Tools of the Trade
Fishing in its purest form requires a person, a fish, some water, a pole, and some line. Over the years I’ve had a collection of tools that have helped me refine this craft…these things aren’t “MUST’ have items on the boat, but they sure make many of my days go better. All of these are items I currently own, have owned, or have lusted over and handled (woah – gotta keep this PG – I’m looking at you Lifeproof case).
- Boga Grip – $125 – boga-grip.com – About 10 years ago or so, this became standard issue on all fishing boats. One of mine is at least that old, and it still works the way it did out of the box. The tool, used for gripping a fish’s lower jaw, is simplicity at it’s finest, and the craftsmanship is second to none. Don’t skimp on one of the knock-offs – get this one and you’re done. Bonus tip: make sure to add a float to it, as all the craftsmanship in the world won’t make up for a trout-slimed grip!
- The Snip – $15 – boomerangtool.com – These are really cool little snips – they work great with braid or mono, and attach to a pocket loop or zipper. You can buy these in a 3 pack and save a few bucks, plus they come in different colors. Again, this is a product that will hold up to the saltwater day-in and day-out, and help make re-rigging a cinch (pun intended). Bonus tip: if you are worried about the colors matching, your fishing buddies are certain to make fun of you. So I’ve heard.
- Flashlight – $40 – fenixlight.com – Streamlight and Surefire are two of the best known brands, but we’ve had great luck with Fenix for the past several years. I have several of these lights in various sizes scattered around my house, boat, and truck. The lithium batteries are expensive (less so if you shop around for them), but have a very long shelf life. I’ve used these really powerful little lights for spotting at night, tracking wounded game, and even navigating the Intercoastal. Bonus tip: Want to experience night blindness? Shine one of these puppies at 120 lumens onto the white non-skid of a new flats boat. You will have the floor plan of the boat forever emblazoned on your eyelids.
- Filet Knife – $20 – rapala.com – I’m not sure there are better filet knives out there; every time I go to clean a fish, I end up with one of these in my hand. You can find them online, or probably at your local Wal-mart. They hold a good edge, and make short work of most of the fish that come across my cleaning table. Bonus tip: Don’t put this in the dishwasher unless you’re super careful unloading it and/or have great insurance/someone to drive you to the ER.
- Frabill Livewell Net – $12 – frabill.com – I don’t always fish with live bait; but when I do, I am a fanatic about taking care of it – The Most Interesting Angler in the World. A good livewell net can make a big difference in bait lasting all day on the water. Bonus tip: Buy two of these. The first one you will lose because you’ve left it laying on the back deck of the boat before leaving the ramp.
- Frabill Hiber-net – $79 – frabill.com – Frabill is the standard in nets. This is one of the coolest nets they make – the hiber-net. The whole thing slides up into the handle, allowing it to be stored under the gunnel or in a hatch. I had outlawed landing nets on my boat because of their uncanny ability to tangle with every hook in the boat – this one changed that rule. Mine has held up to being submerged in saltwater, rain, customers stepping on it – it’s a really well made piece of gear. Bonus tip: the biggest size of this net is GIANT – I bought it, and while it’d be great for a small tarpon or giant snook, it’s almost too unwieldy to use. I’d err on the smaller side with these.
- Pocket Knife – $45 – kershawknives.com – I once stupidly found myself on the inside of a tensioned rope. I’m still not sure what would’ve happened had I not had a knife on me. That’s why today, you’ll rarely find me out of the house without my Kershaw. This knife holds a razor’s edge, and you’ll end up using the one-hand opening mechanism more than you thought. Just a fantastic little knife. I really like the Ken Onion series. Bonus tip: If you see a black one of these, an eighth of an inch of the tip broken off the blade, somewhere in or around Bull Bay, how ’bout giving me a holler.
- Lifeproof Cell Phone Case – $80 – lifeproof.com – Full disclosure – I don’t have one of these; yet. Word on the street is that OtterBox is coming out with a case to rival the LifeProof. Either way, make sure you have your phone as protected as it can get – a case, a ziploc bag, inside a waterproof box – it’s amazing the amount of water that can get splashed all over the boat by a thrashing tarpon. Make sure you’re protecting your investment.
- Headlamp – $18 – princetontec.com – These things are almost required if you’re interested in fishing at night – I carry mine, a spare for me, and a couple for my customers. Lightweight and comfortable, they keep the light right where you need it. Bonus tip: make sure to take this off before trying to pick up girls.
- Thermacell – $50 – thermacell.com – I’ve used my thermacells to keep mosquitos off of me in a Turkey blind, while duck hunting, while I’m poling my boat in the mangrove back country, on camping trips, backyard barbecues, while having a garage sale, and allegedly at an outdoor wedding. Using a little drop in cartridge, they’ll last for quite a few hours – once you get used to the sanity, you won’t even blink at the small cost for refills. Bonus tip: These little things get really hot, like, “be careful picking it up because it will terrify you” kind of hot. It won’t necessarily burn you, but may cause you to fling it and squeal like a little kid, which is not cool for impressing a client.
- Pliers – $300 – vanstaal.com – lots of good options in the high end pliers range – I’m a fan of the Van Staal’s and Sage’s. There are a number of folks out there who will pontificate on the quality of the cutters. For whatever reason, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve needed to cut something with those side cutters. If you fish for more toothy specimens, do your research. I do know the Van Staal’s have replaceable cutters, which would seem to be an advantage. Bonus tip: These float like your great aunt’s Crown Victoria – they don’t! Make sure you attach a float, or at least a lanyard. Ask me how I know this . . .
I think that’s enough for one day – who knows how long this list could get. What are some of the items on your boat that make a day on the water a little bit better?