by Troy A Buzalsky
Boat-show season was a huge success this year for both the boating industry and its consumers looking for some new boat accessories, like me. It goes without saying that the prior-year pandemic regulations created hardship for places of gathering, whether it was church, classrooms, theaters, restaurants, and yes, trade shows. With these imposed restrictions, outdoor enthusiasts took it in the teeth when it came to Sportsman and Boat Shows. But 2022 showed signs of improvement, breathing air into the oxygen-starved industry. Throughout the Pacific Northwest, what last year was a virtual echo chamber this year was an elbow-to-elbow, bustling free-for-all. Eager outdoor enthusiasts were hungry, and these trade shows helped many turn their dreams to realities, while others better prepared for yet another season of reveries.
If you’re the person that makes that annual journey to your favorite sporting or boat show, you will quickly put together the list of who’s who, who’s new, and the tried-and-true. Often, you’re singularly driven with one product or outfitter in mind, like that brand-new, offshore fish chaser, while others might be attending with the hopes to up their game, adding the newest and best fish-catching tools and accessories to their arsenal. Regardless of the goal, one thing is for certain: You’ll be rubbing elbows with like-minded folks.
With boat-show season in the rearview mirror, we are now entering prime time to put those finishing touches on our piscatorial pursuits, and many of these projects are embarked upon to make our boat just a little fishier. This column is going to check out the what’s new and the tried-and-true when it comes to outfitting and organizing your boat, especially for the salty dawgs out there.
Fish Fighter Products
Fish Fighter Products believes, like Thomas Edison did, “There is a better way for everything…Find It.” And with that simple quest, they hold the conviction to be inventors, manufacturers, distributors, and a company that won’t let you down. Located in Mountain Home, Idaho, Fish Fighter Products specializes in marine-grade products that will last a lifetime. And everything is battle tested and 100% American made. There’s a reason the folks at Fish Fighter Products are branded with The Inventive-Group.
From anchor nests to anchors, from bait trays to lead trays, and from rod holders to rock racks, Fish Fighter Products has you covered. Whether you’re a new boat owner or a seasoned veteran, there are literally hundreds of products that have been invented for your needs.
The Fish Fighter Sliding Rail System (SRS) is a perfect example of a fisherman-friendly system that will help you organize your fishing layout for a better day on the water. The SRS starts with a full two-inch stainless rail that is designed to be mounted either on the boat’s inner gunnel, atop the gunnel, or on the boat’s rail. The SRS Flat Surface Mount Rails are available in 24-, 36-, and 72-inch lengths for flexible configuration. The Rail System Sliding Blocks provide enough space for the SRS accessories to slide on the rail.
The Rail System Sliding Block is manufactured from King Starboard Marine Plastic and is pre-drilled and tapped for a variety of rod holders including Folbe, Cannon, Cabela’s, Scotty, Fish-On!, and Attwood. It also features a locking plunger that allows the user to lock the Rail System Sliding Block in place.
For even greater application flexibility, Fish Fighter Products offers Universal Gunnel Rail and Tray Sliders made to fit boats with an existing rail system. They also offer an Alumaweld-specific Gunnel Rail or Tray Rail Slider.
Once the boat is equipped with the Sliding Rail System, it is just a matter of selecting the number of Rail System Sliding Blocks needed for your boat’s layout and fishing spread. The Rail System Sliding Blocks can accept a host of Fish Fighter Products accessories including Rod Risers, Tackle and Rod Tenders, Rod Holders, Drink Holders, and Fillet Tables. In my neck of the woods, the typical setup would include a Rail System Sliding Block, 8” x 14” Quick Release System (QRS) Rod Riser, Tackle Tender, and rod holder of one’s choice. To create an effective trolling spread, the more aft-mounted rod risers could transition to the 7” x 8” QRS Rod Riser.
Boats sometimes come equipped with rod racks that have either been welded on or installed prior to delivery, and all too often the boat owner doesn’t really get to lay out their rod racks, accepting what’s already there. The Fish Fighter Products Pivoting Rocket Launcher can help solve this issue. Manufactured from marine-grade aluminum and available in three-, four-, and five-rod configuration, versatility reigns supreme.
