New Sights, Smelts, and Experiences

Isn’t food just that?  A common experience, time shared with others, a memory that is tied forever to that food and the events and people which surrounded it?  All things social and familiar involve food (don’t they?)…on some level of course!  Dishes reappearing each year at the holiday’s or for the big game, making their way onto our plates during specific seasons and celebrations, and impressing on our memories the good times we had with those who helped prepare and/or share (…or maybe even catch!) said food…

A chocolate chip cookie (or even the warming aroma of it) can transport one immediately back to Grandma’s kitchen; the sight of a perfectly char grilled steak carrying your thoughts to a night grilling-out with friends in the back yard under a summer night sky; and maybe you’ll be stirred by something in…the plateful of hand-breaded deep fried smelt on your plate at Islamorada Fish Company!  Perhaps if you (or someone you know) were around for the days of “Smelting” on the great Lake Michigan, then it will prompt memories of those times or those people…

A short walk up and over the Dunes (albeit carrying such cargo that it didn’t exactly feel short), bonfires and groups of people lining the shore as far as you could see, “tall” tales amongst the fishermen abound, kids digging and playing in the sand knowing that a beach trip at night is something really special, a chill in the air laced with excitement for the fun to come.  Nets and lanterns, blankets and coolers, buckets and waders (first test of the year to be sure they aren’t leaking!)…and maybe a freshwater feast if the wind was right and your timing was too!

New experiences that we have with food can evoke great memories that we associate with them, and we can’t wait to hear your stories!  If it’s been some time since you had a smelt dinner, if there are good times to look back on and reminiscing to be done…come out and spend some time with us at Islamorada Fish Company inside your Portage Bass Pro Shops.


Got Smelt?  Yes, actually we do.


Spring Hike

Winter’s finally over and spring has sprung, but with it comes the rain. That won’t stop us. In fact it’s a bonus. This means the waterfalls should be putting on quite a show. We love the outdoors. So we fill our packs and head on out to Starved Rock State Park in Illinois.

For our trip the water was flowing in great abundance, but so was the mud. I highly recommend a spare change of clothes and shoes for the return trip home.  For any hike, wearing the right clothes is important. For the rain I recommend The North Face Resolve Jacket. This jacket is waterproof and breathable. It will keep you dry while allowing moisture to escape. The North Face® Resolve Jacket for Men | Bass Pro Shops

Ottawa Canyon is quite a hike, almost 8 miles round trip from the visitor’s center, so the breath-ability of this jacket will help keep you comfortable and dry. The trail from the visitor center to Ottawa falls follows the River and has side trails to see some of the other falls and canyons.  There are park benches occasionally throughout the trail for a muddles place to sit to rest and have a quick snack.  Personally I could have lived without the surprise mud spa, but other than that it was a great day to hike. Even in the rain.



Inflatable PFDs: Maintaining the Device that Can Save Your Life

First, have you read the instructions?   Your inflatable life jacket contains information on how to wear, operate and look after your device.  Familiarizing yourself with theses instructions is very important.

How do you look after your lifejacket?


Check Zippers, buckles, waist belts and all fastening devices for:

  • excessive wear
  • cracking
  •  fraying
  • anything that might indicate that there was possible strength loss

Also Check:

  • that the bobbin or cartridge has been screwed in securely
  • the jacket hasn’t already been activated
  • there is no damage or rust on the cylinder

Cleaning and Storage

If your lifejacket is equipped with automatic inflation, remove the cartridge before washing to avoid accidental inflation.

Rinse – if it has been exposed to salt water rinse thoroughly in fresh water after every use.

Wash – Hand wash with warm soapy water to clean the outer shell.  You can use the same detergents you use in your laundry to help clean greasy or stubborn stains.

Dry – always hang your jacket and allow to completely air dry.  Store only after it has dried thoroughly.

What if your jacket has been deployed?

If your jacket has been deployed, you will need to replace the gas cylinder.  You should always have additional cartridges available in case you need to replace before the end of your outing.  It is recommended that you have your jacket serviced after it is deployed. Most manufacturers have a list of authorized service agents on their websites.  It is recommended that bobbins or cartridges be replaced in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations.


Your inflatable life jacket is a life saving device.  Care for it as though one day your life might depend on it.


Hoosier Spring Turkey Hunting

Turkey hunting is a pleasurable sport enjoyed by Hoosiers for more than three decades. To hunt wild turkey, a valid turkey hunting license and a valid game bird habitat stamp privilege are required.

Those that have a lifetime comprehensive hunting, lifetime comprehensive hunting and fishing, or resident youth hunt/trap license can hunt turkey and do not need to purchase the game bird habitat stamp because it is included with those license types.

