With exceptionally tough fish, especially those tucked deep in cover, braided line affords maximum sensitivity and quick response to light, nipping bites. However, you’ll often fare best with fluorocarbon. “I throw 16- to 20-pound Yo-Zuri TopKnot main line because Florida bass make their beds close to some kind of cover, so light line is not recommended,” said FLW Tour pro Mike Surman. “Today’s fluoro is usually fairly invisible, so the fish don’t see it good.” The TopKnot line in natural clear is available in seven ratings from 6- to 20-pound test, on 200- ($12.99-14.99) and 1,000-yard ($59.99-$69.99) spools.
Cut to the Chase: Blade basics for saltwater anglers.
Spanish mackerel are among the easiest to fillet.
Much like the argument about which hulls raise the most fish, each lifelong fish-cleaner has an idea on just what knives are best for cleaning fish.
I’ll narrow it down and suggest three basic blades—with a possible fourth.
For starters, you’ll want a 7- or 8-inch all-around fillet knife. For big fish such as groupers and cobia, I prefer the stiffness and edge-holding quality of an 8-inch Dexter Russell or Forschner.
A second, smaller blade—thin and flexible—is also valuable. A 4-incher, such as the classic Rapala Fish N Fillet with the wood handle, is my “go-to” knife for cutting the backbone out of a “cutback” mullet or trimming a bonito strip to swim perfectly. It’s also ideal for cutting the backside off a flounder—you want all that great meat you can take! The 4-incher is also great for cleaning panfish such as warmouth perch.
Classic Rapala Fish N Fillet knife.
A third knife I wouldn’t be without is a serrated blade. This is the one you’ll want for cutting the hides of triggerfish and sheepshead, or rib bones and backbones of snapper, grouper or kingfish. The sawing action of a serrated blade cuts through tough hides and bones easier than the sharpest smooth blade.
What about an electric knife? In areas where large numbers of fish (such as Crescent Lake specks or Steinhatchee trout) you’ll also see plenty of electric knives. Quick and easy rules the day there. But among hard-core saltwater fish cutters, electrics are considered blasphemy. Making delicate cuts around the rib cage instead of sawing through the ribs is almost impossible with an electric. Salt water is also hard on them.
Decide which type sharpener you prefer. Some like a manual, wedgetype double edge stone sharpener, followed by a smooth stone tactical sharpener to hone a finer edge. My hero, Northeast Florida’s Capt. Fred Morrow, dearly loved his old-fashioned whet stone and would watch TV by the hour while constantly stroking his fillet knives across the stone. He’d have a good chuckle at me taking 15 seconds per blade to stroke my blades through the groove in my electric Diamond Stone sharpener. For somebody with my attention span, the $65 for my sharpener may be the best money I’ve spent.
The ideal angle to sharpen a fillet knife is open to personal preference. Most fillet knives are sharpened between 17 and 22 degrees (on each side). A good rule of thumb is the smaller the angle, the finer the edge, but the bigger the angle, the longer the edge will last. If you sharpen the blade too fine (at too small an angle) it will chip easily and lose its edge.
Steel: Hard Facts
The custom knife-maker’s world surrounds deep wells of wisdom on metallurgy, design and function.
John Galeani, Jr., of Two Rivers Knife Company in Jacksonville, FL, says, “A good fillet knife has to be stainless. Steel becomes stainless through the addition of chromium. Adding at least 12 percent chromium makes a blade stainless, and prevents it from rusting.
“The amount of carbon in the steel will determine its hardness, and adding an element called Vanadium aids the knife’s uniformity, as well as protecting against oxidation.
