GILL SHORT CRUISING BOOTS

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

If you’ve ever been on a salt water charter boat or watched any of the reality fishing shows about  anything from shrimp to wicked tunafish, you’ll notice the footwear worn by the  crewmen and deck hands on these boats is what are called “deck” boots. Gill Fishing calls theirs “cruising” boots. It makes sense, the back decks on these boats are often wet places where washdown hoses are in constant use to keep the surface clean and free of blood, slime and squished bait.

            Most Great Lakes boats don’t get quite that amount of abuse, but some do. I know on my boat each time someone bounces a bloody-mouthed salmon or a slimy laker poo-poos on my boat’s floor, out comes my washdown hose.

            When the water is warm, in the heat of summer, working a wet deck in sandals or quick-drying Crocs may be comfortable enough, but much of the spring and fall, the air is cold and the water is colder. A comfortable pair of deck boots are perfect.

            If you think they’d be perfect for you, check out the Short Cruising Boots available from Gill. They slide on easily, with just enough tightness around the ankle to keep them snug when walking around in them. As I mentioned earlier, I wear Crocs in the warmest months – primarily because I find the spongy material very comfortable for walking and standing. I don’t know if the insoles of the Gill deck boots are the same material, but it’s every bit as comfortable on my feet. The insole is removable, if needed and the lining of the boot is a comfortable polyester.  The rest of the boot is made of a 100% natural rubber compound with a non-slip sole.

            For wet days or wet decks when fishing for wicked tuna or whopper walleyes, a pair of Gill Short Cruising Boots will be perfect for you. Available at many retailers, at Amazon.com or online at http://www.gillfishing.com.  When I wrote this review, online purchases from the Gill Fishing website included free shipping and returns. 

SHOXS SHOCK ABSORBING SEAT PEDESTAL

Reviewed by: Capt. Mike Schoonveld

            The Great Lakes are bumpy places. Sure, I’ve been out on each of the five lakes when they were mill-pond smooth, but I’ve been out many more times when the boat I was in was bouncing through, up, over and ultimately down in lumpy waves, chop and rollers.

            With over five decades of Great Lakes experience, I’ve learned some boats are worse than others, some sea conditions are worse than others and some of the lumps and bumps are painful. What you might not know is every time your boat splashes down hard enough to make you go “oof,” whether it throws a spike of pain into your butt or up your spine, you are doing damage, often permanent damage, to your spinal column and other joints.

            Many factors feed into any particular person’s susceptibility to lower back pain. Some people have backs of steel and can ride bucking horses or bouncing boats for a lifetime and never have a problem. Others end up with chronic back problems for seemingly no reason at all. Everyone else is somewhere in the middle, but one thing is for certain – my tolerance for rough water boating has gone down over the years.

            Instead of giving up on fishing on all but the calmest days or buying a larger boat which might smooth the ride, I looked for a “shock mitigating seat” (or seats) to upgrade my current boat and make riding across a bumpy lake surface significantly more tolerable.

            I quickly learned most of these mechanisms are huge, almost like bolting a Lazy Boy recliner at the helm; some of them require cutting holes in the boat’s deck to utilize the space between the deck and hull, some require swapping out both the seat and the seat’s mount or pedestal and a few require professional installation. Add more $$$ as complexity increases.

            The brand and model I got to save my back and butt is made by Shoxs, an established leader in the shock-mitigating boat seat industry. Called simply the X4, it’s the most compact of any brand I investigated, took up the least amount of room in my boat and was a simple, DIY installation. 

            Though Shoxs does sell seats to fit atop the X4 pedestal, all I wanted to do was remove the existing seat at my helm from my existing pedestal, then remove the pedestal, then fasten the X4 to the floor and put my old seat on the X4.  It was easier than I expected; in fact, removing the original pedestal which had been in place for more than 20 years was the most difficult part of the process.

