Reviewed by Capt. Mike Schoonveld

            I’m not shaped correctly to wear a pair of fishing pants without strapping on a belt to keep the waist snug around my midsection. If I’m beltless anything could happen in the middle of a fight with a big salmon. Okay, only one thing could happen, but it wouldn’t be pretty.

So I wear a belt – a simple clothing accessory good for only one purpose. Or is it?

A length of nylon rope could do the same job, but if for nothing but gaining style points, few people go the rope belt route. A rope just doesn’t look good and if looking good is one of the ancillary reasons to have a belt, you may just want to check out the fishing oriented belts from Cheeky Fishing.

With dozens of “fishy” patterns from which to choose, patterns to look like various trout, tarpon scales, redfish spots and others, the Cheeky Wingo belts are long on style points. If, like me, you need a belt to hold up your fishing trousers, it might as well be a “fishing belt.”

When designing these belts, the Cheeky guys kept three things in mind. It has to look good and perform well. The one I’ve been using all summer fills both of those bills.

The other thing they considered was at sometime during the course of the fishing day, there could be a bottle in the fisherman’s hand in need of having its cap removed. Proving a fishing belt can be a multi-tasker, pop open the belt buckle and it becomes a handy bottle opener!   Check them out at www.



Reviewed by Capt. Mike Schoonveld

            In areas of Lake Erie where the major forage is emerald shiners, walleyes and other predators are particularly receptive to striking stick baits. Stick baits are also particularly productive in other areas of the Great Lakes in places or at times when smelt are available.

But stick baits by their nature are shallow running lures. Sure, there are deep diver stick baits such as Reef Runners or Jr. Thunder Sticks that will dive deeper than a straight Rapala or Rattlin’ Rogue but the action of the deep divers is completely different and often just won’t turn the trick.

There’s not a place on the Great Lakes where spoons aren’t the lure of choice at least at some times of the year. Spoons by their nature aren’t deep runners. Most of the Great Lakes trolling spoons are flutter type and can only be used with a weight, diver or downrigger to get them under the waves.

There are plenty of ways to present a spoon or stick bait deeper than it will dive on its own. Put a weight ahead of it, run it on a downrigger, wiggle it along using copper or leadcore line. All will work and depending on the situation may be the presentation of choice.

Another option, however, is using Stingray Divers from Church Tackle. These mini-divers come in three sizes and all of them will work with the size and type of lures normally used on the Great Lakes. The largest size will even pull six-inch, coho-sized dodger and fly combos. The smallest, #1 Stingray is black, the #2 is bright orange and the largest, #3 is chartreuse.

The larger two sizes have four holes in them. The front two holes are attachment places for the line to rod, the other two are attachment points for the leader. They come with snaps, but I don’t think they would run much different if the line or leader is tied direct. Connect line or leader in the different holes to make it troll shallower or deeper. Hook it to the lower connection points and the Stingray is mostly just an in-line sinker. Tie to the upper tow point with the main line and the upper leader connection hole to get the maximum dive.

Guessing the depth any sort of diver will achieve is better measured more by “rules of thumb” than by printed dive charts. Change the trolling speed, change the lure being trolled, change the diameter of the line, the type of line being used or vary the amount of line deployed and the trolling depth will change. Church “suggests,” however, the large Stingrays (size #3) will dive at a two to one “line length/depth achieved” ratio, the mid-mini (size #2) is three to one and figure four to one when using the mini-mini, size-one Stingray. It’s a starting point.

Stingrays are widely available in tackle shops, at on-line retailers or at



Reviewed by Capt. Mike Schoonveld

Braided fishing line has been around since I started fishing a million years ago. Back then it was high-tech stuff made of miracle fibers called nylon or Dacron. Monofilament was soon developed that made these early braided lines nearly obsolete – Dacron and nylon braids are used these days mostly by guys who don’t have cell phones or email addresses.

In the 1990s new fibers were invented to weave into fishing lines. These were quickly adopted by geeky guys who believed the Internet was something likely to catch on eventually. These lines, made from fibers with bunches of X, Ys and Zs in their chemical names, were dubbed “super-lines.”

I guess I was one of those geeky guys since the two major attributes touted by makers of super-fiber lines appealed to me – they were (and still are) nearly zero stretch and crazy-thin for their strength. I could see advantages to both details. At the time, the only zero-stretch, relatively skinny line available was stranded steel wire.

The first generation super-strands left much to be desired at best and some were absolute junk. But they took hold and we are now in the fourth, fifth – perhaps 10th generation. Now, these lines are simply called generically, braided line. Few brands are perfect though most are pretty darned good, these days.

There’s a place for braided line on my boat from early spring to the last trip of the season. Depending on the when, where and how I’m trolling, a few, to as many as every reel I’m employing are spooled with braid. Last fishing season I spooled two of my downrigger reels with Sufix 832 Advanced Superline. It proved to be as close to perfection as I’ve ever used.

