Modifying Fishing Gear for Better Performance





Modifying Gear/Tackle ;  Many times a fisherperson can modify an existing manufactured product to fit a more usable item for local area usages.  Most of the fishing gear / tackle is manufactured to fit a broad range of intended usages which may or may not be totally effective in a specific area or needs.   This could include triple hooks, barbed hooks, lighter leader than local requirements, even different colors which may vary even daily.


   (1)   OK, this one may not be modifying tackle, but more of a housekeeping/tackle box cleanliness situation.  This is more about utilizing existing items to achieve better UNCLUTTERED tackle boxes.  Wrapping your leaders around foam takes up a lot of room.  But if you frequent Burger King, A&W Rootbeer, Dairy Queen, Subway or some other fast food restaurants, that use the larger diameter soda straws, don't throw them in the garbage.   Cut them into lengths of about 1 1/2" and wrap your leaders around two of your fingers, pinch them down and slip the straw over the coils, captivating them.  If you frequent different stores, some use different colors and could utilize different colors for different leader weights or ???


Shown here are examples of how soda straws can be used to contain leaders


  (2)  How many times have you had tied your up tackle get married together and it takes you longer to untangle than cutting it off and retying?  I do wrap a lot of leaders on foam pipe insulation, which works well, but the one I have had problems with is that I use Brad's Super Cutplugs a lot, AND I retie the hooks to my specifications (as seen in one of the photos above).  I also use soft drink straws cut in 1 1/4" lengths to captivate the leader.  However if more than even a couple get together in the tackle box when it is closed and after the lights go out at night, they seem to become romantically attracted.


The idea of storing them individually, economically and yet readily available seemed desirable.  I complained that the wife's Zip-Lock sandwich bags were really to large.  Why not the 1/2 sandwich bags she asked?  Not being that familiar with kitchen items, it sounded like an idea to pursue.  She bought a box of 100 of these 3 1/4" X 6 1/2" bags for less than $3.  They are a tad bit larger than actually needed, but simply fold it over as seen in the top image in the photo below.     Then I found for trout tackle, even these were too large.  So why not bring out the vacuum packer and burn two bars close together down the middle vertically.  Then with scissors, cut between the burns making 2 smaller bags


Here is are my lures, one stored in & the other shown outside the 1/2 sandwich bags


  (3)  Make changes to the rotating triangle fishing attractors, (a) like special or different colored reflective tapes and (b) a large round dot simulating a winking eye when the flasher rotates.  (c) Also on one of the flashers below the 3/16" hole drilled in one of the wings, which will produce a string of bubbles, adding to the attractors effectiveness.  (d) You can also add black electrical tape either to the back or 1/2 of the back, OR on a diagonal, creating more of a contrast.  This black contrast is more effective than you can imagine, but you need to experiment as to what sides you put it on as compared to the other side, as if not done right, one cancels out the other.  The diagonal is one on a single colored side is of the best easiest and best ones to try.


In experimenting, place your tape on, then hold onto the rear swivel, and give the flasher a spin.  You are trying to get a "BLINKING" situation here.


Some original & modified triangle flashers.  Use your imagination


  (4)   If fishing in weed infected waters even using ball bearing swivels seem to plug up worse them the bead chain  swivels.   And given the need to clean your gear more often, the bead chain swivels offer more opportunity to eliminate twisted line.  Now another twist is to add an Oregon Tackle weed-guard over the 6 bead bead chain.   This consists  of a simple clear plastic cover that goes over a bead chain swivel.  This only requires a slight split in the upper end using a Dremel part off stone and then pulling the bead eye through the plastic guard using a crochet hook.  It also may require a slight rear trim of the plastic to clear the rear snap.


Here you see Oregon Tackle weed guard installed over a 6 bead chain swivel



  (5)  If you use a rotating flasher ahead of a lure (either a cut-plug herring or lure that has it's own action), if the swivel between them gets contaminated with weeds, your lure may be rotating at the same speed as the slower turning flasher and not as effective as you anticipated.  One way to counteract this from happening is to cut your leader in the middle and install another swivel, (ball bearing preferred).


