PLANO FROST COOLER

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

One thing I noticed a few years ago at the annual ICAST show was the number of booths solely or partially dedicated to selling “rotomolded” coolers. Rotomolding (short for rotational molding) has been around for decades and so have plastic coolers. So what was all the buzz about?

Through much of the plastic cooler history, the goal was to produce plastic coolers which would do a reasonable job of keeping things cold (occasionally hot) for a reasonable price. We’ve all used dozens of these in different brands and sizes over the years. We’ve all had hinges break, lids fly off, corners crumple or miscellaneous other problems.

Then a couple of brothers from Texas attacked these problem by producing a line of coolers (using the rotational molding process), added heavy duty hardware, better insulation and thicker, tougher sides. Then they gave their “super-coolers” a catchy name – Yeti – and attached a super-sized price tag to them.

In so doing they proved people were willing to pay roughly ten times more for these “super-coolers” and for many reasons. Some like them because they will withstand bear or gorilla attacks. Some like them because they will keep things cold two or three times longer than traditional coolers. Some like them because an adult can sit on them without crushing the lid. Some like them because they are cool, the same reason people buy Cadillac, Porsche and Mercedes products instead of Ford or Chevrolets.

One of the things I noticed at last summer’s ICAST was the small number of “super-cooler” sellers displaying their wares. I also noticed that for the first time, Plano had jumped into the rotomolded cooler market.

Why not?  Plano is one of the oldest names in the fishing tackle industry, making tackle boxes since 1932 (it wasn’t plastic). Now they make plastic tackle boxes, general storage boxes, rod cases, gun cases and storage options for anything outdoors. Now they make a “storage” box for my lunch.

Called “Frost,” they come in three sizes, a 14 quart, 21 and 32 quart. I selected the 21 because it was the perfect size to serve as a lunch box for the small group of friends I usually fish with. I didn’t measure it in advance, but unlike other coolers I’ve use for the same purpose, I found that a tube of Pringles fits neatly across the bottom, a 16 ounce Diet Mountain Dew will stand up in the corner and there is enough space for sandwiches, fruit, cookies and the rest of the essentials my friends and I need. There’s even a small basket that can suspend items above the food and drinks below, like my cookies or crackers for the sardines.

I haven’t put it to the test against any bears or gorillas, but it’s passed every test I’ve put to it including a 250 pound person sitting on it, boating in 30 knot winds and keeping my Mountain Dew cold for the drive home from the lake.  Available at many online and retail outlets or direct from Plano at http://www.planomolding.com. 

SMITH’S SEAHUNTER FILLET KNIFE

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

When a friend of mine took on Smith’s Consumer Products as a client in her PR and marketing company, I made a quick revisit to Smith’s website. I’ve used a few Smith’s products, knives and sharpeners previously and all have been high quality.

What caught my eye was the Seahunter 9 Inch Curved Fillet Knife. To refresh your memory, all the products reviewed in this column are items I’ve personally used and evaluated. I sometimes solicit items I’m certain will continue being useful to me after I’m done with them for my Tackle and Toys work.  

I’ve reviewed plenty of fillet knives over the years, so getting another fillet knife wasn’t something high on my list, but a look at Smith’s Seahunter Fillet Knives, caught my attention. It wasn’t the blade, however, it was the handle – specifically a finger hole, like a gun’s trigger guard, molded into the handle.

I clean a lot of fish and have had only a few accidents that involved the knife slipping in my hand or slipping out of my hand. However, the one accident which occurred by my hand slipping forward onto the blade was the worst I ever experienced. Others were when the knife, somehow slipped out of my slimy hand. That happens often enough I’ve learned to jump away and let the knife fall freely to the floor.

Would the trigger guard help? It certainly would have prevented my hand sliding forward onto the blade. Slipping and dropping?  So far, after using it for a month or so, no drops. 

So safety wise, the trigger guard seems to be a great improvement. But does it impede using the knife? Very little. I never noticed previously that I grip the handle one way when I’m cutting downward, and then rotate my grip a bit when I turn the knife to cut horizontally when slicing the actual fillet or when skinning a fillet. Even with the grip adjustment, my trigger finger fits nicely inside the trigger guard. 

