About Lenny Rudow

Lenny Rudow is Senior Editor for Dominion Marine Media, including Boats.com and Yachtworld.com. With over two decades of experience in marine journalism, he has contributed to publications including Boating Magazine, Marlin Magazine, Boating World, Saltwater Sportsman, Texas Fish & Game, and many others. Lenny is a graduate of the Westlawn School of Yacht Design who has won 28 BWI and OWAA writing awards.

Lowrance X Series Reviewed, the Cheapest Fishfinder Ever!

The new Lowrance X 4 and the entire X series fishfinder is the cheapest LCD screen fish finder I’ve ever reviewed, with a bottom line of $79.99. Can you really get a fishfinder for under 80 bucks? Evidently, the answer is yes.

The X is essentially the guts of an Eagle in a Lowrance’s clothing. Eagle as a brand is to be no more, so their products will be taking on the shape and look of a Lowrance. But, can a fishfinder this cheap even be worth talking about? Sure – at this price, pond-hopping car-toppers, canoes, row boats, and any other small boat that floats can be equipped to see beneath the water’s surface. The X 4 costs less then the rod and reel you’re fishing with; less then most of us spend on bait in a month; less then an electric motor or the battery that powers it. At this price, how can you resist?

There are three units in the series, the X 4 ($79.99) the X 4 Pro (which adds a dual-frequency 83/200 transducer at goes to $99.99) and the X-4 Portable (at $129 it has a suction cup transducer mount and a carrying case with battery compartment.) All of these units have a four-inch screen with a four-levels of gray scale. But my favorite feature for these units is their IPX7 waterproof rating. A micro unit like this is going to be mounted on a micro boat, and it’s bound to get wet sooner or later so waterproofing it was a good idea.

Is the X series going to revolutionize the fishfinding world? Hardly. Will die-hard anglers rush out to upgrade to one? Not by a long shot. But if you, like me, have two or three little botas lines up in the driveway which you use for pond fishing, duck hunting, or whatever, the X series makes it so inexpensive to outfit them with fish-finding capability, it’s impossible to resist.

lowrance x 4 fishfinder review fish finder cheapest

Lowrance's X 4 may be the cheapest LCD screen fishfinder around!

ICAST, Fishing Tackle, and the Lamest Blog Ever

Welcome to ICAST – the largest fishing tackle trade show in the country. It’s been an amazing ride for the past two days, as I joined in with the Earthsports.com team to introduce our new site to the world. We’ve had a great reception, thanks to all. But… we’ve also been working from sunup to well past sundown each day thus far, and I’m blogging now as everyone else is changing to go to dinner – that’s how tight the schedule has been. So today’s blog (tonight’s?) is going to be THE LAMEST BLOG EVER. In fact, I’m not even going to post a picture. (Take that, you SEO guys!!!) Of course, I don’t want to be a total let-down. So here’s something that should be of interest to fish-heads up & down the coasts: a recap of some of the cool new gear that’s been introduced at the show:

-Shimano has a slew of new gear, and since we got a sneak-peek at some of it in Key West a few months back, we already have video of it in action. Check out the New Product Showcase, to see the videos and learn more about Wax Wing lures and the Talica II.

-Ocean LED has a hot new underwater light design. These puppies actually screw into the drain plug hole(s) in your boat, so they require NO additional holes in the transom or hull.

-Suffix has a new line which incorporates Gore fibres. That  both abrasion resistance, and castability. (I can’t wait to fish with this stuff.)

-Rapala has several new lines of crankbaits and lures, plus a new digital culling system.

The Smoke, a new baitcaster from Quantum. Kevin Van Dam gave us a run-down on these reels, which are so darn light (the 100 series is just 6.2 ounces!) it’ll blow your mind… blow it with smoke, that is.

Castaway’s Micro Guide rods, which have an all-new guide design that boosts accurancy and cuts wind knots.

Penn’s Torque, a completely redesigned reel that’s nothing like the old version.

There are a lot more products you’ll want to hear about, and we shot gobs of video for the EarthSports site, so stay tuned – when I have a life again, you’ll hear all about  ‘em!!!