  (6)  For those of you who use Duo-Lock snaps, they are not all made to the same quality.  Some under stress, (with big fish on) will come undone.  The outer end of the snap on some are not formed correctly and will pull out of it's mating connection.  (A) either don't buy them, or if that is waht you have, use a pair of needle nose pliers and reshapre that end, being sure that you do not change the rest of the snap so that it will lock in place.


Here, on the right is a good snap, notice the HOOK on the end




  (7)  For lake fishing where you want a smaller flasher, you can add a spinner blade to the rear of a flasher, again for more attractiveness.


Here you see a smaller 3" mini - mini flasher with a spinner blade
attached to the rear.

  (8)  If getting short strikes, tie your hooks so they drop back behind the lure like seen in the photo below.  Here the single triple hook was removed and two 5/0 red plated Octopus hooks that were tied about 4 1/2" apart.  Five 6mm beads were added on the leader which moved the front hook back to where, when in use, the eye of the hook is at the rear of the plug.  The red beads and the red hooks very likely could simulate a wounded and bleeding herring.    This redistributed weight slows the action of this plug a slight amount, but not enough to effect it's fish catching ability, while actually improving the hookup to retention percentage.   

This method has also proved worthwhile in rigging Apex plugs.

Here you see a Brads Super Cut Plug tied with modified trailer hooks

  (9)  To add effectiveness of a lead jig, or trolling spoons, add a small spinner blade to the rear as seen below.   When using spinner type blades to be used in salt water, spray the blade with clear enamel while they are still new and shiny.

Here you see 2 lead jigs that has a spinner blade added between the jig
 & the hook and a factory spoon that also has a spinner blade attached

   (10)  Add small Spin-N-Glo or Smile blade to front of hoochie to improve fish catching performance when trolling with conjunction with a flasher, which imparts action to the non-action hoochie.


Here you see 2 hoochie rigs, one with a Smile blade & the other
with a #4 Spi-N-Glo attached in front as an added attractor

  (11)  Also you can add a small hoochie to the front of a rigged herring for more effectiveness while not effecting the bait's action. 


  (12)  As seen in the above LH header photo, a corky is added between the two hooks on a steelhead/salmon drifting roe lure in a river, either from the bank or boat.  This corky adds just enough buoyancy that the lure is raised slightly off the bottom along with giving a bit of color if the eggs could be partly stripped off.  This particular set up is for steelhead, where a larger gob of roe would be used for salmon.


  (13)   In the photo below, a Spi-N-Glow is added to a mooching leader for trolling a whole herring.  Note the 2 small beads used as a spacer and bearing for the Spi-N-Glow.



Here you see a rigged herring with a #4 Spin-N-Glo attached in front as an added attractor

  (14)  If you are having trouble achieving the preferred spin on your herring, either whole or cut plugged, bend the bait in an arc and use a round toothpick poked into the skin along the centerline, running lengthwise to hold this bait in a bend to maintain the spinning action.  This can be a way to salvage some bait had is older and getting mushy, which may save the day for you.

  (15) Also, especially for cut plugging herring, you can clip part of herring's tail off to slow the spin down.

  (16) Most plugs come with triple hooks attached right to the eye.  You may consider changing out these hooks to singles with a swivel or bead chain between them and the plug eye.  With today's requirement that we release "Non Clipped" fish in a manner that is consistent with conservation of hopefully allowing them to return to their home rivers and spawn.  Multiple hooks in a fish makes this requirement hard to do.  By converting to single hooks, or at least reducing one of the two to singles improves your odds in releasing a healthy fish.

