Saturday, February 14, 2015


Home in Port Charlotte

We are in the midst of a cold front in Southwest Florida this Valentines Day weekend. Our cold fronts don't always mean cold temperatures but this time it is.  We had a low this morning of 41 but by Monday we are forecast to touch the upper 30s.  Will still reach the 60s each day but I think I'll spend this weekend warming up with my Valentine. 

A great project to tackle on cold or rainy weekends is preventative maintenance on your fishing reels. I have a small variety of spinning reels and conventional reels; Penn Fierce 4000 & 5000, Diawa 5000, Off-Shore Angler Frigate 4000 (poor mans Penn Battle but I love it), Pflueger President (cheap but dependable), Penn Senators, and last year I bought a Wright & McGill Sabalos 3500 to go with my favorite rod, the W&M Blair Wiggins Inshore Slam rod (I own 2 of these, the other has the Pflueger on it).

My other rods are Penn, Daiwa, Cabellas and Star.  I love them all for different uses, depending on what I'm targeting but the look and feel of those Blair Wiggins get my blood going. Back to the reel story!

The Sabalos was great for a year (casts really far) but recently the spool seized onto the shaft. It still spun but it couldn't pull the spool to change line size.  I call Wright & McGill and easily reached a customer service representative.  I explained my problem and he offered a quick solution.  He surmised that saltwater corrosion have gotten onto the shaft and possibly could be beginning to rust on there.  I told him that I was really good about rinsing all of my gear with freshwater at the end of every fishing trip and was surprised to hear that corrosion could get on there to that extreme within one year.  He suggested I use a anti-corrosion lubricant spray and let it sit overnight and then try to work the spool loose.  I prefer the Boeing Boeshield T-9 marine lubricant because it is waterproof and very reliable.

It took a combination of the lubricant and my rubber mallet but I got the spool off.  Sure enough there was some nasty black corrosion rolling all around in there. Some piping hot water from the sink loosened up and remove most of it and then I used the Boeing spray and some 120 grit sandpaper to remove the rest.  I rolled the sandpaper into a small tube and thoroughly cleaned the interior of the spool. I could feel and see the crap coming out of there. 

After cleaning it, it wiped everything down and then put a spot of Rem Oil (Remington gun oil) on all of the screws and moving parts for long term protection. It's good to do this at least 3-4 times a year, depending on how much use and abuse your gear gets.  I took advantage of the rest of this morning to PM all of the remaining reels I own.  The Rem Oil also works well for wiping down your rods and lubricating your line guides. 

The W&M rep recommended the following process for rinsing my reels after each use:
1.  Loosen drag all the way
2.  Spray down generously with fresh water
3.  Tighten drag down all the way to squeeze out any remaining water
4.  Loosen drag again for storage

As much as we lay out for this gear, it's best to take the time to take good care of it. This way, it's more likely to last for many years, like it's designed to. 

The Sabalos reel body, after cleaning it

Rolling up the sandpaper into a tube enabled me to run it it through the center of the spool and remove the remaining corrosion. 

The Sabalos 3500 is ready to go back to work next weekend. 

Sunday, February 1, 2015


To catch you up...I recently purchased a 21' Stiffy brand push pole for my boat. Transporting it home from 100 miles away was an adventure in itself but we made it without any problems. I had strapped it'll the top side of the bed wall of my truck, rested it on the side view mirror bracket and zip tied it there.   The need for such a tool lies in the skinny backwaters and flats of Charlotte Harbor, where it's often too shallow to even use a trolling motor.  My boat comes equipped with a poling platform to position me high above the deck so that I can both push pole the boat through the water, silently, and be high enough to sight fish to target. 

This is the story of the first outting with the big Stiffy.  The Stiffy has been the subject of much humor among my wife's friends, as well as my local online fishing forum.  This trip I was accompanied by a new friend, Pete, nick named Bucknut, due to his love of the Ohio State Buckeyes football team. Living an hour outside of Chicago, He recently bought a second home in my area, on the Peace River. 

I'm sad to report I didn't put Buckeye on the fish. We tried and tried to find them and I found spots where they should have bee but they weren't. Nonetheless, we had a splendid day on the water. It had its challenges and lessons,more sure. My decision to go behind the the east side sand bar at a -.03 tide proved to be a poor one. We got around the #12 marker at alligator creek only to find there was 6" or less of water in 80% of the area. Less than I've ever seen in this area. We kept finding ourselves aground over and over. In that little water, the NEwinds, coupled with the weight of us two big boys, the big stiffy was ineffective. Even though we were well east of the sandbar there was just not enough water to float a loaded boat. So we stripped out of our warm clothes and took 500 pounds of weight off the boat by getting in the water. Amazing! She floats! We pushed the old Mako around until we go to thigh high water and would re board. We could use the trolling motor for a while and then the prop would start bumping, so we'd have to pull that and use the stiffy and eventually would float aground yet again. The tide was now coming in from the west but the easterly winds were fighting it off, all the while. 

