Category Archives: Fishing Tackle

Rods and reels to live bait

Potato Creek Bassmasters Tournament at West

Last Sunday in our February tournament at West Point, 22 members of the Potato Creek Bassmaster fished for eight hours to land 89 keeper bass weighing 164 pounds. There were 11 limits and one person did not weigh in a fish.

Doug Acree won with five weighing 14.82 pounds, anchored by a nice 6.63 pound largemouth. Mike Cox had five weighing 14.75 pounds and his 6.70 pound largemouth was big fish. Tom Tanner drove up from Florida to catch five weighing 11.56 for third, and Niles Murray placed fourth with five at 9.40 pounds.

William Scott fished with me and quickly caught two small spots on a spinnerbait while I was throwing a crankbait. I’m hardheaded, but not stupid, so I picked up a spinnerbait and a few minutes before 8:00 I hooked and landed a 4.79 pound largemouth, a good start I thought.

We fished the next seven hours and had a very frustrating day. Time after time we would get a bite on a worm or jig, set the hook and nothing would be there. I missed more bites than in any one day I can remember!

On one point, after we had both missed several bites, I let one pick up my worm and swim with it a few feet before setting the hook and landed a 12.5-inch spot. We had tried setting the hook immediately and missed fish, and tried letting them run and then missing them, but that time it worked, for the last time that day. I think a lot of the bites we missed were from small spots.

We ended up with three keepers each. Even with my good kicker fish I had only seven pounds and finished ninth. That made for a very frustrating day.

The Sportsman Club is at West Point today. I wonder how many bites I am missing right now.

Early Spring At Lanier

Right on time, sandhill cranes showed up a few weeks ago, headed back north on their annual migration. This is a sure sign spring is not far away. Even more significant, daffodils in my yard started blooming last week, offering a small splash of bright yellow against all the browns and grays of lingering winter.

Thursday morning there was a strange bright light in the sky for a few minutes at my house, something not seen in days. Rainy, cloudy days seem the norm in February this year and many more are in the weather guessers forecast. Sometimes, although uncomfortable, it makes fishing and catching better.

Water in lakes is warming slowly. Sun on the water warms it faster so it has been slow. Longer days have made bass and other fish start moving more shallow, thinking about spawning. But cold nights are keeping them from getting in a hurry.

I went to Lanier a week ago last Thursday and fished one day in wind and bright sun and two days in the rain. It was interesting, and I spent a lot of time looking for bait and bass but was not successful. I was hoping to find a school of bass or a pattern that would help me in the Flint River Bass Club tournament last Sunday but did not.

In our February tournament six of us braved a rainy day to cast for eight hours. We landed only seven keepers longer than the required 14 inches on Lanier, and they weighed about 15 pounds. There were no limits and two fishermen didn’t have a keeper.

Jack “Zero” Ridgeway didn’t live up to his name, winning with three fish weighing 5.40 pounds. My one largemouth, the only one caught, weighing 4.85 pounds was good for second and big fish. Niles Murray was third with two at 3.24 pounds and Alex Gober placed fourth with one weighing 1.48 pounds.

Sometimes little things come together to make a difference. After fishing Friday without a bite I had dinner with Jim Farmer and his wife. He asked if I had tried the very back of coves where muddy water was running in from all the rain.

A few years ago I did an article with Ryan Coleman on Lanier after a lot of rain. He took me to the back of a creek where muddy water was running in and we caught some nice fish on spinnerbaits.

I really did not think much of those two things since I was expecting to catch big spotted bass on main lake rocky points.

Saturday, I again fished and looked at places where I expected spots to be feeding, and think I had one bite. That was a calm day with no wind, and wind usually helps make spots feed. When Sunday morning had wind, I was ready to fish a spinnerbait all day on rocky points.

I started on a rocky point where I won two club tournaments last November but never got a bite in 90 minutes of casting. While fishing another point nearby I kept hearing a noise like running water and spotted a small waterfall in a ditch. All the rain made water flow down the steep rocky bank and gurgle muddily into the lake, staining the whole ditch.

All the memories came back so I went to it and cast my spinnerbait all around it. When I cast right to the base of the small waterfall in about a foot of water a fish thumped my bait hard and I set the hook. I thought I had hooked a keeper bass about 20 feet from the boat, but when I set the hook it almost pulled me out of the boat.

