FROGG TOGGS FTX ARMOR RAINWEAR

Reviewed by CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

When I reviewed a set of Frogg Toggs Pilot II rainwear a couple years ago I wrote, “Frogg Toggs has to be the best name for rain wear ever,” and it still is. That set of rain gear has kept my butt dry ever since I got them and they are still my favorite for late spring through summer use. But they are relatively light weight and though they keep the rain out, they don’t add much to my comfort in chilly weather. 

So when Frogg Toggs came out with their FTX Armor line last year, I was all in. Unfortunately, this product was one of the victims of the “supply chain” issues that plagued almost every industry so I wasn’t able to actually slide into my FTX Armor bibs and jacket until late summer. 

This is not a “summer-weight” product.  It’s designed to be a cool weather/cold weather suit. A fishing trip to the Pacific Northwest in late August gave me the perfect chance to slide into them and give them a solid workout. While the August temps here in the Great Lakes area were solidly in the upper 80s, coastal Oregon temps were 50s in the morning and 60s during the day. The ocean temperature was mid-50s so cool breezes while we were out fishing was the norm.

The FTX set is made with three layers. The outer layer is a tough, durable, breathable, tight-weave fabric. The inside layer is slick, thin, tricot/taffeta material that facilitates sliding the gear on and off. In between is Frogg Toggs’ DriPore Gen 2 fabric with a 15K waterproof rating and 10K breathability index.  I wore the FTX, dock to dock each day I was in Oregon and stayed warm and dry all day and never felt hot and clammy.

I ordered The FTX gear large enough to couple both the jacket and bibs with a set of Frogg Toggs’ Grand Refuge Primaloft Jacket and Bibs. These can be worn as outer wear, but are designed to change both the Pilot II and the FTX jackets and bibs into three-season garb by adding an 80-gram layer of insulation. This makes them suitable for use on the ice; or for me, when I’m after those early March cohos and brown trout as soon as the ice leaves Lake Michigan. 

Features like zippered handwarmer pockets, zippers with a hook and loop storm flap and D-rings for attaching accessories make it user friendly. I especially liked the neoprene cuffs at the wrists of the jacket which comfortably seals the sleeves from rain or splashes on the boat. I can slide into the bibs without taking off my shoes or boots, thanks to the three-quarter length leg-zipper along with the slick finish inner layer.

They are available in three solid colors – gray, black or medium blue – or in three camo-like patterns of blue, gray/black or gray/white. I chose the blue-camo (called Kryptic Neptune) FTX Armor. While nothing lasts forever, I expect these to be my rain gear of choice for a long time, especially since they come with a lifetime warranty.  The warranty does exclude damage from chainsaws, fillet knives, alligator bites and other outdoor dangers, but send them in for a replacement if the material or workmanship if it fails anytime in the future. 

Frogg Toggs FTX Armor products are available online at www.froggtoggs.com, at retail sources as well as numerous online outlets.

GILL VOYAGER DUFFLE BAG – 10L

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

There’s one big difference between the Voyager Duffle Bag and a similarly sized “Dry Bag” from Gill. Both are cylindrical, but the duffle opens along the side of the cylinder while the dry bags open from the end.  Is this a big deal? It is if you want to be able to see what’s inside. It is if you want a dry bag that will lay flat on the deck with the opening up. It is when you are trying to stuff (or unstuff) a rain suit into the storage bag.

I have the 10 liter size which becomes a cylinder 15 inches long and about eight inches in diameter when filled with items I want to keep dry until it’s needed and the Velcro-like seal is closed and rolled three times to make it 100% waterproof. A pinch-open snap affixed to each end clips shut to prevent the top seal from unrolling. It’s the perfect size for a change of clothes, a rain suit or a fluffy hoody you might wear at dawn, then stow away as the day warms. 

