danco2Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

There are thousands of exhibitors displaying hundreds of thousands of products at the ICAST show earning it the title of being the world’s greatest fishing trade show. Attendees are besieged by tackle companies from major manufacturers to small mom and pop entrepreneurs, vying for attention. I’ve learned to consult a map and plot a course through the displays taking note of the booths or displays I want to visit.

One of those was Danco Pliers. No other hand tool is more useful or used than a good pair of needle-nose pliers to Great Lakes anglers. From unhooking fish, to cutting line to pulling pin bones from filets and on to a dozen or more other tasks, some days it seems as though I spend half my time with a pair of pliers in my hand.

I was astonished when I got to the Danco display. I expected a minimal display (like most exhibitors have); after all, how much space does a pliers company need? I’ve probably never seen so many pliers in one spot including in tool stores. So I went from hoping to find a likely pair of pliers to choosing from among all the choices.

I chose a model called the Admiral, specifically the “lime” color – which to me looks more chartreuse than green – but I wanted the brightest color specifically so it’s easy to spot when I have it unhooked from the hard rubber belt holster. If it’s tangled in the landing net, I want to see it. If it’s sitting on the gunwale or some other insecure area, I want to spot it before it gets accidentally jettisoned. The lime color is actually a “rubberized” paint to maximize the grip and minimize the chance of it sliding around when placed on a smooth surface.

The Admiral has aluminum handles to make them lightweight but has stainless steel jaws for maximum gripping power. They also have tungsten-carbide snips located along one of the hinges which will cut line, copper and stainless steel wire. The snippers are replaceable if necessary. At 7 1/2 inches overall, these are a comfortable size for all around use.

Danco pliers are widely available online, but many online vendors don’t stock all colors and models. To check out or purchase any of the colors, other models or other fine Danco products go to http://www.dancopliers.com.


boot2Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

There are dozens of brands and styles of boots tailored to the needs of outdoorsmen and women. They come in two basic categories – pull on and lace up. From there a boot shopper can branch into into insulated or not, waterproof or not, various styles and degrees of traction built into the soles and other details; but still, the main branches are pull-ons or lace up.

I’m not quite sure about which category best fits boots, like the Ravine model from Irish Setter with the Boa Lacing System. My feet slide in and out of the pair I tried out for this review like they slide into and out of a pair of carpet slippers. That’s important to me since I’m a believer that outdoor comfort begins with a firm foundation. If my feet are warm, dry and comfy, I can deal with most situations from the ankle on up. If my feet are cold, sweaty, cramped or achy, there’s no way to keep the rest of my body comfortable.

So I drive to the lake wearing sneakers, then especially in March, April and May – still winter months on Lake Michigan – I dress in layers, top and bottom, to cope with frosty mornings which can become tee-shirt warm by midday. Layering on and off pants and bibs is best done with boots off.

Slip on boots work, but don’t provide the ankle support needed if you want your boots to double as hunting, hiking or work boots. Lace up boots do the job, but require lacing, threading, and knot-work each time they go on or off.

The Boa Lacing System replaces the boot laces with a coated, stainless steel cable and an easy to operate dial at the top of the boot. Slide foot in, turn the dial and the cable-laces draw tight. The laces will never untie or come loose but when it’s time to remove the boot, pull out on the dial and the wire “laces” spring free. The Boa System has been around for twenty years – mostly used on ski boots and medical bracing. It’s just now being put on other outdoor footwear.

The nine-inch high, Ravine model boots are waterproof but breathable and contain 400g PrimaLoft Gold insulation.  Important to me, they come in extra wide sizes as well as regular fit. Widely available at retailers as well as numerous online outlets. Check them out at http://www.irishsetterboots.com.



As fishermen and other outdoorsmen head out on the lakes, forests or fields they often leave behind some of their most valuable equipment. This includes their vehicle, gear in the truck, car or SUV; or perhaps the trailer that their boat rides on to and from the lake. Are they secure?

Fishermen are often in the position of leaving well stocked boats for a few minutes (or a few hours) in unsecured locations, whether that’s in the parking lot behind a McDonalds where it’s sitting for just a few minutes or overnight at a hotel on a long weekend.

Thieves know this and they know they can grab and go a valuable tackle box, pilfer the spare tire off an unattended trailer or unhitch the whole trailer and drive off with it, whether the boat is on the trailer or on the lake.

There are many products available to lock up easily accessible valuables. All of these work, but an outdoors man who has locks on his tire, trailer, spare tire, steering wheel, tackle box and all the other things has one other thing – a pocket full of keys.

A year or more ago I posted a review of a product called the Bolt Lock which solved one of these problems – a receiver hitch locking bolt which can be keyed to fit the same key that fits the door and ignition on the tow vehicle. Now the Bolt Lock people have expanded their line to include padlocks, ball hitch locks and others – the most versatile of which is their Cable Lock.

