Here are some of the essentials you’ll want on board for springtime trolling up the East Coast:
• Bait/fillet knife—You’ll want a sharpie for cutting bait strips, cutting tangles out of the line (yes, it will happen), and, of course, for filleting your fish. Rapala (www.rapala.com) makes an excellent 6-inch knife that is large enough to handle the species you’ll catch on this trip, and it only costs around $15. Get the “Soft Grip” version, which doesn’t slip when slimy.
• Coolers & fish bags—If you have a swim platform or spare room in the cockpit, consider tying down an Igloo or Coleman cooler of 80 quarts or more, which will be large enough to chill 99 percent of the fish you’ll catch. If space is at a premium, you need a soft fish “bag.” Check out the Canyon Small Boat Bag (www.alltackle.com; $210), which has heavy-duty loop straps on either end so you can hang it off the transom.
• Landing net—You can’t eat your catch if you can’t get it into the boat! Make sure you choose a landing net that’s long enough to reach the water from your deck. An aluminum handle and hoop construction with nylon mesh is usually best. If space is at a premium, consider Frabill’s Hiber-Net, which has a hoop that folds flat and stows inside the net’s handle (www.frabill.com; $80).
• Pliers—You’ll want to choose a model that has a long nose for de-hooking fish (or you’ll also have to buy a de-hooker); second, make sure it has a pair of cutters for snipping off line. Finally, make sure the pliers are stainless steel. There are a million cheap steel pliers out there, and they usually turn into hunks of corrosion in a matter of weeks. Donnmar makes some very nice models, but they aren’t cheap ($140 and up); a less expensive but well-built alternative is Sargent’s Sportsman’s Pliers (www.rostratool.com), which go for about half as much.
• Swivels—When you buy your snap swivels for making the line-to-lure connection, make sure they’re ball-bearing swivels (over $1 each), not the cheaper barrel swivels (less than 50 cents each). Ball-bearing swivels will keep your line from becoming twisted when trolling spoons, but barrel swivels will not.
• Tackle boxes—All those lures and weights have to be stowed somewhere, so a tackle box is also in order. Check out the soft-sided boxes that have different sized mix-and-match plastic boxes inside. They may not look as nifty as those hard boxes with folding trays, but they’re much better for stowing gear of varying sizes.
• Vacuum bagger—If you want to save some of that fish for future meals, invest in a vacuum bagger. Vacuum-bagged fish lasts at least three times as long as fish stored in zipper-sealed bags, and after three months in the freezer, it still tastes darn close to fresh. The FoodSaver V2450 (www.foodsaver.com) costs only $100 and is very well built. (I own one that’s been in service for many, many years.)—Lenny Rudow