Archive for the ‘Boats’ Category



Going to the outdoor show is always a hoot.  It is a chance to see what anglers from all over are buying.  It brings up visions of upcoming trip opportunities and it is a learning experience.

The key to maximizing knowledge from a boat show is advance preparation.  A game plan will allow you to learn with a minimum of exhaustion.  Begin on the Internet.  Most all of the exhibitors web pages.  So too do the sponsors of the show itself.

Most shows are composed of thousands of square feet of products, places to go, and other bits of knowledge.  Covering the entire show and still being able to focus on your favorite aspect of outdoor recreation takes effort.  Some shows are so large that one feels the need of a GPS just to get around.

Once you select the show, check the ads that appear in newspapers, magazines, on radio and television for specific information as to when the show coming to town.  Look for the products and seminars that interest you.  If planning to make purchases, make a list of the items you are seeking.

Make two lists, one that you have to buy and the second of things you would like to examine.  Perhaps you will buy something from the second list and maybe you just want to see it.

Week day traffic is lightest and exhibitors can spend more time with you.  Arrive early to allow maximum time to spend getting the information you seek.

If you are with a group make arrangements to meet at a specific location and time.  You may want to see different things.  Kids do not want to spend the same amount of time at a booth as an adult.  Wives want to see different things than do husbands.

Once at the show, take time to look over the program you usually receive as you enter.  It often has a floor plan and list of the exhibitors.  Use a pen or highlighter marking pen to mark the exhibits and seminars of major interest to you.  Make check marks beside the names of exhibitors who might stock the things you want to purchase.

Make note of the time and location of seminars you want to attend.  Some shows announce the seminars as they are taking place while some do not.  Be sure you have a watch so that you do not miss your favorite speaker.  Make note on the program of any last minute substitute seminar speakers or exhibits.  Look for such changes the entrance to the show or at the seminar area.

Take a cassette tape recorder to the seminar.  Most speakers have no problem with your taping their speech, but it is important to ask permission first.  Take notes in a spiral notebook.  You might even have some questions that you hope the speaker will answer, prepared in advance.  That way if he does not cover the subject, you can ask during the Q & A that usually is part of any seminar.

Pay attention and avoid side conversations with your companions.  If the subject is one in which you are intensely interested, sit near the front so that you can concentrate.  If you are only passively interested, sit in the back or on an aisle.  That way if you decide to leave during the presentation, you will disturb only a minimum number of other people.

Wear comfortable shoes.  You will spend most of your time walking on concrete.  Hiking boots or a new pair of athletic shoes is a good idea as they provide support and cushioning for the feet.  Older athletic shoes are not a good idea as they lack the support necessary to cushion your feet.  They are like walking barefoot and can lead to foot problems as well as fatigue.

If the outside weather is cold, then you need to do something with your coat.  Carrying it is a nuisance.  If the show provides a coat checking service, it is worth the cost.  If not, perhaps you might want to leave it in the vehicle.  A third alternative is to put it in a backpack.

Backpacks are also a good place for brochures that you pick up at the show.  You can acquire a considerable number of them in the course of visiting all the booths.  Although the weight of a brochure is not much, the weight of many brochures is a lot.  If you do not remember to bring your backpack, then look for a booth that is passing out plastic “shopping bags”.  Look around at the other people carrying bags and check for reinforced handles.  They are the ones you want.

Another help is to take frequent breaks and examine what you accumulate.  Sometimes it is stuff that you do not really want.  You can stop for a soft drink and a hot dog while culling your materials.  If after reading the brochure you still have some questions, go back to the booth and get answers.  It is easier than calling or writing from home later.

Finally, check your notes.  Did you miss anything that you had intended to see?

Attendance at sports shows is a great opportunity to gain a maximum benefit from your money.




At first glance, launching a boat from a trailer looks like a simple procedure. But, anyone who has tried it knows full well that it takes some practice to back up to the ramp, drop the boat in the water and them scramble to get out of the way of the next guy.

