DRIFTER CARRYALL BAG by GRIZZLY

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

In the rotomolded cooler industry, Grizzly is one of the big dogs.  Why not? Made in America, grizzly bear tough, Grizzly Coolers are the choice of many charter captains and hunting outfitters. So when Grizzly introduced their Drifter Carryall Bag, I expected big things from it. “Big” is one of the operative words, as well. With inside dimensions of 18 X 14 X 8 inches it will hold over eight gallons of stuff. 

When I say stuff it’s because the bag isn’t designed just to be a soft-sided cooler – though it does that exceptionally well. As a cooler, it’s well insulated, so pack in a bunch of  sandwiches, several cold drinks and add a couple of freezer packs. There’s room for lunch for the whole crew.

It has a thermoplastic, waterproof liner. That means it will keep any condensation or melting ice cubes from leaking out; and of course, it will keep water from the outside from going the other way. So use the bag for a dry bag on your boat to keep spray or rain from getting to spare clothes or other items that should be kept dry.

Traveling anglers will like it as well. I’ve used mine as a traveling cooler. I put it in my luggage where folds to the size of a hoody or pair of jeans, then use it as a cooler on day trips or to bring fish fillets home if the trip was successful. Jet-set anglers will appreciate that though it’s ample in size, it meets the carry-on luggage size requirements and will fit in overhead compartments on airplanes.

Available in pale orange, dark tan and teal blue, look for them at select retailers or online at http://www.grizzlycoolers.com

TORPEDO PRODUCTS 19-STRAND WIRE LINE

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

Using “wire line” to make Dipsey Divers go deeper than they would go using monofilament or braid has been a popular tactic for decades. Deeper is better when summer thermoclines pushed salmon and trout to depths reserved for downrigger fishing. Wire line also helps when deploying a pair of divers on each side of the boat, relying on the diver’s belly weight to dipsey them apart. The wire gives the divers a totally different dive curve than when using either mono or braid and that helps keep separation on the high diver and low diver.

Braid comes close to putting divers as deep down as wire, but anglers soon learned that wire often outfished braid in head-to-head competition. The only conclusion is the wire creates some sort of vibration as it cuts through the water that fish find attractive.

Thirty pound test, seven-strand wire is made by several different companies, and for years was the wire most anglers used. Many still do. It certainly works, but there were some drawbacks to it.

Primarily, it kinked easily and once kinked, no longer tested 30 pounds. And, it was abrasive to conventional rod guides so it required using rods with roller guides instead of rings. Those rods aren’t cheap. 

Torpedo Fishing Products got it’s start making Torpedo Divers – a tool designed to take lures deep instead of, or as an addition to, downriggers or diving planers and it was soon learned that pairing the Torpedo Divers with wire, instead of monofilament or braid, provides the same fish catching advantage as it did with conventional divers.

Was there an alternative, more user friendly wire line? The Torpedo Diver folks asked and answered this question by introducing a stranded wire line with a similar diameter built using 19 strands of micro-stainless steel wire instead of just seven, larger diameter wires. The result was mini-cable much smoother to the feel and more supple. That makes it easier to use and less prone to kinking. It also cuts through the water with less drag. Nineteen-strand is stronger to begin with, stated to be 40-pound test when new, 35-pound test when kinked and 30-pound test when tied in a knot.

Why tie it in a knot? Knotting it to the diver or the snap that will clip onto the diver is quicker, simpler and easier than crimping on sleeves to form a loop at the terminal end. That’s what I do – snipping off the knot and retying every few trips.

Most anglers still use their roller-guide rods when they switch to 19-strand wire. I don’t blame them, those roller guide rods are expensive. However, I know many anglers who use their 19 strand wire on moderately priced rods with Fuji SIC or other extra hard line guides. Weekend fishermen report getting several years out of a rod before they notice the line cutting grooves in these extra tough line guides. Even frequent fishers usually get a season or more, then they either buy new rods or just replace the worn guides with new ones. 

If this all sounds good to you, let me mention one more selling point. I know dozens of anglers, from weekend fishermen to full time charter captains who switched from seven-strand wire to 19-strand on a trial basis. I don’t know any of these guys who ever switched back.