The Pivoting Rocket Launcher is made to be bolted in place and adjusts into four different positions utilizing a Speed Lock handle. Imagine mounting three of the five Pivoting Rocket Launchers to the aft edge of the Pilot House, nicely storing a total of 15 rods. You can tilt the rods back for cruising, and then simply pivot the rod holder forward once fishing, assuring the rods are out of the way when the fishing mele begins. These racks also work well mounted to the floor or side gunnel, on the boat’s bow, or even in your pickup bed.
For boating and fishing applications that require wall-mounted rods, Fish Fighter Products offers two choices: the Wall Mount Rod Rack, and the Wall Mount Offshore Rod Rack, both configured for six rods. Made from marine aluminum with plastic grommets to protect your rods and reels, the racks can be mounted on any flat surface utilizing screws or 3M-brand Command Strips. These smart-looking racks include the Fish Fighter laser-cut logo and would grace any boat, garage, or man cave. To see their entire product lineup, go to fishfighterproducts.com.
Mantus Marine (formerly Mantus Anchor)
Innovative marine solutions, that’s what propelled Dr. Gregory Kutsen, an emergency-room physician and active marine cruiser, into the marine industry back in 2012. What started as a pet project to design a better marine anchoring system that would regularly and reliably set and hold evolved into Mantus Anchor. Ten years later, with a slight name change to better reflect their innovative product line, Mantus Marine is serving satisfied boaters around the world with their innovative products which include anchors and anchoring equipment, SCUBA and dive gear, rail clamps and accessories, and electronics. And although many of their industry awards and accolades come from the sailing- and cruising enthusiasts, the salty Alaskan and die-hard Pacific Northwest boaters have much to appreciate with their practical product line. I can attest that I run a Mantus M1 Anchor on my boat when I hit the estuary or push out into the big blue.
The Mantus M1 Anchor could be described as their flagship anchor which is easily identified with its characteristic roll bar. The M1 is formed from high-quality plate steel with the shank and shank boot welded from top and bottom. The sharp-headed nose is precision machined to achieve the perfect chisel shape to achieve maximum penetrating power. The M1 is available from 2.5 pounds to 175 pounds which translates into anchoring options from a dinghy to a 100-foot pleasure craft and everything in between.
The genius behind the M1 is its unique roll bar which does exactly what a roll bar should. It rolls the anchor right into its best setting position. Independent tests have demonstrated the M1 sets faster and deeper than any other anchor tested, and it’s ideal when penetrating dense, grassy bottoms as well as sand and hard-packed clay, which are common in areas I love to fish.
The M2 Anchor was designed to retain the proven performance of the M1 roll-bar anchor but because of its design, there is no roll bar, so it can fit on bows with pulpits and bowsprits. The anchor can be taken apart for easy storage, and while a single oversized bolt is used in the assembly, only a fraction of the load is transferred to the bolt. While a weighted nose is necessary to enable the anchor to roll over without a roll bar, the nose cross-section was optimized to not compromise hard-bottom performance. The shank uses a high-tensile steel which is designed to reduce lateral damage.
Both the M1 and M2 Anchors are available in hot-dipped, galvanized, high-carbon steel, or a stainless model manufactured from 316L stainless steel with its surface hardened by shot peening and then electro-polished to provide maximum corrosion resistance and an absolutely beautiful finish. Can you say boat jewelry!
For even better anchor performance, Mantus recommends their Mantus Swivel, which provides 360° rotation without twisting or kinking your anchor chain, while maintaining the strength of the overall chain-and-shackle system. Its slim, hex design offers a profile that will work with most bow rollers, and the swivel is stronger than the strongest link of chain in the system. Not only is performance enhanced with the swivel, but anchoring is safer and easier.
Mantus Marine offers bow rollers that are universal and elegant, and create the perfect fit for most boating applications. Manufactured from 316 stainless steel, the Mantus BR1 Bow Roller is designed to fit an anchor of any design and when combined with the Mantus Anchor-mate, provides the ultimate solution for anchor storage.