I actually got mine to create a tool pouch to hold fillet knives, gloves, sharpeners and baggies. It would have worked great, but at about the same time the Voyager Duffle arrived so did my Frogg Toggs FTX rain jacket and bibs. It seemed to be made for them. The Voyager Duffles come in “Bluejay” (shown here), a chartreuse color called “Sulphur” and black. Check out or buy Voyager Duffles at www.gillfishing.com.  They are available in some retail outlets or at other online sources including Amazon.com

THE END

SUFIX SIEGE – TANGERINE

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

Last year I read about the importance of calibrating line-counter reels when trolling diving lures or Dipsy Divers here in Great Lakes Angler Magazine. I realized line-counter reels were not spot on, but I didn’t realize how important having the reels filled with just the right amount of line was and I didn’t understand how important spooling with a specific line is when using the Precision Trolling Data App to put my lures at the right level.

Previously, I’d always used some sort of Hi-Vis line on my trolling reels, then adding a fluorocarbon leader to keep the fish from spooking from the brightly colored line. I tried several colors of Hi-Vis and found the fluorescent orange to be more easily seen in a variety of conditions than most other bright colors like bright green or bright yellow.

I was at an impass then. The Precision Trolling Data charts were made using reels spooled with 10-pound Trilene XT. But Trilene XT isn’t available in a hi-vis color. Then I realized the key isn’t a specific brand of line that puts the “precision” in the Precision Trolling Data – it’s the diameter of the line. Trilene XT in 10 pound test is .014 inches in cross-sectional diameter.

 I checked what other brands were available in a Hi-Vis color with the same .014 diameter so I could use it with the depth charts. I found Sufix Siege comes in a bright orange Hi-Vis color, called “Tangerine” and it has many of the same properties that Trilene XT exhibits when it comes to abrasion resistance and others. The only difference is that Sufix Siege line is a bit thinner, so for calibration purposes, I had to use 12-pound test Siege which has a diameter of .014, the same as Trilene XT’s 10-pound diameter.

It works great, is easy to fish with makes trolling with multiple lines and keeping things straight and untangled so much easier. And with a four to six foot fluorocarbon leader between the Tangerine-colored line and lure, it catches just as many fish.

FISHER SPACE PEN

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

Do you have a “working” pen on your boat – or in your car? Working is the operative word. Most vehicles have a pen (or two or three of them) but are they working? I used to have three or four pens in both my truck and in my boat. Usually, a couple of them would work, a couple wouldn’t. Some days the blue-Bic would work just fine, the next it seemed the one I pilfered from a Ramada Inn was the only one that would write in the cold, or on the dawn-dampish paper – or just because some ink pens just seem to need a day off once in a while.

It was always a hassle to find the one which pen would work when I needed to jot down some important waypoint numbers from another captain when I’m on my boat or if I needed to jot down the starting mileage or make some other note in my truck.

So when I heard of the Space Pen by Fisher, I found the solution. Invented at the dawn of the Space Age, the Space Pen, in some form, has been on every manned NASA space mission since 1967. 

I don’t need a pen that will work in zero gravity on my boat or car, but I do need one that will reliably work in any of the conditions Mother Nature can dish out on the Great Lakes or on frosty mornings when heading to the lake. The Space Pen handles rain, cold, frost, high humidity and will write on almost any surface when I need to jot down a phone number or the numbers where the salmon are slashing through schools of alewife. 

The original Space Pen is the AG7 model and that’s the one I got for my. Space Pen makes several other models, as well. All work on the same principle – having a pressurized ink cartridge that gives them the zero-G capability as well as powering them on a crispy morning on the road or on the water.

Space Pens are widely available at online and retail stores. See all the models (or buy them) at www.spacepen.com

BERKLEY LINE STRIPPER MAX

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

I’ve used a variety of DIY methods and home made tools to remove used line from my reels. I’ve tried a few “store-boughts” that frankly, don’t work much better than sticking a nail in a power drill. Finally, a line stripper that not-only works but it works better than any I’ve used previously. It’s called the Line Stripper Max from Berkley and it couldn’t be more simple.