In deciding what works and what may be detrimental to the plug's proper functioning, I have not come up with this myself, but have borrowed what well known fishing guides have done and the lure successfully catches fish.   On the Kwik Fish shown below, you will notice the triple is attached directly to the barrel swivel.  This is accomplished by using a set of HEAVY DUTY side cutting pliers and cutting the eye of the triple hook close to the juncture where it is welded to the third hook.  Now carefully bend it SIDEWAYS simulating a Siwash hook's open eye.  This hook is usually hard, but doable.  You may break a few, but when done properly will be as strong as the factory Siwash open eyed hooks that are made that way.  The belly single Siwash hook is attached by using two split rings.  This accomplishes a couple of important things, (1) it positions the belly hook point down for better hookups and (2) it still allows a sort of a swivel, cutting down the chance of the fish using the plug as leverage to become unhooked.

The Wriggle Wart shown below uses a bead chain, split ring and a #2/0 Sickle hook.    This is very effective for fall Coho in rivers and can be readily removed from natural ruddered fish.


Here you see 2 salmon plugs with the hooks modified.  The Kwik Fish where the hooks have been modified & the lower Wriggle Wart where both triple hooks were removed, note it's missing paint


  (17)  Change out hooks on salmon trolling gear to larger size up to the limits of the spoon or bait.  Where you are not using egg roe or prawn where the fish will be feeding on a bait that they may be familiar with or are picking it up because of the smell and can feel a large hook, but for trolling spoons, whole or cut plug herring move up to larger hooks.  Even to 5/0 or 6/0 size.  The larger the hook in these situations, the better in my book.  However, if you go too large, it can change the action of a spoon however, but this may be to your benefit.  I have sat in a hog-line for late river Coho fishing and got a pretty good lesson from the boat next to us.  He changed hook sizes on his spoons until he got the action he wanted in relationship to the river flow at that particular time and location.

  (18)  There is a company calling themselves NW Cove which sells their Q Cove breakaway flasher.  For more information on it and how to modify your existing Hot Spots  CLICK HERE
.  Also there are a t least 2 other companies who build conversion kits to do this, Good Day Fishing and Simon Wobblers.


  (19) When tying slip style leaders, use a slightly lighter colored line for slip wrapping knot.  Others may use a Dacron line for this and seems to allow for better adjustment.  This helps identify that style as compared to a regular solid tie.  Also it has been found that by adding a small plastic bead between the hooks, that IF a fish gets hooked only on the front hook, this bead helps protect the chance of the front hook being forced into the rear hook's knot, breaking it off.  Here I leave the knot leader ends long, so once the hooks are adjusted to fit the herring size, the leader tails can be pulled tighter and then cut off, even a tad long if desired.

Here you see a mooching style slider leader tied 


  (20)  Adding a barrel swivel between the spoon and hook improves your chances of the salmon not throwing the hook during a fight.   This swivel allows the fish to twist and turn without being able to use any leverage, compared to the hook being attached directly to the spoon.  

In the photo below are two salmon spoons that have a barrel swivel between the spoon and hook.  The top is a original 40+ year old commercial Canadian Wonder #5 1/2 spoon and the bottom is a 3" Coyote spoon.  The 40 year old  commercial Canadian Wonder spoon was made that way, while the Coyote was modified.  From this you can figure out that adding this swivel is not anything new.

Here are 2 spoons using a barrel swivel between the spoon & hook

  (21)  If you desire a slightly different action when trolling or casting a spoon for fall river Coho, consider using a French spinner blade used for trolling/casting spoon.  Take a spinner blade of your choice (I like the embossed/fluted French or Indiana style in size 5 to 9) and drill a small hole near the outer end of the blade, creating a spoon blade.  In this hole place a split ring attached to a Sickle Siwash hook.  I then attach a leader about 18" long to the spoon.  At the juncture of the mainline end use a 3 way swivel, one to the mainline, the other to the leader to the spoon and the third to a sinker.   The sinker I like best is a pencil lead pushed into rubber tubing that the opposite end is attached to the swivel eye, just like the old steelhead dropper leads of years gone by.  You need the weight because this blade is a lot lighter than a regular spoon.  This spoon has the tendency to follow, then occasionally dart from side to side to the extent that the leader length allows.

