Every lure has one or more hooks on them.  Some lure makers seem to make the hooks or trebles on their lures as unobtrusive as possible by hanging bronze or black hooks on them. Other makers use shiny, chrome hooks or bright red ones, evidently to make the hooks more noticeable.

            I’m in the camp that thinks that as long as a lure has a hook it might as well make the lure more enticing. That’s why I often swap out the hooks on both spoons and plugs with “feathered trebles.”  I use the Feathered Trebles from Gamakatsu. All Gamakatsu hooks are premium quality and the Feathered Trebles are tied on their premium round bend trebles. The feather hooks are either solid white or white with streaks of red. The largest size is #2, okay for walleye plugs and smaller-sized spoons. Recently, Gamakatsu started producing feathered trebles tied on their G-Finesse hooks with larger sizes up to 1/0 and with a choice of either white or chartreuse feathers.

            Usually, I put the feathered treble on the rear hook of lures with two or more hooks, but hanging a feather on the belly hook seems to boost a lure’s performance some days. A feathered treble on a spoon gives it a whole new look. Check all the Gamakatsu products at or pick up some feathered trebles online or at many retail outlets.


          Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

There have been dozens of companies who staked their reputations on producing the ultimate tackle box. Some were soft, some were hard, many were both. Add in modular, packable, battery powered – there’s probably a nuclear powered one out there somewhere.  If there was a poll about what has been the most convenient, usable or versatile tackle storage solution for me it would be some sort of combo that features Plano 3700 StowAway boxes.

            These 9 X 14-inch containers are ubiquitous in the tackle storage biz and so popular many boat makers build racks or specially-sized compartments on their boats to fit them. So do dozens of makers of tackle bags, boxes, crates or satchels. So when Plano came up with their Z-Series of waterproof totes which includes duffles, backpacks and lure wraps; coming up with a tackle bag to carry a bevy of StowAways was an easy addition to that line. Plano produces these for both the 3700 size boxes and in a lesser size for the smaller, 3600 size StowAways.  I got the 3700 size.

            StowAways containers come in a variety of depths or thicknesses. “Standard” is the two-inch deep box but there are also thin and deep models. They even have half sizes so it takes two of them positioned end to end to fill the space of one standard size. The 3700 Z-Series bag will easily fit four “standard” depths boxes (it comes with two.)

            This isn’t the only StowAway tote I own or have used. It is the only one advertised to be “saltwater tough.” Not that the Great Lakes are salty, but on my boat, the StowAways aren’t usually stowed away out of the weather and most of the storage containers are no more than “weather resistant.” The waterproof, Z-Series is made from waterproof components and corrosion proof hardware. It’s more utilitarian than clever with only a couple of external, mesh pockets on the ends to store miscellaneous gear and a wide, nylon carrying strap. No D-rings, pliers holsters, molded in cutting boards or other fancy (and often useless) other features.

            It has a rigid, skid-proof bottom, semi-rigid sides so it won’t collapse when in use and a zipperless top closure. If you are looking for a well built, functional portable storage option to harness your collection of 3700-sized (or 3600) storage containers, check out the Z-Series at You can purchase them at this website, at many other online outlets as well as retail stores.


Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD    

         Ugly Stik rods were around for more than a decade before they hired William “Refrigerator” Perry as their spokesmodel. If you don’t know who the “Fridge” was you aren’t an NFL fan. He still holds the record for being the largest player (335 pounds) to score a touchdown in a Super Bowl.

            The most memorable advertisement I remember showed him wearing his Bears uniform and doubling over an Ugly Stik rod. He probably sold more of these nearly indestructible “sticks” than any ad before or since. But Ugly Stik users love their rods for more than just being tough. They’ve always blended strength with fishability.

            I got an Ugly Tuff spinning rod and reel combo from Ugly Stik to test out too late for much walleye fishing last summer, so I took it along on a cisco fishing trip on Grand Traverse Bay in the fall. It performed perfectly. I had the “30″ size reel – the smallest of the Ugly Tuff models – paired with a 6-foot, two-piece rod.  This reel is rated for 6 to 15 pound line and really, though the rod is listed as medium, it tends more towards medium light. I’m certain you could bend the rod over like Refrigerator Perry with 15-pound line.

I spooled it up with 10-pound braid.  On my cisco fishing trip, the fish we were catching were hooked 120 feet or more below the surface. Fishing extra-deep with many small reel makes extra work just because of the amount of cranking it takes to reel in the fish. At almost 30 inches per turn of the handle on the reel on this combo, the ciscoes came to the top without an unduly amount of reeling. 

