Let's Talk Turkey!

With temperatures quickly shooting into the 70's in much of the Midwest, it is time to start gearing up for the last (but not least) hunting season before Spring gives way to Summer:  Spring Turkey season!

The good news: the game hasn't changed that much.  All your needs are basically the same:  gun, ammo, camo, calls, decoys and lots of patience are all that is needed to finally bag that big gobbler that we all dream about this time of year.

The only thing that has really changed (for the better) in the past few years is the development of hyper-realistic decoys.  One of the leaders in this trend, Avian-X, has been a best-seller since their debut a few years ago with their LCD (Lifelike Collapsible Decoy) line of decoys.  Not one to rest on their laurels, Avian has upped the ante yet again with new Merriam and Rio combo packs aimed to add diversity to your arsenal.





Most turkey decoy manufacturers tend to model their coloring after the Eastern subspecies of turkey, because they are by far the most numerous in population and distribution.  However, they are located almost exclusively East of the Missouri River.  

There are 3 other major subspecies of turkey found in the United States:  Merriam, Rio and Osceola.  Osceola turkeys are only found in the state of Florida, but the Merriam and Rio subspecies can be found scattered throughout the states West of the Missouri River.



Currently, the only way to get these new color options is to buy them in the combo pack, which comes standard with LCD Jake and Lookout Hen decoys.  Of course, you will still be able to buy the other poses individually in the Eastern configuration, but if diversity is what you seek, look no further than the new Avian-X lineup.


Eating on the Go, a Backpackers Guide to Cooking

 Backpacking is a fun way of going places and staying places that not a lot of people get to visit or see and a great way to get exersize. Eating right to keep your strength up and your body healthy is incredibly important while you are out exploring the wilds. I have a lot of people asking which stoves and cookware they should use and that is a really good question. All of this is depending on a few factors, so remember to ask yourself a few questions when your shopping for the perfect gear:

1. How many people are you going to be cooking for?

2. How many miles will you be walking in a day?

3. How much room are you going to have for fuel and the stove?

4. How many days are you going to be out there?

All of these are incredibly imperative to know, and it is hard to to just give the same answer every time you go out. Some times I go with friends and other times I go by myself, some times I go 15 miles a day and others I go 5. If I go on the shorter walking trips I don't mind carrying an extra pound or 2, depending on the terrain. If I go on the longer trips, I make sure I am in a group of people and we can all take different parts and pieces so the load is not so heavy and the less weight on longer walking trips is incredibly helpful and makes for a more enjoyable time.

Lets start out with how many people you are going with and this will lead into the other questions. Everyone should always carry your own plates, utensils and cups. I make sure I use Nalgene bottles to carry my water in, they have a rule on the side so you can see how many ounces you have in it, and that way I do not need to bring a measuring cup. That helps create extra space and takes weight off of the back. Some sets come with pots, bowls, mugs and utensils and have extra space that you can hide your fuel in. Now when carrying these sets make sure you evenly distribute weight between you and the other person. They may not weigh much, but they do take up space and that is a valuable commodity when camping. Have the other person carry more of the food or the cleaning supplies for cooking.

Stoves and fuel are the next thing you want to think about. there are so many different types out there, it is going to be up to what you are comfortable using. Some folks want wood fires. For this you can do many different things. You can bring a grate with you if you have a lot of room, you can bring small camping stoves that the chimneys are just big enough to set a pot on without it falling through, or there are some larger stoves that burn wood and create electricity for charging small electronics.

Other stoves use Isopro canisters where the stoves screw right on top and are very lightweight. These are going to be more compact and the canisters will fit inside most nesting cook sets. When you are camping in the winter with these you need to make sure you take the canister in to your sleeping bag with you as it will freeze and you will have to warm it back up to get it started. There are also ones who take white gas or camp gas that are also lightweight and that you don't have to worry about the fuel freezing. These allow you to not have to find wood for fuel which would be helpful if you are going to a desert or a prairie where not many trees grow. They both have many different styles of stove tops that you can choose from. However you have to make sure you bring enough fuel with you for either of these stove methods so it does take up a little more space in your pack.

There are many other types of stoves like ones that take wax cubes and only burn for 12 minutes(enough to get water boiling ) and some that use sterno. It is all what you feel comfortable in using and carrying with you out there.


Food on the other hand is going to take up either little or a lot of space depending on how long you are out there and how much you are walking each day. You can either put together and package your own meals, you can buy the prepackaged meals by backpackers pantry and mountain house or bring food that does not need refrigeration. Honestly I like to bring a mixture of all of these. Some easy things to buy at the store is anything in a cans or jars as in soups, vegetables, tuna, chipped beef, or pringles which are easy to make, however, you do have to clean out the containers and bring them back out with you. That makes for easy meals but a lot of trash you have to haul with you.

I also bring noodles and those gravy packets you can pick up in any grocery store and just add water to. That helps broaden your spectrum on the food you can eat and the plastic bags can be used for storing garbage in to eliminate smells (if they zip closed) to help not attract animals to you and they do not take up much space when empty. Now the prepackaged backpackers meals are also great because they have MEAT in them. I get bored very easily with meatless meals and eggs and meat will spoil before the end of the first day you are out when you bring it fresh, so being able to have chicken and noodles, chili mac and beef, jaimcan barbecued chicken, Colorado omelets, beef stew and others is the real treat. These are super easy to make, you just boil water and add it to the package. You can eat it straight out of the package or put it in a bowl or on a plate if you are sharing, and most of those have 2 to 2 and a half servings per bag.

Don't forget the snacks! Those are the easiest to pack. Nuts like almonds have a lot of protein in them and are good for you. Raisins and crazins and other dried fruit is great to carry around and won't go bad. Beef jerky and sausages are a great snack that won't go bad with good packaging. Granola bars, trail bars and cereal bars are great and the cereal bars sometimes have that milk like substance that gives you calcium that help your bones. Just make sure you have a good variety of fruits to carbohydrates while you are out there.  



Dont Be Afraid Of Tackle Organization

 Its that time of year when the ice starts to melt and when many of us start getting the itch to hit the water.  The question is are you ready for a successful year by being organized?

 Now that the gift cards are all used up on new tackle that you got from the holidays, you may have a ton of tackle with nowhere to go.  Many people think that its time to get a bigger tackle box or a bigger bag.  However maybe its time to start thinking smaller.  If you fish for more then one species it might be time to declutter that big bulky tackle box and go a more species specific route. 

