NORTHLAND’S COFFIN SPOONS

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

The end for most of us will be a short ride in a coffin. The end for many fish in the ice belt this year is a short ride up through the water column on a coffin.  A Coffin Spoon, that is – a new offering from Northland this season. It’s actually the newest addition to Northland’s Buckshot series of jigging spoons. All of these have an imbedded rattle chamber to add sound to the baits and the Coffin Spoon has a tail “flipper” added to the hook-end of the spoon to make this spoon the loudest of the Buckshot line as well as providing a bit more flash. 

            This can be a solid factor all season long and ice-experts especially like loud flashy baits at first and last ice when the fish are often most active. They also know both flash and noise can be the key to wake up the fish on those days when the fish are being reluctant biters.

            When I first heard of the Coffin Spoons, I just thought it was a clever name to catch the attention of fishermen as much as the fish. It is clever, but these spoons got the name due to being shaped like a coffin. 

            I don’t know if Northland’s lure designers came up with the name first and then shaped the spoon or if they made the spoon and someone realized it resembled a coffin. Neither is important in the end. The ice season was in full swing at the time of this writing and reports are, “the fish are slamming Coffin Spoons.” 

            They are available in 1/8 oz, 3/16 oz, 1/4 oz and 3/8 oz sizes and in a dozen fish-catching sizes. Check them out and/or buy them at http://www.northlandtackle.com or find them at retail or online tackle emporiums. 

WEIGHTED STEEL LINE

 

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

          The good thing about copper wire fishing line is it catches fish. Actually, that’s the only good thing about copper wire fishing line. Other than that, it’s a pain in the ass to use. I think it hates me. Even when I carefully pay attention to the copper when I’m spooling it off the reel, it regularly manages to “swell up” on the reel’s spool. Sometimes I can carefully reduce the swell; just as often, one loop slides under, over or across one or more others resulting in a copper wire backlash more puzzling than a Rubic’s Cube.

             Each kink does two things: one, it weakens the wire; two, each kink, minor bend or spiral in the copper wire between the rod tip and the lure increases line drag as it pulls through the water and decreases the depth the lure on the end will troll. The reason for using copper wire is to stealthily put lures in productive depths.

            Increasingly, I’d been hearing of anglers using Weighted Steel Line (from Torpedo Fishing Products) as a substitute for copper wire. I was skeptical of it.

            For one, steel is slightly less dense than copper. All else being equal, when comparing the depth capability of trolling with a steel wire and copper wire of equal diameter, the copper will troll deeper. But “all else” isn’t equal.

            For one, the strands of copper used to make copper fishing line are coarser than the strands of steel used to make Weighted Steel. More important is the aforementioned drag on the copper line from the inherent kinks, spirals and slight bends in copper as it pulls through the water. Stranded steel doesn’t have these minor spirals and curves as it pulls through the water. In essence, though the diameter of Weighted Steel is very close to the diameter copper trolling wire and the steel weighs less, due to the way the steel “slicks” through the water, the depth capability is nearly identical. 

            Since the depth is similar, the advantage of Weighted Steel is it doesn’t hate me!  Deploying it is no harder than setting out a lead core line. In fact, I often hand a Weighted Steel rig to novices fishing with me with the simple instruction, “Let this one out.”  Would you do that with a copper line rig? 

            Connecting Weighted Steel to backing or to a fluorocarbon or monofilament leader is a bit different than with copper. Torpedo makes a “Termination Kit” to facilitate this. It’s basically a wire crimp and wind-on swivel. Fine, if your reel’s level wind guide is wide enough for the tiny swivel to pass through. It’s not so fine on several of my reels with narrow level-winders.

            I solved it by attaching a short length of 100# braid to the end of the Weighted Steel using an Albright knot and then tying a double-uni to connect wire to the backing or leader. These connections wound on my reels with no problem. 

