Category Archives: Fishing Product Reviews

AFTCO Solpro Fishing Gloves Review

AFTCO gloves
Cutouts allow good contact with rod for feel

For years I searched for gloves I could wear while fishing.  I have dozens of pairs on which I spent way too much money and wore once.  None allowed me to feel the bites, cast both bait caster and spinning reel, protect me from sun in summer and stay warm in winter.

    At the Georgia Outdoor Writers Association meeting this past spring our “goody” bag included a pair of AFTCO Solpro fishing gloves. I thought the size was marked wrong, the XXL looked way too small for my hands.  But I struggled and got them on, and they “fit like a glove!”

    They are snug on my hands, but that helps feel the rod and reel while fishing.  The fingertips are cut out as are the palms, giving me good skin contact with line, rod and reel.  And they have protected my hands from sunburn this spring and my hands have not gotten hot while wearing them, either.

    I did not think they would be very warm in the winter and I am not sure they will be. But when I pick up a cold can of Diet Rite Cola I feel the cold on my palm and fingertips but not where the glove material is between my hand and the can.  I hope that means they will be warm.

    The tight gloves are hard to get on and I have to be careful to get my fingers headed in the right direction, but it gets easier each time I put them on.  I put them on each morning when the sun starts to get warm. 

With them and a gaiter, a simple tube of sun block stretchable cloth that goes over my head and covers my ears, neck and most of my face, I am well protected without putting on sunscreen except on the tip of my nose.  The gaiter was given to me when I attended a Bassmasters Classic as a media observer a few years ago.

Just my luck, when I went to the company site apparently the Solpro gloves are no longer available. That is probably why they were given to us, they are discontinued. It looks like they have been replaced with a “Solago” named glove.  It looks the same in pictures.

The Solago sun gloves sell for $29.00.  I am ordering a spare pair, but was disappointed when shipping cost $9.99, over a third of the cost of the gloves!  They did offer a free gaiter with my first order, though. 

And after I got home from my trip, Linda asked if I thought to check Amazon. I had not, they were the same price but shipping was free if you are a Prime member. I could have saved $10 if I had not been in such a hurry!

Frog Tog Rainsuits Have Failed Me Three Times

  If rainy days and Mondays always get you down like they do “The Carpenters,” last weekend and the first of this week was definitely a low time.  Some folks let rain stop their outdoor activities, which means fewer people on the lakes while I am fishing!

    I am not crazy about camping in the rain, even though I have a nice slide-in pickup camper now.  But it is small and not really comfortable for sitting around inside. I carry a screen room with me to sit in outside and it is good until it really pours.

    Grilling is a challenge in the rain but it’s possible, especially if you are fast and have a covered grill. The key is keeping your charcoal dry in the bag and keep the rain off it until you light it.

    There are lots of little tricks to make camping in the rain better. From something as simple as keeping some rice in your saltshaker so it won’t clog to having a good rainsuit make a big difference.

    Rainsuits come in a wide variety of costs and quality, from those that keep you nice and dry to those that are about as effective as a screen door. 

Years ago, when they first came out, I got a set of “Frog Togs,” a new brand of rainsuit.   I loved it – for about a year. 

It was lightweight and kept me completely dry. Then on a trip to Clarks Hill I put it on, got in the boat in the rain and every bit of my clothing was soaked within minutes.

I figured the set was old so I got a new set, and got soaked the first time I wore it.  That’s when I went and bought an expensive set of Columbia light-weight rain gear. I have a set of heavy Cabellas Guide Wear that is great in the winter but too hot to wear unless it’s cold.

A couple months ago I was at Eufaula to do an article and realized I left my rainsuit at home. Since rain was predicted, I went to Walmart to get something. The only thing they had that seemed reasonable was a set of Frog Togs, so I bought them.

I didn’t need them until last Saturday at Wedowee. I put the pants on before we took off since the boat was wet. When it started raining an hour or so later, I put the jacket on.

Almost as soon as I sat down I felt rain leaking around the crotch seams on the Frog Togs. Within an hour or so of light rain, there was not a dry thread anywhere on my body.