 Take our utility box carriers for example, these are a great way to go down the species specific route.  You can load them up with all of your bass, walleye or pan-fish tackle and it makes things quick when loading up the boat for a spur of the moment trip. 


 For the bank fisherman tackle backpacks have become very popular and are a great way to take only the essentials. Here is the Bass Pro XPS Stalker.

  • The most convenient way to organize utility boxes
  • Made from durable, water-resistant polyester
  • Features padded carry strap with padded hook 'n' loop handle wrap
  • Stores boxes vertically for easy access
  • Available in two sizes: 6-360 and 7-370
  • 6-360 holds six 360 utility boxes
  • 7-370 holds seven 370 utility boxes

 When your not on the water or walking the shoreline, another great way to stay organized at home is with a tackle trolleyThis helpful unit can store up to 12 rod and reel combos and has three adjustable shelves that can hold up to 50 pounds each.  A great way to stay organized if you you think small and go species specific.

 So there are a few things to consider when getting organized, and how to sometimes thinking smaller is the way to go.  Thanks for reading and tight lines my friends.


Home Defense Without Breaking the Bank


There is a growing population of people in the gun world who believe that in order to have a solid home defense plan, one must own a purposefully built AR with a night vision sight, all of the lasers and lights that would fit on it, and any other bells and whistles for any remaining rail space. A setup like the one pictured above can easily run you thousands of dollars, possibly more, but it is by no means the only thing capable of protecting you from everything that goes bump in the night.  If you can afford the aforementioned AR system, don't let me be the one to stop you, but if you want that warm fuzzy feeling without having to take out a small loan or pawn off your first born then here are some suggestions for you.


Defense Shotguns

A good ol' 12 gauge buckshot round is my personal preference for home defense. This offers plenty of knockdown power with less threat of over penetration. There is a host of shotguns being produced with home defense in mind and some are just as costly as the AR, but for those that aren't worried about having defend our homes against the incursion a pump or even a double barrel shotgun would more than suffice.

My personal choice is going to be the pump and there are plenty of options well under the $500 mark.  My shotgun of choice is the Winchester SXP Defender, coming in right at $350 it is one of the smoothest actions of all pump shotguns and feeds any round you throw in the chamber.  Of course, there are other options available, the Mossberg 500 and Remington 870 offer great platforms that can be customized with all the accessories you could ever want.

If you aren't a fan of the pump action, there are also several double barrel options built specifically with defense in mind. The only downfall of going to a double barrel is that you are limited to two rounds, but if you foresee two rounds of 12 gauge not being enough firepower, I would begin to reconsider what kind of situations I plan on getting myself in.




Handgun shooting is a different breed of sport altogether and employs new techniques and practices but for those who carry a handgun on them and are accustomed to doing so, a handgun is second to none for defense. Handguns were designed with defense in mind, as their smaller size makes them easier to conceal and are less unwieldy than a long gun when operating in narrow spaces found in households. One thing to keep in mind with handguns is to be sure to get the right ammo.  Drywall and wood are no contest for a fast moving pistol round; full metal jacket (FMJ) bullets can penetrate through several layers of drywall before coming to a halt. If you think a handgun might better suit your needs and are willing to train to become proficient in using it, they are definitely a viable option.

The options for handguns are endless, with prices ranging from just a couple hundred dollars and up in to the thousands depending on model.  Choosing a cartridge is another factor, with the most popular defense handgun calibers being .380 ACP, 9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP and .38 Special, but that is a whole other topic unto itself.

As with any gun you plan on using, whether it be for defense, hunting or any other purpose, plan on putting in the time to train and become proficient with your weapon.  No one wants to have to use their weapon to defend themselves from danger, but if the time should come, you do not want to be the one who is unfamiliar or uncomfortable with their weapon.


It's Tornado Season!

Living in the Midwest, tornadoes aren't usually something to be excited about.  That is, unless, you are speaking of snow geese, in which case, a tornado can be the most spectacular thing you will ever witness.  Every year, as temperatures rise and snow and ice melt away, millions of snow geese make their grand passage back to their breeding ground on the tundra.  Their migration takes them right through the heart of the Midwest, making several resting stops along the way and if done right, providing some of the most fast and furious wing-shooting a hunter can find in the Northern hemisphere.

Light geese, which includes snow, blue and Ross's geese, have grown to astronomic numbers and as such are quickly eating through and damaging their arctic and sub-arctic nesting grounds.  Current snow goose populations are estimated to be well over 5 million birds, and some estimates even say the population may be nearing 10 million.  In the late 90's, it was realized that these birds were not only literally eating themselves out of house and home, but were also a huge risk factor for outbreaks such as avian cholera given their population and contact with all other waterfowl.  So it was decided that the best course of action to combat the growing population was to relax the laws concerning hunting them.  The Light Goose Conservation Order was established, which allows hunters to hunt light geese during their spring migration with unplugged shotguns and electronic callers.  Hunters are also allowed to hunt until 1/2 hour after sunset and there are no bag or possession limits.

There are many tactics regarding hunting snow geese, but one thing that is usually never debated is hunting them requires you to go BIG!  Snow geese frequently travel in very large flocks, and as such, prefer to be with other very large flocks.  This means your spread needs to look natural/big.

Perhaps the easiest way to build a large spread is with the use of socks.  There are several companies that offer some sort of sock-style decoy, and the rule of thumb is snow goose spreads start with 10 dozen decoys. It is not uncommon to see spreads of 100 dozen or MORE!

A couple of the more popular sock decoys come from companies such as Deadly Decoys and Tanglefree.  Deadly Decoys is a company that specializes in sock-style decoys.  Tanglefree also offers other more standard decoys, but their Slammer Sock line is no slouch in realism or durability.

Deadly Decoys:

Tanglefree Slammer Socks:

As you can see, Deadly offers a headless option on their decoys, which is usually quite a bit cheaper as well as easier to store.  I like a good mix of both, but I don't worry about it enough to say there is a definite difference.  However, hunting in the Midwest, you will see a good mix of blues to snows, so you should have around 25-50% of your spread in blue goose decoys, but the proportion can be up to your preference.

Perhaps the most significant thing you will notice when watching snow geese feed in a field, is they are rarely all on the ground.  In an active feed, which is what you are trying to portray, there are always birds "hopping" each other to get to the untouched food.  Because of this, it is a good idea to invest in a couple (or several) flyers, which are just decoys that simulate birds in flight, whether they are landing or hopping.  I like the Deadly flyers, because they offer movement in sparse wind, but don't turn into windmills when wind gets nasty like it can in the early spring.


