BERKLEY LIGHTNING ROD – TROLLING

           

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

The Berkley Fishing Company (now known as Pure Fishing) started a line of fishing rods called “Lightning Rods” in 1984. In the ensuing decades, models of rods made by Berkley/Pure Fishing have come and gone but Lightning Rods are still around in spinning, casting, trout and trolling versions. That longevity says something by itself.

 When I contacted Abu Garcia (now a part of the Pure Fishing family) about getting an Altum DLC to use in the GLA feature “Reels You Can Count On” for the August/September issue, the rep I was dealing with suggested pairing it with one of their rods and with a little back and forth about how I planned to use it, he suggested the “BTLR902H” which stands for Berkley Trolling Lightning Rod, 9′ 0″ long, two piece, heavy action. (I planned to use it as a Dipsey Diver Rod).

 All my diver rods are nine-footers to get the rod tips well out from my outside downriggers. All my diver rods are heavy action since pulling a full-sized diver at speeds occasionally past 3 mph requires a stout rod with something in reserve for when a big salmon slurps the lure behind the diver.

 So when I pulled the Lightning Rod out of the delivery tube, I was skeptical. It’s labeled Heavy – for line up to 40 pounds – but compared to all the other diver rods I owned, it felt like a lightweight.  Not only was it lighter, it wasn’t even as thick. I gave the rod the ol’ “wiggle up and down test” to see if it felt flimsy, but it seemed pretty stiff. “Maybe,” I thought.

 The real test came when I tied on a diver and lure and deployed them over the side. Would the thin, carbon composite blank hold against the pull of a diver and have enough reserve power left to cushion a heavy strike? Yep!

 With “normal” size and weight diver rods, when fishing for walleyes, spring cohos or other comparable, smaller fish, a diver set-up is something of a “meat” line. They put more fish in the cooler than smiles on the angler’s face. Paired with the Abu Garcia Altum DLC – 20, a rather small, graphite-bodied reel, spooled with 30 pound braided line, the set-up proved to be a fun outfit with which to catch fish of all sizes. It’s easily tamed king salmon over 20 pounds and made catching walleyes as sporty as possible when fishing with a Dipsey Diver.

 Best of all, Lightning Rods are moderately priced – low priced compared with most diver rods – at less than $50. Find them at many retail outlets and online stores or order direct from http://www.berkley-fishing.com.     

RAM 2500 LARAMIE

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

In the past I’ve reviewed a couple of vehicles perfectly suited for Great Lakes anglers with small to medium sized trailerable boats. That includes a large component of GLA readers. Then there’s the guys with bigger boats. I’m talking boats up to 28 feet which wanderlust Great Lakers routinely pull on away trips to two or more Great Lakes each season. I’m talking guys like me with slightly smaller boats who live an hour or more away from a Great Lake but still trailer a hundred miles or more several times per week. I’m talking about guys who keep their even bigger boats in slips during the season, but store them in a remote location in the off season.

 Owners of these type boats are also a large component of this magazine’s readers.  A family model SUV with a trailering package or even a half-ton pick-up won’t really suit those needs. So I procured the use of a really big-azz truck designed for heavy duty work and still suitable for everyday use. I drove a Ram 2500 Laramie Crew Cab 4X4 model on a fishing road trip last August.

 First, a few of the technical details – just a few. This truck came fully loaded with every imaginable bell and whistle. The power-plant was a 6.7 Cummins Turbo Diesel engine. It’s big, powerful and it rode like a Cadillac – a tall Cadillac – but thanks to the “power-deployable running boards” which automatically move into place when a door is opened, it was easy to climb in and out of the cab. Shut the door and the running boards tuck away and become a part of the truck’s trim. It’s available in many colors but the bright red version I tested was eye-popping. 

 Back to the Cadillac-like (perhaps due to Ram’s Chrysler roots I should say New Yorker-like) ride – and I’m talking about back when Caddies and New Yorkers were luxury car road-boats. I found it necessary to keep an eye on the speedometer since the interior sound and ride changed little between 55 and 75 – probably more. It was easy to let the speed creep up without even noticing. This was with or without my boat in tow.