The fish fought hard, especially with the short amount of line out, and I just knew I would lose it, especially after seeing how big it was. But I was able to net the fish and stop shaking after about ten minutes.

For the next three hours I rode around looking for more places where water was running into the lake and fished every one I found, but never got another bite. I had gone back to the place I caught the fish after about an hour to try it again, but the water flow had slowed to a trickle.

For the last three hours of the tournament I again tried deep, rocky points and banks and got one bite but did not hook it. I think it was a crappie or bream based on the way it hit, and I was fishing a jig and pig with the tips of the trailer tail dipped in chartreuse JJs Magic. Every fish in the lake will hit at the wiggling tails of a trailer like that.

The Potato Creek Bassmasters fished our tournament yesterday at West Point. I’m sure I spent hours fishing backs of pockets with muddy water. As I write this I wonder if they will be there!

Florida’s Forage Fish

New Program Shines Spotlight on Florida’s Forage Fish
By Brett Fitzgerald
Snook and Gamefish Foundation
from The Fishing Wire

Pinfish or trout?

If you have ever been grouper fishing, I know this has happened to you: You feel the thump of a bite, reel down and next thing you know the fish has “rocked you up” and before you can react, your line goes slack. Fish – and tackle – gone. More times than not the tackle failure takes place at the connections, such as the knot connecting the leader to swivel.

Like me, I am sure you have also lost a gator trout, a big snook, or a tarpon because of knot failure. Or maybe the knot was OK, but it was chopped off by a misguided kingfish or Spanish mackerel.

Here’s my point: Our tackle is only as strong as its connections. Healthy marine fisheries depend upon strong linkages in the food web too.

Take for example the lowly pinfish. They need healthy seagrass flats to provide them with food and cover. This important species of forage fish give back to seagrasses by cleaning and pruning the plants, which helps keep the meadow growing and healthy. (Small pinfish eat shrimp, as any angler knows, but at about 4 inches and larger they mostly convert to being herbivores.) They are also an essential food resource for a variety of predators that depend upon the pinfish’s ability to turn phytoplankton, algae and seagrass blades into high-octane fatty acids.

Ecologists have a handle on the basic linkages of such “trophic” connections, and I bet most anglers have an intuitive understanding of this too. But even though we grasp the importance of forage fish like pinfish, there is not a thorough enough understanding of how or why their populations change over time. Drawing back the curtain on the life history dynamics of forage fish is key to help us prevent the types of trophic “break-offs” that could have devastating impacts on our fisheries.

The good news is we’re on our way to gathering this kind of information. Last year the Florida Forage Fish Research Program (FFFRP) – a collaboration between the Florida Forage Fish Coalition, Florida Fish & Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI), and academic institutions –funded two student-led research fellowships and is currently raising funds for additional fellowships in 2018 and beyond. This work will shed some interesting and important light on forage fish populations and their impacts on predators, with the added benefit of supporting the next generation of fisheries scientists.

Eyeing Pinfish Research

Terry Tomalin, the late Tampa Times outdoors editor, once suggested to a friend that “Gut Content Analysis” would make a great name for a punk band. FWRI’s Fish Biology “Gut Lab” rocks at identifying partially digested forage items found in the stomachs of the predator species we target. For example, a 2006 study conducted by the Florida Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) showed that forage fish account for 40% of a snook’s diet in the Charlotte Harbor Estuary, and pinfish make up half of that (20% overall). I know gator seatrout love ’em – it was a pinfish that landed my biggest to date (see above right).

But when it comes to where these critically important pinfish spawn and spend their lives, we have a lot to learn. We’re left to wonder whether pinfish offshore spawning that supplies the Eastern Gulf’s estuaries occurs in a few critical locations or whether spawning activities are spread out. We also don’t know whether pinfish from all of the Gulf estuaries move offshore to spawn at once, or whether they take turns. Fortunately, scientists from the University of South Florida (USF) plan to change that.

