Review: Wisport Sparrow 20L Rucksack – A-TACS FG

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I have been on the lookout for a small modular / tactical pack for a while now for day trips out, either hiking, fishing along the coast, and even stopping out overnight (travelling light, as I often like to). I jumped at the chance to review one of the Sparrow 20L rucksacks from Military 1st, made by Polish company Wisport.

Two things stood out to me from reading about the Sparrow 20L online. First was the strong Cordura materials used to make the bag, robust and hard wearing, and bringing a little more stiffness and tensile strength with it. The second point being that it has lots of MOLLE webbing, attachment points, straps, and quick release buckles which are really useful for attaching what I like, and with potential to configure the bag how I want it with added MOLLE pouches. Wisport gear is developed in collaboration with Polish Military forces, and the Sparrow 20L rucksack comes with a 5 year manufacturers warranty (you can’t argue with that for confidence in their products).

The pictures show the Wisport Sparrow 20L pack in the A-TACS FG (Forest Green) pattern, but is also available in 10 other patterns including the A-TACS AU and A-TACS LE colours.

The Wisport Sparrow rucksack is made from genuine nylon Cordura

The Sparrow’s 20 litre volume will hold a lot of useful items, perfect for 1-2 day excursions. For the size of the pack, there is a really good amount of MOLLE webbing – 3 x rows on the front, 6 x rows on each side, and 2 x rows on the base. With all of the straps and attachment points, it is really easy to build the pack up with extra pouches, in particular the 5 litre Wisport Sparrow pockets (not included with the pack), these can be attached to the side webbing, adding loads of extra storage capacity.

The stated 20 litres of storage space is split into two main compartments with an extra flat zipped pocket on the front (for maps or documents etc). Dual zippers fasten both main compartments, the Zippers are Wisport branded, are good quality and really well stitched in. All zippers also have a little pull cord (knotted at the end) that makes them easy to grab and use. The zipper to the main compartment is covered by a Cordura storm flap to protect against water and dirt ingress, this also allows the third column of MOLLE attachment points on the storm flap (great use of limited space on a relatively small pack).

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Main Compartment

I really love the way that the main compartment fully opens, the zippers open right the way to the bottom allowing the pack to completely fold open (like a little suitcase). This makes it really easy to pack completely full, with access to items right at the bottom of the pack without having to pull everything out. When it opened up fully it’s a bit of a Tardis and can fit a good amount of stuff inside, the picture shows a thin rolled up sleeping bag and a BioLite camp stove inside the main compartment,  but and will also hold more if required.

On the inside of the opening flap is a zippable mesh pocket, good for a folded jacket or other clothes. There is also a large open sleeve compartment towards the back of the main compartment that extends to the full height of the pack. This is designed to hold a hold drinking system (this will hold a 3 litre Camelbak system).

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On the Front

The secondary compartment is also a good size (pictured below with a 14 inch wood axe and a 12 inch solar panel charger). The sceond compartment also has internal pockets for organising smaller items so that they don’t get lost. Two nylon straps hang down on the inside of the compartment with a snap link and a D ring attachment (useful for hanging keys or small items on).

The front of the pack has 3 x rows of MOLLE webbing and 2 x compression straps that can be used to attach a jacket or other items. There is also a Velcro badge panel at the top (I have attached my Military 1st patch here). There are 4 x extra D rings on bottom (to strap a sleeping bag or tent).

Review - Wisport Sparrow 20L Rucksack with MOLLE webbing

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The Sparrow has 2  x compression straps on each side with quick release buckles, to compress pack when partially filled to prevent items moving around inside. The compression straps have a good length of nylon strap (approx 12 inches) so they can be loosened off enough to attach a sleeping back or sleeping mat. Wisport have also added some neat little elasticated strap holders to tidy up any loose ends to prevent them dangling down (a nice touch), just roll up the extra strap length and push underneath the elasticated strap.

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On the Back

The back-plate of the Sparrow is thickly padded with special hard foam that gives an adequate stiffness to the pack, but still really comfortable. The padding is covered with a spatial grid air mesh that is divided into 3 areas, with ducts to allow air circulation around your back to keep you cool. The Sparrow rucksack has nice wide and really well padded shoulder straps, they make the pack very comfortable to carry even when heavily loaded. The inside of the shoulder straps are lined with more of the cooling air mesh and everything is very well stitched.  The front of the straps have the Forest Green camo pattern with a number of useful straps and attachment points that are easily accessible when the pack is being worn.

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Elasticated webbing straps down each shoulder strap will hold a drinking tube or can be used to attach other items. There is also a small rotating tube clip at the bottom of each shoulder strap to clip the end of a drinking tube (one on each side so you can choose which side to route the tubing). At the top of the pack there is a small hole to pass the tube through, the fitted Velcro flap can be used to cover the hole and prevent rainwater entering the pack when not in use. There is also a good sized grab handle made of nylon webbing, this has been really well sewn into the top seam of the rucksack and feels incredibly sturdy.

