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Resurrection and Reinvention…
Rebel’s TracDown Ghost Minnow and the new Lindy Lil’ Guy are new to the scene this year. Both were introduced at the 2015 ICAST fishing tackle trade show. While the smaller version of the Lindy Lil’ Guy is new this year, the TracDown minnow is a reintroduction.
The TracDown Ghost Minnow has been a killer on trout streams in the southeastern part of the U.S., but it hasn’t been accepted much elsewhere.
Because this small lure also is a pretty good panfish lure, Rebel, part of the PRADCO-Fishing family, is re-introducing it with barbless trebles. For restricted gear waters where single barbless hooks are required, you would need to replace the trebles with a small Siwash as clipping two barbs off would give you a really small hook.
The 2 ¼-inch lure comes in trout-focused finishes, as well as some that will tempt bass and panfish.
I can see these slow-sinking, minnow-imitating lures being great on some of our lakes and in rivers for searun cutthroat. They’re small enough that you could cast them with a fly rod—say an 8-weight.
In other PRADCO news, the popular Lil’ Guy now has a little brother, the Small Lil’ Guy. The downsized lure/harness consists of the wobbler-like body, five beads and a double-hook leader.
The smaller size is more trout friendly, and it works well behind an inline flasher or by itself as the body provides a lot of action. I also see this working well for kokanee with a modification.
The Lil’ Guy was designed to be used with a nightcrawler, but for most trout and kokanee, that presents a lure package that is too large. The same can be said for its baby brother. However, by clipping the trailing hook and loading it with maggots or shoepeg corn, you’ll have a killer. One other possibility is to put whatever bait you’re using on both hooks. You won’t score a double (in all likelihood) but you’ll double the scent trail, and that should help.
Both the Lil’ Guy and the Small Lil’ Guy come in 11 colors.
For more information, go to: www.lurenet.com.
The largest fishing tackle trade show, ICAST, was held this past July in Orlando. It’s the venue where the tackle business showcases its finest wares and brings out new products to lighten the wallets of fishermen.
Here are a few of the highlights from the tackle show, a couple of which I got to play with in advance.
Abu Garcia’s Revo series of spinning reels keep getting better the older they are. That’s not to say that the reels improve with age, but rather that every year Abu improves features and tweaks the design to improve performance just a bit more.
That’s certainly the case this year.
One of the advantages of being older than dirt is that one can appreciate the improvement in tackle—for instance spinning reels. I’ve used spinning reels since the earth’s crust started to cool, or so it seems some days. I’ve used spinning reels back when most fishermen called them “coffee grinders” because of the noise of the rotor.
I caught trout (and about every other species of fish) in lowland lakes of the west side of Washington. I fished streams in the Cascades back when red-band trout flourished in the upper Yakima basin. I’ve used them for bass and walleyes on the east side when we lived in Spokane, and I’ve used them in the salt for rockfish and coho in Puget Sound. In fact, last fall I used a spinning reel to catch four blackfin tuna in the Gulf of Mexico out of Venice, La., the largest of which ran 40 pounds.
So I can appreciate a spinning reel that exceeds industry standards.
These days, to live up to what is considered “standard,” a spinning reel needs a rock-solid anti-reverse gear so that there’s no distracting slop when you set the hook. It also needs a good drag, a crisp bail closing, and gears that will stand up to hard use.
The Revo MGX20 that came in a surprise care package from Abu Garcia far exceeds what I consider industry standard for a spinning reel. In fact, it may be the best spinning reel I’ve used to date.
The first thing I noticed about it was the entire process of opening/closing/reeling/drag-testing is that the reel is Teflon smooth—it’s slick, fast, quiet and so non-intrusive in the fishing process that it’s like it is part of your hand.
The second thing I noticed is that the reel—I have the smaller 20 size—is its weight. It is very light for a reel of its size, but that is not due to skimpy construction.
The MGX20, the top-of-the-line Revo spinning reel, is engineered to be light and strong. It has a ported spool and rotor base. Even the carbon-fiber handle is ported. The greatest reduction in weight comes from the use of carbon fiber in the body, as well as the spool. The newly designed X-MAG gearbox also is lighter than previous versions.
While it is light in weight, the reel is strong. Part of that is through the use of carbon fiber materials, but it’s also part design. The new MGX reels showcase the X-MAG gearbox and the AMGearing system. Both are available in the reel I was sent, as well as the Premier, STX and SX Revo reels. The S model doesn’t have the new technology.
Do I like the Revo MGX? Yes. Will I use it? Yes. Do I recommend it? Yes. Will I take it tuna fishing? No—it’s too small.
Also, it should be noted that the Revo family of spinning reels has several levels. The MGX is the most expensive, but others, including the Inshore models (great for saltwater use in Puget Sound) don’t cost quite as much.
For more information, go to: www.abugarcia.com.
G. Loomis is one of the iconic brands in the Pacific Northwest, which is natural because founder Gary Loomis lives there and started the company still based in Woodland.