            That won’t be needed when I fish the Detroit and St. Claire Rivers in the next few weeks, but the smooth front drag will be, I hope.  I probably won’t be jigging more than 30 feet deep, but when one of those big females latches on in the current, the cushion of the rod and the drag slipping at critical times, especially with braided line will be crucial. 

            If you are looking for a terrific, moderately priced rod and reel combo for fishing the walleye run this year (or jigging and casting anywhere else) this Ugly Tough combo will fill the bill. Plan on using it again next year and the next. Ugly Stik rod and reels don’t wear out and won’t let you down, even if you abuse it like Refrigerator Perry did. 

            Widely available at both retail and online outlets, you can see all the specs and a list of retailers near you at



When I picked up my brand new boat long ago, it came with four hard plastic drink holders positioned strategically around the interior. Two of them didn’t survive the first trip since they were also positioned exactly where someone would bang into them when they were leaving their seat to grab a rod with a fish on it. The other two lasted only slightly longer.

The quest was on to find a drink holder (or a drink holder location) which would hold cups of coffee, bottles of water or cans of beer that would do the job and not get broken. That’s not as easy as you might think. My quest is over and then some thanks to Tackle Webs. 

Tackle Webs are multi-purpose storage solutions designed specifically for boats (but adaptable to vehicles, campers and home environments.)  They are a simple concept – a tough, mesh material is used to construct a storage bag or pouch. Did I say tough?  Short of attacking them with a fillet knife, they’ll last the life of your boat. They come in a variety of sizes depending the space available to position them or the size of the item you want to store in them – from a cell phone to a several stowaway type storage boxes.

They’ve ended my decades-old drink holder quest. The cup holder will hold a normal sized 12-ounce can – with or without a Koozie – as well as any other size drink up to a 30 oz Yeti Rambler. 

Stick them where you need them. All of the TackleWeb products are simple to install. They come with an industrial strength, pre-cut hook and loop (think Velcro) tape which will stick to most any surface – painted, bare metal, varnished wood, glass or fiberglass. I have one at the helm for my coffee cup, another for my cell phone and still another to hold my Personal Locator Beacon. Other suggested locations are inside of hatch covers, compartments, doors, inside or outside on coolers or stick a Tackle Web on the inside of a cooler lids to hold ice packs. Let your imagination run rampant.

TackleWebs pouches are also available with suction cup attachments at well as bungee cord models which work great to attach a storage pack to the back of pedestal seats. They are also available in either black or white.

Order TackleWebs direct from or find them at Amazon, Bass Pro/Cabela’s, West Marine and other retailers. 



I’ve often written articles and reviews extolling the “wonderfulness” of the 3700 StowAway boxes from Plano. One clue that extols their perfection is the number of other manufacturers that make copycat products to try to grab a tiny share of the market.

When I visited the Evolution Outdoors booth at the ICAST show last summer, the rep I talked to didn’t hide the fact their Tackle Trays are based on the popular Plano StowAways. Their trays are the same size, just as solidly built, but with one easily notable difference. They come in colors! 

That’s the reason I stopped by their booth in the first place. Evolution Outdoors had a variety of other products on display. I’m sure most of them are terrific, but it was the tackle trays that instantly caught my eye and instantly flashed through my mind about how handy the various colors would be on my boat.

 I stow most of my crankbaits and other tackle in 3700-sized boxes on my boat. The lures and gear I plan to use on a specific day are put in an accessible storage area, but there are always others – the one’s I might use – tucked away in some other compartment where I can pull them out if needed. Unless I have them all labeled (which I usually don’t) I often have to pull out two or three boxes to find the one I want. When one of my fishing companions is looking for one of them, it’s worse.

 With boxes in several colors, if I know the glow in the dark stickbaits are in the green box or the Flicker Shads are in the purple one, it gets real easy to find the right box. “Check in the hatch under your seat and pull out the pink box,” I can say.  I get the right box. (I do admit to posting a cheat-sheet note in a couple places on the boat until I learned the color-code.)

Available in seven different colors, they are also available in 3600 and 3500 sized boxes. Check them out at They are available online and carried by Dunham’s stores throughout the Great Lakes area. 



It’s a long story of what led me to be at Lake Erie last year, stuffing a three-inch Yakima SpinFish with sardines packed in Louisiana Hot Sauce. Previously I’d used oil-packed sardines to add scent and taste to these lures on Lake Michigan and I’d proven these “meat-packed” lures were solid salmon and laker lures. I actually didn’t even mean to include the SpinFish in the assortment of crankbaits I was taking to Ohio with me.