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Quick release Duraflex buckles are fitted on the the shoulder straps to allow you to drop the bag to the ground if needed or quickly escape if the pack gets snagged on something. The buckles have good solid connections and are easy to unclip even with gloves on. A good length of spare strap (approx 18 inches) is included that gives a wide range of adjustment for the shoulder straps. The straps can be tightened right down (suitable for a 10 year old child to carry), and plenty of room loosened right off (plenty for a large adult with multiple layers of clothing). An adjustable chest strap (with quick release buckle) is neatly sown into the shoulder straps to assist carrying heavy loads. Overall I found that the Sparrow pack is really easy to adjust to comfortably fit most people of most sizes.

Features Summary

  • Capacity: 20L
  • 2 independent compartments
  • 2 internal sleeve pockets
  • 2 internal mesh pockets with zippers
  • Front zipped pocket
  • Air Comfort carrying system
  • Quick detach system
  • Adjustable shoulder straps padded with air mesh
  • Loops and elastic bands on shoulder straps
  • Chest strap with buckle
  • Strengthened back section
  • Sewn-in hip belt attachment points
  • Front Velcro loop panel with removable Wisport logo patch
  • Allows the use of hydration systems
  • Passage to the main compartment for a drinking tube
  • Hydration hose mounting brackets on both shoulder straps
  • Nylon straps for attaching sleeping bag
  • MOLLE compatible with multiple attachments points
  • Main compartment zipper opens all the way
  • Side and front compression straps
  • Durable Wisport zippers
  • Quick-release Duraflex buckles
  • Durable Nylon carrying handle
  • Material: Cordura
  • Dimensions: approx. 16″x12″x8″ (40x30x20cm)
  • Weight: 850g
  • Manufacturer: Wisport
  • Made in Poland
  • 5 years manufacturer warranty

Verdict

After using the Wisport Sparrow 20L rucksack, I feel that it a brilliant little bag that comes in really useful for day trips, and potentially 2-3 day trips if you intend to expand the storage space using additional MOLLE pouches. The cost of this pack starts at £59.99 at Military 1st, with £69.99 for certain colours and camo patterns (like the A-TACS patterns). For the money it is really well constructed with some well designed features for a pack of its size. Wisport also do a 30L version of the Sparrow and a wide range of other tactical packs and pouches.

 

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Review: Lifeventure Expedition Wheeled Duffle Bag – 120 Litres

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Lifeventure have a great selection of multi-purpose bags, including various duffle bags in their range. I chose one of their Expedition Wheeled Duffle Bags to try out as I had heard that they were really well made. This bag was originally intended for my diving gear, but is so large and hard wearing that I will probably be using it for general luggage use too.

The bag has only one main 120 litre compartment which fits absolutely loads of stuff inside. It easily fits all of my diving gear, including masks, long free-diving fins and a thick wetsuit. There is even room inside to fit a bucket at one end where I keep crabs or lobsters that I catch. My favorite dive spot is a 2 mile hike along the South West Coastal path so I wanted a bag that would hold all my gear leaving my hands free to clamber over the rocks down to the mark.

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The bag is made out of really durable materials, it looks and feels like a heavy denier nylon Cordura material, or something similar. The seams are really well stitched, they feel really secure without the faintest chance of ever splitting, even under a heavy load. There are four grab handles, one on each end the end and two on the top with a handle that fastens them together. It is easy to grab no matter what position it is in. I find the handles on the ends useful for lowering the bag down over rocks when I am out diving.

There is also a shoulder strap which is quite long and wide too (to take the pressure off with a heavy load). This attaches onto two metal D rings on each end, and feels really secure. I use the shoulder strap a lot and it doesn’t really cause any rubbing. The grab handles on the top are also large enough to fit your arm through, so the duffle bag can be carried on a shoulder like a gym bag.

Inside the bag are some webbing straps to fasten items down, I haven’t used these, but they seem well located with strong fastenings and will stop items tumbling around in the bag, also good for securing items when the bag is stored upright.

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The wheels area really nice touch, strong and chunky and made out of hard wearing materials they allow me to pull the bag along (using the grab handle on the top). They only work on a flat surface though (perfect for in an airport or train station). The zippers on this duffle bag match look like they are made of really tough stuff, a big chunky double zipper runs the full length of the bag. It has a smooth but solid movement and should definitely stand the test of time.

Specifications

  • Tough fabrics with reinforced base
  • Top and side grab handles
  • Shoulder strap with metal D-ring lashing points
  • High strength lockable zips
  • Rugged construction with extra bar-tacks and double stitching
  • Small and compact when not in use and stored away
  • Capacity 120 litres
  • Available in 4 colours (red, black, blue and Purple)

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Verdict: The volume of this bag is immense, I am really pleased with it. I can also use it as holiday luggage, fitting pretty much a weeks worth of clothes for a family of four inside, or I can pack all the beach stuff including several folded blankets and beach games. The handles are all really strong and well stitched in, they can take some load too, I can fit my 10 year old son in this bag and pick tit up (of course I didn’t zip it up, lol). One suggestion comes to mind, if it came in camo patterns it would 100% perfect for me, but a really useful bag nevertheless. At around £50 this bag is amazing value, you wont find a better made duffle bag anywhere for that price!