Under his direction, the rod-building company designed and built steelhead and salmon rods that perfectly matched the needs of fishermen. Certainly, that’s still the case today. However, for many fishermen the only problem with the rods was the cost as these top-of-the-line rods were pricey.
However, that’s changed. The rods are still top-of-the-line, but now with the introduction of the E6X series of salmon and steelhead rods, the cost is such that most fishermen can afford one or several in the right actions.
And there are 19 models from which to choose. There are eight casting and nine spinning models, plus a float rod in spinning and a light plug rod.
The rods range from 8-feet, 6-inches to 10 feet in length with the only exception being the 7-foot, 6-inch Hot Shot (or plug) rod.
The latter is my favorite because lately I tend to pull plugs and crankbaits for a variety of species in a lot of different situations. The E6X 9000C HSR bears a strong resemblance to a rod that was the gold standard for guys backtrolling Hot Shots back in the day. It has a very light tip that shows the lightest interruption in the plug’s movement, yet it’s got enough butt to muscle in any steelhead you’re likely to hook, including a heavy spring native.
The HSR 9000 rod also was a secret weapon for a lot of walleye pros who used it as the ultimate rigging and vertical jigging rod, again because of the very sensitive tip. For that use, they had the rod built as a spinning rod.
With the other 18 models, there is enough variation to handle almost any steelhead situation and all but the big-water/big-chinook salmon chores.
The reason that the rods perform so well is what G.Loomis calls Multi-Taper Technology. During the design process, the rod engineers focused on line control and accuracy as well as balance and light weight. The goal was to build a rod that let anglers concentrate on feeling the bite, not wondering if that tug was a rock or a fish. The intent was to make a quality rod that would come in at a “comfortable” price.
They’ve done that.
As a side note, for those steelheaders who might desire an action or length different from that which is offered, say for something like twitching jigs for coho, G.Loomis also brought an inshore series to the ICAST show this year (think shallow-water fishing on the Gulf).
For more information, go to: www.gloomis.com.
Thin is In…
Power Pro is a preeminent braid brand. It’s been in the business since gelspun polyethylene (that’s superline in case you were wondering) became the line of choice for many fishing situations.
Introduced at the ICAST fishing trade show, Maxcuatro braid is the newest GSP Power Pro line to hit the water. Its claim to fame is its diameter: it is 25 percent thinner than comparable lines of the same break strength.
That thinner line is due to the use of a new GSP fiber, Honeywell Spectra HT. The new fiber is stronger by diameter, and because of that, you can cast farther with 50-pound-test Maxcuatro than you can with the same break-strength Power Pro.
The smaller diameter also means you can load more line on your reel, and you can also use a reel with lesser capacity; in other words, you can downsize your gear.
Using lighter gear than you might normally use for a particular fish while knowing that the line won’t break is a hoot. I’ve done a bit of that this year (see tuna remarks above), and it is a blast!
The only downside to Maxcuatro that I see is one that will undoubtedly be cured sometime this year. The lightest break strength it comes in currently is 50-pound test (think 30-pound diameter roughly). However, it also is available in 65-, 80- and 100-pound tests in moss green or high-vis yellow. Spool sizes are 150-, 500-, 1500- and 3000-yard spools.
For more information, go to: www.PowerPro.com.
Hot to Trout…
Rapala is the company that introduced the minnow-style bait to the world. And now it’s come out with another innovation: the “Scatter” lip design that makes a bait move like it’s alive.
Back in 1962, the introduction of the classic Rapala Floating Minnow in an article in Life magazine (the one with Marilyn Monroe on the cover) started a landslide demand.
Not only did fishermen get caught by the new, slender look of this Finnish lure, so too did the fish. The demand for it was so great after folks started using it, that enterprising shops started renting it by the hour since it was nearly impossible to buy one.
While the floating minnow was used mainly in bass, walleye and pike fishing, it also worked well on just about any fish species.
In fact, my folks used to troll them behind a three- or four-ounce mooching sinker at Point Defiance and Sekiu with good results on both blackmouth and coho (and lots of rockfish if we ventured too close to kelp).
The new Scatter Rap Jointed is the latest version of the iconic floating minnow. And this one has all the right moves that make it deadly for trout.
Mike Neilsen of Tahoe Topliners Sportfishing (530-721-0593) says that the Scatter Rap series of baits are pretty much a go-to for the trout fishing he does in Lake Tahoe.
“I use the Scatter Rap Countdown in the #7 size and the F11 Scatter Rap minnow as I prefer an upbeat pace, looking for the active fish that are on the bite.
“However,” Neilsen adds, “I also use the latest broken-back Scatter Raps (the Scatter Rap Jointed) in colder water. They are awesome at 1.5 mph. They really trigger lethargic fish.”
What makes the Scatter Rap series different from the standard minnow, countdown and crankbait lures in the Rapala stable is the lip; it’s unique in the world of fishing tackle.
The lip is scoop-shaped when viewed from the front, a rounded delta shape when viewed from above and is turned down when viewed from the side.
