May 20, 2021
Tricky to shop for this versatile tool. But, it's easy to make your own.
Most gaffs are sold with hooks of 2- to 4-inch gaps, for hauling large “meat fish” into the boat. There's also a place on the boat for a much smaller gaff, useful for bringing small, active fish to the box—smaller dolphin, Spanish mackerel, snappers. It's also very handy for lip-gaffing catches you plan to release—and just as versatile, for that reason, on the flats and other inshore waters. You may find it hard to buy a microgaff, but you can make one or get your local rodmaker to make one for you.
There are a few things you'll need. The hook may be the most important. The Mustad 34007 is a good fit, a stainless hook in a wide variety of sizes. For this chore, I pick a 9/0.
Next is the shaft. As a rodmaker, I typically use a section of a rod blank or the butt of a broken rod. If you're fishing in a small skiff or kayak, you'll want a piece that's about 20 inches long. Customization is the key word. Make it as long or short as you wish.
Most often I use an EVA foam grip for the handle, or occasionally a cork grip, like on a rod. The foam should be a snug fit before it gets to its position. It is installed by coating the butt end of the shaft with epoxy, lubing the inside of the foam with Edge shaving gel, and forcing it down over the epoxied section. If the foam doesn't already have the shape you like, shape it on your lathe with sandpaper. Cork comes in rings that are .5” thick, 1.25” OD and 1/4” ID. Ream the ID to fit the blank tightly, and glue it with Titebond wood glue. Shape the cork on your lathe.
If you're looking for the quick and dirty option, an old golf club will do. You'll find two shaft options, TrueTemper steel and graphite shafts. Graphite is much easier to work with. Wrap a graphite shaft with masking tape where you intend to cut. Use a hack saw or another fine-toothed saw. Don't force the cut; let it take its time or you may splinter it. Sand the end cut smooth. True Temper metal shafts are very hard. You may want to grind it off and smooth the end on the grinder.
There are several options for attaching the hook. My preferred method is to heat the eye with a butane torch till it's red hot and straighten it with needle-nose pliers. Hammer out the wrinkles till it's fairly straight. Put it in your vise, heat the straightened tip red hot again, and bend the last 3/16 inch to a 90-degree bend opposing the hook bend. Next, on the bottom of the gaff shaft, drill a 1/8-inch hole about 1.25” from the bottom. Insert the 3/16-inch bend into the hole and wrap it to the bottom with rod wrapping thread or #12 nylon twine from Home Depot. Epoxy the thread and you're done for this technique. I usually plug the shaft and fill the last 1.5” with epoxy.
A quicker option is to use the hook with the eye intact, and put a screw through the eye and shaft. You'll still want to wrap from the eye down with thread or twine and apply epoxy. Be sure and cover the eye and screw with epoxy. If you're using the golf club shaft, you'll need to drill a 1/8-inch hole for either the hook shank bend or a screw. Wrap with twine and epoxy.
If the hook eye will fit inside the shaft, you can pin it with a 1/8” copper or nickel silver pin (Ace Hardware or knife-making supplier). Put a foam stop past where the pin goes through, and once the pin is through the eye, fill with epoxy. If the eye is over-sized, grind off the edges.
I typically add a lanyard in one of two ways: Drill a hole through the grip and run the paracord through it, or stick the ends of the cord into the shaft and pour in epoxy. If you're just running the cord through the handle, tie the ends with a knot of some sort; an overhand knot works fine. On the second method, you should force a small piece of closed cell foam down into the shaft to stop the epoxy from completely filling it.
On a nicer microgaff, I add a wrap of thread tipped with some metallic thread trim to inscribe a customer's name or boat name. I finish that and the thread wrap over the hook shank with rod building epoxy Flex Coat Ultra V. That finish will need to rotate slowly (+/- 8-10 rpm) for several hours to keep it from sagging. If you don't have that capability, your rodmaker does, or you can use an epoxy with a short set time. Use a BIC lighter to release bubbles in your epoxy finish. As a safety feature, add a piece of surgical or vinyl tubing to the hook shaft to cover the point when not in use. FS
Published Florida Sportsman Magazine February 2021
Subscribe to Florida Sportsman Magazine here for your monthly dose of great fishing content.