This knife is a brute, however. It’s not what I’d pick up for cleaning any walleye I’ve ever caught even though I have often cleaned walleyes with nine-inch fillet knives of other brands. If you regularly catch and clean big king salmon, lake trout or fish the salt and expect to process anything from ocean stripers to wicked tuna, this is a blade up to the chore.

All Smith knives are made from quality steel, come razor sharp and are easy to keep razor sharp. Check them out or purchase at http://www.smithsproducts.com.

SUFIX ADVANCE FLUOROCARBON LINE

           

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

I’ve reviewed other two other types of Sufix lines, both 832 Advanced Superline (braid) and Sufix Advanced Lead Core in this column. In my opinion, they performed as advertised and as good as I hoped when I spooled them on my reels and used them in actual fishing conditions. I expected nothing less when I put Sufix Advance Fluorocarbon on my reels last winter to put into use when the 2022 season got underway.

Though this line was developed to use as a reel’s main line, to cast, jig or troll your lures or bait, I used it as leader material. Sufix does make a product called Advance Fluorocarbon Leader, with some of the same attributes but heightened abrasion resistance. If I was fishing around rocks, barnacles or fishing for toothy, abrasive fish, I’d go with the leader line, but it comes with a much higher price per yard than the line specifically designed to fill a reel.  Both versions give the fluorocarbon, underwater invisibility that makes using it worth the price.

What I do is use fluorocarbon line, from a few feet to as much as 50 feet ahead of the lures I troll for salmon and trout and that’s how I used the Sufix Advance Fluorocarbon Line for this review.

I could see and feel how it would be a great “main” line on a reel. It is softer and more flexible than most other fluorocarbon line I’ve used. Both fresh off the spool and fresh off the reel there was no noticeable memory.

What I was most interested in was if it had acceptable knot strength, was as strong as advertised and performed well as far as it’s underwater invisibility is concerned. This last factor is highly subjective but as I’ve found with most fluorocarbon line I’ve used, I’m sure it often helped and never hurt.

I used 20# for my early season set-ups and then by late spring, when I started using on long, weighted steel, lead core and wire line divers, I moved up to 25-pound line for the leaders.  There were no “unexplained” break-offs. I used primarily double uni-knots to go braid or mono to the leader and the three-tag fluorocarbon knot to tie to lures or swivels. 

Sufix lines are widely available at retail and online outlets. Check all of them at https://www.rapala.com/sufix-line

WALLEYE WALLET

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

What can I say. It’s a wallet and it’s made out of walleye skin. Neat, huh? I’m familiar with items made from cow skin, deer skin, kangaroo, ostrich, snake, alligator and pig skin, but nothing made from walleye skin – until now. 

Anyone who is in touch with all things fishing, hunting and other consumptive outdoor sports has probably heard that the fur trade is in a deep depression. That doesn’t bother most trappers, like me, who trap furbearing animals for multiple reasons not related to money, but for people like Clint Boyd a trapper in Manitoba who makes a living out of trapping and tanning the skins, the economic crash was personal.

So he came up with the idea of tanning the “hides” from commercially caught walleyes, skins which would otherwise be tossed with the rest of the inedible parts of the fish. Once he perfected the process and determined it would be tough-enough, he started making wallets from the distinctly patterned skins.

I was skeptical about whether or not the wallet would stand the test of time. I got my Walleye Wallet back in November and decided to carry it for several months before featuring it as a T&T product. It went in my butt pocket on late season fishing trips, on my trap line, in my deer stand and to the grocery store. (It even got a thumbs up at the supermarket after catching the eye of a fisher-lady check-out clerk.)  It’s still going strong and still catching the eye of people who think it’s just plain cool.

It’s a bi-fold wallet, with plenty of slots for bank cards, fishing licenses and other important documents. There are “hide-away” spots where I keep a $50 bill in case I happen to see some fishing gear on display at a garage sale. 