The shape of the lip gives the lure—whether it’s the Minnow, Jointed, Countdown, Shad or the three versions of the Crankbait—a dodging, hunting action when retrieved or trolled. The lure will run straight for a bit and then dodge to the side, returning to its center line.
Often enough, that dodge is when a fish will hit.
Neilsen fishes the Scatter Rap family on 20-pound Sufix 832 braid with an 8-pound Sufix fluorocarbon leader. He generally uses downriggers with letbacks of 50, 75 and 100 feet with the short line running deepest at depths where he marks concentrations of bait or fish.
He also runs the F11 Minnow on outriggers with the outside line 325 feet back and inner lines set at 300, 200, and 180 feet back. “I’ll run at 3 to 4 mph in 20 feet of water on structure. Both natural colors and the occasional bright finish have been drawing strikes from browns and rainbows,” Nielsen says.
“The side-to-side searching action of the Scatter series simply draws more strikes and is a deadly tool on schooled fish,” he adds. “I’ve also done well with the Scatter Shads when the lakers and browns get on the crawfish. I run short sets on downriggers and bounce the lures off structure. If it’s too snaggy, I remove the front hook.”
The Scatter Rap series contains seven different lures. The three crankbaits cover the shallows, mid-depths and deeper water. The Shad body is another diving bait, but this one has the traditional Shad Rap body, always a plus. The Countdown is a sinking minnow bait, and the F11 Minnow and Jointed are floaters that have limited diving depths.
Finishes differ but all lures are offered in natural colors as well as some that are bright enough to waken the sleepiest of trout.
For more information, go to: www.rapala.com.
Keep Your Cool, Man…
Don’t know about you, but I’ve fished a lot during the summer season and in places, like Mexico, where you can fry frijoles on the boat deck.
Even the east side of the Cascades can get toasty with summer temps often well above 100 degrees. There have been trips where we ran up Roosevelt just to feel a breeze, and there have been days on Banks Lake and the Potholes where finding shade was more important than finding fish.
Granted, when it is unbearably hot, it’s a better idea to pack it in and come back in the evening or at zero-dark the next morning.
However, I don’t fish in the heat for the fun of it; rather, I’m there likely because the bite is good, or I need pictures for an article or something needs to be tested. Or it can be like this past summer when it was the only time I got to fish in home waters.
While developing a portable, 12-volt air conditioner might be a million or two seller, I doubt that it would really work in an open boat.
The next best thing might be the series of Arctic RadWear products now on the market.
As I was writing this, my wife was in the throes of one of the worst kinds of migraine headaches with fever, swollen sinuses, and the whole routine. I suggested she might try the Cooling Head Shade rather than a wet washrag on her forehead, and the difference it made in her comfort level, not to mention beating back the migraine, was incredible. “You’ve got to recommend this!” she exclaimed. So I am.
Having tried them, I can say without doubt that the Arctic RadWear products are a great way to keep your cool. One of them, if not all, will always be in my gear bag during summer trips.
The RadWear gear consists of a headband, the head shade my wife now possesses, towel and wrap. You might look at each and think that you can get the same cooling benefits by dipping a bandanna or towel in a bucket of water, but that ain’t the case.
While the products look simple, they aren’t. Each has a pad or two of what the company calls “Advanced Arctic Technology” that accelerates the evaporation process.
I’m not really sure how the juju works, but it does. The pad soaks up water and releases it in such a way that the temperature of the pad and whatever it touches drops.
I don’t have a thermometer that will read the effects of the pad on skin, but the YouTube video (check out RadiansInc channel and scroll down toward the bottom) indicates that the cooling pad will cause your skin temperature to drop about 10 degrees.
The cooling effects of the pad will last somewhere between three and five hours depending upon variables such as humidity, ambient temperature and so on.
My experience is that the cooling pads do what they advertise. They are noticeably cool to the touch once they start working.
The first time I tried the head shade—it kind of looks like pirate headgear—I was unimpressed for the first five minutes or so.
I soaked the shade in water for the required time, wrung it out as directed and swirled it as noted in the video. Then I put it on, wrapping it so that the skull pad would touch the part of my head that is folically challenged. I also made sure the headband section was properly placed.
Like I said, for the first five minutes, I wasn’t impressed as the cooling of the head shade wasn’t much more than what I expected from say dipping my hat in the water.
But then the Advanced Arctic Technology thingummie kicked in big time. What was kind of cool turned into almost cold.
To say that it offers relief is an understatement; the head shade really makes a difference when the weather is brutal. The other products have their times when they work as well. About the only other product that I wish Radians made was wristbands. I think applying the co
oling pads to the blood vessels in the wrist would really help one keep his cool. For more information, go to: www.radians.com.
Here Salmon, Salmon, Salmon…
If you’re the suspicious type, toss the yellow-skinned jinx out at the launch ramp and give the banana bread in your buddy’s lunch to someone on the bank.
Fishing is not going to be hexed if you’ve got a banana-shaped plug tied on, though.