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Review: Condor T&T MOLLE Pouch – A-TACS AU

Condor T&T Tactical Pouch Review

Military 1st sent me a Condor T&T Pouch (in A-TACS AU Camo) to try out. Although I was already familiar with Condor tactical products, I hadn’t used any before and so I was really pleased with the strength and quality of the construction of the pouch (made of genuine A-TACS Cordura), and a really well thought out, practical design.

Using a backpack for most of outdoor excursions, I often find that there isn’t really a place to put all of my smaller items, and they end up buried at the bottom of one of my main pack compartments, usually resulting in me having to pull out loads of stuff to find what I need. The Condor T&T pouch really solves that problem for me, and allows me to separate and store things like knives, torches, and miscellaneous little tools that I use fairly often, and sometimes need to grab quite quickly.

Front of Condor T&T Pouch with MOLLE webbing

MOLLE webbing with Velcro panel

The pouch is MOLLE compatible, with 4 x straps to attach to my tactical pack. The straps can be moved around which makes it easier to position depending on the webbing layout where it needs to be attached. It could be attached to any MOLLE compatible backpack or tactical vest, attached to a regular pack or belt with the two D rings, or just carried on it’s own.

There is a generous amount of sewn-in webbing on the front of the pouch to attach more compatible pouches (eg: flashlight, device, or radio pouch).  Additionally there is some Velcro covered MOLLE webbing on the front which doubles as a panel for patches (eg: country flag, or blood type).

Back of pouch with MOLLE straps

Double zippers and MOLLE straps with poppers

There are two high quality zippers with pull cords attached (easy for cold wet fingers), these can be opened partly down to a Velcro retainer strap on each side, the Velcro straps can then be pulled away to allow the zippers to be opened fully. The adjustable paracord string is a really nice touch and controls how far the pouch opens up, potentially stopping un-secured items falling out. I have set the knot on mine to allow it to drop open to about 90 degrees which allows me to access all of the tools inside whilst also giving me a horizontal platform to work on. The pouch can open right up (180 degress) giving good access to my tools, compared to a top opening pouch that would be very restrictive.

The Condor T&T pouch measures approximately 7.5″H x 10″W x 1.5″D. A really sleek pouch, considering that it holds so much stuff.

Inside compartments, pockets and elasticated webbing

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The Condor T&T pouch comes with a well organised interior with a two good sized pockets (one with a zipper fastening and one open pocket). There is plenty of sewn-in elasticated webbing that can hold a variety of objects of various sizes. I have used the largest to hold my GPS, torch and multi-tool, whilst using the smaller ones to hold screwdrivers, batteries, and nail clippers. The elasticated webbing is on both the top and bottom part and gives a vast amount of storage space whilst keeping small items in place.

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There are two more straps situated in the centre (where the pouch folds), this longer section will hold a knife or larger torch. There is also a Velcro panel stitched in where you can attach the clear plastic map pouch, this foldable and is also useful for keeping paper documents to keep them clean and dry.

Verdict: At £29.99 from Military 1st, this pouch is a great price for what you get, as I said earlier, it solves a real problem for me and now I can stow my most useful tools without losing them in the bottom of my pack, I am really impressed with the craftsmanship of the pouch. Its made of tough stuff and I can see it is going to last me many years. I highly recommend the Condor T&T Pouch, and also recommend checking out the other Condor tactical gear available at Military 1st.

Clear plastic pouch for maps and documents

Specifications

  • 2 internal pockets (one zipped)
  • Velcro front panel for name tags/patches
  • 2 D-rings on rear for alternate mounting
  • Fully opens with paracord to adjust
  • Removable 18x30cm (7″x12″) vinyl sleeve for map or documents
  • Back MOLLE loops: 6×4 (plus 4 removable attachment straps)
  • Material: Genuine A-TACS camo
  • Dimensions folded: approx. 19x25x4cm (7.5″x10″x1.5″)
  • Weight: 440g
  • Manufacturer: Condor

Available Colours

  • MultiCam, A-TACS AU, Olive Drab, Black, Tan

Notifications

  • Field tested and approved by the National Tactical Officers Association (NTOA)

Military 1st have a great range of tactical gear in genuine A-TACS AU camo, as well as many other popular camo patterns.

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Review: Zippo Hand Warmer

Zippo hand warmer review

I recently got my hands on one of Zippo’s hand warmer units to try it out whilst out and about exploring. I have never really been a glove wearer, being a fisherman with all the knot tying, baiting up and unhooking fish it just seems like they would spend more time off than on, but a hand warmer is perfect for me. I really wanted to find out how the Zippo hand warmer stacked up against the old school charcoal hand warmers that I have used for years.

The concept behind the Zippo Hand Warmer is that through the combustion (ignition) of zippo fluid (light petroleum distillate) it becomes a catalytic heater, relying on a catalyzed chemical reaction to break down molecules and create heat.

