Sportfishing Adventures with Capt. Jerry McGrath

Capt. Jerry with fish


Fishing University
with Capt. Jerry McGrath

Make Your Own Chum Pot

The act of luring a fish through the use of chum originated centuries ago.  Besides fertilizing their corn crops with menhaden (moss bunker), Long Island Native Americans (the Indians) made good use of this oily species while fishing.  They would use chunks and tidbits of the bunker to lure other species of fish to their fishing crafts, mainly canoes and kayaks.

Today, many of us use a chum pot to achieve similar goals.  One can purchase a chum pot at almost any tackle shop.  Most are cylindrical in shape and weigh approximately 2 to 3 pounds.  The cylinder allows one to place a store-bought quart container of chum into the pot quite easily.  However, if you are a diehard fisherman and mix your own concoction of chum to be frozen in the commonly used half gallon milk containers, the commercially bought pots are practically obsolete.  Furthermore, they are very difficult to use in deeper waters and in ripping tide conditions.

I have been using an original chum pot design for the past 10 years, which I believe is hard to beat for its usefulness and versatility.  The materials and tools that I used to construct this device are as follows:

  • 1/2-inch galvanized wire mesh (screening), approximately 3 square feet

  • 5 stainless split rings (1/4-inch diameter; copper or galvanized wire formed into rings is an appropriate substitute)

  • 5 to 8 pounds of melting lead

  • 3 galvanized S hooks, 1-inch size

  • 6 inches of bungee cord (3/16-inch or 1/4-inch diameter)

  • 1 large black coastlock snap swivel

  • 100 feet of plastic coated clothesline

  • 4 round head carriage bolts (3/8-inch diameter)

  • 1 1/2-inch piece of plywood, 1 foot square

  • 4 8-inch pieces of 2-by-2

  • 8 8d common nails

  • aluminum foil, approximately 2 square feet

  • heavy duty wire cutter

  • split ring pliers

  • electrical pliers (wide grip type)

  • lead cooker able to melt more than 5 to 8 pounds of lead at one time

  • electric drill with 3/8-inch drill bit

  • 3/8-inch tap

  • a length of 2-by-4 for bending wire mesh

The first thing to focus on is the wire mesh.  Two pieces need to be cut with the heavy duty wire cutters, one for the cage and the other for the lid.  The cage piece should be 21 inches by 13 inches while the lid must be 8 inches by 6.5 inches.  Before bending, it is best to retrieve a half-gallon milk container in order to insure the proper dimensions.

Using a length of 2-by-4 to assist in bending, bend the cage piece into a 5-inch rectangular prism (without the ends).  The overlap should be approximately 1 to 2 inches.  At this point, place the milk container in the cage to judge the fit.  There should be about 1/2-inch leeway all around.  Next, one end of the mesh should be bent at 90 degrees inward.  This requires that each corner be cut 1 inch before folding in.  By doing so, you assure a good grip for the lead bottom.

The lid should be bent in a similar fashion.  Cut and fold to form an appropriate lid.  Be sure that one end is not folded.  That will be the hinge end to be attached later.

After the cage and lid are formed, the next task is to construct a lead mold for the bottom of the chum pot.  This can be done by nailing the four 2-by-2 pieces into the shape of a 6-inch square on the 1-foot square piece of plywood.  Line the inside of the 6-inch square with aluminum foil.  It is best to double line the foil.  This foil will prevent the lead from seeping out the corners of the mold.

It is now time to pour the lead.* Melt the lead to its maximum temperature before pouring.  Place the folded end of the cage into the mold.  Carefully pour the lead until the mesh is entirely covered.  This should result in a 5 to 8 pound bottom for the pot.  Pry away the wooden sides of the mold.  The aluminum foil should easily peel away.

After the lead has cooled off, drill four holes equidistant from each corner through the bottom.  You'll have to turn the cage bottom up.  Tap threads into each hole and screw the four carriage bolts into the holes.

Now, using the split ring pliers, attach the lid to the cage with the five split rings.  These rings serve as the hinges.  At the same hinged corner, attach one S hook by closing the curls tightly with the electrical pliers, the result being the S hook is converted into an 8 hook.  Tie the plastic clothesline to the large coastlock snap swivel with a clinch or palomar knot.  Attach the snap of the large coastlock snap swivel to the other closed end of the S hook.

Lastly, close two curls on the remaining S hooks.  Tie each closed curl to the ends of the bungee cord. (Crimping the ends of the bungee also works well.)  Attach this to the chum pot by closing the S hook curl around the wire of the unhinged side of the lid.  The remaining open curl serves as a hook for securing the lid to the cage.  You may have to adjust this hook with pliers in order to get a secure fit.

