BOW BELL ASSEMBLY

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD  

Over 20 years ago my boat’s trailer came with a single roller where the bow of the boat snugs up to the winch stand. It never dawned on me there was anything else available until I was helping a friend load his boat and I saw his bow had a pair of “cones” on the outside of the bow roller support. Maybe I’d seen other boat trailers similarly equipped, but I’d not paid attention to them.

What I did pay attention to was how easily, when my friend nosed his boat up to the trailer, the “side-scoops” helped center the boat’s bow perfectly and protected the boat’s hull if (when) the boat was nosed up to the winch stops a bit off center when power-loading. I’ve since learned these cones or scoops are properly called “End Bells,” at least that’s what they were called on the C.E. Smith website where I found a set of bells that fit my trailer.

My original bow roller was made of black rubber and over the years, I’d replaced it as needed with similar rollers. C.E. Smith does offer black rubber End Bells, sold separately, but since my current bow roller was showing some hard use, I decided to get a complete Bow Bell Assembly which includes both the center roller and the end bells. As long as I was replacing everything, I elected to get a blue assembly made of Thermal Plastic Rubber. The price was the same, it dressed up the front of the trailer a bit, and the blue (or other color) thermal plastic is tougher than the black rubber.  It makes loading my own boat easier, is easier on the bow of my boat and is something I wish I’d found years earlier. 

Check them out at http://www.cesmith.com. 

GILL LANGLAND TECHNICAL HOODIE

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD            

I’ve written previously about the “middle” layer cool and cold weather fishermen and women need to incorporate into their apparel layering scheme. Basically, a person needs to have a base layer that wicks sweat and natural skin moisture away from the skin and an outer layer that is breathable to allow that moisture to escape to the atmosphere. The middle layer is the clothes between the base layer and the outer parka or jacket.

I’m also a guy who loves to wear hoodies. I don’t often put the hood up to keep my head warm, but even in the down position, the hood keeps my neck warm and the cold breezes from blowing down my my collar. I love the kangaroo pouch as much as the hood. I a hoody’s rugged look and wear hoodies for work, play and most anytime the weather is suitable.

Most hoodies are cotton or cotton blends and will absorb water like a sponge. They make a horrible middle layer.

The Langland Technical Hoodie looks and feels like any other well-made hooded sweatshirt, but instead of being a poly-cotton material, it’s made from a synthetic fibers imbued with Gill’s unique XPEL stain resistant technology. What’s that?

 When I was looking at the hoodie at the Gill booth at ICAST the rep spritzed some water on the garment to show how it the spray would just bead up and roll off. It’s not waterproof – you’d get wet in a rain shower – but it’s resistant to casual sprays like when boating on a choppy day, or when hosing things down at the fish cleaning station. I’ve also learned in actual use it repels fish blood and slime as easy as it does plain water.

Since it’s what I call ABC (anything but cotton) when comes to cold weather layering, the cloth is a perfect middle layer, allowing and even helping moisture from the base layer continue it’s journey to the outer layer where it can escape, preventing the cold weather angler from getting clammy. When you need to shed a layer, it’s still doing the job.

When I’m wearing a hoodie, I use the pouch pocket almost continuously. This hoodie comes with a special feature inside the pouch in the form of a zippered pocket perfect for stowing your phone, wallet or car keys where they are handy but zippered safe and secure. 

Check them out at http://www.gillfishing.com. They are available at the Gill website, Amazon and retail outlets. I like my hoodies to be a bit on the baggy size and other Gill products I’ve worn seem to run a bit small. I order mine a size larger than I’d usually wear and it’s a perfect fit.  

DH CUSTOM BAITS (AND KNIVES)

Reviewed by: Capt. Mike Schoonveld

I’m not dissing the paint jobs that come on production model lures. It’s amazing to think of the work it takes for a manufacturer to paint either wild-looking patterns like fire-tiger on a single lure while painting others so exactingly detailed they look almost real. Then realize these patterns (and dozens of others) have to be recreated countless thousands of times for each model and size of lure.

That is amazing, but most mass produced lures are put to shame when compared to the work of custom lure painters who create one of a kind patterns they invent or collaborate to create for other fishermen. One of these custom painters up in the heart of the western walleye belt is Dane Heid who can put your favorite pattern (or one you invent) on any lure – or pick one of the DH Custom Baits’ proprietary patterns he paints on popular bass and walleye baits.

