The Florida Trail by Jessica Smith

Location: Juniper Prairie Wilderness, Ocala National Forest, Central Florida

Our boots sunk deep in the sugar white sand, making each step more laborious than we were used to. My calves had begun to burn right along with my pale skin. There was no shade to hide under, no trees to from which to seek relief. Florida is a state with more than 30,000 lakes, but around us was as hot and dry as a desert. I had grown up in North Central Florida, and knew just how unforgiving the heat could be, but the Southern winters had become much too warm for me to go hunting with Ruger 10/22. My years away in cold mountainous places had thickened my blood, giving me cause to strip off layers of outerwear and hastily shove them into my day pack. My Father took broad strides, and if I slowed for even a moment I would lose pace with him. Any digging around in my backpack had to be done at a trot. Continue reading “The Florida Trail by Jessica Smith”

Step Up to The Challenge!

Irish feeder international and two times World Pairs champion Phil Jackson demonstrates one of the most demanding but exciting methods of feeder fishing.

If I can’t get a bite when fishing in Ireland, I often put on a heavier hook length and bigger hook. The fish in Irish waters are the wildest you’ll ever find, and migrate through huge systems of rivers and loughs. They don’t know what a hook or line is, and after a lifetime of fishing for them I’ve learnt that they don’t care either. In fact, the reason for scaling up rather than down is because changing to a bigger, more visible bait will often catch the attention of a fish.

Today, you join me on a lough in County Monaghan, where I want to demonstrate some aggressive feeder fishing tactics that have won me many big events here in Ireland. I’m lucky enough to be a good friend and travelling partner of Cathal Hughes, and fishing positively with strong tackle on the feeder at long range is a tactic we’ve had a lot of success on in the World Pairs events we have won.

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Few fishermen describe their boat’s hardware as exciting or sexy. Yet marine hardware serves a crucial role aboard salt­water fishing boats, in the form of cleats, hinges, rod holders and more. And this field is advancing, with innovations emerging each season.

Let’s look at eight challenges that boating anglers face and some cool marine hardware and other gadgets that help overcome those issues.


You open a livewell hatch about halfway to retrieve a bait, but the lid keeps slam­ming shut. In the past, a gas-assist strut helped keep the hatch open, but these pieces of hardware snag cast nets when you’re loading bait and interfere with dip nets.

SOLUTION: Friction Hinges Available from hardware companies such as Gemlux, friction hinges are ingenious devices that use a tensioning system within the hinge-pin assemblies to keep a livewell lid or hatch in place through­out its arc. “We were inspired by laptop computers,” says Matt Bridgewater, CEO of Gemlux. “If you can keep a laptop screen open at any angle, why can’t you do the same with a livewell lid?” Utilizing corrosion-resistant stainless-steel construction, the elegantly simple friction hinge does the job and does it well. Prices start at about $27 per pair.



A few years back, I broke a toe when I jammed my bare foot into the horn of a spring cleat while making my way forward along a catwalk. OK, I know: I should have been wearing deck shoes. But conventional cleats still pose tripping hazards that can send crew members tumbling. Even in the best-case scenario, they tend to snag fishing lines and cast nets.

SOLUTION: Pull-Up Cleats Pull-up cleats have existed for decades (thank good­ness), and they rank as one of the greatest marine- hardware innovations of all time, especially for boating anglers. You will find them on virtually every saltwater fishing boat sold today. Available from brands such as Accon and Gemlux, pull- up cleats let boatbuilders create smooth, snag-free rails (when the cleats are retracted). Yet these robust stainless-steel devices quickly pull up when it’s time to dock, anchor, or tie off a bait bag. Retail prices start at about $35.

Read more: Some things about Handloading Shotshells


Some hardcore anglers used to scoff at the idea of cup holders on a boat. Now anglers realize the impor­tance of staying hydrated, and they want places to keep beverages from sliding around and falling to the deck in choppy water. In fact, many captains want more cup holders but lack space to install them.

SOLUTION: Combo Rod/ Cup Holder File this one under “Why didn’t I think of that?” The rod/cup holder from Mate Series serves as a conventional gunwale rod holder for trolling, drift-fish­ing or just stowing rods. The holder’s sturdy stainless- steel construction means you sacrifice nothing when it comes to strength or corro­sion resistance. Yet when it’s not holding a rod, this cool item doubles as a handy cup holder. Prices start at about $120 for stainless models; ABS plastic models sell for around $20.