Snow goose hunting is possibly the perfect embodiment of one of my favorite quotes regarding waterfowl:  "To be successful, one must possess passion, dedication and a boatload of decoys".  Snow geese can be very fickle creatures, and can frustrate you beyond belief, but when it all comes together and you get that first tornado circling overhead, it will become painfully obvious how addicting it can become.


For information regarding seasons, consult your local wildlife agency.






Special Paddelfishing Season For Iowans

Are you ready for the paddelfish snagging season?  We have you covered here at Bass Pro Shops, we have everything you will need to make your season a great one.  We have a nice display set up just for this specific season, with a paddelfish mounted as the cherry on top.



The Iowa DNR has opened up a special paddelfish snagging season that will be running from March 1st through April 15th, 2015.  There is limited licenses available from the DNR for this special snagging season to prevent the overharvest of paddelfish.  A total of 1000 snagging permits will be issued (950 for residents and 50 for non-residents).  Anglers are allowed one license with a transport tag, the special license is $22 for residents and $42 for non-residents.  In addition to the snagging permit anglers must also have a valid Iowa fishing license.  The exception to this is youth anglers under the age of 16, however they must obtain a special ID card from the DNR and obtain the snagging license for paddelfish.

There are size requirements for the paddelfish to be taken into possession.  A fish measuring under 35 inches or over 45 inches maybe kept as a legal fish.                  


Fish falling into the 35-45 inch slot when measured from the eye of the fish to the fork in the tail must be released alive upon catch.  A flexible measuring tape (as pictured above) is the ideal device to use when measuring a paddelfish.  When you do catch a taggable fish you must adhere the tag to the fish's lower jaw.  Here is a link to the Iowa DNR to for all of the specific regulations for paddelfish.

For all of your gear needs look no further than our paddelfish snagging display to make sure you have the proper equipment.  Our Snagging Special rods paired with our snagging reels are a favorite for snagging and the upcoming catfishing season. When you do hook up with one of these beautiful fish make sure that line is going to hold up to the fight like our XPS 8 braid.  An important thing to remember when shopping for your terminal tackle is that your treble hooks may not exceed 5/0, when two of the hook points are placed on a ruler they must not exceed 1 1/4 inches in length.


 So starting this March Iowa waters on the Missouri and Big Sioux Rivers (including all backwaters, sloughs and any tributary of the Missouri) will be the place to be for snagging a beautiful and very delicious paddelfish.

Thanks for reading and we look forward to seeing you at Bass Pro Shops!



























Backyard Fire Fun

Having your own fire pit is all the rage these days and I am one of those people following this trend. There are a lot of different uses for fire pits. They are great for sitting outside with friends and family either keeping warm on chilly evenings while being able to stay outside visiting and getting fresh air, or having something to gather by on a warm summer evening. Some folks even use theirs for grilling if they come with the grill part that sits above the fire bowl. All this without the hassle of driving miles out of town to get to a park with a camp ground.

I truly appreciate my fire pit because I can store it in my garage when it is not in use and pull it out whenever the mood strikes me. I am a big outdoors person and I, personally, love the smell of a good campfire so being able to just set one up in my own backyard in the middle of the city warms my soul. I also use it for family gatherings as a centerpiece on my patio. The best part about having friends and family gather around them on nice summer nights is you can keep the kids outdoors and away from television and other electronics. Also watching the kids burn marshmallows and getting all gooey and messy when they do make the perfectly toasted s'more is a lot of fun during spring, summer and fall.




Blade Steel 101

Most of us carry some sort of knife, especially those who find ourselves outdoors for our hobbies. Even if you don't consider yourself to be an outdoor enthusiast, some still carry a knife to take care of simple daily tasks such as opening boxes or mail. From hunting blades to pocket knives and even kitchen knives, not all blades are created equal.

There are many things to consider when buying a knife, but one of the most important is the blade. Of course, blades come in many shapes and sizes for different tasks but they also come in different materials to accomplish those tasks.  There are a lot of steels to choose from, especially considering almost every knife maker makes their own special steel, but today I will only be talking a little about the most common blade steels that you will find.

D-2 Steel

D-2 Steel, also known as tool steel, is not that common and is more of a higher end steel and is difficult to produce. It is also one of the only non-stainless steels frequently offered for pocket knives.  This steel is not the easiest to sharpen, so don't expect to easily put back on a factory fresh edge. What D-2 lacks in ease to make and sharpen it makes up for with being extremely durable and makes a good blade to pry and other tasks where softer knives might bend or chip. 

There aren't many companies producing blades with D-2 steel, but the ones that do are very high quality, such as the Benchmade Adamas shown below.



420HC steel is one of the most common stainless steels and has been around for a long time. On the toughness scale 420HC is on the lower side, so for holding an edge it is not the best. Being a softer steel however makes this steel fantastically easy to sharpen making it popular for hunting and filet knives because you can get it back to a razor sharp edge very easily, especially while in the field.

Almost all knife manufacturers use 420HC, and it can be found in many mid-range knives.  One of the most iconic knives of all time, the Buck 110, uses this steel.




154CM is one of the best all around stainless steels that you can find in pocket knives. It offers a fantastic ability to hold an edge and yet is not incredibly difficult to sharpen. It is also a very durable steel and isn't as easy to break or crack. The downside of this steel is that it is not easy to make and is a bit more on the pricey side, but for someone who needs a high quality tool that holds an edge very well this steel is more than worth the money.

This steel can be found in many mid to high end knives, such as the Benchmade Griptilian series.





S30V is considered to be a super steel because it utilizes newer technology to produce the steel. This makes it pricey and a little more rare. The durability and edge retention on this steel is some of the best available, but once again that makes it difficult to sharpen.

S30V is usually reserved for higher end knives, but there are a few budget friendly options, such as the Buck Paradigm Avid.




Again, these are just a few of the many knife steels available, but they are some of the most prevalent in your every day carry and hunting knives.  Obviously, there are going to be other features to consider when purchasing a knife such as a opening mechanisms and locking designs, but when it all comes down to it, the blade is still the business end.

There is a wealth of information available on the internet to guide you in your purchasing decisions, these are just a few of the great resources to consider:

Hunting Knife Buyer's Guide

Fillet Knife Buyer's Guide

Knife Buying 101 - A Numbers Game




Illumination Demystified

As with many outdoor gear choices, a trip to the illumination aisle at your outdoor store can be confusing, even intimidating. There are many choices. Lanterns with all sorts of different fuel types, mantels, bulbs, and other variations. Flashlights with all sorts of strange batteries and numbers. Lumens? Candlepower? What's it all mean?