There are three phases.  With practice you can easily master the pre-launch, launching and retrieving a boat but it does not come automatically.

Boat trailers come in a variety of configurations. They do have some things in common.  There is a winch post and winch.  Most have fenders over the tires, and most have submergible taillights.  If the taillights are not submergible disconnect them prior to backing into the water and reconnect when taken out.

At the ramp, before you actually launch, it is a good idea to pull off to the side. Transfer gear such as coolers, fishing tackle and safety equipment to the boat.  Make sure you have at least one Personal Floatation Device (PFD) for each person in the boat.  Later make sure everyone wears them.  Install and/or tighten drain plugs.  Check batteries.  If necessary hook up and pressurize fuel lines with a couple of pumps of the primer blub.

Next check the ramp itself. Look at how steep it is and how deep the water.  Is the ramp slick or dry?  Is there a dock where you can tie up?  Or will you have to beach the boat after launching?

Returning to the boat, remove the tie downs. Be sure to keep the bow winch line attached to the bow hook.  Make sure there is at least one docking line attached so that the boat is controllable once it is afloat.  Two lines are better as they afford better control over the boat once it is in the water.

Before launching, raise the motor so that the prop and lower unit will have ample clearance as you back down the ramp.

Phase two is the actual launch. It is best to allow the most experienced person in your group to back the trailer down the ramp.  It can avoid damage to the boat and/or trailer from unseen obstacles.  On a multilane ramp, be sure to remain in your lane.

Backing up is easy if you just place one hand on the bottom of the steering wheel and look in your mirrors. Then as you back you move your hand (and the wheel) in the direction you want the trailer to travel.

Back down until the front of your trailer fender is even with the surface of the water. On very flat ramps you may need to back it in further on steep ramps not so far.  The type of boat can also make a difference on how far you need to back into the water.

Once in position, set the parking brake on your vehicle. Grasp the winch handle before you release the ratchet mechanism.  You may need to give the boat a push.  If it still will not move out into the water, then re-lock the winch and back up the trailer a little further.  Then repeat the procedure.

Some boaters can use the motor to power the boat off the trailer. If you do so make sure there is enough clearance for the prop to clear the bottom of the water.  The intakes of the motor must be below the surface to avoid damage.

Once the boat is afloat tie it off to the dock. Remove your vehicle and trailer to the parking area immediately.

The final phase is the retrieval of the boat at the end of the day. It is common courtesy to tie your boat to the dock or circle on the water until your trailer is in place on the ramp.

As you drive your boat onto the trailer, be sure to center it. Drive up to whining a few inches of the winch stand.  Attach the winch strap to the bow eye and take in any slack.  Tilt your outboard motor up and be sure the winch strap is secure before driving up the ramp.  Otherwise you might find your boat does not follow you up the ramp.

Once up the ramp pull back into the parking area so as to be out of the way of others. Once there secure your tie downs and pull the drain plug.  Transfer gear back into your vehicle and dispose of accumulated trash in proper receptacles.  Secure any gear left in the boat to avoid not losing it on the road going home.

It is a good idea to stop at a car wash to pressure wash the boat and trailer on the way home or before another launch. Invasive species and vegetation are a problem when boats are launched in more than one body of water.  Cleaning the hull will go a long way toward avoiding transfer from one lake to another.




A courser exploration of the social media these days provides traveling anglers a sorry commentary on safety from criminals. Recently this came home for an acquaintance.

He was planning to fish a tournament at a lake far from home. Not usually thinking of a criminal stealing from his boat, he left some tackle in it during a stopover.  In the morning all of his rods were gone and he had to skip the tournament and return home.

Why does this happen. After counseling criminals for some 30 years I feel uniquely equipped to provide an insight into the way they think.

Stealing from travelers provides the criminal with a certain amount of safety from prosecution. Think about it.

You are a criminal in need of money for drugs or just in need of money. If you rob from a local store, commit a burglary or mug a local, you are likely to be recognized and capture is more likely.  However if the victim is a stranger that chance of being caught is much less.