A separate turkey hunting license is required when hunting during each turkey hunting season — one for the spring season and one for the fall season.

Game bird habitat stamp privileges are good for both spring and fall seasons in the same calendar year.

Turkeys can be hunted only with:

  • A 10-, 12-, 16- or 20-gauge shotgun loaded with pellets of size No. 4, 5, 6, 7 or 7½.
  • A muzzleloading shotgun not smaller than 20-gauge and not larger than 10-gauge, loaded with pellets of size No. 4, 5, 6, 7 or 7½. Combination loads using shot sizes other than these are illegal.
  • Bow and arrow
  • A crossbow

Wild turkeys may be hunted only one-half hour before sunrise to sunset. All Fish and Wildlife Areas, Mississinewa and Salamonie lakes have spring season hunting hours one-half hour before sunrise until noon for properties on CDT and until 1 p.m. for properties on EDT. Call the property for additional information.

The spring season is April 23 through May 11, 2014. The bag limit is one bearded or male turkey for the spring season. Spring turkey hunting is allowed statewide.

Indiana has never had a fatal turkey hunting accident. However, a few Hoosier turkey hunters are injured in shooting accidents every year.

Surprisingly, national studies show that most turkey season shooting incidents on persons involve experienced hunters who accidentally fire on their own hunting partners. The studies also show most turkey hunting shooting accidents occur on private land.

Having said that, here are a few things that you can do to improve your safety this Spring while you hunt…

  • Select a calling position where you can see for at least 50 yards in all directions and where you are protected from the backside.
  • Whistle or shout to alert approaching hunters of your position. Never wave or stand up.
  • Never sneak in on a turkey or use a gobbler call near other hunters. Never crowd another hunter working a bird.
  • Never shoot at sound or movement.
  • Use a flashlight when walking in the dark.
  • Be aware of turkey "fever" and its prevention. Disregard peer pressure to bag a bird.
  • Be extremely careful using turkey decoys.
  • Do not wear red, white, or blue outer wear or exposed inner clothing.
  • Make sure your head net doesn't obscure your vision.
  • Don't assume you are the only hunter in the area. Be certain of a companion's location.
  • Know and identify your target and what is beyond.
  • Discuss safety techniques with companions.
  • Never assume that other hunters are responsible.
  • Always keep your gun pointed in a safe direction.
  • Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
  • Always keep your gun unloaded until ready to use.
  • Never use alcohol or drugs before or while hunting.
  • Respect property rights and secure permission before hunting.
  • Hunters should unload their guns when crossing fences, climbing into stands, jumping ditches or traversing steep ravines.

With all of this information you should be able to have a great turkey hunting season.


Mummy Bags vs. Rectangular

Choosing the right sleeping bag is crucially important, it can make or break your whole camping trip.  If you choose a bag that’s not warm enough or too confining, the result will be a restless night because of cold temperatures and lack of space.  Besides temperature rating misjudgments and size issues, more major concerns that are often overlooked are the weight of your bag as well as amount of space it occupies when rolled up. It may just so happen you may be camping with an unnecessarily heavy bag that takes up much space.  To ensure you pick the right bag for you it is important to know a few differences between the two major types of sleeping bags, mummy and rectangular.



Mummy bags are typically used in very cold temperatures. They are form fitting to eliminate the amount of air around the body, so less heat has to be generated to maintain a constant temperature.  This type of bag also has a type of “hood” around the top to ensure maximum heat retention since the majority of body heat is lost through the head.  Mummy bags are light weight and compact, this makes them ideal for backpacking.  The compression bags that typically accompany mummy bags are great space savers.  In comparison with rectangular bags, lower degree mummy bags are noticeably lighter, warmer, and more compact.  This may be a great benefit for lower degree bags, but rectangular bags used in warmer temperatures have a few advantages over mummy bags.



Rectangular bags are better suited for car or tent camping, not backpacking.  This type of bag is usually a little heavier and bulky but is better as far as comfort and room to move.  When size and pack ability is not an issue then this bag is most commonly the best choice.  Because this type of bag has much more room to move it can be a great benefit in warmer weather.  The airflow and openness of this bag allow for more circulation and reduce uncomfortable heat.  These bags by no means are strictly used for warmer temperatures even though they do much better in heat than mummy bags.  Lower degree rectangular bags can be extremely warm and allow for room for sleeping bag liners for added warmth which is a not an option with mummy bags.


