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Gene’s Fishn Equipment

Well, what can I say here. When I was a little kid I can remember catching sunfish and blue gill with a stick, a straight pin bent like a hook and tied to the stick with a piece of grocery string and a tiny piece of worm on the hook. We were ultra modern in those days. The men used to beat it to the general store every spring when the first cane poles came in so they could pick out a good one.

The closest thing to modern we had to fish with, my father had a 4.5 or 5 ft steel rod, hex at the base, with a Fleuger Bait Casting Reel and 40 lb black linen line on it. Now don't laugh cause that rig caught one of the biggest mess of bass I ever saw caught around there. And he fished with it for years.

I've seen beautiful, new, best equipment fail utterly to catch a mess of fish and saw a very large catfish caught on the junkiest Zebco rig you ever saw. Like everyone else, I've spent considerable money on lures, most of which I never got even a tail nip on them.

So, probably the safest things to write about here will be just the fundamentals, just about like anything else. The equipment used to catch fish can probably be split into a half dozen categories such as:

Transportation to/from fish'n site

Containers for baits

Delivery of baits to fish

Bringing in hooked fish

Fish containers

Cleaning' equipment

This ought to break it down enough we can discuss some of the things we do when we fish. If anybody sees something here that they disagree with or if they have something to add, just click here.

Transportation To & From Fishn Site


Now, I'm not lazy you understand, but when you have the time, or just take the time, and everything has come together and you go fishn, its just a shame to waste any of the thing so hard to get ..........  fishn time.

Therefore, I learned that the quicker you can get to the habitat and get a line into the water and the quicker you can load up and go home, the more time you have to keep that line in the water. The longer the line is in the water, the more fish you will catch, regardless of so-lunar  tables or any thing else. Now that's just a progression of logical thinking is it not?

So what I generally do is maintain a slimmed down version of equipment; never more than 2 rods and sometimes only one, very small tackle box maybe 12"x8"x6", basket for fish and dip net (which I NEVER used until about the 2-3rd time I got sliced by a walleye's gill tool). These items are kept close together and in just a few seconds of notice, I am on the way to the auto with it. The items are kept ready to go, no maintenance should be done on site as it reduces your available fishn time.

Now, here in this part of the country, we don't use boats that much. The bodies of water are small and the expense and time involved in maintaining the boat as measured against the benefits secured just don't pan out, therefore we drive auto to the habitat instead of a boat. Now the auto probably should be a small pickup with covered bed or a station wagon (my preference) or a van, something that can be secured if you are in a public area.  This so the rods can be kept assembled, etc and ready to go, then it is a simple matter to just lay them in the vehicle where they are readily retrievable and shut door and go.

They should then be easily assessable when you arrive at site. When fishing for bass in the small farm ponds around here, we may visit 1-2 ponds in an evening so can't spend a lot of time loading and unloading or otherwise messing around. Here, because of fishing in isolated areas where we were likely to be the only ones there, we generally preferred using a pickup truck with open bed. We tied a plastic bag around the reel to protect it from elements in the open truck when driving down the road and when got to the water to fish easily untied wire tie and put the bag in our pocket for the return trip. Worked out real well.

The same principals should govern fishn trips of folks who fish large bodies of water with boats. The best thing here is to have the boat docked as close to the habitat as possible and have most of the equipment on the boat which is already in the water. Then, as far as fishn time goes, it is merely a matter of going to the boat and driving to the habitat on the water. You can do the boat and equipment maintenance in one of those "non-biting" so-lunar periods, eh? However you do it, do it before you go fishn!

Containers For Baits


I prefer the smallest tackle box that is practicable. This does two things for me. One, I can't buy a whole bunch of lures 'cause there's no room for them and two, when I'm looking for something, trying to find it before the fish gets away, I don't have to dig through the contents of a huge box. Also don't have to work around it in a cramped boat and then of course, there is always the possibility of loss or theft where the loss of the larger box loses everything. You'd be surprised at how many of those things are left behind or dropped over the side of a boat or some such thing  and are not retrieved.

Just keep the lures, hooks, sinkers, line and such in some kind of rational order in the tackle box. Here again, the goal is not necessarily speed but avoidance of lost valuable time. When you've seen a fish working somewhere near and the rod needs another lure fast, you better know right where the stuff is to do the job of quickly changing and maybe getting a crack at that fish.