“The size of the carbides are what ultimately determines what type of edge a knife will have,” says Galeani. “Smaller carbides (metal and carbon particles) will produce substantially finer edges, but they won’t hold their edge as well as a blade with bigger carbides. Bigger carbides don’t get as sharp, but they hold their edges better. Many mass producers of fillet knives will also add helium to some of their blades. Whereas helium ensures knives will never rust, fine edges are impossible on helium-infused blades, so these knives are usually serrated.” FS
The new Benjamin Bulldog .357 (shown here in Realtree Xtra) meets recently adopted FWC standards for general gun season on private lands. Based price is $849.99. Weight is 7.7 pounds; air reservoir charges to 3,000 psi, delivering 10 shots per fill up to 800 FPS. The bolt action rifle is 36 inches overall with a 26-inch picatinny rail, and fed by a 5-shot magazine. See www.crosman.com/bulldog-synthetic
Planning a flyfishing trip to the tropics this summer? If so, here’s your utility tool of shirts, packing Omni-Freeze Zero sweat-activated cooling system; UPF 50; flat zippered pockets for leaders and such; close-fitting but breathable cut for maximum freedom of movement; thumb holes to cover the back of your hand; even a little sunglasses cleaning patch. Available in men’s sizes in Cool Gray, Riptide and Vivid Blue (shown). MSRP $100, although many of the Omni-Freeze Series are currently on sale!
Sea Eagle Fish Skiff with outboard power packs a lot of versatility—and capacity for two.
The Sea Eagle Fish Skiff is a hybrid inflatable boat/paddleboard. It’s a durable, drop-stitch boat with three inflation chambers—two sides and the floor. On a recent trip on the Indian River Lagoon, we ran the Fish Skiff with a 5-horsepower Honda 4-stroke. The engine weighs 60 pounds and carries 1.5 liters of fuel (a bit under half a gallon) under the cowl. Honda data indicates 43 minutes of operation at WOT.
The Skiff is rated for 1 or 2 persons. With Sea Eagle’s John Hoge and me on board, and the Bimini top up, we got about 10 mph. Solo, I made 15. In an inflatable with a flat bottom, that feels plenty quick. You can also paddle the boat like a standup board.
Through some quick turns, the 100-pound boat felt sure and stable. I bounced though a few boat wakes on the ICW, and the floor—though in fact it is inflated, like the sides—felt solid. I didn’t take any waves over the bow, but the bolt-on wood transom is elevated slightly to allow water to drain, if you do ship some water.
Especially pleasing was stability at rest: I was able to step from below the Bimini top and stand in the bow—solo— cast for a long drift across a flat, and then walk back to the operator’s seat.
Rolled up, it will easily stow in an SUV, RV or other vessel. Boat and motor package, with twin seats, Bimini top and other supplies, sells and ships via UPS for $3,849. The base boat with single seat and paddle, goes for $1,799.
Heading out for crappie or trophy largemouth this winter?
Keep those Missouri minnows or shiners kicking with the new heavy duty portable livewell from Frabill. It has a full inch of foam insulation to keep baits cool, and the 12-volt integrated aerator allows for easy opening and closing. Thirteen- and 19-quart models are available ($89 and $99, respectively). Features include non-rusting composite latches, carry handle, shoulder strap, and integrated ruler on top.
The subtle, relaxed side-to-side action of the X-Rap® Twitchin’ Mullet is designed to perform a wide twitching walk-the-dog swimming action.
In cold, clear water, small lures are trout, redfish and snook candy. Rapala this year adds a really sweet 06 size to its X-Rap Twitchin’ Mullet family, 1 1/8 inches and 1/8-ounce smaller than the original size 08 model. The lure runs with an aggressive side-to-side, slow-sinking action. Glide and drop into those creek bends and potholes. Bunch of great color patterns. $10.99
Look for those red latches on the new Plano “Rustrictor” Stowaway boxes. These unique tackle storage systems are infused with a proven Vapor Corrosion Inhibitor. Plano says it’ll block rust and stop corrosion 5X longer than a standard tackle box or competitor’s products. The VCI ions attract to metals, creating a wall of protection without any kind of filmy, smelly residue. Available in seven of Plano’s best-selling models from 3500 to 3700 sizes. Learn more at www.planomolding.com