All in all both rectangular bags and mummy bags have their pros and cons.  Hopefully this will help make the decision for the perfect sleeping bag a bit easier to make.  Whether camping or backpacking finding the right sleeping bag is extremely important to ensure your trip is a success.   Bass Pro Shops has a large variety of both types of bags.  Stop in and visit the camping department where friendly and knowledgeable associates will make sure you find the bag you need and will love.


Setting the Hook on Spring Lunkers

While the disappearance of the ice is celebratory, anglers are now met with the challenge of finding bass amongst barren lands. We can blame Old Man Winter for this. In a normal winter, temperatures rise and fall, thus, periodically the snow will melt exposing the ice. This is critical as the absence of snow allows sunlight penetration, which is essential to weed survival. However, from January through March snow only piled up as temperatures failed to get above freezing. As a result, scores of the best weed beds this spring are missing. Many of our lakes are desolate.  

As the weeds disappeared under the ice, the small bluegill, perch, and sunfish, which used these for protection, became exposed. Predators like bass and pike had a feeding bonanza. Because of this, bass fishing across Northern Indiana has been tough this spring, but simultaneously, the quality has been exceptional.

Take, for example, a tournament held on popular Lake Wawasee April 12. Out of 30 teams, only seven managed a five fish limit; just 57 total legal-sized bass were caught. Yet, the winning weight was an astounding 20.92 pounds! Furthermore, ten fish over four pounds also found their way to the scale.                    

The fishing has been tough because with the abundance of easy prey, the bass and can afford to be picky. This is also why they are large. Now more than normal, a natural presentation has become necessary. Few types of bait are more natural than a swim bait, and few are as realistic as the new Bass Pro Shops Speed Shad. Consider the forage on your favorite body of water: if bluegills are abundant, use the Bluegill Flash color scheme. If perch outnumber the bluegill, go with the Male Perch pattern. If you are not sure, Green Pumpkin works everywhere. Match it up with a ¼ ounce Bass Pro Shops Deadly 5 Shad Jig head around sparse vegetation. If you are lucky to locate thicker weeds, lighten up with a 1/8 ounce jig head.

Swim baits are simple to use. Cast it as far as possible and simply reel it in. Keep this in mind: the slower the better. Hold the rod at an 11 o’clock position and make sure a bow exists in your line between the rod tip and where the line enters the water. When a strike occurs, do not set the hook immediately; instead wait until you feel the weight of the fish, then hammer it home. When the fish makes the initial strike, it normally has just the tail in its mouth. Setting the hook too soon pulls it away from the fish.

Do not waste time getting frustrated chasing bass right. Instead, get real, slow down, and stand by for lunkers.


Stay Protected in the Sun

   Fishing, hiking, and swimming are some activities we do outside. Well, with summer just right around the corner everyone should be protected from the Sun's harmful rays. There are a couple ways to be outside and still protect your skin from the Sun. We all know sunblock lotion can stay on your skin temporarily but everyone hates that greasy feeling. Why don't we just toss that lotion aside and pull out a shirt with a built in sunblock protector? Bass Pro has such a variety of sunblock clothes for men and women. Pants, shirts and even hats!


Sun protective clothing is clothing specifically designed for sun protection and is produced from a fabric rated for its level of ultraviolet protection. A novel weave structure and denier (related to thread count per inch) may produce sun protective properties. In addition, some textiles and fabrics employed in the use of sun protective clothing may be pre-treated with UV inhibiting ingredients during manufacture to enhance their UV blocking capacity.

Not only limited to UV-inhibiting textile use, sun protective clothing may also adhere to specific design parameters – including styling appropriate to full coverage of the skin most susceptible to UV damage. Long sleeves, full collars, and full-length trousers and skirts are common styles for clothing as a sun protective measure for men and women!


A number of fabrics and textiles in common use today need no further UV-blocking enhancement based on their inherent fiber structure, density of weave, and dye components – especially darker colors and indigo dyes. Good examples of these fabrics contain full percentages or blends of heavy weight natural fibers like cotton, linen and hemp or light-weight synthetics such as polyester, nylon, spandex and polypropylene. Natural or synthetic indigo dyed denim, twill weaves and canvas are also good examples. However, a significant disadvantage is the heat retention caused by heavier weight and darker colored fabrics.

As sun protective clothing is usually meant to be worn during warm and humid temperatures, some UV-blocking textiles and clothing may be designed with ventilated weaves, moisture wicking and antibacterial properties to assist in cooling and breathability.

