Supply chain issues delayed the debut of  Frabill’s new Vypr Tip Up enough that sales lagged during the “stock up” time of year for many ice fishing fans last year. Then, once they did hit the stores, buyers snapped them up so supplies were still short in many places.  Not so, for this season.

I had the chance to get one of these on the ice late in the year.  The Frabill Vypr is packed with features. The one I liked the best was it did not let the hole freeze over, partially because of the lid that closes over the hole, but also because the battery operated aerator kept the hole clear of ice. I had a problem with the vinyl hose trying to coil up so I added a bubbler stone from the aquarium section to the end of the tube. The weight of the stone helped to ensure that the tube stayed in the water.

Another nice feature was having a straight-line spool with a variable tension nut. With that feature I was able to use light tension on the spool to better detect a bite from the smaller lake trout where it was tested. When using larger bait for northerns, just increase the tension on the spool so that larger, livelier baits don’t trip the strike indicator flag. It was also nice to have the clear window on the tip up so the person responding to the flag could see if the spool was still running when they first arrived.

Although I did not use them at night, the light that activates when the flag goes up would be very nice when sitting in your warm a shelter at night watching for a bite outside. Available at retailers across the ice belt, at many online sellers including Amazon or direct from www.frabill.com.



In the rotomolded cooler industry, Grizzly is one of the big dogs.  Why not? Made in America, grizzly bear tough, Grizzly Coolers are the choice of many charter captains and hunting outfitters. So when Grizzly introduced their Drifter Carryall Bag, I expected big things from it. “Big” is one of the operative words, as well. With inside dimensions of 18 X 14 X 8 inches it will hold over eight gallons of stuff. 

When I say stuff it’s because the bag isn’t designed just to be a soft-sided cooler – though it does that exceptionally well. As a cooler, it’s well insulated, so pack in a bunch of  sandwiches, several cold drinks and add a couple of freezer packs. There’s room for lunch for the whole crew.

It has a thermoplastic, waterproof liner. That means it will keep any condensation or melting ice cubes from leaking out; and of course, it will keep water from the outside from going the other way. So use the bag for a dry bag on your boat to keep spray or rain from getting to spare clothes or other items that should be kept dry.

Traveling anglers will like it as well. I’ve used mine as a traveling cooler. I put it in my luggage where folds to the size of a hoody or pair of jeans, then use it as a cooler on day trips or to bring fish fillets home if the trip was successful. Jet-set anglers will appreciate that though it’s ample in size, it meets the carry-on luggage size requirements and will fit in overhead compartments on airplanes.

Available in pale orange, dark tan and teal blue, look for them at select retailers or online at http://www.grizzlycoolers.com



Using “wire line” to make Dipsey Divers go deeper than they would go using monofilament or braid has been a popular tactic for decades. Deeper is better when summer thermoclines pushed salmon and trout to depths reserved for downrigger fishing. Wire line also helps when deploying a pair of divers on each side of the boat, relying on the diver’s belly weight to dipsey them apart. The wire gives the divers a totally different dive curve than when using either mono or braid and that helps keep separation on the high diver and low diver.

Braid comes close to putting divers as deep down as wire, but anglers soon learned that wire often outfished braid in head-to-head competition. The only conclusion is the wire creates some sort of vibration as it cuts through the water that fish find attractive.

Thirty pound test, seven-strand wire is made by several different companies, and for years was the wire most anglers used. Many still do. It certainly works, but there were some drawbacks to it.

Primarily, it kinked easily and once kinked, no longer tested 30 pounds. And, it was abrasive to conventional rod guides so it required using rods with roller guides instead of rings. Those rods aren’t cheap. 

Torpedo Fishing Products got it’s start making Torpedo Divers – a tool designed to take lures deep instead of, or as an addition to, downriggers or diving planers and it was soon learned that pairing the Torpedo Divers with wire, instead of monofilament or braid, provides the same fish catching advantage as it did with conventional divers.

Was there an alternative, more user friendly wire line? The Torpedo Diver folks asked and answered this question by introducing a stranded wire line with a similar diameter built using 19 strands of micro-stainless steel wire instead of just seven, larger diameter wires. The result was mini-cable much smoother to the feel and more supple. That makes it easier to use and less prone to kinking. It also cuts through the water with less drag. Nineteen-strand is stronger to begin with, stated to be 40-pound test when new, 35-pound test when kinked and 30-pound test when tied in a knot.

Why tie it in a knot? Knotting it to the diver or the snap that will clip onto the diver is quicker, simpler and easier than crimping on sleeves to form a loop at the terminal end. That’s what I do – snipping off the knot and retying every few trips.

Most anglers still use their roller-guide rods when they switch to 19-strand wire. I don’t blame them, those roller guide rods are expensive. However, I know many anglers who use their 19 strand wire on moderately priced rods with Fuji SIC or other extra hard line guides. Weekend fishermen report getting several years out of a rod before they notice the line cutting grooves in these extra tough line guides. Even frequent fishers usually get a season or more, then they either buy new rods or just replace the worn guides with new ones. 

If this all sounds good to you, let me mention one more selling point. I know dozens of anglers, from weekend fishermen to full time charter captains who switched from seven-strand wire to 19-strand on a trial basis. I don’t know any of these guys who ever switched back.

