Step into my kitchen and look on the top of the refrigerator. What is that contraption?  I had three fishing friends over recently and covering the Warthog Knife Sharpener sticker, I gave them the test. Two of them failed completely. One of them guessed, “Some sort of knife sharpener.”  For one, it was in the kitchen and also, he recognized surface of the sharpening rods as diamond encrusted hones. I knew what it was since I ordered it but it does look to be something of a rather Rube Goldberg mechanism with all the springs, levers and knobs on the tool.

 Does it have to be that complex? After all, experts can sharpen a knife with only a flat whetstone. It can’t get any simpler than that.

 I’m no expert, however, and I’ve tried any number of simple (and not so simple), stone, ceramic, carbide and diamond grit sharpeners. Most of them were manually operated tools but I’ve tried a couple of electric models. My results using these gizmos has been all over the place. A couple basically ruined the blade being sharpened. Most did a fair job, but none, even the most complex gadgets returned the blade to “as good as new” condition.

 Sharpening should be a simple process. Anything that will uniformly remove tiny chips or flakes of steel from the cutting edge of a knife will sharpen it. Various abrasives will do that, diamonds do it best – better than hardened steel files, stone, tungsten carbide or ceramic. Rub the abrasive material and the knife blade against each other at an angle to produce a sharp edge.

There are variables to this simple job. One is the grit-size of the abrasive. Another is amount of force applied during the sharpening process and the last is the angle the blade tapers to the edge and how precise that angle is maintained for each abrasive stroke. 

 The Warthog Elite A4 comes with a 325 grit, diamond impregnated abrasive rods. (In grit parlance, that’s medium-fine.) Rods with finer or more coarse grit are available as options.

 The rods can be adjusted to hone an edge at 15, 20, 25 and 30 degree angles. Fifteen or twenty is good for fillet knives, 25 degrees is good for hunting knives and a 30 degree sharpening angles is about right for a machete.

 The unusual look for the Warthog comes from the knife blade guide and the springs and slides that control the amount of pressure that’s applied as the knife is stroked along the sharpening rods. Place the knife blade flat against the guide, then keeping it flat to the guide, slice downward with a forward and back strokes the length of the blade. The diamond rods will spread outward on the slides as the downward cutting motion is made so the entire length of the sharpening rod is used. The mechanism is spring loaded with the springs chosen to apply the perfect amount of pressure between the blade and sharpening rods.

 A knife doesn’t need frequent sharpenings if a sharpening steel is used frequently. The steel on the reverse side of the A4’s abrasive rods are not encrusted with diamond grit. So just turn the rods around in the mechanism and the A4 becomes a sharpening steel. After every few fish give the knife three or four strokes through the Warthog and the razor edge will be steeled-straight to keep that perfect edge.

 I chose the Elite A4 because I liked the finished wooden base. The mechanics of the V-Sharp A4 Knife Sharpener is identical but without the wooden base. Check them out at www.warthogusa.com.



Bandits weren’t the original deep-diving stick bait designed to catch walleyes in Lake Erie or other places, but over time, they’ve risen to be the top pick for many anglers. Plenty of other brands are available and no doubt, they work, but time and again, Bandits seem to sniff out and hook into more fish on a consistent basis.

One thing deep-diving stick bait users found however is they often lose their allure when fishing tight areas when trolling requires making more than just moderate turns. Anglers noted when turning the fish would hit on the planer board lines pulling Bandits even though these lures were speeding up. The ones on the inside died.

Precision Trolling Data research shows lures don’t dive deeper as speed increases, but a buoyant lure, slowing to almost zero on a can float higher in the water column. Walleyes will often nab every Bandit or other lure it spots at, say, 22 feet deep regardless of how fast it’s going. The same lure at 14 or 15 feet will be ignored.

So the Bandit “boys” engineered their “new for ‘22″ Suspending Bandit to have neutral buoyancy, without losing any of the Bandit, fish catching action. The decrease in buoyancy makes them run about 10 percent deeper than the original Bandits. Adjust your leads accordingly to hit that perfect depth. But don’t worry about spinning around to head back through an active school. These Suspending Bandits won’t float towards the surface as they slow to near zero on the inside of a tight turn. Instead, they hover in the strike zone and those using these last summer report strikes coming just a few seconds after their speed increases and the lure’s action starts to speed back to normal. 

Suspending Bandits were originally introduced in a dozen of the most popular Bandit colors. New for this season are some all new colors in the Suspending Minnow and I was able to pick up some of these in time for an early November trip to Huron, Ohio. On this trip, one of my new colors – Blue Back Black Stripe – was the stud muffin for the trip.  Another Suspending Minnow in the venerable “2052” pattern was also a solid producer.