            Consider this. I’ve never heard of anyone who tried Weighted Steel going back to copper wire. Many (like myself) spooled one reel with Weighted Steel as a test, then quickly bought additional spools of Weighted Steel to switch all their coppers to Weighted Steel.            

Weighted steel is available at many retail and online sources (including Amazon.com) or straight from Torpedo Fishing Products at www.torpedodiver.com.

BOW BELL ASSEMBLY

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD  

Over 20 years ago my boat’s trailer came with a single roller where the bow of the boat snugs up to the winch stand. It never dawned on me there was anything else available until I was helping a friend load his boat and I saw his bow had a pair of “cones” on the outside of the bow roller support. Maybe I’d seen other boat trailers similarly equipped, but I’d not paid attention to them.

What I did pay attention to was how easily, when my friend nosed his boat up to the trailer, the “side-scoops” helped center the boat’s bow perfectly and protected the boat’s hull if (when) the boat was nosed up to the winch stops a bit off center when power-loading. I’ve since learned these cones or scoops are properly called “End Bells,” at least that’s what they were called on the C.E. Smith website where I found a set of bells that fit my trailer.

My original bow roller was made of black rubber and over the years, I’d replaced it as needed with similar rollers. C.E. Smith does offer black rubber End Bells, sold separately, but since my current bow roller was showing some hard use, I decided to get a complete Bow Bell Assembly which includes both the center roller and the end bells. As long as I was replacing everything, I elected to get a blue assembly made of Thermal Plastic Rubber. The price was the same, it dressed up the front of the trailer a bit, and the blue (or other color) thermal plastic is tougher than the black rubber.  It makes loading my own boat easier, is easier on the bow of my boat and is something I wish I’d found years earlier. 

Check them out at http://www.cesmith.com. 

GILL LANGLAND TECHNICAL HOODIE

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD            

I’ve written previously about the “middle” layer cool and cold weather fishermen and women need to incorporate into their apparel layering scheme. Basically, a person needs to have a base layer that wicks sweat and natural skin moisture away from the skin and an outer layer that is breathable to allow that moisture to escape to the atmosphere. The middle layer is the clothes between the base layer and the outer parka or jacket.

I’m also a guy who loves to wear hoodies. I don’t often put the hood up to keep my head warm, but even in the down position, the hood keeps my neck warm and the cold breezes from blowing down my my collar. I love the kangaroo pouch as much as the hood. I a hoody’s rugged look and wear hoodies for work, play and most anytime the weather is suitable.

Most hoodies are cotton or cotton blends and will absorb water like a sponge. They make a horrible middle layer.

The Langland Technical Hoodie looks and feels like any other well-made hooded sweatshirt, but instead of being a poly-cotton material, it’s made from a synthetic fibers imbued with Gill’s unique XPEL stain resistant technology. What’s that?

 When I was looking at the hoodie at the Gill booth at ICAST the rep spritzed some water on the garment to show how it the spray would just bead up and roll off. It’s not waterproof – you’d get wet in a rain shower – but it’s resistant to casual sprays like when boating on a choppy day, or when hosing things down at the fish cleaning station. I’ve also learned in actual use it repels fish blood and slime as easy as it does plain water.

Since it’s what I call ABC (anything but cotton) when comes to cold weather layering, the cloth is a perfect middle layer, allowing and even helping moisture from the base layer continue it’s journey to the outer layer where it can escape, preventing the cold weather angler from getting clammy. When you need to shed a layer, it’s still doing the job.

When I’m wearing a hoodie, I use the pouch pocket almost continuously. This hoodie comes with a special feature inside the pouch in the form of a zippered pocket perfect for stowing your phone, wallet or car keys where they are handy but zippered safe and secure. 

Check them out at http://www.gillfishing.com. They are available at the Gill website, Amazon and retail outlets. I like my hoodies to be a bit on the baggy size and other Gill products I’ve worn seem to run a bit small. I order mine a size larger than I’d usually wear and it’s a perfect fit.  