  (22) When fishing for late spooky Coho in the sound, make up a lightweight floating lure simulating a candlefish out of "backing rod foam" found in a building supply store.  This foam is round, light gray and available in either 3/8" or 1/2" bulk rolls and is made to take up gaps around windows etc. before the trim is installed.   Cut it to simulate a baitfish, (angled diagonally for about 1/2 of a 6" piece.  Hook it very similar to a cut plug herring, leaving the rear hook trail.
  This lure can be trolled on top of the water a distance behind the boat.  You will probably need to place a light weight ahead of it Depending on how you cut the head (straight or angled) you can achieve even a popping or darting action.

Here is a simple top water anchovy/candlefish imitator lure  

  (23)  Use a Luhr Jensen 4 1/2" hog nose salmon plug with the hooks removed instead of jet diver for back-trolling when river fishing.  This plug seems to have somewhat of a erratic motion at times that may trigger a bite to your lure.



  (24) Now, here is a modification you can do to the large 180 degree rotating type "skateboard" type of flashers.  They were designed to rotate in a large rolling motion, which required for you to maintain a speed of approximately 3 miles per hour.  What if your needs required a lesser speed?  Pro Troll then added a small wing on the rear section, which they call an "Agitator Fin", which gives the flasher more KICK allowing the slower speed, even 1 MPH, and yet still achieve the full rotation.


But what if you have a lot of the older flashers, even different brands that do not have this fin?  In the LH photo below you will see the late factory flasher with the fin on the left.  In the middle is one I have added a fin, and on the right is a unaltered flasher.  The far right photo is a angled side view of this fin, showing more clarity of what it consists of.  This new added fin was made of a section of a faded out electric fence warning sign.  The size is 9/16" X 2" and simply JB Welded onto the flasher using the same angle as the new fins.   You will need to cut and peel back the tape, then remove the adhesive with rubbing alcohol before trying to glue it on.  For adding it to the older Pro trolls, there is a mark on these that you can use as reference to glue it over.    Update -- the JB Weld does not hold as good as I had hoped, but it does leave a good base when Super Gluing the fin back on.


Here are an example of flashers with the fin on the left, an added on fin in the center and a naked flasher on the right Here a side view is shown



  (25)   For those of you who fish for salmon and are required to use barbless hooks, here is an important item that Good Day Fishing makes that enhances any system WHEN USING BARBLESS HOOKS, is a small bungee shock cord, which they call the Green Weenie.  If you add this behind any flasher, in front of your leader, they are designed to keep just enough tension on the fish so that it has less of a chance to throw the barbless hook.  At rest, they are only 4" long, but extend to 8" when at full pull.  This distance is governed by a heavy cord INSIDE the green rubber tube.  This one is short enough that you do not have to use a 12' rod when landing the fish because of all the gear you have added behind your sinker.


Here is shown the Green Weenie from Good Day Fishing


 (26)  To improving your landing net, there are a couple of things you can do.  To make it floatable is a desired option, pull the handle off from the net yoke/head, then both the rear handle cap and the front snap in lock.   This spring lock is usually made in a large Vee shape of sheet metal and can be compressed enough to be pulled out frontwards from the handle.


Get a  can of the household spray insulation foam in a can, a couple feet of 3/16" or 1/4" Vinyl tubing to fit the nozzle of the spray can.   Connect this tubing to the nozzle of the foam can and push the button, watch the filling of the tube to get an idea of how fast it works.  With the hollow handle, reach inside as far as your tubing will go and start filling the tube, but back your Vinyl tube out so you fill from the middle out.  Be careful as this stuff EXPANDS considerably and it is STICKY.   Change ends and repeat on the other end of the handle.  IF YOU SCREW UP there is no chance of repeating, or redoing it once it starts to set up.   On the front where the snap lock is located you need to leave enough room to replace the lock spring.  This foam expands once sprayed in, but after it dries can be cut with a knife.  Any cleanup can be done before it dries by using Acetone.


