LIVINGSTON LURES “SCREAMING” BAITFISH LURES

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

 I mentioned to my fishing companions I had some “secret” lures to try out. “The secret,” I said, “is instead of having rattles inside to attract the fish, they have an internal electric sound maker which would activate when the lure went into the water. The sound is supposed to mimic the ‘scream’ baitfish make as they flee for their life when a predator is near.”

They laughed and looked at me trying to gauge if I was serious or just joking to make the miles to the Erie Islands area go a little quicker. I told them, “Seriously, I’ve got several of these.” They continued giving me the stink-eye look as their bullshit meters pegged well into the red. (Actually, my BS meter was pretty well pegged, as well.) 

On the boat, that first afternoon, I tied on one of the “scream-like-a-baitfish models” from Livingston Lures – an EBS Walleye 90 – licked my thumb and fore-finger, then touched them to each of the hook hangers to complete the circuit and activate the “sound system.” Then I held the lure up to their ears so they could hear the sound. Whether or not it sounds like a screaming baitfish, I don’t know. To me, it sounded something like a squeaking mouse. In use, the water is what switches on the EBS – electric baitfish sound.

I sent the lure out on one of the planer boards and in a few minutes, we caught our first fish of the trip. It came on the “screamer” lure, as my fishing partners dubbed it. Then it caught another and another – not every fish, but it got enough bites we tied on an LL Voyager 15 Walleye model and put it on the other side of the boat. These lures, in the Purple Tiger and Wonder Bread colors, caught their share and more that first afternoon and for the next few days. The EBS Walleye 136 stickbait in Fire Tiger deployed deep using divers and downriggers contributed to our limits each day, as well.

Livingston Lures feature VMC hooks, sturdy hardware, great paint and most important, even the deep diving Voyager 15 ran true at speeds over 3 mph. Very impressive lures and performance.  

There’s no doubt the addition of some sort of “sound” makes a good lure better, whether that’s a rattle, a spinner blade or something else. Why not a sound produced electronically? The Livingston Lures guys say their EBS “screaming” baitfish sound attracts fish three times farther than rattles. The battery life is 300 hours. I’m sure I have some lures which have more than 300 hours on them, but not many, and if I lost one of those veterans, I’d happily purchase a replacement. I’ve already ordered some other “screaming” baits in different models and colors to use for salmon and trout.  My BS meter is back in the green. Available at retail outlets as well as online at http://www.livingstonlures.com

DAIWA SEALINE SG-3B LINECOUNTER REEL “LEFTY”

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

Roughly one out of ten people are left handed so most tools and equipment are made for us “righties.” Some products are available in lefty versions, some lefty products are available only at a higher cost and many items just aren’t available in a made-for- southpaws version..

Most lefties just learn to deal with it. How hard could that be, at least in some instances?

When it comes to fishing reels, I didn’t think it would be all that tough. After all, when I’m wielding a casting or trolling reel, I turn the handle positioned on the right side of the reel. When I’m using a spinning reel, it feels just as natural to crank with the handle positioned on the left side.

So when Dena Vick from Traditions Media arranged for Daiwa to get me the most current model of the Daiwa’s Sealine Linecounter she asked, “Left hand or right?” There’s something many reel makers don’t offer – a lefty version.

 I’ve got a dozen or more line counter reels from several different companies – all right handed. “Why not try a left handed version?” I thought.

 I’m sure the features of the SG-3B in either lefty or right-handed versions would be equal. The carbon fiber drags would be the same, the three ball bearings that make the handle and spool turn smooth as silk, the clicker, the line counter and all the rest would be similar. “Send me the left handed model,” I said. “It will be an interesting trial.”

I introduced it to my line-up on a trip to Lake Erie with three friends. One of them was a lefty, the rest of us were right handed. I didn’t mention one of the reels would be a left-handed version. I wanted to gauge their reactions the first time they hefted it.

I made the initial set with “Lefty” and my friends didn’t immediately notice the reel was different. When the first fish hit on that set-up, one of the right handed guys grabbed it and though his back was to me, I could tell he was fumbling with the reel until he realized everything was back-assward.

When the walleye was in the boat, he asked me, “What’s with the left handed reel?” I told him it was a demo and he’d just been a part of the demonstration.

“Let Doug (the other right hander) reset that line and see what he thinks,” I said.            Doug’s comment after doing so was, “Well that was weird!”

 We each caught a several fish with the outfit and experimented with using it deployed on both downriggers and planer boards. I agreed with Doug – it was weird.

A part of the weirdness, for me, was how much different it was when reeling in a fish with this reel than if I’d been using a left handled spinning reel. It was a completely different, surprisingly awkward experience – and I’ve caught thousands of fish on spinning reels. For some types of fishing I like spinning reels better than revolving spool reels.

