Church Filet Knife, Shimano Tekota "A" Reels, Scentlok Vehicle Deodorizer, Yeti Rambler, Musselhead Tackle Meat Heads  | Tackle & Toys

Church Filet Knife, Shimano Tekota "A" Reels, Scentlok Vehicle Deodorizer, Yeti Rambler, Musselhead Tackle Meat Heads | Tackle & Toys


A column written by Capt. Mike : Tackle & Toys

Church Filet Knife

I used to be a filet knife snob.

I had a medium sized, sharp filet knife and that’s all I’d use whether the fish on the cleaning table was a tiny trout or a wicked tuna.

Then last year I switched to a two-knife system for most of my fish cutting chores. I used a rechargeable electric knife to cut the filets off of the king salmon, steelhead, lake trout and walleyes I put on the cleaning table, then I grabbed my old faithful blade to complete the boning and skinning process. I wish I’d made that switch years earlier.

I rationalized the move by considering the tackle boxes I take fishing and my tool assortment I use to repair and maintain my equipment. Though all I really need to catch a fish is a hook and line my tackle boxes are stuffed; though I’ve made some amazing repairs with nothing more than a set of pliers, I have enough tools to satisfy Tim the Toolman. Two different kinds of knives often work better than one—so why not three?

fillet knife

If I’d remained a filet knife snob, when I saw Church Tackle’s “reinvention” of the filet knife I’d have laughed it off. With my new-found open mindedness about fish cleaning knives, I decided to give the Church Filet Knife a closer look.

The first thing I noticed is the handle is molded with an offset so when the blade is against the cutting board the knuckles on my hand aren’t dragging on the surface of the board. Just as novel is how the blade is turned 90 degrees from the direction every other knife is positioned. When the holding the knife, blade down on the cutting surface, knuckles are positioned nicely above the slime and blood on the filet table, the blade is flat on the board.

The truth is, for skinning a fish, this configuration is perfect—conventional knives, not so much. Sure, I’ve skinned thousands of perch, walleye, bluegills and other fish over the years with a normal knife. I’ve learned to position the fish right at the edge of the cutting board so I can get the knife blade parallel to the cutting surface, slice off the skin and not be a knuckledragger fish skinner. I’ve also cleaned up buckets full of fish garbage from the floor of the fish cleaning station where it dripped off the edge of the table while I was skinning my filets.

One more departure from normal is the knuckle-knife is only honed sharp on one side, much like you should sharpen mower blades. When skinning a fish, that ensures the blade cuts razor close to the skin, is less likely to slice through the skin and doesn’t leave any excess meat on the skin.

I did filet a few fish, first cut to last with the knife. Other than feeling a bit weird in my hand, the filets came out just fine. I’ve pounded nails with a rock before and the nails stuck in the wood just fine. I’m not going to give up either my electric or my old faithful conventional knife.

If you want to be a knife snob and just use one knife, start to finish, this isn’t the knife for you. However, if, like me, you recognize certain tools are better than others for specific jobs, one of these Church knuckle-savers for skinning your catch makes sense.

The Church Filet Knife is currently available only for right-handers and has an 8-inch blade complete with a snug fitting sheath that won’t slip partially off when bouncing around in a boat or vehicle.

Available at retail outlets, online retailers or order from



When braided line was introduced and became popular with saltwater anglers, reel makers adapted. They quickly developed new models specifically for the new, skinny line. These braid-crankers were scaled down in overall size, fitted with relatively massive drag systems and engineered with a super-high gear ratio.

Size, strictly to increase line capacity, wasn’t needed. Six hundred yards of braid will fit on a reel with only a 200 yard capacity for monofilament.

Just half-filling a reel is a lousy option. A reel with a full spool of line may wind on 24 inches of line with each turn of the handle. The same reel with only a half-filled spool will wind on only 12 inches per handle revolution.

By the same token, a tough fighting fish pulling line off the reel at 10 feet per second, spins the spool against drag mechanism twice as fast with a half-filled reel. A drag system which may handle 100 rpms may fail completely at 200.

Reels for the Great Lakes market didn’t adapt. Though the use of braid (or equally skinny wire line) has increased, almost all braid and wire line guys use the same reels they formerly spooled with mono. To make it work, they spool on enough mono to nearly fill the reel’s spool, then top it off with braid or wire to get a reasonable amount of line per turn of the handle and to allow the drag to work efficiently.

shimano tekota aThe change isn’t just cosmetic between the old and new versions. Available (at this writing) in 500 and 600 sizes with the same line capacity as the “non-A” Tekota 500 and 600s, that’s where the comparison ends. The originals had a gear ratio of 4.2:1. The “A-Team” has a gear ratio of 6.3:1. (Rough math comparison, with full spools: the A model winds on 37 inches of line with each handle revolution, the original only 25 inches.)I don’t know if Shimano’s newly designed Tekota A models were designed specifically to bridge the gap between braid and mono, but they do and quite nicely. Shimano Tekotas (the original model) are, in the opinion of many, the best Great Lakes trolling reel ever made. I have Shimano Tekotas on my boat, I’ve fished with them on other boats and have nary a complaint. So why change?

The drag on the originals maxed out at 18 pounds; the A models torque down to 24 pounds. The increased power tells me the drag will perform better, smoother and reliably, however tight it’s set even if a quarter or half the spool of line is between the reel and the fish.