Fasten the line stripper to any powerdrill. The axle is inside the tool so it will sit on a shelf or in a drawer comfortably when not in use. There’s a flange at the top to keep the line from flipping off and winding on the chuck of the drill. That happens frequently when using a nail.

Tie the line to the cone-shaped arbor, then manually make a few wraps of line to make the line snug-up and not slip when the drill is turned on. Then trigger the drill and the used line will pile on the line stripper.

Then comes the clever part of the tool. Once the line is removed from the reel (or several reels) just twist the flange on the narrow end of the cone to remove it. Once the flange pops off the line will easily slide off. Replace the flange and “Max” is ready for next time. Dispose of the used line by taking it to a special recycling bin found at over 17-thousand marinas and tackle shops or mail it to Berkley Recyling, 1900 18th Street, Spirit Lake, Iowa, 51360.

The Line Stripper Max is available at retail outlets, online at a Amazon and other sellers or buy one straight from Berkley at: http://www.berkley-fishing.com.

ONXY A/M-24 DELUXE INFLATABLE LIFE JACKET

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

If there is one thing I don’t like about inflatable life jackets it’s that they are single taskers. The rest of the garb I wear while fishing performs two or three functions. Gloves keep my hands warm, protects them from the sun, keeps them clean and wards off sticks from sharp walleye fins. Shirts, pants, hats and other wearables are multi-taskers as well.

Inflatable life jackets are single taskers. Granted, that task is important and can be a life saver, but since accidentally falling out of a boat or off a fishing pier is extremely rare, too many people don’t habitually wear them.

Evidently, the designers at Absolute Outdoors, maker of Onyx inflatable PFDs, realized this so they created the deluxe version of their popular and ultra-comfortable Auto/Manual Life Vest – “deluxe” means they’ve added pockets. It’s a simple thing, but now, instead of the life jacket being just a safety harness strapped on “just in case,” there are two zipper-close pockets (one on each side) to hold a cell phone, gloves, bait box or fishing tools. Or just stick you fingers inside the pocket to warm them up a bit on a chilly morning.

Onyx is a leader in the life jacket industry, with a variety of throwable cushions as well as inflatable and standard PFDs  in sizes to fit infants to adults. All (including the A/M 24 Deluxe) are made with tough, long-lasting materials and constructed to exacting standards. The A/M in the name is for automatic or manual activation.  The auto-inflate feature which causes the vest to instantly self-inflate when submerged in water can be disabled (if desired) for when the user is in a relatively non-dangerous situation – kayaking in relatively warm or shallow water, for instance. In the manual mode the vest won’t pop open if all the wearer needs to do is stand up or climb back into the boat or kayak but in an emergency a quick pull on the ripcord will inflate the vest.

Onyx life jackets are widely available from online sources as well as brick and mortar stores. Check out the M-24 A/M Deluxe Auto/Manual Inflatable Life Jacket and other products at www.onyxoutdoor.com. 

Remember, life jackets only work if they are being worn and the more comfortable and more useful they are, the more likely it will be to make wearing one all the time an every time habit.

HOBIE HUNTINGTON SUNGLASSES

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

I learned the difference between relatively inexpensive or even cheap sunglasses and high quality sun-shades years ago. Number one, the comfort, stylishness, vision and protection from harmful UV radiation is better in the expensive glasses. Number two, most of the high quality brands are overpriced. Sure they come with lifetime or extremely long warranties and your girlfriend may be impressed, but really, are they worth 10X or even 20X the price of a pair of polarized lenses from Walmart?  You be the judge.

But also remember, whether your sunglasses are sub-twenty or north of two hundred for a pair, none of them are going to be good for all conditions. That’s what attracted me to the Huntington model from Hobie Eyewear. Not only do you get a stylish pair of sunglasses with a catchy logo on the temple arm, the base pair you order comes with a choice of one of the two mirror-lens colors or three of non-mirror colors (each color or mirror selection performs best for different conditions), then you can add additional lenses. Hobie Eyewear’s Huntington model features interchangeable lenses and you can purchase any or all of the colors if you wish.

