. Guide trips went well despite this, and customers still were able to have a great experience, even if the fishing was slower than customary.

Bass fishing was stellar, as usual, but we weren’t able to enjoy the early spring bite as much as normal. Traverse City Bass had many thrilled customers despite some chilly water temps early in the season. With an unseasonably cool summer, many of the patterns ran late in the season, including the spawn. We even had spawning smallmouth in August! I’m not sure what that will mean for the success rate of the bass fry, but hopefully it won’t be too bad. We were able to showcase the incredible smallmouth fishery that we have to many new customers this year, and we enjoyed fishing with our repeats as well. It is such a treat to fish with customers every season—not only are they excellent customers, they also become friends.

Sport Fish Michigan’s endeavors this past year included offering vertical jigging trips to customers using Wolfe Outfitters Guides and Sport Fish Michigan Captains. The jigging this year was absolutely incredible, and we were very fortunate to have the beautiful lake trout to play with this year. On light bass tackle, they put up an incredible fight, and this was something that all of our anglers thoroughly enjoyed. Especially when they can feel the bite, and get to set the hook as well as fight the fish the entire way in.

On a personal note, I was nominated along with many other outstanding charter Captains, for the Best Charter Boat Captain in the annual Traverse Magazine Red Hot Best public poll. Traverse Magazine conducts this popular poll each year for the “Best Of” in Northern Michigan, and I was honored to be among the top 3 vote-getters in this inaugural category. Given the number of other nominees and some of the longevity of many of these fantastic Captains, it was very humbling to be voted among the top 3. In fact, to make things even sweeter, I was the only Captain in this category who actually offered fishing charters. The other two operate sunset cruises, capable of servicing many customers each time out. A huge THANK YOU to each and every person that voted to help put me on top!

Our new boat that was trucked out from Washington State this past winter, and outfitted specifically to highlight the jigging technique. Our customers loved it, and it proved to be invaluable. It was a joy to be able to offer trips out of this boat, and its worth proved itself on the big waters of Lake Michigan, Grand Traverse Bays, as well as the L. Michigan waters of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. It also functioned extremely well as a river boat, and its design proved priceless. The Evinrude E-Tec on the back of this 20-foot beauty is outfitted with a jet drive, and is able to handle both the bigger bodies of water as well as allowing our new boat to run on plane in water as shallow as 4 inches! Outfitted with a kicker motor, an electric anchor winch, Minn Kota i-Pilot link on the Terrova electric motor, and Humminbird Onix electronics, this is the ultimate fishing machine. Many of our Wolfe Outfitters and Sport Fish Michigan customers got to enjoy this new boat, and I think they would agree that it truly is an awesome boat to from which to fish.


When It’s Time to Put the Boat Away

Part 2

In part 1 of the article, we discussed some of the things that will help with trailer longevity, and a few things to check when putting a boat and trailer in for winter storage. In part 2, we will discuss some of the things that will help keep the boat itself in good working order come spring.

Motor
Motor maintenance is a crucial aspect of boat ownership, and is one that is done by most boat owners. It’s our motors that we rely on to get us to our favorite fishing hole, and it’s our motors that often command the most attention when they break down. There are a couple of things that we should do when putting our boats up for the winter.

The impeller is what pulls water into the motor to cool it. Needless to say, it’s a hugely important part of the motor. The impeller itself is fairly cheap, and that’s a good thing. This one part is also one of the things to keep an eye on to ensure motor longevity. When our motors don’t “pee” the way that they should (spitting water out of the back of the motor), it is often either a partially plugged intake, or it’s an impeller going bad. Regularly replacing our motor impellers will keep the motor cooling itself properly and running long into the future. Impeller replacement is something that routine motor maintenance should take care of, but it’s advisable to double check that is has been replaced every other year or so.

Spark plugs are an easy thing to replace, and can help keep a motor running at its peak. For motors that log a lot of hours like those being used by Sport Fish Michigan’s Captains and Guides, spark plugs should be replaced annually. For recreational anglers, perhaps every other year or so is acceptable. Poor motor performance can often be linked to a fouled plug.

Water filters help keep water out of the motor, and with the ethanol in today’s gasoline, replacing this filter is an essential part of preventative maintenance. Replacing a water filter every year will go a long ways towards keeping water out of the combustion chambers. In fact, on all of my boats, I took the extra step of adding a second water filter. Should there be phase separation in my fuel tanks, a second water filter will help, and hopefully stave off very costly repairs.

Dry
Storing a dry boat is much better than storing a wet boat. This will help to prevent mold during the long winter layover, making for a quicker and easier spring dust-off. One thing that I like to do is to leave compartments open to let air circulate freely. A closed compartment, especially with lots of things in it, will trap moisture and can become moldy.