DH CUSTOM BAITS (AND KNIVES)

Reviewed by: Capt. Mike Schoonveld

I’m not dissing the paint jobs that come on production model lures. It’s amazing to think of the work it takes for a manufacturer to paint either wild-looking patterns like fire-tiger on a single lure while painting others so exactingly detailed they look almost real. Then realize these patterns (and dozens of others) have to be recreated countless thousands of times for each model and size of lure.

That is amazing, but most mass produced lures are put to shame when compared to the work of custom lure painters who create one of a kind patterns they invent or collaborate to create for other fishermen. One of these custom painters up in the heart of the western walleye belt is Dane Heid who can put your favorite pattern (or one you invent) on any lure – or pick one of the DH Custom Baits’ proprietary patterns he paints on popular bass and walleye baits.

An option I’d never thought of previously however, was to have Dane (or another custom painter) create your favorite paint scheme on something else. Then I saw a pic on TargetWalleye.com of a group of filet knife handles Dane had painted in popular walleye patterns. They were beautiful – almost too beautiful to use.

I instantly wanted one but not to just add to my fish cleaning kit and dazzle fellow knife wielders at fish cleaning stations. I wanted one to add to the “outdoorsy” decor of my office/work room/man cave. So I sent Dane a magnum “original” Hot ‘n Tot and a filet knife, asking him to paint each of them in a matching Blue Tiger color. Once I got them back, I mounted them in a shadow box.  

If you want a custom painted lure of any color or want some other item painted to look like your favorite lure, contact Dane at http://www.DHCustomBaits.com. He does fabulous work at a reasonable price.  

CAPTAIN’S PACKS FROM GREAT LAKES TACKLE

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD  

What’s better than having a high quality spoon with a “fish-popping” color scheme?  Having six of them – and that’s what you get with a Captain’s Pack of spoons from Great Lakes Tackle like GLT’s Hot Mag Mix shown here. The Hot Mag Pack is a mix of their most popular individually-sold patterns and more. It includes a pair of their Zombie Apocalypse SuperGlows, another pair of the Head Hunter SuperGlows and includes a pair of ladder-back patterns only available in the Captain’s Pack. The spoons come packed in a six compartment Plano box.

 If I were designing the “perfect” salmon/trout spoon for the Great Lakes I’d start with a super glow blank, then I’d add some bright color highlight colors – my favorites are fluorescent green and hot red – then finish with some Mylar or painted-on patterns. I’m going to make sure my spoons are UV “activated.”  I’ve seen non-UV patterns fail, when the same pattern with a UV coating is the top producer.  Tom Schultz’s spoons check all the boxes.

 Lots of spoon builders end it there. Not GLT. First, put a top quality, name brand hook on the fishy end – none are better than Owner. Hang a small, hammered “flipper” spinner blade on the hook-hanger as well. Most of the time, that flipper doesn’t do squat, but every once in a while that tiny bit of flash might be just what gets a skeptical fish to chomp the blade, or perhaps the minor amount of clatter the spinner creates when it ticks on the hook shank attracts the attention of a big salmon which otherwise might ignore it.

There’s a nose swivel at the angler-end of these spoons. Again, it may or may not be a deal breaker most days, but when the few extra strikes it may produce come on one of your lines – success! 

More important, in my mind is the back side of the spoon. Many spoon builders go all out on the face of the spoon – to catch the fisherman – and leave the back of the spoon bare. Fish see both sides as a spoon trolls through the water and the backsides of these spoons all have something other than just plain metal.  You’ll like them and the fish are proven to like them.            

Check out the available “Captain’s Packs” and order one for yourself or for your favorite captain at https://www.gl-tackle.com.  

SPOON BOX FROM SPOONCRANK

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

Decades ago I won a spinner-bait tackle box in a raffle. I am not an avid bass angler so I didn’t need a special box just for the few spinner baits I owned but I did have dozens and dozens of trolling spoons I needed to keep under control. The spinner bait box did the job well enough it’s been on my boat ever since, despite my trying numerous versions of spoon storage “options” from several companies.

