TACKLE AND TOYS – February/March 2020 | By Capt. Mike Schoonveld
THE MIDDLE LAYER
I still remember the white cotton, thermoknit long johns I had as a kid which were supposed to keep me warm on a cold day. “Supposed to,” they said because the waffle-like weave was supposed to trap dead air between the skin and the outer layer.
What happened was the cotton absorbed any sweat or water vapors and I froze.
Then the U.S. Army developed what was called E.C.W.C.S. (Extended Cold Weather Clothing System) which started with a long underwear base made of a polypropylene fabric that wouldn’t absorb moisture, rather, the moisture would wick away from the skin and be closer to the outside where it could vaporize. I no longer froze.
Remember when any well-equipped cold weather cowboy (or duck hunter or ice fisherman) wouldn’t be caught outside in anything but a set of bibs and parka made of Gore-Tex/Thinsulate?
Again, it was moisture “management” at work, the Thinsulate—unlike cheap polyester fiberfill or expensive goose down—would stay warm even when damp, and the Gore-Tex membrane layered above the Thinsulate allowed the dampness to dissipate and escape.
Long johns made to the Army’s E.C.W.C.S. specifications became available in the 1980s as did outerwear made of Gore-Tex and Thinsulate. These products are still available from many sources and are still great choices for Great Lakes anglers heading out in February and March. There are other choices, of course. It is decades-old technology and other companies have developed similar materials and insulation, perhaps even better, to use for both base layers and top layers.
What was seldom addressed, however, was the “middle layer.” What sort of pants were best slipped on over the E.C.W.C.S. long johns? Is there a specific option best suited as an under-parka shirt?
This mid-layer was the forgotten stepchild of the cold-weather outdoor-wear industry. I often just wore a pair of blue jeans and a cotton/poly blend hoody over my mil-spec foundation layer and under the bibs and parka I’d suit up in after I got to the frozen lake in February or the boat was launched for my first open water trips of the season—no longer.
HARDCORE H3 PANTS
Hardcore is best known as a producer of garments, decoys and gear for waterfowlers. I’m a waterfowler, myself, so I understand the need for both rugged construction as well as warmth in my duck hunting togs. When Hardcore came out with their H3 pants, I suspected they would be up to seasons of use and abuse, whether in the boat or in the blind.
Few pairs of pants can match the comfort of a well-broken-in pair of blue jeans. The H3 can, thanks to the stretchy base material used to make the pants. Then to add years to the life of the pants Hardcore designers added abrasion panels on the seat, knees and on the insides by the ankles—all high wear areas for when the pants are worn as an outer layer.
The material is not waterproof, but it does have a tight (wind resistant) weave so slight contact with spray or wet surfaces doesn’t soak in. The fabric, like polypropylene, is moisture-wicking so when sweat or water vapor is wicked away from my skin by my base layer, the moisture is able to continue its journey through my clothing to the outside, keeping me dry on the inside.
The pants have deep pockets (deeper than blue jeans) and come with a removable pair of suspenders. I go suspenders up since they keep the pants from sliding down against the somewhat slick-finish on my E.C.W.C.S base layer.
I chose the “Weathered” gray color instead of either of Hardcore’s camo patterned fabrics strictly because I have an aversion to wearing camouflage when I’m fishing. (When I’m duck hunting, I’m always wearing waders, anyway.)
The H2s are available at Cabela’s/BPS, other retailers or online at: www.hardcorewaterfowl.com.
SIMMS EXSTREAM BICOMP HOODY
My usual “middle layer” before I adopted the ABC (anything but cotton) philosophy was a hooded sweatshirt. A well broken in hoody is as comfortable as a pair of old blue jeans, as rugged, but wedged between an E.C.W.C.S. base and the Clam Ice Armor parka I wear every day I’m fishing the Great Lakes from March to May, I needed something else.
So when Simms—an industry leader in the fishing wear industry—came out with their own version of the hoody, called the Exstream BiComp, I had to try one out.
It’s called Exstream, I guess because it’s extremely good looking, extremely warm, well made and extremely comfortable. It’s called BiComp because, well, I don’t know other than it’s a catchy Simms word.
The “Bi” part could be because the designer used two types of materials and construction. The top part of the body, the hood and the sleeves are made with low bulk, quilted fabric encasing PrimaLoft Gold insulation. The lower half of the shirt, the part which would be inside a pair of waders or under the “bib” part of my Ice Armor outer bibs, is made from a stretchy, fleece material—less insulation and bulk where less doesn’t matter or isn’t wanted.
Unlike a traditional hoody, it doesn’t have a kangaroo pouch on the belly—a feature that would be nearly useless when wearing with waders or bibs—but it does have a deep, zippered, easily accessible chest pocket, perfect for a smartphone or point and shoot camera.
Did I mention light weight?
It’s about half the weight of a good cotton hoody with twice the warmth. The only downside is they don’t come with your favorite team logo emblazoned across the chest. No biggy, after all, it’s a middle layer.
The BiComp Hoody and other Simms quality products are available in select retail outlets (primarily fly-fishing oriented) as well as online direct from www.simmsfishing.com.
MERINO WOOL BUFFS
What do you call those stretchy cloth tubes which slip over your head and use to keep your neck warm or you slide up over the bottom part of your face to either keep it warm or to mask it from the sun? They are often called Buffs, but these days, it’s probably more proper to call them tubular headwear or neckwear.