Batteries
Charging boat batteries at the end of the season is a great way to keep batteries lively come springtime. A fully charged battery is better able to withstand cold winter temperatures if boats are stored in a cold facility or outside. If possible, topping off the charge mid-winter is another good idea.

Fuel
The ethanol in fuel these days can spell big trouble for boat owners. Long-term winter storage of gasoline in a boat’s fuel tank can be problematic without a fuel additive like Stabil. Phase separation is when water separates from the gasoline itself, and ethanol has a high water content in it. In the late winter and early spring, alternately warming and cooling temperatures makes phase separation a real possibility. In addition to a fuel additive like Stabil, a full fuel tank will also help. This obviously leaves less room for air, which will vary in humidity, and thus, in moisture. This moisture can lead to condensation inside the tank, which is no good.

By taking a few simple steps at the end of the season, our long-anticipated spring fishing trips can be as enjoyable as we hoped they would be. Sure, the fish may or not be biting, but at least we can get out fishing without being sidelined with repairs. Proper boat, motor, and trailer maintenance before winter storage can go a long ways towards an enjoyable experience later. I believe that preventative maintenance is far better than repairs when things break. It’s often cheaper, too!


When it’s Time to Put the Boat Away

Part 1

It’s mid-November, and the snow is flying heavily here in northern Michigan. Many are in the woods chasing deer, following the firearms season opener just a few days ago. Coupled with the cold windy weather, this means that it’s time for most anglers to mothball their boat and store it for the winter.

Here at Wolfe Outfitters, and those of us with Sport Fish Michigan that guide the Lake Michigan tributary rivers for steelhead, we will keep our boats in service all winter long, provided we have running water! Last winter, even rivers like the Big Manistee, Muskegon, and the Grand River froze enough that we were forced to reschedule many trips due to unfishable, icy conditions.

For those that will put their boats away for the winter season, there are a few things that are advisable to do to help ensure a smooth and painless experience when pulling the boat out for the first time next spring.

Trailer
Our trailers are often an overlooked part of our boat package, but yet they play a crucial role. After all, we rely on our trailers to carry our precious boats to and from the lake or river, dunking it in the water each time. This tough kind of wear and tear can be brutal on trailers, and things like wiring, lights, brakes, wheel bearings, etc. can all suffer without routine maintenance. Now is a great time to service your trailer.

I check over the trailer wiring, looking for kinks or breaks in the lines. I also look over the lights to ensure that they are working properly. Trailer lights are not only a safety concern if they don’t work properly, they are also a legal requirement in most states. Another simple thing to check that often causes trouble is the wiring harness coupler that plugs into the vehicle power to connect the lights and brakes. This simple coupler can absolutely wreak havoc when the pins are slightly bent or have corrosion on them.

Proper tire pressure is essential, not only for gas mileage when towing the trailer, but also for helping to prevent blowouts and unnecessary wear and tear to the treads.

The wheel bearings are another too-often overlooked part of a trailer. Many blowouts on the road are actually a result of bearings that are worn out. Properly lubricating wheel bearings will help keep you on the road trouble-free, but good preventative maintenance also includes replacing the bearings. When to replace trailer bearings is really a matter of how much use they get. Guides that tow boats on a daily basis, like many of our Sport Fish Michigan and Wolfe Outfitters Guides, will have to replace wheel bearings much more frequently than those that tow their boats only a few times a season. New-style bearings like oil-bath hubs or the new gel-style make bearing maintenance almost a no-brainer. Compared to the older and much more common grease-style bearings, these newer technologies keep maintenance to a minimum. For trailers that have the more common grease-style bearings, a simple grease gun will do the trick. Regularly adding a bit of grease will go a long way towards longevity. One telltale to look for when determining if bearings should be replaced is the presence of water. If water gets pushed out of the bearings when grease is added with a grease gun, it could be a sign that the trailer bearings should be replaced soon, if not immediately. Water in the bearings means that the watertight seal has been broken. When the seal breaks, water gets inside the bearings, where it will not only break down the bearing grease, it can also rust the bearings themselves, or freeze in winter temperatures. A little bit of water under the dust cap isn’t a huge deal and can be drained out. But water in the bearings is a big deal, and taking care of this issue now can mean no roadside hassles later.

Another thing that is crucial for those that have brakes on their trailers is to check them for wear and tear. Unless squealing or squeaking brakes have already been detected, checking the life of your trailer brakes is best done by a professional. Throughout the season, trailers with brakes should be checked to make sure their brake fluid level is topped off. Unless there is a leak, this is usually a once a season task.