            Installing my existing seat was a snap. The mounting boat holes at the top of the X4 aligned perfectly with my existing seat and the holes to fasten the pedistal to the floor matched perfectly with the original bolt holes. I did increase the size of the lags I used to secure it to the floor from the 1/4″ originals to 3/8″ suggested by Shoxs. Easy-peezy.

            The amount of cushion effect on the X4 is adjustable and what adjustment needed depends on both the size of the person sitting in the seat, the waves being encountered and the ride of the boat on which it’s installed. I’m a big guy and need a stiffer setting than if my petite wife would be in the seat. My 21 foot fiberglass boat has a better ride than your 19 foot aluminum model. Adjust as needed.

            Adjusting is simple by adding compressed air, or letting out a bit of air through a Schrader valve – like the valve stem on you vehicle’s tires. A bicycle tire pump will do the work.

            Does it mitigate the shock?  A friend and I tested it out on a windy day on Lake Michigan. The 20 mph wind was pushing steep sided two to fours – mostly three footers. I powered up to a speed a bit faster than the maximum speed I’d usually go in those conditions – for safety and to keep from breaking something. My GPS hovered between 23 to 27 mph.

            I’d trimmed the boat to cut through most of the waves, but occasionally it would slam down into the wave troughs. In the seat with the X4 I could feel the waves, but I could also feel the seat cushion the bumps and smooth the ride. My friend (another big guy) and I switched places, I rode in the passenger seat next to the helm and Tom drove the boat at the same speed.

            We agreed, the ride in the drivers seat was “significantly” smoother than in the passenger seat. “Significantly,” in this case means money well spent to make my days on the lake more comfortable and save wear and tear on my spine and other joints in the long run. That’s what I think and that’s what other customers including the U.S. Coast Guard and Navy think. Both have installed Shox seats and pedestals on many of their fast response vessels.

            Available direct at the Shox website: https://allsalt.com/landing/shoxs, other online marine suppliers and some retail outlets.

HAGEN’S COHO DODGERS

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

            If an accurate survey could be taken, I’d guess over half the coho salmon caught in Lake Michigan are hooked up using a six-inch metal dodger with a small trolling fly trailing behind it. If you asked a follow-up question about the D/F user’s favorite color of dodger, it would be fluorescent red.

            These little red dodgers are as good now as they were 50 years ago when cohos were first stocked in the lake. And for the first 40 or so years, finding them when you needed new ones or additional ones was simple. Most tackle shops had an ample supply and from many suppliers.

            These days, that’s not true. Whether it’s pandemic caused shortages, the switch to plastic flashers or whatever reason, finding coho dodgers is nearly impossible – even at online sources. If you do find them, the price is ridiculous.

            I’ve stumbled onto a source which has kept me well supplied – Hagen’s (www.hagenfish.com) sells unfinished 6 1/4-inch dodger blanks (their Size 2) in either unpainted steel or brass. I’m sure either would work but I use the brass ones. The price per blade goes down as the number ordered goes up.  If you order 25, they are less than a $1.25 each.

            Hagen’s does sell painted dodgers, but not orange. So I paint my own.

            I use spray paint from the hardware store – first a white primer goes on, then a top coat of fluorescent red. There are clear, top coats available, but you’ll get a season or more of use without the top coat protection.

            They come with no hardware, so buy some large split rings, swivels and snap swivels – also available at Hagen’s and put them together once the paint is dry. Hang a small trolling fly 16 or 18 inches behind the dodger, hook it up to a downrigger or diver and I bet it won’t be long until a Lake Michigan coho latches on.

DOWN-EAST S-17 SALTY ROD HOLDER

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

I’ve occasionally seen Down-East Rod holders on Great Lakes boats since I first started fishing on the Great Lakes. Why not? The Peterson family started making these “down-east” in Maine in 1946. I imagine the first one’s I saw were clamp-on models tightened on the gunwales of small aluminum boats. None of the companies now producing the familiar “tube-type” holders were even in business back then.