From the thief’s point of view, what happens is someone catches you?

You prosecution is less likely if the victim is not in court. If they live a long way away the chance of their coming back to the area just to prosecute you is almost non-existent.  End result all the thief is out is come court appearances.

Sophisticated thieves know this and they look for vehicles with out of state license plates.

If you want to protect your equipment, lock it up or take it into your motel room with you. It is inconvenient but not as much as buying new equipment and missing your fishing opportunity.

Another precaution is to park your vehicle in well-lighted areas and ask the motel desk the location of their security cameras. You can bet the thief knows what areas the cameras cover.

If you have items such as fish locaters or other items on the deck that are liable to theft, it is a good idea to mount them on removable mounts. Take them inside or store them out of sight in your locked vehicle or dry storage.

Place locks on anything you value. I learned the hard way by delaying the installation of locks on a new boat I lost an outboard motor to thieves.  I should have known better but like so many I never gave it a thought.  The boat was sitting less than 10-feet from where I was sleeping.

REELFOOT BOAT   2 comments


Due to the abundance of submerged trees and stumps in Reelfoot Lake, necessity is the mother of invention. Early on the Calhoun Reelfoot Boat became a reality.  The craft is a rather nifty local product in the area surrounding this lake in western Tennessee.   Over the years the construction of these boats passed along from generation to generation until recently.

Although there is talk of resurrecting the business of building these interesting craft, no particular plans seem to have emerged. The boats have become collectors’ items as they vanish from the lake.  The best preserved one I have found is at Blue Bank Resort on the shore of the lake in Hornbeak, TN next to the state park..  There is one in the museum on the refuge but it is in rather shabby shape.

Invented in the 1800’s to cope with the huge amount of submerged timber and relatively shallow nature of the lake, the boat is particularly adapted to such conditions. It is 17-feet in length and canoe shaped.  The original boats were only 12-feet in length.

The bottom of the flat bottom craft is of 7/8th inch lumber. Over the years they were made of a variety of locally grown lumber the cypress is preferred.  The side boards are only 3/8th inches thick.  They have to be steamed and then bent to form the curve required when nailed to the frame.

The Reelfoot boat also has a unique oarlock system. In 1880 an Illinois duck call maker and avid duck hunter designed and patented it.  The Calhoun family purchased the patent for the oar locks 1959.  They system permits the anglers to sit facing and row in the direction in which they row.  In conventional systems the rower faces away from the direction he is heading.

The addition of handmade boat sets and oars for the oar lock system completes the finished product.

Propelled by a single cylinder engine, it is steered by a unique rudder mounted that tilts up when coming into contact with an object beneath the water.

The propeller protection by a sheet of plate steel keeps it from sheering off the prop in contact with solid objects so often found in these waters.




Dock Dog 0002

Each year on the fourth Saturday and Sunday in September 25,000 to 40,000 sportsmen and their families travel to the campus of John A. Logan College for The Southern Celebration of National Hunting and Fishing Day. They are attending an event designed to teach hunting and fishing skills as well as the ethics, safety and conservation issues associated with them.

Last year’s attendance set a record of 44,000 people attending this, the largest National Hunting & Fishing Day celebration in the nation.

This year’s event takes place on September 26 and 27, 2015. Admittance and parking is free. Food is available from a variety of venders on the campus at nominal prices.

This year Pappy’s Outdoor is the official title sponsor. Other major sponsors include Williamson County Tourism Bureau, Good Guys Motors, McDonalds, Black Diamond Harley-Davidson and the Friends of Crab Orchard.

Children’s activities include a youth goose calling contest as well as archery, shooting sports and fishing. Local sponsors provide the activities free. Volunteers provide instruction and adult supervision.

Dogs and waterfowl activities figure prominently in the celebration with demonstrations by dock dogs, agility dogs, retrievers, search and rescue dogs, police dogs as well as coon and fox hounds. Instruction on training and nutrition for dogs is also available.

