Basics and Beyond - by Captain Mike Schoonveld

Basics and Beyond - by Captain Mike Schoonveld

The Basics and Beyond column is “reader driven.” All of us together are smarter than any one of us in particular, and whether you are an old dog or just a pup in the Great Lakes angling world, we can all learn new tricks.

In the past, anyone who contributed a tip to the B&B column would receive a gift pack, roughly worth $30, of products obtained from GLA advertisers. Over time, the number of advertisers participating has dwindled and face it, thirty bucks doesn’t go that far, these days when buying fishing tackle.

GLA magazine (and readers) still values the reader-submitted tips. So starting now, instead of a gift pack containing who knows what, contributors will get to choose between a coupon for a one year Great Lakes Angler magazine subscription to either give to a friend or extend their own subscription plus a Great Lakes Angler ball cap. Don’t need another fishing hat? How about a subscription to GLA magazine and a year’s subscription to Salmon Trout Steelheader magazine, GLA’s sister magazine about fishing in the Pacific Northwest, Canada and Alaska.

So if you have a new trick (or old) Great Lake anglers would benefit from knowing, share it! Please email me at: captain with your tips. Add a hi-res photo if possible—a photo is still worth a thousand words. The text of the tip doesn’t have to be that long. Tweet-length to mini-blog is about right. You may use your own name, a pseudonym or be anonymous, if you wish, but do include your name and postal address to receive subscriptions or subscription and hat.



I’ve owned several Labrador and golden retrievers over the years and was always amazed when one of them sniffed out a duck, pheasant or other bird I’d have never found on my own. Perhaps that’s why it dawned on me recently to engage my current retriever to help me find the cell phone I lost when fishing at my favorite steelhead stream. Gabby loves to retrieve sticks or toys I throw almost as much as pheasants, so why not a phone?

I thoroughly searched the spots where the phone was likely lost, but the leaves and weeds along the stream easily “swallowed” the phone and kept it hidden. So I took Gabby for a walk in the same area, tossing a few sticks here and there for her to chase as we walked. When we got to the area most likely harboring the lost phone, I slipped on a pair of latex gloves to mask my scent and found a couple of throwing sticks.

Gabby seemed confused when she chased the first stick I tossed into the weeds since it didn’t have any of my scent and smelled like all the other sticks. So we walked to the second likely area, I tossed the second stick and in seconds she scented my phone and tried to grab it. I quickly ran over, grabbed the phone and handed her a treat I brought along.

—William Powers Dunkirk, NY 



I have a friend who snagged a downrigger cable on something while fishing on Lake Michigan in his 19-footer. “I had no worries about the seaworthiness of my boat that morning,” he said. “I’ve fished in much larger waves and since we were trolling mostly downwind, even the occasional three footer wasn’t a big deal. But when my corner downrigger snagged on something down below, it was like throwing out an anchor. We stopped dead.”

Then he continued his story. “When that happened, I immediately tried to raise the downrigger, but it was stuck tight. The first three-footer that hit after we were stopped slopped into and over the splash-well into the bottom of the boat. After that, each wave added more water and I’m sure in less than a minute, the boat would have been swamped or sunk.”

“Luckily,” he said, “I knew exactly where a pair of side-cutter wire cutters were stored, and grabbed them in seconds.” “Luckily,” he continued, “they were very sharp and easily snipped the downrigger cable. Once that was done I was able to turn the boat around into the waves, we were able bail some the water out with a bucket and my bilge pump handled the rest of it in about 10 minutes.”

Rod and his crew actually went back to fishing, sans one downrigger line. He had no idea what he may have snagged. “The downrigger was only set about 55 feet deep in 65 feet of water,” he said. “I did have my chart’s tracking feature on so it was easy see exactly where we were when we got snagged. We made a few passes through that area but nothing ever showed on the sonar.”

To me, the take away is for downrigger anglers, having a good set of quality side cutters on board is important and equally vital is having them where they can be accessed in seconds, not buried in a tool box stowed in a hatch or compartment. I got the message and ever since have made sure to have a pair and have them stowed close at hand.

I’ve always had good luck with Cuda tools—pliers, snips and others so I picked up a pair of 6.75” Titanium Bonded Diagonal Cutters. They are ultra sharp and impervious to rust and corrosion. See them at



One of the favorite snacks on my boat is jerky, often made from venison, but sometimes just a pack of beef jerky someone picked up at a grocery or convenience store. I love it, but I don’t love it when some extra tough strands of the dried beef or venison wedge between my teeth. Bring out the dental floss!

Are you someone who stocks dental floss on your boat or carries it with you in your pocket? I’m not, but when I’m on my boat I always have a reel or two filled with 20- or 30-pound braided line. 

This dawned on me one day when a fibrous strand of jerky stuck between a couple of molars was driving me nuts. A toothpick wouldn’t budge it, then my mind clicked on the idea of substituting a short length of braided line for dental floss.

Bingo! The thin, strong braid slipped between my teeth easily and quickly re-moved the pesky jerky.