An option I’d never thought of previously however, was to have Dane (or another custom painter) create your favorite paint scheme on something else. Then I saw a pic on TargetWalleye.com of a group of filet knife handles Dane had painted in popular walleye patterns. They were beautiful – almost too beautiful to use.

I instantly wanted one but not to just add to my fish cleaning kit and dazzle fellow knife wielders at fish cleaning stations. I wanted one to add to the “outdoorsy” decor of my office/work room/man cave. So I sent Dane a magnum “original” Hot ‘n Tot and a filet knife, asking him to paint each of them in a matching Blue Tiger color. Once I got them back, I mounted them in a shadow box.  

If you want a custom painted lure of any color or want some other item painted to look like your favorite lure, contact Dane at http://www.DHCustomBaits.com. He does fabulous work at a reasonable price.  

CAPTAIN’S PACKS FROM GREAT LAKES TACKLE

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD  

What’s better than having a high quality spoon with a “fish-popping” color scheme?  Having six of them – and that’s what you get with a Captain’s Pack of spoons from Great Lakes Tackle like GLT’s Hot Mag Mix shown here. The Hot Mag Pack is a mix of their most popular individually-sold patterns and more. It includes a pair of their Zombie Apocalypse SuperGlows, another pair of the Head Hunter SuperGlows and includes a pair of ladder-back patterns only available in the Captain’s Pack. The spoons come packed in a six compartment Plano box.

 If I were designing the “perfect” salmon/trout spoon for the Great Lakes I’d start with a super glow blank, then I’d add some bright color highlight colors – my favorites are fluorescent green and hot red – then finish with some Mylar or painted-on patterns. I’m going to make sure my spoons are UV “activated.”  I’ve seen non-UV patterns fail, when the same pattern with a UV coating is the top producer.  Tom Schultz’s spoons check all the boxes.

 Lots of spoon builders end it there. Not GLT. First, put a top quality, name brand hook on the fishy end – none are better than Owner. Hang a small, hammered “flipper” spinner blade on the hook-hanger as well. Most of the time, that flipper doesn’t do squat, but every once in a while that tiny bit of flash might be just what gets a skeptical fish to chomp the blade, or perhaps the minor amount of clatter the spinner creates when it ticks on the hook shank attracts the attention of a big salmon which otherwise might ignore it.

There’s a nose swivel at the angler-end of these spoons. Again, it may or may not be a deal breaker most days, but when the few extra strikes it may produce come on one of your lines – success! 

More important, in my mind is the back side of the spoon. Many spoon builders go all out on the face of the spoon – to catch the fisherman – and leave the back of the spoon bare. Fish see both sides as a spoon trolls through the water and the backsides of these spoons all have something other than just plain metal.  You’ll like them and the fish are proven to like them.            

Check out the available “Captain’s Packs” and order one for yourself or for your favorite captain at https://www.gl-tackle.com.  

SPOON BOX FROM SPOONCRANK

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

Decades ago I won a spinner-bait tackle box in a raffle. I am not an avid bass angler so I didn’t need a special box just for the few spinner baits I owned but I did have dozens and dozens of trolling spoons I needed to keep under control. The spinner bait box did the job well enough it’s been on my boat ever since, despite my trying numerous versions of spoon storage “options” from several companies.

The spinner-bait box wasn’t perfect, however, just better than the others. So when frequent Basics and Beyond contributor, Doug Morash, mentioned he had started a new business producing and selling tackle boxes specifically for the Great Lakes market, I wondered if he was on to something or being overly optimistic. Competing with the established lure storage “big dogs” with an American made product is like opening a general store next to a Walmart.

Morash had first hand knowledge that Great Lakes trollers’ tackle storage needs are much different than what works for inland lake guys fishing for bass, pike or panfish, especially when it comes to trolling spoons and those super long diving crankbaits popular with walleye trollers. He developed two sizes of boxes, the shorter one converts to a crankbait and/or spoon box, the taller one is perfect for walleye trollers using extra long, “deeper-diver” models.