My test reels (Tekota 500As in the line counter version) performed flawlessly, one spooled with 30-pound braided line, the other with 40-pound 19-Strand Torpedo Wire. I needed a bit of mono backing to bring 500 feet of wire and 200 yards of braid to “full spool.” The reels were mounted on diver rods and used for diver trolling.

I normally use Tekota 600s for this application to get a larger spool diameter and adequate line retrieval per crank. In use, the smaller, 500A was noticeably lighter, the drag held nicely against the pressure on the troll and slipped smoothly when a big fish hit the lure. I ran each diver, at times, with as much as 200 feet of line out. I really appreciated the high speed retrieve when reeling in just the diver and lure—no fish—on these longer sets.

Tekota lovers, if you are buying another reel, my opinion is the Tekota As are as significantly better than the original Tekotas and the better means you can easily get by with the smaller 500A if the line capacity suits your needs.



If you climb into my tow vehicle on Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day or most other days between you’d be subjected to an odor reminiscent of the closet in my college dorm room mixed with not-so-faint fish fumes. Hold your nose. I may leave for the lake clean, shiny and smelling like Downy Fabric Softener. I drive home smelling like I just finished running a mile on a 90 degree day carrying a dead fish.

My personal “scent,” coupled with smells from clammy clothes coupled with damp wipe down towels, coupled with.... Let’s just say, the essence inside the vehicle by the time I get home tends to linger.


Now, when I plug in my Scentlok OZ20 Active Odor Destroyer into the vehicle’s cigarette lighter when I get home and let it run through it’s cycle. The smell disappears!

Odors don’t last forever. Otherwise we’d still be smelling dinosaur poop, exhaust from Henry Ford’s first car, the stench of the skunk he ran over with it and fumes from my dorm room closet. Smells are complex molecules floating around the atmosphere which sooner or later break down into less complex, odorless molecules. I’m sure there are numerous chemicals which can work odor magic on smelly molecules; few of them do it quicker or better than oxygen—or are as abundant.

But atmospheric oxygen is a very stable molecule. Without getting deep in the chemical weeds, over 99% of the oxygen molecules floating around in the air are O-2, basically two oxygen atoms stuck together. Individual, non-partnered, oxygen atoms are never found but occasionally, three oxygen atoms stick together and are called ozone.

In the world of oxygen, three’s a crowd and once ozone is created, the ozone molecule spends it’s fleeting existence looking for someplace to discard one of the three Os. When an ozone molecule bumps into an odor molecule, bam! The third O quickly jumps away from the other two Os and becomes a part of the odor molecule, transforming it into something else and if our nose is lucky, that something else doesn’t stink.

What the ScentLok OZ20 does is electro-chemically transform atmospheric oxygen into ozone and sends it out in search of places (such as the stinky seat in my Suburban) to lose its spare oxygen molecule. The OZ20 is for use in unoccupied vehicles only. It cycles on an off every 15 minutes and shuts off completely after 8 hours.


I’m a coffee drinker but years ago I gave up bringing a Thermos of java along with me when going fishing. I like hot coffee; I don’t particularly like almost hot coffee and I’ll spew cool or cold coffee like a novice sailor spews breakfast in 10-foot waves.

I’m a hands-on captain. When there’s a fish on, I’m at the stern. When there’s a fish to be netted, I’m wielding the net. When there’s a line to be set....

Chances are, the hot coffee I poured before the fish bit, the net deployed and the line reset is only spew-worthy swill by the time I get my next coffee break. Not with my Yeti Rambler Tumbler.

Previously, my insulated “go cup” was a promotional item I got at a Pheasant’s Forever banquet. It worked great in my truck on the way to the lake, but there, it only had to do its job for five or ten minutes in a heated cab.

Tired of my complaining, my wife purchased a stainless steel coffee-on-the-go cup for me as a Christmas gift. Her theory was if my stainless steel Thermos worked great, so would a SS coffee mug. Negatory!

yeti rambler

The stainless Thermos is a vacuum bottle. The interior and exterior portions are separated by an airless void and with no air molecules to transfer the heat from the inner container to the outer, the coffee stay’s warm. The inner container and outer surface on the SS “gift” cup is just air-filled—just as my plastic Pheasants Forever freebie and didn’t perform any better.

The YETI Rambler, however, like my Thermos, is vacuum sealed. The only place heat can escape is out through the lid, but the lid is substantial, fits tight and has a closeable sippy-hole. Will it keep my coffee hot indefinitely? Nope, but I can return to my coffee break after a fish-interruption, take a sip and remain spewless.

The Rambler Tumbler holds 20 ounces, comes in a variety of colors and is available at retail outlets or on-line at Check out their online Custom Shop for products with nifty logos featuring hunting, fishing and other themes.


I have a new favorite meat head I use when I’m trolling meat rigs for salmon and trout. I’ve never given much thought to the plastic heads I use to hold the herring strips on a meat rig other than the color. All of them were something of a pain to use what with the toothpicks and rigging the hooks to trail along properly.

fishing gear trolling

No toothpicks needed. Instead, there’s a buckle-like bail with a barbed herring impaler permanently fastened to the head. That’s good reason enough to switch, but the tail of the strip-holder is fitted with a sturdy rubber band to hold the front hook right where it needs to be.

You can buy just the heads or fully rigged set-ups. Check out the Musselhead Tackle website for all the colors available. Order online at or look for them at your favorite salmon shop.



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