I will get a used laundry bag for a rainsuit before I ever buy Frog Togs again.

Garmin Panoptix Review Update

 I continue to be amazed at what my Garmin Panoptix shows while I am fishing. The Panoptix Livescope has a transducer that sends out sonar pulses and receives them back from three different angles at the same time. It then combines and interprets the resulting “pings” from objects the pulse hits as lights on a screen.

    You can watch dots of lights indicating fish move on your screen. It shows how far from the boat they are, the angle they are at and how deep they are. Any stationary object shows as a solid light image that resembles the object. For example looking under a dock you can see the post, cross bars and any brush or fish under them.

    The size and shape of the image give you a good idea of the size and shape of the fish out there. There is no doubt what a long, thin  gar is when it is in the beam.  Crappie, bluegill, bass and hybrids show similar images, but their position relative to the bottom, way they move and how they are positioned to each other give you a good idea what they are.

    From what I have observed, a school of baitfish looks just like it does from above when near the surface. The small dots move and flash in sync with each other, and move around a lot without going anywhere.

Crappie usually hang in groups over or near cover like brush or pilings. You can see the individual fish as they slowly move within the school.

Hybrids stay up from the bottom, move around a lot and move fast. There are often a dozen or more fish in the school, and they are generally bigger than the crappie.

I target bass, and they can show up as different things. Often a single bright spot at the top of a brush pile or against a post under a dock is a bass. Sometimes a small school, six or so fish, move in unison, going up and down as they look for food.

We always thought bass moved in tight to cover when the water is muddy and are out from cover a little in clear water. I saw this proven the first couple of months I had my unit.

The first time I used it at Jackson, the water was clear and I saw what I was sure were bass suspended just over some brush I often fish. Another place with big rocks I could see the fish holding just above them and saw several stumps with fish on top of them, too.

A couple of weeks later a heavy rain had muddied the water. The same brush pile with fish just over it now had bright dots down in the brush. I know they were bass because I caught two by repeatedly casting a worm to the brush and slowly working it through the limbs.

The rock pile now showed bright dots right at the bottom tight to the rocks. Stumps showed the fish tight against them near the bottom.

The most worrisome thing was the fact I could see fish near the cover in clear water but they were slowly moving around like they were looking for something to eat.  But when my boat got within about 30 feet of them, they sank down into the cover and became inactive. I just knew the fish knew I was there and would not hit. Maybe they picked up sounds from my boat, a shadow from it or some other reason that spooked them.

At Martin last week I was fishing a point and saw five or six dots slowly moving just off the bottom. They would swim up a couple of feet then go back down as a group, like they were searching for food.

When I casts a shaky head worm to them, knowing the angle and how far to cast from the picture, I watched my bait start to sink toward them. As has happened dozens of times, one came up to meet my bait.

Time after time I have seen a fish do this, follow the bait to the bottom and never hit it. Usually the bait separates from the fish and the fish follows it down.

But this time was different. The bait did not continue to sink, the fish dot and bait dot stayed together. I realized the fish had hit it and tightened up my line and set the hook, landing a 13-inch keeper spot.

I like watching my crankbait run through the water. The unit lets me know exactly how deep it is running. And I can see fish follow it, but so far have not seen one eat it.

Topwater baits skim across the top of the screen. I can watch a Zara Spook twitch back and forth and see the wake produced by a Whopper Flopper.  And watch fish come up to them.

All this is very exciting but also very frustrating. I never realized how many fish are out there, they are everywhere. But getting them to hit is another story. Knowing a fish is sitting by a stump or in a brush pile will make me keep casting to it, sometimes wasting way too much time trying to make a fish eat that just will not.

But at times changing the size or color of a bait will make the fish hit. So at times it makes the difference between catching a fish and just blind casting.

Expensive electronics are not for everyone, and they definitely have good and bad points. But technology continues to improve, even if you don’t want to take advantage of it.