Nineteen-strand wire is available at many trolling oriented tackle shops, online at Amazon or order directly from Torpedo Fishing Products at http://www.torpedodivers.com

RAPALA SHAD RAP, NEW WALLEYE COLORS

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

When Rapala invented the Shad Rap in 1982 it became an instant hit with walleye fishermen. Since then, millions of walleyes have started their journey from water to frying pan thanks to those lures. The surprising thing is the color selections available on those original lures was rather plain, by today’s standards.  I could choose between silver-gray, chartreuse yellow, sky blue or dark gold. (I liked chartreuse the best for walleyes.) 

Additional colors showed up over the years – many of them designed strictly for bass or other species.  Last year, the Rapala Shad Rap lure painters introduced a half-dozen new walleye-oriented patterns.  All of them are winners. Especially on the Great Lakes, I expect more and more walleye guys to be reporting their Shad Raps in Jucy Lucy or Pink Squirrel did the job for them.

Other color names are Black Wonderbread, Headspin, Moldy Fruit and Voodoo Haze. I’ve used them enough (successfully) to be able to picture those color patterns just from their name. If you can’t picture Jucy Lucy, go to http://www.rapala.com to check out (or puchase) what she looks like as well as the other new Shad Rap colors that look good to you.  Tip: Don’t think these are only for walleye, I’m sure plenty of bass, trout, salmon and other species will find these paint-jobs good enough to eat. 

SPIDERWIRE/TRILENE FLUOROCARBON DUAL

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

There are certainly some advantages for fishing with SpiderWire (or other braided lines) and there are certainly some advantages to having your lure or bait tied to fluorocarbon line. Each of those types of lines come with disadvantages, as well. To get the best of both, anglers across the country spool up with braid, but they tie on a fluorocarbon leader to put three or four feet of nearly invisible line between the end of the braid and the hooks they want the fish to bite down on. 

That’s what I often do and and now SpiderWire and Berkley (both owned by Pure Fishing) makes that easier than ever. To make things easier for braid/fluoro users, SpiderWire now offers a dual spool option in one package. A reel-filler spool of SpiderWire Stealth in either 8, 10, 15 or 20-pound break strength comes with an attached smaller spool of suitably strong fluorocarbon inside the back of the braided line’s spool. Choose either hi-vis yellow or moss green for the SpiderWire Stealth.  Both SpiderWire Stealth and Trilene Fluorocarbon are personal favorites of mine that I have plenty of experience using.            

Check out the braid/fluorocarbon options http://www.purefishing.com. All of these products are available at many retail and online outlets. 

ST. CROIX  BASS X ROD

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD           

The emcee at the gathering read off the numbers on the winning raffle ticket, “801, 776,” then he scanned the room for a hand to go up. My wife, sitting next to me, raised hers.

I’d bought her a string of tickets for the fund raising raffle part of the evening. “What did I win?” she asked.  “A St. Croix fishing rod,” I said. “Those are really good rods, great rods. Way to go!” She liked winning, I like the idea of adding a new fishing rod to “my” assortment. Peggy took personal liking to it and continues calling it “her” rod.

Regardless of who owns it and despite this 7′ 2″ rod (Model BAC72MHM) being specifically built and labeled as a bassin’ stick, the first fish hoisted to the surface with it, was a walleye Peggy cranked to the surface on a trip to the St. Clair River last spring. The fish didn’t know the difference and my wife didn’t care. She out fished me with the Bass X both in numbers and with the big fish of the day. Was it luck or her new rod?

After a couple of fish, I borrowed the rig from Peggy – just for a few minutes – to see how it felt. This is a rod crafted with St. Croix’s most durable carbon fiber called SCII but it doesn’t lose any of the sensitivity St. Croix’s rods are noted for having. With no-stretch braid between the rod tip and hooks, I could feel the blades on the crawler harness thumping in the current.