One more thing to check on a trailer is the tread on the wheels themselves. Make sure that there is enough tread on the trailers to safely transport your boat to and from the water. It’s advisable to carry a spare tire for your trailer and the appropriate tools to change a tire, should there be a flat while out on the road. I always carry a full wheel and tire so that I can make the change and keep going without having to worry about replacing a spare that may not be a match for the trailer tires.

Keeping our trailers going is a big part of a fun day on the water. With some simple maintenance and preventative measures, we can help to ensure that we make it to and from the water without issue. Catching fish is hard enough as it is, without having to deal with a trailer breakdown on the road.


Vertical Jigging Basics for Salmon, Lake Trout, and Whitefish

Vertical jigging for salmon, lake trout, and whitefish can be as simple, or as complicated, as we want to make it as anglers. There are some very definite things that I think set apart those anglers which generally do well day-in and day-out overall, and those that hope to get lucky out on the water. Certainly, fish are fish, and every day is a learning experience that can be humbling.

Here are a few basic things that I feel are critical to understand for increased success when out on the water using a technique like vertical jigging.

Equipment:

Rods—Rods used for vertical jigging traditionally fall into 2 categories—small, short ice fishing style rods, or longer bass fishing style rods. There are pros and cons to each.

Personally, I use medium or medium-heavy bass rods for my vertical jigging needs. I like the additional length of a 6 -7 foot bass rod because I can move a lot of line on a hook set, while I still have the ability of making jigging motions as small or as large as I like. Some days, a jigging motion needs to be very small, but many days, the preferred jigging motion is larger, meant to really trigger an aggressive response from salmon and lake trout. I also feel that a longer rod is better able to cushion the hard tugs and pulls of lake trout and salmon. This way, the rod can fight the fish, not just the line.

Stout ice fishing rods are small and mighty, and really lend themselves well to a smaller jigging motion, as sometimes is necessary to trigger finicky fish. Whitefish tend to like much less action, and these rods make it hard for anglers to over-work a jig. While this is a plus, the big negative side to this style of rod is that an angler can move much less line on a hook set when a fish eats a jig as it comes up in the water column. I have missed many more fish with shorter ice rods than I have with longer bass rods, unless the fish hook themselves. There is a large following of dedicated jiggers that swear by this style of rod, but my preference lies with the longer bass style rod.

Reels—Fishing reels are kind of a no-brainer. Baitcasting reels paired with a baitcasting rod are my personal preference for jigging, but spinning rods also have a time and place. When paired with the proper rod, either spinning or baitcasting is a great option. I like to use the smaller bass size reels, as they get less tiring to use over a long day of jigging. Line capacity is often misunderstood, as most bass reels can easily handle 100-150 yards of line. That’s 300-450 feet of line! Considering that most jigging situations are in 150 feet of depth or less, there is more than double the capacity needed to jig and fight fish.

Lines—I always prefer braided line for jigging, tied to a fluorocarbon leader of about 6 feet or so. I typically use 15 pound Power Pro line which, over the years, has proven itself time and time again. Braided line fishes well even when twisted, unlike straight monofilament or fluorocarbon. Braided lines also offer a huge advantage in sensitivity—something that is needed to help detect the bottom when it’s windy or wavy out. Braided line also helps to get a good hookset when fishing in depths over 30 feet. With almost zero stretch, braid gets the hook penetrated almost immediately when the hook is set, as opposed to monofilament which has almost a 40% stretch factor. With a limber bass rod, braided lines won’t pull out of a fish’s mouth as many would believe, because the rod cushions the line. Fluorocarbon leaders are a must in our clear water, as fish can be line shy, even at depths of 100 or more feet. Fluorocarbon has the same refractive index as water, and is nearly invisible underwater. I prefer a 6 foot section tied directly to my braided line. Another added bonus of fluorocarbon is that it is much more sensitive and has much less stretch than monofilament. With braid as my main line, and a fluorocarbon leader, I am now ready to jig.

Jigs:

Jigs used for vertical jigging are as varied, and they all have their time and place. While each may trigger bites on any given day, there are a few basic things to understand within the jig category. How a jig falls, and the action that it gives when jigged, can have everything to do with how well a day can go on the water. Having a variety of jigs on the boat, and an open mind about experimenting, can really help to boat more fish. Also equally important can be jig weight. How quickly a jig falls can also play a large role in triggering bites, or going unnoticed and ignored. I prefer jigs anywhere from 1-3 ounces for lake trout and salmon. When vertical jigging a species like burbot or whitefish, smaller jigs can be the ticket. For these fish, I prefer jigs in the ½-1 ounce range.