When restocking your tackle box for the ’23 season, pick-up some Suspending Minnows and check out the new colors at: https://www.lurenet.com/brands/bandit.



Combo case! A case is something you can slide a single rod into. I have a case I keep my sunglasses in when I’m not wearing them. This should be called a trunk! It will hold 14 ice fishing rod and reel combos. More if you don’t mind doubling up some of the slots, packing them in around the edges or storing the rods and reels separately. Along with the rods, there’s plenty of room for other needed ice paraphernalia, either in the half-dozen 3600 StowAway boxes that come with the Ice Hunter or in separate containers. I’m sure my friend Doug who “sampled” the Combo Case for me will just keep stuffing in stuff until it takes two guys to lift it.

 Full disclosure, most of the products I review in this column are ones I’ve personally used, abused and evaluated from a fisherman’s point of view. When I saw the Ice Hunter Combo Case at the ICAST show last summer I realized this would be a tough one, for me. For one, though I do own several ice fishing rod and reel combos, I don’t own 14 of them. I live on the extreme southern edge of the “ice belt” and when I feel the need to angle on a frozen lake, I head north and fish with someone like my friend Doug who probably owns 50 ice-rod combos. So I made arrangements for one of the Ice Hunter “trunks” to show up at Doug’s house.

 Here’s his impression. “It’s great! I don’t have any other storage container that will hold this many rods, period  – and it still has enough room for lots of other gear. It fits nicely on the quad I often use on day trips. I can safely cart enough gear for the whole day inside the box on the luggage carrier and tow my auger, portable shelter, tip-ups and other gear in a sled pulled behind. I can tell by the thickness of the material, it’s made of tough plastic. It doesn’t feel flimsy at all and the hinges, the four lock-shut tabs and handle are heavy and large enough to use, even while wearing gloves.”   

 Plano adds, the lid closes shut to create a watertight seal, all of the plastic used in the construction is cold-proof and won’t shatter in sub-zero conditions. The closed cell foam that secures the rods won’t absorb water and freeze solid. It also has external features molded in, like slots for tie down straps and padlock eyelets.  

 I won’t say this is a product every ice angler needs, but it’s certainly something many hardcore ice guys will put to good use.  Available where ever Plano products are sold as well as Amazon.com and other online sources.  



The “reborn” versions of Quick Silver spoons from Williams, particularly the new colors and kits, are sure to be a hit for salmon anglers in the larger, 4-inch version and for both trout, walleye anglers in the 3-inch models. I call it reborn because it disappeared from the Williams line-up for several years. Quick Silver owners continued to use them but as the supplies dwindled,  increasing consumer demand prompted the company to start producing them again and adding a bevy of new colors and color schemes to the 2023 versions.

One of the selling points for all of Williams spoons is the tradition of plating the blades with real silver or gold and then applying the paint and/or tapes to suit the whims of the fish and fishermen. The one’s I got and tested at the end of the 2022 season were handsome and well made with solid hardware capable, I’m sure, of handling the biggest fish in the lakes. That hasn’t changed since anglers using the original Quick Silvers won the Lake Ontario Chinook Classic in four consecutive years a while back.

The original Quick Silvers were most popular at Lake Ontario, since that’s where most of the retailers who sold Williams spoons were located. Williams is a Canadian company so buying direct from them online is problematic. They do have retailers in the US that handle Quicksilvers and other models of Williams spoons such as the Williams Wablers. Check out WWW.WILLIAMS.CA to see all the Quick Silver color patterns and a list of US sellers which includes Bass Pro/Cabelas, Dicks and others. 



I was dumbfounded when read the news release about Mustad’s new treble hooks. Sure, Mustad makes some of the highest quality hooks available. I’ve probably caught hundreds or thousands of fish on Mustad hooks, including their trebles and with a failure rate so low, it ranks with being struck by lightning. The new trebles, according to the  release, were better because they are the first treble hooks ever to be machine welded.

 If you’ve never given much thought to how a treble hook is constructed, realize it starts with two pieces of hook-wire. The longer piece is bent to form a double hook with a line-tie eyelet at the top. The shorter length of wire is bent into a single hook with no eye. Then the single hook is welded, brazed or soldered to the double hook to make a treble hook.

 I’m sure there are numerous other steps, making the point and barb, tempering the wire and sharpening. Let’s dwell on the machine weld.