Garmin Striker Cast GPS Review


Frank Sargeant, Editor
from the Fishing Wire

Garmin Striker Cast GPS—Castable Sonar For the many anglers around the country who fish from shore, piers or docks, it’s always a bit of a mystery how deep the water is within casting range, what structures are on the bottom, and where the fish are in relation to that structure. Without a sonar/GPS screen to tip you off, you’re fishing blind.

Garmin’s Striker Cast GPS puts fish-finding technology into the hands of these anglers, at a very affordable price. It provides quality sonar and GPS on any smart phone.The whole system is encased in a hard plastic housing about the size of a tennis ball. The unit turns on when it’s immersed in water, and links via Bluetooth to your smart-phone once you download the Striker Cast app. You attach the device to your fishing line, cast it out to the water you want to check and presto, a sonar screen appears on the phone.

The Striker Cast is about the size of a tennis ball. It can transmit to your phone from up to 200 feet away.

The device weighs about 3 ounces, so it’s not something you’re going to throw on your light action spinning rod. And it would be easy to pop your line and lose the Striker if you got a dead-stop backlash on a hard cast. I tied it on with 65 pound test Spider Wire braid on the heavy duty snap swivel, just to be sure—that braid will hoist a couple of concrete blocks, so it’s not going anywhere.
Here, a bass hanging over tree limbs on bottom at 8 feet shows clearly. Note the water temperature and depth digital readout on the upper left.

You don’t really cast the Striker—it’s more like lobbing a tennis ball, unless you put it on a 10-foot surf rod. I used a heavy action Shimano Sienna 7-footer and a 4000 size reel that would whip a kingfish, and it was about right.

Manipulating the rod, reel handle and your smart phone all at once is a challenge unless you have three hands. The way I worked it out was to hold the rod in my right hand, the phone in my left and also lightly hold the reel handle. I then rotated rod and reel to retrieve line—it sounds more difficult than it is once you’ve made a few casts.



As with any sonar, the faster the transducer moves, the more the terrain and fish below are compacted, while the slower things move the more they are stretched out. Thus, a foot-long bass going slow under a fixed transducer can look like a 40-pound pike. However, you quickly learn to adjust. The system automatically sets range and gain, or you can adjust both manually at the tap of a virtual scale.

Bottom shows red/yellow, water blue, fish and structure also red if large, yellow if small or scattered. The screen has digital depth and water temperature readouts on the upper left.

The unit also has a very accurate GPS system which allows you to map the area you are graphing. Walk all the way around your favorite pond, casting every 50 feet or so as you go, and it draws a chart of all the water you can reach, complete with depth profiles. You can name and save this, and you can also share it publicly. (I suspect that’s a function not many serious anglers will use!)

The chart was made by repeated casts with the Striker Cast. The opening at the center was where the author walked around a creek, so there’s no graph of that area.

The transducer is not like your boat floating over a fish, which usually flushes anything shallower than 10 feet in most lakes. Fish are not aware of it, and in fact I had a catfish come up and bump it apparently to see how it tasted. So, you can graph an area with a couple casts, spot fish, tie on a lure that gets to their appropriate depth, and hopefully connect.The Striker Cast would also be very useful for ice fishers—it’s compact, easy to carry, and would give you a quick read of what’s happening at each hole you open.

After saltwater use, you’ll want to rinse the connections thoroughly before hooking it up to the included USB charging wire—corrosion is not your friend. I wished the charging LED was a bit easier to see or had an alternate color when fully charged, but that’s a minor inconvenience. The battery lasts 10 hours with a full charge.

Here’s a useful video that teases out the many functions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NEew_HQ90lY.

The Garmin Striker Cast GPS goes for about $180, and it’s sized about right for a stocking stuffer.

Check it out here: https://buy.garmin.com/en-US/US/p/665274

Sunline Fluorocarbon Line Review

Product Review

Sunline Fluorocarbon Line

Good

Sunline Fluorocarbon Line comes in 17 different types for different applications. Its entry level line, Super Fluorocarbon, is a good choice for general fishing.  At the top end, Super FC Sniper, is for the tournament fisherman depending on every strike for his living.

