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Knuckle Busters

By Dwayne Mustard Painters Lodge, 🕔Tue, Jun 23rd, 2015


You may have heard the term before, or maybe you saw the aftermath when a new fisherman didn't let go of the reel fast enough. Either way, a knuckle buster is another name for a single action reel, and it's well worth taking the time to learn how to use it. Dwayne Mustard explains why that is, and how to use one, in this segment of Dock Talk...

Many first time salmon anglers get a terrified look on their face when you tell them that the reel they will be using is commonly called a 'knuckle-buster'.“Why on Earth would you want to use a reel that busts your knuckles?” they ask. “Because we’re Canadians,” I reply, “Our favourite sport involves a lot of bare knuckle fist fighting.” This answer does very little to ease their fears so I tell them that we use single action reels because they are the best tool for the job.

Single action reels work great with downriggers because of their simple spool on an axle design. There are no drag washers to wear out, meaning that they are pretty much maintenance free, outside of the occasional application of grease to the axle. Their direct drive design also means that you can keep the line tension on at all times - when the fish runs the handles turn one direction, to reel the fish in you turn the handles in the opposite direction. Difficulties begin when you can’t tell the difference between when you should be reeling in and when you should let the fish run. Continuing to reel in when the fish is trying to run will put such a huge load on the rod that there is no way you can get your fingers out of the way fast enough when you finally do let go of the handles to let the fish pull out some line.

So how is an inexperienced anglers supposed to recognize when he should be reeling in the fish or letting him run? There are two ways. Firstly, you can listen to your guide when he shouts, “Reel reel reel reel reel,” or “Let him run, let him run!” Failing that you can watch your rod tip rather than focusing on the spot where the line enters the water. When the rod tip starts to point the sky you reel hard until you have a nice bend in the rod again. When the rod tip starts to point at the water, let him run. Keep repeating these steps until the fish is on the surface and it is time to put him in the net…and that, my friends, will be a discussion for another time.

Until next week,

Tight lines and keep on fishin’

Dwayne Mustard

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