It’s a six-foot long, quarter-inch (vinyl coated) stainless cable with a loop on one end and a lock on the other. Loop it through or around anything you want to be where you put it when you leave and return. Then unlock it when you need to use it with the same key that fits the ignition of your vehicle.

The process is simple. Insert the ignition key from your tow vehicle into the lock, give the key a twist and the lock is instantly keyed to the pattern of your vehicle key. They are widely available. Details and a store-finder widget are available at http://www.boltlock.com or online at Amazon.com.




There are few items a Great Lakes angler can put on his or her boat which can be listed as an item of safety gear, a navigational aid, a fish-catching tool and a bit of gear which can just add enjoyment to every trip. A pair of binoculars can fill all of those niches.

I’ve used the a pair of Vortex 8X28 Diamondback Binoculars for all of the above. I’ve grabbed the binoculars to scan for vessels in trouble, hazards such as floating objects, to spot distant buoys or other navigational aides and to identify just what kind of bird is swimming nearby or circling around the boat. I’ve also handed the binocs to one of my fishing companions and told them to keep an eye on the boat nearby with the fish nearly ready to net and bring on board. “See if you can see what lure that fish just bit.”

Binoculars are available in many price points, from reasonably affordable to break-my-bank expensive. If I had an unlimited budget and unlimited space on my boat, I’d get a pair of those high-dollar, made for boating models like you see a battleship captains using in war movies. He’s got the space to stow them when not in use and a multi-billion dollar defense department budget to pay for them.

Realistically, the Vortex Diamondback binos I tested would serve the battleship captain for about 90 percent of his long-distant viewing needs and they served me on my boat even better. They are compact, rugged and weatherproof.

About the only specifications in the binocular industry which is standard from one manufacturer to the next is the X numbers they all carry, like 8X28, 10X50, 12X42 or others. It’s a simple code. The first number – is the magnification multiplier. An 8X28 is “eight-power,” so is an 8X32. A 12X42 is 12-power, or makes things look as if they are 12 times closer.

The number to the right of the X is the diameter of the front lenses on the binoculars. As a “general” rule, the larger the diameter, the brighter the picture you will see, just as more light will come through a picture window than port hole.

If all lenses were made identically, it wouldn’t be a rule of thumb, it would just be a rule. But each company coats their lenses with a layer or multiple layers of anti-reflective material to allow achieve better light transmission through the glass. The better and more meticulous the coatings are applied, the less light is lost to reflection. In most cases, a good pair of binocs with 28mm lens will be brighter than a so-so pair with 32 or even 42mm lenses.

If you need to zoom in on something wouldn’t it be better to have a 10 or 12 power, rather than a measly 8X pair of binos? On land, that’s a good theory. On a boat, if you are trying to spot a distant lighthouse or identify the lure being used in the next boat over, using high power optics can be frustrating. Being able to hold the binoculars steady enough to see details is more important than just increasing the magnification. Under identical conditions the picture you will see in an 8X binocular will be twice as steady compared to looking through a 10-power pair. In the same conditions using 12-power may be impossible.

That’s why the 8X28 Vortex Diamondback is a great choice. Compact, rugged, perfectly sized, they come with a lifetime warranty and you don’t need a Dept. of Defence budget to afford them. Check them out at http://www.vortexoptics.com. They are widely available online and in many retail outlets.




When I know I am going to be using the binoculars on my boat regularly, I want them handy but don’t want them hanging around my neck when I’m doing “fishy” things like setting lines or netting catches. My dashboard isn’t configured well for stashing gear I want to use frequently or quickly. Some of it is cluttered with electronics, compass and other essentials. Some parts are already cluttered and the parts which aren’t cluttered is probably because the clutter has fallen off. Bino Dock to the rescue!

Most boats have drink holders – either built in at the factory or added on in select locations. Once you learn how handy a pair of binos are, you won’t think twice about dedicating one of the drink holding “sockets” to a Bino Dock (or adding another in a strategic location) to store your binoculars when they aren’t in use and to keep them close at hand for when they are needed.

It’s a simple idea. A cup-shaped mount goes into the cup holder. Simple rubber rings (included) can be added to the mount to make it fit snuggly. The upper part which holds the binoculars adjusts several inches left or right to position them perfectly.

The Bino Dock fits the 8X28 Vortex Diamondbacks easily since they are compact. The manufacture says they will accommodate pairs with up to 56mm objective lenses and the rubber retainer strap adjusts to fit any length. At the end of the boating season, move the Bino Dock to your hunting truck or your ATV. The BDs are made from rugged plastic and will easily stand up to choppy waves on the lake or rough road (or no road) driving situations. They are available at some retail outlets, online at their website http://www.binogear.com and at Amazon.com.