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Marine News from the Great Lakes

Notable New Fishing Gear

Published: Thursday, November 19, 2020
By: Dan Armitage

Shallow water auto-anchoring systems have been popular with boat anglers since the introduction of the Power-Pole and Minn Kota’s Talon more than a decade ago. Both have their own unique features, attributes, and following among shallow-water anglers and have become practically standard equipment on bass boats and coastal recreational fishing craft. This season, Minn Kota has stepped across the aisle, offering a new Raptor model with many of the features that made the Power-Pole popular—plus some new twists.

The MK Raptor is the only shallow water anchor to feature Active Anchoring and Auto-Bottom Mode, which enables the units to automatically monitor the water and bottom conditions to keep the boat anchored firmly in place no matter what the fishing situation. Minn Kota's new Raptor shallow-water anchors are offered in 8- and 10-foot lengths as well as a variety of options and colors. Raptor also boasts the lightest on-transom weight of any 10-foot shallow water anchor.

Raptor comes equipped with a wireless remote and optional footswitch. As part of the One-Boat Network, anglers can utilize i-Pilot Link to control the anchor from their Humminbird unit, the Raptor mobile app, or the i-Pilot remote. The anchors are backed by a comprehensive 5-year warranty plus a lifetime warranty on the spike and start at $1,499.99 up to $1,899.99. For more information on the new Raptor shallow-water anchor, visit minnkotamotors.com.

Beyond checking for proper polarization qualities, one of the ways I test sunglasses for boating and fishing is to wear them while cruising aboard my motorcycle with my helmet’s face shield up. If they fit well enough to keep a 55 mph+ breeze from getting between the lenses and my eyes, I figure they will perform well during my 35 mph max boating pace.

I have been especially impressed with Hobie’s new El Matador style, which features retracting SunShields on each temple arm that allow me to block the wind as well as UV rays when needed. I learned the importance of side shades on fishing sunglasses when I lived in the Florida Keys and sight fishing was the go-to method, especially in shallow-water situations. If you’ve ever caught yourself “cupping” your eyes with your hands in bright conditions to see better, you get point of side shields and wrap-around frames. See more (pun intended) at hobieeyewear.com.     

On a fishing vaca to Cape Hatteras last season, my standard soft plastic “go to” baits were being torn off the jig by aggressive small and/or undesirable-yet-toothy fish species before the targeted gamefish—trout and bluefish—had a chance to chomp down on the jig-and-plastic combos. When I shared my dilemma with the clerk at a local bait and tackle shop, she directed me to a pegboard filled with Z-Man soft-plastic baits. Opening a package she demonstrated how tough and stretchy the ElazTech baits are, which is why they sold so well in that area for the exact reason I shared, and I left with a fist-full. The tough Z-Man plastics turned that fishing trip around. 

Less than a month later, on assignment in northeast Pennsylvania, my fishing guide on the Susquehanna River recommended we fish with “turds.” After my double-take, it turned out he was referring to another Z-Man soft plastic bait called a TRD, for “The Real Deal”—which they are, netting me some great smallmouth bass when paired with a jig designed for use with the stubby plastic trailers. On my first cast (honestly) this spring in my local stream, I caught the largest smallmouth of the season on a TRD.

The latest Z-Man bait, the LongShotZ, is going to be very popular among Great Lakes drop-shot anglers. The super-soft ElaZtech construction allows the 6-inch trailers to writhe, undulate, and quiver with the slightest current or angler activation, and a special tapered nose and marked hook slot allows for easy, streamlined rigging. Fifteen percent salt impregnation offsets some of the bait’s natural buoyancy for a natural (horizontal) underwater posture. Get the scoop at zmanfishing.com.

Solar and battery-powered APALS portable LED lights from Brite-Strike Technologies earned a place in my kayak, SUP, tackle box, and even my hunting vest this season. The super-bright, super-small, self-contained lights measure less than 2x4 inches and come with 3M adhesive tape to allow them to be secured just about anywhere—above and below the waterline—to offer a choice of constant or blinking lights in red, green, or white with lifespans as long as 200 hours.

The APALS can be used as courtesy lights, underwater fish attractors, personal lighting, or emergency beacons. There are even Jimmy Houston-endorsed Hatch Attractor and Lighted Fishing Band kits available that feature a long plastic belt to secure and support several of the APALS, which can be placed atop the water to attract insects and minnows within casting distance of anglers wading or aboard a boat. See brite-strike.com for more information.

A challenge I face, like many Great Lakes anglers, is managing tackle aboard the boat. Storing and toting gear is one thing; keeping it organized and handy aboard while fishing is another. Daiwa’s new Tackle Barn tackles both. 

The Tackle Barn’s double topside gullwing doors are easy to open and close and allow tackle utility boxes to be pulled out, swapped, and returned intact quickly. Its waterproof base is specially reinforced to withstand real-life handling and keeps contents dry when splashed water unavoidably rolls across the deck.

It comes with four Daiwa 370 utility boxes and four 360 utility boxes and will accommodate another four. The tackle bag features a built-in, retractable leader spool wheel, durable sunglasses holder, beverage holder, and water-resistant tool and cell phone pouches. The storage pouches open and close with multiple #8 and #10 nylon zippers and the Tackle Barn features a retractable storm cover, which blankets the entire bag, and comes with a removable, adjustable, padded shoulder strap for easy transport to and from the boat. Learn more at daiwa.com.

About the Author

Dan Armitage is a popular Great Lakes-based outdoor writer and host of the Buckeye Sportsman show (buckeyesportsman.net), syndicated weekly on 30 radio stations across Ohio. Dan is a certified Passport to Fishing instructor and leads kids fishing programs at Midwest boat and sport shows, and is a licensed Captain with a Master rating from the US Coast Guard.

This article first appeared in the Buyer's Guide 2021 (Nov/Dec 2020) of Great Lakes Scuttlebutt magazine.


tags: Accessories, Fishing

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