My business is to provide people the opportunity to sample the exciting and challenging fishing available at the southern end of Lake Michigan. This page is dedicated to showing a bit of the behind-the-scenes work it takes to do that and to highlight the trips and fun my customers are able to experience.

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.

When you come fishing with me this year, count on having a couple or maybe even several of the 9Ms on the rods we will be using. They may not be flashy–but I guarantee they’ll do the job.

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