Monday, January 12, 2015

Cabin Fever 2015

Is there any better image for the phrase “Cabin Fever” than Jack Nicholson’s face coming through the wall in Stephen King’s 1980’s classic horror film “The Shining”?
That face pretty much sums up the feelings of fishermen in January and February- the most maddening time for even the  most ardent angler. Sure, you can go sit in the ice shack poking holes in the ice, or you might even scrape enough money together to take the family somewhere warm where you can take a charter to the backwaters of Islamorada or the west coast of Mexico. But basically, this time of year you sit in front of the TV watching Jimmy Houston kiss some bass while you sharpen hooks and wind new line onto your favorite reels.

But there is one activity that can really get the blood flowing for new adventures- the annual Outdoor & Fishing Show! This time of year, convention venues and fire halls are brimming with booths and tables hawking the latest and greatest from tackle manufactures. And so last Saturday I headed out to discover the Ultimate Fishing Show at Detroit metro area’s Suburban Collection Showplace. I will dispel any wrong ideas right from the start- this was really the ultimate opportunity to pay $15, stand in long lines, and talk to a bunch of stir crazy fisherman like myself longing to wet a line. Nevertheless, it was an opportunity to see and hear what’s new for when I finally get the opportunity to get back on the water.  There were seminars galore and lots of opportunities to talk with guys who have found a way to turn their passion for fishing into their livelihood. It never ceases to amaze me how many people have found innovative ways to help you fish with less money in your wallet and more stuff in your boat. There were new boats, all kinds of electronics to find and see the fish that aren’t biting. Now we all know that B O A T means “break out another thousand” and that 10% of the lures catch fish while 90% catch fishermen, but there is a lot of neat stuff out there.

At this show in 2013, I met Brian Metry, founder of Jack-it Products, LLC. Jack-it is still a newcomer to the lure industry, located here in Michigan. I spent time talking to Brian about his line of crank baits- a full line of lipped and lipless as well as stick baits in a variety of fish catching colors. Like many Michiganders, Brian lost his business during the auto market downturn. It was then that he decided to marry his business knowledge with his passion for bass fishing to start his own lure company. I fish a lot of lipless crankbaits and purchased the “Hammer”, Brian’s version of the lipless crank which works well deflecting off rocks and wood structure. Available in many colors, I  had success with perch imitators and with colors featuring bright blues, greens and chartreuse. Since I started fishing for smallmouth here in Michigan, I have become more familiar with fishing short billed and square billed crankbaits. So this year I talked to Jack-it pros about the “Predator”, a 4-6 ft. runner that fishes like a square bill but featuring a slightly longer lip to better deflect off cover. The bill has a unique shape that gives it the deadly wobble featured in their video  The lure I am looking forward to trying this year is their “Liberty”- a deeper diver in the 9-12 ft range that has a unique cavity in the lip to get it down faster, reducing resistance against the bill.  The cavity is pointed on an angle which helps propel the bait to the bottom. It also has the wobbling action so attractive to smallmouth. Jack-it lures come in a wide variety of colors with funky names like Pyromania, Beer Batter, Opening Day, Pale Ale, Dragon Breath, Key Lime Pie, etc.
 At shows, enthusiasm sells, and I was impressed by the pro staff at Jack-it. They know the local waters and were very willing to share their experience and favorites. Check them out at

 I always get excited when I see new things that solve long time problems. When I fish with my son Steve we are out on the water all day fishing a variety of species and different structural situations. It does not take long before the boat looks like it has been in combat- lures and trebles everywhere. Having been to the emergency room to remove a Rattlin’ Rap from my thumb, any new idea to keep trebles organized and accessible is welcome.
I met the very welcoming Jennifer and John Gesik, founders of Magnetic Marine Products and inventors of the Gear Grabbar line of boat accessories at this year’s show. John literally stumbled on the idea for these products when he left his magnetic name badge on his boat. John always had lures and gear laying all over his boat and when he noticed that the magnetic name badge had found a hook, a light bulb went on!  John has taken this marriage of magnets and hooks and developed a new organization system to make the fishing experience more productive and safe. The minute I saw this innovative lure holder suspending lures by using strategically placed magnets I knew I was hooked.
Gear Grabbar takes fishing lure organization to a new level offering versatility and safety for jigs, topwater, spinnerbaits, crankbaits, worm hooks, pliers, scissors, hook sharpener, knife, and line cutters- all SECURE, SAFE and ACCESSIBLE. No doubt you will find multiple uses in your boat. Visit them at

One of the things I admire about my son as a fisherman is his willingness to try new techniques and presentations. Fishing Shows are the perfect opportunity to learn new techniques and gear up to try them. My “go to” techniques have been variations on  crankbait, spinnerbait, topwater and jig themes. While I have certainly experimented with worm and tube fishing I have not fully embraced these proven bass strategies. My affiliation with iBass360 ( ) has introduced me to the folks at Case Plastics and Zipper Worm. I spent time talking to Pro Staff reps Dennis Cullen and Tom Taylor about wacky rigging with their products.

One of the frustrations in worm fishing and drop shot fishing is the rigging time and the frequent need to change the plastic bait due to tearing. Case has introduced the O-Wacky Tool as a method to use o-rings to facilitate the rigging process and increase the longevity of your rig. At the Detroit show they introduced a The Brute, a larger version of the O-Wacky Tool that accommodates larger worms and soft swim baits. Dennis and Tom helped me with knowledge of favorite colors and hook sizes for local bass. Zipper worms, grubs and creatures have been a bass favorite in the Northeast and Midwest having been proven by pro-staff  Marcel Veenstra and Ken Penrod.

For the better part of twenty years, Fishing Complete Inc., owner of Case Plastics, Zipper Worm Company and The O-Wacky Tool, has been manufacturing two high performing lines of soft plastic baits in the USA. Both lines offer a wide array of color and selection for wacky fishing, drop shotting or flipping. Check them out at

Last but not least, what would a fishing show be without the boat section? This year’s show had no shortage of Rangers, Lunds, Tritons, Trackers and other fishing boat manufactures. One noticeable trend in the industry is that large retailers such as Cabelas and Bass Pro Shops are becoming your one stop shop for all things Marine. Bass Pro’s recent announcement of their intent to acquire Ranger Boats is just one example of how the big internet/destination retailers are becoming an important distribution channel for boat sales. I talked to a Cabela rep about one boat in particular that caught my eye- the Ranger 188 aluminum bass boat-

the current generation of my old 18 ft. Ranger Cherokee. The new Ranger aluminum line, reintroduced a couple years ago, is now being built solely by Ranger vs. the old Cherokee built with outsourced hulls. This means stronger welding processes and better grade material. It was noticeable that many of the systems had been significantly upgraded. The storage lockers have increased in number and size- now more fully comparable to those on more expensive models. The live well system has been upgraded with more durable pumps. The console is sturdier, featuring all the latest electronics. The aluminum line comes in fishing and hunting models, in varying configurations with many different option packages. This is a very affordable boat with many features formerly found only on more expensive models. I am starting to visualize one of these in my future.

While probably not the ULTIMATE fishing show, I did have a good time on Saturday. I came home with more stuff in the big bag they gave me at the door and less green in my wallet. What was most important, I came home thinking spring can’t be that far away, can it?

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