Understanding the what a lumen or a candlepower is is very important in your choice. Different lights are advertised with different units, but they are both different kinds of measurements of brightness.

Many spotlights such as the Bass Pro Shops 3.5 Million Candlepower 12V Corded Spotlight are expressed in candlepower. To put it simply, one candlepower is the amount of light emitted by one standard candle. That being said, candlepower is the intensity of light at the source of the light, be it the flame of a candle or the bulb of a spotlight or lantern. This does not take into account brightness resulting from concentrating the source (such as with reflectors) or other conditions.

However, most flashlights, like the Streamlight Polytac HP LED Polymer Flashlight are advertised in lumens. In order to understand how a lumen is measured, we need a bridge between candle power and lumens. Candle power and lumens are related by foot-candles. One foot candle is the amount of illumination received at the surface the spherical area around a light source one square foot in radius from a light source of one candle power. In other words, it is the amount of light one foot away from the light source of one candle power in any direction.

One lumen is equivalent to the amount of light emitted by a source of one foot candle landing on an area of one square foot. In essence, lumens express the amount of light in an area. When it comes to flashlights, headlamps, and other common devices, the lumen measurement tells you how much light will actually get to the object you are pointing your flashlight at. This difference is why you can have a 2 Million Candle Power spotlight, but only be seeing 250 lumens of light on the object at which you are pointing.

Regardless of whether your light is expressed in candle power, candelas, or lumens, the higher the measurement for all of these means a greater beam distance, which is often what people are looking for who need a higher lumen flashlight or a higher candle power spotlight. It is important to keep in mind the difference, however, between candlepower (candelas) and lumens so you are able to make the right choice. A 2 Million Candle Power spotlight sounds like it would provide you with more light than a 1000 lumen flashlight, but this is not the case.







Winter Car Saftey

Snow falling, below freezing temperatures, other people not driving safely, black ice, animals dashing out in front of your car, I hate driving in this weather, but 'tis the season. Some people just do not slow down for icy weather, sometimes because they are in a hurry or some because they have not driven in this weather or are novice drivers and do not fully understand the danger. The worst part is if you are on rural roads or roads not well traveled and something happens. It may be hours that you are stranded either due to the car breaking down, icy roads or animals. 

Be prepared! There a few small items that you can keep in your car that will keep you safe and warm while waiting for help.

The first and most important thing I always keep in my car is an Emergency Blanket. I keep it in my glove box because the packaging makes it small and it's not in my way. I have had a few questions about how these work over the years and I want to impart what I have learned. They are that silvery color on purpose, this color actually reflects your own body heat back at you instead of absorbing it. This is very important in below freezing temperatures to keeping you alive when stranded. Wearing hats and gloves are important, they trap some of your body heat, but they don't contain it. When you are sitting in your car while you are driving you don't notice the heat loss since your body is generating its own heat and people usually have the heaters in their cars going to supplement this loss. These blankets do not have a rating because they do not absorb and hold heat, they just reflect your own heat back at you, if you know you are in a situation where you know you will be waiting a long time for help do not hesitate to use it. Also if you need to use this, keep all of your winter gear on, and cover as much of your body with the blanket as you can and your heat loss will be at a rate much slower than just hats coats and gloves by themselves. 

Secondly, I keep and extra fleece blanket or two in the car so if I know its going to be a short wait I can just use those and not have to open up the emergency blanket. I personally keep 2 in the car because I often have kids or other passengers in the car with me. 

Third, Water. I just keep them under the front seats you never know whats going to happen and how long you can be stranded. I always keep a nalgene bottle or a camelbak bottle full in the car only because they keep longer and are more durable than the thin plastic bottles that bottled water normally comes in and they are refillable. Also if they are under the front seats, especially on long drives, they tend to thaw while your heater is running so its not always completely frozen.

The fourth item I keep is a small emergency kit, gauze, snacks like granola bars and hard candy(in case of low blood sugar), and I am on heart medication so I keep two days worth of pills in a small container, all in a small back pack kept in the back seat for easy access.  

Last, but not least, is something I personally just throw in the glove box next to the emergency blanket because I dislike being cold....Hand Warmers! I keep them in there as soon as October rolls around I throw them in the car. You never know when your going to use them, and if you do end up needing the emergency blanket it creates more warmth to trap inside with you!

So this season be prepared, drive slow when the weather calls for it and I hope you never need to use your emergency kit! 


New Look For an Old Favorite: CarbonLite Baitcasting Reel

CarbonLite Baitcasting Reel     

The wait is over, the brand new CarbonLite Baitcasting reels are here and with a new look!  First, you'll notice the white color change. It might change the way you fish at dawn or dusk as a lighter color could make it easier to see. What you probably won't notice is the .1 (oz) weight difference. Not only is it lighter; it's still one of the lightest reels out on the market. It has the same gear ratios as the previous CarbonLite. Left handed retrieve only in the 6.4. This may look like the new kid on the block but the CarbonLite still has the same drag stack, dual braking system, and 10 ball bearings that we all know and love.

The CarbonLite reel has always been in the top ten, so if you've never had the chance to try one out, you should, whether in-store or asking your fishing partner to let you borrow theirs.

The light weight on this reel makes a big difference when casting over a long period of time. This light weight quality is accomplished by using carbon fibers, aircraft grade aluminum  and stainless washers that help the reel from being too heavy, yet maintain the strength and durability to pull in the big ones.

 Try all three gear ratios to cover all types of fishing and fishing techniques especially before the Fall fishing, comes to a close. This nice thing about fishing is if you miss the Fall, Spring is soon to follow.




Invasion of the Wiggle Warts!

Invasion of the Wiggle Warts

Brand-new Bass Pro Shops EXCLUSIVE Wiggle Warts have arrived!

The Wiggle Wart is a classic lure that is part of the Storm lineup that was purchased by Rapala in the 1990's and has been a favorite for early spring and a must for Ozark waters. Bass Pro Shops now has added 4 new colors that are exclusive to our lineup of Wiggle Warts.

The first new color is Phantom Green Blue Craw (top picture, far left), a translucent green with blue on the underbelly. The next color is Phantom PB & J Craw (top picture, middle),a translucent purple-brown craw with a distinct translucent darker purple underbelly. Then Phantom Brown Orange (top picture, far right), a translucent brown with a translucent belly. Lastly is Peanut Butter & Jelly Craw (bottom picture), featuring a light brown (ie: peanut butter) with a purple underbelly. 