The Zippo hand warmer came neatly packaged, in the box was also a plastic filling cup and a little black fabric pouch. Zippo do not provide any lighter fluid with the hand warmer, this must be purchased separately.

The hand warmer itself is a great looking item, styled on the shape of Zippo lighters with a removable lid, and a good size too (100 mm tall x 70 mm wide), with plenty of surface area to radiate heat covering pretty much the whole of my hand when held.

Zippo hand warmer comes will pouch and filling cup

Zippo hand warmer filling cup

The procedure for igniting the hand warmer is pretty straight forward, provided you follow instructions. It is important to ensure that the correct amount of fuel is used for your requirements, but not over filling the unit because it will continue to burn until the fuel reservoir has been fully exhausted. The plastic filling cup is marked to show 12 hours worth of fuel, and you can easily estimate half of that.

To fuel up the hand warmer you need to remove the lid, and also the catalytic burner (just pull them and they pop right off). With the plastic filling cup (filled with your desired amount of fuel), just pour the fuel through the little nozzle into the white cotton-like material making sure that the fuel is poured fairly evenly inside. The just replace catalytic burner and leave the hand warmer stood upright for a couple of minutes to allow the fuel/ fumes to evaporate upwards into the burner. After 2 minutes just put a flame to the burner to ignite (using a lighter or a match), then replace the lid.

Sometimes it may be tricky to light it for the very first time, I have read that some people put a couple of tiny drops of fuel on the burner and light that, it will burn down in a few seconds and leave a small glowing area on the burner (can be seen better in the dark). This means that the hand warmer is lit and ready for use, just pop it into the fabric pouch and tighten up the drawstring with the little white bead.

The hand warmer is easy to fill by removing the catalytic burner unit

The pouch regulates the oxygen to the burner, and also protects the user from burning their hands

Burn times are estimated and may vary depending on the amount of ventilation. If you stuff the hand warmer in a tight pocket, along with other items that might constrict the air flow, it will burn slower, use less fuel, and burn for a longer period. I used mine without the fabric pouch for a few hours during the coldest part of the day in loose pocket and I still got 11 hours out of a 12 hour measurement of fuel (not bad at all).

When you use the hand warmer without the pouch, it can get very warm very quickly. I did this and found that it just about bearable and does a great job of warming my hands (and my pocket), by rotating pockets (left to right) and turning the hand warmer in hand, the heat radiated quickly.

Verdict: I am really impressed with the Zippo hand warmer, it works really well and simple to use.  I definitely prefer it to the charcoal burners, it put out more heat and burned for far longer. Lighter fuel is cheap and it makes the unit cheap to run too. The price of the hand warmer is around £22-23 which in my opinion makes it easily affordable, in fact a great price for something that is so well made. Fantastic!

Note: The hand warmer was sent to me by Zippo for the purpose of the review, all opinions are my own.

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Review: Shimano Baitrunner 8000 OC (Oceanic) Fishing Reel

Review of Shimano Baitrunner 8000 OC Oceanic fishing reel

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I have put together this feature to cover Shimano’s Baitrunner OC fishing reels, also referred to as the Shimano Oceanic USA Baitrunner series. An absolutely brilliant reel for the money and arguably one of the best medium sized fixed spool reels for all round sea angling. Definitely one of my favorites.

I have been using Baitrunners for fresh water Pike fishing for many years, the sound of the Baitrunner clicking when a specimen Pike picked up a whole Mackerel bait and ran with it was music to my ears on any day of the week. When I moved to live on the coast of Cornwall I continued using my old Baitrunner reels for both shore fishing and kayak fishing with great results. I am really pleased to be able to try out one Shimano’s 8000 Oceanic reels to show you guys why I’m such an advocate of the Baitrunner series when it comes to sea angling. As well as being constructed from anti-rust saltwater resistant materials, the OC release still contains a lot of the features that have made the Baitrunner a household name, and also feature advances that are going to take this iconic range of reels well into the future.

Some of the upgraded features include a machined handle, a replaceable spool clicker, Varispeed Oscillation to provide a perfect line lay with braided lines, and Propulsion Line Management to increase distance while casting. The Baitrunner lever moves towards the body to stop any accidental gear changes, and with three double-sided, shielded stainless steel bearings and an anti-reverse bearing, this range continues to dominate the bait fishing reel market. Available in four sizes from a compact 4000 size to a powerful distance casting 12000 version to cover a wide range of fishing preferences.

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Putting the Baitrunner 8000 OC to the test

I spooled the reel up with 17lb mono mainline and took it out with me on a number of fishing expeditions to test its durability and performance.