That’s especially true of Lindy’s River Rocker. This offspring of the fabled Tadpolly is one of the banana plugs with a long history in Northwest steelheading.
While the River Rocker is relatively new, it is the old standard beefed up, dressed up and ready for the ball.
When the Rockers were first introduced, it was thought that they would become a standard in the walleye world, so the finishes were tailored to that market, giving a big nod to common baitfish.
Some of the finishes, such as the Elton and Aunt Creepy, also worked for steelhead and salmon. All of them were good for trout, but still, for the guys who are specific about the colors of the plugs they pull, there was a lot lacking for the steelhead and salmon world.
That’s pretty much changed with the addition of 12 finishes that give a strong nod to realities of Pacific Northwest rivers and their traditions. New colors include blue and green pirates, metallic silver herringbone in both blue and red, metallic red, pink and purple metallics plus plain silver and plain gold. Fluorescent red is another plain-Jane finish that should provide a good base for those who like to experiment with colors by adding dots or stripes or whatever.
There also are a couple of dotted/scaled finishes.
The new finishes are available in all three sizes: 3/16, 5/16 and ½-ounce sizes. The smallest is a great trout lure for smaller fish, and I’m betting it could be a good size for kokanee. It is supposed to dive to about five feet on the troll, so it should be about right in the upper layer just before insects start hatching in the lake.
The largest will dive 15 to 17 feet while the middle Rocker runs six to seven feet, what I think of as steelhead depth (at least most of the time).
The Rockers all have three-dimensional eyes, and a brass hook hanger for the front hook and tie-in point. They are rigged with wide-gap trebles. There are 33 finishes available in all three sizes.
For more information, go to: www.lindyfishingtackle.com.
No More Downrigger Blues…
Big C Tackle’s Pro Release is a cure for the problems you are likely to have when using a downrigger. Premature release, um, means you have to start all over again by winding in the downrigger ball, reeling in your gear, letting whatever lure or attractor you’re using back out to the setback you’re after, and then putting the line in the release and easing it back down.
Put too much tension on the release (assuming it’s adjustable), and you may end up dragging and killing small fish that just don’t make the rod tip bobble.
Neither situation is a good thing. Been there and done that on both, and I can see where the frustration of trying to find the right release tension can put folks off downrigger use completely.
Granted, if you’re using ‘riggers for salmon fishing, you don’t have to worry overmuch about setting the tension too high as most decent salmon will trip a release easily. However, if you are fishing in an area with a lot of resident coho, you do need to have trip gear early so that you don’t troll them to eternity. In this case, it’s better to go somewhere else.
For trout and kokanee, you definitely need a light release, and I used to spend most of a trip fine-tuning release tension and matching it to the attractor and lure of the day, in concert with the size of the fish I was catching and boat speed.
By the time I had it figured out, often enough, I’d limited and it was time to go home. The next trip usually required I start all over again.
The Pro Release takes away some of the hassles out of adjusting the tension because it’s relatively easy to do: twist the thumbscrew until you get the tension right.
It also makes it a lot easier to use braid or other superline with a downrigger. Braid is a bugger to get to stay in a release clip because it is so slick. If you’re using 50-pound braid, it’s relatively easy, at least compared to using 20-pound or lighter, or one of the new braids that incorporate Teflon or Gore fibers.
The Pro Release pretty much solves that because you wrap the line around a spindle, which in turn fits into the body of the release. The thumbscrew provides the tension to the clamping part of the release, which in turn puts tension on the spindle.
When a fish hits, the spindle rotates open, letting the line you wrapped around it slide off.
Fortunately, there are good pictures on the website that clearly show what you need to do to make the release operate properly.
As it stands, the release provides everything from very light to very heavy tension.
There are four colors, and each release comes with a three-foot leader of 150-pound test to connect the release with the downrigger weight. You’ll also find a stacking clip that you can use to clip the release on the downrigger cable so that you can run two rods off one rigger.
For more information, and good instruction pictures, go to: www.bigctackle.com
It all started in 1911 when Carl Grunden began making oilskins for fishermen plying the waters of the northern Atlantic. Now, Grundens is a Swedish company known for its raingear.
The original oilskins evolved into PVC rainwear, but while the material with which they were made changed, the same attention to detail and value that kept the company afloat for a century still exists in the clothing made today.
Chances are very good that if you’ve ever been out on a charter somewhere along the west or east coasts, you’ll have seen Grundens gear in use. It’s a uniform for those who work on the water on a daily basis.
The reason Grundens is so ubiquitous is that it is gear that lasts; it’s tough and well designed. It does the best job of keeping you dry in really adverse conditions.
Now, Grundens has launched a second brand: GAGE, the acronym for Grundens Advanced Grade Equipment, to take care of those folks who don’t need gear that is capable of handling everything the northern Bering Sea can dish out. Not that there is lesser attention to design and detail in the new line.
I got to test the Nightwatch Puffy Jacket recently, and it is perfect for the Northwest. It’s a windproof, water-resistant version of a zip-front fleece jacket. It keeps the chill off without being so warm that you need to shed it when the sun peeks out from behind the clouds.
