Antenna Launching for Serious Practitioners

By Russ Carpenter, AA7QU
The ARS Sojourner
Over the years, I've been developing a negative relationship with trees. I'm all in favor of trees when they mind their own business in forests. It's when they purport to serve as antenna support structures that things fall apart.

Trees are determined to snag and eat my antenna lines. It's one thing to say "let's just toss a line in a tree." It's another to face the reality of an unruly, uncooperative line-eating creature.

In truth, slingshots share the blame. I know the world contains some sling shot artists who can cast their lines over trees in a hassle-free manner. I admire them, but I don't appear to have their innate slingshot competency. In the past, my attempts at sling shotting have been good for horse laughs, and little else.

There is now some cause for hope. In an effort to improve my antenna launching, I've recently been experimenting with a bow and "fish arrow" combination. It certainly gets the line up there—about 100 feet high when everything works right. However, unless you are already an archery sort of person, the bow and arrow solution may be too complicated and expensive.

But the bow experiment uncovered a nifty little device call a "Retract-O-Blade Drum Reel." It's intended for bow fishermen, and can be purchased or ordered at any archery store (for about nine bucks). You might call it the world's most simple spinning reel. The drum reel turns out to be a powerful problem solver for sling shots. (Here is an on-line store for the drum reel:

In my experience, the real problem with sling shots is that they are generally coupled with a device known as a "closed-face spinning reel." The anglers among you will already know that they are useless. They are true pieces of junk, which add tons of friction to the fishing line.

What the sling shot crowd really needs is an open faced spinning reel with a very large spool and break-proof mechanics. In addition, it needs to throw away the kinky monofilament line that is normally installed on spinning reels and replace it with a non-twisty, high tech braided line.

Aha! I have just described a Retract-O-Blade Drum Reel, loaded with silicon-coated braided polyethylene line. Here is what the secret weapon looks like. (Nylon ties have been used to attach the mounting bolt of the drum reel to a plastic tent stake.)

The line is wonderful stuff, called "Ripcord Si." You can buy it on the Cabela's web site. ( I suggest the yellow color and the 150 yard spool, This line is 50 pound test, skinny, easy to see, and slippery as all get out. 300 feet of it can fit on the spool.

Here is the contraption ready for action. The sling shotter stands slightly in front of the apparatus, making sure that the line is coming freely off the spool before he lets loose.

The line peels off the spool smooth as silk. I know the day will come when my line will get stuck in a tree, but it hasn't happened yet. Ripcord is so slippery that it just slithers through the branches, even with a small sinker.

Don't use ordinary knots with Ripcord—they won't work. Here's a good one called the Palomar, It is easy to tie and works every time.

With a run of the mill slingshot, my shots are going about 80 ft high. Best of all, there are no tangles, jams, or hassles. I'm a happy person, and my relationship with trees is improving.


Russ Carpenter, AA7QU, is co-founder of ARS.