I’m not sure my dentist would approve and I don’t regularly floss using braid, but it sure worked in a pinch and helped me focus my attention on fishing instead of the jerky stuck between my teeth.

—Derrick Mangel South Haven, MI



The weakest links on any boat trailer are its wheel bearings and the greatest cause of wheel bearing failure is the grease seal on the back side of each wheel’s hub. Some may think the main job of the seal is to keep the grease or oil lubricating the bearings from slinging out when the wheels turn as the trailer speeds down the highway.

That’s important, but it’s even more important for the seals to keep water from entering the inside of the wheel hub when the trailer is backed into the water while launching or loading the boat. That’s the reason many trailers are fitted with pressurized wheel hubs like Bearing Buddies or other products. These certainly help keep the water out, but they are only as good as the grease seal on the back side of the hub.

Remember, the working part of the seal is only a ring of rubber that rubs on the steel axle spindle as the wheel turns. Rubber on steel? How long will that last? Actually, a surprisingly long time, but since the rubber is much softer than the steel, it does wear away. As it wears, it becomes less and less effective of doing it’s job.

Here are a couple of things to do on a regular basis. First, inspect the back side of the rims of the trailer’s tires. There should be no grease or oil there. It should be as clean as the exposed part of the tire’s rim on the front side. If any specks (or more) of grease are showing it means grease is slinging out of the wheel hub.

Consider this. Water is thinner than grease or oil, so if grease can get out, it’s likely that water is getting in and diluting the lubricant inside.

If the inside of the wheel rim is black with grease, the seal is shot and it’s likely the bearings are compromised. I’d change the bearings as well as the grease seal.

What I do is regularly change the wheel seals as part of the preventative maintenance I perform on my boat, trailer and the rest of my gear. Wheel seals are inexpensive and changing a wheel seal is a quick, easy (but a bit messy) job. Watch a couple of YouTube videos and you’ll be able to do it or take it to a marine mechanic and they can do the job in about 15 minutes per wheel.

All wheel seals aren’t created equal. Seals designed for light duty, such as lawnmower trailers that never have submerged hubs, usually have only one lip that actually rubs on the axle. There are double-lip and triple-lip hubs available designed for boat trailers. When is the last time you had your wheel seals changed? If you can’t remember, that maintenance is overdue.



“The only thing between your rod tip and the fish you are catching is the line,” has been a popular saying I’ve heard for years. Of course that’s true, but the most important link between line and fish is the knot. But what knot is the best? That depends on the fisherman tying the knot, what kind of line is being used and other factors. Learn a knot you trust and fish with confidence. However there’s one more important step.

When you are tightening the knot and just before all the loops and bends of the line cinch tight, stop for a couple of second and lubricate the knot. Most anglers just wet the knot with saliva by either running it over their tongue or just by spitting on it. That’s what I do but it’s not very sanitary and the idea may be off-putting to some people. Any other kind of lubricant will work as well, like soapy water or some kind of oil. Spray on fish attractant is probably a better idea than motor oil. Lubricating the knot has two purposes.

1) Anyone who has had a rope, string or even fishing line slip through their hands or fingers knows first hand the friction created causes enough heat to burn your skin. Heat is very damaging to fishing line. Spitting or oiling the line allows those loops and curls to cinch down tight with little friction causing heat.

2) All the fishing knots I know are a complicated collection of loops and twists and if you look close, you can see how they all sort of fall in place and neatly work to-gether when the final cinch is applied. That bit of extra lube allows all those intricate bends and curls to snug down in their exact position to form a strong, no-slip knot that won’t fail when a big fish is on your line. 

—Allen McCormick Cleveland, Ohio



I learned here in the Basics and Beyond column a couple of years ago that charging up glow-in-the-dark lures with a UV flash-light is better than using a camera flash or other sources of light. It is, in my estimation. I bought a UV light which produced a bright purple glow and it did a good job. Then I lost that flashlight so I bought another one.

I was disappointed that the new one didn’t produce as much “black light” as the first one. Was it as good? Surprisingly, it was better. I have a curious mind, I researched it and now I know what was happening.

Light waves are measured in nanometers. I don’t know exactly what a nano-meter is but visible light human eyes can detect ranges from about 380 nm to 750 nm. UV light ranges from 100 to 400 nm.

Most UV lights these days are made with LEDs and one of the most popular UV flashlights have LEDs which produce 395 nm light. It is somewhat visible to humans and it does have enough UV “power” to charge those baits. That’s probably what my first lure-zapper flashlight had.

However, the glow-in-the-dark pigments react much better to a slightly lower wavelength, specifically, the magic number is 360 nm. I don’t understand LED technology either, but the closest widely available LED to 360 is one that beams out at 365 nm.

That’s what the diodes in my second flashlight contained. I couldn’t see the light with my naked eye all that well so I thought it was a dud. But the lures I shined with the light fired right up, quicker and seemingly brighter.

So if you are still zapping your lures with a camera flash unit, get rid of it. And when you replace it with a UV flashlight, make sure you are getting one which specifically lists it’s fitted with 365 nm LEDs.

—Billy G, “The science guy” Northport, Michigan 

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