There’s no need to hype the quality of Gamakatsu hooks. They were one of the first hook makers to spend as much effort producing quality as quantity. Plenty of tournament pros switch every lure they own to these Asian-made hooks. All of them come ultra-sharp and with exquisite quality control ensuring whether the fish on the end of the line is a sunfish or a sailfish, the hook won’t fail.

            So when you get a Magic Eye Treble from Gamakatsu, the quality isn’t the magic, it’s the ability to slide the hook onto a split ring without shredding a thumbnail or digging out the split ring pliers. When the hook is being made the eye of the hook is formed or flattened a bit – just enough at the top – so when it’s pressed against a split ring the hook’s eye, instead of your thumbnail or the beak on the split ring pliers, the flat part of the eye is what spreads open the ring allowing the hook to be threaded securely.

            Using a Gamakatsu hook is a big deal to fishermen who recognize quality and want to use the best. Using a Magic Eye hook isn’t a real big deal, but on the other hand, why not? It doesn’t have to be tricky to be effective – and who doesn’t like a little magic?  Widely available or buy them online at Available in various styles, strengths, sizes and colors.




        Thousands of walleye guys (and plenty of bass guys, “salmoniacs” and other fish chasers) rely on Challenger Minnows available in nine sizes and in both jointed, straight and deep diver configurations as well as in dozens of colors. Between the sizes, models and colors, choosing which one to buy or tie on is a “Challenger-ing” task. 

            If you want my advice, try the newest color pattern recently added to their standard line-up called the Four Bagger. Why it’s got that name, I don’t know, other than it’s been a home run for me both in the three-inch version run behind a shallow set Dipsey Diver for early season cohos on Lake Michigan as well as the 4 1/2″ shallow diver on downriggers and 4 1/2″ Deep Minnow for Lake Erie walleyes. 

            Challenger Minnows (and other products) are available at many retail outlets or see and choose from all the sizes, colors and models at www. 




The last seconds of the battle between angler and fish for any large enough to need to be hauled out of the water with a landing (boating?) net is often the trickiest. It’s tricky when it’s done as a team effort, one person maneuvering the fish, the other wielding the net. Trying to do it solo is usually a dozen times harder.

There are a dozen reasons why this is so and among them is the fact almost all nets come with a hoop and a single handle. Manipulating the hoop with the handle when using two hands is fairly easy, but doing it one handed (while the other hand is holding the rod and the fish stubbornly refusing to play nice) a totally different.

Want to complicate it even more, try it in a kayak, canoe or small, tippy boat. No net design is going to take all the drama and challenge of solo netting out of the activity, but Frabill’s new Bear Claw Net simplifies it to a large degree.

Start off with a double-shafted handle which locks only the netter’s forearm. Now, instead of the net having to be swished one way or the other and then lifted primarily using the muscles in the netter’s wrist, both shoulder muscles and elbow muscles are doing the work. All the wrist and hand has to do is hang-on.

Once the fish is scooped it drops into a basket made from Frabill’s unique conservation netting which has a tight weave and a special coating to reduce damage to a fish’s scales and slime while being somewhat resistant to tangling with treble hooks.

Especially on kayaks, canoes and even in small boats, stow-ability is almost as important as easy of use. The double wide handle is hinged to close so the total package isn’t much larger than the 18-inch diameter of the hoop. This rugged net is available online at and other online sources as well as retail shops.




Bubba Blade filet knives have become the choice of fish-cutter-uppers across the country since they were introduced about a decade ago. Since then ol’ Bubba has continued to innovate by offering a variety of styles and lengths – many of which have become winners at ICAST and other trade shows as well as in the fish cleaning kits of avid anglers.

One of this year’s entries is called properly, the Multi-Flex Interchangeable Set. One of the trademarks of Bubba Blades is the bright red, non-slip, easy grip handle. This set comes with one handle along with four different blades to snap securely into grip, depending on your need.

The shortest is a seven-inch fillet slicer perfect for general purpose use. It’s stiff enough to make short work of walleye ribs and still have the ideal flex for slicking the skin loose from the fillets.