USF researchers awarded the first of two FFFRP fellowships in 2017 will use a new technique to discover the secret lives of pinfish. Such insight is gained not by following these fish around and watching what they eat, but rather by examining chemical markers stored in the fish’s tissues. By analyzing carbon and nitrogen isotopes stored in the core of pinfish eye lenses, USF scientists will gain insights about where they were spawned and spent the planktonic phase of their lives before settling into our coastal estuaries.

Foraging Arena Theory

We all know that habitat loss and fragmentation can reduce recruitment of juveniles into gamefish populations. But couldn’t limitations on prey availability also reduce recruitment of wildly popular species such as redfish?

For many years, FWRI collected data on forage abundance in Gulf estuaries. Now, the FFFRP fellowship program is funding a University of Florida researcher to evaluate trends for what they think are the ten most important forage sources for redfish and gag grouper. They will specifically try to identify any significant population changes in these key forage species, and determine what effect, if any, these fluctuations might have had on redfish and gag grouper populations. After all, we can’t adequately protect healthy populations of iconic species such as redfish and gag grouper, unless we understand such basic predator-prey relationships.

These promising fellowships will publish their results this year. In the meantime, the Florida Forage Fish Coalition is hopeful that the FFFRP can secure funding for many more fellowship projects in the future. This work will provide valuable scientific insight to the FWC as they work to maintain healthy forage, predator populations, and fisheries as outlined in the Florida Forage Fish Resolution passed in June 2015.

Visit to take the Florida Forage Fish Coalition pledge. You can donate to the Florida Forage Fish Research Program at

Editor’s Note: The Florida Forage Fish Coalition is a small yet diverse coalition of organizations who understand the critical importance of the baitfish that swim in Florida waters. Some coalition members contributed to information in this story. Please do take the time to visit the web page and take the pledge!

Image credits: Pinfsih in Hand image courtesy of Live Advantage Bait.

Bass Boats Have Come A Long Way In 44 Years

My first bass boat was a 1974 17-foot Arrowglass with a 70 horsepower two stroke Evinrude motor, foot controlled 12 volt trolling motor with about 40 pounds of thrust and a Lowrance flasher depthfinder on the console. It would run about 35 miles per hour top speed. It had an Anchormate on both ends, a winch that raised and lowered a ten-pound mushroom shaped anchor. There was on car battery that cranked the boat and ran everything on it.

The trailer was a single axle one with 12-inch tires. I carried a paper lake map with me that showed the basic outline of the lake. I did order a contour map of Clarks Hill, a 52-page book with pages two feet square, that showed depth contours in five-foot intervals. I put sections of it on the wall in my lake trailer.

The Arrowglass had a live well of sorts, that would fill about four inches deep with water to keep fish alive, but it did not work very well. The boat was top of the line at the time, and cost just under half my annual teacher’s salary when bought new.

When I joined the Sportsman Club that April I had the second biggest motor in the club, there was one 100 horsepower, and the second longest boat. Most boats were 14-foot Sing Fishers with 40 horsepower motors and stick steering.

Now I have a top of the line 2016 20-foot Skeeter with a 250 horsepower four stroke motor that will fly down the lake at over 75 miles per hour if I get in a hurry. The trolling motor is a foot controlled 36-volt 112 pound thrust one that will zip the boat along on high and hold it in any wind as long as the waves are not so high they lift the front of the boat get the motor out of the water. It requires four big deep cycle batteries to run everything.

There are two live wells that hold about 20 gallons of water. Pumps pull water from the lake to fill them and constantly put in fresh water. Other pumps recirculate the water, keeping it oxygenated, and with the pull of a valve will pump the water out of them to drain then faster than just opening the plug, which can be done remotely.

On the back are two Power Pole shallow water anchors. With a push of a button I can extend or retract poles that go down eight feet deep to hold the boat in one place. There are two Humminbird Helix 10 depthfinders on the front and two more on the console, each with 10-inch screens. The trailer is a dual axle with 14-inch tires. It cost almost 20 times as much as my first boat, even though I bought it used. Although my salary had gone up a bit before I retired, the used boat cost almost a full year’s pay.

The change in deptfinders is unreal. My old Lowrance had a light that spun around a dial marked in depth numbers and flashed when its sonar pulse hit something. Thats why they were called “flashers.” The bottom showed as a constant bright line and anything above the bottom, like a fish or brush, flashed at its depth.