The resulting chum pot is one which will easily accommodate the common half gallon containers as well as most cylindrical shaped ones.  Rugged tide conditions require the use of heavy chum pots and the heavy weight of this device will allow you to fish in almost any water without having to add cumbersome sash weights or other clumsy items.  Additionally, the weight serves a dual purpose, since it may be used as a pounder during flounder season.  By now, you're probably wondering: Why the carriage bolts?  Since this pot can serve as a pounder to draw up the natural baits from the bottom during flounder time, the addition of the bolts maximizes its effectiveness.  By adding these cup-shaped bolts, the churning of the sea bottom becomes more intensified and increased with this design addition.  The bolts help in churning up the bottom that much more.

*A word of caution: This can be dangerous if the wrong conditions exist.  Be sure that you tackle this procedure outdoors if at all possible.  The fumes can be overwhelming at times; thus, you need adequate ventilation.  Also, be sure to wear protective clothing, including gloves.

Chum Sponge

Some anglers use generous portions of chum throughout a fishing trip -- with impressive results.  Liberal chumming can in fact be the key to success at times, but there is a more efficient method that's usually just as effective.

Just add a piece of natural sponge (not synthetic) at the top of the chum pot just under the lid.  If the top of the chum pot is solid, leave it a crack open.  Otherwise, close it tight.  The scent of the chum will flow freely through the sponge.  This approach cuts the amount of chum needed to a fraction, and less time is spent filling the chum pot and more time actually fishing.

Want to Catch More Fluke?

Try trolling! Yes, trolling like you do for bass or blues. However, in most situations, you must tone down the speed to a very slow crawl. Trolling for fluke with the traditional fluke rigs and baits such as squid/shiner combos can be particularly effective on very difficult days when the wind is blowing against the current or when it is whipping up to a less than desirable speed or when it is non-existent. This technique can make a difference in many ways, especially when the fish are bunched up in one location. By trolling effectively, you may easily circle and zig zag through the fish in their particular feeding zone for longer times, as opposed to drifting by the area for a relatively short period. An ideal situation for fishing for summer flounder is to have a small outboard/kicker mounted to you vessel’s hull. These engines can be idled down to a very low rpm rate and, as a result, produce a replica of a slow moving drift. If your vessel’s power plant is incapable of such slow speeds, it is best to work the boat’s engine in a forward/neutral mode in order to achieve a comfortable velocity. Although known as an effective technique, the trolling method is practiced very infrequently by the majority of today’s flatfish anglers. My advice is: Try it. It can make a BIG DIFFERENCE!

Umbrella Storage

Have you ever tried to store more than one umbrella rig in the same spot on your boat? Due to their numerous hooks, they can become seriously tangled with whatever gear is nearby, given a little time and a few bumps on the way out to the fishing grounds. If left in the wrong place, they can even be a hazard to passengers aboard.

I’ve found that PVC tubes are a great way to control and organize rigs. Simply cut 2 in. PVC to a length equal to the “arm span” of your umbrella rig. Make sure that the inside diameter is greater than the depth of the lead at the center of the umbrella rig. Use either a pipe cutter or hacksaw to cut the PVC. After cutting, sand the rough edges with emery cloth.

To store a rig, squeeze two adjacent arms together so their ends meet and fit into one end of the PVC tube. Now, simply slide the rest of the rig into the tube. If you make several tubes, you might want to unite them with bungee cord. Or you can mount tubes with wood or sheet metal screws on a convenient surface, either horizontally or vertically.

Marker-Buoy Storage

For a long time, I found marker-buoy storage difficult. If I wrapped the line around a lobster-type buoy or a bleach bottle, the line frequently came unwrapped, creating an unsightly mess to untangle and rewrap. Also, the attached sinker-weight would bounce around in a rolling sea, causing further entanglement and gel-coat damage.

My solution: mount a small brass or stainless steel handle on a flat, accessible boat surface and, just aft of the handle, a 5 or 6-inch (high and wide) plastic container secured with one or two screws. If you need two buoys for different depths, just add a second container on the other side of the handle. On a center-console-style boat, these mount on the bow section. On a cabin-style boat, they may be placed on top of the cabin roof.

In use, the container holds the sinker-weight while the buoy with the line wrapped around it is bungee corded to the handle, holding the line tightly. (I’ve found that a woven line works best since it retrieves better and tangles less than monofilament.) This setup has never come undone on me, even in the roughest seas, and is easily accessible with minimum effort.

When you need the marker buoy, just unfasten the bungee and toss the weight and buoy overboard.

Fishy Odor?

