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Goodwill Fishing must have ten thousand-plus dollars in various rods and reels for my guide business and I suppose it’s necessary to catch more fish. No telling how much I have in tackle, from the latest lures to prototypes, and the latest catch-all gadgets that are advertised on fishing channels. It is, after all, a love of mine to try new things and to hear about the latest tactics of guides and the many anglers I come in contact with in my rounds and travels. One person, on the other hand, had none of the latest fishing gear, nor did he really care to have it. His pleasure was taking old worn out gear that people discarded, fixing it and using it to do his fishing. Shopping at Cabela’s, Academy, or high profile fishing tackle stores was just not an option. Coming from a poor family and living through the Depression meant any significant money ($10 or more) was meant for groceries, a home, transportation or medical bills. His favorite fishing store was Goodwill and he was on a first name basis with most of the staff there. The jewels of his eye were broken rods, reels that ground like rocks in a tin can when the handles were turned, and old, broken corks or lures that most would throw away. Deep winter non-fishing days were meant for getting new fishing purchases in shape for wetting a line when the weather got better. Bearings in reels were fixed by removing and cleaning, then pressed apart and rolled on a sheet of glass, rough spots sanded if needed or replaced from another reel and then shimmed with aluminum washers or with shims cut from aluminum cans he picked up. They held up well and salt water didn’t seem to bother them. Stainless steel was just too expensive.

Rod repair was either a new tip (rods a foot or so short didn’t stop the fish from biting and he was quite certain they couldn’t tell the difference) or, for those with other broken parts, installing flexible inserts created from a mixture he concocted using JBWeld, silicone, and, I think, a two-part epoxy. If the rod was solid he had a fixture he made that helped him drill small holes for his homemade insert. The trick, you see, was the insert would break before the rod pieces did, which allowed him to fix it again at minimal cost. He then wrapped the repaired section with three types of thread and painted it over with women’s fingernail polish, using half-bottles he found at his favorite fishing store (Goodwill). If the repaired rod broke, it meant he’d hooked a really good fish! Broken bobber repair was the science of discarded packing material. The key was finding just the right density foam, because gluing the wrong density meant the repaired cork might float upside down or on its side (I won’t tell you how I know). Broken lures were all about weight and balance. Walking the sides of highways, he looked for old tire weights that some in-ahurry tire store failed to attach properly. Over time, as such establishments increasingly loosened their service standards, his roadside lead scavenging became easier, to the point where a one-mile stretch would yield enough material for his needs. BBs worked in a pinch, but the copper gave off an odor the fish didn’t care for, and they also rattled. He weighed the lure on a drug scale, obtained at Goodwill, and drilled strategic holes he would fill with lead he melted in an old plumber’s pot. Trial and error in the bathtub determined if too much or too little weight had been applied. Live bait was free, as long as you had a coffee can and a stick with a cotton ball attached to the end. Night crawlers could be captured at the old train track by turning over discarded railroad ties and pinning the quick rascals down with the soft end of the

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stick. Trying to catch them bent over was hard on the back. If you dumped your old coffee grounds, tea grounds or your spittoon under the old ties, it was a sure way of keeping the crawlers, and even red wigglers, in the area. Don’t look under that tie though, he’d say, it belongs to someone else (Holy Ground, an honor system thing). And, yes, those worms did catch reds, trout, and even flounder took to the stink bait when it was dragged across the bottom. A Waring blender marked “BAIT” in big Magic Marker letters was a freebie because its motor had seized up. But once the gunk was cleaned out of the windings and the brushes were sanded, it was good for all types of homemade stink baits made from old cheese from the food bank and the brains from various (fresh only) road kills. “If it stinks put it in there!” (Got any Big Red soda?). I was amazed more than once when some kid would show up on his porch and ask him to show them how to make a bicycle tire without a tire. A 20-foot section of old rubber hose, measured to fit around the rim, was cut to length and through an elaborate folding and wiring process with bailing wire, the rubber hose/tire was applied to the rim. This makeshift tire would last for at least a week under daily riding. A 20-section section of rubber hose was good for 4 to 5 tires. If you filled the hose with sand, it would even take bumps pretty well. But you needed to keep a few coils of wire wrapped around under the seat just in case she turned loose from going too fast. He almost always caught more fish than me using these contraptions and it’s I still have fond memories of his rainbow colored rods with the many shades of nail polish he used, or watching him laugh out loud when one of his reels came apart as he reeled a fish in and he had to pull the line in hand over hand to finish the job. He would turn to me and say “Might need help with this one” as a rod would snap in two when he hooked a really big one.

A L M A N A C

March 2012  

THE Authority on Texas Fishing & Hunting Texas Fish & Game is the largest, oldest, and best outdoors resource of its kind in the nation. No...

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