It’s not just the free spool lever being on the “wrong” side or the star drag in an unfamiliar spot. Just the act of holding and reeling seemed strange.

On the other hand (pun intended) the lefty in our group loved it! Being an avid fisherman, he was no stranger to using right handed, revolving spool reels. Actually, this was the first left handed one he’d ever experienced. Evidently, reeling “right” to a lefty is just as awkward as reeling “left” was to me.

So if you are a left handed angler and looking for a good quality, line counter trolling reel, consider the Daiwa Sealine SG-3B – available in the small “17″ size, the medium “27″ size or the salmon-sized “47″.  Your right-handed fishing partners may not be thrilled, but why should you mind? Give them a taste of what you’ve been putting up with your whole fishing career. 

CHALLENGER THREE D HARNESSES

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

Challenger lures sent me some of their new, copper backed – Three D Worm Harnesses. The front of the spinner blades – either willow leaf or Colorado are available in more than a rainbow assortment of walleye-popping colors, including glows, and UVs, but the reverse side is copper plated. They looked good so I wanted to give them a swim.

Most guys using worm harnesses on Lake Erie and other locations pull them along at slow speeds when trolling or while drifting at even slower speeds. I’ll go with what-ever-it-takes to get fish on the line, but our spread was doing just fine with a variety of crankbaits trolled at 2.5 to 3 MPH, so pulling out the bottom bouncers and backing down to half that speed didn’t seem like a winning plan.

Rather than slowing down and totally switching to a worm and harness plan, I decided to pin the harnesses to my downriggers and Dipsey Divers to get them into the same zone the cranks were getting bites, then “whizzing” them right along with the hard-body baits. Would that work?

I learned a secret. The walleye didn’t care if the rig was going 1.2 or 2.8. The rods with the harnesses did their fair share of damage to the Lake Erie walleye population, right along with the other lures.

We alternated colors and blade shape each day and though none of them failed to score, we did better with the Colorado blade models and the patterns heavy with blue/purple/pink seemed to have an edge over the ones with the green/orange/chartreuse paint schemes.

All were well made, had plenty of beads, sharp hooks and strong enough leaders to hold up to numerous fish.  Check out the Three D Harnesses at http://www.challengerlures.com

MOONSHINE RV WALLEYE SPOON

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

On a recent trip to Lake Erie I had the chance to test out a variety of “walleye” spoons. One of the spoons which exhibited an all-star performance was a Moonshine RV Walleye model.

Why not? It checks all the boxes about what a good walleye spoon should be. At three-inches, it’s the right size and has a good action over a wide range of speeds.

The one I used started with a copper colored blank, easily visible. Making it even more visible, it’s painted – as are all Moonshine Lures – with long-glowing, glow-in-dark paint (which isn’t just for low light conditions) and then it’s covered with a UV activated coating to make it even more visible. If the fish didn’t see it, they were blind.

Seeing it and biting it is different, but the JJ Mac Muffin color must have looked tasty to the walleye near our boat. They bit it regularly.  Check out http://www.moonshinelures.com to find this and other patterns as well as where to purchase them.

FLUTTER LAKER TAKERS

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

Bay de Noc lure company is best known for its Swedish Pimple spoon, used as a vertical jigging spoon as much as anything. Bay de Noc does produce other models (check them all out at http://www.baydenoclure.com) including one called a Flutter Laker Taker. It’s unlike any spoon I’ve previously fished.

I’ve had plenty of trolling spoons, which after being inhaled by a big, tough fish, end up with an unplanned bend in the blade back towards the hook. I pound these bent up blades back flat before sending them out again. Some still work, some are ruined.

The Flutter Laker Takers start out with a sharp bend about a quarter of the way up the blade from the hook. This insures the spoon will have plenty of action, even at low, slow trolling speeds, says Bay de Noc.

I don’t troll low and slow with my crankbaits – normal, for me, is on the plus side of 2.5 mph. I didn’t have much faith in this well bent bait when I tied it on. Wrong!            

With a 50 foot lead, I set the L-Taker out on the port side of the boat four feet behind a #2 Tadpole. As it was sliding into position, it released (with a fish) before the rod was even put in the rod holder. “Good start!” I thought.

It soon became the star on that side of the boat, catching more like two of every three fish than just it’s share. The next day I put it first on one of the Dipsey Divers and once it caught a few fish there, I moved it to a downrigger set where it continued it’s winning way.

They come in various sizes and colors. The one I used was the three-inch model and had a simple nickel finish with a fluorescent yellow stripe down the side.