UV Skinz sun protective clothes are stylish and carry a UPF rating of 50+, which blocks out over 98% of the sun's harmful rays, protecting delicate skin from damaging sunburns. Sunscreen isn't always enough and is often not used correctly. Some folks have skin allergies or sensitivities to chemicals that sunscreens can contain. UV Skinz are sun shirts that are not made with any chemicals or lotions. The UV protection is in the tight weave of the fabric. Wearing UV protective clothing, such as our fun, cool UV Skinz sun protective swim shirts, is an important step in preventing sunburns, premature aging of the skin and skin cancer.

 So protect your skin from the harmful sun rays and check out our great deals on sunblock apparel at


Which PDF Should You Choose?

There are five categories of PFDs.  Here is an example of all five and the most practical uses for each type.  Hopefully this will help you identify which category is right for you.



Type I: Offshore Life Jackets.

These vests are geared for rough, open or remote waters where rescue may take a while. Though bulky, they have the most buoyancy, a bright color and can turn most unconscious people face up in the water.



Type II: Near-shore Vests.

Use in calm inland waters, where there is a likely chance of a fast rescue, is the intent of these PFDs. They will turn some unconscious wearers to the face-up position but not all of them. They are bulky, but less so than Type I.



Type III: Flotation Aids.

These are suitable for most paddlers where there is a chance for a quick rescue. They offer freedom of movement and the most comfort for continuous wear. Type IIIs are designed so wearers can put themselves in a face-up position, but they may have to tilt their head back to avoid being face down in water.





Type IV: Throwable Devices.

Cushions or ring buoys are designed to be thrown to someone in trouble and provide backup to a PFD. They are not for non-swimmers, rough waters or the unconscious. The USCG does not require these for canoes or kayaks but they are required for all other boats.




Type V: Special-use Devices.

These are specialized PFDs for specific activities. To be acceptable by the USCG, they must be used for the activity specified on the label. Varieties include kayaking, waterskiing, windsurfing, hybrid vests and deck suits.


Buoyancy is the force (in pounds) required to keep a person's head and chin afloat above water. Most adults need just an extra 7 to 12 pounds of buoyancy to stay afloat. Additionally, your weight, body fat, lung size, clothing and whether the water is rough or calm are all factors to staying on top of the water. In general, the more physically fit you are, the more lift you need.

To check buoyancy, tilt your head back and relax your body. Your chin should be above water and your breathing should be easy. If your mouth is not above the water, select a different PFD with more buoyancy. It should not ride up or go over your head. However, if your stomach is larger than your chest, ride-up may occur. Remember, it will be different bouncing around in swift water where currents may be jostling or pulling you down than it will be in calm waters.


Islamorada Fish Company


A true destination in dining awaits you and your guests at Islamorada Fish Company.  Located right inside your Portage Bass Pro Shops, it is the perfect place to bring friends, family, clients, employees or guests together for a one-of-a-kind event. 

Islamorada Fish Company offers private and open dining accommodations for your special events, business gatherings and meetings, birthday celebrations, rehearsal dinners, family or school reunions, holiday parties and more…


Together, we can create a menu that will capture your culinary adventures in Islamorada style.  Plated luncheons, family style, buffet service, or cocktail and appetizer hour…your event will be personalized to suit your needs.  Wow their taste buds with our Signature Alligator Appetizer, and then treat them with a variety of entrees from the comfort of Rotisserie chicken to the exotic flavors of the islands with our Portofino sauce.  Finish the meal right with our authentic Key Lime Pie or a decadent slice of Chocolate Cake!


Islamorada (pronounced eye-lah-mah-rah-dah), the very name conjures images of surf, sand and seafood! Named "purple isle" by early Spanish explorers, this legendary village of islands in the Florida Keys has drawn anglers from around the world intent on catching the trophy fish swimming its pristine waters.  The original Islamorada restaurant started as a marina snack bar in the late 1940s, capitalizing on the wide array of fresh seafood hauled in every day. Over the years, its reputation and its resources only served to increase its popularity among seafood lovers. Today, diners there watch the boats come into our docks, watch the fishermen unload their catches-and then feast upon the best in fresh fish, crabs and lobster that Florida has to offer.


We invite you to join us, and we trust that our decades of culinary expertise will create the kind of exquisite meal you'd travel to the Keys to eat. Escape to Islamorada, where an adventure in dining awaits.  Whether you’ll be hosting an event or meeting for as few as 10 or as many as 150 people, Islamorada is the perfect escape!    Visit to see our complete menu and reach out to the banquet coordinator.  Or stop in anytime for a meal and book your event or meeting with one of our managers.