I don't fish much with live baits as it slows down the action. Only occasionally at certain times of the year do I use the live baits. Then it is generally in the form of minnows or some such in a styrofoam bucket. We used to use the steel buckets but they can make noise in the boat so we stick with the foam.

Delivery Of Baits To The Fish

And this is where the fun starts! Here we get into the rods, reels, lines and lures involved in the actual catching of the fish. There are so many different kinds of fish and equipment has been developed by expert fishermen for them all. It is very difficult to try and rig up for every kind of fishn there is, if not downright impossible. So the best a person can do is to rig up for the fish in his area and what he has a preference for.

I never cared that much to catch the really big fish and that is not to slight folks who do 'cause my brothers like to catch the biggest ones they can too but I generally stick with just the smaller bass, pan fish, walleye, etc which seldom weigh over 10-12 lb. So, I will proceed with the style of fishn I am familiar with and if anybody wants to contribute some tips on just certain types of fishn, we'll sure put'm in here.

I believe you should use the lightest tackle you can to cover the types of fish you are going to fish for. The 'ol saying, "The lighter the line, the more the fish!" is very true and I follow that. Make up your mind what you want to fish for and rig up for that. So I maintain 2 rod and reels. That's all, only 2!! One, a small Abu Garcia open bail, is rigged with light line, generally either 6 or 8 lb monofiliment line of some kind and the second, a bait cast Abu Garcia Ambassadeur is set up with 10-12 lb line. Both are mounted on 6' one-piece rods (I just refuse to use a 2 piece rod).

When fishing early in the year, when the minnows are more plentiful, I generally use the lighter rig and use the minnow and only one 1/8 oz split shot or next size up placed on the line about 12-18" above an appropriately sized hook (the slenderer shank the better), with the minnow hooked from the outside of lower jaw up through one of the nostrils and fished slowly across the bottom or near bottom of the pond or lake. I have not had to use down riggers as water is generally not that deep. Generally a little heavier sinker will suffice if needed.

When using minnows and fishing with a "bobber" for such as the crappie, I generally just add the bobber to the line at a workable depth and hook the minnow in the back just behind his dorsal fin. Only the one hook. Crappie for some reason, like to see 2 lures tied in tandem on a line. I don't fish live bait with 2 minnows, one is enough to have to monkey around with, so I use just the one.

However when using lures, I almost always tie either 2 ea 1/16 or 1/8 "lead head" lures in tandem about 14-16" apart at bottom end of line, the last lure at the end or tie a lure at the end and one just above it, however you want to put it. I then fish these through the water with a jerking motion, JIGGING, just off the bottom. Works like a champ. Color and type of lure are your choice, just follow the basic rules; shiny or chartreuse in clear water on a bright day, yellow or white during day in discolored water and dark lures at night. Pick a shape that resembles what you think the fish are feeding on. Use red, pink of some kind for walleye, trout and salmon. I sometimes use a bobber up above the tandem lures and I have taken both bass and crappie that way. What could be more simple, eh?

When fishing from a boat, I generally like to troll and just play the above described rigs out of the boat and wait for something to hit. Once you locate a "hot" area, fish it maybe. At certain times of the day during heavy feeding cycles, the boat can be used to work the shore line where the fish have came in to feed. Here I cast to the shore or along the shore and this is where you want to use your spinners, spoons and rapellas or live bait, if that's your preference.

One time, knowing I did a lot of fishing and having a certain reputation for it, some one at work asked me what kind of "fish finder" I recommended, he was buying a boat and stuff and needed advise. Well, I had never used a fish finder in my life so I said, "Well, the cheapest one and one which probably would come closest to helping you catch fish is a cheap pair of 6 x 30 binoculars. Just take them with you and go out into the lake, grab the glasses and start watching and wherever you see them pulling in fish, get right over there!" I thought the poor guy was going to cry and immediately I was sorry I hadn't come up with a better way of putting it, but I was dead serious. What kind of fish finder he wound up with, I don't know.
That's one way of finding fish and if you can't find'm you can't catch'm. My guess is you would just about have to have a fish finder in the deeper water because of the different temperatures and oxygen availability in the water. This causes fish to migrate to different depths during the season. Its bad enough to have to find a fish in 18,000 acres but when you cube that by 700 ft, oh my, you'd have a heck of a time so if you're in deep water, better get the finders.