Often, sensitive means brittle. Not with this rod. Good thing! I don’t baby my gear – I fish with it and I’m not a finesse angler. When I secreted Peggy’s rod over to Lake Erie a few weeks later to fish for smallmouth, I stuck it to the bass with Peggy’s rod like a pro angler making a YouTube vid. The rod turned the bass I hooked when I set the hook, got them coming and kept them coming all the way to the boat. What more can you want?  See all the Bass X rods at http://www.stcroixrods.com.

St. Croix rods are available at dealers listed on their website or just buy some raffle tickets. You could be a winner!

ABU GARCIA JORDAN LEE LOW PROFILE BAITCASTER

Reviewed by CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD    

        My wife won a new fishing rod in a raffle at an event we were attending. Now I needed a new reel to complete the combo so I called one of my contacts at Abu Garcia, told him about my wife’s new rod and asked for his advice on what sort of baitcaster to pair it with. “We’ve got a Jordan Lee Low Profile Reel that would go great with that rod. It’s stylish, loaded with features, light weight and comes at a great price point,” he said.  (For you non-bass guys, Jordan Lee won the Bassmasters Classic two years in a row a few years back and he’s still one of the top pros on the circuit.)  

            I looked it up at http://www.abugarcia.com and agreed. Look up the features for yourself – impressive.  More important, my wife loved it.

            The bright yellow grips are more than just flash, they are molded from a soft-touch, easy to grip material. It’s light weight, combining a graphite frame with an aluminum spool. She could handle the rod and reel quite easily and so could I.

            Though it is my wife’s rod and reel when she fishes with me, I’ve snuck it along on several trips and used it myself. One thing I noticed immediately was how smooth it was when reeling, when dropping a jig into the river or casting it. Everything inside that moves is ball or roller bearings. No bushings. It comes with a choice of either 6.4:1 or 7.1:1 gear ratios; I chose the higher speed, 7.1 to 1 retrieve.  One of the downsides to most of these smaller reels, specifically designed to be used with braided line, is their smaller spools need a fast retrieve to put much line back on the reel with each turn of the crank. The high speed ratio pulled lures or the fish in without any undo speed-cranking needed. 

Available at many online sources as well as too many retail outlets to list.

SEBAGO TROLLING RIG

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

Lake trout and salmon are suckers for bling. Put something flashy in the water like a highly polished metal dodger or a brightly colored plastic rotator and they’ll swim a half mile out of their way to check out the bright, shiny objects. Then (hopefully) they’ll then snarf the fly, Spin N Glow, spoon or whatever other bait or lure is trailing just behind the bling and “fish-on!” 

When I saw the Sebago Trolling Rig from Al’s Goldfish Lure Company, I thought, “Wow, that’s some bling!”  The blades on these come in polished 22K gold plating or in mirror-finished nickel.

Rotating spinner blades have been attracting fish and duping them into frying pans for centuries. Sometime in fishing history, inventive anglers produced ganged strings of spinners, apparently thinking, if one spinner looks like one baitfish, perhaps a string of spinners would mimic a school of baitfish. Lake trolls were invented and have been attracting salmon and trout

long before the first metal or plastic flashers were available.

For the most part, lake trolls have never gained a following in the Great Lakes. I’ve played with them over the years, but metal dodgers and plastic flashers are my go to presentations when I use an attractor. Do I really need to start trolling with lake trolls?

The Sebago Trolling Rig convinced me to give lake trolls another try. The immediate initial success I had with them convinced me to use them over and again. I’ve ran them with Spin N Glows, spoons, Yakima SpinFish, Freedom Tackle cut-bait plugs and herring strips on meatheads.

The Sebago Trolling Rigs have three spinner blades, a medium and medium large Colorado blades and a large willow leaf style blade at the front.  The total length is 25 inches. 

I’m not saying these rigs are going to retire my dodgers and flashers, but they’ve become a welcome addition to my game plan. They are available in some retail outlets, at Amazon.com or order from the Al’s Goldfish Lure Company at http://www.alsgoldfish.com.   

NFUSE OZONE SPRAYER

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

Every outdoor oriented family should have two of these. I need one to “Ozone-ize” things in my boat and tow vehicle. I need another for my wife so she has one near at hand when she needs it for her indoor use.