No longer will you need to send in your Wiggle Warts for a custom PB & J paint job, Bass Pro Shops has you covered without paying extra. These colors will be perfect for matching the crayfish as they change colors with the seasons and their environment. Especially with the additional phantom colors for clear water applications.

For fishing with the Wiggle Wart make sure to use a rod with a parabolic bend in it to allow the bait some give when a fish sucks it into their mouth from a distance. One such rod would be the new Bass Pro Shops Crankin' Stick, with a mix of graphite and fiberglass to allow for some give. Also when using in the colder weather of early spring make sure to not over reel the bait. Not only are the baitfish slow but so are the bass. Use a slow speed reel such as a 5:2.1 Bass Pro Shops Pro Qualifier baitcasting reel to help slow down your retrieve. Match this with 10 - 12 lb Fluorocarbon to get the Wiggle Wart down to its running depth. If you need it to run a little shallower than its 7' - 18' running depth, use a wider diameter line such as a heavier pound test.

To match the crayfish, look for chunk rock banks and rip rap in which they usually hide in. Make sure to get it down to where it is ticking and grinding along the rocks like a crayfish. Also in the prespawn look for slopped banks that lead to spawning flats that the fish will be transitioning along as they move towards the spawn.




Its that time of the year folks, where the age old question comes up to slow smoke the turkey into tender deliciousness, or to fast cook it with a deep fryer into juicy fried heaven?

Well folks, honestly I think it all depends on the kind of person you are. Smoked or fried, they can both turn out  juicy and tender and flavorful. I think it is all about the preparation and thought that goes into it, and what methods you have at your disposal. The more you plan out your meal and allow for time, the better it turns out.


Turkeys take a long time to prepare to bake, smoke or fry. You have to allow for them to thaw first off, and that depends on how big the bird is. Butterball says that if you are going to thaw it in the refrigerator to allow 1 day for every four pounds. Or if you prefer the quick thaw method, soak(still in the wrapper) in a bucket of cold water changing out the water every 30 minutes to keep the water temperature correct, and allow 30 minutes per pound.

Brining a turkey is a great way to ensure the turkey stays moist while cooking while adding a bit of flavor, kind of like marinating, but it is used more for keeping the meat moist. There are all sorts of recipes where you can use orange juice concentrate, soy sauce, brown sugar and many other ingredients, most importantly salt, which also tenderizes the meat. Many cookbooks for smoking and frying have great brine recipes as well as the internet. A lot of people also use injection as a way to flavor the turkey as well after brining. The extra attention lends a lot of flavor to the bird and in my family we do one flavor on one side and different flavor on the other side for some variety.

Smoking a turkey can be a long, intensive process that, depending on the size of the turkey, can take a day or so, depending on the directions. I found in many cookbooks that the easiest way is to prep the smoker to 250 degrees and for every 5 to 6 pounds let it cook for 4 hours, checking it to make sure the meat has reached 165 degrees internally in the middle of the biggest muscle area. The longest, most involved recipe called for the smoker to be at 200 to 220 degrees, wrapped in cheese cloth to moisten every half an hour for 6 hours, then to cut the cloth off and doing a total cooking time of 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 and a half hours for every one pound of turkey, basting every hour for the rest of the cooking time. The best wood I have found to use is a fruit type such as apple, peach or orange. It complements the meat quite well. There are many directions out there but it really depends on what recipe sounds the most appealing and tasty to you.

While smoking there can be a few safety issues. make sure if it is on a deck that the smoker is off the ground as the bottom of the smoker can become very hot and cause a fire. Some electric smoker brands sell stands just for that reason. Make sure all smoking is done outside, not only will all the smoke blacken your walls and ceiling, but a room full of smoke causes severe breathing problems and can be very dangerous. Make sure the smoker is not near any walls outside. Not only can your smoker blacken the walls but the heat coming off it can melt siding and can catch the wood on fire.

Frying a turkey can be a wonderfully fast way of cooking it after thawing, brining, and seasoning it. You just need to make sure you have enough oil and the right temperature. to make sure you have enough oil, before brining and seasoning it, place it in the empty fryer you will be using and pour in enough water to cover it. pull the turkey out and measure how much water you used. This is how you will know how much oil to use. make sure you dry out the pot before adding any oil to it later.

Most fryers have a timer on it so you usually need two people to watch it to make sure if someone needs to run inside to grab something the other can keep an eye on it and turn it before time runs out to keep the burner on. This is a safety feature that can keep a lot of accidents from happening. I always have a second person with me to help put the turkey in and pull it out to prevent splattering and accidental burns. Make sure the oil is up to 350 degrees for optimal frying. if the temperature is below 340 it will start to seep into the meat and make it taste and feel greasy. 

Fryers do need a lot of watching and require extra attention to prevent accidents. First off, make sure you have a bucket of sand and not water. Oil floats on water so this cannot put out a fire, sand will soak up and cover the oil so it can easily put out oil fires before they get out of hand. Make sure you have a large flat surface away from any buildings, decks, trees, shrubs, garages, kids, or pets. Otherwise keep it away from anything that can melt, catch on fire or anything that can cause chaos and accidentally knock over the fryer. Also, make sure the propane tank is upwind of the fryer, if it is positioned downwind the heat from the fryer can melt the hose or cause the thank to get too hot and either situation can be dangerous.

Well folks, no matter how you decide to cook your turkey this season, I hope it turns out perfect for you. Thank you for reading and have a safe and happy holiday season!


Spooky Trails

Its October and its the last time most of us will be out camping and hiking here in the Midwest. I was just going on a late October camping trip, a few years ago, to do some fall leafing and hiking when I stumbled upon something fun to do at the end of October a few years back.

A group of us pulled up to Indian Cave State park on a Thursday and we were registering our cars and getting firewood. I was not driving so I was looking at the different things to do posted on their bulletin board and saw they had all sorts of things to do. Crafts for the kids, living history (blacksmiths, broom makers, soap makers and candle makers) on Saturday and Sunday. Movies and a hay rack ride on Friday and Saturday night. I asked about the tickets and they were $5 per adult and I spent the next 10 minutes talking everyone into going the next night. We all had a lot of fun and none of us realized that some state parks all over have Halloween activities.