The guy who invented these (Joan Rojas) called them Buffs—short for the Spanish word for scarf, bufanda. Rojas named his company Buff and now the Buff company makes many items besides the original “multifunction headwear” as the original buffs are now listed on their website.
Many people use the word, Kleenex, for any brand of facial tissue. Many companies produce similar “neck gaiters,” these days but many users just slip on their buff when the sun comes out—regardless if it’s actually a Buff brand tube or an off-brand.
I started using neck gaiters—by Buff and other companies—a couple of years ago for sun protection, but I found them more useful in my early season excursions on Lake Michigan as a “bufanda caliente”—warm scarf—than for sun protection. Now Buff makes a multifunction headgear, with warmth in mind.
Both the Lightweight and Midweight Merino Wool versions provide much better cold weather protection than the man-made fiber original buffs. Buff says it can be worn in ten different ways, including a hair band or hair tie for women. I use it mostly up on my face as a mask when I’m running my boat at speed and then I pull it down as a neck scarf when fishing.
Though it’s made from 100% Merino wool, they are thin and stretchy, like the original sun protection Buffs. I was concerned the wool model wouldn’t remain stretchy with use. That concern was unfounded, mine is as stretchy now as when it was new.
If you are unfamiliar with Merino wool, it comes from a special breed of sheep with wool noted for being soft and supple, not coarse and scratchy. Wool is the original and only natural fiber capable of wicking away moisture.
Both the Lightweight and Midweight Merino Wool multi-function headgear are available in many colors.
See them all at: www.buffusa.com. Buff products are available online at their website, at many other online suppliers as well as in retail outlets.
YAKIMA TOPWATER ROD LOCKER
I often travel in a full-size SUV as big as some of the apartments I rented when I was going to college. Good thing while in college I didn’t have to store enough rod and reel combos, along with a bevy of tackle boxes, for a week’s worth of fishing in my studio—along with my clothes, groceries and beer supplies.
In my Suburban, I do. Maybe not so much beer these days, but boots, tackle, raingear, coolers for me and perhaps three of my fishing buddies and their gear make an untidy load and begs the question: “How can we travel with the requisite number of fishing rods?”
Yakima Products (the cargo transport Yakima, not the fishing lure Yakima), recently came up with a solid solution for traveling anglers. The Yakima “TopWater” fishing rod box mounts securely on the roof of most any vehicle you may be driving, whether it’s a Chevy Suburban or a Chevy Volt.
My Suburban was equipped with luggage racks on the roof so mounting the locker on top was a breeze. A few brackets, bolts and wing nuts and it the unit was ready for highway speeds. Yakima has roof mounting systems to outfit cars, SUVs and vans with no factory installed luggage racks to mount the TopWater—or other models of their roof top carriers.
The TopWater has spaces to securely hold eight fully rigged rods and reels on protective foam supports held in place with rubber retention straps. Each rod is individually supported and won’t be touching the other rods.
That’s the way to go for the guys with really high-end rod and reel combos wanting to keep them looking like new. Personally, my rod and reel combos are more utilitarian and I’m sure I can fit a dozen or more inside the TopWater and they’ll be just fine when I get to my destination.
In fact, I can fit a dozen rods, several low-profile tackle boxes, my rain gear and a few other items inside the TopWater, then lock down the lid with Yakima’s Single Key System and head on down the road. The rod supports are removable, so the roof top transport could carry, guns, skis or any other excess cargo on non-fishing excursions.
Go to: www.yakima.com for more details about the TopWater Rod Box or any of their other transport products. The website lists dealers in your area or they can be ordered online.
HYDRA MULTI-CONNECTION MARINE BATTERY TERMINALS
When I saw these “Hydra” headed battery connections it was a slap-my-head “duh” moment. It wasn’t like I could have built one, but why didn’t someone think of it 40 or 50 years ago—about the time I first started trying to figure the best way to connect marine electronics to a boat’s battery system.
Sure there are other ways—a dedicated electrical panel works, splicing into hot wires, wrapping bare wire ends around the bolt or wing nuts on the normal battery cable ends. All will work. For the most part, all a boater is trying to do is deliver a relatively low amperage dose of 12-volt electrical power to lights, fish finders or other electronics.
Sometimes, however, splicing into wires or through the electrical panel sends confusing electrical interference to conjoined electronics.
I’m not an electrician so I don’t know the proper terms, but I know I’ve heard the “pings” from my sonar transducer on certain VHF radio channels and have had other electrical glitches traceable to co-mingled wiring. I know when I installed high speed downriggers on my boat, the voltage drop when I hit the up switch would cause my sonar/chart display to reboot.
An easy answer is to wire these electronics straight to the battery. (Often just grounding the units to the negative side is enough, but if a dedicated ground is good, a dedicated hotwire is better.) The Hydra Terminals from T-H Marine makes this possible with both three and five-headed versions available. Each version comes with one plus and one minus terminal. They are available at some retailers, online at Amazon.com or get them (and see other T-H products) at www.thmarinesupplies.com.
BAY RAT CEDAR POINT SPOON
March is when the first open water fishing takes place on the Great Lakes. This Bay Rat spoon in the Cedar Point color caught the first fish of the 2019 season last March on my boat.
I’ll be putting it in my opening day line-up for 2020. Need I say more? Put one on your A-Team by going to www.bayratlures.com.
- Tackle & Toys is a column in Great Lakes Angler written by Captain Mike Schoonveld