The NFuse sprayer was invented for big game/varmint hunters but there are plenty of reasons for campers, RVers and others to use one, as well. Outdoors people are able to create a stink and the NFuse is designed to deodorize virtually every surface quickly and completely with an endless supply of ozone.

First, a much simplified chemistry lesson. The chemical name for Ozone is O3 which means it’s three oxygen atoms stuck together. Oxygen in the air is O2, two atoms stuck together. The air’s oxygen is very stable. It likes being O2. O3 is very unstable except when it’s high above the earth in the stratosphere where solar radiation reacts with O2 to make it O3 and creates the Earth’s ozone layer.

The only other time and place where ozone occurs naturally is lower in the atmosphere when the electricity in a lightning bolt pins extra oxygen atoms to atmospheric oxygen. That “spring time fresh” smell you whiff just before a thunderstorm is ozone. But as soon as it’s created, a “near earth” molecule of ozone is highly unstable. When it contacts almost any substance capable of accepting an extra oxygen molecule, the transfer occurs. A tiny whiff of springtime won’t hurt multi-celled creatures (including humans) but when most bacteria or viruses are hit with ozone, they pop like water balloons.

Often, when stinky things, like sulphur dioxide – and hydrogen sulphide (both have a “rotten egg smell”) contact ozone they instantly transform into non-smelly compounds. That makes ozone one of nature’s natural deodorizers and sanitizers. So what about man-made ozone?

It works just the same. Whether it’s created by lightning or produced by an ozone generator, the ozone kills microbes and deodorizes odors. Ozone generating machines do the job by super-saturating the air inside a closed space with O3 molecules. The downside of them is they need to be used in an enclosed space – like a vehicle or small room to be effective – and those spaces need to be “aired” out before people use them.

That’s the beauty of the NFuse Ozone Sprayer. Just as regular oxygen will dissolve in water, so will ozone – at least for a little while. Once water is infused it will gradually “de-infuse” like carbonation will gradually leave a soda or beer.

So fill the NFuse container with tap, bottled or distilled water. Turn on the unit’s rechargeable ozone generator and watch the ozone generator pump freshly made ozone into the water.   It takes about 90 seconds to infuse the water with ozone. Then mist the ozone-water on a contaminated or smelly surface where the ozone will immediately go to work sanitizing and deodorizing and it does it faster than even chlorinated or other products.

I gave the NFuse Sprayer some tough tests. Stinky fish cooler – passed. Sweaty truck seats – passed. Mildew odor inside my truck’s topper – passed. Those were some of my toughest tests. My wife conducted her own tests on the dog’s bed, cooking odors, food prep odors (like onion and garlic) on cutting boards and the inside of the washer, dryer and the shower stall in the guest bathroom. I think she has other uses, as well, since every time she sees me getting it out she says, “Don’t forget to bring that back!”

YAMAHA HELM MASTER EX STEERING SYSTEM

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

Most of the time the products in T&T are those I’ve had the chance to use personally on my own boat. Full disclosure, I don’t have a Yamaha motor on my boat, but I was on a slick as snot Skeeter multi-species boat last September equipped with a Yamaha 300 outboard and in particular, this Yammy had been upgraded with their Helm Master EX steering system.

The big motor would likely push the boat at 60 mph, but my reason for hopping on board wasn’t to paste some late season Michigan “skeeters” on my face; rather, to check out the steering system which is so much more than just pushing the throttle and spinning the wheel at the helm.

Until now, a well-equipped multi-species boat in the Great Lakes area needed to be equipped with a kicker motor on the stern, (maybe $2500); a high-end, bow-mounted electric motor (maybe another $2500); 36 volts worth of lithium batteries (maybe another $2500); an autopilot (maybe another $2500). Now, most owners of Yamaha outboards 150 HP or larger or future owners of Yamaha outboards won’t need any of these items when they purchase a new motor with the Helm Master EX steering system or retrofit their present Yamaha outboard with the system.

The system comes with a seven-inch screen, either in or on the dash, and integrates with most fairly late model chart plotters or plotter/sonar units, whether they are Hummers, Raymarine, Garmin, Lowrance or other brands. It comes with a joystick steering control, but the stick  doesn’t replace the steering wheel, the user just picks which to use, depending on need. When we simulated fishing conditions, trolling, controlled drift or “e-anchoring,” as well as inside the marina in tight quarters as when docking or maneuvering in close quarters, the joystick was the way to go. At cruising speeds, use the steering wheel.