I have fished for catfish some and carp. Here in these rural areas, carp are a good eating fish, very bony but good. I am not so enamored of catfish and seldom fish for them anymore. The carp are fished for in the local river when the water recedes to summer levels and is clearer. I use a heavier rig for this as I think the carp are pound for pound the best fighting fish in the water. I use the reliable 'ol recipe for "dough ball" as bait. That is cornmeal, plenty sugar, some vanilla and a little cinnamon boiled in water and put on a treble hook as a little ball probably about the size of the end of one of your middle fingers. It has to be a certain consistency to allow working it onto the hook and staying on while the fish picks it up and must be soft enough to allow the hook to penetrate it so as to hook the fish when he bites. The bait is then cast into a water hole a little downstream from your position. There are certain times and condition when the carp will pick up the bait but not apply any tension at all on the line and you have to really concentrate on when to set the hook but watch out when you do as the fish just explodes and the fight is on! I use what we call a "sliding" sinker for this, just an oval shaped sinker with a hole in the center that allows the line to pass freely through it. I would fish a lake the same way.

If anyone wants to try this, just start with the basics I have mentioned here and develop your own techniques. There is a way to fish for carp on the water's surface but I'm not well enough aquainted with it to pass on. I believe it utilizes floating baits about like a hard "cracker" or some such thing. Carp are vegetarian and feed on seeds and such floating on top of the water. They normally would not strike a lure if the other food is present and when it is, they are hard to catch. Thus some type of floating baits utilizing material from grains should be used for this fish.
The important thing here is to find the fish and get something in front of them that they like. Any thing else here?

Bringing In A Hooked Fish


Not much here. Just make sure you get the fish. This  means you can't "muscle" them around but you can't play with them all day  either. I've lost some bigger fish, too many really, by trying to bring them in too fast. Depends on where you're fishing. If you are in a habitat where there is a lot of cover, brush, weeds, rocks etc and other obstructions, just make sure you get the fish up and away from them, then it is a matter of letting the fish tire until you can manage him up close to the boat or shoreline.

The trouble starts when you bring a fish that's still fresh in too close to the boat or shoreline. Two things happen, he's too violent to net or get a hold on and you could suffer injury doing it or you have a very short amount of line out and it is highly stressed and will break and you will lose the fish - the more line out, the more shocks it takes. Also, when a lure comes out of a fish, its generally headed right for your face, so be careful.

One time my father, fishing from the edge of a farm pond, had a large bass on and the fish went into a bed of sea grass at the edge and my father couldn't get him out so he went out into the grass bed to get the fish which had one of those big double-treble-hooked jitterbugs in it mouth and he tried to press the fish against his leg under water and walk out with it.  Needless to say, as soon as the fish sensed he was coming clear of the grass, he started trashing about and set one of those hooks in the calf of my father's leg. I asked him what the H__l he thought he was doing and he said, "Well, the last time I had one like that, I reached down to get him by the jaw and he flopped and set the hook in my hand so I thought I'd try it this way!" So don't think you can't get hurt. Happens all too often.

So, when you go fishn, make sure your rig is in good working order, hook your fish, get him away from any obstructions in the area, let him tire with some line expended as the line will stretch and contract taking up some of the shock and tension but don't play with him too long because the hook could be cutting its way free. Also, the more the fish fights the more he is apt to injure himself. Sometimes they fight so hard they rupture little blood vessels in their spine area and when you clean them you might notice these little blood clots in odd areas of the flesh so just as soon as he seems manageable, head'm for the boat or shore and don't mess around, get'm in the net and out of the water. Stay cool, works almost all of the time.

I did not generally use the "dip net" as I considered it another piece of equipment that had to be packed around but have since started using it. I have found that it can be used as a tool when packing the equipment around, especially when moving between spots, etc and back and forth to the car on arrival and departure. The dip-net is, of course, a useful item and with the discovery that it was not an inconvenience but an asset, I started using it as sometimes it was very helpful when landing larger fish, especially walleye as my fingers and hand were cut by their gill shields a couple times so I started using the net.

