Sportsman’s tricks for Saint Nick

These floating marine pliers, made by XTOOLS, make an excellent gift for fumble-fingered anglers who are likely to drop necessary equipment overboard. Now if somebody’d just invent floating rods and reels.

A while back, I learned the, er, um, difficult way, how to respond when asked about what I wanted for a Christmas/birthday/Father’s Day/anniversary present. What I figured out was that asking for a bunch of “smaller” items was much easier than asking for one large item — even if the total of the smaller ones exceeded the large one.

All it took was a “look” the first time I suggested, since I was the only person in a church golf tournament who was still using a persimmon-head (wood) driver that perhaps, just this once, someone could see fit to bestow upon my golf bag a snazzy new metal golf club (cost $199). And you got the two fairway metal woods thrown ($159 and $139) in for free! A $498 value for $199!

You would have thought I’d asked for a pass to the sheik’s harem — or a new pickup truck. I should have remembered the screaming and gnashing of teeth when I wanted the used Browning shotgun I found 15 years ago for $300.

Just how could I be selfish enough to ask for something that expensive? After all, there were these fancy floor mats to be purchased for her new SUV (a set of four for $160), and who knows when she’d have to buy another pair of $100 running shoes, even though those three knee surgeries have pretty much put running of any sort in her past.

Ah, but I digress.

Anyway, the lesson I learned was to ask for small — and lots of it. In keeping with that idea, here is a “cut-and-save” list of “inexpensive” items that shouldn’t put any family member in the poor house when Christmas shopping approaches. In fact, if you pay more than $30 for anything on this list, somebody has taken you to the cleaners.

Before any questions form, no, I received none of these items as a present. I picked most of them up at fishing/hunting shows during the past several years — that’s what a pocket full of $20 bills is for, right? — and some of them have become invaluable, even as inexpensive as they are.

• I love Garrity’s Tuff Lite heavy duty flashlights. I think I saw them first in one of those big-box hardware store places while I was getting sheetrock joint compound for the latest home-improvement job I was given by Mrs. Need-Those-Floor-Mats.

They were one of those impulse buys, in the rack nest to the cash register where you look at something and think, “I need one of those.”

Well, I did. Now I own a half-dozen of them, because I am forever losing flashlights. I think they get up and run away when I’m asleep. But I also have a flashlight in the glove box of every vehicle on my insurance policy — did I mention the new SUV? — and they have come in handy more than once.

Garrity makes tough, rubber-coated flashlights in a handful of sizes. I have a big one that takes two “batteries” and several others that run on two AA batteries. The little ones fit better in the glove box and in one of the front pockets of my turkey hunting vest. The big one goes well in a fanny pack I buckle on for deer-hunting trips. None of them will set you back much more than $10 or $15.

• I paid about $15 for a handy, portable knife-sharpener a few years ago at the Bass & Saltwater Fishing Expo in Greensboro, a FireStone sharpener made by McGowan Manufacturing. It fits in one hand and has two sets of four interleaved sharpening stone wheels — one medium and one fine. I love mine, a Model 1302, even though the company has come out with a better model in the last few years, a Model 1322, which includes a diamond stone.

It’s a portable sharpener that I can hold in one hand, using the other hand to hold the blades I’m sharpening. There may be better sharpeners around, and maybe sharpeners that are more portable, but for the combination, I love mine. I can carry it in my pocket to slap a new edge on a knife halfway through skinning a deer or halfway through the chore of filleting two dozen speckled trout.

• Besides flashlights, I lose more knives than anyone on the planet. Well, I don’t lose them, I just misplace them. I found one in a desk drawer the other night I hadn’t see in five years. In fact, I hadn’t even known it was lost.

One knife I have been looking for, I finally found last spring. I love a long blade for cleaning and filleting fish, but I hate having to find a place for one. When I stumbled on a Salmon Creek Folding Filet Knife made by Benchmade, I solved both problems.

The knife comes in two sizes; I have the 5 3/4-inch stainless steel blade, which folds into a molded, black composite handle for a total of seven inches. It comes with a nice belt sheath with a snap close — to make sure I don’t lose it.

The blade is a perfect size for me, and the handle has an oversized blade guard that I love. I have made quick work of flounder, trout, crappie and pompano already this year. The knife weighs less than 2 ounces and retails for about $30.

• I got a pair of XTOOLS Floating Pliers in a press kit at some fishing tournament or other about 5 years ago, and they have rarely left my side since. I have a 6 1/2-inch Bentnose Pliers, and they work nicely at helping dislodge hooks from the mouths of various fish that were stupid enough to swallow the lure was I was fishing with at the time.

They happened along shortly after a pair of bentnose pliers I’d gotten from my uncle the doctor had accidentally fallen out of my pocket, bounced off the gunwales and made their way to Davy Jones Locker — if he lives at the bottom of Grassy Creek at Buggs Island Lake.

The replacements were perfect, plus they floated. And they came with a lanyard so I could hang them around my neck, thus eliminating the opportunity for them to fall out of my pants pocket again.

One feature I really like is a tungsten-carbide line-cutter that works great on monofilament or braided line. The cutters are strong enough that when I was trying to teach my son to use a bait-casting reel a year or so ago, I was able to tie on a jig for his practice casting, and the cutters were strong enough to cut through the shaft of the jig hook so he couldn’t hurt any of the squirrels living in the backyard trees where he wound up casting. The pliers retail for around $20.

• Last but not least, I hate the work that goes into keeping up my fishing tackle, especially after a trip to the coast. Last year I stumbled onto an aerosol can of Penn Protect lubricant for rods and reels, and that has made things much more enjoyable when it comes to putting things up after the long drive back from whatever body of saltwater I’ve assaulted.

I never have liked using heavy oils or lubricants on my fishing tackle, especially my reels. Penn Protect is a fairly light oil I spray on my reels after I’ve sprayed them with fresh water to get off the salt, sand and other crud, then dried them to keep away Mr. Rust.

I typically pull the spools off my spinning reels and give the inside of the reels a good spray before they are put away, and so far, I haven’t had any trouble with them the next time I’ve used them.

Another feature of PennProtect is it helps keep the monofilament on your spinning reel from exploding into a mass of loops and spider webs by inducing the line to lose the “memory” it had on the spool you bought in the store, taking instead the shape of the reel spool.

I always, always soak spools that I’ve just filled with new line in a plastic or Dixie Cup full of lukewarm water. Leaving it submerged for a few hours will remove the monofilament’s original memory and makes it assume the shape of the spool, but you don’t always have time to do that. A couple of sprays of the lubricant has certainly sped up the process for me.

A 4-ounce can retails for under $10.

Merry Christmas, y’all.

About Dan Kibler 887 Articles
Dan Kibler is the former managing editor of Carolina Sportsman Magazine. If every fish were a redfish and every big-game animal a wild turkey, he wouldn’t ever complain. His writing and photography skills have earned him numerous awards throughout his career.

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