Both are built on the “ammo” box design with the hinge on one end and a secure closure on the other. Inside are 10, hinged-at-the-bottom dividers – each divider with nine hook slots so you can dangle 90 spoons inside (more if you want to double up). The hinged dividers allow the user to flip through the selections like flipping through folders in a file cabinet and easily remove a selected spoon. Genius! 

Add five bucks more to the bill and get a stack of partitions which snap firmly on the dividers creating individual cubicles to hang up to 50 crankbaits and never tangle hooks or end up with the lures getting more scratched from being stored than from catching fish. Many people will be able to use the partitions on some of the dividers, leave them off of others and put all of their trolling lures in one container.

The original Spoon/Crank box will hold magnum (five-inch) spoons and/or cranks and stickbaits to 6.75 inches. The Deeper Diver box has the same footprint but is deep enough to hold lures like the Reef Runner 800s, deep running Bandits and other, similar lures to 9 1/2 inches.

I tested the smaller box and ended up using it just for my spoons assortment. It passed all the my tests.

Test one: It held 90 spoons and made them easy to find – easily beating my old spinner-bait box.

Test two: One of the knuckleheads fishing with me managed to drop the full box of spoons upside down onto the deck. On my old box, that would have resulted in a mess requiring a half hour and several curse words to fix. When the Spoon Box was righted and opened, all of the spoons were still in place. The foam lined lid pushes down on the top of the divider keeping the lures in place.

Test three: My old spinner-bait box is now permanently retired.

“But wait, there’s more!” as any infomercial salesman would say. The lid opens to reveal an additional storage area to hold tools, terminal tackle or other items. That’s where I keep a Tackle Tamer with pre-tied slider leaders and other supplies. 

To see more about or purchase Morash’s Spoon, Crankbait or Deeper Diver Boxes go to www.spooncrankbox.com.

SPRO 9″ SPORTSMAN SCISSORS

        

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

Do you have a pair of scissors on your boat?  I never did even though they do a terrific job of cutting braided line. I had traditional nail-clipper style line cutters on board and I used them to “gnaw” through braid when needed. Line clippers are basically, single task tools – perhaps dual task if you find yourself in need of an emergency manicure while fishing.

I don’t like single-task tools – especially on the boat. I imagined including a pair of scissors just for when I needed to cut braided line would be just another single tasker.

But when I saw the SPRO 9″ Sportsman Scissors at the mid-summer ICAST show, it caught my eye. Not only are they top notch “braid cutters,” they are decidedly a multi-use tool.

 So I got a 9″ Sportsman Scissors to add to my fishing tool assortment and used it the last half of the 2021 fishing season. I was worried about the size – a nine-inch scissor is a rather robust tool, especially compared to a fingernail snipper. However, what I found is it’s easier to do “micro” jobs with a large scissor than to tackle a “macro” chore with a mini-set of clips or snips.

 A few of the details about the scissors: they are stainless steel, naturally; have a serrated edge (necessary to cut braid) and a non-slip, man-sized, rubberized grip. Inside the grip is what SPRO calls a nut (as in walnuts) and claw cracker (as in crab claws). I’ve not cracked any walnuts or crab legs with them, but I have grabbed the scissors several times to use the crab-cracker as pliers when I needed a better grip on a stubborn something. When the blades are opened fully, the two blades of the tool will pop apart allowing the fish-scaler and bottle opener to be used.

Besides cutting braided line, I’ve used the scissors to open new blister-packed lures, clipping fins, trimming flies and other chores. Maybe they are a multi-tasker.

There are some brands of fishing products that are recognized as being the highest quality. SPRO is one of those. From snaps and swivels to tackle storage to tools, if it’s a SPRO I know it’s well made and isn’t going to let me down. I’ve used the SPRO scissors for half a season now and I wish I’d had them for the last half of my life (or longer.) If you don’t have a pair of scissors on board your boat, you need a pair and the SPRO nine-inchers will do the multiple jobs you’ll find for them.

To check out the SPRO scissors, go to http://www.SPRO.com.

FRABILL RUBBER REPLACEMENT NET

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

Over 90 percent of the fish that come aboard my boat are hauled aboard using rubber mesh landing nets, simply because they are about 10 times less prone to tangling with hooks than nets made of other materials.  I’ve tried “string” nets, plastic coated nets – both “store-bought” and DIY versions covered with spray-on products like Flex Seal. The coated nets are slightly better than non-coated versions but can’t compete with rubber nets.