Humminbird Sidescan vs Lowrance Side Scan

Humminbird sidescan versus Lowrance side scan, which is better? That’s a question a friend asked me today, and it’s one I hear over and over regarding sidescanning fishfinders. Unless you plan to drop 10 grand on a searchlight transducer, these two are pretty much the only game in town. So, which should you choose?

First off, you can read my reviews from long-term testing of the lowrance on BoaterMouth. So far, you can find posts on initial use (http://www.boats.com/boat-content/2010/04/lowrance-structure-scan-review-begins/) mounting the structure scan transducer (http://www.boats.com/boat-content/2010/05/side-scanning-fishfinder-transducer-mounting/) and how I found it after a couple of months of use (http://www.boats.com/boat-content/2010/06/lowrance-structure-scan-side-scanning-review-part-ii/) More reviews are to follow, and when I’m done with the Lowrance I’ll review the HumminBird, too.

Both Lowrance and Humminbird will probably be ticked at me for saying it, but when it comes to side-scanning performance, so far as I can tell, there’s not a heck of a lot of difference between the two. That said, IMHO Lowrance screens tend to have better displays – but they cost more, too, giving Humminbird a leg up when it comes to the cost comparison.

In either case, I think anglers will be darn happy to be able to see off to the sides of their boat–it’s a pretty cool advantage, and at times, can lead to spectacular catches. With both systems, the best feature (again, IMHO) is the ability to place the cursor on structure you see off to the side, then change over to the chartplotter screen, and navigate directly to it.

So, which one should you get? If you already have an HDS unit on your boat, the obvious choice is also the right one. But if you want a lower cost alternative and you don’t have an HDS already on the dash, it makes sense to consider the Humminbird. (A quick cost comparison: for the HDS 8 you’ll spend around $1,700, plus $600 for the LSS1 side scanner. The 8-inch  Humminbird 998c SI goes for about $2,000 total, saving around $300. But the HDS 8 has 600 x 800 pixels, while the 998c SI has 480 x 800 pixels.) Either way, I’d bet my last bunker you’ll be psyched after mounting either one of these side scanners on your boat.

humminbird sidescan vs lowrance side scan

Lowrance Side scan vs Humminbird Sidescan. Which is better? Hmmm….

Starbrite Boat Wash vs Biodegradable Seasafe Boatwash

Put Starbrite Boatwash up against its Seasafe Biodegradable Boat Wash, and which works best? Will you lose any cleaning power, just to go green? That’s a question we boat-loving fiberglass shiners want to know the answer to, and I couldn’t find anyone who had compared them head to head – so that’s what I did.

After spending a day offshore and getting the boat thoroughly bloodied up by mahi-mahi, we divided it down the centerline and washed the starboard half with Star Brite Boat Wash, and the port side with Star Brite Seasafe Biodegradable Boatwash. Both feature phosphate-free formulations, can be used on all surfaces including fiberglass, aluminum, vinyl, etc.,  and are available in a concentrate form. (about $15/qt.; use 3 capfulls per gallon of water.)

At the end of the washdown, we couldn’t tell one iota of difference in the effectiveness of the two boat soaps. So I talked to an insider source at Starbrite, who told me that the two formulas are actually almost exactly alike; in fact, both soaps are phosphate-free, completely biodegradable, and safe for the environment. But there is one difference between the two, and we noticed it the moment we started the wash-down: the Seasafe formula smells like blueberries. Yep – blueberries! And, everyone agreed that it’s actually quite a nice scent.

So which should you use, the “biodegradable” formula or the regular boat wash? Either or, but I’m betting you’ll like the Seasafe formula the best… unless you don’t like blueberries, of course!

star brite starbrite biodegradable boat wash

Regular Starbrite boat wash vs Seasafe biodegradable, which is best???

Coast Guard Helicopter Crash, They Need Your Help

A Coast Guard helicopter crashed this Wednesday, killing three and leaving six children fatherless. I’m not in the habit of reprinting press releases, but in this case I’m sure you’ll forgive me – please read it, and please act on it today. As soon as I’m done posting this, I’ll be clicking on the link at the end.