Bait fishing from the rocks – Using a medium weight beach rod and 40lb shock leader, I have used the 8000OC reel for bait casting from the shore. I use a 4-5 oz gripper lead on a pulley Pennel rig targeting bigger species like Rays, Codling, Bass, Smoothhound & Conger Eels.  The reel can definitely handle it, and I have cast in excess of 120 yards with this set-up (more than far enough to get my bait among the fish). On one busy session, I landed over 15 fish in two hours, the reel didn’t show any signs of weakness and gave me everything I asked of it. I use the Baitrunner when the rod is on the tripod, this will stop my rod going in if a decent fish hits my bait, and if i’m not watching the rod top the Baitrunner will give an audible clicking sound to signify a bite.

Surf fishing for Bass – When I surf fish for Bass I use quite big baits, and I need to be able to cast quite accurately. The 8000 OC reel delivers this for me effortlessly, and in quite harsh conditions. In these situations, the Baitrunner feature is excellent. Just engage free-spool mode by flicking the switch backwards and dial in enough pressure to just cancel out the tide. The fish can then move off after taking the bait and you just lift into it and it’s hooked. If I put my rod down for any reason, I can leave it in free-spool so a big take won’t see my rod disappearing into the surf. When surf fishing there is high chance of the reel being exposed to salt water and so the anti-rust properties are important. I always wash down my reels in freshwater anyway, but it’s good to know that the Oceanic series are built to resist saltwater corrosion.

Lure fishing from the rocks – I like to use the 8000 OC reel with one of my heavier spinning rods for casting medium to heavy weight lures (25-50 grams), I usually target Bass (and there are some large specimens to be caught from various rock marks in Cornwall). The constant casting and retrieving of the lures is where this reel shows it’s worth, I can easily cast one of my 2oz jigs a good 80-90 yards and accurately too. The 8000 OC is fitted with minimal bearings: three Anti-Rust ball bearings plus a one-way roller. Despite not being crammed full of bearings, operation is silky smooth. Anti-reverse can be switched off and the handle is of a very similar design to the Shimano Navi reels. I have never experienced wind knots or any line bedding into itself on the spool, I can quite literally cast and retrieve all day long with consistent reliability. I would suggest looking at the 4000 OC reel for use with lighter rods/lures.

Jigging for cod from the kayak – I do a great deal of kayak fishing, more so than shore fishing.  I occasionally drop a bait to bottom on the drift, but a majority of my kayak fishing is jigging lures over reefs and wrecks for Cod, Pollock and Bass. The 8000 OC performs just as well as any boat multiplier for this in my opinion. The gear ratio is 4.8:1 – which lessens the need use the rod to ‘pump’ heavier fish – with a recovery rate of 91cm per turn it does a great job of quickly retrieving fish from the depths. The Baitrunner is great for bait fishing, either out on the sand flats or fishing the creeks for Gilthead Bream, being able to pop the rod in the rod holder on free-spool will allow a hard fishing fish to run with the bait without me losing my gear to Davey Jones’ locker. I also find the Baitrunner really convenient for quickly letting out a bit of line when handling a landed fish, much easier than un-tightening the front drag and then restoring it back to the same setting.

Estuary fishing for flatties – In addition to some of the heavier fishing I have done with the 8000 OC reel, I am not opposed to a lazy Sunday afternoon on the estuary flats with light gear targeting the flatties. The size of the 8000 OC works brilliantly, making it incredibly easy just to rig up, cast out with no nonsense, put the rod on the tripod and wait for a bite.  The reel also does a great job when float fishing in the harbour for Mullet.

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Packed Full of Features

  • Model Number: BTR8000OC
  • Weight: 590 grams
  • Gear Ratio: 4,8:1
  • Line Capacity mm/m: 0.35-340 / 0.40-230 / 0.45-180
  • Line Capacity lbs/yards: 17-250

Hypergear – The precision engineered main Hypergear transmits more power from the handle to the rotor. Designed to exacting tolerances, it requires less effort but returns more retrieve torque with vastly reduced component wear.

Varispeed – Good quality line lay is the most important feature for precise, long and accurate casting. Shimano’s Varispeed system consists of two specially designed gears. One is oval and the other is square shaped. Shimano has been able to make these two shapes fit perfectly together – the result is a perfect parallel line lay and improved fishing precision.

Power Roller – The special grooved design of the Shimano Power Roller significantly reduces line twist and is a big advantage when using thin mono or braided lines.

AR-C Spool – Shimano AR-C spool is patented spool design with an angled spool lip. This design enables the line to leave the spool with less friction and in smaller coils resulting in longer more accurate casts. AR-C spools are proven to reduce backlash and wind knots when using braid.

Lubrication Port – The reel has a small oil lubrication post that enables direct lubrication of the inner workings of the reel with approved Shimano lubricant.

Waterproof Drag – Using special protection gaskets, the drag is protected against the intrusion of water for more consistent drag performance.

Floating Shaft – The key friction area on most fixed spool reels is where the spool drive meets the pinion. Shimano designers have overcome this by reducing a large percentage of surface area contact and incorporating bearings on either side of the shaft. The resulting design leaves the shaft in a floating position, considerably improving efficiency and longevity.

