ACURITE WEATHER INSTRUMENT

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REVIEWED BY CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

     How fast is the wind blowing? How much rain fell last night or in the past several days? Is the barometer rising or falling? What’s the temperature or wind chill? These and other questions are all things I often need to know before heading out on the lake. Each one can determine where, how or even if I can get out to fish.

It’s all information I can pull up on my computer or smartphone, but how local is it? The information posted on weather sites is seldom taken from readings on or near the lake front. Most of the reporting stations are located a few miles (or even dozens of miles) away from the lake and any Great Lake angler knows conditions are usually different at the lake than inland.

On the theory any job worth doing is worth doing yourself, Bass Pro Shops has licensed a 5 in 1 Weather Center from AcuRite. (I don’t know why they call it 5 in 1 since it reports and displays over a dozen weather details.)

Rather than just reading and recording info gathered in some far off location, it has it’s own weather instrument apparatus you mount outdoors, up to 100 yards away from the receiver. On site details such as wind-speed, direction, temperature, rainfall amounts, barometer and others – the details I need to know at the lake – all show up on the bright, colorful display. The indoor display also reads some “indoor” weather, such as temperature and humidity. (www.basspro.com)

PIRANHA PROPELLER

piranha1REVIEWED BY CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

      This is an idea which is either really revolutionary or completely useless. Which side you fall on depends on how and where you use your boat.

      Most outboards and sterndrive boats come factory equipped with an aluminum propeller. They work pretty good and aren’t priced as though they are gold plated when compared to stainless steel propellers. Aluminum props have one side benefit or drawback (again depending on how and where you use the boat). Aluminum is a much softer metal than the stainless steel from which propeller shafts are made.

      The drawback? Hit a rock, a good hard tree stump or the concrete on a boat ramp with an aluminum prop and the propeller will show it. If you are lucky, one or more of the blades will be slightly bent; less lucky, one or more of the blades will be chipped; even less lucky and there will be chunks missing from the blades and the prop so out of balance you’ll be lucky to be able to run the boat at much more than idle speed.

     The good news is it’s highly unlikely the prop-shaft on your lower unit will be broken. The relative soft aluminum will chip or bend  long before the shaft will be damaged.  An aluminum propeller can be repaired or replaced for much less than the cost of replacing the propeller shaft.

     A popular alternative for people who operate in areas where whanging a boat’s propellor into a rock, stump or other obstruction is commonplace is to swap the aluminum propeller for a stainless steel model. These don’t come cheap but the stainless blades will definitely stand up to much more abuse than those on an aluminum prop.

     Being tough and strong is fine until the blade impacts something so hard (or so often) the propeller shaft gets twisted or breaks – or perhaps some other gear explodes up inside that mystical box called the lower unit. I ruined many aluminum props until I switched to stainless and have broken broken prop shafts and gears since switching to a stainless steel propeller. Here comes the Piranha Propellor.

     The Piranha looks as though it’s made of black plastic, but it’s actually made of a a hard, composite material, so only partially plastic, partially resin, partially who knows? The hub part of the propeller is actually made of an aluminum core, over molded with their resin/plastic/ composite material. The hub guaranteed for life.

      The hub is guaranteed to never break because the blades will. Whang into a stump, floating log, submerged rock or some other hard object and the composite blades will break off. Here’s the deal, however. The composite blades are easily replaceable and only cost $10 each, give or take a buck depending on the size. Hit something hard? Tilt up the motor and in a couple minutes, the damaged/broken blade or blades can be swapped out and everything down there is good as new.

      I installed one on my boat and took it out for a test. I noticed no difference in performance between the Piranha Prop and the stainless steel propeller I normally use. Available in three and four blade models for motors from six to 280 horsepower. Check out http://www.piranha.com for prices, dealers and on-line retailers.

NORTHERN KING SPOONS

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REVIEWED BY CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

They are back – almost from the grave. In the middle 1980s, primarily on Lake Ontario but with a solid presence on the other Great Lakes, Northern King spoons were solid producers, if not the overwhelming favorite of many salmon and trout anglers. When owner/creator of Northern King Spoons, Patsy Distaffen died, the company faded to near non-existence. Now they are coming back – solidly so on the north of the border portions of the Great Lakes, but increasingly, here on the U.S. side as well.

     The venerable Len Thompson Company, a maker of “Canadian” pike spoons since the 1930s, purchased the Northern King company – most importantly, they now own the Northern King dies used to stamp out the spoon blanks. Many believe Patsy’s dies produce a spoon with just enough realism to make just enough difference in the eyes of a hungry salmon or steelhead to get them to bite when they would pass on other brands.