I’ve come to think of it as a “sportsman’s sweater”—giving the same level of warmth and comfort as a sweater without worrying about whether or not it will shrink. However, unlike a sweater, this is windproof. It’s perfect for early mornings on the lake or the Sound during summer. In winter, it layers well, and the slick outer shell plays well when you want to wear it under another garment or raingear.
Like most Grundens’ gear, the Nightwatch jacket is sized so that even I can fit into an extra-large. Given that I’m 6-foot, 5 inches, normal folks are very likely to find a size that will fit them well. Even better, the extra-large offers plenty of room for moving; it’s not restrictive at all.
The Grundens’ sizing chart found on the company’s website will help to get the perfect fit. As for the jacket, as mentioned before, it is windproof and has a water-resistant shell as well as water-resistant insulation. There are two zippered handwarmer pockets. The cuffs of the sleeves are elasticized, and there is a drawstring on the hem to keep out drafts.
There also is an inside chest pocket for things like your cell phone or wallet. To add to the convenience, the entire jacket can be stuffed into the inside pocket, so it travels well and can slide into a briefcase or a vest pocket without taking up much room.
For more information, go to: www.grundens.com.
It’s All In The Tip…
Finding the perfect tool for a specific job is always rewarding. That’s especially so when you’re talking about tools for fishing instead of tools for something like, well, yard work.
That’s why the rod I was given for dock shooting for crappies is a real bonus. It not only is the perfect tool for shooting small jigs under docks and bushes for panfish (or trout), but it also is the perfect rod when you’re still fishing or using small jigs for kokanee.
The reason is the design, and here I have to crappie-talk a bit. Crappies, as you probably know, tend to live and hold around cover, and in many cases, that cover is docks. While these tasty panfish will move out from the cover to feed at times, most of the time, they hold in place well back from the edge. They’ll be about as far back under something as they can get—and as you can imagine, getting a lure back to them can be a challenge.
That is how a technique called “dock shooting” came to be. The fisherman holds the lure, usually a panfish jig, in one hand and then pulls the rod tip back to where the line is parallel to the butt of the rod. When the fisherman gets everything lined up, he releases the jig, and it “shoots” back under the dock.
While that’s a pretty cool technique for critters like trout hiding back under tree limbs and bushes, it’s not something most trout fishermen will ever use.
However, a well-designed dock-shooting rod is perfect for a lot of what trout fishermen do.
Lew’s makes one, the Wally Marshall Signature Lite Series model WML7L-1, that I’ve been using.
It’s a seven-footer, rated as ultralight. However, unlike other ultralight rods I’ve used, it isn’t a soft, wishy-washy rod with no backbone. It has a very soft tip (for the shooting thing), but it has enough strength in the butt to handle about any fish you’re likely to run into on a lake.
The rod is rated for 1/64- to ¼-ounce lures and 2- to 10-pound test line. While the ratings might seem exaggerated, they’re not. You can fish and cast that light a jig or one that heavy. That light-tip, strong-butt design is what makes both rods superb for Northwest trout fishermen. You have an extremely sensitive rod tip that is perfect for still fishing for kokanee or rainbows, yet you can turn around and throw a Krocodile a mile when conditions change.
The blanks are of IM-6 graphite, and the handles are EVA foam.
Another feature worth noting is that these rods are guide-rich. There aren’t many rods, even top-shelf models, where a seven-foot stick comes with nine quality guides.
For more information, go to: www.lews.com.
Way back when I was a kid, my parents and I used to do a lot of trout and kokanee fishing off the face of the dam at Lake Cushman because my father worked there. Fishing could be good during the day, but it was far better at night.
Part of that, I’m sure, was because the lights that curved along the face of the dam were bright enough to attract plankton. The plankton also attracted small fish, and those baitfish attracted the rainbows. The kokanee were fine with plankton for a late-night snack.
It’s the same phenomenon you will see on the piers in Puget Sound. The lights on the piers attract plankton, and the plankton attracts baitfish. The baitfish in turn attract predators, everything from squid to salmon.
While you can’t fish from the dam now, it is possible to replicate the success we had. Pick up a submersible light, and fish at night from your dock or boat.
There are a host of lights on the market as fishing with a light at night is a big deal in the South. Crappies, walleyes, white bass, stripers are suckers for that kind of thing. It’s the plankton-baitfish-predator trifecta.
Berkley may well have the best system in its Premium and Magnum Submersible Lights. I’ve been playing with them and find that when used in a system with the Berkley Power Pack Battery, I can run a light for about as long as I care to stay awake.
The two lights use green LEDs. Both have control cables 20 feet in length. One, the Premium, is 100 lumens, while the Magnum is 10 times as bright at 1000 lumens. And both lights have three brightness settings to help you adjust the light to produce the best result.