JEEP GLADIATOR SPORT

Reviewed by: CAPTAIN MIKE SCHOONVELD

            For more than half a century few vehicle brands have remained so instantly recognizable as Jeep. Remove all the chrome insignias, these days, and it’s hard to tell a Ford from a Chevy from a Toyota…and so on. But thanks to the distinctive look of the grill, the fenders and other features, it’s easy to see the 2020 Jeep Gladiator Sport is the great, great grandchild of the “jeeps” which were rolled out by the millions as military all-purpose vehicles long ago.

            I tested the Jeep Gladiator Sport as a tow vehicle slash all purpose ride for a week back in late May, thinking it could be the perfect choice for Great Lakes anglers who are also Great Lakes hunters, Great Lakes commuters and perhaps Great Lakes family people. Would it be as all purpose here as it was for the GIs in Europe, Korea and other places around the world?

            My daily commute from home to the lake routes me on country roads, two-lane highways, several miles on an Interstate highway and ends up on busy expressways leading to Chicago. Just one trip is an all purpose test track. The Jeep passed all the tests.

            Though the Gladiator is lighter than the Suburban or the older model, full size Chevy pick-up which is usually pulling my 5000 pound-ish boat and trailer, I didn’t feel as though the boat was in control of the ride. It handled the load just fine and I had no problems getting the rig up to speed on the highways or up the ramp at the end of the trip. With the “Max Tow” package, it has a 7650 pounds rated, 3.6L, V6 gasoline, 305 horse powerhouse.

            When I got the loaner vehicle it had 3600 miles on it and the overall gas mileage readout on the dash display showed a 19 MPG average – just as advertised on the sticker. On a road trip sans the boat it registered consistently around 25 on the highway and with my boat in tow on a straight and level road the instant readout usually showed 11 MPG.

            I didn’t take the Gladiator off road but with multiple 4X4 options and traction settings, I’m sure it’s as nimble off the road or on Great Lakes winter highways as any comparable truck. It’s a nice feature, both for winter driving as well as on algae-slick launch ramps during the summer months.

            The Gladiator Sport I drove is the “base” model. Others are the Sport S, Overland and Rubicon. Each level reflects increased level of interior trim, audio systems, lighting etc. Even in the basic Sport, “must haves” such as A/C, power windows, seat warmers (for my wife) plus many more features are available as options.  

            The rear seating is sized just fine for most women and small kids. Full-sized men will fit okay for short to medium trips. I’d hate to ride more than a couple hours back there without a stop. The rear seats will flip up to increase the interior storage area.

            Though I didn’t remove them, the metal doors and fiberglass roof easily come off to give the Gladiator more of the look of the original Willy’s models. That would be a fun ride around town at Put-In-Bay or cruising to the House of Flavors for an evening ice cream cone in Ludington.

            In short, if you are looking for a general purpose, rugged, but cool looking truck to use around town, in the country and to head for the lake, take a look at the Jeep Gladiator. It won top awards at many auto shows across the country in it’s inaugural year, 2019, and has been voted the North American Truck of the Year for 2020.

ABU-GARCIA AMBASSADEUR ALTUM DLC

Reviewed by: Captain Mike Schoonveld

Every Great Lake trolling boat has a couple, or more than a couple, line counter reels on board. Except for the Abu Garcia Altum “digital” line counter (thus the DLC in it’s model name) all the LC reels I’ve used rely on a mechanical readout based on a series of gears which engage the reel’s inner-works to spin numbers on an axle. I’ve used just about every brand and they all work similarly.

            The Altum DLC probably has some sort of gear drive internally – I didn’t disassemble the reel to check – but after that, the readout shows on a liquid crystal display which right off the bat showed me two advantages. First, the numbers in the readout are over a half inch tall – much easier to see at a glance. Second, if you hit the light button when you are setting a line in the dark, the readout lights up and it can be seen without having to hold a flashlight in your teeth.

            The one I used is the “20″ size model, which is a “medium” model for most Great Lakes use. Line capacity is listed as 330 yards of 20-pound mono. I’m using it as a diver reel so I spooled on about 200 yards of 30-pound mono and then topped it off with 200 yards of 30-pound braided line. There’s a smaller “16″ size, about 1/3rd smaller than the 20, which would be great for walleye trollers.

            Every line counter reel really just counts the revolutions of the reel’s spool rather than the actual feet of line being deployed so the readout you see is inaccurate more than spot on most of the time. It all depends on the diameter of the line being used and the amount of line on the reel’s spool. It’s the same with the Altum, though the digitizer circuitry inside can be set for various line sizes. Change the setting and it boosts accuracy. There’s a choice of 8, 10, 12, 17, 20 and 25 which I presume is referring to monofilament diameters. Since I spooled with braid, I set my reel on 8, spooled off a measured 25 feet and the digital readout showed 24. Close enough for me – I don’t fish for picky fish. Read more about fishing with line counter reels in “Reels You Can Count On” in this issue.