The Mantus BR2/BR3 Bow Rollers include a top brake assembly that features two spring-loaded rollers that in the bottom position act as cheeks around the shank of the anchor and lock it in place, mitigating anchor movement. In the elevated position these bow rollers control the angle of anchor deployment and force the anchor to travel forward and away from the boat.
Another great product that has vast boating application is the Mantus Stern Anchor Bracket. Designed to free up space, this universal bracket allows an anchor system to be cleanly mounted on the boat’s rail, in the cockpit, or on the boat’s bow. The bracket has adjustable rollers to allow snug and secure anchor placement. And from a safety perspective, your emergency anchor is fully rigged and ready to deploy.
All boaters and early-bird anglers should have a headlamp at their disposal, and Mantus has really stepped up to the plate with their Mantus Waterproof Headlamp. You have to look hard to find a waterproof headlamp, and even harder to find one that operates with a simple push of a button, even with a gloved hand. The rechargeable—yes, I said rechargeable—headlamp utilizes a USB-C connection, so it’s easily recharged, and it lasts 2.5 hours between charges. Not only does the headlamp increase your safety while anchoring, but it’s also an all-around great boating accessory. Learn more about Mantus Marine products at mantusmarine.com.
LeeLock Anchor Systems
LeeLock Anchor Systems has dozens of angling-friendly products designed for drift boats, power boats, and even inflatables. It’s no secret that LeeLock products are designed by boating anglers, for boating anglers, all to make the day on the river, lake, or sea more efficient and enjoyable. With the growing trend of boaters adding bow-mounted trolling motors with “Spot Lock” technologies to their fishing arsenal, LeeLock was ahead of the craze with their industry-first Quick Change Base accessory line.
The Quick Change Base system is designed to allow accessories to be easily interchangeable. The universal Quick Change Base allows for the use of the LeeLock Columbia River Anchor Nest, the LeeLock Can Anchor System, and the industry-leading Quick Change LeeLock Trolling Motor Mount. Depending on your fishing applications and needs, you can incorporate any one or all of the applications. The Quick Change Base also accepts the LeeLock Bow Ladder, which makes getting in and out of the boat a breeze.
LeeLock Anchor Systems products are 100% American made in-house at their location in Ferndale, Washington. Made from marine-grade aluminum and anodized to protect from corrosion, even in saltwater environments, LeeLock products are designed for lasting longevity and good looks while performing their duties.
Using my boat as an example, I already have the LeeLock Quick Change Base installed and I frequently change my anchor nests depending on whether I’m fishing a small tributary where the Can Anchor excels, or on my local Columbia or Willamette rivers where the Columbia River Anchor is essential. During shad season, I sometimes even utilize a Mantus M-1 Anchor that stows nicely in the LeeLock Columbia River Anchor Nest. This configuration offers great holding power in the sandy bottom with the torrential spring runoff. Adding a Minn Kota, Lowrance, Garmin, or Rhodan GPS-guided trolling motor to my bow is made easy with the LeeLock Quick Change Base system. All I need to do is decide which side I want the motor stowed; port or starboard, and select the appropriate Trolling Motor Mount. Plug and play, that’s what makes the LeeLock system so great!
The LeeLock Quick Change Base can also be used by boaters who just want to use a bow-mounted trolling motor. The two-piece configuration that includes the Quick Change Base and Trolling Motor Mount allows for quick and easy motor removal. LeeLock also offers a Quick Change Base Bow Roller that allows adding a bow roller with one simple nut and bolt, which can be unbolted and stowed when not needed.
One of the benefits of a bow-mounted trolling motor is the Spot Lock feature; another is when used in tandem with your boat’s kicker motor, making for exceptional trolling capabilities. The LeeLock Magnum Skeg is designed to be mounted to most bow-mounted trolling motors. The oversized skeg gives better control, especially in windy conditions, sloppy seas, and when the current is ripping. An added benefit when using the Magnum Skeg is you can expect much greater battery life because the skeg is doing much of the work, making the motor more efficient.
And every salty boat around should have a LeeLock Crab Cracker, that not only measures your catch, but makes the cracking detail effortless. To see all LeeLock Products, go to leelock.com.
In the quest for better rod storage both at home and on the boat, the name DUBRO Fishing popped up on my social media page as if my phone had been reading my mind. I had never heard of DUBRO Fishing, so I clicked on the link and hit the jackpot when it came to fishing-rod storage.