The Under Armour Evo Shirt

It's spring break, and well it’s a rule, right? You have to take a vacation, or in our families case, a vacation day. I pack my Camelbak daypack full of lunches, drinks, first aid kit, and an assortment of we may need this items and we board the train to Chicago for the day. 3-adults, 2-children and 1- young teenager. Our goal, to see Sue at the Chicago fields museum along with mummies, giant bugs and an assortment of other fascinating findings.


For most of our group, this is a fun filled day with the sights and sounds of a bustling city. For our young teenager this was a day full of Challenges. Hailee, our teen, was diagnosed with Asperger’s and Sensory integration disorder at age 5. Simply speaking this means that her five senses, sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell are highly sensitive.


Hailee is an amazing person, who has found simple everyday ways to help her cope with her surroundings, her day, and yes, even a family trip to Chicago. Things like sunglasses and headphones help her with sight and sound while looking like a stereo-typical teen. An overnight rain left the day smelling like a beautiful spring day and as always we packed our own lunch, so taste was no issue. This only left touch, Hailee’s number one trigger. A certain fabric or an irritating tag in her clothes could quickly turn a good day bad. A person brushing up against her in line or someone randomly touching her shoulder could set off a meltdown of uncontrollable tears and shaking as if she were in terrible danger. As a parent the thought of this is almost painful. I would do anything to protect her from this. So that’s what we do. With Hailee’s help we find things that help while looking like the average teen.

Sometimes all you need to do is look at things from a different perspective. In this case using an item for a use other than what was originally intended. The Under Armour EVO Mock Compression shirt is intended for athletes. Under Armour® EVO ColdGear® Mock Tops for Ladies - Long Sleeve | Bass Pro Shops

 The compression design help draw moisture away from the body, keeping the athlete cooler and drier. It can also reduce muscle and body fatigue while preventing chafing. The EVO Mock keeps the body a little warmer than the atmosphere's temperature to prevent injury to the joints and muscles. With Flat lock stitching, Ultra-brushed interior, and a tag-less label there are no seems or tags to cause irritation. All of these features are excellent for athletes as well as people with Sensory issues. The Evo mock also provides a 26" body length covers you better and a grippy bottom hem that prevents your mock from riding up. Great for athletes on the move or in our case tall thin teenage girls.  The extra length in the torso and the arms provide protection against skin to skin contact, which Hailee often finds intolerable.

When this shirt was designed it was designed for the athlete. It’s seems unlikely that at any time in its design process someone thought that it would change a life. For Hailee this one shirt allows her to participate in a life that most of us take for granted.  The compression calms her and helps her face challenges that may otherwise be to much. The extra length of the shirt helps keep more of her skin covered and above all else. She looks like every other teenage girl in Chicago.

On this day we had a wonderful day. A live orchestra playing the Jurrasic Park theme song in front of Sue – the T-Rex, no meltdowns, and overall a great family day at the museum.



How To Catch Big Bass After Ice Out


largemouth bass

Andy Buss | Portage BPS Pro Staff


It is likely the two feet of ice is going to hang on well into April, but, believe it or not, the ice will melt. When it does, anglers better move fast. Being later in the spring than normal, the thaw will coincide with air temperatures higher than typical of first thaw. Combine this with longer days and anglers can conclude water temperatures will rise much faster in April than they do in late March when the ice normally melts.


After a normal winter, water temperatures will hover in the 30’s to mid 40’s for several weeks, but this period may last only a week in 2014. On small, dark lakes, it may only last a few days. During this brief time, bass will still be found around popular ice fishing holes and fooled on traditional blade baits such as an XPS Lazer Blade.  Keep colors simple: gold and silver work regardless of water color.


Once the water temperature reaches the upper 40’s or low 50’s, bass will become aggressive and roam the shallows in search of prey. In Northern Indiana, that means bluegill, so it is wise to mimic this prey. The main weapon of choice for many anglers, me included, is the ½ ounce lipless crankbait. I keep color choices simple. In stained water, crawdad colors work best. In clear water, chrome with a blue back is my first pick.


Bluegills come shallow to feed in the spring and the bass follow; thus many of the best areas on the lake are also shallow. If you see bluegill in an area, the bass are close. The north end of nearly every lake warms first, so this is typically an ideal area to begin searching. Once there, fish the shallow ends of flats and points; target channels, or other areas out in front of spawning grounds. A trough leading to a spawning area is a gold mine. Remember, bass spawn on hard surfaces such as gravel, rocks, wood, and lily pad roots. I spend over 95% of my time in four feet of water or less.