The spinner-bait box wasn’t perfect, however, just better than the others. So when frequent Basics and Beyond contributor, Doug Morash, mentioned he had started a new business producing and selling tackle boxes specifically for the Great Lakes market, I wondered if he was on to something or being overly optimistic. Competing with the established lure storage “big dogs” with an American made product is like opening a general store next to a Walmart.

Morash had first hand knowledge that Great Lakes trollers’ tackle storage needs are much different than what works for inland lake guys fishing for bass, pike or panfish, especially when it comes to trolling spoons and those super long diving crankbaits popular with walleye trollers. He developed two sizes of boxes, the shorter one converts to a crankbait and/or spoon box, the taller one is perfect for walleye trollers using extra long, “deeper-diver” models.

Both are built on the “ammo” box design with the hinge on one end and a secure closure on the other. Inside are 10, hinged-at-the-bottom dividers – each divider with nine hook slots so you can dangle 90 spoons inside (more if you want to double up). The hinged dividers allow the user to flip through the selections like flipping through folders in a file cabinet and easily remove a selected spoon. Genius! 

Add five bucks more to the bill and get a stack of partitions which snap firmly on the dividers creating individual cubicles to hang up to 50 crankbaits and never tangle hooks or end up with the lures getting more scratched from being stored than from catching fish. Many people will be able to use the partitions on some of the dividers, leave them off of others and put all of their trolling lures in one container.

The original Spoon/Crank box will hold magnum (five-inch) spoons and/or cranks and stickbaits to 6.75 inches. The Deeper Diver box has the same footprint but is deep enough to hold lures like the Reef Runner 800s, deep running Bandits and other, similar lures to 9 1/2 inches.

I tested the smaller box and ended up using it just for my spoons assortment. It passed all the my tests.

Test one: It held 90 spoons and made them easy to find – easily beating my old spinner-bait box.

Test two: One of the knuckleheads fishing with me managed to drop the full box of spoons upside down onto the deck. On my old box, that would have resulted in a mess requiring a half hour and several curse words to fix. When the Spoon Box was righted and opened, all of the spoons were still in place. The foam lined lid pushes down on the top of the divider keeping the lures in place.

Test three: My old spinner-bait box is now permanently retired.

“But wait, there’s more!” as any infomercial salesman would say. The lid opens to reveal an additional storage area to hold tools, terminal tackle or other items. That’s where I keep a Tackle Tamer with pre-tied slider leaders and other supplies. 

To see more about or purchase Morash’s Spoon, Crankbait or Deeper Diver Boxes go to www.spooncrankbox.com.

SPRO 9″ SPORTSMAN SCISSORS

        

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

Do you have a pair of scissors on your boat?  I never did even though they do a terrific job of cutting braided line. I had traditional nail-clipper style line cutters on board and I used them to “gnaw” through braid when needed. Line clippers are basically, single task tools – perhaps dual task if you find yourself in need of an emergency manicure while fishing.

I don’t like single-task tools – especially on the boat. I imagined including a pair of scissors just for when I needed to cut braided line would be just another single tasker.

But when I saw the SPRO 9″ Sportsman Scissors at the mid-summer ICAST show, it caught my eye. Not only are they top notch “braid cutters,” they are decidedly a multi-use tool.

 So I got a 9″ Sportsman Scissors to add to my fishing tool assortment and used it the last half of the 2021 fishing season. I was worried about the size – a nine-inch scissor is a rather robust tool, especially compared to a fingernail snipper. However, what I found is it’s easier to do “micro” jobs with a large scissor than to tackle a “macro” chore with a mini-set of clips or snips.

