Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD            

I’m lucky to live near the southern tip of Lake Michigan where the first open water boat fishing on any of the Great Lakes is available. Not only is our water soft on top by late February or early March most years, all the coho salmon stocked by Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan are here and the fishing is as hot as it gets. Too bad I can’t say that about the weather.

It’s a smaller boat fishery best suited to outboard powered, trailerable boats. No warm cabin to duck into. No escape from wind, errant snowflakes or frosty, sub-freezing mornings.

Proper layering with high tech winter garb is demanded. Top it all off with a sturdy, warm, weatherproof and waterproof outer layer and you’ll be just fine.

Actually, top off the bottom three-quarters of your body with a pair of Gill Winter Angler Bibs and you’ll be better than fine. Gill is a leader in the world of technical apparel designed specifically for mariners and anglers. Waterproof means waterproof all day, not just for a passing shower or a bit of spray from a bumpy boat ride. Tough, means fabric, zippers, seams and wear points that stand up to the everyday use professional anglers, charter boat skippers and fishing guides demand.

Warmth and comfort is top on my list of things to demand in my earliest season outer wear, but close behind is durability and ease of use. Nothing is going to last me a lifetime, the way I use and abuse it, but it sure better give me several seasons of use. These will.

And if I’m going to live in them a couple months each year, they better have a couple of handy features. Gill’s Winter Bibs do. They have a full-length zipper on each leg and it’s a big, easy-to-zip, easy-to-grip zipper. The bibs are easy on, easy off. The suspender straps are wide and durable. I’m sure they will still be strong and elastic, not stretched out or worse, for the life of the garment. Lastly, I’m a “pocket” guy, and the Winter Angler Bib’s zippered chest pocket is roomy, easy to use and holds much of my useful clutter where I can get to it when needed.             

You’ll find these at many in store or online fishing gear retailers or check out all the Gill apparel and accessories at


Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD    

The letters above stand for Electronic Visual Distress Signaling Device which most of the people I know who use them call “electronic flares.”  This is the time of year when all Great Lakes boaters should be checking their required visual distress equipment. Check it because they come with an expiration date and then check them closer since they could have deteriorated over the off season. I’ve had hand-held flares swell and split, even if they weren’t out of date. I’ve found some of those shotgun shell type “meteor” flares with corrosion on the brass part of the shell. In an emergency, do you want to base your chance of rescue on a shell that may or may not fire?  Not me!

That’s why a few years ago I switched to an eVDSD to comply with U.S. Coast Guard and state regulations. Even though I switched years ago, I don’t have to check the expiration. I do swap out the batteries annually, even though the major battery makers now have cells which claim to have a shelf life of seven to ten years. I put in new batteries and use the oldy but goodies in flashlights or other battery operated items which aren’t potential life saving devices.

Three things make me a solid supporter of the eVDSDs. First, the super-bright LED light flashes S.O.S. for 60 hours or more with fresh batteries. How long will your required three meteors or hand-held flares last?

Second, they float. Think about the alternative.            

Third, no expiration, so no worry when the DNR or Coast Guard pulls along side to check your safety gear. Widely available at chandleries, online retailers or direct from:


Reviewed by: CAPTAIN MIKE SCHOONVELD           

Many Visual Distress Signaling Device kits come with a large orange distress flag in the kit for use in the day time. It’s often more apparent than signal lights, burning flares or meteor shells fired from a special gun – and the flag won’t burn out or splash down before someone has the chance to spot it.

What isn’t required or included is a flag pole from which to fly the flag! Most boats have something which could be put into use as a flag staff in an emergency but if there’s an emergency which requires hoisting a signal flag, I want to be able to give most of my attention to the problem, not to figuring out how to turn a radio antenna or a wire line rod into an emergency flag pole.

DIY people could easily build a flagpole in advance, but Tigress (the outrigger people) makes one constructed from polished aluminum, stainless steel and rugged plastic which won’t corrode or rust, even in saltwater. There’s not much to a flag staff – it’s a pole, it has convenient attachment loops to connect the distress flag (or a dive flag, American flag, a Green Bay Packers pennant….) and it has a plastic “gimbal butt” – a sort of handle on the bottom end which makes it fit snuggly in standard 1 5/8″ rod holders.             

They come in two lengths – the one I have is the longer one (54 inches) but there’s a 42-incher suitable for boats with rocket launcher rod holders or a rod holder tree. Available at retail marine chandleries, big box outdoor stores or online at Check out




In a recent GLA issue in the Tackle and Toys column, I commented that Frogg Toggs was perhaps the greatest name for a set of rainwear ever imagined.  Similarly, the Frogg Toggs moniker is equally clever for waders.