 Think of all the millions of treble hooks ever made or even just made each year. Who knew each one of them was welded together by hand? There’s a job I’d never like. I don’t know if the hook welders are paid by the hour, if it’s piece-work, no matter – it would be a tedious job that I imagined had long ago been handed over to a robot.

 In most industries, from building bicycles to tanks, most of the welding is not done by a human, other than a human turns on the machine and monitors the work. It’s quicker, cheaper and most of all ensures the products are stronger since there’s no chance for human error with the weld.

 Like I said, however, I’ve never had a treble hook become “unwelded” but according to Victor Cook, one of the Directors at Mustad, the machine welding isn’t as so much to make the JAW LOK stronger as much as to ensure consistency from hook to hook to hook. Each weighs exactly the same, each weld looks like the previous weld and the next one will also be perfect. Each line-tie eyelet is perfectly aligned; each hook is angled a perfect 120 degrees from the others. JAW LOKS come in either 3X or 4X strengths with no appreciable increase in weight.

 This is most important for crankbait users fishing for salmon and steelhead. The weight and size of the hooks on a crankbait are a part of the lure’s balance and when it comes to balance, a slight weight difference in the hooks can be a fish-catching difference. Ever wonder why anglers can end up with a few battle-scarred plugs that reliably out produce others which are the exact same model, size and color? It could be the balance and a simple hook switch might tip the scales. Add to this the JAW LOKs have a Titan Steel black coating to provide much more corrosion resistance than the black nickel coating typically used on other brands. For now, Mustad JAW LOKs have to be ranked with the absolute best treble hooks on the market, winning awards at the ICAST show last summer and the European EFTTEX Digital Showcase last November. If you demand the best, you need not look any further. JAW LOKS are widely available, check them out at www.mustad-fishing.com



When I reviewed a set of Frogg Toggs Pilot II rainwear a couple years ago I wrote, “Frogg Toggs has to be the best name for rain wear ever,” and it still is. That set of rain gear has kept my butt dry ever since I got them and they are still my favorite for late spring through summer use. But they are relatively light weight and though they keep the rain out, they don’t add much to my comfort in chilly weather. 

So when Frogg Toggs came out with their FTX Armor line last year, I was all in. Unfortunately, this product was one of the victims of the “supply chain” issues that plagued almost every industry so I wasn’t able to actually slide into my FTX Armor bibs and jacket until late summer. 

This is not a “summer-weight” product.  It’s designed to be a cool weather/cold weather suit. A fishing trip to the Pacific Northwest in late August gave me the perfect chance to slide into them and give them a solid workout. While the August temps here in the Great Lakes area were solidly in the upper 80s, coastal Oregon temps were 50s in the morning and 60s during the day. The ocean temperature was mid-50s so cool breezes while we were out fishing was the norm.

The FTX set is made with three layers. The outer layer is a tough, durable, breathable, tight-weave fabric. The inside layer is slick, thin, tricot/taffeta material that facilitates sliding the gear on and off. In between is Frogg Toggs’ DriPore Gen 2 fabric with a 15K waterproof rating and 10K breathability index.  I wore the FTX, dock to dock each day I was in Oregon and stayed warm and dry all day and never felt hot and clammy.

I ordered The FTX gear large enough to couple both the jacket and bibs with a set of Frogg Toggs’ Grand Refuge Primaloft Jacket and Bibs. These can be worn as outer wear, but are designed to change both the Pilot II and the FTX jackets and bibs into three-season garb by adding an 80-gram layer of insulation. This makes them suitable for use on the ice; or for me, when I’m after those early March cohos and brown trout as soon as the ice leaves Lake Michigan. 

Features like zippered handwarmer pockets, zippers with a hook and loop storm flap and D-rings for attaching accessories make it user friendly. I especially liked the neoprene cuffs at the wrists of the jacket which comfortably seals the sleeves from rain or splashes on the boat. I can slide into the bibs without taking off my shoes or boots, thanks to the three-quarter length leg-zipper along with the slick finish inner layer.

They are available in three solid colors – gray, black or medium blue – or in three camo-like patterns of blue, gray/black or gray/white. I chose the blue-camo (called Kryptic Neptune) FTX Armor. While nothing lasts forever, I expect these to be my rain gear of choice for a long time, especially since they come with a lifetime warranty.  The warranty does exclude damage from chainsaws, fillet knives, alligator bites and other outdoor dangers, but send them in for a replacement if the material or workmanship if it fails anytime in the future. 