Since I have my own family now, we have made a tradition of finding a new park to try to make the best of our last camping weekend of the year. Finding State Parks that celebrate Halloween with haunted hay rack rides, early trick or treating in the RV areas, crafts, living history displays, smores making, pumpkin carving contests and other fun things has been much easier now that I know these things are available to us. Each park has been different and they all have something for everyone, including the little ones so the whole family gets involved.

One of our family's favorite things to do after dinner or before they go to bed is going on a spooky "midnight hike." We usually have a few kids under 10 in the group and I call it that to make it sound more fun. Really we go out right after the sun has set because trails are creepy when they are dark and anything with the word midnight before it makes it spookier for the kids. I have put together a day hiking back pack emergency and survival kit that I grab to come with us every time we go. I usually pack the Day Hiker First Aid Kit which comes with supplies to treat cuts and scrapes, sprains, blisters, insect bites, headaches, muscle aches, and allergic reactions. Then I also bring extra band-aids because you can never have enough, snacks for every one, in case its a long hike or we find a cool spot to look out over water or down cliffs, glow sticks, extra water and extra batteries for the flash lights. Just make sure if you do have little ones that safety comes first. Make sure they have reflective material on their clothes or are wearing glow sticks so you can safely find them if you are doing any evening or night time walking. I make sure everyone in the group has a flash light or head lamp so no one trips and falls over any tree branches or steps into any holes. 

There is so many things to do out there that my husband and I have yet to run out of new parks to try out each year even within an hour of our house, and there are so many state parks out there Most of these events are posted on the parks websites and are easy to find. I found mine at the Nebraska game and parks commission website outdoornebraska.gov under their calendar. Missouri state parks had Halloween events listed right under their Things To Do on their front page. In some states you have to call the parks directly or be able to get a hold of the states Department of Natural Resources magazines.

My family's favorite is the Haunted hay rack ride at Indian Cave State park near Falls City, Ne. It runs on Fridays and Saturdays the two weeks before Halloween week. My brother's Family gets a kick out of going to Buffalo Bills Ranch State historical park in North Platte, Ne every year. This one runs for only one day on Saturday, October 25th.  My Friend Shanna and her family really enjoy the pumpkin carving contest at the Calamus Reservoir in Nebraska which is on the 18th of October.

Be safe as you and your families try out new things this year and have a great time outdoors!



Fall Like a Pro this Autumn: Safety, Comfort and Fun

 Prepping for the Autumn season of fun Fall activities may have not crossed your mind until you are out in the moment and realize you were ill prepared. There are many things to think of from warmth to being noticed by others and keeping hydrated. Bass Pro shops is ready and waiting to help you make this season more comfortable for you.

Pumpkin patches and apple orchards are a popular destination this time of year. Keep the kiddo comfy and your arm muscles as well! Try our Mac Sports folding utility wagonMac Sports™ Fold-Up Utility Wagon                                                                                         ($79.99) to roll the young ones and pumpkins around while enjoying the views. 

Don't forget to have some cocoa or coffee nearby to keep you warm and satisfied in a thermos ($34.99). These will keep your favorite fall beverage warm for up to 24 hours so no need to rush through your day. 

After a day at the orchard you may be looking at a pile of apples and wondering how long it will take to peel them all before you can use them for pies and such. Cut your time down by getting an apple peeler by LEM ($19.99) Your hands will thank you.

Of course while out trick-or-treating you should make sure children are well hydrated and well lit (seen.) There are many options from Camelbak and Nalgene water bottles to hydration packs they can wear under their costume.These products range from $7.99(kids Nalgene)- $24.99  (1.5L XPS bag)  And don't forget the glow sticks! Besides the traditional crack and shake type, there are now LED glow sticks with over 200 hours run time. Making it not only a Halloween night favorite but for on the night stand on those "spooky" nights. These range from $1.19-$2.49 a piece. A fairly inexpensive source of not only safety but entertainment. Hand warmers are also a must.  You can view all the products we have available at http://Basspro.com  also see Product Spotlight - LEM Apple and Potato Peeler


Who Wants to try a Delicious Venison Recipe?

The Complete Venison Cookbook has some of the most amazing recipes.  Here is one that is sure to please!

Salisbury Venison Steak with Mushrooms and Noodles

1 lb. ground venison                               1/4 tsp. salt

1 egg white, lightly beaten                      1/8 tsp. black pepper

1/3 cup onion, chopped                          1 (12-oz.) jar beef gravy

1/4 cup saltine cracker crumbs               1 1/2 cups fresh sliced/

2 Tbsp. whole milk                                  mushrooms

1 Tbsp. horseradish                                hot cooked noodles

In a bowl, combine venison, egg white, onion, cracker crumbs, milk, horseradish and pepper.  Shape into four oval patties. Fry in a skillet over medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes or until cooked, turning once.  Remove patties and keep warm.  Add gravy, mushrooms and water to skillet; heat for 3 to 5 minutes.  Serve gravy over patties and noodles.  Serves 4.


This book has all sorts of tips from processing to freezing, canning, smoking and curing your deer.  It also has some very yummy side dish and dessert ideas.

The book is available for $24.95 online and in our store.

**The white-tailed deer has existed essentially unchanged for perhaps as much as 20 million years and is thought to be the ancestral form from which today's mule deer and black-tailed deer evolved.

**Check out this website and help feed the hungry "Hunters for the Hungry" http://hservices.nra.org/hunters-for-the-hungry-information.aspx


Ice Holes!

With the changing of the seasons come long awaited outdoor opportunities. While many outdoor men and women are climbing into their tree stands to partake in the exhilarating sport of deer hunting, many die hard fishing folks have a hard time winterizing their boats with the thought of not climbing back into it until spring. Yet this is not the end for the fish loving folks, rather it is just the beginning to the ice fishing season and there are steps you can take right now to make this your best ice fishing season ever!

If your goal is to be the best there is on your favorite area lake, or to win one of the hundreds of ice fishing tournaments held across the country every year, now is a great time to start preparing. The following are proven techniques to increase your odds of being in the right spots long after the water is covered by a thick layer of ice. The first thing you want to do is get out on the water. With the hunting seasons upon us many of the waterways are seeing less and less boat traffic which makes the first and probably most important step much easier.

fish finder

Using some of today’s very advanced electronics, mapping out potential ice fishing hot spots becomes much easier. The first thing is to use is a fish finder with decent sensitivity and detail so you are able to tell the difference between schools of baitfish and underwater vegetation. I like the versatility of the Lowrance Elite-4 HDI.http://www.basspro.com/Lowrance-Elite4-HDI-Fishfinder/Chartplotter-with-Navionics-Gold/product/1311111453/


It can do everything you should need it to for locating the best potential ice fishing hot spots. If you don't want to invest into new electronics, you can obtain lake contour maps and using your current fish finder combined with a handheld GPS, you can still map out these potential spots on the water.