(27)  If you ever need to replace the landing net bag, it might be wise to remove the net bow from the aluminum head, early on in the net's life, like soon after is is new or slightly used.  There are usually 2 screws through the head and into the rear of the bow rear ends, which in turn hold the bow to the head.  What will happen, especially if you fish successfully in salt water, is these rear bow ends will generate salt corrosion inside the head connection, making removal difficult, or even impossible later on. 


Remove the bow, clean their rear surface AND their mating holes in the head, then coat both with a thin coating of boat trailer bearing grease, then reassemble.   If the retainer screws are not made of stainless steel, replace them with stainless steel ones, as they can get corroded in enough that you will not be able to even remove them later on.  


Some bows are left natural anodized aluminum, others may be painted or covered with an epoxy coating.   If the bow get to where you need to redo them, remove them from the head and strip off the old coating if it is paint or epoxy.   This can be done with sandpaper or a wire wheel on a grinder.  Prime the bow with a pressurized rattle paint can of zinc chromate primer (usually a greenish military OD color) using a 2 or 3 coats.  Then paint it with your final color, which would usually be black.  Give that a couple of coats and let it dry in a warm room. 


Then overcoat that paint with a clear overcoat, again a couple of coats.  Let it dry and reassemble.  Be sure that all of your paints are compatible with each other, otherwise the second coat may wrinkle or even loosen the first coat to where you have a mess.


Now you can reattach the net bag and you have a nearly new net.


(28)  For years we have been taught to use your finger to retain the bottom of the landing net bag when you net a fish, so you avoid tangles AND possibly scare the fish off it the bag is dangling in the water, and then let the bag drop as you net the fish  There is one product on the market that does this for you, the Scotty Net Minder.  What this is, is simply a rubber figure eight with a downrigger clip attached.  The large rubber loop is slid onto the net handle being located so the clip can be attached to the bottom of the net bag, thereby holding it securely until the fish is in the bag, which pulls the clip loose from the bag.  No need to hold the bottom of the bag with your finger using this.   This also allows your hand to be farther to the rear of the handle, which could extend your reach up to a couple of feet.


 There are a couple of detrimental things with these that I have found, (1) is if you leave your net exposed to the weather (sunlight especially) the rubber figure eight will deteriorate.   (2) the downrigger clip is the trout size and just too small to force over a good sized salmon net bottom cord.  This devise is hard to find in sporting goods stores, and probably because it is not something that the dealers even realize is available, as it is kind of hid in the Scotty catalog, but I now find that they are available through for about $10.


Scotty #210 Net Minder (net bag holder)


After my Scotty Net Minder broke off, and I found it was hard to find a replacement when I needed it, I proceeded to make a Red-Neck version as seen in the LH photo below.  This involved using a Zip-Tie, a key ring, #7 split ring and a lonely salmon downrigger clip out of my spares box.  I like this clip better as it opens up wider than the small or even large Scotty ones do, as the bottom cords of my bag were heavier, making the Scotty hard to clip on without a lot of effort.  This clip I am now using is a Delta brand, made in Canada (but now discontinued).   However the Offshore release clips will work just as well.  They are made in two tensions, the lighter freshwater trout/Kokanee version, and the salmon tension, (same clip configuration, but a stronger spring).  The lighter version is made in white plastic, while the heavier version is black.


Red-Neck net bag holder Here it is shown in use



 (29)   Most fisherpersons prefer to bleed their fish to provide a better eating fish.    For this, some boaters will make a bleeding knife.  This can be a cheap fillet knife, cut shorter and with a sharpened hook on the front, as shown in the photo below.


Here is a gill cutter/bleeding knife



  (30) There WILL become a time if you boat long enough, when you could get a anchor line, crab pot line or even a dangling mooring line, wrapped around your propeller.  It could even be in a situation where if in a swift river current or ripping ocean tide where the situation could become NASTY very fast.    Just how far can you safely reach from your boat with a knife in your hand, and who is going to hang onto your feet?  The photo below is pretty self-explanatory to an seasoned boater.