Why not?  My boat is a fly-weight compared to the towing capacity of this beast – 19,680 pounds. That’s enough pulling power to haul a Caterpillar D4 Bulldozer on a trailer.

 From built-in Wifi to lights in the truck bed so I could see under the tonneau cover at night, picking which bell or whistle was most worthwhile would be daunting. What I thought was coolest was the combination of a special view on the back up camera to help line up the trailer’s coupler with the truck’s ball hitch. Most trucks have that, but add the feature which lowers the back end of the truck three inches so you never have to crank the trailer’s jack stand up or down when connecting or disconnecting. Lower the truck, back under the hitch and raise the truck. Don’t forget to plug in the trailer lights. 

 My wife, a fan of heated seats – the Laramie does have heated seats, front and rear – is now equally enamored of seat coolers. Hop into the truck on a hot day, activate the seat cooler and it’s like a cool breeze right at the top of your butt crack. Hoo-wah! I don’t understand just how that works through the soft leather bucket seats, but it does.            

With all this plush power, the truck pulled my boat over 500 miles, on two lane roads, interstates, through cities and in and out of marina parking lots. Doing this, it averaged 14.1 miles per gallon. Check out http://www.ramtrucks.com and then head for your closest dealer.

SCENTLOK – OZ RADIAL EZ

 

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

ScentLok Technologies is one of the leaders in the scent blocking and elimination industry which so many deer and predator hunters rely on to hide their human odor from the animals being pursued. This includes a full line of clothes from base layers to outer wea

An offshoot of this, however, has been the development of ozone generating products which can odorlessly “decontaminate” hunting clothes by producing an ozone rich atmosphere where clothes are stored. While in storage the unstable oxygen molecule, ozone, chemically interacts with scent molecules rendering them odorless. Ozone also has an anti-microbial, anti-viral and anti-mold properties – all things that can produce odors and all things most people don’t want to have on their clothes or elsewhere.

The “elsewhere” I tested the Radial EZ ozone generator was a fellow charter captain’s below decks area. Like many charter captains, the “downstairs” portion of his boat is more a storage room than living quarters. At the end of the trip, rods, tackle, rain wear and other gear is stored there and locked away. After a few days, if anything was bit wet or had a bit of fish “juice” on it when the hatches and doors are closed….whew!  The smell coming from below makes most gym lockers smell quite rosy. 

I handed the generator to Capt. Bob, showed him how to charge it up (it’s rechargeable – no batteries to change or shore power required) and he put it to the test.  His assessment?  “How much do you want for this!”

He said the difference was remarkable! Not exactly springtime fresh – there’s no flowery scent or the smell of disinfectant – but after being locked inside for a couple days, cycling on and off, he said it smelled more like the cabin had been freshly aired out. (There’s only so much anything is going to do for leftover “fish juice” on a rod handle or landing net.)

If you only buy things which multi-task – grab on to this!  The USB port used to recharge the batteries, will boost or recharge a spent cell phone battery with the right plug on the end of the wire.  It’s available in three colors (including water-camo) at http://www.scentlok.com, amazon.com and some retail outlets.

SWINKY and SIDEWINDER KNIVES

SWINKY and SLIDEWINDER

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

Use the right tool for the job certainly fits when it comes to using knives. Sometimes, all that’s needed is quick access and a razor sharp blade. A couple of new or fairly new mini-knives from Outdoor Edge could be perfect. I’ve had my Slidewinder for a whole season and used it almost every trip – mostly as a razor sharp knife. It’s called a “Slide” winder because when you need a sharp edge, just “slide” the replaceable utility knife blade out of the handle until it locks in place ready to make razor-sharp cuts. A multi-tasker, it sports both flat and phillips screwdriver tips and a bottle cap opener. The handle comes in black, blue, orange and steel colors.