The eight-inch, ultra flex is one of those skinny bladed fish cutters ideal for cohos and browns (and crappies, catfish and others). If you are one of the guys who fillet around the ribs instead of cutting through and then removing them, this will become your favorite in the set.

The nine-inch stiff blade worked great on wicked tuna and big ol’ red snappers on the Texas Gulf for me last February, but here on the Great Lakes, it’s my go-to kitchen knife when I’m cooking at fish camp. From chunking potatoes to dicing onions, it gives me Iron Chef performance.

The final blade in the four-blade set is a serrated edge nine-incher. I’m one of those guys who occasionally cuts my fish into steaks rather than fillets. The serrated blade is the way to go. Any knife will slice through the skin and meat easily, but when it gets to the spine the serrated blade saws right on through.

The kit comes with a functional and stylish Bubba-red case with a rugged insert to hold each blade and handle in place securely. Then it zips shut.

The kit is available online at and other sources as well as in retail shops.




Actually, the spray should be called No Natz or Ankle Flies. I’m not sure of the proper name for those biting flies that show up each summer, usually when I’m far offshore and usually on a nearly windless day. It could be they thrive on the warmest days when shorts and sandals are more appropriate than long pants and heavy socks.

It seems that way, to me. I’m sure others have other names for them, often with an unprintable swear word associated with the name. I just call them ankle flies because for every bite I get even halfway from my foot to my knee, I’ll get a hundred on my ankles.

At times it seems the only thing they like better than my ankle meat and blood is DEET or the ingredients contained in other, so called “natural” insect repellants. The only way Deep Woods Off works for me is to spray on enough the toothy monsters slide off when they land on my ankle to take a bite.

If you know of a product which works perfectly and all the time, let me know. Otherwise, pick up a bottle of No Natz. The product repels Great Lakes Ankle Flies better than any I’ve ever used. It’s not perfect, but I’d say it works 98 percent of the time. Would you rather get bit 100 times or just two?

The makers list the ingredients as “botanical oils,” including rosemary, lemongrass, geranium, olive and coconut oils. Available from two ounce containers to quarts at or




I remember when the first Frogg Toggs rainsuits were invented. “This is either the smartest thing ever,” I thought, “or the worst.” They looked and felt like they were made of paper, with a sort of waxy crumpled newspaper feel to them, but according to the marketing hype which came with them, they were both waterproof and breathable.

Waterproof and breathable were “miracle words” in the rainwear industry, words that spelled the end for plastic and rubber waterproof outerwear. Gore-Tex and other materials proved outdoorsmen could stay dry on the inside when it was wet on the outside and not get wet on the inside just from sweat and or condensation. Products made with those technologies are winners, but they come with a cost. A hefty cost, since a Gore-Tex lined rain parka will set a wet-weather fisherman back well over $200.

A Frogg Toggs rainsuit (they really aren’t paper) cost less than 20 bucks. The combination of three facts proved them to be winners, as well

1) A lot of fishermen are cheap-skates.

2) The “paper-like” rainsuits delivered on their claim to be both waterproof and breathable.

3) Frogg Toggs is absolutely the best name for a rain wear company, ever!

Still, for guys like me who are outside almost every day and especially in the early spring, I’m wearing my expensive, durable, hi-tech products for protection from wind, spray and rain. The original Frogg Toggs, wouldn’t hold up, day in, day out, but what do you expect for 20 bucks.

A few years ago, when passing shower had everyone on my boat digging for their wet weather gear, a customer pulled out a great looking, high-tech looking rainsuit with the familiar, Frogg Toggs logo on it. What?

Forward looking companies don’t just rely on a single product line to continue growing. Frogg Toggs still produce inexpensive rain suits (under $30), still made of their paper-like, polypropylene material, but they also have developed other fabrics made from non-paper like materials – layered, bonded, still waterproof and breathable – to outfit a variety of users.