It also works great for removing a lot of wound on fishing line from the prop hub that you are afraid will get in to and ruin the seal shaft when you are 20 miles offshore and it is only 8AM.  (Been there -- Done that)

You do not want a regular sharp edged knife, but the serrated blade type.  The one below is an all stainless lock blade sold thru West Marine.   This particular one has a couple of slots along the back that make it easy to attach to a boat hook with tie tapes.  With the knife closed the boat hook can still be used for what it was intended.  But it can be deployed in a very fast time if need be.  The brown coloration on the knife itself is from a heavy duty corrosion inhibitor spray compound that was used to ensure that it does not become inoperable at the wrong time.  Yah, I know stainless is not supposed to rust, BUT !


It has come to my attention that West Marine is no longer carrying this knife as it must have been a special when I bought 2, one at my bow and the other on this boat hook for the stern.   But there has to be other brands out there that would function the same.


Boat hook modification.



  (31)   Sometimes you may need something to carry or store a small amount of gear in while leaving your main bag farther away, like surf perch fishing or any fishing where you need a place to temporarily store bait or tackle that you are changing out.  Here you can use a cheap 2 pocket canvas carpenter's nail apron, have a 1" Nylon web sewn onto the upper part, making it into a readily removable fishing apron.  Purchase those plastic male/female couplers and you are in business.  Many times they are given away to customers who purchase merchandise.  Or you could just use the tie cords that it comes with.


Here is a simple cheap fishing apron


  (32)  For those boaters who like to bleed the fish and then drag it over the side while bleeding out, here is a simple device.  It is made from 1/8" to 3/16" aluminum.  The size that seems to work well is 8" overall length.  This is simply band-sawed from a sheet of scrap aluminum.  The hole is drilled to match your cord (in this instance a Tuna Cord), with the hole the balance point in the center.  On one end is a hook that is sharpened in the inner edge.  In use, you open the fish's jaw, reach in with the hook end, and cut/pull a gill on each side.  then push it all the way through and out the bottom of the gill opening.  With this balanced toggle it now forms a Tee that will be pulled up under the gillplate, securing the fish to the cord, very similar to a halibut harpoon. 


The cord will need to be made to accommodate the size/height of your gunnel and yet let the fish be dragged a little in the water.  On mine, I made two loops, the lower one to secure to a rear mooring cleat, the other larger loop longer out, so I can have something to hold onto while I am attaching the other loop to a cleat, just a little insurance policy.


Here is one method used for bleeding a salmon or steelhead if in a boat



 (33)   For those bankies, the same principle as above but slightly modified.  Here the same toggle as above, but with a 6" section of a push broom handle attached to the cord about 20" up.  This may need to be adjusted for how tall/short the person is.  The need is to NOT have it so long that you drag the whole fish on the ground, or so short that you are lifting them all the time, as that gets heavy after while.  You want to just lift the heads up enough to act as a sled. 

On this one, I tied a small loop just above the handle so the Karabiner snap can attach it to your belt during the fishing so you do not have to dig into your pack for it when needed.  Then up the cord another 20" to 24" another loop, which is used if you are standing in the river and need to tether the fish to you, but away enough so that you are not encumbered with it too close and stumble over it/them.   And saves time if you are waist deep in water and when working a fish all the way back to shore increases the chance of loosing it, where here, you can bring the fish along side, net or gaff it and then secure to this tether without a lot of wading.

This unit was developed and used in Alaskan walk-in Coho river fishing trips, where there the ADFG advises to not leave your fish on the bank if you anticipate any bears being near.  They do not want you to FEED THE BEARS, thereby educating them to follow fishermen.  It could also be used in the states where you did not want someone to steal them when your back is turned.  The pointed other end can be used to dig into a gravel bar and then as a spike to secure your catch while still in the water.

These units can readily accommodate up to 4 Coho in size up to 14#.



Here is a modification of the above, but used for bankies as a tether/tote




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Originated 02-18-2013, Last updated 01-04-2018
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