Stonington, Conn. – The Coast Guard Foundation, a non-profit organization committed to the education, welfare and morale of all Coast Guard members and their families, announced today a fundraising drive for its emergency Family Disaster Relief Fund in response to the Coast Guard MH-60T Jayhawk helicopter crash off the coast of La Push, Washington this past Wednesday, July 7th, that claimed the lives of three servicemen. The crewmembers of CG-6017 were based at Air Station Sitka, Alaska.

The Coast Guard Foundation is seeking financial support for the Family Disaster Relief Fund. This fund provides immediate assistance to the families of the fallen crewmembers as they deal with this tragedy, and will provide comfort for other Coast Guard families who find themselves in similar devastating circumstances. The Coast Guard Foundation also seeks support for the Fallen Heroes Scholarship Fund, which provides college scholarships for the children of Coast Guard members who perish in the line of duty. Six children lost their fathers in this tragedy and the Foundation will provide scholarship funds to each one to assist with higher education expenses.

The Coast Guard has identified the lost personnel as Lt. Sean D. Krueger of Seymour, Connecticut, pilot, age 33; AMT1 Adam C. Hoke of Great Falls, Montana, flight mechanic, age 40; and AMT2 Brett M. Banks of Rock Springs, Wyoming, flight mechanic, age 33. The only survivor of the crash, Lt. Lance D. Leone of Ventura, California, co-pilot, age 29, is recovering from injuries.

The Coast Guard Foundation is working with Coast Guard headquarters and its Seventeenth District to identify the needs of the families and how it can best provide assistance in response to this tragedy. Additional support to the Coast Guard community will be provided in the form of a memorial service on Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at Air Station Sitka, where 1,500 people are expected to gather to show their respect.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the crew, their families and the entire Coast Guard,” said Anne Brengle, president of the Coast Guard Foundation. “At this time of great tragedy, we are reminded that the Coast Guard is a big family and when disaster strikes, we all come together to support one another. By extension, the Coast Guard Foundation and its donors are a part of that family. Your support is needed now to help the families of these fallen heroes.”

The Coast Guard Foundation is poised to “rescue the rescuers” and provide relief for the families. The Family Disaster Relief Fund provides emergency assistance to families who lose a loved one in the line of duty. When tragedy struck Hawaii in 2008, and California in 2009, the Coast Guard Foundation answered the call and provided support to the loved ones of the Coast Guard members who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation. The Family Disaster Relief Fund will be there again for the families of CG-6017, who find themselves in this most difficult, life-altering position.

“We don’t yet know the details of why this accident happened; but we do know four guardians went out on a mission and did not all come back,” continued Ms. Brengle. “Every time they step onto a helicopter, a flight deck, a cutter or a small boat, there’s a risk. But they do it everyday to support and serve the individuals of this nation. We hope others will join us in supporting these heroes’ families through this difficult time.”

Those wishing to support the Family Disaster Relief Fund and the Fallen Heroes Scholarship Fund may visit the Coast Guard Foundation’s website at www.coastguardfoundation.org, call the Foundation at 860-535-0786 or fax a note to 860-535-0944. For more information on the Coast Guard Foundation and its many worthwhile scholarship and support initiatives, please visit the Coast Guard Foundation website www.coastguardfoundation.org.

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About The Coast Guard Foundation

The Coast Guard Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded in 1969. It was initially created to provide funds for academic, athletic, and morale needs of the Coast Guard Academy and its cadets, which were not covered by federal operational funding. In 1986, the Foundation expanded its charter to support projects that enhance the education, welfare and morale of all Coast Guard members and their families. A Board of 100 Trustees from all parts of the country governs the Foundation. The Trustees elect from their members a 30 person Board of Directors to oversee the management of the Foundation. Located in Stonington, Connecticut, the Foundation employs a staff of twelve civilians responsible for meeting the Foundation’s objectives and working closely with the Coast Guard on all issues.

coast guard foundation for helicopter crash

The Coast Guard Foundation will help support those left behind from the helicopter crash, last Wednesday.