The first thing I look for when hunting for my winning locations is the vegetation edges, I'm looking at the depths where the underwater vegetation ends on my fish finder. Once I find my target depth I then refer to my lake contour map, I'm looking at the areas where my target depth has the widest areas, while paying attention to the underwater points and inside bends where my target depth is sustained. What this usually means is there is a good chance there will be larger areas of underwater vegetation once there is ice covering everything.

Why am I looking for the vegetation? Well it's pretty simple; the vegetation offers cover as well as releases oxygen into the water, which attracts plankton, which in turn attracts baitfish, which attracts larger predatory fish species. The larger, feeding fish will often patrol the outer edges of this vegetation looking for their next meal.

It is very important you scout out your areas before plotting them on your GPS as your hotspots. First without taking your sonar over those spots you don't know for certain what is actually down there for cover, it may be a spot void of vital cover. Next you always want to have many different spots mapped out to give you more options once the ice season hits. There are many factors that will affect your success on the ice. For example after a long period of snow covered ice the vegetation begins to die, which in turn causes the fish to find other areas. Other areas to focus on are rock piles, submerged trees, points, rapid depth changes or any other areas that might provide cover for the smaller baitfish.

Another thing to keep in mind is pressure from other people. If the best looking spot on the lake is getting the most pressure it is most likely not going to produce as many fish as some other decent spots that are not getting the heavy pressure. One thing I've noticed from years of ice fishing is many people don't do their homework and have a tendency to copy off of others when the fishing is slow. What I mean by this is that many people who are unfamiliar with the body of water or ice fishing in general have a tendency to start drilling where there are old holes or sign that others have been fishing in that location. Which isn't the worst of ideas if they are very limited on time, however if this is your favorite spot or a highly pressured spot you will be very thankful you have many others mapped out in advance.

lake map


Another piece of advice is don't rely on others for your fishing success, what I'm pointing out is something I've noticed on bodies of water that host tournaments. Some of the more seasoned fisher people have experienced their gem of a spot they'd been trying to keep a secret all season is flooded with people the day of a tournament. So in preparation of this they have gone out in advance and drilled mock hot spots, which were just a group of holes in the ice made to look like someone was on a pile of fish. (Pretty clever), unless one of those spots happens to be your gem. What I'm getting at is if you do find a great spot that is producing fish and you plan on fishing it during a tournament keep the pressure down, don't drill up the area, rather keep it to one or none and try your best to save it for the time you need it to produce for you and your odds of "being in the money" at the end of the tournament will increase greatly.


ice pic

Once you've done your scouting and have gotten a good idea of the best potential spots to hit during the ice season, the next thing you want to do is get your equipment ready.

A few steps to take is change out the old line on your ice reels, check over your equipment to make sure nothing has been damaged while getting shuffled around in the garage all summer, change batteries in your electronics, sharpen hooks, get rid of rusty hooks, and make sure you have both of your favorite gloves as it is almost inevitable you will only have one the morning you head out on the water!

Here is an article that lists many good items to have in your ice fishing sled as you head out onto the ice.http://blogs.basspro.com/blog/bass-pro-shops-council-bluffs-ia/great-ice-fishing-gear.


Preparing Your Home For Disaster

Disaster can happen to you, not just to people you don't know in some far away town. It can come in many shapes and forms. Tornadoes, flooding, hurricanes, all carry potentially life-threatening circumstances, and in some cases, help may not come for days or even weeks. To best protect yourself and your loved ones, it would be wise to be prepared for the worst in any situation.

The first step is to know your area and be knowledgeable about what kind of disasters are most likely to happen. Is your area prone to hurricanes? Tornadoes? Is your home in a low-lying area where flooding is possible? Each circumstance carries its own unique set of challenges, and knowing what is likely will help you to prepare for the specific dangers of each event.

However, we humans have needs that must be met in any circumstance, and these needs are threatened by any disaster. Here are some suggestions to ensure you and your family's basic needs in a home survival situation, all of which can be found at your Bass Pro Shops Camping Department.

Drinkable water is probably our most urgent need. Our bodies need it to maintain an incredible array of functions, and without it we will expire within 3 to 5 days in the most ideal of conditions. In many disaster situations, infrastructure that brings clean running water to our homes may be damaged. It is always a good idea to have a stock of emergency bottled water in your home. However, considering water is so important, it is important to have alternative means of acquiring potable water. While boiling water will kill most bacteria and pathogens, a small, easy-to-use water filtration system such as the Sawyer Squeeze Filter will allow you to filter particles like dirt, protozoa, and bacteria from water using a hollow-fiber membrane system. Using such a system, you can drink directly from this source or fill containers for storage, and most Sawyer products are guaranteed to be effective in filtering up to 1,000,000 gallons of water.

Secondly, we must have food. While it is possible to survive a relatively long time without food, hunger will leave you weak and unable to deal with the many other challenges that may befall you in a disaster situation. Having a stock of non-perishable foods in your home is a good idea at any time, and freeze dried foods such as those by Mountain House or Backpacker's Pantry are an ideal option for emergency preparedness as well as camping. These products are very diverse, lightweight, easy to prepare meals that provide the comfort and morale boost of a hot, tasty meal. While canned foods may keep for a couple years, these foods can keep your emergency pantry stocked for 7 to 25 years!

In addition, we need shelter. We must keep warm, dry, and safe from the elements. An emergency tent may be a good thing to keep in the event that your home is damaged. But equally important may be an emergency bivouac sack, such as the Sol Emergency Bivvy, a compact, lightweight, weatherproof shelter that reflects 90% of body heat to keep you warm and dry in extreme conditions. These could also be used to make a tent in a pinch and, because of their bright orange color, could be used to signal for help in conditions where you may otherwise be difficult to spot.

Lastly, you will likely need fire. For warmth, to cook food or boil water, to see in the dark, or even to signal others, fire serves a great many purposes. It is important to keep waterproof tinder, such as UST's Wetfire Tinder or Coghlan's Fire Sticks and a means to start the fire, such as waterproof matches or a fire starting tool such as a Blastmatch.

There are many other things that could prove essential in surviving a disaster situation. A versatile first aid kit, a lantern, cookware, any item or any bit of knowledge may improve your chances in a survival situation. Bass Pro Shops carries a variety of survival manuals that go into much more detail specific to a wide variety of situations. Knowledge and organization may save your life in a situation such as this. Make a list, know what you have, where it is, and how to use it. Keep learning and keep preparing. Hope for the best, plan for the worst.