 A few of the details about the scissors: they are stainless steel, naturally; have a serrated edge (necessary to cut braid) and a non-slip, man-sized, rubberized grip. Inside the grip is what SPRO calls a nut (as in walnuts) and claw cracker (as in crab claws). I’ve not cracked any walnuts or crab legs with them, but I have grabbed the scissors several times to use the crab-cracker as pliers when I needed a better grip on a stubborn something. When the blades are opened fully, the two blades of the tool will pop apart allowing the fish-scaler and bottle opener to be used.

Besides cutting braided line, I’ve used the scissors to open new blister-packed lures, clipping fins, trimming flies and other chores. Maybe they are a multi-tasker.

There are some brands of fishing products that are recognized as being the highest quality. SPRO is one of those. From snaps and swivels to tackle storage to tools, if it’s a SPRO I know it’s well made and isn’t going to let me down. I’ve used the SPRO scissors for half a season now and I wish I’d had them for the last half of my life (or longer.) If you don’t have a pair of scissors on board your boat, you need a pair and the SPRO nine-inchers will do the multiple jobs you’ll find for them.

To check out the SPRO scissors, go to http://www.SPRO.com.

FRABILL RUBBER REPLACEMENT NET

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

Over 90 percent of the fish that come aboard my boat are hauled aboard using rubber mesh landing nets, simply because they are about 10 times less prone to tangling with hooks than nets made of other materials.  I’ve tried “string” nets, plastic coated nets – both “store-bought” and DIY versions covered with spray-on products like Flex Seal. The coated nets are slightly better than non-coated versions but can’t compete with rubber nets.

Some net manufacturers offer rubber mesh models, some don’t and some of those that do don’t offer them in versions large enough for good-sized Great Lakes salmon and trout or with handle lengths suitable for most trolling boats. That’s why both of the “rubber” nets I use on my boat are hybrids. 

I retro-fitted replacement rubber nets from Frabill (model number 3070) onto net frames with suitably-sized handles and adequate hoop sizes made by other manufacturers. The 3070 is Frabill’s largest rubber replacement net, said to fit hoops 23 X 26 inches. One of my hoops is several inches larger, the other slightly smaller than this, but the basket is rubber. It stretches and will work just fine.

When I have fish approaching 20 pounds or larger, I drag out a bigger, string-basket net, but I regularly and easily scoop up fifteen pounders or larger with the 3070 hybrid. The largest fish ever boated with this net was a 26-pound king. 

If you can’t find them anywhere else, they can be ordered direct from http://www.frabill.com.

NORTHLAND RUMBLE LURES

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

Sometimes the old saw about everything old becoming new again makes sense. Before the first molds were made to make lures from plastic, various types of wood were carved to make fishing “plugs.” Once lure makers sprouted in the plastics industry and many existing brands “reimagined” their baits as plastic, lures crafted from wood, except in a few cases, became endangered species.

Millions of fish have fallen for plastic lures, but that doesn’t mean they were necessarily better. Plenty of fish still fall for the few brands of wooden lures still out there. Balsa ShadRaps and Rapala Jointed Minnows will be in my tackle box forever.

The fact is, the switch from wood to plastic wasn’t made to make lures more appealing to fish; it was an economic decision. The fish don’t care, in fact, my choice of balsa ShadRaps over say, plastic Flicker Shads is because the fish like them better – some of the time – maybe most of the time. So in the competitive fishing lure business, it’s no surprise that a few lure makers are going retro and producing lures made of balsa or other wood – to catch more fish as well as more fishermen.

Few companies know walleyes better than Northland Tackle so when this north woods company based in Bemidji, Minnesota rolled out their balsa wood Rumble Shads and Rumble Sticks last spring, I got some and put them to use and abuse on my early June trip to Lake Erie. My friends and I used them, the walleyes abused them.             My favorite color in the dirtier than usual water was the “Sneeze” color – yellow with green/black spots. We did well with the Rumble Shad in the Bubble Gum Tiger color, as well. Check these and other “Rumbles” out at retailers, big box outlets or on-line at http://www.northlandtackle.com