My Helix 10s are like TV screens. Just the electronics on my new boat sell for more than three times the total cost of my first boat. They are networked together and can be divided into windows and all four will show everything that shows up on any of them. A GPS map shows bottom contours of the lake with great detail and I can highlight a depth.

If I want to fish from 5 to 10 feet deep I can highlight it in red and keep my boat just outside it to fish that depth consistently. I can also see shallow spots to avoid as I run down the lake and put in waypoints to exactly mark a brush pile or anything else I want to go back to.

The depthfinder part is an LCD that shows a moving picture of whatever is below the boat, in color. It will show in detail brush, stumps and fish. The down and side scan paint a picture that looks like a photo, with brush, stumps and rocks looking just like they would look if you were able to see them. Fish show up as small white dots.

Even more amazing on the front is a 360 Scan transducer. The image it produces looks like a radar screen with a line going around a circle picture. It scans all around the boat, showing rocks, brush and fish ahead, to the sides and even behind the boat. I have mine set on 60 feet, so I see everything within that distance of the boat.

My first boat was a tri hull that was stable while fishing but pounded through waves and jarred you if the water was rough. My new boat is stable while fishing but will cut through two to three-foot waves with little bouncing. It is three feet longer and much heavier, which helps a lot.

Do I need all the stuff I now have? No. Do I like having it? Yes. Do all the advancements help me catch more fish? Maybe. After all the difference between men and boys is the price of their toys.

Fishing Lake Seminole with Buddha Baits

On Wednesday, January 31, I went to Lake Seminole and met Jason Smith to get information for the March Georgia and Alabama Outdoor News Map of the Month articles. Since Seminole is a border lake with parts of it in both Georgia and Alabama the article runs in both states.

Jason lives in Albany and fishes Seminole often. He is owner of Buddha Baits and makes and sells fishing tackle. He makes jigs, spinnerbaits, and worms, and also makes rods. He will start selling a line of reels this year and also has a branded fishing line.

Jason fished a local pot tournament on the Seminole Winter Trail at Seminole a couple of weeks ago and weighed in five bass weighing 24 pounds and did not get a check! Seminole has been on fire for big bass this winter, with five pounders common and many bigger fish.

Seminole is different from any lake in our area. It is very shallow, with miles of grass beds, sand bars and stump fields. The dam in in Florida on the Apalachicola River, just past the junction of the Flint and Chattahoochee Rivers. It is so far south that bass often bed there in January, much sooner than lakes around here.

We started as the sun rose, fishing a deep creek channel bend. The cold winter has kept the bass deeper this year, but they are full of eggs and ready to move up and spawn. This creek bend was just off a point that leads back into a spawning flat, a classic setup for pre-spawn bass.

Jason caught a five pound plus largemouth on his Inseine Jig and I missed a bite on my jig. (note – I landed a 4.85 pound largemouth on one of Jason’s spinnerbaits at Lanier in my next club tournament) With a big bass in the livewell for pictures, we started running around the lake, marking spots for the March map and fishing some of them. It was still a few weeks early for the bass to be on these spawning areas, but they were nearby, and we caught several on grassbeds out from the spots we marked.

It was a cold day, especially when fishing in the wind or running down the lake at 60 mph. But sitting in the sun after the wind died was very warm. Warmer weather over the next few weeks will warm the water and move the bass to the places we marked.

Seminole is about four hours from Griffin, but the roads are good, with four lane most of the way. Bainbridge has good motels and restaurants. I stayed at the Days Inn and was impressed with the friendliness of the staff and how helpful they were, filling every request I made quickly and efficiently.

Plan a trip there in the next couple of months and you may catch a limit of five-pound bass, or one so big you want to have it mounted. Just be considerate of other fishermen.

What Is the Most Important Improvement In

Bass fishing equipment has made unreal advancements in my lifetime. When my uncles took me fishing in my preteen years we went in wooden jon boats, usually homemade, and paddled them around ponds and backwaters of Clarks Hill. Fishing was always close to where we put in, paddling very far was too hard.

My job was to scull the boat, working the paddle quietly without taking it out of the water, while my one of my uncles fished from the front of the boat. Maneuvering around was difficult and we fished slowly. Sometimes, if I was lucky, I got to make a few casts with my trusty Mitchell 300 spinning reel while my uncle paddled.

