Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD
The first three boats I used on Lake Michigan were aluminum. I loved them. Okay, perhaps I was merely infatuated with them because they were the platform I used to access what I believe to be the most exciting fishing in the country.
Then I bought a fiberglass boat. I loved it and still do. All the boats offered the same access to the fishing, but the glass boat offered me the opportunity to do it with a comfort I never imagined could be experienced in an easily trailerable boat capable of handling big water and sizeable waves.
Sure, the glass boat was slightly heavier, but the biggest difference wasn’t weight, it was the shape of the hull and how it was designed to cut through the waves, not bounce over them. In hull design parlance, it’s the VEE.
Most aluminum hulls are made with what boat builders call a modified or semi-vee hull. The forward portion of the hull is “V” shaped to knife through waves, but the vee flattens out appreciably or totally at the stern end of the boat. That’s a great compromise for boaters working inland lakes where shallow draft or stability while casting or jigging is more important than being able to ride comfortably and safely over ocean-like swells and wind-blown waves. The Kodiak is a total Vee hull with 20 degrees of deadrise from the pointy-end to the square end of the boat.
The result isn’t the luxury-car like ride expected in a similarly sized glass deep vee, but it is a noticeable departure from the slam-bam experience of heading offshore in one of the aluminum models starting with L, T, S or other manufacturers. I spent a day on with Lance Valentine on his Kodiak at Grand Traverse Bay and two days with him on Lake Erie. Fishing wise, the lakes couldn’t have been kinder. To test the advantage of the Vee hull we had to search out some wakes to bounce across.
A series of two-foot wakes pushed close together can be a tougher ride than slopping through threes or fours when heading to an offshore bite. We crossed some of those wakes faster than my glass boat will even go. Lance slowed a bit from the 50 miles per hour cruising speed, but mostly, he just trimmed the motor down enough to put more of the Vee into the water.
Sitting in the passenger seat next to the driver, I leaned forward and tensed up instinctively as the boat powered towards the wakes. Sure, the boat bounced and spray flew, but the sting and abuse I expected to my back and butt just didn’t happen.
Neither did the pounding and abuse I inflicted to the hulls on my previous aluminum boats and the eventual downfall of those aluminum models – leaky rivets. All three of my previous aluminum models sported leaks sooner than later. All aluminum manufacturers offer warranties on their materials and workmanship for some period of time, often six or ten years. The Kodiak comes with a lifetime warranty.
Valentine’s Kodiak was powered by a 200 hp Suzuki, but Polar Kraft isn’t aligned with any particular motor company. If you’d rather have a Merc, Yammy or other brand, no problem.
The boat had plenty of useful storage options for rods and gear; wide, sturdy gunwales to mount track systems or individual rod holders or other rigging and a choice of floor coverings, colors and other options to personalize the boat for you. If you are looking for a new boat and are leaning towards the advantages offered by aluminum, be sure to check out Polar Kraft’s Kodiak 200 Pro. See them online at http://www.polarkraft.com.
Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD
I’m lucky to live near the southern tip of Lake Michigan where the first open water boat fishing on any of the Great Lakes is available. Not only is our water soft on top by late February or early March most years, all the coho salmon stocked by Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan are here and the fishing is as hot as it gets. Too bad I can’t say that about the weather.
It’s a smaller boat fishery best suited to outboard powered, trailerable boats. No warm cabin to duck into. No escape from wind, errant snowflakes or frosty, sub-freezing mornings.
Proper layering with high tech winter garb is demanded. Top it all off with a sturdy, warm, weatherproof and waterproof outer layer and you’ll be just fine.
Actually, top off the bottom three-quarters of your body with a pair of Gill Winter Angler Bibs and you’ll be better than fine. Gill is a leader in the world of technical apparel designed specifically for mariners and anglers. Waterproof means waterproof all day, not just for a passing shower or a bit of spray from a bumpy boat ride. Tough, means fabric, zippers, seams and wear points that stand up to the everyday use professional anglers, charter boat skippers and fishing guides demand.