Fluorocarbon is a very low visibility line with little stretch. It sinks, so it is not suitable for all lures, for example topwater lures do not work well with it.

A variety of the types of line are for specific situations.  Dostrike FC is designed for fishing bladed jigs. Crank FC is made for fishing crankbaits. Both lines are designed with some stretch for those baits.

The Night line is made to be visible when using a black light at night.  The Super FC Green Sniper has green color in it to help the fisherman see it above the water but is much more visible underwater to fish, too. Flipping Fluorocarbon has colors to be visible to the fisherman and is abrasion resistant.

I started using Sunline Fluorocarbon years ago after doing a Map of the Month article at Lake Lanier with Eric Aldrich.  The first stop, he lowered a drop shot bait to the tip of a blowdown in 30 feet of water. When he set the hook, he sawed the fish back and forth several times in the limbs and landed a three-pound spot.

I said he must be using heavy line for dropshot but he responded it was five pound Sunline. I thought it was a fluke to land that fish, but later in the day he did the same thing in a 35-foot-deep brush pile, sawing back and forth then landing a 3.5-pound spot.

I figured if five-pound Sunline line would do that, I could tow my boat with 12-pound line.

I fish a jig and pig on 14 pound and a shaky head on 12-pound Super FC Sniper or Super Fluorocarbon. It holds its knot as well as any fluorocarbon and I have never been disappointed in it. I think I get more strikes with fluorocarbon than I would with other line when fishing slow moving baits.

Bad

Sunline Fluorocarbon Line is more expensive than many other fluorocarbon lines.

Fluorocarbon line does not stretch like monofilament. When I switched to 12-pound fluorocarbon, I broke my line several times on the hookset until I loosened the drag enough to slip a little on the hookset.

Fluorocarbon is also notorious for knot slippage. With Sunline and any other fluorocarbon, if you do not tie a good knot suitable for fluorocarbon you will lose fish.

Cost

Sunline fluorocarbon line lists for $19.99 to $39.99 for a 165 to 200-yard spool. Bulk spools are available at slightly less per yard for some types of it.

Costa Helps Vets with their Freedom Series


By Frank Sargeant, Editor
from The Fishing WireLong known for high-quality, on-water eyewear, Costa® Sunglasses recently released the Freedom Series, highlighting the brand’s partnership with Freedom Fighter Outdoors (FFO). If you’ve been needing an excuse to splurge on some admittedly fairly pricey Costa’s, their assistance to FFO might be just what’s necessary.
 
The Freedom Series glasses feature many of the most popular Costa frame styles in patriotic-inspired colors, and support Freedom Fighters Outdoors’ initiative to help get veterans out on the water and participating in recreational outdoor activities.

Costa offers the series in both glass lenses—which are more scratch-resistant and also somewhat clearer than polycarbonate–and the poly lenses, which are lighter and also more shatter-resistant. I personally have always liked glass lenses for the clarity, plus glasses used in a center console tend to get the heck scratched out of them bouncing around on the dash if they have plastic lenses. Costa says their glass lenses are 20% thinner and 22% lighter than average polarized lenses, so it’s pretty much a no-brainer.  The models with glass lenses are somewhat heavier than some other brands just because Costa builds their stuff to last, but they’re not so heavy that you notice the weight on your nose or ears. The hinges, for example, are not only stout stainless steel, but they’re inset inside the durable composite frame. This not only protects them from salt spray and the resulting corrosion but adds reinforcement at the point where most glasses eventually fail. 

The blue mirror lenses are among the best choice for bright sunlight and flats or offshore fishing—minimal color distortion, good fish spotting and the polarization and mirroring greatly cuts glare. If you’re strictly a flats angler, you might like the amber lenses better because they tend to make vegetation and fish “pop” in the shallows, but the blue mirror gives things a light gray cast that seems natural after you wear it a few minutes.

A very useful feature on all Costa glasses is that they provide exact measurements of all their glasses on their website, so you know in advance how they’re going to fit if you buy them via the internet. For example, the Reefton version we checked out has an overall width of 129.2 mm and a bridge width, that is across the nose, of 15 mm.