The lights are in a waterproof (Duh!) housing that is weighted to aid depth control. The power cable is fitted with a plug intended for a 12-volt power point. However, included in the clam pack is the female half of the plug, and that is equipped with two alligator clamps so that you can hook the light to the posts on a 12-volt battery.
Speaking of batteries, Berkley’s Power Pack Battery is a good match. It has a 2.4-amp rating, which might not be enough for a large incandescent light for a long time but is a good fit for LEDs because of their low current draw. The battery comes with its own charger, and it also features a USB port to connect to tablets or phones. It has two posts to accommodate clamps. Its small footprint and capacity make it a good choice to run depthfinders in rowboats or kayaks as well as the lights.
For more information, go to: www.berkley-fishing.com.
Just as Texas has brisket and Tennessee has barbecue (and here we’re talking pulled pork because there is no other kind of barbecue), we in the Northwest have smoked fish—whether it is salmon, steelhead, kokanee, trout or whitefish.
I grew up eating smoked salmon, as have most in fishing families in the Pacific Northwest. That’s why the smoking of salmon is such an art form—we know smoked fish and have strong opinions on how it should be done. Everything from the wood to the brine to the smoker is part of the equation and final product.
From the time my father built his first smoker, a refrigerator that had a metal liner instead of the plastic now used, I’ve watched smokers evolve. I’ve used a number of different types myself, from the lightweight metal units that have one temperature to more involved propane smokers that allowed you to select the temperature range you want.
The newest iteration is the Bradley smoker, one that is about as automatic as you can get. This electric smoker—there are five models—runs on electricity and automatically feeds disks of compressed wood into the smoke generator at the proper rate to get continuous smoke.
It also allows the user to moderate the temperature inside the smoker.
However, unlike a couple of smokers I’ve used in the past, this brand’s temperature controls actually work. The range is such that you can run hot to smoke things like pork butt (if you have a hankering for genuine Tennessee ‘que), turkey for Thanksgiving, or you can run it cold for some mozzarella sticks or that chinook you put in the fish box a couple of days ago.
That kind of utility means that the smoker will get a lot of use because you can do more than just smoke fish.
These smokers are a bit more complex than the aluminum boxes sold seemingly everywhere. They come in two basic parts—the insulated box in which you place the fish and the smoke generator.
This latter device has a vertical tube into which you place the wood, the proprietary “bisquettes,” and the feeding system that takes those same bisquettes and moves them automatically onto the heated tray that heats the wood to smoking and drops it into the water tray where the moist smoke is then produced.
As one bisquette is used, another pops into its place. Fill the feeding tube with bisquettes, and you get nine hours of uninterrupted smoke. So once you have the process dialed in and know exactly how you want the smoker to run, you can load whatever into the unit, set the controls to your choice, and forget it for nine hours.
Like all smokers, there are caveats: the outside temperature will affect the temperature inside the box. Given that the box is insulated (unlike so many other smokers), the outside temperature won’t have such a dramatic effect as it might otherwise.
Currently, there are five smokers in the Bradley line. The test model is the Original, and it’s a gem.
There also is a sleeper: it’s a small, countertop, two-rack smoker that is handy for those who smoke things other than double limits of salmon. It’s a great size for those who only want to smoke enough fish for a party or a weekend trip.
Bradley has a range of accessories for both smokers and barbecues: brines, flavorings, syrups, a fishing plug similar to a J-Plug, racks for making jerky and 12 flavors of bisquettes. There also is an adapter for creating cold smoke.
For more information, go to: www.bradleysmoker.com.
When is a plastic egg not a plastic egg? The answer is when it’s made of ElaZtech—a proprietary material produced by ZMan Fishing Products.
The company has a line of soft baits that, truthfully, are oriented more to the bass and Gulf inshore markets than they are trout or steelhead. However, Glenn Young, a former guide on the Oregon Coast, works for the company and his influence has helped create a line of soft baits that work well for the adipose crowd.
What makes these baits different from the usual run is the material. While ElaZtech looks like soft plastic, it isn’t the common stuff. It is very buoyant, and it is very tough; the company claims it is 10 times tougher than what you’ll find elsewhere.
You’ll notice this when you try to put an egg on a hook. The ElaZtech material resists penetration when compared to other plastic eggs; you have to push the hook in while you’re pushing the egg on. And if you’re trying to slide the egg up over a snell knot, you’ll have a bit more difficulty.
It’s equally hard for a fish to pull the egg off. It stays on, even after you’ve caught a trout or a dozen or two. This is less evident with the EZ EggZ than say, the two-inch GrubZ you might use for trout or the steelhead-colored floating worms. To get those two to sit in place on a jig, you are well served to add a small drop of super glue gel to the head of the bait then place it in position.
ElaZtech’s buoyancy is another benefit, especially when you want whatever you’re using to float. Thread four or five eggs on a light-wire egg hook and it’s likely to be neutrally buoyant, floating around with any current. This reaction depends upon the weight of the hook.