Warmth and comfort is top on my list of things to demand in my earliest season outer wear, but close behind is durability and ease of use. Nothing is going to last me a lifetime, the way I use and abuse it, but it sure better give me several seasons of use. These will.
And if I’m going to live in them a couple months each year, they better have a couple of handy features. Gill’s Winter Bibs do. They have a full-length zipper on each leg and it’s a big, easy-to-zip, easy-to-grip zipper. The bibs are easy on, easy off. The suspender straps are wide and durable. I’m sure they will still be strong and elastic, not stretched out or worse, for the life of the garment. Lastly, I’m a “pocket” guy, and the Winter Angler Bib’s zippered chest pocket is roomy, easy to use and holds much of my useful clutter where I can get to it when needed.
You’ll find these at many in store or online fishing gear retailers or check out all the Gill apparel and accessories at http://www.gillfishing.com
Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD
The letters above stand for Electronic Visual Distress Signaling Device which most of the people I know who use them call “electronic flares.” This is the time of year when all Great Lakes boaters should be checking their required visual distress equipment. Check it because they come with an expiration date and then check them closer since they could have deteriorated over the off season. I’ve had hand-held flares swell and split, even if they weren’t out of date. I’ve found some of those shotgun shell type “meteor” flares with corrosion on the brass part of the shell. In an emergency, do you want to base your chance of rescue on a shell that may or may not fire? Not me!
That’s why a few years ago I switched to an eVDSD to comply with U.S. Coast Guard and state regulations. Even though I switched years ago, I don’t have to check the expiration. I do swap out the batteries annually, even though the major battery makers now have cells which claim to have a shelf life of seven to ten years. I put in new batteries and use the oldy but goodies in flashlights or other battery operated items which aren’t potential life saving devices.
Three things make me a solid supporter of the eVDSDs. First, the super-bright LED light flashes S.O.S. for 60 hours or more with fresh batteries. How long will your required three meteors or hand-held flares last?
Second, they float. Think about the alternative.
Third, no expiration, so no worry when the DNR or Coast Guard pulls along side to check your safety gear. Widely available at chandleries, online retailers or direct from: www.siriussignal.com.
Reviewed by: CAPTAIN MIKE SCHOONVELD
Many Visual Distress Signaling Device kits come with a large orange distress flag in the kit for use in the day time. It’s often more apparent than signal lights, burning flares or meteor shells fired from a special gun – and the flag won’t burn out or splash down before someone has the chance to spot it.
What isn’t required or included is a flag pole from which to fly the flag! Most boats have something which could be put into use as a flag staff in an emergency but if there’s an emergency which requires hoisting a signal flag, I want to be able to give most of my attention to the problem, not to figuring out how to turn a radio antenna or a wire line rod into an emergency flag pole.
DIY people could easily build a flagpole in advance, but Tigress (the outrigger people) makes one constructed from polished aluminum, stainless steel and rugged plastic which won’t corrode or rust, even in saltwater. There’s not much to a flag staff – it’s a pole, it has convenient attachment loops to connect the distress flag (or a dive flag, American flag, a Green Bay Packers pennant….) and it has a plastic “gimbal butt” – a sort of handle on the bottom end which makes it fit snuggly in standard 1 5/8″ rod holders.
They come in two lengths – the one I have is the longer one (54 inches) but there’s a 42-incher suitable for boats with rocket launcher rod holders or a rod holder tree. Available at retail marine chandleries, big box outdoor stores or online at Amazon.com. Check out www.tigressoutriggers.com.
Reviewed by CAPTAIN MIKE SCHOONVELD
In a recent GLA issue in the Tackle and Toys column, I commented that Frogg Toggs was perhaps the greatest name for a set of rainwear ever imagined. Similarly, the Frogg Toggs moniker is equally clever for waders.
Name aside, the Frogg Toggs brand, Steel Header, Reinforced Nylon Insulated BTFT Waders, I gave a workout to in recent months kept me as comfy as a frog in a swamp whenever I wore them. For full season steelheaders – those addicts who chase summer Skamanias in July heat as well as January winter-run fish, these are ideal. Why? Because the waders come with a zip-in/zip-out quilted thinsulate liner.
