Pistol Pete

I keep a rotating supply of fishing tackle in my home office. Some are new pieces of gear that I’m going to write about or use when the conditions get right. Others are oddities or mementos that remind me of past experiences and keep the creative Fish Formula flowing.

Some might call it clutter. I call it professional responsibility.

A couple of items that have been there going on five years now are my first baitcasting rod and my first baitcasting reel – a 5’2” Berkley Lightning Rod and an Abu Garcia Ultra Mag XL Plus, both produced circa 1983 as I embarked on my still-ongoing awkward teen phase. If memory serves me correctly, the former cost about 30 clams and the latter was a touch over 50. Adjusted for inflation over the intervening 33 years, that would translate to somewhere north of $400. I know that for four hunny today you could get a rod and reel that would put that one to shame, but even if that 80 bucks from 1983 hadn’t appreciated a bit, I strongly suspect that you could walk into your hometown Wall-Mark and buy something that performs better than this combo. It’s not just that I made the mistake of buying a 5’2” rod, but even though the reel was good for its time, it’s not nearly as smooth as even the 5th or 6th string Abu products of today. And that pistol grip? Up until I retired it to my office, every few years I’d get the urge to stick it in the boat for roll casting spinnerbaits and other short-range presentations, and every time I did so I’d make five or ten casts and then kick myself for wasting the time. I find it to be on the wrong side of borderline unfishable.

Then again, back in the day it was my favorite combo (partially because my only two combos were that one and the spinning gear I’d bought a few years earlier). I think I had graduated from original blue Stren to clear Trilene XL or green XT. My go-to lure was a grape firetail 6-inch Mann’s Jelly Waggler (or the BPS knock off, which came in larger quantities than the Mann’s blister packs) rigged on a Jello-sharp blue steel Tru Turn hook and weighted with an oddly-pointed Water Gremlin slip sinker that came in one of those round multi-compartment packs. I suppose that I caught bass on it. I suppose that I didn’t know any better. I have no interest in going back to that simpler time gearwise, but every time I look at that combo standing in the corner, I realize how incredibly spoiled we are when it comes to tackle. The 15 specialized rods in my rod locker and not-going-to-admit-how-many-others in the garage speak to that reality as much as the lone stick in my office.