Nineteen-strand wire is available at many trolling oriented tackle shops, online at Amazon or order directly from Torpedo Fishing Products at http://www.torpedodivers.com



When Rapala invented the Shad Rap in 1982 it became an instant hit with walleye fishermen. Since then, millions of walleyes have started their journey from water to frying pan thanks to those lures. The surprising thing is the color selections available on those original lures was rather plain, by today’s standards.  I could choose between silver-gray, chartreuse yellow, sky blue or dark gold. (I liked chartreuse the best for walleyes.) 

Additional colors showed up over the years – many of them designed strictly for bass or other species.  Last year, the Rapala Shad Rap lure painters introduced a half-dozen new walleye-oriented patterns.  All of them are winners. Especially on the Great Lakes, I expect more and more walleye guys to be reporting their Shad Raps in Jucy Lucy or Pink Squirrel did the job for them.

Other color names are Black Wonderbread, Headspin, Moldy Fruit and Voodoo Haze. I’ve used them enough (successfully) to be able to picture those color patterns just from their name. If you can’t picture Jucy Lucy, go to http://www.rapala.com to check out (or puchase) what she looks like as well as the other new Shad Rap colors that look good to you.  Tip: Don’t think these are only for walleye, I’m sure plenty of bass, trout, salmon and other species will find these paint-jobs good enough to eat. 



There are certainly some advantages for fishing with SpiderWire (or other braided lines) and there are certainly some advantages to having your lure or bait tied to fluorocarbon line. Each of those types of lines come with disadvantages, as well. To get the best of both, anglers across the country spool up with braid, but they tie on a fluorocarbon leader to put three or four feet of nearly invisible line between the end of the braid and the hooks they want the fish to bite down on. 

That’s what I often do and and now SpiderWire and Berkley (both owned by Pure Fishing) makes that easier than ever. To make things easier for braid/fluoro users, SpiderWire now offers a dual spool option in one package. A reel-filler spool of SpiderWire Stealth in either 8, 10, 15 or 20-pound break strength comes with an attached smaller spool of suitably strong fluorocarbon inside the back of the braided line’s spool. Choose either hi-vis yellow or moss green for the SpiderWire Stealth.  Both SpiderWire Stealth and Trilene Fluorocarbon are personal favorites of mine that I have plenty of experience using.            

Check out the braid/fluorocarbon options http://www.purefishing.com. All of these products are available at many retail and online outlets. 


Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD           

The emcee at the gathering read off the numbers on the winning raffle ticket, “801, 776,” then he scanned the room for a hand to go up. My wife, sitting next to me, raised hers.

I’d bought her a string of tickets for the fund raising raffle part of the evening. “What did I win?” she asked.  “A St. Croix fishing rod,” I said. “Those are really good rods, great rods. Way to go!” She liked winning, I like the idea of adding a new fishing rod to “my” assortment. Peggy took personal liking to it and continues calling it “her” rod.

Regardless of who owns it and despite this 7′ 2″ rod (Model BAC72MHM) being specifically built and labeled as a bassin’ stick, the first fish hoisted to the surface with it, was a walleye Peggy cranked to the surface on a trip to the St. Clair River last spring. The fish didn’t know the difference and my wife didn’t care. She out fished me with the Bass X both in numbers and with the big fish of the day. Was it luck or her new rod?

After a couple of fish, I borrowed the rig from Peggy – just for a few minutes – to see how it felt. This is a rod crafted with St. Croix’s most durable carbon fiber called SCII but it doesn’t lose any of the sensitivity St. Croix’s rods are noted for having. With no-stretch braid between the rod tip and hooks, I could feel the blades on the crawler harness thumping in the current.

Often, sensitive means brittle. Not with this rod. Good thing! I don’t baby my gear – I fish with it and I’m not a finesse angler. When I secreted Peggy’s rod over to Lake Erie a few weeks later to fish for smallmouth, I stuck it to the bass with Peggy’s rod like a pro angler making a YouTube vid. The rod turned the bass I hooked when I set the hook, got them coming and kept them coming all the way to the boat. What more can you want?  See all the Bass X rods at http://www.stcroixrods.com.

St. Croix rods are available at dealers listed on their website or just buy some raffle tickets. You could be a winner!



        My wife won a new fishing rod in a raffle at an event we were attending. Now I needed a new reel to complete the combo so I called one of my contacts at Abu Garcia, told him about my wife’s new rod and asked for his advice on what sort of baitcaster to pair it with. “We’ve got a Jordan Lee Low Profile Reel that would go great with that rod. It’s stylish, loaded with features, light weight and comes at a great price point,” he said.  (For you non-bass guys, Jordan Lee won the Bassmasters Classic two years in a row a few years back and he’s still one of the top pros on the circuit.)  

            I looked it up at http://www.abugarcia.com and agreed. Look up the features for yourself – impressive.  More important, my wife loved it.

            The bright yellow grips are more than just flash, they are molded from a soft-touch, easy to grip material. It’s light weight, combining a graphite frame with an aluminum spool. She could handle the rod and reel quite easily and so could I.

            Though it is my wife’s rod and reel when she fishes with me, I’ve snuck it along on several trips and used it myself. One thing I noticed immediately was how smooth it was when reeling, when dropping a jig into the river or casting it. Everything inside that moves is ball or roller bearings. No bushings. It comes with a choice of either 6.4:1 or 7.1:1 gear ratios; I chose the higher speed, 7.1 to 1 retrieve.  One of the downsides to most of these smaller reels, specifically designed to be used with braided line, is their smaller spools need a fast retrieve to put much line back on the reel with each turn of the crank. The high speed ratio pulled lures or the fish in without any undo speed-cranking needed. 

Available at many online sources as well as too many retail outlets to list.