A group of plunkers swap a few fabricated fish tales at Social Security Bar while waiting for one of their rods to double over.
8 and 1/2-foot steelhead rod - check.
Baitcasting reel loaded with 20-pound monofilament - check.
Size 7 crane swivels - check. 10-pound monofilament leader - check. 6mm beads - check. Gamakatsu octopus hooks in size 1 and 1/0 - check.
Plastic sliders with sinkers ranging between 4 and 8 ounces - check.
Size 4 Spin-N-Glos in the colors, sherbet, flame chartreuse and pearl red - check, check and check.
Those are all the ingredients that the fully-autonomous plunker needs to put the serious hurtin’ on Chetco River winter steelhead when the river flows finally drop down between 5,000 and 7,500 cfs.
But there is only one piece of the plunker’s repertoire missing — a super-sturdy, extra heavy-duty rod holder. Without one of those puppies, if a steelhead smacks your Spin-N-Glo with a vengeance, and you don’t have something rock solid in which to put the rod into, you can kiss all the other aforementioned gear good-bye.
On many occasions, anglers have either used too flimsy of a rod holder, or just wedged their rod butt in between a couple of rocks, only to be surprised to see their rod and reel being towed downriver by one of the Chetco’s monstrous steelhead, never to be found again.
Rod holders are an absolute must when plunking for steelhead and springers. But they must be sturdy devices, stay in the ground where you put them, and be able to remain like a statue whenever a wily steelhead delves out a savage strike.
And there are plenty of good rod holders to be sold on the market. The very best ones are the kinds made by local metalsmiths, selling for $30 or more. And they’re worth every penny. They are made with a built-in sliding apparatus that can hammer the spike through several layers of various sizes of river rock.
Then there’s the cheaper models made from angle aluminum that work just fine for surf fishing, but won’t take the punishment necessary to hammer through several layers of river rock when plunking on the Chetco, Smith and Rogue rivers.
The good news is that you can make one of these extremely sturdy, heavy-duty rod holders for less than $6 in materials, and anyone can make one.
To make one of these industrial-strength rod holders, you will need to buy a 3-foot construction spike, 19 inches of 1 1/2-inch PVC pipe, and some duct tape.
The construction spike can be bought at Kerr Ace Hardware for $4.95, and just about any hardware outfit can cut you a piece of PVC for a pittance. Most likely, you or a friend will have some of this stuff lying around the house anyway. And since duct tape is God’s greatest invention to mankind, most likely everyone’s got some in their tool box.
Assembling the rod holder is easy. You want to make sure that you place the PVC pipe about 1/2 inch below the top of the construction spike so that you’ll be hammering directly onto the spike instead of the PVC pipe.
You’ll also want to duct tape the PVC pipe to the construction spike in three places — at the top, middle and bottom of the PVC, using an ample amount of duct tape.
You also do not want to use metal hose clamps in which to fasten these two items together because the metal will inevitably grab a piece of your main line and cut it. So just use duct tape for this part of the assemblage.
I’ve had my rod holder for over 10 years now, and it’s still in perfect condition.
Some people, like me, will carry a small sledge hammer with them to hammer the spike through the river rock. But if you don’t have a small sledge — no worries! There are plenty of rocks in the surrounding vicinity that will work just fine for hammering these devices into the ground.