I think it’s safe to say we live in a time when technology and gadgetry aids our everyday life. Think about all you can do with a simple laptop computer, electronic tablet, or smart phone. It’s the same when it comes to fishing—advances in sonar technology and gear manufacturing have taken angling to a new level. But it does make me yearn for the days when all you needed was the KISS method (Keep It Simple Stupid) to have a good time on the water. That’s why from time to time I like to let my creative juices flow and essentially create something from nothing—and it’s why I love pool noodles. At first glance, it’s nothing more than a buoyant, expendable, dollar-store foam tube that keeps kids topside in a pool. But for anglers willing to think outside the box, it’s an ingenious material that can help you organize or protect your fishing gear in ways that will make you think, “Why didn’t I think of that?” To help you unleash your inner MacGyver, here are 10 pool-noodle hacks that will make your life easier on the water.
Rod lockers store and protect rods that aren’t in use on a boat. But you can store more rods and reduce overall congestion by placing a swim noodle below a rod handle organizer and then staggering the rods and reels. In fact, I like to place two sets of noodles on the floor of a rod locker to keep rods off the floor and constantly beating against the bottom of the boat as I travel across a lake. Cut the noodles with a retractable utility knife so each section fits tight and doesn’t roll around.
I’ve seen a few nets sink to the bottom of the lake in my time and nearly had it happen to myself. To prevent your net from disappearing in the drink, simply take one or two small portions from a large pool tube, cut a slit in the foam with a utility knife, and push it over the frame so it sits inside the hollow core of the noodle. If possible, situate the foam near the yoke of the net before securing it with a few zip ties. If you put the foam on the leading edge of the net, you’re just inviting lures to become entangled in it. Even if you don’t fish from a boat, you can use the same modification on just about any net.
Stinger hooks are great when fish are biting short, but they’re also great at getting snagged on shoes, raingear, or anything else other than a fish. Before you open your next package of stinger hooks, make a simple hook holder out of a pool noodle. Cut off a piece of a noodle that’s long enough to match the length of your stinger hooks. Then use a razor knife and cut slits lengthwise approximately every ½ inch around the tube. Embed single or treble hooks into the base of the foam and push the attached leaders into the groove.
Electronic units are now available with displays that are larger than the first television set I ever owned. While these big-screen units are great, they’re also heavy and can force even the strongest adjustable mount to pitch downward. Aside from being annoying, you can damage a unit or crack a dashboard, both of which are expensive and difficult to replace, if it flips too hard. To ensure your unit doesn’t move, simply cut a short section of pool noodle and wedge it under the electronics mount so everything rides tight.
Nothing tangles like fishing line, and fishing leaders always seem to create the nastiest bird nests. Thankfully, you can use a short piece of pool noodle to keep leaders or snells organized and untangled. Start with a 12- to 16-inch piece of pool noodle. Next, use a ruler and marker to make a line every ½ inch. Then slowly rotate the noodle by hand or on a lathe and cut shallow grooves with a utility knife along your ½-inch marks completely around the noodle. This grooves trap lines and allow you to embed hooks or terminal tackle into the foam for completely tangle free storage. Use different colored noodles to help you quickly identify different leader lengths or line strengths.
As the saying goes, “What are you going to do when nature calls?” While I will spare you from the 101 reasons you need a clean, empty 5-gallon bucket in your boat, the reality is that it can make for a great last minute toilet, amongst other things. Before you “go,” place a garbage bag inside the bucket to make cleanup easy. Then cut a lengthwise slit to the core of one long, or two short pieces of pool tube. Attach the tubing over the sack to secure it and around the bucket rim. If you want to wrap tubing around the entire rim, two pieces works better than one because they don’t bind as much. You’ll appreciate the added comfort of the pool tubes in what may likely be an otherwise uncomfortable situation.
Boat covers take a beating, and in turn, they can beat up your boat. Place any number of long or short, slit pool noodle pieces over anything that might damage your cover like the gunnel, trolling motor prop, or windshield to reduce, if not totally eliminate, wear and tear. After you get the cover on, work sections of pool noodles around tie down straps that can flap in the wind and rub a boat’s broadside. Once a piece is around a strap, secure it in place with a zip tie or a few wraps of electrical tape.
I’ve learned that anything in my boat that doesn’t have a place either gets lost or beat to death—just ask the lures that end up in the cup holders. Without proper storage, I frequently lose, tangle, or hook myself with all sorts of fishing tackle. But who wants to take the time to dig through boxes to replace or retrieve gear when you could have a line in the water? For a quick stash-and-go storage option, attach short sections of pool noodles to ice fishing shacks poles, boats rails, or rod holders and embed the hooks in the sponge. It’s a great semi-permanent way to keep track of lures you’re about to use, or those you’re done using, but not ready to store.
In the interest of full disclosure, I stole this idea from my better half after I caught her stealing my pool noodle leader holders to put in her knee-high leather boots so they remained upright in the closet. While I was upset about the theft of my leader holders and her idea made no sense at the time, I quickly learned her trick worked great for my own gear. The pool noodles keep the tall, upper half of leather or rubber boots upright, which allows more air to flow inside the boot when drying. But the biggest advantage is that it keeps boots from folding over to one side and creating a crease over time, which is where boots almost always end up cracking or leaking.
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If someone created a list of the most often piece of outdoor equipment, broken rod tips have to be at the top of the list. If you’re prone to breaking rods, you’ll be happy to know it’s avoidable. Several years ago I began using rod socks to keep rods untangled and organized. The socks work great, but they don’t prevent those momentary lapses of judgement. Place a 6- to 12-inch long section of pool noodle over the tips of one to three rods at a time for added protection. It’s a great way to avoid almost certain death from ceiling fans or closing doors, and they’re great for travel or storage.