The waterfowl calling series begins with the Don Gasaway Youth Goose Calling Contest on Saturday. A number of duck and goose calling contests attracting youth, professional and amateur callers follow during Saturday and Sunday.  They end with the Tim Grounds Southern Illinois World Open Goose Calling Championship on Sunday. A variety of cash and merchandise prizes are available to the contestants.

The High School Bass Fishing Contest involves individual as well as team competition in a fishing contest held on Crab Orchard Lake with the weigh-in held at the Celebration grounds. Area high schools can enter two boats with four anglers and two coaches. The coaches are in the boats but do not fish. The school with the heaviest total weight of bass wins a trophy. There is a penalty for any fish that die. The angler with the largest bass also wins a trophy. Other trophies go to second, third, etc.

Tents erected on the college campus will house some 200 venders. New this year will be an archery tent sponsored by Kevin’s Archery Center, Ava, IL. An adult and a youth shooting range will be inside along with a number of archery manufacturer’s representatives. Instruction will be available along with a chance to get questions answered.

Other activities include wildlife and nature art show, seminars on fishing, game preparation and outdoor cooking as well as a buck skinner’s village with tomahawk throwing area. Displays provide instruction and information about Taxidermy, ATV, RV, boats, deer antler measuring, trapshooting, archery, and a special fishing display.

The Outdoor Art & Heritage Show returns this year inside the college Gymnasium, Skylight Lounge and front lobby. It promotes participation in outdoor recreation through artistic, cultural, natural history, entertainment, and an expanded deer display. Exhibitors include artists, taxidermists, museums, collectors, authors, musicians, not-for-profits, and makers of specialty foods.

Vendors interested in participation should contact Ron Allen as soon as possible. Vendor space is limited and sells out each year. Ron is available at 217-725-7602 (cell), 217-787-8862 (home) or by email at

Free information regarding motel accommodations and points of interest is available from Williamson County Tourism Bureau, 1602 Sioux Drive, Marion, Illinois 62959 or by calling 1-800-GEESE-99. Information is also available online at, the Williamson County Tourism Bureau website. The e-mail address is


Boat Test Return

An often over looked part of fishing is the noise factor.  Whether on shore, in a boat or wading, sound plays an important part of fishing success.  Most of us have no realization of the amount of fish we scare off.

All fish respond to noise.  It travels five times faster underwater as above.  Fish received high frequency sounds up to 30 feet via their inner ear.  The low frequency sounds are processed by the lateral line and are most often heard in distances of five to 10 feet.

The average fish hears in the range of from 30 cycles per second (cps) up to 2,000 while the average person hears in a range of 20 to 20,000 cps.  The average AM radio station broadcast in 10,000 cps.

New motors have been developed that reduce engine noise, but sound is till a problem in spooking fish.  Fish are accustomed to the noise of their surroundings, such as waves lapping up on the shore.  But, alien sounds will cause them to scurry for other parts of the lake.

Even bluegill, catfish or deep feeding walleye move away from foreign sounds.

Pro angler Brent Chapman, a Yamaha pro angler, has several suggestions for sound reduction which apply to all species.  Chapman recommends and uses rubber-soled shoes when fishing.  He also fishes from a carpeted boat.

The layer of carpet on the floor of a boat helps a great deal.  But, Chapman is quick to point out that one with thin pile is best.  He does not like to spend a lot of time unhooking fouled hooks.  It is fishing down time, something a pro angler hates.

Loose items should be kept in a storage compartment or secured with elastic straps or Velcro.  A lure or sinker dropped on the bottom of the boat will send warning notice to any game fish lurking nearby with the result being that flee the area.

If you use oars, then plastic tubing around the oarlock pin will dampen sound.

What if one is renting a boat?  There are things you can do with rented boats to help deaden any sound.  Purchase a piece of carpet or two at a local carpet outlet.  It should not be expensive since all you need is a piece about two feet by three feet to spread on the bottom of the boat under your feet.  Then if you have to stand or move a little, the sound can be absorbed by the carpet.

