In recent years I’ve made long-distance fishing travel a priority, with trips like two adventures in the Brazilian Amazon, trout fishing in Montana and redfish in Venice all allowing me to check a few items off of my bucket list. The wife and I are going to southern Africa later this year to try to add tigerfish to our list of conquests. I’ve also been known to fly out to Texas or California for a long weekend at the invitation of a friend.
The one that keeps me coming back, however, is Mexican bass fishing. I just can’t get enough of the great fishing, great service and tasty margaritas at Anglers Inn El Salto, so I’ve been working overtime to pay for more and more travel that way.
All of these trips have one thing in common: Due to distance or time constraints, I can’t tow my Bass Cat, and in each instance I’ve ended up flying to the jumping-off point. In some cases, like the Amazon trips and Africa, where float planes are involved, I’ve been limited to 30 or 40 pounds of luggage. That includes clothing, toiletries, cameras and other non-fishing items and the weight adds up fast. Even when you’re flying more conventional craft, you can’t bring everything you own. Every time we travel I end up throwing in a few more crankbaits, some extra topwaters, maybe those new flutter spoons I’ve heard so much about, and you’d be surprised how quickly your bags add up. Over the course of these many trips, I’ve learned that it pays not to skimp on less “sexy” fishing items. Here are a few hints on how to use your weight limits wisely.
Extra Treble Hooks
If you’re chasing big, mean fish (isn’t that the reason you’re traveling), your terminal tackle is going to get lost, dulled and chewed up. You may only need one Rico, or a handful of 10XDs to get you through the week, but you’ll want sharp hooks on every day of the trip. Bring a selection of extra trebles in the sizes you’ll need most. In many instances, you can cannibalize sizes 6, 4 and 2 from other lures (e.g., your Spook can borrow from your lipless cranks), but oddball sizes like 1/0 and 2/0 don’t cross over as easily. Bring extras, and bring a range of sizes of split rings to go with them.
You may get the backlash to end all backlashes, or you may have multiple breakoffs and run low, but it’s important to have quality line on every spool on every day. Try to anticipate the strengths that you’ll need and plan accordingly. For Brazil, I might only bring 50 and 65 lb. braid. For Mexico, I’ve settled on 17-20 lb. fluorocarbon and 50 lb. braid for the widest range of uses. If you know that you’re going to use a lot of one strength, get a bulk spool so you’re not carrying extra weight in the spools themselves.
As noted above, you’re going to need split ring pliers. You’ll also need something to cut your line, and perhaps a pair of pliers for unhooking unruly and deeply-hooked fish. If you can get an all-in-one tool like Buck’s Splizzors, that’s perfect. I also carry a Boomerang “Snip” in my pocket. It cuts through braid like butter and weighs next to nothing.
One Extra Rod, One Extra Reel
Rods break, reels seize up. It’s tough to fish them in the jungle or 100 miles from the nearest hardware store or tackle shop. Bring an extra of each that covers a wide variety of applications. A 7’ medium-heavy might not be the best cranking stick, the best worm rod or the best for throwing a buzzbait, but it does all of them reasonably well.
One thing that doesn’t take up any luggage space at all, but which will be in short supply on any great fishing trip is time to work on your tackle. If you’re jacked to get after ‘em before sun-up, and you don’t get off the water until you’re running by flashlight, you’re going to eat dinner, perhaps grab a shower and go to bed. Devote a few minutes each day to working on your gear, and you may not need some of the backup stuff. If you know that you won’t have the energy to do it during the evening, take the occasional break during the slowest part of the day to fix anything that promises to become a problem otherwise. This will save you weight, too, as “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”