Water Wraps, Boat Camo, and Stealth Fishing

I’m a big believer is stealth fishing and keeping your boat as quiet as possible when sneaking up on the fish, but boat camo never came to mind until I heard about Water Wraps. Just what the heck are these things? They’re a camo patterned “wrap” that’s based on underwater photography with a skyward focus, capturing a fish’s perspective of what things look like above. A picture:

water wraps waterwraps boat camo stealth fishing

Want to make your boat stealth? Check out Water Wraps boat camo.

 

Pretty nifty, eh? I haven’t tried this stuff out yet (it’s just being introduced at ICAST next week) so I can’t vouch for its longevity, quality, or even the realism. But on first glance it looks like a mighty cool idea. After all, we know for a fact that fish are scared off by sounds and vibrations, so it only makes sense that the appearance of our boats could spook ‘em, too.

They say that Water Wraps can be applied to nearly any printable surface, including fiberglass, plastic and metal, and that paint-based techniques can be used for curved, hard surfaces or soft, absorbent surfaces such as textiles. If so, it should have some other interesting angling applications, like camo-ing up waders used by river anglers, who know that spooky fish like trout are sometimes turned off at the sight of a wading angler. Will it work? I’ll look these guys up at the show and see if we can arrange a test, so stay tuned! In the mean time, you can check this stuff out at www.aquadesign.com.

ASA Study: Angler Access to Fishing Spots an Issue

The ASA (American Sportfishing Association) just released a study that finds angler access to fishing spots is a major issue, possibly the biggest problem among fishermen today. The study, conducted under a multi-state conservation grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and administered by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, included interviews with over 8,000 people and covered both fresh and saltwater anglers.

According to ASA VP Gordon, Robertson, “”The most important finding in this study is the predominant role that public lands and access to public lands plays in anglers being able to enjoy their sport. That is crucial information for our state and federal fish and wildlife and land managers and must be taken into account for budgeting and planning purposes.”

Well, shucks – any angler could have told ‘em that, because we fisherman are in a perpetual search for new and better fishing spots. We’re always looking for boat ramps with better access, piers with decent fishing, and places we can legally shoreline fish. I suppose the ASA needed to document this fact for the record (it seems you can’t get anything done these days without a study) but luckily, some other interesting stuff does pop up.

One tidbit worthy of note: 79 percent of anglers fishing from public land say access is excellent or good, 64 percent say access on public land has stayed the same over the past five years, 18 percent say public access has gotten better, and only 14 percent say it’s gotten worse. Meanwhile, only eight percent of those who fish from private areas say access from private land has gotten better while, and 21 percent say private land access has gotten worse. Who would have thought public access has improved, while private access had decreased? Evidently, lots of folks – and this meansthe government is doing something right, in this case, creating more access for anglers everywhere. Of course, one would think these results could change quite a bit if they were broken down geographically. Since most public fishing areas and boat ramps are regulated by the states and local governments, not the feds, access for the guys in Alaska will be very different than it will in Arkansas.

There’s a lot more interesting stuff in the study (fuel costs were noted as another major impediment to anglers; there are more boat anglers then shoreline anglers out there, etc.) so if you want to check it out, head for http://www.keepamericafishing.org/documents/2010AnglerAccessReport.pdf

asa study angler access fishing spots

Angler access to fishing spots: a problem, according to this new study from the ASA.

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ICAST 2010, New Fishing Reels, Rods, Lures from Penn, Shakespeare, Abu Garcia, and Berkley!

ICAST 2010 is coming up and we’re already hearing about new fishing rods, reels, lures, and lines from the likes of Berkley, Penn, Abu Garcia, Shakespeare, and others. Yesterday I got the latest news release from Pure Fishing, which gave a rundown on some of their cool new goodies we’ll see in Las Vegas next week. Here are some of the highlights:

1. A new spinning reel from Abu Garcia called the Revo, which has a “NanoShield” finish that produces corrosion-resistant, abrasion-resistant parts that are 50 percent lighter and 300 percent stronger then graphite parts.

