5 Pieces My Dad Would Have Loved
My dad taught me everything he knew about fishing starting with a bamboo rod and a piece of fishing line. After that, we picked up a spincaster, split shot, and bobber topped with a cool nightcrawler, and I never looked back. Who doesn’t want to reflect and relive those wonderful childhood memories of a time when things were simple? As I got older, I could see that the equipment my dad used left something to be desired, but that’s what he had at his disposal. At that time, his vintage Mitchell 300 reel with a full spool of heavy test monofilament line was the order of the day, along with an off-brand fiberglass rod.
He and my grandfather hooked and landed plenty of fish in their day, but the dispirited reactions (and yes, the swearing) as they watched a big one snap the line was angling legend. In fact, I remember seeing hooks that straightened out, lures that broke during the fight, and even landing nets that had their handles bent in half at the critical moment. The two men in my life I most admired could swear like sailors and were most often inspired to do so by inferior fishing gear.
My dad, Wyatt F. Raleigh Jr., was a WWII veteran and knew how to take care of his family on the water. He never took chances with us when it came to a day of boat fishing, and he made sure his kids had the best gear he could get his hands on, but sometimes that doesn’t was not enough. I would give up a year of Sundays to go back in time with some of this stuff and put it in his loving hands!
So many of today’s reels are solid, well-made, and functional, that you almost can’t go wrong with just one. Between gear ratios, mechanisms, and slick drag systems, anglers can use increasingly lighter lines to fool wary fish that have been under a lot of pressure. My pick for dad would be the Shimano Stradic FL 4000. It’s light, handles like a dream, and holds multiple line sizes. This is a reel that can take smaller fish, but is still very useful against large freshwater species that break the tackle.
With so many great choices today, the selection process might take a little longer, but that makes it more fun. There are brands like Shakespeare, Berkley and Fenwick that have a long history of making rods that the average angler has used for many years, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. You can go for high-end rods that will make everyone happy, or you can go for something with a better price and still be quite satisfied. My choice for Dad would be the Googan Squad Gold Series Finesse Spinning Rod since he was an avid smallmouth angler, but I know from personal experience that he will handle fish up to the size of Rainbow Trout -sky.
My dad loved trying new fishing gear and the first time he saw a reel of that high visibility yellow Stren thing he was hooked. Dad suffered from macular degeneration which plagued him until his death, but he would have been happy to know that wrinkles like this stayed for so long. Mono has come and gone and will always have a place in our hearts, and the fluorocarbon line is fantastic for fooling even wary fish, but he never got to try out some of the amazing braided lines we all take for granted. My choice for him would be PowerPro Braided Spectra fiber as it comes in incredibly low diameters with ultra high strength. He could even get it in the high-vis yellow he loved so much.
If it could poke a fish in the mouth and hook it, we used it regardless of brand. Eventually we learned that not all hooks were created equal and sometimes we learned that the hard way. We’ve used proven brands like Mustad and Eagle Claw for many years with great success, but there’s one brand that really came into its own after they left: Gamakatsu. If I could put a set of Gamakatsu Circle Octopus hooks in his hands, I’d do it in a heartbeat. They’re not the only brand making super sharp, super strong hooks, but they’ve come up with a formula that really works. He loved to fish for young with live bait, and those hooks would never let him down.
My dad came from the River Runt, Creek Chub Pikie Minnow and Dardevle generation, so he had a tackle box full of classics any collector would drool over. Over the years, he would try anything he liked, especially if it came out of the trash. His go-to lure creation was the inimitable crankbait, and they’ve come a long way since his time. One of the top choices for anglers today is the Rapala brand, and my favorite has always been the Rapala Fat Rap. Dad would have been happy with any of them.
There are a plethora of tackle bags he would have liked, but he loved his old Plano tackle box. He had hundreds of lures, but he had trouble removing the Mepps Comet Minnow because he had caught so many fish on it. I don’t know if he would have even parted with any of his trusted gear, but it would have been fun to see his eyes light up at the sight of it.
He loved fishing until the day he died and I really miss my dad.
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