There are no scales on the skin, but the skin still maintains a walleye skin like texture. They come in natural, brown and black. The one I have (pictured) is called natural, but it tends to be more of a gray/blue. They are available in several tackle shops here in the US (more outlets are being added) or buy them online at http://www.walleyewallets.com. Also available from WW are fillet knife sheaths and key fobs, also made from walleye skins. 

ISLAMORADA SUN GLOVE

     

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

Many years ago I switched to using fingerless gloves in cold weather. They keep my hands warm and I’m sure they’ve protected my hands from countless dings, scrapes and line cuts. The best I’ve ever worn are the fleece/neoprene fingerless gloves in Glacier Glove’s  Alaska River Series.

A few years ago I switched to wearing long sleeve shirts made of performance fabric in the summer instead of relying on my “summer tan” or sunscreen to guard my arms against the harmful UV rays from the sun. About the time I slid into my performance Tees, I’d take off my fleece, fingerless gloves.

I didn’t need to keep my hands warm any longer and I learned to put up with the dings and cuts. But there is another threat, usually overlooked, that gloves could eliminate. The same UV sunrays I shield from my arms and torso with my performance cloth shirts is shining relentlessly on my hands.            

Again, Glacier Glove comes to the rescue.  I chose their Islamorada Sun Glove fingerless model. They give me UPF 50+ sun protection and the faux leather finger, thumb and palm overlay adds protection for my hands as well as increased life for the gloves. I chose the Gray Camo, but they come in other colors. Check them out at http://www.glacierglove.com. They are widely available at online and retail outlets.  

NEBO SLIM+ 1200 FLASHLIGHT

 

Reviewed by: CAPTAIN MIKE SCHOONVELD  

I do like multi-tasker devises, but when it comes to a flashlight, I only want one thing. I want a bright, powerful beam. Some secondary considerations are size (smaller is better than larger – but tiny – like a penlight – is too small. Most other features are just “nice to have” but not essential.

In the LED light world, most of us are still learning just what the term “lumen” means. In the flashlight world, 1200 lumens is very bright. It hurts to shine the light in your eyes on a sunny day.

So the Nebo Slim+ 1200 checks my most important block. The + on the name is for the other boxes it checks like the red laser pointer – not so useful for fishing. Better is the a strong magnetized base and sturdy pocket clip, both handy when they can be used. You can dim the light it so it’s less than 1200 lumens (why?).  You can also change the light to glow red – I’m not sold on that, but more handy than the laser pointer.

It is rechargeable and since the LED lights are energy efficient, the lithium batter should give it a long service on a charge. It’s waterproof to three feet, not so important to me, but it does indicate it should be perfectly rainproof.

Do you need a good, sturdy but small, super bright flashlight with a few extra whistles and bells, consider the NEBO 1200+.  Available at many retail and online sources including the NEBO website: http://www.nebo.acgbrands.com. 

GAMAKATSU FEATHERED TREBLES

  

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD 

         Every lure has one or more hooks on them.  Some lure makers seem to make the hooks or trebles on their lures as unobtrusive as possible by hanging bronze or black hooks on them. Other makers use shiny, chrome hooks or bright red ones, evidently to make the hooks more noticeable.

            I’m in the camp that thinks that as long as a lure has a hook it might as well make the lure more enticing. That’s why I often swap out the hooks on both spoons and plugs with “feathered trebles.”  I use the Feathered Trebles from Gamakatsu. All Gamakatsu hooks are premium quality and the Feathered Trebles are tied on their premium round bend trebles. The feather hooks are either solid white or white with streaks of red. The largest size is #2, okay for walleye plugs and smaller-sized spoons. Recently, Gamakatsu started producing feathered trebles tied on their G-Finesse hooks with larger sizes up to 1/0 and with a choice of either white or chartreuse feathers.

            Usually, I put the feathered treble on the rear hook of lures with two or more hooks, but hanging a feather on the belly hook seems to boost a lure’s performance some days. A feathered treble on a spoon gives it a whole new look. Check all the Gamakatsu products at http://www.gamakatsu.com or pick up some feathered trebles online or at many retail outlets.