I’ve had autopilot steering on all my boats since the middle 1990s. I wouldn’t own a boat without it. Push a couple of buttons and the EX’s autopilot feature takes over to steer a straight or a gently serpentine route if that’s what is wanted. A few taps on the screen of the chart and the AP will steer a complex route to follow a contour or navigate a channel.

Speed control is amazing. Without activating the EX and after bumping the boat into gear the dead idle speed was 3.7 MPH – too fast for most Great Lakes trolling applications. So I just tapped the joystick back a few times and the speed decreased to 2.5. Not bad for salmon, what about walleye speeds? Tap the stick and it decelerated to 1.5 and could go lower.

To hit these low speeds, the motor simply bumped in and out of gear to regulate the speed. Bumped may not be the exact word, since the electronic shifting is smooth, more like the shifting of a car with automatic transmission.

Just as with anchor-lock systems on electric motors, the EX will auto turn left or right, forward or reverse to hold the boat in place. For walleye guys who like to drift, the EX will hold the boat 90 degrees (or at any other chosen angle) so everyone fishing on board will have their lines at right angle to the boat. If you have a good drift, punch a few buttons and the boat will move back along the same path and at the same speed up wind to the starting point.

Docking with the joystick was amazing. On our test trip, my friend at the helm (not a seasoned boater) slid the boat up next to the pier like a seasoned pro by using the joystick. It looked like the boat wanted to be parked.

This is one time I guarantee an “electronic” device will put more fish in your boat and definitely make your days on the lake more enjoyable while you are in pursuit of the fish. Check it out at http://www.yamahaoutboards.com.

NESCO ELECTRIC CANNER

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

One of my earliest memories is a steamy kitchen on a hot summer day with giant cauldrons of boiling water, sinks full of Mason jars and pops from lids sealing jars of green beans, corn, apples or tomatoes cooling on the sideboard. My family “put up” a pantry full of canned garden produce to eat through the winter months. It was partly being from a frugal family, but mostly because home-canned produce from a Mason jar are about 10 times better tasting than a tin can of Green Giant or Del Monte produce.

It’s exactly the same with home-canned salmon (or other fish). Home canned in Mason jars, salmon (or other fish) is decidedly more flavorful than its tin-can counterparts from the grocery store – and just as versatile. Eat it straight from the jar or make salmon patties, salmon loaf, salmon dip, lake trout casseroles, pasta dishes and other recipes. 

Now, NESCO, brings home canning into the digital appliance age. I’ve canned hundreds of jars in my antique (well over 30 years old) stovetop Presto and when the steam starts puffing around the top and the heavy rocker on the top starts rattling as the canning magic is rumbling inside, it takes me back to those pre-air conditioned days of my youth.

I’m used to it, but it’s scary to many these days. I’ve never been around a pressure cooker blowup, but I’ve heard stories of canners exploding like a boiler on a runaway locomotive. The NESCO does hiss a bit, probably as much for nostalgia as need, but it has enough safeguards and auto-shutdown switches it is never scary and won’t explode.

What it will do is can five pint jars of salmon or vegetables (four quart jars) at a time with a few button pushes on the digital display. Set the timer, let it go through it’s warm up mode, position the steam release valve and walk away. Other than nostalgia, the finished product is just as good as what the old-timey canners produced.

There’s more, however. The NESCO 9.5 Quart Smart Canner and Cooker is a multi-tasker.

Electric pressure cookers were the rage a decade ago. Some home cooks still use them, others, not so much. Few big yard sales are complete without a lightly used Instant Pot on one of the tables. Ours now lives under the counter at my daughter’s house.

You can’t pressure can meat or vegetables in most electric pressure cookers – not enough pressure. You are able to pressure cook meat, stews, soup and other recipes with the NESCO, as well as steam cook or slow cook any recipe. Available at many retail and big-box stores, online outlets or see all the NESCO products at http://www.nesco.com.