Using only your boat’s cleats to position fenders for maximum protection against dock rash can be risky. Cleats are situated for tying up, not fender positioning, so your fenders might not hang in the optimal places for guarding the hull. Also, belaying a dock line and a fender whip to a single cleat is unseamanlike, cumbersome, and requires extra time to unravel both lines when casting off.

SOLUTION: Low-Profile Fender Locks

Dedicated fender hangers are a great solution. To eliminate snag and tripping points, brands such as Taco Marine offer low-profile fender locks that you can add virtually anywhere along the rail of your boat. The Taco Quick Release fender lock features a smooth, round receiver that measures just V4 inch high and is easy to install. A corresponding pin comes with a swiv­eling eye for securing a fender whip. A locking mechanism keeps the pin secure but also lets you quickly remove the fender. Retail is around $51.


Virtually all saltwater fishing boats feature gunwale rod holders, but not all have them installed across the transom. Many times this is because there’s a hatch covering the transom for a fish locker or other stowage, rendering the surface unsuitable for a flush-mounted gunwale rod holder.

SOLUTION: Burnewiin Mounting System There are a number of workarounds, but one of the best I’ve seen for this problem comes from Burnewiin Mounts. Its mounting system fea­tures a beefy stainless-steel base with a locking receiver that mounts atop the transom. An equally robust rod holder then snaps into the base. The rod- holder angle is adjustable on two axes, and a quick-release mechanism lets you remove and stow the holder when it’s not needed. If you mount this system

atop a hatch, make sure the hatch lid latches securely to prevent the strike of powerful fish from pulling it open. The stainless base sells for about $150; add $350 for the rod holder.


Twenty-first century anglers with 20th-century boats face an interesting issue. The millennium has ushered in a host of new electronics choices, but many older boats lack adequate space to mount the additional displays or other electronic accessories that boating anglers might desire, such as cameras, antennas and mobile devices.

SOLUTION: Ram Mounts Pedestal mounting offers a great solution. One of the most versatile sys­tems comes from Ram Mounts. The quick-release ball-and-socket system offers a mind-boggling range of bases and adapters that let you add electron­ics just about anywhere. Prices start at about $22.


Running in choppy seas or trailering a boat on rough roads can cause outrigger poles to bounce and flex excessively. Even when telescoping poles are retracted, the bouncing action places tremendous stress on the outrigger bases and mounting surfaces, as well as on the poles.

SOLUTION: Outrigger Support System A simple yet effective solution comes from brands such as Birdsall Marine Design. Its Outrigger Support System consists of U-shaped cradles to secure the poles with arms that slip into the rod holders on a hardtop or T-top. Elastic cords secure the poles. These innovative devices are available in 2- and 6-inch offset versions. They retail for $95 per pair.


Many new boats feature built-in cutting boards, but some older boats lack this basic angling amenity. That leaves the crew wondering where to cut bait, filet a fish, or rig a ballyhoo.

SOLUTION: Cutting Board with Rod-Holder Mount One of the best solutions is a cutting board equipped with a rod-holder mount, such as the system offered by Magma Products. The Magma 31-inch-wide Bait/Filet Mate board is crafted from resilient King Starboard and fea­tures guards across the aft and sides to keep fish from sliding off. It can be equipped with the Magma adjustable LeveLock rod-holder mount, which fits virtually any rod holder. The board and mount sell as a combo for about $170.

Space constraints here preclude a comprehensive list of ingenious marine-hardware items, but there are many more. If you want to see them, visit marine-hardware.

Taco Marine low-profile fender lock Burnewiin Mounts stainless-steel base and rod holder

Some things about Handloading Shotshells

One of the more interesting questions I’ve received lately had to do with handloading shotshells. The reader was aware that recipes using slower-burn­ing powders, such as LongShot, can produce faster velocities without exceeding pressure limits than a fast-burning powder, such as Red Dot. He wanted to know why a rifle powder couldn’t be used to provide even faster velocities from shotguns.

The reason you don’t see rifle propellants slower than LongShot, Lil’Gun, H110, and W296 recommended for shotshell loading is primarily because rifle propellants are designed for very different pressure regimes than are shotshell propellants. They must work differently to succeed in their respective pressure environments. It’s not a simple “one-reason” issue, but the really big hitters in this difference can be explored with this analogy.

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