2. A line of surf rods from Penn, flying the Torque banner. They’re built with a spiral-wrapped graphite core.

3. The first braid/fluorocarbon combo line, from Spiderwire. Ultracast Fluorobraid is blended fluoropolymer strands and Dyneema. The claim: it casts like braid, and sinks like fluorocarbon.

4. Berkley PowerBait GULP! Shad Guts, a new GULP! designed for catfish fishing. I don’t know or care if this stuff works or not, because the name’s a total winner! 

Stay tuned to the blog next week for real-time updates of what’s hot & new for the 2011 fishing year, coming direct to you from the ICAST show. I’ll blog as much as possible as I wander the show floor and find out what cool new stuff tackle manufacturers have come up with.

New fishing tackle, rods, reels, lures, and gear, plus news from ICAST. Tune in to the blog next week, for constant updates!

New fishing rods, reels, gear, and tackle will be on display to the industry, at ICAST!

E Sea Rider Beanbags, the Best Boat Seats?

E sea rider boan bag boat seats

The E Sea Rider teardrop beanbag seat comes color matched for your boat, free.

E Sea Rider beanbags were the first bean bag seats made specifically for boats, and you may have heard me say in the past that bean bags are the best boat seats of all. But, E Sea Riders cost notably more then a regular beanbag. Is it worth the extra cash?

I thought the answers was probably no - how much better a beannie could it be? – and for the last couple of years I’ve planted my passengers on the cheaper versions. (Note that the beanbags are good for passengers, only. You can’t really use them for helm seats, since you sink down to deck level in them.) This spring, however, those old beanbags were way beyond use. The stuffing had compacted, the vinyl had stretched, and they were stained, ripped, and all-around trashed. So I ditched ‘em, and decided to try buying a pair of E Seas.

A pair of the teardrop shaped beanies cost me about $200 including shipping, which is around double the cost of the K-mart alternative.Ouch – that sure seems a bit excessive.  But as soon as they arrived I could see major differences. First off, E-Sea Rider’s web site allows you to order them in two tones at no extra charge, to color-match your boat. Secondly, the vinyl is far thicker. Thirdly, they seem to hold their shape a lot better then the cheapies. And finally, they have straps sewn into the bottom so you can bungee them on top of the T-top once you get to the fishing grounds, and get ‘em out of the way.

After spending a day offshore fishing, my wife’s one comment was: “Whatever you paid for those new beanbag chairs, it was worth it.” It hasn’t been long enough for me to say so for sure yet (I want to see how these things hold up over the long run) but so far, I’m thinking she might be right. I still think they’re a bit over-priced, but there’s no denying the quality difference. I’ll check back at the end of the season,let you know about longevity, and give ‘em a final assessment.

Find Boat Ramps and Bait with Free iPhone App

When you need to find boat ramps, you can look everywhere at a glance with a new iPhone app, the Boat Ramp locator. The free new app is available to anyone and can be used on both iPhones and Droid phones. It’s available in the Apple iTunes store and in the Droid Marketplace, and can help you locate more than 35,000 boat ramps across the country. You can do searches by zip code or by city, and it even provides driving directions.

The Boat Ramp app is brought to us by the RBFF (Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation) and is part of the “Take Me Fishing” campaign (check it out at www.takemefishing.org.) They say that the app is a way to “use new technology to engage boaters and anglers and inspire them to get out on the water,” and I’ve got to say it’s a smart move. No more pouring over maps, calling friends, and searching the web, while looking for the ramps that are closest to where I want to fish – now that info’s a few finger-strokes away. So if you’re interested in fishing a new body of water find your ramp today, at the app store. And while you’re there, you can also check out Bait Shops 1.0, an app that locates bait and tackle shops. This one also allows you to search by zip code or city, and it lists over 10,000 bait shops. Nice! 

find boat ramp locations app

Looking for a boat ramp location or a bait and tackle shop? Search here.