If you arrive at you destination and have forgotten you carpet pieces, all is not lost.  Take the floor mats out of your vehicle and use them in the same manner.

The noisiest of boats is the aluminum hulled craft.  Sound travels much better through aluminum than through fiberglass.

Anglers entering a shallow cove on a calm morning need to cut the engine and let the boat glide into casting distance of the area one wants to fish.  Fish that are feeding are the most nervous in clear, shallow water.

Most anglers think that their trolling motor substitutes for the gliding in on fish.  Not so.  Electronic trolling motors can be heard too.  The electric trolling motor sets up a drone that can upset a nervous bass.

Remember when fishing, silence is golden.



Brad Schad of the Missouri Corn Growers Association

Brad Schad of the Missouri Corn Growers Association

Funny how many subjects we discuss while fishing.  Somehow the subject of ethanol arose on a recent crappie fishing junket in southern Illinois.  It is probably only natural when one of the other anglers in the boat is the Director of Ethanol Policy for the Missouri Corn Growers Association.  Brad Schad is interested in exposing the myths that shroud the use of Ethanol in marine engines.

According to Brad, ethanol is often the victim of all sorts of misinformation and accusations of engine problems to which it has no connection.

Ethanol as fuel is not a new concept.  Henry Ford and other early automakers believed that it would become the primary fuel before gasoline became popular.

The basic accusation against ethanol in fuel is that it causes phase separation.  That is when water separates from fuel and pools at the bottom of the fuel tank possibly causing rust or other damage to the engine.  However fuel that is E10 blend cannot absorb enough moisture out of the air to cause such separation.  If condensation occurs, or water directly splashed into the tank, water phase separation can occur.  This water separation is more likely to occur in straight gasoline than in an ethanol blend.

Gasoline should not be stored for more than 60 days without the addition of a fuel stabilizer.

According to Brad, today’s gasoline is much more than just petroleum.  It is made of more than 150 chemicals and compounds in the form of additives.  He believes that most of the fuel problems experienced have more to do with the additives than with ethanol.  Benzene used to increase octane in straight gasoline is more corrosive to plastics then ethanol.  Some people blame ethanol, a clean burning oxygenate, for small engine issues.

Today 90 percent of the gasoline sold to Americans contains up to 10 percent ethanol with no issues.  It burns cleaner and cooler than gasoline.

Some outdoorsmen blame ethanol for reduced performance of their boat engine.  Actually ethanol contains high octane which produces increased performance in racing boats and burns cleaner.

Some consumers complain that the ethanol will not work in the two-stroke engine.  Following extensive testing manufacturers recommend using a specific fuel blend.  The use of E10 in small engines has gone on for a long time.

There are some mistakes that outdoorsmen make that seem to create problems with ethanol fuel in the systems of their engines.  One is getting fuel that contains more than 10 percent ethanol.  The addition of E15 fuels in marinas has created its own problems.  E15 fuel creates problems to the point of being toxic to marine engines.  Just check your engine owner’s manual.  To avoid this problem, Brad recommends that you read the ethanol rating on the pump.  If it says nothing or says E15, he suggests you purchase you fuel elsewhere.  You can stop at a local service station before arrival at the ramp.  Most service stations carry both grades of ethanol and you can choose the E10.

Ethanol will attract water extremely slowly from the air.  A boat sitting idle for months may experience fuel/water problems.  Even straight gasoline for more than 60 days without the addition of a fuel stabilizer can have water condensation problems.  Routine inspection and maintenance is the best way to avoid problems.

There are a number of fuel stabilizers and driers on the market that will probably minimize or eliminate water and corrosion problems.  If you suspect engine problems caused by ethanol, use a fuel stabilizer that is specifically alcohol free.

To Brad it is vital that one use only E10 fuel in marine engines and that fuel stabilizer be added to the fuel tank prior to storage.  He maintains that the boat owner should not have any fuel problems if they take these precautions.

For more information in ethanol use in marine engines check out the Missouri Corn Growers Association website at

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