            I’d never used Down-East holders until I climbed aboard Lance Valentine’s walleye boat last year. I’d never thought about using one until I’d experienced them, first hand.  I didn’t expect them to work well or even work period. They didn’t seem, at a glance, to be very durable. I’m writing this review, partly to eat my own words and thoughts.

            One clue that they work – Lance is sponsored by TraxsTech and has a complete set of their track systems, rod holders, rod trees, planer board holders and other Trax gear on his boat. The only “other brand” rigging is his pair of Down-East S-17 Salty Rod Holders mounted on each back corners of his boat.

            Once I saw them in use, I understood why. He had the Down-Easts adjusted steeply downward so the tips of his rods were positioned just inches above the water line. With no downriggers on his boat, he used his “down-easters” with a non-directional diving planer, like Offshore Tackle’s Tadpoles or with heavy Snap Weights.

            I’ve seen other trollers use similar set-ups (with tube-type holders) for directional planers and I know the pressure on the rods when being trolled keeps the rods from sliding into the drink; but I’m a firm believer in gravity and relying on friction and pressure to keep a rod from sliding out and into the drink seems a bit foolish. It must seem so for Valentine, as well, and the Down-East holders overcome that foolishness.

            Down-East’s Salty models are designed to hold the rod and clamp on around the reel’s seat to keep the rod from being able to slide out from gravity or even by being pushed or pulled. The rod and reel is locked in the holder.

            Instead of pulling the rod out of the holder as one would do in a tube-type holder, just lift straight up at which time the tube and reel grip flops open, instantly freeing the rod. “Brilliant,” I thought.

            I thought this because I’ve seen countless people struggle to wrestle a diver rod out of tube-holders when a big fish strikes the lure. Most of the time it’s just a chore. Once I saw a big strong guy pull so hard he broke the rod holder. More than once I’ve seen not so strong guys break diver rods at the handle when trying to wrench them free.

            My only concern was if the Down-East holder would be tough enough. They look to be molded out of what “pre-plastic” toys and parts used to be made from – we called it “pot metal.” That’s what I asked Lance. “Are they strong and tough? They look like pot metal.”

            He said, “I’ve seen musky trolling boats on Lake St. Clair rigged with Down-East holders exclusively.  I’ve never heard of one breaking. I’ve never had one break.”

            So I got a pair to try out and positioned them in place of my other diver rod holders. The first thing I noticed was on my boat, where I have them located, if I position the rod so the holder clamps around the reel seat, there’s enough of the rod jutting out the back to become dangerous to any passing belly-buttons. No issue, I don’t adjust the angle of the holder to defy gravity by lowering my rod tips down towards the water. So I don’t use the “reel lock” feature. I just slide the rod into the holder with only a few inches of the rod-butt jutting out the rear.

            Leaving that few inches out is important. To remove the rod, grip the protruding rod-butt with one hand while the other hand grips just behind or ahead of the reel. Then just lift the whole rod straight upwards and it almost effortlessly pops out of the rod holder. 

            I guess there’s a reason Down-East rod holders have been around for 75 years.  My sample models are staying on my boat. 

            Down-East makes Standard (for up to 25 pound fish) and Salty models for larger fish.

Both models have various mounting options – clamp-on, bolt-on, rail mounts and for both horizontal and vertical surfaces. Available online direct from Down-East at http://www.down-east.com, as well as other online sources and retail outlets.

OLD SALT LIVEWELL CLEANER

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD 

           The mask mandate may be over in most places, but do you ever feel as though you should have put one on when you catch a whiff of your livewell or fish cooler when you open it after it’s been closed shut for a day or two – or a week? It doesn’t take a lot of fish goo left inside a closed box to make it smell like you’d left a dead fish in there a month ago. 

            Sure, a bit of elbow grease and some lemon, pine or chlorine scented cleaning product can resurrect all but the worst examples, but Old Salt Angling Company – the popular fishing scent company – has developed an enzyme active spray that does a creditable job quickly and with far less effort. Just mist a few squirts of the Old Salt Livewell Cleaner into the cooler or livewell either at the end of a day when it’s emptied or at the beginning of a day when heading out and before it’s filled with water and or fish. The odor eating enzymes go to work. 