Name aside, the Frogg Toggs brand, Steel Header, Reinforced Nylon Insulated BTFT Waders, I gave a workout to in recent months kept me as comfy as a frog in a swamp whenever I wore them. For full season steelheaders – those addicts who chase summer Skamanias in July heat as well as January winter-run fish, these are ideal. Why? Because the waders come with a zip-in/zip-out quilted thinsulate liner.

That liner adds a welcome layer of warmth on those days when the water is ice cold and the air temperature even colder. When it’s not needed, zip it out and the waders transform into a light, tough, summer-weight wader.

Summer or winter, the fact the “frog” skin’s waterproof nylon fabric is also breathable allows perspiration to escape eliminating any condensation and dampness inside the waders. Clammy clothes are uncomfortable in warm weather and downright chilling in the cold.

Things I liked over and above most waders are four external pockets to hold my “stuff” while fishing. I don’t think the pockets are totally waterproof, so don’t put my cell phone in the ones with vertical zipper but those are perfect for handwarmers or for other items. There’s a second, larger zippered pocket with a horizontal opening.  All of these zip openings are great to securely pocket occasional use items. For things like needle nose pliers or other tools, there’s an  open-ended kangaroo pouch.

The heavy-gauge zippers on the zip-in liner were easy to manipulate and I liked the fact the zips are color coded. The orange zipper on the liner connects to the orange zip in the leg – green to green and black to black – all done.

There are other thoughtful touches, as well, such as D-rings on each suspender clasp to hold clippers or other tools, extra fabric on the knees to protect the wader fronts from while walking or wading and a sturdy external belt to keep the long legs of the waders from pulling the crotch down around my knees. Boot sizes run from seven to fourteen.            

Available at many retailers, in store or online, Amazon or direct from:


Reviewed by: Captain Mike Schoonveld            

Gloves are more than just a “handy” garment worn to keep fingers warm. Surgeons wear thin latex gloves to help keep their work area sterile. Dentists wear them to keep the nasty germs in their patients’ mouths away from their hands. I wear similar gloves when I’m changing the oil in my engines or greasing my trailer bearings to keep my hands (mostly) oil and grease free.

Cowboys wear leather gloves to protect their hands from cuts, lariat burns or to get a better grip when handling slippery fencing pliers. Welders and bakers wear heat resistant hand-wear.  I’m sure you can figure other reasons to put on a pair of gloves.

For a walleye fisherman, that includes handling their fish. That’s how I learned to love Gorilla Grip Gloves.

Step one – As I strolled the aisles at the ICAST show in 2019, one of the booths – the Gorilla Grip Gloves booth – was handing out gloves like the Easter Bunny doles out colored eggs. They had 100 quart coolers full of them. Pick a size (Small to XL) and a Veil Camo color in black, yellow, blue or green. I chose a black XL.

Step two – Two weeks later I was on a remote river north of Lake Nipigon in Ontario anchored over a whirlpool at the downstream side of a rapids. The bottom of the river was coated with walleyes. Drop down a jig, crank up a walleye, repeat again and again and…. Actually, that first day I slowed down only because the sharp-edged gills and the abrasive scales on each fish threatened to turn my hands into raw meat.

Luckily, I’d tossed my Gorilla Grip ICAST freebies into my duffle. The next day I had them on my hands; I welcomed them on my hands – the guys fishing with me were jealous I had them on my hands.

The base fabric of the gloves is some sort of stretchy nylon, breathable and even if water gets on the non-waterproof part, it dries quickly. The gloves are very lightweight. Don’t buy them to keep your hands warm in cold weather.

The waterproof palm is, well, waterproof, so when I grabbed a flopping walleye my hand didn’t get wet. The waterproof palm also protected against the sharp gills, the needle tipped spines on the fins and the dagger-like walleye teeth. The waterproofing is textured just enough so, even when wet, it’s not like trying to hold something, wet and slimy, as it would have been with a slick-finished rubberized-palm glove.            

To see these gloves check out And check out the Gorilla Grip Cut-Resistant Fish Cleaning gloves – I love the OSHA A5 Rated cut resistant pair I picked up later They are available online at or in big box stores like WalMart, Home Depot and others.




The Berkley Fishing Company (now known as Pure Fishing) started a line of fishing rods called “Lightning Rods” in 1984. In the ensuing decades, models of rods made by Berkley/Pure Fishing have come and gone but Lightning Rods are still around in spinning, casting, trout and trolling versions. That longevity says something by itself.

 When I contacted Abu Garcia (now a part of the Pure Fishing family) about getting an Altum DLC to use in the GLA feature “Reels You Can Count On” for the August/September issue, the rep I was dealing with suggested pairing it with one of their rods and with a little back and forth about how I planned to use it, he suggested the “BTLR902H” which stands for Berkley Trolling Lightning Rod, 9′ 0″ long, two piece, heavy action. (I planned to use it as a Dipsey Diver Rod).