Baitrunner System – Baitrunner was a breakthrough in big fish angling – a feature that has proved so beneficial that it has become a standard on big fish reels. Baitrunner is a level located on the rear of the reel that allows the reel to be set so that line is released in controlled free-spool.

DynaBalance – Dyna-Balance reduces wobble during the retrieve by counter balancing the rotor to enhance sensitivity and smoothness. By using computer balancing, Shimano are able able to redistribute the rotor weight to eliminate vibrations.

XT-7 – XT-7 is the original Shimano composite reel material. Used on mid-prices and budget reels and spools XT-7 is reliable, robust and lightweight.

Verdict

A very affordable Baitrunner (RRP £154.99) that’s still packed with unique Shimano performance features such as AR-C line management, cold forged aluminium spool, Baitrunner and a lightweight XT-7 body. This reel is a true workhorse which can be used for both freshwater and saltwater applications. I highly recommend this reel to any saltwater fisherman fishing UK waters, this reel will perform really well for both bait and lure fishing, either from shore or boat.

Notice: The 8000OC reel was supplied to me by Shimano for the purpose of this review, all opinions are my own.

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Rigging up the kayak for trolling – Installing my Yak Attack Zooka Tubes

Mounting Yak Attack Zooka Tubes on kayak

I have been thinking about changing the rod holders on my kayak for quite some time now, but it has taken me a while to decide on the best solution and also how and where they would be fitted.

The layout of my kayak was previously set-up with a rod holder situated on the center console between my legs, it was also placed quite close to me with the intention of using it whilst drift fishing, this gave me a handy place to put my rod when unhooking fish when I was fishing jigs over a reef, but wasn’t ideal for trolling lures because it got in the way when I was paddling. It served it’s purpose without any major issues, but still meant that I was limited to using only use one rod at once.

Single Railblaza rod holder mounted on kayak center console

I spend quite a lot of time paddling to my favorite fishing marks, and why not troll a lure or two on the way to try and pick up a Bass or two? After seeing Rob’s set-up at http://www.cornishshoreandkayakfisherman.com I decided that having two rod holders in front was definitely the best option, which would serve me for both trolling lures behind the kayak and also drift fishing baits with two rods.

Another part of this idea would be to mount the rod holders on each side of the kayak, rather than on the center console which would give me the advantage of being able to free up some space in the kayak for easier paddling, or unhooking big fish (fingers crossed).

After further research on the internet, I decided upon a pair of Zooka tube rod holders made by YakAttack in the USA. I decided to go with the static surface mounts which are the most sturdy option with no risk of the rod rest moving around (if I got a take from a good sized Bass). I got the model featuring the 4″ and 8″ extension arms which would allow me to position the rod holders quite high up away from the water, and keeping the rod butt clear of my feet. The Zooka tubes came with RAM Mount surface mounts with plungers, for easy adjustment while out on the water.

I fitted the surface mounts using 4 x M6 x 25mm marine grade stainless steel bolts, with penny washers on the inside of the hull to spread the pressure of the nut (to avoid cracking the plastic). The RAM mount bases have a good sized footprint and far more sturdy than mounting the rod holders on a RAM Ball. I drilled 6mm holes for the screws and applied a good blob of marine silicone to seal before I tightened down the nuts.

trolling lures, kayak fishing for Bass

trolling lures over reefs in Cornwall for Bass

I am really pleased with this outfit, I gave it a flight test and trolled a shallow diving plug and a Savage Gear Weedless Sandeel about 5 miles really comfortably. I didn’t pick up an Bass that day but I did pick up a couple of Pollock over a reef close to shore (about 20 feet deep) on the Sandeel. I experimented with the different positions that I could adjust the rod holders and found the perfect setting for trolling and also some good positions for when I put out some baits on the drift (I’m really looking forward to Cod fishing this Winter) – Tight Lines!

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Review: Saltwater Bento Swim Bait – Lures by Lunkerhunk

SalwaterBento swim baits by lunkerhunt imitate small baitfish, the best lures for sea bass

I have been building up my arsenal of soft plastic lures over the last few months and I have been on the look out for lures that imitate small bait fish really accurately, arguably the best kind of lures for predatory fish like Sea Bass. I came across the Lunkerhunt website and they have a really good range of soft plastics that are aimed at Bass fishing in the US and Canada, but I was really thrilled to find their Bento swim baits range including their new 5.5″ Saltwater Bento that fit my criteria for a being a potentially great UK Sea Bass lure.

The image above shows (from top to bottom) – Saltwater Bento 5.5 inch “Maui Maui”, Saltwater Bento 5.5 inch “Mackerel”, Saltwater Bento 5.5 inch “Anchovy”, Swim Bento 4.5 inch “Parrot”

Soft plastic lures with holographic core and realistic eyes tend to trigger more bits from predatory fish

These baits looked good enough for me to eat and I simply had to get my hands on them to try them out on the Sea Bass and Pollock in our UK waters. The lures are incredibly life like, with a holographic core running the length of the body section, and a keeled “shad” style tail. These lures also have very realistic holographic eyes which I believe also helps triggers bites too. My success rate using lures with eyes is noticeably better than without.