Or you can make the process easier by simply tying the right number of eggs on a hook or slipped into an egg-loop snell. This latter method is possible because the EggZ are produced in a strand, with a small tab of the ElaZtech material between each egg. This connection allows you to loop the strand of EggZ back and forth through the egg loop until you get the flotation you want or the size of lure you want. And while I’ve not tried it, I imagine you can also use thread to tie the egg strand to the hook, looping the strand back and forth until you get the lure you want.
Also, because ElaZtech is so soft, it has a lot of action when moved, not something you’ll see with the egg unless you tie a string of them to a hook and allow the tail of the strand to float free. However, the GrubZ and floating worms are incredibly supple and move with the lightest twitch, so I’m guessing the same will hold true with a string of EggZ.
Another thing worth noting—the EggZ are impregnated with “natural” scent and come in four very eggy colors. For more information, go to: www.zmanfishing.com.
Sharp is as Sharp Does…
Daiichi’s series of Death Trap trebles includes a killer kokanee hook. Speaking as a user with bloody fingers, the Daiichi trebles might be perfect.
I say that because they are super-sticky sharp (hence the bloody fingers), and better yet, they are Bleeding Bait red, a color that kokanee find hard to resist.
Back in the day before red became a common hook finish, a Lake Pend Oreille kokanee expert described to me what he thought was the perfect hook: “treble, sharp and red.” And there is Daiichi’s D99 treble.
The company claims that its hooks are “the world’s sharpest,” which is not something I can dispute. They are sharp, though, that I can say. How sharp? Well, if a fish breathes on one, it’s likely to get hooked. And for soft-mouthed kokanee, that definitely is an asset for lures you’re going to troll, such as wedding rings or small spinners of any kind.
The D99 is one of the series of four treble hook offerings Daiichi has. The sizes range from #10 in the D99 to the 4/0 D98, a 7X strong monster intended for much larger fish than you’re likely to find in your nearest lake. The other two hooks are the standard-wire D93 and the 4X heavy D97. The standard hook is available in black nickel, and the other three are in Daiichi’s Bleeding Bait red.
The D99 has lighter wire than the other three styles, but that doesn’t mean it’s not sufficient for the job. “Studies have shown that wired diameter is the most important aspect of hook design as far as sharpness goes,” he says. “But for a strong hook, you need to have a high carbon content in the steel, and that’s what we have.
“It also allows us to have a finer point on our hooks, and it helps the points retain their shape,” that is, they stay sharp longer.
The D99 is available in sizes 2 through 10.
For more information, go to: www.ttiblakemore.com.
I don’t know about you, but I end up fishing in the rain more than I care to. Too often, that rain is Northern Pacific, gutter-filling, stream-bank-overflowing heavy—the kind of rain that makes you wonder why you got out of bed, much less left the shelter of your car or cabin.
The problem is that often enough that kind of rain coincides with some pretty good fishing, and if you want to take pictures of the fish you need a waterproof camera or a way of protecting the one you have—whether it’s a point-and-shoot or a phone.
Last fall I was fortunate to fish out of Venice, Louisiana, and I had one day of offshore scheduled. The targets were blackfin and yellowfin tuna. The only problem was that my offshore day also had bad weather scheduled.
Arriving at the port at zero-dark, skipper Peace Marvel said it looked like the storm was going to keep us on shore. Not only was it a large one, but also the radar said that the rain it dumped was heavy. And it was, kinda, like an Alaskan rain.
But Marvel looked at the storm’s progress and the wind velocity, and he decided we could make a run ahead of the really bad stuff as the storm had stalled onshore. He expected us to get wet, though, so cameras and phone stayed locked away in the boat’s cuddy.
So I didn’t get shots of blackfin running up the chum slick to the side of the boat with their dorsals out of the water. And I didn’t get shots of my friends with their fish or me with the big blackfin I landed on spinning gear and a saltwater Rat-L-Trap. I’ve got the memories (and the tuna), but the photos would have been nice if only to give my buds a bad time about what I did and what they didn’t.
Stormr has a fix for that. Its Waterproof Smart Phone Cell Jacket is large enough to handle most Smartphones and some of the smaller point-and-shoot cameras.
This isn’t a blinged-up zip-lock, but rather, it’s a two-part envelope that will keep your electronics from getting wet and allow them to function at the same time.
The envelope is a clear, heavy-grade TPU plastic that has sealed seams on three edges. The closure of the fourth is what makes the case stand out. The closure forms the fourth side of the Jacket.
There are three black plastic bars that work in concert to keep moisture out. All have rare-earth magnets incorporated into the plastic. The polarity of the two outermost bars is complementary and firmly closes the Jacket. While the magnets are visible, they are on the outside of the material of the envelope, and they firmly compress the two sides of the Jacket together.
That closure probably is enough to make the Jacket pretty much waterproof, but it’s the third bar that really seals the deal. The two outermost bars fold down and connect magnetically to the third, making the closure waterproof. The neat thing about the Jacket is that the TPU material is thin enough to let you work your camera or phone without taking it out of the case. You also can shoot photos through the TPU, but the quality probably won’t be quite as clear as if the camera (or phone) was outside simply because you’re shooting through the plastic. While I’ve not tested the fact, Stormr says the Jacket lets you use your camera underwater. If you’re doing that or taking your phone with you while diving, make sure that the device, whichever one it is, can take the pressure of the water.