I spooled up with 20 pound test, in the Coastal Camo color. I like hi-vis lines and the bright-light blue Coastal Camo is easy to see and looks cool! It’s thin and smooth. I don’t know if it’s the thinnest or smoothest but it’s seems as slick or slicker than others I’ve used and performs “thinner” than other extremely skinning, but somewhat textured braids.

I downrig with braid anytime I’m sending the lures deeper than about 40 feet to reduce blowback and to facilitate tripping the release when or if needed. With little blowback and no stretch in the line, popping the line free from the release is easy when my ‘riggers are set even deeper than 100 feet. Explain how to do that with mono.

Catch a fish that deep on traditional mono and all the angler feels is a weight on the line. With braid, it’s more fun. Every fin-wiggle, head-shake and tail-pump transmits up the line, whether the fish is a small fry or the biggest catch of the day.

I’ve had plenty of hi-vis braids that worked well, but after a few trips, their bright color fades like new blue jeans in a hot washer. After a couple of months, the Coastal Blue is still as vibrant as when I wound it onto the reels.

I’ve used braids that were equally smooth, but the smooth seemed to be at the expense of abrasion resistance. On those, scuffs and easily-apparent fibers coming loose where I attached the line to releases, rubber bands or planer boards made me suspect of the strength of the abraded spots. I’ve not seen that with the Sufix line.

We had a typically bad dose of fish-hook fleas where I fished last summer. Normally, FHFs and braid are a terrible combination. The fleas easily hook the thin line. “S832AS” wasn’t immune, but with light or medium infestations it was slick enough to allow the line to be reeled in without clogging the rod tip. Being smooth and thin made manually removing the flea-snot clumps easier than on braids with thicker and rougher weaves.

When you are respooling for the 2019 season, grab a spool or two of Sufix 832. You’ll like it!




Reviewed by Capt. Mike Schoonveld

The Brella (a take off on “umbrella”) is perhaps the ultimate rain poncho. I’ll be the first to admit most rain ponchos are far from acceptable for fishing or most any other outdoor activities on a rainy day. The old, military style ponchos were big and bulky. When I was in the Boy Scouts I weathered (more or less) downpours in those Army surplus “shelter-halves” more than once. They were better than nothing.

I’m not so sure those thin plastic, “emergency” ponchos which fold into pack about the size of my smart phone are better than nothing. Most aren’t even as thick as a garbage bag. In fact, I’d rather fashion an emergency rain suit from a garbage bag as rely on one of those pocket ponchos.

The Brella is neither and it does fill a niche. If you are in a rain storm, suit up. Nothing is going to weatherproof you better than a quality pair of waterproof bibs and parka. However, if you are in a boat on a choppy day and a bit of spray is coming over the side the Brella may be perfect. I goes on easily and fits over anything. If you just need to run from the parking lot to the store on a rainy day or face any other situation involving a brief exposure to a shower or spray and you don’t want to slice up a perfectly good trash bag, give a Brella consideration.

It’s made of a fully waterproof, layered, breathable material like most high-end rain suits. It features a two-position hood either to maximize protection or to give adequate rain protection without hindering peripheral vision.

Stream fishermen wearing waders may find the Brella nearly tailor made for them on a rainy day. It absolutely won’t bind at the arms and it’s large enough to use over waders or a small backpack. The snaps along the bottom keep it from flapping loose in a breeze regardless of what’s being worn under it.

This is another  test product I regret showing my wife. She quickly absconded with the sample Brella provided for me and now I have to get another one for myself. Available at www.




Reviewed by Capt. Mike Schoonveld

I can’t remember the last time I was on a boat that didn’t have a plastic, five-gallon bucket on board. There are two buckets on my boat every trip, each one serving as a multi-tasker used as a trash container, fish bucket, minnow bucket, wash bucket, clothing container, seat, sea anchor and no doubt they’ve served other uses in the past.

Neither of my buckets are particularly old since mine, like the ones on your boat, were originally designed to be disposable containers, delivering paint, pickles, driveway sealer or a thousand other consumer products, five gallons at a time. They did their job admirably for the initial user and serve me on my boat for a time until they split down the side, the bottom cracks, the wire bale breaks off or something else happens to render them one more disposable plastic item heading to the recycler or a landfill.

Though they do the job for which they are made very well, they are less than perfect for all the jobs Great Lakes fishermen put them to on their boats. The wire handles never break loose at a good time. Side or bottom cracks are usually found in on-the-job situations. How many fingernails have you broken trying to lift a bucket by the ridges on the outside of the container or when tipping the bucket to pour out the contents and attempting a finger-hold on the tiny flange around the bucket’s bottom?

The guys at Huck Performance Buckets recognized both the handy aspect of a good five-gallon bucket and its shortcomings. They’ve created the ultimate five gallon bucket. It’s thicker, stronger, with Vibrum rubber finger grips on the side, rubber feet on the bottom and   bale-type handles that won’t break when you put five gallons of anything on the inside. They come in a variety of colors and can be customized with the name of your boat or any other logo (such as Great Lakes Angler, shown here). Check them out at www.