Have you filleted one too many fish and need to remove the resulting unpleasant scent from your hands? Is your spouse or significant other complaining that your personal aroma resembles that of an anchovy? The most effective fish odor remover that I know of is toothpaste. Just rub it into your hands vigorously and rinse with water. Repeat if necessary. A follow up with cologne and you are ready to dine at the Plaza, or perhaps Arthur Treacher’s.

Stretching Pork Rinds

Pork rind is often a vital accoutrement when fishing certain lures such as the bucktail and the parachute jig. A single strip is hooked at one end of the rind once and thus gives the lure more action for the angler to hopefully hook more fish. However, the rig can get stuck on the bottom, and both lure and rind are often lost. I have found a way of cutting down on the cost of these losses. Besides tying my own bucktails during the winter “cabin fever” months, I stretch the value of the pork rinds by purchasing the largest sized pork rinds that can be found. The larger (offshore variety) strips come in one and two inch widths and seven, ten, and twelve inch lengths. With a single edge razor blade and a piece of scrap wood (the back side of left over paneling works well), I customize the pork rind strips by cutting them to desired sizes. With a new blade, the rinds can be easily sliced up in a matter of minutes. I cut mine in elongated pennant shapes from four to seven inches long. I also vary the widths from ½ inch to one inch. You may flutter the pointy end by cutting once or twice. This will maximize the action derived from using the pork rind. Don’t forget to cut a small slit for the wide end of the rind where the hook goes.

Stretching the pork rinds by cutting them this way can double, triple or even quadruple the amount of pork rinds which are normally in each container.

More On Porkrind

Pork rind trailers come in many colors and various sizes. I have found an easy way of condensing and simplifying the storage of these bucktail accoutrements. Place the desired color rinds (mixed sizes, if you wish) into medicine vials. The 2 in. diameter x 5 ½ in. height size is ideal for storing in a compartment of most surf bags. Smaller vials may be needed for storage in tackle boxes. Be sure to add an appropriate amount of the preserving liquid (formaldehyde) to the container.

Easy Hookout

Hookouts are popular among many anglers since they help to easily extract fish hooks from many species of fish. They are available commercially at many bait & tackle shops: however, they can be made quite easily with just a few tools and materials. I constructed mine using an electric drill with an appropriate size drill bitt, a hook screw with approximately a ¾ - 1 and ½ inch gap, some scrap wood dowels (1 – 2 inches in diameter), and cloth adhesive tape (not electrical tape since it is too slippery). First, I drilled a hole into one end of a 10 inch dowel piece with a drill bitt slightly smaller than the diameter of the hook screw. Then, I screwed the hook into the drilled end of the dowel. I then taped the dowel tightly with the cloth tape. Mine are stored on the dash and baitboard of my vessel, but some anglers might want to hang them elsewhere for easy access. In that case, another hole drilled at the other end with an eye hook screwed into this end will make hang storage an easy task. These handy hookout tools are so easy to make that you can make dozens over the course of one evening. What to do with so many, you ask? I gave many out as stocking stuffers to my fishing buddies at the holidays.

Hang Those Bucktails, Teasers & Flies

If finding storage and drying space for your homemade bucktails, teasers and flies is a problem for you, try using a piece of scrap closet organizer shelving to suspend and dry your latest creations. This shelving material is easily obtainable at a hardware warehouse store such as Lowe’s and Home Depot. Simply attach four hook screws to the beams in the ceiling of your garage or basement workshop and then hang the shelf from the hooks. Once mounted correctly, you will have room for plenty of newly painted and/or epoxied lures.

Store Those Articles

I’ve been a subscriber to fishing publications, such as SW Sportsman, for many years, and it is amazing how many back issues I simply cannot part with because of the valuable info which they provide. However, the practicality of keeping all of those relic magazines would make any fire inspector cringe. Furthermore, retrieval of just the right info becomes a problem when the number of issues are in the hundreds or thousands.

I created an article library from the many of publications to which I subscribed and did so during a recent bout of cabin fever. I purchased an appropriate supply of loose leaf binders from a large office supply retailer such as Office Max, along with an ample supply of white adhesive labels, clear wide tape, a hole puncher, hole reinforcements, and a few single edge razor blades.(See photo). With the razor, I carefully removed the articles which I had selected and placed into the correct categories. Once that was completed, holes were punched into the edges of each article and reinforcements were added. Each article was placed into the categorized loose leaf binder which had been labeled (and taped for protective reasons). A yard sale found bookcase (see photo) provided just the right fit for my new library of articles.

Now when I want to refresh my memory on the correct techniques for chumming weakfish, I flip through the binder and quickly retrieve the info that I want, and the inspector in my fire district can sleep well.


©2005 - Questions?