Queer for Gear – It’s a Sickness!

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Jim Brown organizes his fishing tackle

A mere portion of the author’s freshwater fly fishing tackle and several soft sided bags he uses to organize tackle by species or location

Big bass are about to go on the prowl, halibut, sand bass and members of the croaker family are coming into the bays and estuaries, spawning rainbows and cutthroat trout will soon be entering tributaries of Lake Crowley, and the general season for the Sierras is just around the corner.

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  • At the end of the month I’ll be fishing the Columbia River for who knows what (some combination of salmon, steelhead, sturgeon and walleye are on the menu) and a return to Canada’s Lac Seul for walleye and pike is booked for June.  After that, it will be time for corbina in the surf and maybe some yellowtail and tuna offshore.

    With all of those options, most of which are readily available to San Diego anglers – what’s a guy or gal to do?  In my case, and I have it on good authority involving most who enjoy fishing – it’s time for a little spring cleaning – the kind that involves straightening, cleaning up, organizing and…I loathe this word…discarding.

    Rods need to be checked closely, washed and in my opinion waxed.  Reels need to be cleaned, lubed and filled with fresh line.  Tackle boxes or bags need to be checked and properly organized to match the types of water you will be fishing and the species you plan to pursue.

    fishing rods in Jim's garage

    A fraction of the rods and reels which compete for space in the author’s garage

    For the average person, this project done carefully and thoughtfully should be done off and on in the course of a day.  I realize I’m well below average in most areas, but in any event, I am not average.  I’ve been in the midst of this project for the better part of a week, and I’m only in the organizing phase which is the first step!

    At this point I’ve completed four tackle bags as can be seen in the accompanying photo.  One of the blue bags is devoted exclusively to bass fishing.  The yellow one is for bay fishing with lures for bay bass, shortfin corvina, halibut and bonefish – but it also includes hooks and weights for corbina, croaker and sargo.  The red bag is dedicated to trout so it is packed with spinners, spoons and crank baits as well as the terminal gear (hooks and split shot primarily) for stream fishing.  It includes both a jar of Pautzke’s green label salmon eggs and a container that has held its share of grasshoppers and crickets over the years.  A fourth bag which happens to be blue contains a broad assortment for other species including the aforementioned walleye, but also pike along with an assortment of boxes for crappie, bluegill and catfish – but no stink bait.  Never mix stink bait with anything else.  When the directions on the jar warn against touching something with bare skin and suggests using a stick to apply the contents to your bait or hook – that is a standalone item – believe me.  There may be some of you old enough to remember the explosion of Bowker’s Catfish Bait jars that rocked Midway Bait and Tackle and Pacific Surplus a few decades ago when wise-ass kids ignored the directions and tightened the lids, turning them into domestic IEDs.

    The next step involves the organization of my fly fishing gear and the table in the photo holds a mere portion of the freshwater stuff; the saltwater conglomeration will have to wait for another day and likely a different month because I sense that I am bogging down, mostly because I have way too much stuff.  Too much in every one of those bulging tackle bags because of the simple and tried and true reality that I will ultimately use only a tiny fraction of what is available in each.

    Jim Brown's fishing books

    Brown’s impressive collection of fishing books

    It is of course an illness, and I’ve been in its grip since I was child.  By the time I was ten, I’d filled a huge aluminum UMCO 1000 tackle box with bass lures of that epoch – Bombers, Hula Poppers, Hawaiian Wigglers, Shannon Twin Spin spinner baits, River Runts, Jitterbugs, Injured Minnows, Lucky 13’s, Super Sonics and so on and on…

    Covered with dust and grime and still filled with those old lures, that box and others reside in a corner of the garage and unopened for years, maybe even a decade or two!  Did I mention earlier that I have some issue with discarding?

    How many SDFish members have even heard of those lures, let alone seen one?  More importantly, how many share this illness for which I have never seen a commercial or telethon?  If in the latter group, have you been successfully treated with medication, counseling, group therapy or maybe a 12-step program?

    If so, drop me a line because I clearly need help and I haven’t even gotten to the forest of rods and reels that litter my den and garage.  In the meantime I need to wrap this up and get back to that table and the gear that beckons me.

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  • About Author

    Jim Brown

    Jim Brown ran the San Diego City Lakes Program from 1974-2003, where he oversaw the operation of the fishing programs of the county's biggest and best fisheries. Over his 70 years as a native San Diegan, including 65 of them as an avid fisherman, Brown describes himself as someone who has fished most bodies of water in and around the county that hold fish, and all of those that don't.

    2 Comments

    1. Jim Brown

      Agreed Robert, and I have a few examples from bass fishing that bring back some great memories. Hanging in my den is a chartreeuse K&R spinnerbait (anyone remember the Ross brothers) that produced the fluke catch of a 16-0 at Hodges. That old (yes, I said Umco) tackle box holds a Thin Fin that drew a 12+ at Sutherland along with a Lucky 13 that produced a 25 pound limit of northerns from San V before the arrival of the Floridas when I was 14 which was 57 years ago.

      Two other favorites include a Bomber Spinstick that caught bass everywhere I used it and fly rod cork popper called a hank Neverka Bass Poison that did pretty much the same. Just writing about them now brings on a sense of nostalgia. Being able to hold them in my hand brings a flood of vivid memories of what were my “good old days.”

      I understand your attachment to that old green gear bag and I bet there are other SDFish readers who can share similar memories of their own favorites and past experiences.

    2. Jim Brown

      For the longest time I was told that the fish I caught was the largest ever recorded on a spinnerbait, but that it was eventually eclipsed by a bigger bass. I’m not sure who keeps track of things like that or why. K&R was just one of many lure companies to get their start in San Diego. Among soft plastics Scrounger and Scampi started the ball rolling followed by numerous others producing worms and swimbaits primarily. The only hard bait I recall is much like and Injured Minnow, but features one color pattern on one side and a different pattern on the other along with the largest glass eyes I’ve ever seen on a lure. Seems to me it was called something like a Pecos Minnow, but there was another Pecos Minnow from elsewhere that was a flat nosed and bill-less crankbait, somewhat like a Super Sonic, but without the dorsal fin.

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