One of the newest knives from Outdoor Edge this year is named the Swinky because it has a blade which rotates 180 degrees to “swink” open to switch it from a being a hefty flat screwdriver/bottle opener combo to a straight blade razor-edged cutting tool. It’s not as small as the Slidewinder, but it’s still about a “half-sized” knife.

Both of these knife/tools have a pocket clip on their nylon/glass handles. I don’t clip mine in my pocket, however. I clip them onto the outside of the cup holder at the helm where anyone on board can grab one when they need to do some knife work, adjust a Dipsey Diver or pop a top.

Both of these tools are available at retail outlets, Amazon.com or at their website: http://www.outdooredge.com.

SWOBBIT TOOLS

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

I love a multi-tasking tool. I’m not talking using a screwdriver instead of a chisel or hammering a nail with a Crescent wrench – though I’ve done both. I’m talking about Swiss Army Knives or the Swinky, just above, which is designed to do two or more things.

So when I saw the Swobbit, I just had to try one out. I guess in reality, the Swobbit’s handle is the multi-tasker. The handle I had (included in the Basic Watercraft Kit) telescopes from three to six feet. (Other length handles are available which extend up to 11 feet.) The handle is tear-drop shaped in cross section, which adds a bit of comfort to the grip, but more important it keeps the handle parts from rotating so the little button stops and holes are always aligned.

What makes it a multi-tasker is a variety of tools which snap onto the working end, akin to selecting which blade to use on a Swiss knife. Since every fishing trip starts and ends at the dock the boat hook is the tool-end I use most. It’s useful pushing away from the dock when I’m departing, for snagging a dock line or cleat when returning or hooking floating objects near the boat as needed. Every boat should have one.

When you want to keep your boat shiny clean, from the roof top (if you have a roof) to the keel it’s the rest of the kit which comes into play. Remove the boat hook end and click on the soft bristle scrub brush. I use it both inside and out. It’s not so good as a deck brush, though Swobbit does make brushes with stiffer bristles, but the one in the Basic kit is perfect for scrubbing gel-coated or painted surfaces without feeling like you are hitting them with a wire brush.

For quick wash downs, applying liquid wax or hand polishing, switch to the end with the soft, synthetic sheepskin pad. The “pad on a stick” cuts washing/waxing time by about 4X. Then finish the windows (or other flatter surfaces) with a with a silicone squeegy attachment. One pass and the water is gone. Check out this kit and other Swobbit Products at http://www.swobbit.com. Available in-store at many retailers or on-line at Amazon or the Swobbit website.

BOOYAH CLEAN CLEANERS

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

Whether you use the Swobbit tools above or dive into your scrubbing chores with old rags and paper towels, you’ll want to use some sort of cleaning products to loosen dirt, remove stains and cut through grease or oil. There are hundreds of products available for household or industrial uses. Which to choose and especially, if your boat is moored, which ones can wash overboard without releasing toxic pollutants into the environment?

I found a pair of Booyah Clean products which work great and meet EPA criteria for direct release into the environment. One of them I use for general purpose, both on the inside and outside of my boat, the other is for when I need to really clean up the outside of the hull.

Ever heard of fishing the “mud line?” That’s where the muddy, turbid, algae laden water from many Great Lakes tributaries, meets the clean, clear water of the lake. It’s a great place to target fish. But the summer marina I use most often is upstream from Lake Michigan in one of those mudline-producing streams and at the end of each trip, there’s a mudline on the exterior of my boat.

Truthfully, I don’t hose down or scrub down my boat’s hull every trip or even every other trip. By the time I get to it, it needs it! After using Booyah Clean’s “Non-Acid Instant Hull Cleaner” now, when I get around to cleaning the accumulated, dried on scum, that’s the cleanser I grab. It’s as simple as spraying it on, letting it sit for a couple minutes, then rinse. I do give it a couple of quick passes with my Swobbit brush, then rinse, but that’s really only needed in bad-case scenarios. It’s easy on waxed fiberglass or other surfaces.