     Many other fans of Northern Kings say it’s the genuine silver finish on the spoons that makes the difference. To humans, in direct sunlight, there’s not much difference between the flash off a polished chrome or nickel spoon and a polished silver spoon. Underwater, there is a difference and the fish can see that difference as easily as a woman can tell the difference between a real diamond and one made of cubic zirconium.

     They are available in three sizes, the NK 28 is a standard 3 3/4 inches, the NK 4-D is just under 4 inches (a great size for steelhead) but thinner and with a different action completely. The NK MAG is the 4 3/4 inch “king-killer.”

They are not (yet) available in an amazing array of color patterns, but I don’t detract from them for that. Many companies produce a dizzying number of patterns and anyone who thinks a fish cares much about whether or not the spots on the lure are round or oval or if the orange highlight stripe is 1/4 inch wide or 3/16s pays more attention to those details than I do (and most fish, I believe).

They do come in nice selection of standard and UV as well as extended glow patterns. The first fish I caught on my “new” NKs was on an orange-monkey-puke, NK 28, the venerable double orange crush proved as deadly on steelhead as ever and the UV Mixed Veggies gets bit by any species that comes close to it.

     Northern King is becoming increasingly available in Great Lakes tackle shops here stateside. The biggest on-line seller when this review was written was http://www.fishusa.com. Take a peek at all their colors at http://www.nklures.com.

ABU GARCIA REVO X

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REVIEWED BY CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

     Are you looking for a medium light spinning reel perfect for bass, walleye or most any other species you’d normally fish with 8 or 10 pound line? Do you want the reel to last forever, and man-up when a fish you would normally fish for with 17 or 20 pound line mistakenly bites your bass or walleye lure? Do you want one that handles like a reel twice the price and is comfortable to fish all day with braid, mono or fluorocarbon line.
That’s exactly what I was handed one of the days I spent fishing the lower Niagara River earlier this year. Using the medium sized Revo X, we were targeting smallmouth, but the smelt run was on and lake trout were on the prowl in the river at the same time.

When my rod slammed down with noticeably more force than the smallies normally made, the importance of a reel capable of manning-up became paramount. The matching Abu Veritas rod added little to the fight once the rod bent double. It was 90% reel, 5% rod and 5% just hanging on long enough to winch those middle teen trout close enough to swoop a net under them in the tricky currents of the big river.

If you fish a place where something far larger than your target species could occasionally end up on your line – perhaps a sturgeon in the Rainy River, a musky in Sturgeon Bay, a 20 pound sheephead in Lake Erie and you need a reel perfectly suited to the species you are after and reserve toughness to handle any unexpected job, the Revo X (available in three sizes) will be up to the task.

FISH FIGHTER DOWNRIGGER WEIGHT

 

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REVIEWED BY CAPTAIN MIKE SCHOONVELD

 

    Would you pay $85 for a downrigger weight? Not me. That’s about twice the price DRWs cost at most retail outlets. But the $85 price point isn’t that out of line for a Fish Fighter weight when you consider the big-bucks “canon ball” does the work of two or more weights and comes with unique features not found on most other weights.

    When I used manual crank downriggers on my boat, I had ‘rigger weights of various sizes to use, depending on how deep I needed to fish. No sense in hand-winching up a 12-pounder if I was only lowering it 15 to 25 feet. An eight-pound weight would work at that depth without having an excessive blow-back. Even now, with a set of electric ‘riggers at the back of my boat, I use smaller weights when I’m fishing shallower and heavyweights when I’d putting ‘em down, way down.

The Fish Fighters work on the same principle as a set of adjustable weight barbells. The “weight” part of the weight are thin, steel plates a downrigger user can add or subtract to the sides of the devise to vary the total poundage, like adding additional weight disks on a barbell. The one I sampled could bulk-up in incremental steps from one to 14 pounds.

    The individual side plate weights bolt to the sides of a thin, stainless steel center plate. Each weight comes with two detachable tail fins, one is straight for the riggers on the stern to keep the weights tracking straight, the other is bent ten-degrees to become a rudder which sways the weight to the left or right adding a few feet (or several feet on deep sets) of spread to the lures positioned on the out-downs.

    When changing the weight, leave the polished steel outer side plate in place if you like a flashy ‘rigger weight. Take it off if you just want a black, stealthy weight. http://www.fishfighterproducts.com.