The lenses are 63.5 mm wide, 42.3 mm tall, the ear pieces 112 mm long. They’re designed for those with large heads. They also make other models that are smaller, better fits for young anglers or for most women.  I like that the ear pieces are curved to grip the contours of the head, but have relatively little drop behind the ears. To me, this design stays on well and is easier to take on and off than those with a pronounced drop in the ear pieces. (I always put CablZ eye glass retainers on my sunglasses before wearing them the first time—saves losing them overboard, plus I always know where they are when they’re not on my head.)

The ear pieces, like the nose piece, are made of a “sticky” composite that helps the glasses stay in place, even when you’re sweaty.

The Freedom Series includes 16 frame styles across the brand’s lifestyle categories. The line ranges in price from $179 to $279, depending on frame and lens combination—pricey, but the company is known for standing behind their stuff.  (I also like that Costa does their bit for fish and fisheries habitat through programs that include producing a collection of frames made from recycled fishing nets as part of its Kick Plastic initiative, as well as partnerships with conservation groups and the shark research organization OCEARCH.) 

For more information on the new frames and the full line of Costa sunglasses, visit https://www.costadelmar.com/en-us/collections/freedom-series.

Learning Fish Behavior from A Garmin Panoptix

I  have learned a lot from my Garmin Panoptix I installed last November.

This system is a sonar that shows a live picture of what is underwater on the screen, much like shining a spotlight at night shows what is in its beam.  And it shows movement as it happens, not as a line on the screen like older units.

One of my first surprises was how many fish are down there. I see schools of crappie and hybrids and clouds of baitfish suspended over deeper water this time of year.  And I can see fish moving along the bottom, probably catfish and carp.

Fish hovering around stumps, rocks and brush, or holding right on a drop off, are probably bass.


And there are lots of them. But seeing them does not mean they will hit my bait.

Time after time I see my bait move through them and they ignore it. Even worse is when I watch my jig fall on the cast or hop it and see a fish come up to it and follow it back down but never hit it. That does make me change colors, size and baits more often.


When I see fish in brush or on other cover, it makes me make more casts to it. The first tournament I used my Panoptix I saw what looked like fish in a brush pile in front of a dock. Normally i would hit a brush pile two or three times with a bait then move on. But seeing fish in that one made me make multiple casts and I caught a keeper on about my tenth cast!

I have always heard bass move tight to cover in muddy water.  In November and December, Jackson was very clear and I could see bass holding just over rocks and other cover, and they would slowly move around it. But after the rain Jackson muddied up and now I see bright dots indication bass right against the rocks or down in the brush.  And they don’t move, they just sit there.

I know a bait cast out and sinking will swing back toward the boat, and to get it to go straight to the bottom I “feed” line to it as it falls.  That is important when trying to get you bait to the bottom under docks and down to brush.Watching my bait swing back toward the boat as it falls amazes me.  A half ounce jig with a twin curly tail trailer cast on 14-pound fluorocarbon line makes an arch back toward me no matter how much line I feed to it.  It moves back toward me about a foot for every five it falls, so if I cast to a brush pile 20 feet deep I have to cast at least four feet past it to get my bait to hit it.

Another confirmation of fish behavior is the reaction of fish as my boat gets near them. Fish holding over rocks and brush will slowly sink down into it as my boat approaches. In clear water it is very noticeable. Bass over cover 20 feet deep started sinking down into it when my boat got within 30 feet of them.


I saw this happen many times when i moved in to try to jig a spoon or use drop shot. N ow, after seeing it happen, I will try to make very long casts in clear water!

I am just exploring lakes with my Panoptix and hope to learn a lot more in the coming months.

St. Croix Mojo Bass Glass Crankbait Rod Review

You can cast a crankbait on any rod.  But you will be much more efficient, make longer casts, the bait will have better action and you will land more of the fish that hit if you use the right one for the job.