We saw two other boats completely beached on the east wall sand bar. Those guys made the best of their situation by walking to knee deep water and fishing but got nothing. We did the same but from the boat. Our results were equally the same. This is not where I wanted to fish. During the couple of hours we were alternating between walking, poling, and trolling the boat we saw two boat come flying across the flats with their motors jacked straight up to heaven and they mercilessly continued south without a hitch. It was then that Bucknut commented this trip was worthwhile to confirm in his mind the absolute need for a jack plate in these waters. I've got to quit denying my own need and fulfill it. If you want to fish the mangrove islands and backwaters of this area, without regard for the low tides, it's a clear need. Bucknut bought his home up the Peace River near Whidden Bay. It gets real skinny up there, one you leave the marked channel. 

(For those who don't know, a jack plate is a hydraulic lift installed between your outboard motor and your boat. It allows you to raise the propellor straight upward, without tilting/trimming the motor. When you are in skinny water and you tilt/trim, the angle creates an effect of pushing water toward the sky and that propels the tran some of the boat further downward . . . Completely the opposite of what you need.  The jack plate allows you to raise the motor and prop up, while keeping the prop straight, propelling the boat forward and efficiently cutting through the shallowest of water.  Jack plates cost $1000 plus installation labor. It's the final piece of the puzzle to outfit my boat for the style of fishing I most enjoy here).  Meanwhile, back on the water . . .

By about 10:30 we had made our way sufficiently south to begin poling our way eastward in 0.9 feet of water, just south of Silcox Key. What a difference another 3" made. I positioned Bucknut on the bow while I took an elevated position behind him with the 21' Stiffy (does that sound bad?). We were fishing Z man hooks with Gulp swimming mullet in root beer color, with big paddle tails, rigged weedless style. The baits worked out really good in this grassy, weedy, shallow area. 

I had trouble making the boat go straight forward. Each time I was positioned correctly, the boat would turn from east to west. We surmised the east wind was my nemesis again. Bucknut reminded me, when you see those guys poling on the TV fishing shows, they are in pristine, cal water with no wind...not 10-15 MPH headwinds. Once I settled for pushing us in reverse, I made nice progress over ground.  

We stopped in several places, worked cut lady fish under the mangroves for a while but had not bites. We'd move around until we were about a mile into the mangroves altenating between lady fish, shrimp and even cranked my old trusty Storm twitch stick but all to no avail. We found what I believe to be a perfect target spot, with the tide flooding the mangroves and a large pool visible behind the trees.

We would want sure placement of baits if this was to our saving place. I suggested we get out and wade about half way to the target in order to cast perfectly under the shady mangrove, near the pool. We did it and soaked to nice lady chunks there for an hour. Despite hearing the occasional kill from the pool behind the trees, our baits returned to us in the same condition we'd delivered them. It was approaching 3 PM and I had a dinner party I was due at my 6 so we decided to pull out and go home. We were able to slowly motor out of the area and jumped on plane to take the same route out that had been so elusive on the way in. 

Bucknut and I got along great and found many common traits between us. Despite not catching fish he agreed it was a terrific day of new experiences for both of us. I'm certain we will fish together often.  

I made my dinner party next door but came home and went to bed at 8:30PM, exhausted. I awoke at 10 and begged my wife to get me a muscle relaxer, as I was having leg pains never known before. Despite the fact that I exercise by walking 100 miles a month, today's activities were just different enough to really kick my butt. I slept til 5 AM without a problem.

The open water in the background shows how far I poled us back to start.  Believe it or not, there's less than a foot of water seen here. 

Now we are waaaay back in the mangrove islands. Few boats come back here but many fish live here. 
It's this lack of angler pressure that makes these spots produce.  Despite today's shortfall, I will continue exploring these thousands of acres of back bays. 

Ignore these blog picture glitches and keep reading below


This spot had the water pool behind these mangroves and should have really produced fish.  Not today. 


Bringing the big Stiffy home

Setting up to refurbish the Å tiffy.  Despite being 21' long it only weighs 4 pounds. It is made of graphite, wrapped in microfibers, for light weight and incredible flexing and bending capabilities.  I bought this model off of craigslist and it had to be repainted. 


One end has a crows foot for poling through sand and loose muck, the other has a pointed end for pushing off of rock, coral and hard bottom.  You can see the bare microfibers exposed in this shot. The manufacturer disclaims you will need to refinish these poles every few years.  The 100 mile trip we made home with it stripped off nearly every bit of paint that was left when I bought it.  UV rays are particularly harmful to the painted finish.  The manufacturer, Stiffy Poles, recommends using a 2 part polyurethane paint.  That crap is ungodly expensive. It would have cost me well over $100 to do.  Instead. . . 


I did use the 120 grit sand paper, recommended for roughing up the surface. Those microfibers were like glitter, filling the air all around me, so I protected myself with a full hooded facemask. 

Using a tip learned on a fishing forum, I repainted with Rustoleum appliance paint. It is an epoxy that drys intra used 2 coats and let it dry for a week before taking it into the saltwater environment.  Total cost of my refurb - $11.  Even if I have to redo this twice a year, it would take 5 years to equal the expensive alternative.  These Stiffy poles garner a kings ransom. New $700-900. I paid $300 for a used one needing a new paint job.  Thus, I was opposed to dropping another hundred on paint. Will let you know how long it lasts.