 All my diver rods are nine-footers to get the rod tips well out from my outside downriggers. All my diver rods are heavy action since pulling a full-sized diver at speeds occasionally past 3 mph requires a stout rod with something in reserve for when a big salmon slurps the lure behind the diver.

 So when I pulled the Lightning Rod out of the delivery tube, I was skeptical. It’s labeled Heavy – for line up to 40 pounds – but compared to all the other diver rods I owned, it felt like a lightweight.  Not only was it lighter, it wasn’t even as thick. I gave the rod the ol’ “wiggle up and down test” to see if it felt flimsy, but it seemed pretty stiff. “Maybe,” I thought.

 The real test came when I tied on a diver and lure and deployed them over the side. Would the thin, carbon composite blank hold against the pull of a diver and have enough reserve power left to cushion a heavy strike? Yep!

 With “normal” size and weight diver rods, when fishing for walleyes, spring cohos or other comparable, smaller fish, a diver set-up is something of a “meat” line. They put more fish in the cooler than smiles on the angler’s face. Paired with the Abu Garcia Altum DLC – 20, a rather small, graphite-bodied reel, spooled with 30 pound braided line, the set-up proved to be a fun outfit with which to catch fish of all sizes. It’s easily tamed king salmon over 20 pounds and made catching walleyes as sporty as possible when fishing with a Dipsey Diver.

 Best of all, Lightning Rods are moderately priced – low priced compared with most diver rods – at less than $50. Find them at many retail outlets and online stores or order direct from     



In the past I’ve reviewed a couple of vehicles perfectly suited for Great Lakes anglers with small to medium sized trailerable boats. That includes a large component of GLA readers. Then there’s the guys with bigger boats. I’m talking boats up to 28 feet which wanderlust Great Lakers routinely pull on away trips to two or more Great Lakes each season. I’m talking guys like me with slightly smaller boats who live an hour or more away from a Great Lake but still trailer a hundred miles or more several times per week. I’m talking about guys who keep their even bigger boats in slips during the season, but store them in a remote location in the off season.

 Owners of these type boats are also a large component of this magazine’s readers.  A family model SUV with a trailering package or even a half-ton pick-up won’t really suit those needs. So I procured the use of a really big-azz truck designed for heavy duty work and still suitable for everyday use. I drove a Ram 2500 Laramie Crew Cab 4X4 model on a fishing road trip last August.

 First, a few of the technical details – just a few. This truck came fully loaded with every imaginable bell and whistle. The power-plant was a 6.7 Cummins Turbo Diesel engine. It’s big, powerful and it rode like a Cadillac – a tall Cadillac – but thanks to the “power-deployable running boards” which automatically move into place when a door is opened, it was easy to climb in and out of the cab. Shut the door and the running boards tuck away and become a part of the truck’s trim. It’s available in many colors but the bright red version I tested was eye-popping. 

 Back to the Cadillac-like (perhaps due to Ram’s Chrysler roots I should say New Yorker-like) ride – and I’m talking about back when Caddies and New Yorkers were luxury car road-boats. I found it necessary to keep an eye on the speedometer since the interior sound and ride changed little between 55 and 75 – probably more. It was easy to let the speed creep up without even noticing. This was with or without my boat in tow.

Why not?  My boat is a fly-weight compared to the towing capacity of this beast – 19,680 pounds. That’s enough pulling power to haul a Caterpillar D4 Bulldozer on a trailer.

 From built-in Wifi to lights in the truck bed so I could see under the tonneau cover at night, picking which bell or whistle was most worthwhile would be daunting. What I thought was coolest was the combination of a special view on the back up camera to help line up the trailer’s coupler with the truck’s ball hitch. Most trucks have that, but add the feature which lowers the back end of the truck three inches so you never have to crank the trailer’s jack stand up or down when connecting or disconnecting. Lower the truck, back under the hitch and raise the truck. Don’t forget to plug in the trailer lights. 

 My wife, a fan of heated seats – the Laramie does have heated seats, front and rear – is now equally enamored of seat coolers. Hop into the truck on a hot day, activate the seat cooler and it’s like a cool breeze right at the top of your butt crack. Hoo-wah! I don’t understand just how that works through the soft leather bucket seats, but it does.            

With all this plush power, the truck pulled my boat over 500 miles, on two lane roads, interstates, through cities and in and out of marina parking lots. Doing this, it averaged 14.1 miles per gallon. Check out and then head for your closest dealer.