I almost always use either a snap swivel or a line snap to attach my jigs. I nearly never tie directly to the jig when I am using treble hooks. However, when using jigs that have a single free-swinging assist-style hook, I will tie directly to the split ring, as these baits were intended.

Flutter / Butterfly style—this is a style of jig that is most commonly used in saltwater. These style jigs usually have a horizontal flutter fall, but within this category, there are differences in the upward motion. Some pull straight upwards when jigged. Others have a side-to-side flutter when pulled up in the water column – Jonah Jigs is a prime example of this style of jig, as are Shimano Butterfly jigs.

Corkscrew fall style—these style jigs are also often used in saltwater, and have a spiral action as they fall. Different species of fish seem to like these falls better. Lake trout and salmon often prefer a flutter style of fall in the water, but there are days when a corkscrew fall is the only way to trigger bites. The Shimano Coltsniper is an example of this style of jig. Swedish Pimples fall into both the flutter and corkscrew style categories, since jigging motion can create both actions.

Shad style—These style of jigs are more football shaped, more closely mimicking a shad body. They have action on the fall as well as a tight vibration on the up-jig motion. These baits work wonders when there is a big shad or alewife population that fish feed on, and here in the Great Lakes, alewives are a staple for salmon and lake trout.

S-shape style—This category of jigs has a slight bend in them, resembling a softly-curved letter "S". The bend in these jigs promotes a lot of water displacement both on the jigging motion up, and the fall of the jig. This not only produces an erratic action, it also has a lot of vibration, which can really help to bring fish in from a distance. BBM and Elk Rapids jigs are options for Great Lakes anglers. Jonah Jigs and PLine jigs can be bent to create an "S" shape, altering both the fall rate and action.

Do nothing style jigs—this is a style of jig that is most commonly used when the water is very cold. BBM makes a jig called a sand kicker. This jig does nothing, but jig up and down, with no side to side or fluttering action. Lake trout, whitefish, and burbot love these jigs when the water is cold, and they are often used by ice fishing anglers. Here, it is critical to tie the fluorocarbon directly to the jig without the use of a snap or swivel.

Bites:

Bites from salmon and lake trout can be varied, despite an aggressive nature overall. Understanding the different types of bites can help to land several more fish over the course of a day on the water.

On the fall/drop—Lake trout and salmon like to hit on the drop, as the jig is still falling through the water column. Bites on the fall can, themselves, be split into two distinct categories. First are the bites that occur as the rod is moving downward, following the jig on the fall. The bite occurs, and the rod is jerked down aggressively. An immediate hook set upwards is the way stick these bites.

The second way salmon and trout bite requires attention being paid by the angler. It’s not uncommon for a laker or a salmon to swim up in the water column to grab the jig, putting slack into the line. Anglers should be aware of how far they are lifting and dropping their jig, and should the jig not fall as far as it should, this is a sure sign that a fish has it, and a big hookset while reeling like crazy can often times stick these aggressive biters. A common telltale is a pile of line on the surface instead of a semi-taught line as the jig falls. This happens multiple times throughout most guide days, and the anglers that notice this are quite often rewarded with a fish that may otherwise have gotten away – the jig spat out quickly.

On the uplift—it’s not uncommon for bites to occur on the uplift of a jigging stroke. An angler is lifting the rod, and all of a sudden, there’s slack in the line when the weight of the jig should be keeping the line tight. A quick hook set is the only way to stick these fish, and a longer bass style fishing rod is critical here, due to the added ability to move line quickly.

Jigging away—When using good sonar units to mark fish, it is common to see our jigs fall towards fish. One way to trigger a reaction strike from lake trout and salmon is to mimic a fleeing baitfish. In order to get this kind of response, a jig can be jigged up and away from fish to trigger bites. A quick jig, reel several cranks, another quick jig, followed by more cranks of the reel is the most common method used to trigger these powerful reaction strikes. Another alternative form to get fish to chase a jig, is to just reel quickly away from fish that are known to be in the area. It’s fairly common to hook a fish reeling quickly when another angler on the boat has a fish on, and the angler is simply reeling up to get their line out of the way. On a recent trip, I had a fish chase my jig all the way to the boat from 87 feet of water, trying to eat the jig even as it came out of the water! Had I known I had a chaser, I would have slowed down just a smidge, to give the fish time to eat, but since I was focused on getting the net for my customer, I had no idea that I had an aggressive lake trout chasing my jig.

Boat control:

Boat control is critical in the sense that we need to understand how we are going to fish. Do we need the boat to hold in a specific spot because we want to fish a particular depth or contour break line, or do we intend to drift a flat covering lots of water looking for active fish?. To further discuss boat control means to break down into two categories how we intend to present our jigs.