But I did, and my brother pulled it out of the tackle box thinking it was a Yakima Mag Lips. We had a Mag Lips working well on the port side, why not put another on the starboard side planer? 

When I saw the package Brother Al had pulled out I explained that though the banana-shaped lure he’d grabbed looked similar to a Mag Lips, they were miles apart in action. The Mag Lips is a diving crankbait – the SpinFish doesn’t dive. They just spin round and round, supposedly like a crazed or wounded baitfish swims. On Lake Michigan I always rigged them behind a flasher and used a downrigger, diver or weighted long line to put them at what I hoped was a productive depth. Additionally, I explained, they are designed to be stuffed with bait – sardines, tuna, herring or something else to leave a scent trail through the water.

Al pointed at the port side diver and said, “We haven’t caught anything on that Dipsey so far today. There are some sardines in the snacks cooler, so let’s try it.” Alan is stubborn so I knew there was no arguing with him. I showed him how to pull the SpinFish apart to add the sardines and tied the fluorocarbon leader which comes with each SpinFish to the Dipsey Diver.

Rigged and ready, Alan reset the diver rod with the “Red hot spinny.”  That’s not what we called he SpinFish at first, but when it elicited bites on a steady basis, one walleye after another, that’s what we renamed it – both because of the color and the hot-spiced sardines. Was it the lure? The action? The hot sauce? I doubt the Tobasco added as much attraction as the sardine juice washing out of the lure, but what ever it was, the walleye loved it.

Will this be the next “hot lure” craze to hit Lake Erie and other walleye hot spots?  I doubt it. But there will be several SpinFish in my lure assortment the next time I head over to Lake Erie.  SpinFish come in several sizes, a multitude of colors and are widely available at tackle shops and on-line sources. See them all at



I used to have two thoughts when I’d show up at a busy fish cleaning facility and see people standing on a wet concrete floor holding an electric knife plugged into a 120V power outlet. Thought number one – “That looks dangerous!”  Number two – There’s a guy who doesn’t know how to sharpen a fillet knife.

            I imagine Paul Bunyan had two thoughts the first time he saw some lumberjack sawing down a tree with a chainsaw. “That looks dangerous.” And the next thought, “There’s a guy who doesn’t know how to sharpen an axe.”

            I now admit to being a frequent user of electric fillet knives. When Rapala came out with a battery powered, cordless fillet knife, my fish cleaning method changed and I realized why those “plugged-in” knife wielders risked electrocution every time they caught a mess of fish. It dawned on me there is a reason why bakers use electric mixers to kneed dough, carpenters use power tools instead of hand tools and that even the sharpest axe won’t fell a tree as easily as a chainsaw.

            I loved the cordless Rapala knife, but as a charter captain, I clean a lot of fish and I soon learned the original Rapala cordless knife was not heavy duty. I went through motors, switches and batteries often enough that I kept spares on hand, just like I keep spare reels, line and lures.

            So when Rapala came out with an all new design with an HD in the name, I “hopefully” gave it a try. It’s heavier, runs more smoothly and after a whole season both the batteries and the motor are still giving “right out of the box” performance.

I know on my other power tools, the rechargeable batteries nowadays are better than those of just a few years ago. That’s certainly seems true with the battery durability and run-time on the R12 batteries. Since the unit comes with two batteries, I purposely left one in the handle long enough to run it down. It cut a week’s worth of salmon and lake trout at the end of May and then went on a walleye trip to Lake Erie the next week. It conked out on the fourth day.  I didn’t check the recharge rate but Rapala says it only takes an hour.

            Speaking of the recharger, I like that this one has three indicator lights giving an at-a-glance status of the charging battery. I also like the thumb activated on/off switch. It’s right where I naturally place my thumb on the knife handle.

            What I really like is the speed. I don’t know the cycles per second rating of the corded models but I’d guess the R12 is two or three times faster than the original cordless Rapala. I was at a public cleaning station in Sheboygan last summer and a fellow across the table from me using a plugged in electric knife looked up when I triggered the R12 and said, “Good Lord! Is that an electric knife or a chainsaw?” 

            I loaned him my R12 to use on his last two fish. He smiled, said thanks, cleaned up quickly and drove away fast. I think he was heading to the tackle shop to buy an R12 for himself. They are available at many retail and online stores as well as from the Rapala website:



I have a love/hate relationship with vacuum sealer machines. I love them because if you have limited freezer space there is no other “nearly” foolproof method of freezing fish with “nearly” zero freezer burn so compactly.