    My St. Croix Avid medium action rods do a good job with smaller crankbaits, but do not work well with the huge ones that are so popular now. A few years ago, I bought a St. Croix Mojo Bass Glass Crankbait rod at a Georgia Outdoor Writers Association auction, and got it for a fraction of the list price.

    It is a fantastic crankbait rod, casting quarter ounce crankbaits easily but handling the biggest one-ounce ones I own.  Both will fly further on it than any other rod I have, even with the same reel and line. 
Its action makes this possible. 
    The action of the rod also makes it easier to land bass on a crankbait.  Bass are notorious for throwing a crankbait, often because the hooks tear holes in their mouth and allow the hook to pull out. A rod that is too heavy adds to this problem, tearing holes when you set the hook. 

    The St. Croix had a medium power moderate action, meaning the rod bends over its whole length, and allows a cushion when setting the hook. Most rods now are graphite, but those fibers are stiffer than fiberglass.  That is the reason St. Croix uses it in their crankbait rods.

    Jamie Koza, owner of The Dugout bait and tackle store in Atlanta and a tournament fisherman, says the
St Croix Mojo is the best crankbait rod he has ever used.  And both is kids, Carter and Rose Lee, tournament winning high school and college fishermen, both love them.

    The St. Croix Mojo Bass Glass crankbait rods sell for about $150 and come in a variety of lengths and actions to suit your needs.

American Hero Speed Stick Rod Review

I won a Fig Rig rod in a Top Six tournament at West Point years ago. That northern company and made muskie rods but decided to get into the bass market.  This six-foot six-inch rod was the most sensitive rod I have ever used for worm and jig fishing.  

    I broke the rod several weeks ago and, unfortunately, the company is no longer in business. So, I went looking for a replacement.  I ordered a St. Croix rod but needed one fast and I went to Berrys Sporting Goods to see what he had.

    After looking at several rods Jim showed me an American Hero Speed Stick rod.  It felt good even though it is a seven-foot rod and I really wanted a shorter rod for skipping baits under docks.  The medium heavy, fast action was right, though, and I got it.

    After using it several times and catching a few fish on it, I am very happy with it.  It cast half ounce jigs and Texas rigs with a three sixteenths ounce sinker well, exactly what I wanted it for.  I can skip ok with it and it has good sensitivity for feeling bites on those baits.  The seven-foot length gives me good leverage when setting the hook.

    The rod weighs more than my St. Croix rods but cost less than $100, about half the cost of my St. Croix rods. Usually the more expensive the rod the less it weighs. 

    It serves my needs well and I am very happy with it.

Hydrowave H2 Review

Hydrowave H2 Review

The TH Marine Hydrowave H2 is a unit that plays a sound through an underwater speaker that is usually mounted on a trolling motor. The sounds it plays are supposed to represent sounds that make fish feed. The Hydrowave H2 has a variety of choices of sounds, from crawfish on gravel, one of my favorites, to deep bait to blueback herring, a good one on herring lakes like Clarks Hill and Lanier.

Does it work? Honestly, I do not know, but I always have it playing during tournaments.

Many of the pros I have done Map of the Month articles with for Alabama and Georgia Outdoor News swear by it, even those not sponsored by the company and have to buy their own units. That means a lot to me, the ones not sponsored using it.

One experience indicates it does work. While fishing a club tournament at Lake Lanier during the herring spawn, I stopped off a seawall where the spotted bass had been schooling. There was no surface activity at all.

When I got up front and put my trolling motor in the water, with the Hydrowave H2 playing the herring spawn, the water off the seawall exploded with several big spots chasing baitfish. Like a dummy, I had not picked up my rod first, and by the time I unstrapped it and was ready to cast, the fish had disappeared. From then on I have my rod ready to cast when putting the unit in the water.

I have had my unit for about two years and have done well in many tournaments when the fishing was very tough. It gives me a little extra confidence when it is on, always an important factor.

The unit is not cheap, costing about $400.00. Is it worth it?

My old unit died last week, out of warranty that last one year, but I ordered another one to replace it. That is how much I believe in it. Since I was replacing an old unit, they did give me a good discount on the new one.