Line was a black braid that broke all to easily, or the new-fangled monofilament line that was stiff, weak and hard to tie. Lures were wooden, hand painted creations like Jitterbugs, Hula Poppers or Lazy Ikes. Sometimes we fished a Crème “rubber” worm with a two or three hook harness and a small spinner up front. They came in two colors, black or red.

We used the paddle for a depthfinder and usually fished water where it would touch the bottom. Fish were kept on stringers, either metal chains with clips or cords with a ring at one end and a metal shaft on the other. All fish were kept to eat.

Now bass boats fly over the water at amazing speeds while electronics show depth, water temperature and exactly what is under and out to the side of the boat, like looking at a picture. Rods and reels are light and trouble free and line comes in so many choices it gets confusing.

You need only to walk into Berry’s Sporting Goods to see the vast array of shapes, color and sizes of plastic worms and huge numbers of hard baits that will run from the top down to more than 30 feet. And they come in colors that look exactly like bait.

Bass are put in live wells with pumps that keep fresh water circulating to keep the fish alive, and almost all are released. Pictures are taken with cell phones to share with hundreds of people on social media. And you can win money in tournaments.

But what is the most important advancement for actual fishing. There are discussions of this in magazines and on-line. People have varying ideas but to me, without a doubt, the most important improvement is the foot-controlled trolling motor on the front of the boat.

You can sit or stand on the front of the boat and, with practice, move the boat precisely, without even thinking about what you are doing, while casting. You can go into tight places quietly and cast to spots that would be inaccessible without the trolling motor.

What do you think the most important of all those changes over the past 60 years?

How Many Guns Should I Be Allowed To Own?

“Why was the Las Vegas shooter allowed to have 48 guns? No one should be allowed to have 48 of anything,” so spoke either a main stream media talking head or a comedian. I often can not tell the difference. He went on to say, “If you have 48 cats you are called a ‘crazy cat woman.’

That was just a small example of the unhinged comments from liberals demanding control over the rest of us based on their prejudices. As is often said, and demonstrated, it is not about guns, it is about control.

Do you own 48 of anything? Should you be controlled and should the government confiscate anything the liberals do not want you to own?

I am not sure exactly sure how many guns I own, I have not counted lately. I may have more than 48 and I definitely have thousands of rounds of ammo for them. Not a single one of them has ever hurt anyone and never will, unless I am threatened. It is not up to comedians, actors, talking heads or politicians, all with armed security, to tell me how many I can own.

Two very liberal politicians actually told the truth, a real surprise. California Senator Diane Feinstein, who wants to ban all guns, admitted no gun control law could have affected the Las Vegas shooting, then called for more gun control laws in response to that shooting. That is the definition of illogical.

California Representative (see a pattern here) Nancy Pelosi, in response to a question about people’s fear that any new law would be a “slippery slope” toward a total gun ban, responded “I hope so.”

What ever happened to “Saturday Night Specials?” Just a few years ago gun banners were claiming that outlawing inexpensive revolvers, so called “Saturday Night Specials,” would solve gun crime. Now their mantra is “semiautomatic” or “bump stock.” They will use anything to try to get their control over those of us who disagree with their agenda. They use any crisis or tragedy to try to control the rest of us.

Arms are the only physical thing citizens are guaranteed a right to own in the constitution. But folks like movie producer Michael Moore want to take the 2nd Amendment out of the constitution. It inhibits their ability to control the rest of us.

If laws kept people from getting things, we would have no cocaine, meth or heroin problem. To see how effective gun laws are, read any crime report. It is illegal for felons to have a gun, but almost every arrest record says, “also charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.”

Laws do not control criminals, only us law abiding citizens.

What Are Wind Knots and How Can I Stop Them?

A Cure for Wind Knots
By Frank Sargeant, Editor
from The Fishing Wire

Microwave guides have been around for a few years but somehow I never got around to buying a rod built with them, even though I was a friend of Doug Hannon, the inventor. Doug, gone much too soon, is remembered as “The Bass Professor”, a name I saddled him with in a story in Outdoor Life Magazine nearly four decades ago. He came up with the weedless trolling motor prop, the Wave Spin reel and many other patented angling inventions.