Anglers must remember that bait will not wait around to be eaten, so bass are often on the move. Thus, anglers must be on the move too: keep the trolling motor running! One spot may produce a bass, or many; regardless, they will not hold there for long. It is normally more productive to stay on the move and cover water rather than waiting for them to show up. In more ways than one, get ready to move.


smallmouth bass


Smallmouth love blade baits! These fish were caught from the St. Joe River in 41° water in early March. We went on to catch over 40 bass by working the blades around stumps in water 10-12 feet deep.



Tips For Boat Beginners!

Summer is not the same without spending time on the water fishing, waterskiing or just cruising. Learning to drive can be scary when you first learn. You’re excited to have the freedom to travel, but a little worried to take over the controls that you are unfamiliar with. Being apprehensive when you first start driving a boat is understandable. There are some tips you can follow to make boating a little easier and safer while you improve your new skills.


Learning from specialists at Bass Pro Shops or an experienced boater can help speed up the process. However, watching other boaters that have boats similar to yours and asking questions is another option. There are many state and national boating education programs offered as well.


Choosing an area with calm water and few boats will give beginners a chance to learn the feel of the boat without added pressure of handling choppy waves. If you choose to learn on Lake Michigan, choose a day with little wind so the water isn’t rough. If getting out of the marina or dock area leads you through rough water, just throttle slow until you find a cove or calm water to practice.


Be aware of the weather reports and watch for unexpected adverse weather that might pop up. Lake Michigan is known for fast weather changes. Being on the water during a rainstorm or heavy winds is dangerous, so don’t wait until the last minute to get off the water


Wear a life jacket, and make sure everyone on the boat does. Nine out of ten drowning happen when no life jacket is being worn.


Basic stuff to have on your boat: U.S. Coast Guard-approved, marine-type fire extinguisher, a visual distress signal if you are on coastal waters, a horn to make sound, a throwable PFD (life ring) first aid kit, back-up plugs, anchor & line and spare keys


Get your boat ready to put in the water by making sure you put the plug in the boat. Your boat should not be in the water without the plug in.

  1. Remove straps and tie-downs on trailers and engines.
  2. Load your gear into the boat while it’s out of the water. It’s easier and safer than lugging coolers, bags, etc. through water or bending down from a dock.
  3. Back your boat down the ramp to get your boat in the water so your engine is in the water and the boat is not floating off the trailer. Be sure everything is working properly before you release the boat from the trailer. Have someone assist you if you still need practice backing up.
  4. Run the blower to make sure there are no fuel vapors in the engine compartment.
  5. Set the kill switch to run.
  6. Start your boat with the drive mechanism in throttle so the propeller is not turning while you’re on the trailer.
  7. Unhook the boat and release the bow hooks that keep the boat on the trailer.
  8. Have the driver slowly pull away to separate the boat and trailer
  9. When pulling out of the dock, check for No Wake signs. When they are present slowly drive forward until you are out of this zone.

Have the right stuff on your boat, learn and observe safety rules and take the time to safely handle your boat.   Then you are ready to make the most of your Water adventure.


How to Choose the right Socks

When I was younger a sock was a sock, usually made of cotton. When we would play outside, and you got cold-you came in. In today’s world a sock is no longer just a “sock”! There are so many socks made of so many different materials. Now I truly believe a sock is a very important part of getting dressed in the morning. Depending on what you are doing that day here is some important information on what kind of sock you should be wearing!!


Athletic Socks:  Traditional white gym socks to technical socks intended for cross-training and running. Most provide some sole cushioning but have minimal bulk overall.

Casual Socks:   Distinguished by their casual styling (colors, stripes, etc.) these lightweight socks are usually made for fabrics such as merino wool.

Hiking Socks:   They wick away moisture and offer cushioning in the heel and ball of the foot.

Cold Weather Socks:  They are heavyweight socks that usually made out of wool, with extra bulk and padding to withstand cold conditions.

Your feet may be the hardest working part of your body. They bear the entire weight of your body for every minute you are standing, walking, running, jumping, etc. Bearing all this weight, maintaining balance and assisting in movement, this is why the construction of the sock is very important.



  •      Wool is an excellent natural fiber and is sometimes woven with nylon on the outside to make it wear longer. It is a great insulator and can absorb up to 30% of its own weight in water before it feels damp. It retains its insulating properties even when wet. It does not crush like cotton when wet but it does not wick moisture particularly well. However, knitting small loops on the inside of the sock improves ventilation, cushioning and moisture flow. It is a fabulous cold weather fabric because of its insulating properties but for most applications, we think it works best when combined with synthetics to better manage moisture. Higher end socks generally use Merino wool because it is one of the softest types of wool available, having fibers that are finer with smaller scales, which reduces or eliminates the “itchy” feel normally associated with wool. American Merino wool is a bit curlier than the “down-under” variety but, grade for grade, functions equally well. The packaging won’t tell you much about the grade of wool used in the sock. The longer stranded wool is more highly prized because the yarn then has fewer fiber joints that could fail. The finer stranded wool is more highly prized because it allows for a softer feel and denser, more durable knit.


