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Tying on a Load

By Russ Bassdozer

You will get extra distance from a loaded plug. I have rarely heard of people loading plugs as a means to get better action from them. Instead, most people load plugs in order to get better casting qualities from them. On the cast, the load typically moves to the tail of the plug, making it more castable.  Also, it will not waffle in the wind like a potato chip when you cast, thereby cutting down on spool snarls. Another reason is to get more stability during moderate to rough surf or tide conditions. For instance, an unloaded 7" Redfin can become unbalanced in a wild heave, whereas a heavily-loaded Redfin will hunker down and wallow in the rollers. Therefore, three different loads - light, medium and heavy - are often desirable to match correspondingly light, medium or heavy wind, surf and tidal conditions.

I make sure that I have the following materials handy when I load plugs: a single edge razor blade, round toothpicks, superglue, nail polish (red, yellow and green). I also use a drill with a 1/32" bit and finally, a syringe with a blunt-edged, flexible plastic tubing catheter instead of a sharp metal needle. You can pick up such a syringe at a medical supply store, or ask your family doctor. Oh yes, I also use a triple balance beam, but this is hardly necessary if you don't have one handy.

Very important is that the drill bit, the syringe catheter, and the round toothpicks all have to be the same diameter. I give the plugs a lobotomy by drilling straight into the top of the plug where its brain would be if it had one. When you drill a hole into your plug, the syringe tube should be able to just barely slide inside the plug body to give it an injection, and then the round toothpick gets jammed tightly into the hole. Use a single edge razor or utility knife to cut the toothpick flush with the top of the plug and then put a drop of superglue, allowing it to wick into the wood fibers of the cut toothpick. This seals it up.

Next, use the different color nail polish to color code your loads. Red for heavy loads, yellow for medium loads, and green for light loads. Just a little dab of color on the toothpick. In this way, when you open your surf bag to change plugs, you can instantly see the color codes on their noggins!

To reload or unload your plugs, it is just a simple matter of using something (a 1/32" piece of stainless wire, a thin nail, a thin icepick) to exert a downward pressure on the toothpick, thereby pushing it inside of the plug body. Now you can reload with a different amount or completely drain the plug, then insert another toothpick. Superglue it in, use the appropriate color code - or no need to color code at all if you just unloaded it!

How much to load? Pre-drill a few plugs, grab toothpicks, superglue, razor, and syringe. Go down to a dock, jetty or anywhere you can test swim your plugs. Fill 'em up a bit, swim 'em, shake 'em out a bit. Use a half toothpick to temporarily cork and uncork 'em while you go through this process. Experiment with different loads until you achieve the desired plug actions. Spend a few hours getting it right. When you finally get one loaded that looks good to you, just tap it with a dry toothpick, cut the toothpick flush, and seal it with a shot of superglue.

Now this is where you need the balance beam. With one, it is just a simple matter to take the sealed and loaded plugs home, weigh them, and then load all your other plugs so they weigh the identical amounts. Write the weights down somewhere. Without a balance beam, you have to keep track of exactly how many cc's you inject into the plugs out on the testing grounds. That can be a bit of a hassle as you constantly add a little more, a little less to achieve the desired action. Does such precision matter to the fish? Perhaps not, But I like to know exactly what kind of load I've got tied on, and that I can go home and reproduce it exactly to the gram when I need to make more.

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