The Microwave system includes a unique “guide within a guide” that funnels the broad loops from the spinning reel spool down to a small passage which Hannon said was key not only to casting distance, but also to reducing the “wind knots” that are a frequent problem in some open-faced spinning setups.

Don Morse, head rod builder for American Tackle, which sells the Microwave guides, is one of their chief advocates. It should be noted that American Tackle sells a wide variety of premium guides, so Morse has no particular ax to grind in pushing Microwaves.

“Line comes off a spinning reel in these huge loops on a cast, and those loops, we can see in high speed video, remain in the line and drag across the lower guides well up the rod on a conventional spinning rod,” says Morse. “The high-speed video shows that with the Microwave system, all that looping comes out on the first guide, and the line runs straight through the other guides and out the tip-top from there. It cuts drag, it cuts vibration, and it really makes for a much smoother, more accurate cast.”

Another consideration is the reduction of wind-knots, which under some conditions can drive anglers nuts. Particularly when throwing jerkbaits and topwaters, the constant slacking and then jerking of rod and line create an ideal situation for loops to form around the guides. Wind knots form when an extra loop of line comes off the lip of the spool ahead of the running line.

If the Microwave guide system can eliminate these knots, that alone would make them worth using on specialty rods dedicated to jerkbait and topwater fishing, for those anglers who prefer spinning gear to baitcasting.

I had an opportunity to test one of these rods recently, with 9 of the Microwave guides mounted on a 7’2″ Bushido Warrior graphite blank in medium power, medium-fast tip. I put in a couple of four-hour mornings working over the bass at Lake Guntersville, in northeast Alabama, with this rod mounted with a Shimano Symetre in the 2500 size loaded with 10-pound-test Power Pro, throwing an assortment of topwaters and jerkbaits between a half ounce and 3/4 ounce.

I got a wind knot on maybe the third cast of the first morning, realized I had too much line on the spool, cut off about 50 feet, and then went on to never see another wind knot in the two mornings of casting and jerking. I don’t normally get many wind knots because of habits I’ve had beaten into me by a lot of good anglers, including closing the bail manually, but I do get some–the Microwave guide setup appeared to be an improvement over the conventional rod I had been using for this duty. The casts were smooth and accurate, and the guides do a good job of bringing out the power of the blank in fighting fish. They’re also light enough to make a nice balance with the 2500-size reel on a Fuji handle.

The guide set is fairly pricey, $49.95 for 8 microguides, the Microwave main “funnel” guide and the tip top. This is in line with top-quality Fuji and other premium guides, but it definitely adds to the price of the finished rod. You generally won’t see Microwave guides on value-priced tackle–they’re usually coupled with top-shelf blank and handle. To learn more about these guides, visit

Waterproof Spinning Reels

Waterproof Spinning Reels Promise Long Life
By Frank Sargeant
from The Fishing Wire

For anglers who wade or fish from kayaks, in particular, the affordable new Tsunami Shield spinning reel is likely to become a favorite primarily because it’s engineered with a series of 10 seals that the manufacturer says will make the interior parts permanently waterproof so long as the seals are intact.

As all who wade-fish or cast the surf regularly are aware, there’s no way a reel is not going to get dunked occasionally. Fresh water does minimal harm if it’s not loaded with mud and if allowed to dry out, but a saltwater soaking, even once, assures big trouble if the reel is not completely disassembled and re-lubed. Simply rinsing won’t do it. If internal corrosion gets started, the reel’s days are numbered.

Tackle used in kayaks, which sits just inches above the water, is also subject to a whole lot of water exposure.

Those who fish spinning tackle offshore also run into this problem. Reels used in open water boats are unlikely to get fully submerged, but they may get hit with heavy salt spray all the way out and all the way back–few center console boats really keep the spray out of the cockpit on a hard run upwind on a bumpy day. The sealing system should give the Shield reels a huge advantage in all these situations if it works as advertised.

The screws are all secured with LocTite, which assures that they stay put through a lot of hard use and vibration in the boat. (To remove the side plates for annual cleaning, a special tool is required–it’s provided in the box.)