            The reel is battery powered so the battery will eventually run down. I haven’t used it enough to gauge battery usage but the reel has two features to extend the life. First, after a few minutes the readout goes to “hibernate” mode, retaining the memory of how much line is out, but the readout goes blank. Touch a button or move the reel handle, the display will turn back on. If you forget to turn off the reel, it will automatically go from hibernate to power-off after 10 hours. Get a spare battery and don’t worry about it. It’s easy to change.

            This is a quality, well built, solid feeling reel – what one would expect from Abu Garcia. The drag material is carbon fiber and the drag is smooth as silk. One feature I’m still learning to use is how once the drag is set to where you need it, the reel handle can be cranked a third-turn back which loosens the drag setting about 50%.     

            Saltwater specialists use reels with this feature so hard hitting fish can’t snap the line on the initial strike but once that first run is over, cranking forward puts the reel in fight mode. I’ve used it when setting a diver, letting diver and line run out line slowly against the light drag as the rod is set in the rod holder unattended while I do something else. I glance at the readout occasionally, then just reel forward to tighten the drag when the amount of line I’m setting out shows on the readout.             This real is widely available at retailers as well as online sources. Check them out at: http://www.AbuGarcia.com.

EXTREME BOAT BAG

  

Reviewed by: CAPTAIN MIKE SCHOONVELD

          The insides of fishing boats are wet places – maybe not as wet as the outside of the boat – but between spray, wet lures, wet fish, wet anchors, wet landing nets…, it’s foolish to think anything on board, unless specifically protected, isn’t going to get damp or worse. I know when I want an extra sweatshirt, I want a dry one.

            Thus, the advantage of a “dry bag.” It’s a simple concept – an appropriately sized piece of luggage that’s waterproof or at the minimum mostly water resistant. For me, the appropriate size will hold a heavy duty rainsuit – bibs and parka, and an extra jacket or hooded sweatshirt with room left over for miscellaneous supplies. Gloves, an extra hat, a few lures, camera, batteries, a sandwich, filet knife, ziplock bags, pens and notepads – I can’t remember all the items I’ve ever stuffed in my Bass Pro Extreme Boat Bag, but it’s been stuffed full countless times.

            Many of the  items I review in this column are brand new and I can only guess how well they will hold up over time. My Extreme Boat Bag, shown here, is old and well traveled. It’s been with me to Alaska, Costa Rica, both coasts of North America and too many places in between to remember. It’s ridden in overhead compartments in airliners, in the back of pick-up trucks, in canoes and cruise ships.  Most notable, it’s ridden on the front deck of my boat hundreds of times since I bought it over 20 years ago.

            Other than a few scuff marks and a bit of what I call “patina,” it’s as good as the day I bought it. They come in size small, large and the one I have is “jumbo” measuring 30X14X14 inches. Most sizes are available in-store at Bass Pro retail outlets, at some Cabela’s stores and all the sizes can be purchased online at http://www.basspro.com.

CME TROLLING TOURNAMENT HOOK RIGS

 

Reviewed by: CAPTAIN MIKE SCHOONVELD    

        I’ve often heard of flies and meat rigs which get paired with “tournament hook rigs” as though when fishing in a tournament, it’s necessary to use the most effective set-up possible; or perhaps, when you are just out fishing for recreation, any ol’ hook is good enough. What? I don’t care if I’m fishing for a prize or just to catch a salmon for supper, I want the most effective hook set-up available dangling at the rear of my lure.

            The rig itself is tied with 50 pound test Seaguar STS, fluorocarbon line and uses a 4/0 VMC single hook trailed by a 4X #1 VMC treble hook. I don’t know if hook rigs using only single hooks or just a treble really hooks and holds a salmon or trout better than the single/treble combo. I do think the forward positioned single hook can be hidden up inside the fly without tangling up in the fly material better than a treble. All in all, it looks like a mean, wicked arrangement – especially from a fish’s point of view. If nothing else, four sharp points is better than three, two or one in my estimation.

            Sure, you can buy the hooks, line, beads and tubing to make your own. I could make one in what, a half hour – probably taking a half dozen tries to get one right. I don’t know who the CME line tiers are, but they are good and I’m happy to plunk down $2.95 for a set of their tournament rigged hook sets. Get them at http://www.cmetrolling.com and check out their line of flies, meat rigs and other products, as well.