Korker mods to keep you safe in the surf.
For many surf anglers, especially jetty and inlet fishermen, the classic sandal-style Korkers (RockTrax and CastTrax) are essential gear. They have been around a very long time, and provide almost unprecedented traction for anyone who is scrambling around on rocks in the surf. I personally have been using them from virtually the very first moment I waded into the ocean. I consider them an absolutely vital piece of safety gear. Slipping and falling in the surf, whether on a jetty, in a boulder field, or on a ledge, can be life and death, and for that reason, I take my footwear very seriously. When the wind is blowing 40 knots, the surf is a raging freight train, and I’m trying to cling to my rock. I’m effectively putting my life in their hands.
However, I also put a lot of hard miles on my Korkers and I typically go through a pair every year. It’s not a weakness of the product, but rather my extreme use. I have just accepted that they are a consumable item in my specific case, as someone who fishes 100-plus nights in the rocks, walking miles every night. There are modifications you can use to keep them fully functioning for longer periods, and for many of you, this will mean several seasons of use. There is a whole litany of ingenious ideas I’ve seen on forums and in person, but there are a few “tried and true” modifications that I use which are simple and easy to implement.
However, before I list those, I’d like to strongly suggest those thinking about buying a pair for the first time consider what kind of footwear you’ll be matching them to. The new RockTrax is much thinner, lighter, and more flexible than previous models. This is a good thing if you’re matching them with a traditional wader boot; the flexibility is a lot more comfortable. However, if you’re a wetsuiter using a neoprene bootie, I have to strongly recommend the CastTrax. The RockTrax have push-through studs while the CastTrax have screw-in studs. When the new RockTrax is used with a very flexible bootie, the constant flexing of the overshoe essentially pops the studs out. They won’t last long, and based on my experience, you will be replacing studs every night.
The very first modification you must make to CastTrax is to remove all the studs and add some Loctite. I use the traditional blue Loctite, which is removable, and it works excellent. There’s a lot of metal there, and you shouldn’t be worried about flattening out the stud, but if you use the blue, you can always use a pair of vice-grips or a socket to remove the stud (it’s pretty tough, however) and replace them. I have also used the red, which essentially fuses the stud into the over-boot, and I typically rip the entire receptacle out of the rubber rather than rip out the stud. I consider this a critical modification, regardless if you use blue or red.
The other two very simple modifications I use are zip ties at the loops, and gorilla tape around the straps. First, I take some heavy-duty zip ties and attach them from the loops in the rubber shoe portion of the Korker, and then through the hard plastic loops the straps go through. I adjust them so they’re just shorter than the straps when they’re on my feet. This results in the zip ties taking shouldering most of the load. This helps keep me from wearing through the rubber and the straps (I have done both). I’ve seen people use all kinds of material for this same function, from inner tubes to rope, but I find zip ties work great.
Next, I like to clip the tag ends of straps short, because they are typically too long. However, if you do this, the strap can slip back through the buckle. To fix this, I then use Gorilla tape (you could use any quality duct tape) to wrap back from just behind the buckle all the way over the cut tag end. This prevents them from slipping, and there is no annoying strap slapping me in the leg, or for me to somehow get caught on a rock. I once got a tag end of my Korker stuck between two small rocks and fell flat on my face! With these modifications, you won’t end up pulling one of those nonsensical moves out in the surf.