By summer, where I usually fish on Lake Michigan, the “rainy” season is over. Sure, there are squalls, some drizzly days, but I don’t have to be suited up all day in my heavy duty, “100 MPH ” parka and bibs. Thank goodness! They are great when it’s 50 degrees, they might as well be made from polar bear fur when it’s 70.

Last summer, Mother Nature didn’t get word the rainy season was ended. I needed a suit of “summer weight,” quality rain gear so I turned to Frogg Toggs to see if they had a model to fill my need. I selected the Pilot II Jacket and bibs (also available as pants) and found them perfect for my needs.

First, they were lightweight and comfortable enough to be able to wear during a summer squall, even on a hot day – or to slide into and wear for hours on a dreary, drizzly day. Second, they were both comfortable and tough. Third, the Pilot II suit is well designed for active anglers with good zippers, plenty of pockets – secure and in the right places – and it looks good!

Check out the Pilot II rainwear at All Frogg Toggs products are widely available online and many sizes and colors are kept in stock at leading retail outlets.



                               Reviewed by:  CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

When people think of glow-in-the-dark spoons, the Moonshine brand pops to mind. Moonshine was one of the first spoon forgers to switch to the extended glow paints on their products. The X-Glow comes with several benefits over the previously available glow paint – see the article in this issue – “Strike Up The Glow.”

When Great Lakes anglers think of spoons with UV finishes they think of… well, there’s no guessing. Almost every spoon maker now includes UV patterns on their color pallet.

When a Great Lake troller – whether that’s a salmon slayer or a walleye warrior –is selecting a spoon to send into the depths and is pondering if a glow-in-the-dark or a UV pattern is going to be the hot pattern for the day, it’s usually a one or the other choice. What if it could be a “both” choice?

Moonshine starts with proven patterns from their GID line-up and then adds a UV coating to the lure. They call these spoons their RV Series. Not only do these spoons flash through the depths with a proven UV attraction, the subdued glow under the coating gives them an extra flash to attract the fish.

The RV Series comes in 4-inch and 5-inchers for the salmon guys and smaller sizes for walleye enthusiasts. I used the RV Walleye spoon in the Agent Orange pattern for early season cohos in March and April. It worked well for the coho and accounted for the first king salmon of the season on my boat.

Moonshines are sold in select retail outlets throughout the Great Lakes area and at many online sources. Check out to see all their products, patterns and places to stock up on them.




The best way I’ve found to keep some semblance of order with all my lures and other tackle is to use Plano Stowaway boxes. I have dozens of them and several different “systems,” as Plano calls them, to organize the organizers.

When I’m heading for early season cohos, I have a box labeled coho-cranks – mostly shallow diving, orange colored Shad Raps, ThinFish and others. Another box has stickbaits; another small flies. I also have a carrying case these three boxes fit into quite securely. By mid-summer those Stowaways are stowed in my garage, replaced Skamania lures, magnum spoons or whatever the “lures of the day” I expect to use. I’m sure many Great Lakes anglers use Stowaway boxes similarly.

If there’s one drawback to the Stowaways when they are stowed, is if they were put away with any water or moisture in them – a wet fly, a dripping crankbait or a bit of rain or spray that got in when the box was opened, the moisture is trapped and it won’t be long until the moisture plus any steel hooks or other steel objects inside will start to rust.

The plastic “engineers” (or maybe they are chemists) at Plano found a way to formulate a rust inhibiting chemical into the plastic. They call it Volatile Corrosion Inhibitor. It’s not the total answer to this problem. It’s still advisable to make sure the boxes are bone dry when stowed with lures, hooks or other tackle, but with the VCI rust and corrosion takes five times longer to work its evil.

When you are in need of some new Stowaways, switch to the Rust Restrictor boxes. They cost a bit more than the regular ones, but if you save one lure from ruin, the slight extra expense is repaid. In fact, if you save two lures from ruin, it’s worth just switching all your Stowaways to the Rust Restrictor models.

RR-Stows come in the normal sizes – 3500 are the small ones, 3600 are the mediums and 3700 are the large and they come in thin, regular and deep sizes, as well. These boxes are available online at as well as at many other online and retail outlets.


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


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