Sunday, January 23, 2011
During the off season, I use some of my time to go over the gear I use on the boat each year to make sure it’s in top shape and ready to go when the time comes. I sharpen hooks, sort lures, put new line on fishing reels, make repairs to equipment as needed and on and on. Let me tell you, as a person who fishes several days a week–from a boat–using a myriad of rods, reels and other tackle–it never ends.
I can’t remember when I got my first Penn 9M reel. I’m sure I was excited because, undoubtedly, it was one of the first "real" reels I had on my boat. The first reel I could hook onto any fish in Lake Michigan and feel confident the reel was up to the task. Back in the early days, that wasn’t always the case. There were victories and sad tales–many of the sad tales ended up with broken reels or burned out drag systems.
Not so with the Penn 9Ms. I know I got a couple of them as "hand-me-downs" from an elderly friend who got too old to go on his own boat with his own gear and became one of my regular fishing partners. I bought one at a yard sale, one at an auction and some on eBay. They aren’t as flashy as some of the Shimanos and Diawas I have on the boat–but they never let me down–unless....
Unless the level wind mechanism which lays the line down evenly on the spool conks out. It’s the weak link in the chain on 9Ms. The culprit is usually a part they call a "pawl" which engages the worm gear and moves the level wind mechanism back and forth. Penn used to include a spare pawl with each reel in a little compartment on the side plate. My guess is they knew of the weakness, but couldn’t really fix it and for most users the original and the spare they included would last the life of the reel or the life of the fisherman.
Not so for me and my addiction–as well as my business–of fishing on Lake Michigan. After time (as in 7 or 8 years) and adding several pawls to a reel, the level wind mechanism boogered to the point a new pawl would be a fleeting repair or wouldn’t repair the reel. So I ended up with a pile of broken Penn 9Ms sitting on the sidelines.
The only other downside to the reels was the drag washers would wear out or become sticky with use and over time. Penn solved that probably 20 years ago when they came out with their HT-100 washers which were made from Space Shuttle brake material or some such hype. (I don’t know from what the new washer material is made, but reels with the new materials have indestructible drags and I long ago equipped all my reels with them.)
A month or so ago I opened the drawer with the 9M discards in it earlier this winter and it dawned on me how foolhardy I’d been to cast them aside, replacing them with other reels, when a bit more of an overhaul would likely have them back in the game. I counted up the 9M reels I owned, added up the number of pawl, worm gears and miscellaneous other parts I would need to put them back in the game and found all the parts numbers on-line. For less than $7 per reel, I now have a fleet of 9Ms.
Friday, January 14, 2011
I’m often asked what I do during the off-season when I’m not fishing. One thing, is to play catch-up on the things I put off doing during the season. But there’s more than that. I beef up the writing I do. I try to get ahead on some of my writing by penning some columns and stories I can use in the future. Not all topics are time sensitive.
I also travel. I attended the annual conference of the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers in Ashland, Wisconsin. If you don’t know Ashland, it’s about midway along Wisconsin’s Lake Superior shoreline. While there, I fished Chequamegon Bay of Lake Superior and caught smallmouth and northern pike.
A couple weeks later I was again in Wisconsin, fishing the Mississippi River up and downstream from LaCrosse along Wisconsin’s Great River Road. Great fishing and gorgeous country.
Not one to let the grass grow for long, I found a "natural escape" (the logo of the tourism people in Franklin County, Florida) and spent some November time in Apalachicola. This area escaped the oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster and the fishing was great for amberjack, grouper, snappers and spanish mackeral. I almost overloaded my luggage with frozen filets.
Now is the time of year I pay off the officials that allow me to remain in business. When gangsters shake-down local taverns owners for their weekly "dues" it’s corruption. When the government assigns fees to businesses "just because they can," it’s, well, business as usual.
Were we to get something for our fees, that would be an argument for the payola captains are assessed. We pay taxes and the government hires an army to protect us and yadda, yadda.... You buy a fishing license and it pays for hatcheries and biologists and game wardens. You pay for your charter captain’s license and you get bupkiss except for more paperwork to fill out, and additional fees for mandatory inspections.
So that’s what I’m doing this month. Filling in forms (with much the same information I sent them for the past 10 years–can’t they just save it and ask me for the money?) Writing checks for services I’ll never get and then doing it all over again for each of the states I fish.
I think I need another Natural Escape.