Reloading – How a family man finds time to prep his gear

How a family man finds time to prep his gear

On Tuesday or Wednesday, early when his family is still in bed, Jeff Little tends to his gear.
On Tuesday or Wednesday, early when his family is still in bed, Jeff Little tends to his gear.
Words and photo by Jeff Little

My most euphoric moment of the week comes at 5:15 a.m. Saturday morning. It’s when I back out of my driveway and start my journey to wherever I am fishing. It’s the apex of a week of looking forward to fishing. I grin, hop and fidget in excitement like my two young sons in the days leading up to Christmas. Except that I get this once a week, not once a year. A week-long process of trip planning, weather watching and gear organization leads up to this moment.

Because I’ve taken time away from my family, when I return from a trip I do the bare minimum of clean up. I strip down my wet and fish stinky clothing, hop in the shower and worry about the rest a day or two later. It’s more important to engage with my wife and kids.

But later in the week, usually Tuesday or Wednesday when they are all in bed, I tend to my gear. It’s not just fishing gear that I concern myself with. Video camera, depth finder and Torqeedo batteries need to be charged. If I haven’t done it yet, I upload the footage and photographs from Saturday’s trip.

If I damaged any gear on the last trip such as popping a guide eye on my favorite baitcaster or had an anchor fairlead work itself loose, it needs to be mended. When working with rods, I retie fresh leaders and lures appropriate for the following Saturday’s trip.

I line the rods up on the fender of my vehicle in the order I think I will use them on the upcoming trip. I usually end up with more rod and reel combos than I have flushmounts and rod holders on the back of my crate. It’s a tough decision which of my 14 rods I will bring, yet somehow I always find myself on the water with enough options.

Then comes the tackle aspect of preparation. I’m never quite happy catching the same fish the same way week after week, even if it works. I need to tinker. Last week, I poured lead into a Do-It Mold to make a knock-off Alabama Rig. It’s intended use: a striped bass trolling presentation on the Chesapeake Bay. This past week, it was pouring soft plastic swimbaits with a combination of large purple flake, small green flake and green pumpkin colorant. I felt the need match the exact color of the sculpin I snagged with a jerkbait recently.

Then I post photos of my handiwork on Facebook, and wait for the responses to roll in. “Jeff, you can put that 10-inch Sluggo on the back of that rig, but I’m telling you right now, they will short strike it – go with a 6- or 7-inch Sassy Shad,” a friend replied to the Alabama Rig photo. I went back to the garage and poured the boot-tailed shad baits with a glow additive so they’d show up when trolled deep in the brownish green waters of the bay.

By the time I’ve checked the updated wind forecast, I’ve got everything ready, packed in the car, kayak on roof rack. It’s changed from 6 to 8 miles per hour out of the west to 12 to 15 miles per hour out of the northwest.

I call my fishing buddy on the phone, “I don’t think that we will be on the flats this weekend – did you see the wind forecast?” He agrees, and all the preparation for a Chesapeake Bay Striped Bass trip is undone. The reloading begins again for a Rappahannock River smallmouth trip, where a 15-mile per hour wind doesn’t blow you off the water.

If this sort of diversion occurred in my professional life, I might be upset. But it’s fishing, or at least doing something that I get to look forward to fishing while doing it. And I think that underlines a powerful drive in the mind and lifestyle of an angler – anticipation. We enjoy looking forward to going, and once on the water, looking forward to the next bite.

Jeff Little is a Regional Pro Staff Director for Wilderness Systems Kayaks who also produces instructional fishing video for his Tight Line Junkie’s Journal Pivotshare channel.