 Inside, and once in a while on the outside, I switch to Booyah Clean’s Wash and Wax. This product goes a long way, since it’s concentrated and needs to be diluted with water. When using it you’ll notice it makes a lot of suds. I don’t know if the suds make it clean better, but it does a bang up job on accumulated grime, including spilled coffee, fish blood and other dirt.  I dip the Swobbit brush in the dilute solution for most places in the boat, but switch to a soft rag in tight areas; then rinse.

            When it’s rinsed, it leaves a light layer of Carnuba wax behind which adds sparkle, shine and layer of protection. I give my boat a coat of durable boat wax at the start of each season. Several times each season, however, I wash my hull with Wash and Wax, both to clean it and to renew that springtime shine. View or buy these two Booyah Clean products (and others) at http://www.booyahclean.com, Amazon.com and at many retail outlets.

LIVINGSTON LURES “SCREAMING” BAITFISH LURES

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

 I mentioned to my fishing companions I had some “secret” lures to try out. “The secret,” I said, “is instead of having rattles inside to attract the fish, they have an internal electric sound maker which would activate when the lure went into the water. The sound is supposed to mimic the ‘scream’ baitfish make as they flee for their life when a predator is near.”

They laughed and looked at me trying to gauge if I was serious or just joking to make the miles to the Erie Islands area go a little quicker. I told them, “Seriously, I’ve got several of these.” They continued giving me the stink-eye look as their bullshit meters pegged well into the red. (Actually, my BS meter was pretty well pegged, as well.) 

On the boat, that first afternoon, I tied on one of the “scream-like-a-baitfish models” from Livingston Lures – an EBS Walleye 90 – licked my thumb and fore-finger, then touched them to each of the hook hangers to complete the circuit and activate the “sound system.” Then I held the lure up to their ears so they could hear the sound. Whether or not it sounds like a screaming baitfish, I don’t know. To me, it sounded something like a squeaking mouse. In use, the water is what switches on the EBS – electric baitfish sound.

I sent the lure out on one of the planer boards and in a few minutes, we caught our first fish of the trip. It came on the “screamer” lure, as my fishing partners dubbed it. Then it caught another and another – not every fish, but it got enough bites we tied on an LL Voyager 15 Walleye model and put it on the other side of the boat. These lures, in the Purple Tiger and Wonder Bread colors, caught their share and more that first afternoon and for the next few days. The EBS Walleye 136 stickbait in Fire Tiger deployed deep using divers and downriggers contributed to our limits each day, as well.

Livingston Lures feature VMC hooks, sturdy hardware, great paint and most important, even the deep diving Voyager 15 ran true at speeds over 3 mph. Very impressive lures and performance.  

There’s no doubt the addition of some sort of “sound” makes a good lure better, whether that’s a rattle, a spinner blade or something else. Why not a sound produced electronically? The Livingston Lures guys say their EBS “screaming” baitfish sound attracts fish three times farther than rattles. The battery life is 300 hours. I’m sure I have some lures which have more than 300 hours on them, but not many, and if I lost one of those veterans, I’d happily purchase a replacement. I’ve already ordered some other “screaming” baits in different models and colors to use for salmon and trout.  My BS meter is back in the green. Available at retail outlets as well as online at http://www.livingstonlures.com

DAIWA SEALINE SG-3B LINECOUNTER REEL “LEFTY”

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

Roughly one out of ten people are left handed so most tools and equipment are made for us “righties.” Some products are available in lefty versions, some lefty products are available only at a higher cost and many items just aren’t available in a made-for- southpaws version..

Most lefties just learn to deal with it. How hard could that be, at least in some instances?

When it comes to fishing reels, I didn’t think it would be all that tough. After all, when I’m wielding a casting or trolling reel, I turn the handle positioned on the right side of the reel. When I’m using a spinning reel, it feels just as natural to crank with the handle positioned on the left side.