            For my test case, I chose my fish cooler which had received nothing more than a rinse down a couple of days earlier. I added a couple bags of ice and three squirts of OSLC and quickly shut the lid.  Forty minutes later after we got our lines set, I asked one of my fishing partners to check the cooler.

            “For what?” he asked. 

            “Just check it,” I said. “What do you think?”

            “Nothing in there but some ice,” he said. 

            “What about the smell?” I said.

            “What smell?” he answered, “It doesn’t smell like anything?”

            It passed the test! 

            Old Salt Livewell Cleaner is available in many retail outlets in northeastern Wisconsin or online at http://www.oldsaltangling.com. THE END

VANISH TRANSITIONS FLUOROCARBON LINE

Reviewed by: Capt. Mike Schoonveld

There is one major reason to select a fluorocarbon line when fishing. It’s less visible to fish than traditional monofilament and braided line. Time and again, line visibility has proven to be the difference between making a catch or not, or making a great catch or getting marginal results. There are other, more subtle reasons for paying extra for fluoro-tech line, but they pale compared to the invisibility factor.

But for guys like me who prefer to use high-visibility lines, I relied on fluorocarbon only as a leader material. There was no “best of both worlds” until the line-scientists at Berkley figured how to combine their “Trans Optic” technology – originally available in only in monofilament – into their fluorocarbon line. Berkley’s Vanish fluorocarbon line has always been one of my favorite “invisible” fluorocarbon lines. Transition is essentially the same chemistry except it’s a “highly” visible to humans in a boat but invisible to fish in the water. I use the word “highly” instead of high because compared to other hi-vis line, such as the bright fluorescent green, yellow and orange monofilaments, it pales. Still, compared to clear fluorocarbon line, it is more easily seen.

What happens is above the water, light from the sky causes the line to take on either a solid gold color, or reddish gold tint (either color is available), similarly to how clear/UV lines charge up to glow with a bluish tinge when in sunlight. Once in or under the water, as the sunlight is filtered out, the line abruptly loses its gold or gold/red color and it performs as a regular fluorocarbon line. I particularly like it on downrigged lines since it gives anglers reeling in a fish just enough awareness of the downrigged lines to allow them to guide the fish past them and into the net. 

Many anglers are reluctant to go the hi-vis line with fluoro-leader route due to their unfamiliarity with tying a good leader knot, the potential for failure in the line-to-leader knot or they don’t like the way leader knots pass through the rod’s line guides. Vanish Transition Fluorocarbon gives anglers all the advantage of fluorocarbon line and a bit of the advantage of fishing with a hi-vis line. It’s available in strengths fro 4 to 20-pound test. Widely available at retailers, online outlets or at www.berkley-fishing.com.

PERFORMANCE FABRIC SHIRTS

By Capt. Mike Schoonveld

Not long ago, during the summer months, most Great Lakes fishermen pulled on a tee-shirt if the day came with a prediction for warm weather and sunny skies. Then, if they were worried about too much sun or wanted to shield themselves from the sun’s UV rays, they slathered on a layer of SPF 50 sunscreen on their arms and hoped the fish wouldn’t notice the smell on their hands. They also hoped the sun-salve they slathered wouldn’t sweat off or wear off and that most of the sun’s rays wouldn’t penetrate the cotton or cotton/poly blend from which the tee-shirt was made. Then “performance” fabrics were invented.

Shirts made from performance fabric are thin (thinner than most cotton tee shirt material), have a slick, silky feel to them and they “perform” a couple of useful functions besides hiding the fisherman’s belly-button. First, they carry an industry standard UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) rating of 50, meaning only 1/50th of the sun’s rays penetrate through the fabric.  (A cotton tee-shirt has a UPF of 5.)  Another “performance” factor of these shirts is how they seem to me more comfortable on a hot, sweaty day than wearing a tee shirt or even going bare chested.