That liner adds a welcome layer of warmth on those days when the water is ice cold and the air temperature even colder. When it’s not needed, zip it out and the waders transform into a light, tough, summer-weight wader.
Summer or winter, the fact the “frog” skin’s waterproof nylon fabric is also breathable allows perspiration to escape eliminating any condensation and dampness inside the waders. Clammy clothes are uncomfortable in warm weather and downright chilling in the cold.
Things I liked over and above most waders are four external pockets to hold my “stuff” while fishing. I don’t think the pockets are totally waterproof, so don’t put my cell phone in the ones with vertical zipper but those are perfect for handwarmers or for other items. There’s a second, larger zippered pocket with a horizontal opening. All of these zip openings are great to securely pocket occasional use items. For things like needle nose pliers or other tools, there’s an open-ended kangaroo pouch.
The heavy-gauge zippers on the zip-in liner were easy to manipulate and I liked the fact the zips are color coded. The orange zipper on the liner connects to the orange zip in the leg – green to green and black to black – all done.
There are other thoughtful touches, as well, such as D-rings on each suspender clasp to hold clippers or other tools, extra fabric on the knees to protect the wader fronts from while walking or wading and a sturdy external belt to keep the long legs of the waders from pulling the crotch down around my knees. Boot sizes run from seven to fourteen.
Available at many retailers, in store or online, Amazon or direct from: www.froggtoggs.com
Reviewed by: Captain Mike Schoonveld
Gloves are more than just a “handy” garment worn to keep fingers warm. Surgeons wear thin latex gloves to help keep their work area sterile. Dentists wear them to keep the nasty germs in their patients’ mouths away from their hands. I wear similar gloves when I’m changing the oil in my engines or greasing my trailer bearings to keep my hands (mostly) oil and grease free.
Cowboys wear leather gloves to protect their hands from cuts, lariat burns or to get a better grip when handling slippery fencing pliers. Welders and bakers wear heat resistant hand-wear. I’m sure you can figure other reasons to put on a pair of gloves.
For a walleye fisherman, that includes handling their fish. That’s how I learned to love Gorilla Grip Gloves.
Step one – As I strolled the aisles at the ICAST show in 2019, one of the booths – the Gorilla Grip Gloves booth – was handing out gloves like the Easter Bunny doles out colored eggs. They had 100 quart coolers full of them. Pick a size (Small to XL) and a Veil Camo color in black, yellow, blue or green. I chose a black XL.
Step two – Two weeks later I was on a remote river north of Lake Nipigon in Ontario anchored over a whirlpool at the downstream side of a rapids. The bottom of the river was coated with walleyes. Drop down a jig, crank up a walleye, repeat again and again and…. Actually, that first day I slowed down only because the sharp-edged gills and the abrasive scales on each fish threatened to turn my hands into raw meat.
Luckily, I’d tossed my Gorilla Grip ICAST freebies into my duffle. The next day I had them on my hands; I welcomed them on my hands – the guys fishing with me were jealous I had them on my hands.
The base fabric of the gloves is some sort of stretchy nylon, breathable and even if water gets on the non-waterproof part, it dries quickly. The gloves are very lightweight. Don’t buy them to keep your hands warm in cold weather.
The waterproof palm is, well, waterproof, so when I grabbed a flopping walleye my hand didn’t get wet. The waterproof palm also protected against the sharp gills, the needle tipped spines on the fins and the dagger-like walleye teeth. The waterproofing is textured just enough so, even when wet, it’s not like trying to hold something, wet and slimy, as it would have been with a slick-finished rubberized-palm glove.
To see these gloves check out www.gorillagripgloves.com. And check out the Gorilla Grip Cut-Resistant Fish Cleaning gloves – I love the OSHA A5 Rated cut resistant pair I picked up later They are available online at Amazon.com or in big box stores like WalMart, Home Depot and others.