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Sunday, June 9, 2013
Had anyone been watching the boat from shore, heads would have been shaking.
The operator couldn’t drive in a straight line. Instead, the boat zigged and zagged across the water, like a guy who’d been over-served at his neighborhood bar walking home.
I was that guy.
My two passengers, neighbor boys Davin and Beck Hansen, found it quite amusing.
We were in my 20-year-old Bass Tracker bass boat, on the reservoir at Carvins Cove.
The boat has a 40-horsepower outboard, but the lake’s limit is 10 horsepower so we were stuck using only the trolling motor.
And the trolling motor had issues.
Something was slipping, so steering using the foot pedal was impossible.
I kept having to pull the motor out of the water, adjust it by hand, and then drop it and hope to get a few more yards back toward the boat dock before the prop’s torque caused further slippage.
We finally made it back, and an hour later I was perusing the Cabela’s catalog for trolling motors.
They aren’t cheap.
The least expensive bow mount version I could find was about $500.
While the idea of upgrading from the under-powered 30-pound-thrust version on the Tracker was appealing, it wasn’t in the budget.
So the next day found me standing over the motor with a dangerous weapon — a screwdriver.
A man with a screwdriver is a dangerous thing, especially when that man is not, shall we say, mechanically inclined.
But with my slightly more mechanically inclined friend Alfie Hammerstrom by my side, I dug in.
And we fixed the thing.
Turns out the threads on the top of the shaft were slipping from the base thingee that has the turning gear that the foot pedal push gear whatchamacallit drives. At least that’s the best way I can explain it.
A little bit of LocTite on the threads and, bingo, no slippage.
The total investment was an hour of time and $1.29 for new wire connectors.
Actually fixing something, not making it worse, is not only fiscally sound, it can bring a great sense of pride. While it would be nice to think that this trolling motor success represents some sort of handyman breakthrough for me, the truth is it was more about what I was starting with.
That trolling motor was a simple, well-built piece of equipment.
One of the reasons society in general has become one where most stuff is considered disposable is because so much new stuff is neither simple or well-built.
The well-built stuff is still out there, but you’ll pay handsomely for it.
So we buy the inexpensive gear, which tends to be so flimsy it breaks quickly and is not worth the effort to fix.
Still on the fishing theme, reels are a good example.
Fifteen bucks will get you a shiny new spinning reel, one that runs smoothly out of the package. Sooner than later it will start acting up, the bail spring breaking of the gears grinding.
Take it apart — if you can, some are nearly impossible to dismantle — and you’ll find plastic gears, and lots of tiny parts.
The engineering that goes into the design can be impressive, but the execution is not.
Take, on the other hand, a reel such as the Mitchell 300.
If you are over 40 and started fishing as a kid, you have used a Mitchell 300.
They came in several sizes, so you could have one on your trout rig, one on your bass rig and one on your catfish rig. (Back then, we didn’t need 20 different rod and reel combos, did we?)
When my father-in-law, Chick Whelchel, passed away a couple years ago I not only inherited the above-mentioned Bass Tracker, I got his fishing gear, including a few of those old Mitchells.
Even the small ones weigh a ton. That’s because they’re made of actual metal, as opposed to plastic.
Having sat idle for years as Chick was unable to fish much in his later years, the reels were a bit rough. Rehabbing them was simple. The reels were easy to take apart, regrease and put back together.
They work great.
In a side-by-side comparison with a brand new $15 spinning reel, the Mitchells feel pretty clunky. But they will perform, and keep performing long after the new reels break and get tossed in the trash.
If something does go wrong, it’s probably an easy fix, even for a mechanical dolt.
The downside of using that old, well-built gear is that we have fewer good excuses to go out and buy new toys.
But that’s probably not such a bad thing, is it?
Weather JournalEarly mix, then ice storm Sunday