Think of how “sweat” works. When we get hot, we perspire. The perspiration, when subjected to the air, evaporates and as that happens, it cools down the skin – keeping us more comfortable. Okay, now put on a cotton tee shirt, work up a sweat and what happens? The cotton absorbs the perspiration faster than it can evaporate. The shirt gets wet and stays wet. The cotton holds the moisture, it doesn’t evaporate, your skin doesn’t cool. You just sweat more.

Performance fabric is made from “plastic thread” so the fibers of the fabric don’t absorb moisture. The weave of the fabric is “engineered” to be woven just tight enough to actually suck moisture into the almost microscopic space between the fibers through capillary action. As that happens, the water can evaporate and will actually evaporate faster than it would from exposed skin. As the moisture evaporates it cools and the material against your skin feels cool – never damp.             

I had a few performance shirts in my fishing apparel last summer which were noteworthy, so please read the next few blogs.

SCALES PRO PERFORMANCE POCKET TEE

Reviewed by: Capt. Mike Schoonveld

The first thing which caught my eye when I saw the Scales long sleeve performance Tee was it had a pocket!  I love pockets on a shirt because I always have stuff along with me which needs at least a temporary spot to be stuffed, at least temporarily, quickly and close at hand. It could be my cell phone, a pair of reading glasses, my wallet, a pair of line clippers, a candy bar….  You get the picture.

So I singled out the Pro Performance Pocket from all the other brands for the breast pocket, but when I looked closer, there were several other selling points. First, they aren’t made from any particular plastic thread, they are made from recycled plastic water bottles. I probably don’t drink a gallon of water annually of bottled water, but from the pallets full I often see at stores, I must be in the minority. Knowing at least some of these bottles, once emptied, are recycled and put to a better use makes me happy.

Better than that, these shirts are stain proof. The coating Scales puts on the plastic thread woven into their performance fabric delivers a durable, long-lasting repellency which is guaranteed against fish blood and other liquid stains for a year.

I often return from a fishing trip looking as though I’d participated in a ritual killing spree, between the blood the fish slop on me when I’m removing the hooks and the fish blood I slop on myself at the filleting station. Throw in a few drips of coffee on my way to the lake, a smear or two of catsup on the way home. I’ll give that guarantee a workout.  So far, after several ritual killings, their guarantee is holding.

In the sun, the Performance Pocket Tee performs as it should. It’s cooler than a short sleeve cotton tee, looks as good on me as any shirt and IT HAS A CONVENIENT BREAST POCKET for my stuff!  Find them online at http://www.scalesgear.com at amazon.com as well as retail outlets. 

GILL UV TEC ZIP TEE

Reviewed by: Capt. Mike Schoonveld

I love wearing camouflage clothes. That’s because camo is hunting clothes and I’m a hunter. It keeps me from being spotted by wary animals in when I’m in a tree stand, duck blind or dove field.

 I don’t wear camo clothes when I’m fishing. I don’t care if the fish spot me. By the time they’d see me, they’ve probably seen my mostly white boat, heard the noisy motor or have been spooked by the downrigger cables. Camo isn’t going to be much help.

Still, some guys (or gals) would wear their hunting camo at their wedding. I wouldn’t, but I would wear it on my boat if camo looked more nautical – or fishy. Now it does.

Several companies now make performance fabric shirts in fishy/nautical patterns so why not camo-up? The first one I picked was from Gill Fishing (www.gillfishing.com) – with a light, water-camo pattern expressed stylishly across the shoulders, front and back, as well as around the bottom of the shirt and the long sleeves.  I chose the quarter – zip collar model – EZ on and off, but more so to add comfort by being able to zip it tight when needed or zip down to loosen and get a bit more air-flow through the shirt. Available in men’s and women’s sizes and styles at their website, at retail outlets and at Amazon.com.