There are some other reels that also are designated waterproof but they are very expensive, including the Shimano Stella, which goes for almost $800(!) and several from Van Staal, starting at $450. Daiwa’s Saltiga line, similarly pricey, advertises sealed bearings, rather than sealing the entire reel. The Tsunami Shield, a made-in-China reel, obviously lacks some of the features of these high-end reels, but it’s a whole lot more affordable, with the 3000 and 4000 sizes $99.99, the 5000 and 6000 $109.99. Whether you could take the Tsunami with you to swim a bait out through the surf, as some have done with the Van Staal models, remains to be seen, but for the difference in price they are definitely worth a try.

They’re built to handle some serious drag, as well, with up to 20 pounds of pressure in the 3000 and 4000 sizes, which makes the reels good for bass fishing in heavy weeds and for handling reef species around cover. For those who take on big-running fish like bonefish and permit on the flats or kings offshore, the drag is butter smooth and starts without any tendency to stick, even at heavier settings.

They have five bearings, compared to nine in a $389.95 Shimano Sustain 3000, but they’re very smooth in operation and the all-aluminum frame should keep everything well aligned and functioning right for years. They are somewhat heavier than some more expensive models, at 9.5 ounces for the 3000 model, compared to 8.3 ounces for the Sustain 3000, a minimal difference but perhaps a point to consider for all-day anglers. For details on the Shield, see

Building Tree Houses – Growing Up Wild In Georgia

Do kids still build tree houses? That was always a favorite summer activity of mine. From the one in the pecan tree in my front yard to the ones we built down in the woods, they ranged from simple platforms ten feet high to complex ones so far up we put side boards on it to keep from falling out.

The house I grew up in had five pecan trees. There was a huge one in from of the house, another big one to one side and a third in the edge of the field past mama’s flower bed. There were two more smaller trees right beside the ditch on Iron Hill Road to the same side as the flower bed.

One of those smaller trees had a big limb about ten feet from the ground that was perfect for the base of a tree house. Boards nailed to the tree trunk provided a ladder for access. Then two by fours nailed to the limb made the base, with braces going back to the trunk below them.

I rebuilt that one several times over my youth as the boards rotted and became unsafe. I spent many summer days sitting in it, cooled by any breeze that filtered through the limbs and shaded by the leaves above me. I felt completely hidden from the world watching the occasional car or truck that passed just a few feet away. And although mama knew where I was, I could not see the house from my platform.

Taking sandwiches and a drink up in the tree to eat made many summer lunches pass quickly. In the fall there were always pecans on the platform for a snack. One special place was a limb knot hole right beside the platform where I often found pecan hulls where a blue jay or wood pecker had stuck a nut in the small hole and used it as a vice to hold its lunch as it pecked away the shell and ate the meat.

The highest tree house we ever built was in a huge pine tree behind Harold’s house. My memory tells me it was way too high but it was probably no more than 30 feet from the ground, still scary enough for a 12-year-old. It was hard work hauling the boards up that high, either pulling them up with a rope or passing them hand over hand between Harold, Hal and me while we perched with one leg hooked over a limb.

The platform on this one was probably 10 feet square, sitting on a big limb parallel to the ground. Another limb below that one that ran up at more of an angle provided a great place for supports so we could build it bigger. It was cross braced and around the edges we had nailed one by eights to provide a small lip.

We actually slept up there in our sleeping bags one time but near the base of it was our camp. We made prefab walls and a roof and struggled to get them the couple of hundred yards to the site. The three sided shed was a great place to store wood for a dry fire starter and some tools we used every time we camped there.

A rock fire pit with a homemade spit, made from two forked limbs and a cross piece with the bark stripped, was used for roasting squirrels and birds. We cooked breakfast in our mess kits on that fire and also put our “camp dinners” on it. Those were the big patty of ground beef topped by potatoes, onions, carrots and butter wrapped in tinfoil.

Other tree houses ranged from not much bigger than what I now put up for a deer stand to platforms we could lay one and stretch out. We never had anything like the fancy prefab “tree” houses on posts you see in yards nowadays. They are often nowhere near a tree, usually put up by the parents, and very complex.

I can’t help but believe kids are missing something by building their own houses down in the woods, all by themselves, with no adult supervision or help, like we did.