  • Acrylic is a light-weight synthetic (man-made) fiber featuring softness and warmth as well as high durability and the ability to hold bright colors. It tends to dry quickly and can be used in wicking sections of socks. There are some blended, branded versions of acrylic that provide some very advanced features. We think acrylic’s resilience makes it great for cushioning the foot. Because it does not absorb water, it helps keep the feet dry and does not tend to create the odors associated with some synthetics.
  • Nylon is a very strong, versatile and hard wearing fiber that can be silky thin or bulky. It is often used with other fibers to provide added stretch or durability. Nylon is a component in almost all modern socks, whether as a coating on natural fabrics or as a strengthening or stretching material. When nylon fibers are crimped and heat set, they become elastic and can then be used to provide the stretch feature of socks.
  • Olefin/Polypropylene is an excellent water-repelling (hydrophobic) fiber. This property plus its serious strength and amazing light weight make it a good candidate to work with absorbent outer layer as a two-layer moisture management system in sock
  • Polypropylene/Olefin is a superior water repelling fiber (hydrophobic) that is used with absorbent outer layers to wick moisture away from the skin. It is one of the strongest and lightest of the synthetic fibers but is easily damaged by heat.
  • Polyester & stretch Polyester is hydrophobic fibers known for their durability and colorfastness. This material is usually bended with other fibers to maximize the functionality of the sock. It has been used to create many special purpose and branded fibers such as:
    > 4-channel polyester (think of it like little hollow tubes) is a high-performance synthetic designed to facilitate the movement of moisture and perspiration, termed “wicking,” and is fast drying.
    > Coolmax is branded 4-channel polyester that is superior for wicking and fast drying. For some people, it can make the feet feel a bit hot. We think it is best blended. Our experience is that when used alone, it can reflect heat toward the foot and can sometime generate unpleasant odors after wear.
    > Hollofil™ is very light-weight polyester made with a hollow core which provides warmth and loft and is usually blended with other fibers.
    > Dri-release ™ is a patented technology which layers a hydrophobic material next to the skin which then pushes moisture to an outside hydrophilic layer. It generally consists of a high percentage of polyester combined with a small amount of cotton or rayon to pull moisture away from the skin. Seems to work well and offers odor management as well.
    > Spandex ™ and the branded Lycra are elastic, synthetic fiber used in place of rubber in the arch and legs of socks to hold them in place and provide extra support.

Geocaching... It's not just a search, it's an adventure!

Get into the great outdoors and have an exciting time with the hobby of Geocaching!  Geocaching is a GPS based treasuring hunting activity that combines Global Positioning System technology, hiking, and searching in order to find hidden items.

The concept is simple:

  1. Go to to search for geocaches in your area.  Setup an account, it’s free!  Geocaching apps are also available for Apple and Android products!
  2. Using a GPS enabled device or handheld GPS unit, input or upload the coordinates given by the website.
  3. Now travel to the general area or just walk outside your door.  You will be surprised if you are new to the hobby.  Geocaches are everywhere!
  4. Using an app or GPS unit, select the geocache you want to search for.  This is different with each device; however, this normally falls under the “Go to” function.
  5. Now search and find the geocache!
  6. After you have found it, you can log your finds on or the app in your device.

How many can you find?

This activity is fun for the entire family and can add another element to your personal outdoor adventures.  Getting to the area is the easy part, finding the geocache can be challenging.  How quickly you will find a geocache is determined by your experience, the difficulty of the cache, and the device you are using.

So what kind of GPS unit should be used?  Are mobile phones or handheld GPS units better?

Both will work for the task, but a handheld unit will give you more accurate results and features that a mobile phone app will not.  This becomes more important when searching for caches in densely covered areas.  Handheld GPS units have higher sensitivity antennas able to pick up satellites in areas that mobile phones cannot.

Ask our associates in the Marine Department more about what GPS devices will satisfy your needs.


For more information about geocaching, please visit Geocaching 101.

Have fun! - Nathan


"Slough-Gills" plentiful at J.C. Murphy Lake

J.C. Murphy Lake, also known as Willow Slough, has always been one of the premier ice fishing hot spots in the region. Known for its massive redear sunfish and bluegills, dubbed “Slough-Gills,” the shallow reservoir is among the first to freeze in the area and attracts thousands of anglers each ice fishing season.