Frogg Toggs FTX Armor products are available online at www.froggtoggs.com, at retail sources as well as numerous online outlets.



There’s one big difference between the Voyager Duffle Bag and a similarly sized “Dry Bag” from Gill. Both are cylindrical, but the duffle opens along the side of the cylinder while the dry bags open from the end.  Is this a big deal? It is if you want to be able to see what’s inside. It is if you want a dry bag that will lay flat on the deck with the opening up. It is when you are trying to stuff (or unstuff) a rain suit into the storage bag.

I have the 10 liter size which becomes a cylinder 15 inches long and about eight inches in diameter when filled with items I want to keep dry until it’s needed and the Velcro-like seal is closed and rolled three times to make it 100% waterproof. A pinch-open snap affixed to each end clips shut to prevent the top seal from unrolling. It’s the perfect size for a change of clothes, a rain suit or a fluffy hoody you might wear at dawn, then stow away as the day warms. 

I actually got mine to create a tool pouch to hold fillet knives, gloves, sharpeners and baggies. It would have worked great, but at about the same time the Voyager Duffle arrived so did my Frogg Toggs FTX rain jacket and bibs. It seemed to be made for them. The Voyager Duffles come in “Bluejay” (shown here), a chartreuse color called “Sulphur” and black. Check out or buy Voyager Duffles at www.gillfishing.com.  They are available in some retail outlets or at other online sources including Amazon.com




Last year I read about the importance of calibrating line-counter reels when trolling diving lures or Dipsy Divers here in Great Lakes Angler Magazine. I realized line-counter reels were not spot on, but I didn’t realize how important having the reels filled with just the right amount of line was and I didn’t understand how important spooling with a specific line is when using the Precision Trolling Data App to put my lures at the right level.

Previously, I’d always used some sort of Hi-Vis line on my trolling reels, then adding a fluorocarbon leader to keep the fish from spooking from the brightly colored line. I tried several colors of Hi-Vis and found the fluorescent orange to be more easily seen in a variety of conditions than most other bright colors like bright green or bright yellow.

I was at an impass then. The Precision Trolling Data charts were made using reels spooled with 10-pound Trilene XT. But Trilene XT isn’t available in a hi-vis color. Then I realized the key isn’t a specific brand of line that puts the “precision” in the Precision Trolling Data – it’s the diameter of the line. Trilene XT in 10 pound test is .014 inches in cross-sectional diameter.

 I checked what other brands were available in a Hi-Vis color with the same .014 diameter so I could use it with the depth charts. I found Sufix Siege comes in a bright orange Hi-Vis color, called “Tangerine” and it has many of the same properties that Trilene XT exhibits when it comes to abrasion resistance and others. The only difference is that Sufix Siege line is a bit thinner, so for calibration purposes, I had to use 12-pound test Siege which has a diameter of .014, the same as Trilene XT’s 10-pound diameter.

It works great, is easy to fish with makes trolling with multiple lines and keeping things straight and untangled so much easier. And with a four to six foot fluorocarbon leader between the Tangerine-colored line and lure, it catches just as many fish.



Do you have a “working” pen on your boat – or in your car? Working is the operative word. Most vehicles have a pen (or two or three of them) but are they working? I used to have three or four pens in both my truck and in my boat. Usually, a couple of them would work, a couple wouldn’t. Some days the blue-Bic would work just fine, the next it seemed the one I pilfered from a Ramada Inn was the only one that would write in the cold, or on the dawn-dampish paper – or just because some ink pens just seem to need a day off once in a while.

It was always a hassle to find the one which pen would work when I needed to jot down some important waypoint numbers from another captain when I’m on my boat or if I needed to jot down the starting mileage or make some other note in my truck.

So when I heard of the Space Pen by Fisher, I found the solution. Invented at the dawn of the Space Age, the Space Pen, in some form, has been on every manned NASA space mission since 1967. 

I don’t need a pen that will work in zero gravity on my boat or car, but I do need one that will reliably work in any of the conditions Mother Nature can dish out on the Great Lakes or on frosty mornings when heading to the lake. The Space Pen handles rain, cold, frost, high humidity and will write on almost any surface when I need to jot down a phone number or the numbers where the salmon are slashing through schools of alewife. 

The original Space Pen is the AG7 model and that’s the one I got for myself. Space Pen makes several other models, as well. All work on the same principle – having a pressurized ink cartridge that gives them the zero-G capability as well as powering them on a crispy morning on the road or on the water.

Space Pens are widely available at online and retail stores. See all the models (or buy them) at www.spacepen.com