Fish Containers


If you're going to eat the fish you catch, even the container you hold your caught fish in can be fairly important. I generally used a stringer in times past but kept loosing fish from it and in rocks and other debris around dams and so forth, stringers easily become entangled and sometimes are just plain left as they can't be retrieved from the debris. I have also lost stringered fish to turtles and I had a fisherman tell me he had seen muskie take a couple of his crappie from his stringer hanging over the side of his boat.

Now most boats have a fishing well where fish can safely be kept for some time. But if you're fishn from the shore, you don't have a fish well. Not having a boat, I started using a fish basket to hold my fish and I could use it on shore or in a boat that didn't have a fish well. I had a container wherever I was.

So in a boat or not, I have just kind of stuck with my fish basket and I'll tell you the reason why. Much of my fishing experience was in the outlet of the Rathbun dam which is heavily covered with large rocks, rip rap. The fish couldn't be kept on a stringer so we started using baskets. The current is very swift and there is a constant wave action. It wasn't long before I noticed that the fish, being "swished" around in the basket were very clean, cleaner than when on a stringer. They lost almost all of that "fishy" coating they have on them and some even lost some of their scales when you stayed too long. But when you went to your vehicle to go home, the fish odor was very low, not at all as strong as, for instance, when you had fish that had been kept in a boat's fish well.

And when we cleaned the fish, this was very obvious and it made a difference in the way the fish tasted. They were not as strong as when kept any other way. Even fresh-cleaned fish, cleaned right on the lake, had a stronger taste.

So I learned to use the fish basket as a tool for just that purpose, washing off the fish. If you are on shore and there is no wave action it won't work but if you are on the water in a boat or around rip rap, use those baskets and don't worry about the waves beating it around, it can take some of it. The only problems I had was taking off in the boat and forgetting the basket in the water and a couple of people objected to the basket rubbing the side of the boat and we had to use the well, but the basket always did its job and my advise is to use them if you can.

Cleaning Equipment

There are many different ways of cleaning fish, I suppose because there are so many different fish. Small fish may be cooked with their skins still on. Some fish are pan-fried, some are deep fried, some are baked, some broiled and I've heard of some being barbecued. How about canned or smoked?

So the cleaning method probably depends on the fish you have and what you're going to do with it. Up in NE Iowa, they have some German and Bohemian folks that pickle carp, down here in Centerville we have some folks who "can" carp. Cold pack right with the veggies and stuff. In these instances the fish is gutted, head etc removed, skinned, and cut into chunks for packing in the jars. Just ordinary good sharp knives and some pliers maybe will do this job but always have plenty of good clean water to wash the carcass, sometimes repeatedly, at least until you're sure you have any residual "fishy stuff" washed off the meat. When you dress the fish, be very careful to not get the meat in contact with the stuff on the fish. Keep the cutting board clean, etc. Heck, use 2 boards if you like, one to gut/skin and one to dress the carcass that way the carcass stays free of the "fishy" board.

Some fish destined for baking would be "scaled" (scales removed) but skin left on to hold meat together and keep moisture in.

In any case, sharp knives with a little wider blade than normal should suffice for the job. The fish is gutted and we always removed the head. Again, cleanliness is an absolute must. After fish is cleaned, cook't up. We never let anything soak or any of that. Just washed it good by using lots of clear, cool water.

Most other fish have the head and skins removed and they are cut up and deep-fried with the bones in the meat. This type of cleaning requires the good knives and pliers to skin the fish. These generally suffice. Again, use all the cool, good water you can and make sure they are clean. How about "squeaky" clean? Some fish have natural oils but just work at it until the "fishy smell" is in control and there is friction when you rub your fingers over the flesh.

Some fish, such as walleye, should be filleted which leaves the bones, skin, head and entrails in one piece for easy disposal and the meat (without skin) is deep-fried. Good sharp knives alone are required for this job. The important thing here is to make sure that when the filleting is being done that the meat does not come into contact with the cleaning board or the outside of the fish's skin, etc. and use lots of clear cool water to clean the meat.

Ernest Conger     6/14/2013                           email                                                Return To Top