Whether on the lake, at the dock or driving home different lenses help you see better. Weather conditions change. Bright sun, early morning, partly cloudy or overcast conditions can all occur – sometimes on the same fishing trip.  Fishing conditions change, as well. Sight fishing for bass or looking for submerged structure requires different lenses than trolling in 150 feet of water. 

 I got the grey, non-mirrored lens set to use mostly for driving on the road. I added the unmirrored Sightmaster lenses, perfect for overcast, early or evening fishing as well as giving great performance allowing me to see what’s below the surface when fishing shallow. The set I use most on the open water is the Cobalt Blue Mirror lenses. These give the most protection in the brightest conditions.  Mix or match – buy all the lenses for a full set and you still won’t approach the price of most “designer” shades.  And you do get a lifetime warranty!  They come with a case that has slots inside to hold the spare lenses when they are not on your face. Hobie Eyewear is widely available at online and retail outlets. Check out all their models including prescription and unsinkable versions at www.hobieeywear.com.

DRY WALKER S-TRACK BOOTS

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

I probably wear boots more than half the time while I’m fishing on the Great Lakes. I wear boots 100 percent of the time when winter fishing. Basically, it’s only June through September that I hit the lakes with my feet unbooted.

I have lightweight “deck” boots for use in warm weather, I have heavily insulated boots I wear in March and early April to keep my toes warm and dry, but by late April, I need something in the middle. I found the perfect boot in the Dry Walker S-Track model.

I’ve also found a winter-use for these medium insulated boots, as well. There are plenty of times when my “temperature-minus” boots are perfect to wear all day. If I’m not going to be in a shelter, or I slap on the HD, but there are days when I’m going to be inside much or all of the time. Again, the S-Track model is the perfect answer.

The S-Track is molded from a tough EVA plastic material, so totally waterproof with the feel of sturdy leather. Add to this a thin, full-lenght, wool-felt insert to provide insulation. The boot slips on easily and the 12″ height provides plenty of protection when walking in slush, or when washing down a deck covered with early season fish slime.

The S-Tracks are multi-season, if you wish – and I wish. I slide out the felt liner and wear them as uninsulated muck boots. I pop them on in the uninsulated mode all season at some of the launch ramps I use where I have to get down to or past the water’s edge to hook or unhook the bow strap when loading the boat and at some of the fish-cleaning stations I use with what seem to be perpetually wet floors. With the liner removed, they are doubly easy to slip on or off.

Winter or summer, an aggressive tread on the bottom insures a solid, non-slip grip. Dry Walker boots are available at some retailers or online at http://www.drywalkerbootsusa.com.

VYPR TIP UP By FRABILL

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

Supply chain issues delayed the debut of  Frabill’s new Vypr Tip Up enough that sales lagged during the “stock up” time of year for many ice fishing fans last year. Then, once they did hit the stores, buyers snapped them up so supplies were still short in many places.  Not so, for this season.

I had the chance to get one of these on the ice late in the year.  The Frabill Vypr is packed with features. The one I liked the best was it did not let the hole freeze over, partially because of the lid that closes over the hole, but also because the battery operated aerator kept the hole clear of ice. I had a problem with the vinyl hose trying to coil up so I added a bubbler stone from the aquarium section to the end of the tube. The weight of the stone helped to ensure that the tube stayed in the water.

Another nice feature was having a straight-line spool with a variable tension nut. With that feature I was able to use light tension on the spool to better detect a bite from the smaller lake trout where it was tested. When using larger bait for northerns, just increase the tension on the spool so that larger, livelier baits don’t trip the strike indicator flag. It was also nice to have the clear window on the tip up so the person responding to the flag could see if the spool was still running when they first arrived.

Although I did not use them at night, the light that activates when the flag goes up would be very nice when sitting in your warm a shelter at night watching for a bite outside. Available at retailers across the ice belt, at many online sellers including Amazon or direct from www.frabill.com.