Makin' Jerky

The technique of drying meats, fruits and vegetables is one of humans oldest way to preserve food. Drying meat doesn't just protect against decay and insects but is also lightweight and has a long "shelf life" making it aLEM™ Backwoods® Jerky Seasonings Variety Pack                                                                         perfect for on the go and transport. Being a dense form, it also provides a concentrated source of nutrients.

Ways to prepare the meat: One of the most simplistic methods is to slice muscle meat into strips. These strips can be dry mix cured or in a liquid marinade.  For instance This variety cure and seasoning pack by LEM is just $11.99 and has 4 packets containing enough to do 5 lbs of meat a piece. You can also use this on ground meats before dispensing through a jerky gun Jerky Gun®                                                                                                                  $29.99.

Other spices and cures are available such as Hi Mountain® Jerky Seasoning Variety Pack                                                                                   Hi-Mountain brand variety pack. For only $10.99 you get 5 flavors with enough material of each to make 4 lbs of meat a piece. The LEM backwoods and Hi-Mountain seasonings also come in single packs once you find your favorite flavor.

You can dry the meat product using a dehydrator RedHead® Six Tray Food Dehydrator                                                                                           Redhead 6-tray for $69.99 is a great choice for a person who may just want to make smaller batches. But for someone who who would like to make large batches Redhead makes a larger commercial size stainless steel 10 tray unit RedHead® Stainless Steel 10-Tray Food Dehydrator                                                                            for $299.99. Besides meat you can also dry fruits and vegetables by simply adding clean a screen $12.99 just cut to size and these screens keep your food from sticking to the actual racks.

Another method is in your oven by using the oven rack and pan by LEM $17.99 or just the rack  for $9.99.

Jerky Rack and Pan                                                                                                              Preheat oven to 165 degrees F. Any less could cause the meat to spoil and would not kill the bacteria. The process will take about 1-3 hours depending on the cuts of meat. Let it bake for about an hour and a half, then check every 30 minutes until you achieve the consistency you wish.
You can also use your smoker, which is a wonderful method because you can also add a touch or smoke to the jerky. Just use similar to the oven and don't add water to your water pan, though instinct tells you to when using a smoker. After all it's purpose is to pull the moisture from the meat, not add moisture.
All the tools you would need to make jerky is all available in the camping department at Bass Pro Shops or online at http://basspro.com also see Choosing the Right Dehydrator or Outdoor Cooking Primer - Making Your Own Jerky  for more options.



Fall Catfishing Rigs & Baits

     As Fall time comes around the waters cool and the bite picks back up after the heat of summer.  With summer being one of the most common and often times most effective time to catch lots of catfish.  But the fall is also an amazing time to go fishing for these freshwater giants.  It can also be a opportune time to catch a personal record cat.  With winter getting closer and closer everyday, the water temps are starting to drop.  Catfish like most other fish often gorge themselves right before the freeze of winter.  

     The catfish itself is a very warm watered fish.  Usually preferring water with the temperatures in the range of 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit.  They are a opportunistic omnivores - feeding on all kinds of baits, and a wide variety of animal and plant materials.  Often times you will find them on or next to the bottom of the lake.  They are predominately a bottom dwelling fish, but they will still feed and take baits near the surface.  They have numerous taste buds all over their body, the most being on the whiskers of the catfish.  Its almost like a giant tongue swimming through the water, that is why we often try to get the smelly stuff to fish with.  Often times the more it smells the better it works. 

    We offer a wide variety of different dip baits here at our store. The dip bait hooks themselves have a treble hook and a rubber plastic on it that hold the dip and its smell while its in the water, and it gives the fish something to put into its mouth and eat.  Dip baits work great, they almost work like a chum bait drawing the catfish into you.  Working more effectively in ponds or lakes.    Another easy yet very effective way to catch catfish is to use shrimp. They are similar in smell to crawdads as they are both crustaceans. The Shrimp will hold on the hook well and they do a good job at holding smells and scents that i can spray on, anywhere from garlic or a blood spray or dip.  Probably the best all around hook to be using on a cat fishing rig would be the circle hook, which is a hook that when is pulled on works its way into the corner of the fishes mouth and insures the same strong hook set every time. Its a strong hook that sets its self by the fisherman just reeling the line and keeping tight pressure on the fish.  NOT a quick jerk like most other common J-Hook type hooks.  The circle hooks come in a variety of sizes and make sure the ones you have for cat fishing, have the bait keepers on the shank of the circle hook.  Having them will help out a-lot for keeping the bait on the hook at all times.  No matter if you are in a boat or on the shore cat fishing a simple slip rig is probably the most effective way to catch them.  It allows the catfish not to feel any pressure on the line and give him any reason to drop the bait. The slip rigs looks like this.  I often find myself using this rig near 70% of the time when i catfish.  It works very well with the circle hooks.  You can find all the weights and terminal tackle on our Basspro website.  The different things that you will need will be leader line, swivels, glass bead(to protect your knots from your weight), and of course hooks you don't have to only use circle hooks on these rigs they would work great with the standard J-Hook. 

       When it comes to the right gear, as in the rod and reel. Personally i prefer to use a bait-caster reel it is must easier to cast those larger weights with some precision.  One of the best ones on the market are going to be the Abu-Garcia Ambassadeur C4,  then pair with a medium heavy to heavy action rod.  You want something that is going to be a bit longer, to help you out in handling and directing those bigger fish and help you get farther casts.  If you are not looking to spend that much money on a quality  fishing reel,  We always have our different combos that are specially designed for cat fishing, which would work well and get the job done.  You can look at a few of the ones that we carry a very popular one would our Bill Dance line of combos.  They have larger reels and rods to handle bigger line and ultimately bigger fish. Lastly would be the line, most popular would be the braided line you can get 80lb braid that had the same thickness as 20lb mono.  So you can get a line that is 4 times as strong and a fourth the thickness than a similar mono line.  Braid works great for your mainline.  The line Is amazingly strong and is almost impossible to break. The best leader material to use would 100% fluorocarbon line, for the fact it has great abrasion resistance.  Often times you will find yourself fishing around rocks, trees, brush you name it.  It can all rub and wear down mono and braided lines to the point were they get weak and break.  There is more information on different types of fishing lines and there properties on this link right here Choosing the Right Fishing Line.