For salmon and lake trout in particular, jigs should often be close to the bottom, if not occasionally bumping the bottom. If we intend to drift with the wind, we can use a motor, whether it is an electric trolling motor or a kicker motor, to hold the boat in a particular depth as we drift along. Using a drift sock can greatly slow the rate of drift, very often enabling us to feel the bottom. Drifting too quickly pulls the jigs away from the bottom, and more and more line must be let out to continually stay in contact with where the bottom is, and where the fish mostly hold. For this technique, boat speed is the crucial aspect that will help success rates.

For vertical jigging, the more vertical our presentation, the better our success when fishing a specific depth or contour break line. To hold in a particular spot, depth, or contour, I prefer the use of an electric trolling motor to accomplish the task, but a kicker motor put in and out of gear is a perfectly acceptable alternative. While holding on a spot, it is also possible to cast jigs out away from the boat, let them fall and jig them back with great results.


Power Pole Launch

Using my 2 Power Pole XLs make launching and retrieving my Ranger Z-520 a breeze, which is awesome during a busy guide season. Their remote control deployment system allows me to secure my boat at the dock, right from my truck, making it that much simpler for me and for my Traverse City Bass Guide Service customers. I have found that use of my Power Poles to be truly invaluable, and they pay dividends when I launch my boat to begin a guide day. The simplicity of the system helps to get me and my customers out fishing that much more quickly. Here’s a short video clip that I sped up to show just how easy it is to use Power Poles to launch a boat.


Putting the Gear Away for the Winter

It’s that time of year again. For us northern anglers, mid-November is the time where our bass fishing is winding down, and we start thinking about putting the gear away for an all-too-long winter. Many of us are thinking of tree stands and the deer rut, which here in the Traverse City, Michigan area, is in full swing.

My guide season with Traverse City Bass Guide Service is now finished for the year, and I am extremely thankful to all of my terrific customers for another busy, booked and fun season out on the Grand Traverse Bays and area inland lakes. We caught a lot of smallmouth (many of which were truly huge), shared a lot of stories and laughs and every single one of my customers was a pleasure to have aboard. I mean it—I’m not just being nice. Being booked almost every single day of the 5+ month long season is certainly something that I am thankful for this coming Thanksgiving. On another note, I can’t believe that Thanksgiving is next week already! Yikes!

I’ve written about it before, but one of the most important things for my customer’s on-going success and me is equipment that is in perfect working order. I take the reels off of my rods, and carefully spin each reel to make sure that it is as smooth as possible. I visually inspect each reel, looking for dust, grime, sand and whatever else that might hinder a reel’s smooth operation. My equipment should never be the reason why things don’t go our way on the water, and this reel inspection is something that has become routine for me at the close of each season.

I sort each reel into one of 3 categories. Those that are in clean, smooth working order (likely those that only saw action a couple of times, spending the vast bulk of the season in my Ranger Z-520’s big rod locker); those that need a little light cleaning that I can do in my shop; and those that need some repair or more in-depth maintenance. Using exclusively Shimano reels, to me, means that I have fewer hassles in general, but also being on their guide/pro staff means that I have the luxury of using newer equipment than many. Despite this, I still try to take the best care of my equipment that I can.

For those that need more maintenance than I can do easily in my shop, I send them out to a qualified reel repair company, and set down to do the task of cleaning and lubricating the ones that I can do myself. Once this simple task is done, I always make sure that I leave the drag on each reel very loose. I don’t want excess tension on the drag, which will put undue pressure and wear and tear. This will also help prevent a “sticky” drag, where certain portions of the drag stick. I want each reel’s drag to be silky smooth, with no hesitations or sticky spots. By loosening the drag between fishing seasons, I can help to ensure this.

Of course, remember to tighten those drags when you do get out on the water next spring! There are few other great ways to start a string of four letter words than by trying to set the hook on a trophy bass in the spring only to find that the drag wasn’t set! Trust me on this!!!


Indispensable tools

As a full-time fishing guide, it’s very possible (and some would argue, inevitable), that I’m going to experience a mechanical breakdown. I try to meticulously maintain everything that I can on the boats and, despite my best efforts, at some point I know something will go awry. However, we don’t need to be up the proverbial creek when this does happen. One important aspect of proper maintenance is ensuring that when things do go wrong, they aren’t the catastrophic mechanical breakdowns that can be costly and even dangerous. A cheap enrollment in a towing program with Boat US is a great idea. I enroll in their services myself, in case should I find the need to call for a tow while out on the water, or even when I’m towing my boats. Continue reading