It’s wintertime and time to bring the old, tired equipment back into shape for next season. That old gaff helped you land some great fish over the years, and you just don’t want to retire it and pony up for a new one. The gaff, like other things, can be made “better than new” with custom lengths, labels, colors and anything else it was lacking before. So tell the wife you’ll be in the garage for a few hours. If she asks why, just tell her you are going to save the family a few bucks.
Start by removing the rusty old gaff hook from the old gaff. I use a cutoff tool but a heavy duty box cutter will work. You can see the old gaff head in the photo, and how I cut both sides to get the hook off. From there you will want to remove all the rust from the hook. Sandpaper works but I use a stainless steel wire wheel. Once you get the hook all cleaned up, you’ll need to coat it with something that will keep it from rusting the minute you put it on the boat. What I do is heat the hook up with a torch (see the clamp holding the hook in the photo). You don’t want it “red” hot, as this will change the metal and make it bend easier. While it is hot, I spray the hook with “Instant Galvanize” spray. Spraying hot metal helps the paint adhere, and also makes it dry almost instantly. Almost like powder coating.
Now you can either clean up the old gaff pole or use something new. For this demonstration I am using a new pole made of extruded fiberglass.
Line up the straight edge of the gaff hook along the pole, and mark where the holding point will go. You’ll want the hook to extend past the end of the pole.
Don’t skip any of the prep work. Sanding the gaff pole and wiping it down with acetone assures good epoxy adhesion. Why risk losing the fish of a lifetime due to equipment failure?
Now is the time to mix your chosen two part epoxy. 5 minute epoxy works in a pinch, and Flex Coat works but adds little actual strength. I like to use a high quality epoxy that actually adds to the strength of the gaff.
With a coat of epoxy around the tip, press on a cap or, insert a plug into the end of the gaff pole. This will seal the pole to it won’t fill with water and sink if you accidentally drop it.
Here I am using a 1″ cap purchased from a local hardware store for about 30 cents. (Notice the newspaper drop cloth under the work)
Getting ready to wrap your hook on you’ll want to place the cord in a bucket so it doesn’t get tangled or roll away while you are in the middle of your wrap. Here I am using seine twine. Butt cord and tuna twine work as well. Now cut a piece of cord like the photo on the right. You’ll need this at the end of your wrap. Do not forget to cut this piece and have it handy.
Now start your wrap by turning the cord over itself towards the tip of the gaff pole. Make the wrap on the backside of the gaff (opposite of where the gaff hook is). Make sure to wrap at least 5 turns over the tag end, then cut it with scissors at an angle so the cord will wrap over it easily.
Wrapping tightly keep going over the end of the gaff hook. Don’t worry too much about gaps, I will show you how to get rid of those at the end. I do like to apply epoxy as I go, under the cord and especially next to the gaff hook. You don’t want water to rest next to the hook and cause rust stains and weak spots later.
Now is the time to remove the tape that was holding the gaff hook. This is the point of no return (unless you made a mistake). No breaks because if you let the tension off the cord it will loosed and the connection of the hook will be compromised.
With 5 or 6 wraps left, now is the time to insert that piece of cord I told you to cut and save a few steps back. Insert the finishing string on the back of the gaff (again, the opposite side of the hook). Make sure to leave enough tag ends to be able to pull it through, and it should be tough if you wrapped tight enough.
Now cut the cord you were wrapping with and string it through the loop at the end of the finishing string. You can see in the photo that I made 5 wraps over the finishing string, the looped end towards the finished end of the gaff.
Pulling the tag ends of the finishing string until the tag end of your wrap comes tight to the final wrap. To take this photo I had to use one hand, but this is a two handed maneuver. In my right hand I held the wrap line tight, and pulled the finishing string with my left hand. It is hard, but it will pull under those last 5 wraps.
If you wrapped tight enough, you should not be able to pull the cord under with your bare hands. I use a pair of pliers on the tag ends of the finishing string to pull it under. Several short, hard pulls should do the trick. Again, don’t worry about the gaps this creates, we will fix those at the end.
Now you can smooth out the gaps with something like a paint brush handle. Rub hard and finesse the cord where you want it to go. It’s easier than it looks! The gaps that remain will be closed up when you add the outer coat of epoxy, which is the next and final step.
Remember there is straight epoxy under the cord, so if you want the epoxy to “soak” into the cord on the outside you can thin it a little with denatured alcohol or acetone. Just a little bit and make sure to mix well. If by now your epoxy is getting tacky, you can thin it by heating it with a heat gun. This will give you an extra few minutes.
SEE! No gaps! Be sure to turn your freshly epoxied gaff several times while the epoxy cures. This will prevent drips on one side that look unprofessional. The handle can be made the same way as I wrapped the head of the gaff. For the handle I like to use black heat shrink at the ends of each wrap. This looks really nice, as does a “Turks Head.” If you want to get really custom you can design something on the computer to truly personalize the gaff. Be sure to print your label with a Laser Printer so there is no ink to run when you coat it with epoxy. Print something like “Custom By Captain On Board” or the name of your boat and cut it to fit the side of the gaff. Secure it with a thin coat of epoxy then place some clear heat shrink over it. Now, go catch a fish and nail it with your new gaff. Fixing up old tackle and equipment not only saves money, but will give you a sense of pride while being really fun at the same time. Thanks for reading, Captain Jeff Jones