ScentLok Technologies is one of the leaders in the scent blocking and elimination industry which so many deer and predator hunters rely on to hide their human odor from the animals being pursued. This includes a full line of clothes from base layers to outer wea

An offshoot of this, however, has been the development of ozone generating products which can odorlessly “decontaminate” hunting clothes by producing an ozone rich atmosphere where clothes are stored. While in storage the unstable oxygen molecule, ozone, chemically interacts with scent molecules rendering them odorless. Ozone also has an anti-microbial, anti-viral and anti-mold properties – all things that can produce odors and all things most people don’t want to have on their clothes or elsewhere.

The “elsewhere” I tested the Radial EZ ozone generator was a fellow charter captain’s below decks area. Like many charter captains, the “downstairs” portion of his boat is more a storage room than living quarters. At the end of the trip, rods, tackle, rain wear and other gear is stored there and locked away. After a few days, if anything was bit wet or had a bit of fish “juice” on it when the hatches and doors are closed….whew!  The smell coming from below makes most gym lockers smell quite rosy. 

I handed the generator to Capt. Bob, showed him how to charge it up (it’s rechargeable – no batteries to change or shore power required) and he put it to the test.  His assessment?  “How much do you want for this!”

He said the difference was remarkable! Not exactly springtime fresh – there’s no flowery scent or the smell of disinfectant – but after being locked inside for a couple days, cycling on and off, he said it smelled more like the cabin had been freshly aired out. (There’s only so much anything is going to do for leftover “fish juice” on a rod handle or landing net.)

If you only buy things which multi-task – grab on to this!  The USB port used to recharge the batteries, will boost or recharge a spent cell phone battery with the right plug on the end of the wire.  It’s available in three colors (including water-camo) at, and some retail outlets.




Use the right tool for the job certainly fits when it comes to using knives. Sometimes, all that’s needed is quick access and a razor sharp blade. A couple of new or fairly new mini-knives from Outdoor Edge could be perfect. I’ve had my Slidewinder for a whole season and used it almost every trip – mostly as a razor sharp knife. It’s called a “Slide” winder because when you need a sharp edge, just “slide” the replaceable utility knife blade out of the handle until it locks in place ready to make razor-sharp cuts. A multi-tasker, it sports both flat and phillips screwdriver tips and a bottle cap opener. The handle comes in black, blue, orange and steel colors.

One of the newest knives from Outdoor Edge this year is named the Swinky because it has a blade which rotates 180 degrees to “swink” open to switch it from a being a hefty flat screwdriver/bottle opener combo to a straight blade razor-edged cutting tool. It’s not as small as the Slidewinder, but it’s still about a “half-sized” knife.

Both of these knife/tools have a pocket clip on their nylon/glass handles. I don’t clip mine in my pocket, however. I clip them onto the outside of the cup holder at the helm where anyone on board can grab one when they need to do some knife work, adjust a Dipsey Diver or pop a top.

Both of these tools are available at retail outlets, or at their website:



I love a multi-tasking tool. I’m not talking using a screwdriver instead of a chisel or hammering a nail with a Crescent wrench – though I’ve done both. I’m talking about Swiss Army Knives or the Swinky, just above, which is designed to do two or more things.

So when I saw the Swobbit, I just had to try one out. I guess in reality, the Swobbit’s handle is the multi-tasker. The handle I had (included in the Basic Watercraft Kit) telescopes from three to six feet. (Other length handles are available which extend up to 11 feet.) The handle is tear-drop shaped in cross section, which adds a bit of comfort to the grip, but more important it keeps the handle parts from rotating so the little button stops and holes are always aligned.

What makes it a multi-tasker is a variety of tools which snap onto the working end, akin to selecting which blade to use on a Swiss knife. Since every fishing trip starts and ends at the dock the boat hook is the tool-end I use most. It’s useful pushing away from the dock when I’m departing, for snagging a dock line or cleat when returning or hooking floating objects near the boat as needed. Every boat should have one.

When you want to keep your boat shiny clean, from the roof top (if you have a roof) to the keel it’s the rest of the kit which comes into play. Remove the boat hook end and click on the soft bristle scrub brush. I use it both inside and out. It’s not so good as a deck brush, though Swobbit does make brushes with stiffer bristles, but the one in the Basic kit is perfect for scrubbing gel-coated or painted surfaces without feeling like you are hitting them with a wire brush.

For quick wash downs, applying liquid wax or hand polishing, switch to the end with the soft, synthetic sheepskin pad. The “pad on a stick” cuts washing/waxing time by about 4X. Then finish the windows (or other flatter surfaces) with a with a silicone squeegy attachment. One pass and the water is gone. Check out this kit and other Swobbit Products at Available in-store at many retailers or on-line at Amazon or the Swobbit website.