DUBRO’s namesake evolved from the business originator Dewey Broberg, who developed a totally innovative downrigger release that emerged from his radio-controlled airplane hobby and evolved it into a fishing revolution. DUBRO Fishing, located in Wauconda, Illinois, features a wide array of fishing- and boat-friendly products, including their unique and user-friendly rod racks made for use in your home, boat, RV, SUV, cabin, or man cave. Serving the fishing industry for more than 30 years, DUBRO Fishing products are 100% US made and angler tested on the Great Lakes, the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and rivers, lakes, and oceans around the world.
If you’ve ever been on a charter boat, or perhaps a well-appointed offshore fishing machine, you have probably seen your fair share of rod racks mounted either on the ceiling, in the cabin, or on a wall, somewhere within the pilot house. Whether they hold 6- or 16 rods, if you’re like me, you take notice. In some cases, they are carrying a charter’s fleet of rods and reels, and in other cases, they might be holding your most coveted rods and reels. Suffice it to say, something as simple as rod storage is super important, and worth that second thought.
DUBRO Fishing has designed a truly practical rod-storage system that is clean and efficient, and looks great. Available in four applications: The Trac-A-Rod Fishing Rod Rack, the Trac-A-Rod Plus Fishing Rod Rack, the Tournament Fishing Rod Holder, and the made-for-home Hang-M-High Ceiling Fishing Rod Racks, DUBRO Fishing has your rod-storage solution.
The DUBRO Trac-A-Rod system utilizes DUBRO’s proprietary aluminum Trac-A-Rod track that is perfectly made for pilothouse and cabin-cruiser boating applications. The Trac-A-Rod track is available in 2- or 4-foot sections that hold 6- to 12 rods, respectively. The Trac-A-Rod comes in anodized black, gold, or clear silver and for that true nautical look and feel, a teak surround is available. Because the Trac-A-Rod tracks are aluminum, they are easily cut, can be stitched together with center connectors, and the ends can be capped as needed.
Trac-A-Rod Holders are available in white or black and include a ring and J-hook. The ring measures 1¾” (inner diameter) and J-hooks are available in two sizes depending on the application. The injection-molded rod holders and J-hooks can be slid through the Trac-A-Rod track and locked in place to give optimal spacing to protect the reels from rubbing while maximizing space potential. Both sizes of J-hooks feature a keeper spring to prevent the rod from falling out, and DUBRO owner, Brian Bychowski, explains that if you carefully lay out the Trac-A-Rod track so that the J-hook lays just in front of a rod guide, it will give even greater stability and zero chance of a rod and reel falling out in rough conditions.
For those anglers who have delved into higher-end rods and reels, DUBRO has a great product to perfectly secure your tournament-styled reels with their industry exclusive Tournament Fishing Rod Holder. Utilizing the above-mentioned Trac-A-Rod track system, the Tournament Fishing Rod Holder is designed to safely and securely hold your rod and reel, securing it from unnecessary vibration, shaking, or collision with other reels. The Tournament Fishing Rod Holder is a two-piece, spring-loaded system that is adjustable to hold any tournament reel that has harness lugs. There’s nothing worse than having that brand new offshore reel, in my case an heirloom Daiwa Saltiga L60 Offshore reel, and have the reel crashing against other reels as you cruise out to the fishing grounds. And if you’re a bit OCD, you can match up the anodized Trac-A-Rod to your reel color: gold for a Penn International, and in my case, silver for the Daiwa Saltiga.
DUBRO has two other rod-rack systems not highlighted, yet still ideal for many home-, vehicle-, or boating applications as well as a host of other angling products.
If you’re a hardcore halibut hunter, or love chasing rockfish, check out the DUBRO Lure and Leader Storage. I guarantee my next offshore adventure will include the Fishing Bucket Lure Holder. For more information on DUBRO Fishing products go to dubrofishing.com.
Troy Buzalsky is the Boats columnist for Fish Alaska magazine, and when not writing about boats he can likely be found chasing fish in the Pacific Northwest and the 49th state and writing about those adventures. Troy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.