PLANO Z-SERIES TACKLE BAGS

          Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

There have been dozens of companies who staked their reputations on producing the ultimate tackle box. Some were soft, some were hard, many were both. Add in modular, packable, battery powered – there’s probably a nuclear powered one out there somewhere.  If there was a poll about what has been the most convenient, usable or versatile tackle storage solution for me it would be some sort of combo that features Plano 3700 StowAway boxes.

            These 9 X 14-inch containers are ubiquitous in the tackle storage biz and so popular many boat makers build racks or specially-sized compartments on their boats to fit them. So do dozens of makers of tackle bags, boxes, crates or satchels. So when Plano came up with their Z-Series of waterproof totes which includes duffles, backpacks and lure wraps; coming up with a tackle bag to carry a bevy of StowAways was an easy addition to that line. Plano produces these for both the 3700 size boxes and in a lesser size for the smaller, 3600 size StowAways.  I got the 3700 size.

            StowAways containers come in a variety of depths or thicknesses. “Standard” is the two-inch deep box but there are also thin and deep models. They even have half sizes so it takes two of them positioned end to end to fill the space of one standard size. The 3700 Z-Series bag will easily fit four “standard” depths boxes (it comes with two.)

            This isn’t the only StowAway tote I own or have used. It is the only one advertised to be “saltwater tough.” Not that the Great Lakes are salty, but on my boat, the StowAways aren’t usually stowed away out of the weather and most of the storage containers are no more than “weather resistant.” The waterproof, Z-Series is made from waterproof components and corrosion proof hardware. It’s more utilitarian than clever with only a couple of external, mesh pockets on the ends to store miscellaneous gear and a wide, nylon carrying strap. No D-rings, pliers holsters, molded in cutting boards or other fancy (and often useless) other features.

            It has a rigid, skid-proof bottom, semi-rigid sides so it won’t collapse when in use and a zipperless top closure. If you are looking for a well built, functional portable storage option to harness your collection of 3700-sized (or 3600) storage containers, check out the Z-Series at www.planomolding.com. You can purchase them at this website, at many other online outlets as well as retail stores.

UGLY STIK/UGLY TUFF COMBO

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD    

         Ugly Stik rods were around for more than a decade before they hired William “Refrigerator” Perry as their spokesmodel. If you don’t know who the “Fridge” was you aren’t an NFL fan. He still holds the record for being the largest player (335 pounds) to score a touchdown in a Super Bowl.

            The most memorable advertisement I remember showed him wearing his Bears uniform and doubling over an Ugly Stik rod. He probably sold more of these nearly indestructible “sticks” than any ad before or since. But Ugly Stik users love their rods for more than just being tough. They’ve always blended strength with fishability.

            I got an Ugly Tuff spinning rod and reel combo from Ugly Stik to test out too late for much walleye fishing last summer, so I took it along on a cisco fishing trip on Grand Traverse Bay in the fall. It performed perfectly. I had the “30″ size reel – the smallest of the Ugly Tuff models – paired with a 6-foot, two-piece rod.  This reel is rated for 6 to 15 pound line and really, though the rod is listed as medium, it tends more towards medium light. I’m certain you could bend the rod over like Refrigerator Perry with 15-pound line.

I spooled it up with 10-pound braid.  On my cisco fishing trip, the fish we were catching were hooked 120 feet or more below the surface. Fishing extra-deep with many small reel makes extra work just because of the amount of cranking it takes to reel in the fish. At almost 30 inches per turn of the handle on the reel on this combo, the ciscoes came to the top without an unduly amount of reeling. 

            That won’t be needed when I fish the Detroit and St. Claire Rivers in the next few weeks, but the smooth front drag will be, I hope.  I probably won’t be jigging more than 30 feet deep, but when one of those big females latches on in the current, the cushion of the rod and the drag slipping at critical times, especially with braided line will be crucial. 

            If you are looking for a terrific, moderately priced rod and reel combo for fishing the walleye run this year (or jigging and casting anywhere else) this Ugly Tough combo will fill the bill. Plan on using it again next year and the next. Ugly Stik rod and reels don’t wear out and won’t let you down, even if you abuse it like Refrigerator Perry did. 

            Widely available at both retail and online outlets, you can see all the specs and a list of retailers near you at www.purefishing.com.