One more thing, the Stormr Waterproof Smart Phone Cell Jacket comes with an adjustable lanyard that can fit around your neck or attach to a D-ring on your vest or jacket. You should also note that the magnets don’t interfere with electronics, credit cards, memory cards or the like.
For more information, go to: www.stormrusa.com.
Speckled Trout(?) Baits…
In parts of the South, fishermen call crappies “speckled trout,” probably through wishful thinking that these tasty panfish were really trout.
Whatever the reason, crappies are a big deal in much of the country, and like bass, they have a wealth of lures designed to catch them. Johnson, makers of a line of iconic spin-cast reels, has its own netful of crappie lures. And, why you ask, is a salmon-trout-steelhead magazine covering such? The answer is obvious if you think about it: these lures are deadly for trout just as they are for the “speckled trout” of the South.
It is no secret that mini-jigs catch trout. Thread a small, soft-plastic tube on a lead-head jig and hang it under a bobber, and you’ll catch fish. Or you can cast the jig, working it near weeds or close to the surface when trout are rising, and you’ll get ‘em that way, too. There is something about this small piece of plastic that looks enough like food to fool a fish.
Johnson’s Crappie Buster Tubes are a good fit for casting small jigs for trout any time you want a fish dinner. Like all mini jig tubes, the big attraction for trout, in my opinion, is the color followed closely by size. Unlike most tubes, though, the new Johnson tubes have longer tentacles, and that provides more movement, which may represent the movement of food items to a trout.
Two other Johnson soft-plastic bodies are new this year. While I’ve not tested them, I can’t say they’ll work, but chances are pretty good they will. The two other newbies are the Shad Tails and Shad Tubes. Both have a minnow-shaped body. The Shad Tail has a long, thin tail. The tube version has a cluster of long tentacles for a tail, similar to the Tube.
The Tube comes in 24 color combinations, and both the Shad Tail and Shad Tube are available in 12 colors each. Another new lure worth mentioning in the Crappie Buster line is the Spin’R Grub. This does work well for trout, as I can attest through personal experience.
The Spin’R Grub is a jig with a spinner blade under the head of the jig and a soft-plastic grub body. It comes in eight colors and in weights from 1/32 to 1/8 ounce. And the colors are good for trout.
For more information, go to: www.johnsonfishing.com.
Small Can Be Very, Very Good…
If you follow Yakima Bait Company’s Facebook page you have seen the many rave reviews for the new FlatFish. It’s the Mag Lip 3.0, a smaller version of the very popular 3.5 and larger versions. But it is different.
I know that Buzz Ramsey and the engineers at Yakima Bait took forever to get the final version in production—at least six months—as I first saw the Mag Lip 3.0 at ICAST last year in Orlando in July. However, the final details and testing weren’t completed until the end of the year. There was a lot of tweaking that went on with little things that ensured this small lure would handle the big things in its future—chinook and native steelhead mostly—but also things like striped bass and walleyes and lake trout.
While it is possible to cast these little baits, they are designed to be trolled.
Here I’m pausing to give a bit of background. For those who aren’t familiar with the Mag Lip FlatFish series, these lures have what Yakima is calling a “skip-beat action”; that is, every once in a while, the plug darts off to one side or the other, returning to the center. It’s this rather unique action, typical of the Mag Lip and Hawg Nose series of lures, which probably does more to trigger a fish to bite than other factors, in my opinion.
I’ve fished the 3.5 a lot, and the 3.0 a little, flatline trolling for whatever would bite in the big reservoirs I frequent. Using 10-pound Berkley Professional Grade fluorocarbon line, I can get the 3.5 down ticking the gravel at 18 feet. To do this, I release 140 feet of line and keep the speed about 1.8 mph.
I’ve not tested the newest iteration of the Mag Lip 3.0 to say definitely how deep it will run, but my best guess is that it will be just shy of 15 feet running depth under the above conditions.
Change line diameter, shift to monofilament or braid, let out more or less line or change speed, and running depths will change as well.
Given the success guides and Yakima Bait pro staff have had with the 3.0 on salmon and steelhead, it’s good to know that the 3.0 can be rigged with single Siwash hooks (#2 on the belly hook and #1 on the tail) or a single #1 Siwash on the tail using a double split-ring method or a split ring and swivel.
Having said that, the hooks that are on both the 3.0 and 3.5 will hold up to most fish you’re likely to hook as long as you’re not trying to keep a big fish in the pool or out of a snag. I caught a couple of lake trout in the upper teens last year with no worries about the hooks.
Currently, both the 3.0 and 3.5 come in 48 finishes, and what is better for those who want to chase things like trout in lakes and walleyes and even landlocked coho, there are a number of finishes that are perfect for them.
For more information, go to: www.yakimabait.com.