So when Dena Vick from Traditions Media arranged for Daiwa to get me the most current model of the Daiwa’s Sealine Linecounter she asked, “Left hand or right?” There’s something many reel makers don’t offer – a lefty version.

 I’ve got a dozen or more line counter reels from several different companies – all right handed. “Why not try a left handed version?” I thought.

 I’m sure the features of the SG-3B in either lefty or right-handed versions would be equal. The carbon fiber drags would be the same, the three ball bearings that make the handle and spool turn smooth as silk, the clicker, the line counter and all the rest would be similar. “Send me the left handed model,” I said. “It will be an interesting trial.”

I introduced it to my line-up on a trip to Lake Erie with three friends. One of them was a lefty, the rest of us were right handed. I didn’t mention one of the reels would be a left-handed version. I wanted to gauge their reactions the first time they hefted it.

I made the initial set with “Lefty” and my friends didn’t immediately notice the reel was different. When the first fish hit on that set-up, one of the right handed guys grabbed it and though his back was to me, I could tell he was fumbling with the reel until he realized everything was back-assward.

When the walleye was in the boat, he asked me, “What’s with the left handed reel?” I told him it was a demo and he’d just been a part of the demonstration.

“Let Doug (the other right hander) reset that line and see what he thinks,” I said.            Doug’s comment after doing so was, “Well that was weird!”

 We each caught a several fish with the outfit and experimented with using it deployed on both downriggers and planer boards. I agreed with Doug – it was weird.

A part of the weirdness, for me, was how much different it was when reeling in a fish with this reel than if I’d been using a left handled spinning reel. It was a completely different, surprisingly awkward experience – and I’ve caught thousands of fish on spinning reels. For some types of fishing I like spinning reels better than revolving spool reels.

It’s not just the free spool lever being on the “wrong” side or the star drag in an unfamiliar spot. Just the act of holding and reeling seemed strange.

On the other hand (pun intended) the lefty in our group loved it! Being an avid fisherman, he was no stranger to using right handed, revolving spool reels. Actually, this was the first left handed one he’d ever experienced. Evidently, reeling “right” to a lefty is just as awkward as reeling “left” was to me.

So if you are a left handed angler and looking for a good quality, line counter trolling reel, consider the Daiwa Sealine SG-3B – available in the small “17″ size, the medium “27″ size or the salmon-sized “47″.  Your right-handed fishing partners may not be thrilled, but why should you mind? Give them a taste of what you’ve been putting up with your whole fishing career. 

CHALLENGER THREE D HARNESSES

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

Challenger lures sent me some of their new, copper backed – Three D Worm Harnesses. The front of the spinner blades – either willow leaf or Colorado are available in more than a rainbow assortment of walleye-popping colors, including glows, and UVs, but the reverse side is copper plated. They looked good so I wanted to give them a swim.

Most guys using worm harnesses on Lake Erie and other locations pull them along at slow speeds when trolling or while drifting at even slower speeds. I’ll go with what-ever-it-takes to get fish on the line, but our spread was doing just fine with a variety of crankbaits trolled at 2.5 to 3 MPH, so pulling out the bottom bouncers and backing down to half that speed didn’t seem like a winning plan.

Rather than slowing down and totally switching to a worm and harness plan, I decided to pin the harnesses to my downriggers and Dipsey Divers to get them into the same zone the cranks were getting bites, then “whizzing” them right along with the hard-body baits. Would that work?

I learned a secret. The walleye didn’t care if the rig was going 1.2 or 2.8. The rods with the harnesses did their fair share of damage to the Lake Erie walleye population, right along with the other lures.

We alternated colors and blade shape each day and though none of them failed to score, we did better with the Colorado blade models and the patterns heavy with blue/purple/pink seemed to have an edge over the ones with the green/orange/chartreuse paint schemes.

All were well made, had plenty of beads, sharp hooks and strong enough leaders to hold up to numerous fish.  Check out the Three D Harnesses at http://www.challengerlures.com