These Lunkerhunt saltater swim baits can be rigged on a weedless hook

I will be fishing these into really snaggy rough ground marks, and so I have Texas rigged them up using Varivas Gran Hooking Master weedless hooks with a 14g cone shaped worm weight. Size 5/0 or 6/0 hooks fit the 5.5″ Saltwater Bento, and size 2/0 or 3/0 hooks fit the 4.5″ Swim Bento.

These soft plastics are very soft and so they have a really nice natural action. I prefer to fish them on a slow straight retrieve from the rocks or shore, as the rips and undercurrents tend to take the lure and make it “work”, but I am also looking forward to drop shot fishing these lures from the kayak over shallow reefs this summer – I will post catch reports soon. Huge thanks to Lunkerhunt for sending me these lures to try!

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Review: Asso Sea Fishing Lines

Asso hard skin main line review

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The fishing marks that I like fish around Cornwall are mainly rock marks, and when I am out on the kayak I fish over reefs and wrecks. I am fishing rough ground most of the time and it takes it’s toll on my fishing line really quickly. I heard about the Asso Hard Skin line and it’s abrasion resistant properties (x12 than that of normal lines), I felt that this might well be the line I have been looking for. Asso sent me a spool of 16lb (0.35mm) Red Hard Skin to try.

The first thing I noticed about the line was it’s unusual texture, it looks a bit rubbery (no criticism here, just an observation), but when you peel it off and feel it in your fingers it is really soft and supple, this must be something to do with the special coating, I really like the look of it. I spooled up my fixed spool shore reel with it and it looks really neat on the spool (lays really nicely). It’s softness means that it is really nice to tie knots, and cinching down a tucked blood knot (even dry) the line doesn’t burn itself (a good start).

The line casts amazingly well, again I am putting this down to the texture of the line and the way it sits/peels off the spool. I took the line out and used it over 4 night sessions from the headland in Newquay (harsh fishing conditions in the storms we have been hit with recently).  I hooked into a few dogfish and hauled them up over the rocks to land them (a good way to knacker any fishing line up). The Asso Hard Skin held together really nicely and unlike many lines I have used over the years didn’t come back from the sea with various nicks and scoring on the surface.  I really like this line it’s no more expensive than other brands, and having a line that’s going to withstand the punishment without weakening from damage and losing me a fish is a great thing!

The Asso Hard Skin line also comes in solid White and solid Black colours, and avaialble in breaking strains between 10lb (0.28mm) up to 30lb (0.50mm).

Asso Super Fluorocarbon leader review

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I do a lot of lure fishing (shore and kayak) and I am very particular about the properties of a Fluorocarbon leader. The Asso Super Fluorocarbon has got to be one of the softest and most supple I have ever used. This is in-fact a 100% Fluorocarbon leader, although you wouldn’t guess if you touched it due it being so remarkably soft and supple. I picked a 15lb breaking strain to try as it would also be used as a hook length on my baited pulley rigs, but primarily as a leader when i am lure fishing for Bass and Pollock.

“As Strong and soft as Nylon” is the slogan printed on the label, and it really is soft, the knots tie up beautifully too (with a lot less burning when I cinch down a knot). The Asso Super Fluorocarbon comes on a 50m spool and is available in breaking strains between 4.6lbs (0.15mm) to 26.4 lbs (0.40mm). The line diameter is a smidge smaller than some of the other brand I have used too, when it comes to getting an invisible leader, every bit helps. I am really impressed with the Super Fluorocarbon and I will be using it for all my lure fishing over the next season.

Asso tapered leaders review

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Asso Tapered Shock leaders come in a good variety of colours (Solid Orange, Fluro Yellow, Red and Clear) and also breaking strain variations. The high quality Copolymer materials give the leader excellent knot strength which us essential when using a tapered leader and tying two small diameter lines together, and also at the business end where the rig is attached. I opted to try out the 15-50lb tapered leader (which matches my main line) and gives me 50lb shock leader (enough to safely throw a 4-5oz rig with a big bait).

The spool contains 5 x 15m leaders, which for my own purposes are a bit too long, but give me the option to use a longer leader for high rock marks or piers. On most occasions I would only use approx 11 metres, leaving a bit spare for making rigs (bonus).

Tying the leader onto the mainline is straight forward, I like to use the Albright knot. The leader tapers up quite gradually over approx 2-2.5 metres from the smallest to the largest diameter, so bear this in mind when you start winding turns onto your reel (only count 4-5 turns of the largest diameter), I cut off the first metre so that I didn’t bury the leader knot in line on the spool.

The line is really light and supple with minimal memory, I found it really easy to rig up and it casted extremely well. The size of the knot was very neat and tidy (in 0.35mm line).

I fish a lot of rough snaggy ground, and I fish from rock marks a lot too, so I am constantly bashing or scraping my lines, the Asso leaders seemed to fair really well to this and didn’t damage as much as other leaders I have used. The leader also stayed intact when a dogfish tangled right up my line.