Some net manufacturers offer rubber mesh models, some don’t and some of those that do don’t offer them in versions large enough for good-sized Great Lakes salmon and trout or with handle lengths suitable for most trolling boats. That’s why both of the “rubber” nets I use on my boat are hybrids. 

I retro-fitted replacement rubber nets from Frabill (model number 3070) onto net frames with suitably-sized handles and adequate hoop sizes made by other manufacturers. The 3070 is Frabill’s largest rubber replacement net, said to fit hoops 23 X 26 inches. One of my hoops is several inches larger, the other slightly smaller than this, but the basket is rubber. It stretches and will work just fine.

When I have fish approaching 20 pounds or larger, I drag out a bigger, string-basket net, but I regularly and easily scoop up fifteen pounders or larger with the 3070 hybrid. The largest fish ever boated with this net was a 26-pound king. 

If you can’t find them anywhere else, they can be ordered direct from http://www.frabill.com.

NORTHLAND RUMBLE LURES

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

Sometimes the old saw about everything old becoming new again makes sense. Before the first molds were made to make lures from plastic, various types of wood were carved to make fishing “plugs.” Once lure makers sprouted in the plastics industry and many existing brands “reimagined” their baits as plastic, lures crafted from wood, except in a few cases, became endangered species.

Millions of fish have fallen for plastic lures, but that doesn’t mean they were necessarily better. Plenty of fish still fall for the few brands of wooden lures still out there. Balsa ShadRaps and Rapala Jointed Minnows will be in my tackle box forever.

The fact is, the switch from wood to plastic wasn’t made to make lures more appealing to fish; it was an economic decision. The fish don’t care, in fact, my choice of balsa ShadRaps over say, plastic Flicker Shads is because the fish like them better – some of the time – maybe most of the time. So in the competitive fishing lure business, it’s no surprise that a few lure makers are going retro and producing lures made of balsa or other wood – to catch more fish as well as more fishermen.

Few companies know walleyes better than Northland Tackle so when this north woods company based in Bemidji, Minnesota rolled out their balsa wood Rumble Shads and Rumble Sticks last spring, I got some and put them to use and abuse on my early June trip to Lake Erie. My friends and I used them, the walleyes abused them.             My favorite color in the dirtier than usual water was the “Sneeze” color – yellow with green/black spots. We did well with the Rumble Shad in the Bubble Gum Tiger color, as well. Check these and other “Rumbles” out at retailers, big box outlets or on-line at http://www.northlandtackle.com 

MUDPAW SHOES – ROMEO

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

There are few things more uncomfortable than having wet feet whether you are walking, driving or sitting in a boat. That’s why boots were invented.

Much of the time, however, boots aren’t needed or wanted. You wouldn’t put on a pair of boots just to walk across a dew-laden grassy lawn to get in your car.  You wouldn’t carry a pair of boots with you just because you know the floor at the fish cleaning station is going to be wet. It’s easier to just be careful when walking through a parking lot if the asphalt is puddled with rainwater than to put on a pair of boots.

 All these places and more have had me enduring wet feet because I was too lazy to slip off my Chuck Taylors and put on something a bit more waterproof – whether it was a quick hike through the “danger zone” or a morning on the boat in damp weather. 

Irish Setter Mudpaws to the rescue. These are rubber shoes built to Irish Setter’s strict standards for quality footwear that made them the favorites of outdoorsmen for over 70 years.

They’ve kept my feet dry in each of the situations above and others. At first glance (and feel) I thought the Romeo model might be more “pull on” than “slip on.” I wasn’t able to insert my foot like I would in a Crocs or other clog-type rubberized shoe, but the stretchy neoprene upper and the handy finger pull tab at the heel makes donning the “paws” more of a tug-on operation.

Once on, the removable foot bed provides the underfoot comfort which has made Irish Setter boots an American favorite and what Irish Setter calls “TempSens” technology helps keep feet from becoming sweat-wet on the inside. Top it off by looking at the bottom. The soles have a relative aggressive tread to provide firm footing in wet conditions. See them or buy them online at http://www.irishsetterboots.com, Amazon as well as many big-box outdoor stores.