Now mama doesn't really like this one, but when I was growing up, dad and I would steal her fingernail polish all the time and head out to the shop. No, we weren't playing makeover. We were doing some serious tackle tweaking. As it turns out, Revlon's Fearless has a pretty nice sheen to it in off-colored water.
Dad would spend hours touching up some of his favorite baits, painting a layer of clear nail polish overtop the original paint jobs as they'd start to flake and just tinkering around and trying new color combos. Later in life, I found that of the seemingly million-plus colors of nail polish out there, a few have been near-perfect matches to erase at least most of the pain I've felt after scratching the gel coat on my boat.
There really is a lot you can do with nail polish when it comes to fishing. Let's take a look at a few now.
Touching up hard baits
Whether it matters all that much to a fish or it really just boils down to a confidence thing, having the perfect bait in your hand can make all the difference at times. We've had baits that have gotten banged up over the years and, with a little nail polish, we were able to restore them to their original glory.
Then there seems to be a particular color bait that dad loves that goes out of production every year or two. With a little nail polish, you can take a similar color bait and get back close to the original at least. Again, it may just be a confidence thing and not matter to the fish at all.
I have played out the scenario many times in my head of a fish turning to annihilate a passing squarebill and just before he inhales it, he slams on the brakes and realizes the bait only has 2 vertical black stripes and not three. The bass aborts at the last second, narrowly missing the hooks of the bait and flushes a sigh of relief through his gills after the close call.
It seems a bit ridiculous when you think about it. But I have seen anglers from my dad to pros who have amassed millions of dollars in endorsements and winnings vehemently and earnestly swear it makes a difference. And I believe they believe that, which is why it all boils down to confidence for me. And confidence is the ultimate difference maker on the water.
When you do find that one perfect bait you can get to dip, dart, dodge or dance just the way you want it to, it's almost tempting not to throw it. You want to put it in the back of the tackle box to save for a more important day. Keep it in pristine condition for a big tournament or perhaps when your father-in-law comes to town and not only impressing him but flexing on him a bit would feel pretty good.
Well there's no need to wrap a bait in bubblewrap and stow it away. A clear coat of nail polish will help protect that favorite bait and greatly increase its life expectancy. Continuing the cycle time and time again, you can use the bait and refinish it multiple times as the paint does start to wear down or chip each time.
There are all sorts of clear nail polishes. For the lady anglers out there, you know what I'm talking about. For the home repair do-it-yourselfers, just compare it to the paint aisle at the hardware store. You've got high-gloss, semi-gloss, satin and the whole lot. So when you're adding that clear coat to your bait, you can pick one that makes the bait shine or one that is flat and lets the true colors of the bait pop.
Customizing lead heads
Again, dad and I like to tinker with tackle all the time. He does it more than I do these days, so I'll head out to his shop every now and then to see if I need to put an order in for anything he's created recently. One such bait I'll relieve him of fairly regularly is a little 1/4-ounce buzzbait he puts together.
Dad bought roughly a ton of components from Jann's Netcraft a decade or so ago and we've been slowly progressing through a pile of spinnerbait and buzzbait components ever since. Most of the lead heads are either painted white or unpainted and just their original raw lead. With those, you can pick literally any color skirt in the fishing verse and custom paint the head to match with a little nail polish. The same can be done for all types of jigs, shaky heads, swing heads, umbrella rigs and the list goes on.
Again, it's mostly a confidence thing but I can't stress how important confidence is in fishing. Knowing you have a bait that no one else on the water has makes a big difference. Knowing you're going to get a bite because you're confident in your bait selection leads to more attention to detail with your presentation, more accurate casting, more action imparted on the retrieve with a little twitch of the wrist and in turn, more bites. So yeah, not pairing a white head with a bluegill color skirt on a 1/4-ounce buzzbait makes a difference.
Quick gel coat fixes
Most of us have been there. If you haven't, you will. It's like putting a hook in yourself past the barb, a miserable rite of passage when it comes to any angler's evolution. I'm talking about getting that first scratch in the gel coat of your boat. I've done both and honestly, I don't know which is more painful.
That first scratch is always the toughest and something I dread from the time I first take possession of a new ride. I'm between boats and on the fence right now, but my next boat will either be a very old fixer upper or a brand new one that I'll marry for a while. If it's the latter, the thought has crossed my mind to just go ahead and make a little inch-long scratch just under the rub rail with my keys before I ever even back it in the water. Just get it out of the way so I don't have to dread it. The thought of that makes me cringe though.
But you don't have to let that fear control you. There's actually a very cheap solution to this problem and obviously you know where I'm going with this, nail polish. For a small scratch in the gelcoat, a quick swash overtop of it with the perfect color nail polish will make it nearly untraceable. There are countless colors of nail polish out there now and a good portion of those have glitter in them that will blend extremely well with the metal flake in gel coats.
For those deeper gashes, the ones that make you hit your knees, nail polish can still help ease the pain a little. There will obviously be some that will require the assistance of a full-blown gel coat restoration specialist. But while you're saving up for the costly repair, a little nail polish in the right color and a coat of the clear will at least keep your eyes from being drawn to the gouge each time you see the boat.
There are several uses for nail polish in the fishing world. Nail polish can help protect or repair your investments, from favorite lures to your ride itself. And you can use it to customize everything from lead heads to hard baits of all shapes and sizes. Add to that things we didn't even talk about, like clear coating the thread of a repaired rod guide. If you put your mind to it, you can find all sorts of reasons to raid the makeup bag.
So next time you catch a glimpse of a unique crankbait on the deck of the local hammer's boat and you wonder if he's got some top-of-the-line custom paint shop at home, maybe he does. Or maybe it's just Maybelline.
Sorry... I couldn't help myself.