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Giveaway Rafflecopter: WIN Hoggs Strathmoor Waterproof Gloves

Rafflecopter giveaway - win Hoggs Strathmoor waterproof gloves

Getting geared up for outdoor activities is so easy at Fife Country, this month we are giving away a pair of Strathmoor Waterproof Gloves to one of our lucky readers.

A waterproof and breathable glove, in hardwearing sueded microfibre. With reinforced palms, anti-slip gripper dots, adjustable wrist strap and snug fitting wrist cuff. Fife Country have been making fine outdoor clothing and footwear since 1888 – Enter below to win these fantastic gloves.

How To Enter (3 Easy Steps):

Just leave a blog comment below, naming your absolute favorite item of clothing by Fife Country. (Quick Tip! – browse the Fife Country website for inspiration – CLICK HERE TO VISIT).

  1. Then “LIKE” Stu N Dumplings on Facebook
  2. Using the Rafflecopter App below, register your entry.
  3. + Get more bonus entries and more chances to win by sharing and following.
  • Like Fife Country on Facebook
  • Follow Stu N Dumplings on Twitter
  • Tweet about the competition

a Rafflecopter giveaway

T&Cs – UK Entrants Only, winner will be picked at random and contacted for delivery address after competition has ended, if winner does not respond after 7 days a new winner will be drawn. No cash alternatives.

grip texture on palms and fingers

Secure velcro wrist fastening

More competitions at ThePrizeFinder – See more at: http://www.theprizefinder.com/content/pair-strathmoor-waterproof-gloves-hoggs-fife#sthash.hLSkrSLi.dpuf

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Review: Didriksons 1913 Ivar Men’s Jacket

Review - Didriksons 1913 Ivar Men's Jacket

Choosing a jacket to stay warm and dry in Cornwall has proven to be a challenging feat. Braving the howling wind and sideways rain of the North coast can be soul destroying, many a carefully planned Sunday walk has been aborted at last minute due to weather conditions, with me retreating to watch the countryside from the warmth of my car. The things that I look for in a good jacket are for it to be 100% waterproof (100% means 100%!) and also have great windproof properties.

I was not necessarily looking for a big chunky warm jacket, as I prefer to layer up for more effective body heat management, and a more lightweight jacket can be rolled up when not required and stashed away in my rucksack.

The Didriksons brand caught my eye, they have been making weatherproof clothing since 1913, starting out with their range of workwear for Scandinavian fisherman (they should know a thing or two about weather, I reckon). The Ivar men’s jacket is styled on a traditional M65 military jacket, with four front pockets and a roll away hood, practical and functional – exactly what I was looking for.

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  • Fabric – 75% Cotton 25% Polyamide Weave, Laminate, PFC free WR Finish
  • Waterproof – 100% – 8 000 mm, ISO 811:1981, all seams taped.
  • Windproof – 100%
  • Beathability – 20% – 4000 g/m²/24 h, ASTM E-96 BW STANDARD.
  • Warmth – 30%

I have worn the Ivar jacket out on a number of occasions this Autumn, and it feels really comfortable and well fitted. It is worth mentioning that this jacket is not build for warmth, there is no insulation to speak of, and that is intentional. When I wear this jacket, I layer up underneath, with Merino base layers and fleece mid layers – top it off with a wool hat and thermal gloves. The Ivar jacket performs brilliantly in the wind and rain (that for which it was designed) – I got caught out in some heavy showers whilst lure fishing out on the headland and when it stopped rianing I was still dry (and happy). There was no sign of any water seeping through at all – Brilliant!

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  • Adjustable Cuffs – Sometimes it is necessary to reduce the amount of loose cuff fabric in order to contain the heat inside the garment. Adjustable cuffs are easily adapted to the size of your preference. There is enough room on their widest setting to pull over a large glove, then I like to tighten the cuff down tight to prevent heat loss.
  • Adjustable Hem – The adjustable hem helps you adjust the garment and keep the heat inside.
  • Adjustable Waist – Sometimes it is necessary to get rid of a loose fit or want to keep the heat inside the jacket. An adjustable waist lets you easily adjust the size after your demand.
  • Chin Guard – To avoid skin irritation from the sometimes rough zipper a chin guard protects you.
  • Inner Stash Pocket – The inner stash pocket doesn’t fasten up but has a very large capacity, I like to stash my hat in here, but will easily hold more.
  • Sealed zips and storm flaps – The sealed zips keep the wind and rain out, with extra protection from the storm flaps that fasten with brass poppers.
  • Media / Device Pocket – The garment has a storage pocket with cord opening for use with your radio, phone, mp3 etc. There is a little opening to route my headphone wires through.
  • Roll Away Hood – By attaching the inside flap to the loop on the back of the hood, it will transform into a “collar”.

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Although quite simple in style, Didriksons high quality weatherproof fabrics and best in class manufacturing standards makes the Ivar jacket standout to me,  a true match for the coastal storms I am heading into for my fishing and walking adventures this winter. RRP – £245.00

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