            I hate them because of the “nearly” and when it comes to the vacuum sealing, it’s the machine doing the sealing that determines the extent of the “nearly.” I’ve never used a “home” model that nearly always sealed perfectly. The worst ones I’ve used produced a good seal only about half the time when packaging fish. None have ever produced a perfect seal every time for me. I’ve also often found packages which appeared to have been perfectly sealed when put in the freezer, had lost their seal after a few weeks or months.

            So when NESCO offered to supply me with their VS 12 Deluxe Sealer to use and evaluate, I accepted, but I told their representative, I would be approaching the project as a skeptic.  So far, much of my skepticism has proven to be unfounded.

            An early November trip to Lake Erie provided me a good supply of “test fish” for my evaluation. An opening day buck provided some venison loin chops and late season mallard breasts are now vacuum sealed and packed away in my freezer.

            In all, my wife and I have packaged 32 meal-sized portions of the fish, duck and venison. The two-stage vacuum pump in the VS12 sucked the air out of the packets in a few seconds at which point the machine automatically switches to the sealing phase which takes about 15 seconds more. We used the “double” seal mode so instead of a single “weld” at the top of the pouch, two separate seals are melted across the width of the pouch. The instructions indicate this is best for “moist” products like we were packing.

            It also has normal and low vacuum settings. Low pressure is for sealing things like dry cereal or other crushable items. Normal is for everything else.

            Our results were perfect. All 32 packages sealed perfectly the first time, and after being in the freezer for a several weeks, all the packages still in the freezer remained tightly sealed. So far, five-star results!  Good Housekeeping magazine rated the VS 12 number one in head to head tests against nine other top brands.   

            We did our sealing with pouches and packaging material rolls sold by NESCO. NESCO says other brands of bags or rolls will also work with NESCO machines and NESCO packaging material looks and feels identical with Foodsaver and Cabela’s bags I’ve used previously.

            I thought about waiting six months or a year to open these first pouches we produced to test their longevity, but I was impressed enough with the NESCO VS 12 that I’ll give it my conditional “seal’ of approval for now (pun intended). I didn’t want to hear from GLA readers who had been shopping for their first vacuum sealer or thinking of replacing the one they are currently using with a message like.  “I wish you’d done this review earlier before I bought a brand X,Y or Z machine.”

              NESCO products are widely available at online and retail outlets or directly from NESCO at:


            There are a lot of really good “ice-fishing” jackets on the market and if you make a check list of all the important attributes of them you’ll see things like: High-tech insulation, durable outer layer, full-cut sizing to allow layering, ample pockets in the right places, a slick lining to allow easy on and off, adjustable cuffs and others.

            What’s often missing is waterproofing. Makes sense since most ice fishing isn’t done in a rainstorm or is done inside some sort of shanty or portable shelter. Why go to the expense of using the same waterproofing layers or fabric treatment needed by duck hunters or early or late season open water anglers? 

            It’s that lack of waterproofing which makes using an “ice fishing” specific insulated jacket (or jacket and bibs combo) a poor choice for the earliest open water action on the Great Lakes. Whether it’s the Fall Brawl in late November on Erie or ice out brown trout in Door County, Wisconsin, cold water anglers need all the features important in an ice fishing coat along with a waterproof outer shell.

            I used a Gill Winter Angler Jacket for my end of season fishing last year and when my boat slides off the trailer in mid-March in search of early season cohos here in southern Lake Michigan, I’ll be sliding back into my Winter Angler Jacket. (I also have matching bibs.) I fish out of an open boat several days a week and seasonal March winds and April showers guarantee precipitation from above as well as spray from choppy waves as I head for the warm water hotspots that concentrate the cohos. From my experience last fall, I know Gill’s multi-layer XPLORE waterproofing technology in the outer shell of the jacket will be up to the task.

            If, like me, you are a function over fashion kind of person you’ll appreciate it comes only in “graphite” color – basically black. While I think a bright red, yellow or other color of suit looks good, I know from experience, after a few trips, after a few flopping, bleeding fish, perhaps spill or two of coffee, that gaudy garb can start to look a little used. I also know, when the sun is shining, those sunbeams are being absorbed by my black coat to add a measure of warmth.  

            All the other boxes mentioned earlier are checked, as well. Well thought out pockets, cuffs, lining, insulation, hood closures, zippers and storm flaps make the Gill Winter Jacket a perfect choice. Available at many retail and online outlets as well as directly from