Packing for the Long Haul



Man, this is going to be great! You’ve had this trip planned for a long time and even though you didn’t sleep a wink last night, your adrenalin glands are working overtime. All those months of preparation; you’ve been through your check list several times, making darn sure everything was right. New line on all the reels and the tackle box loaded with everything that you could possibly catch big pike on. Plane tickets have been bought and all money owed has been sent. You are ready!

Finally the day has arrived! You and your partner get your luggage checked in at the airport and after the customary 2 hour wait, you board your plane. All is good. Unfortunately, you unknowingly have a surprise waiting for you.

After landing, you head to the baggage area and wait for your luggage. Ah, there’s your duffle and tackle box. Excellent. Now you go to the area they have for oversized packages to get your rods. There are several rod tubes being set out and there is your’s. But wait a minute, this looks shorter than your’s. By at least a foot. But it has the same stickers on it and there’s your name. What the…? Then you notice that the length adjustment band has been opened but not closed and your rod tube collapsed. Opening the end of it, you see the traveling pikers worst nightmare. Your prize rods have all been shattered!

It’s a terrible scenario to think about, but it does happen. Custom agents wanting to see what’s in that rod tube often are not from the fishing community and do not know the mechanics of such a rod carrier. And it has been my experience that if it takes much effort to close something, it often goes unclosed. I once saw a guy in an airport in Winnipeg that had his rods broken and know of another man that had some very expensive custom tarpon rods shattered. Now, to their credit, the airlines paid for the damage, but that didn’t help these guys at the time. Sure, more rods can be bought if there is time and if you can find any, but what a hassle! And getting reimbursed is not going to be that easy either and will no doubt take months.

Thankfully, this has never happened to me. I’m pretty careful packing my rods and with the system described here, I don’t worry about it happening any more.

There are 3 key elements to this system. The first involves the rods I use. If I’m flying to a destination, I only take Pete Maina 2 piece rods. These rods come in several different actions to cover different lure choices and they all have great action.

The next component is the rod tube. I use the "Jumbo Airliner" model by Plano. It has an 8.5" diameter and will hold plenty of rods. To top it off, it even has wheels making it much easier to drag around the airport. Last is my Frabill cradle. This serves not only as a great landing device when I’m somewhere that doesn’t have one, but also acts as a cushion for my rods and as a support inside the rod tube. Because the handles on the cradle are longer than my rod sections, even if the tube collapses, the rods won’t be damaged.

To start, I use strips of an old t-shirt to join all rod sections together. In the photos here I am just going to pack three rods, but on a trip I can get as many as 9 rods packed in the tube. That is enough rods for both my wife and I to cover all the situations we might come across plus a couple of spares. The knots in the strips keep the rod sections from banging against each other. Once I have all the sections joined together, I lay them into the cradle and roll it up. A couple of bungee cords keep it bound. Then, just shove it into the tube and close up the top. It is now ready for the toughest treatment those baggage handlers can dish out. And I’ll be ready when I hit the water too!