Try wax worms or colored spikes on a small #14 ice jig for bluegills. Tip ups can be set out with minnows for bass also. Anglers also catch the occasional catfish or northern pike through the ice as well. The lake has a channel that runs through it, with depths down to 6-8 ft deep. Both the channel and the cat tails are being fished with excellent results, but the entire lake boasts plentiful quality bluegills and is worth the trip. Take a few buddies with to compensate for the 25 fish limit on bluegills and sunfish.

Current ice for the week of Jan 20 is anywhere between 8”-12” thick.

For updated ice reports call The Willow Slough Fish & Wildlife Center at 219 285-2704. Stop by Bass Pro and see an associate to get set up for your next ice fishing trip. We’re still stocked up on ice jigs, combos, shelters, augers, and much more!

Good luck and tight lines!


The Backyard Bird Buffet

Birds live on a variety of plant life - berries, buds, fruits and seeds. The more variety provided, the greater number of species you will attract. Food should be available all year long.

With winter upon us, food becomes more difficult for our feathered friends to find.

Suet is a great food to offer birds in the winter when they need greater numbers of calories to maintain their body heat and energy levels. While there are many commercial suet blocks available, making your own bird suet is easy and affordable. Not to mention a fun activity for a family to do together.

Many different versions of making suet can be found online or you can try the on supplied here.
Suet is raw beef fat from around the kidneys and loins. Suet is one of the best foods to attract nuthatches, woodpeckers, wrens, titmice, creepers, kinglets, chickadees, thrashers, cardinals and even bluebirds. The fat is available in any meat department or butcher store. You can ask your butcher to package suet for your project. Or you can trim excess beef cuts and store in the freezer until enough fat is saved.

Grind the beef fat with a meat grinder or finely chop the fat. The, heat the fat over a low to medium flame until it’s liquefied. Strain by pouring melted suet through a fine cheesecloth. Let cool to harden. Repeat steps 2-3. If the fat is not rendered twice, the suet will not cake properly. Let cool to harden and store in a covered container in the freezer.
While a simple bird suet recipe is useful, adding different ingredients to the mixture before it cools can make it more attractive to birds. Popular ingredients to ad include:

Chopped, unsalted nuts, Dried fruit bits, birdseed and honey. These are the easiest items to add to simple suet to make it even more tempting for your birds. Be creative and experiment with adding other ingredients to discover what your birds find appealing. Soon you will have a great gathering at your Backyard Bird Buffet.

You can utilize household items to pour suet in:

  • When suet cools, roll in balls
  • Small bread loaf pans lined with plastic wrap or foil for easy removal.
  • Margarine containers Any size baking/pie pans (when suet cools, cut into squares)
  • Pine Cones

When you purchase a suet cake, reuse the container that it came in

Try this Suet recipe or create your own.
1 Pound Suet cut in small pieces
1 cup each of Yellow Cornmeal, Rolled Oats, Chunky Peanut Butter and Mixed Wild Bird Seed.
Melt suet over low flame. Stir in all ingredients. Be careful, suet will be hot. Pour into molds and refrigerate or freeze.

Side Note:
Visit the Portage Bass Pro Shops Gift Department for a plethora of Birdhouses, Bird Feeders, Suet Cakes, Wild Bird Seed, Books and Many Unique Products for your Backyard Buddies or visit our website at


How to make a Winter Survial Kit for your Car



Well, it’s finally here folks; blizzards, black ice, and below zero temperatures. That’s right, it’s winter.  When it comes to driving in these conditions you can never be too prepared and that’s why I wanted to go over a few things you should always keep in your car in case of an emergency while driving in the winter.  All of the items below can be stored in a backpack or in a small tote. Make sure to keep these necessities in the backseat of your car (not the trunk) so they are easily accessible.

-Windshield Scraper/Brush

-Headlamp (make sure to keep charged or extra batteries with this)

-Wind-up Flashlight

-Glow Sticks


-Hand Warmers

-Foldable Shovel w/Saw

-Emergency Candle (empty soup can to put candle in)

-Waterproof Matches

-First Aid Kit (make sure it contains tape, gauze and medications)

-Fleece Blanket or Sleeping Bag

-Gloves, Wools Socks, and a hat

-Extra Jacket or Warm Clothes

-Bottled Water

-Beef Jerky or Energy Bars

-Phone Charger 

-Florescent Trail Marking Ribbon (or something bright to tie to your antenna)

Before you venture out into extreme weather conditions...


  1. Always remember to dress accordingly.  If you know it’s going to be 10 Degrees, then wear your coat and boots and layer up!

  1. Always travel with a full tank of gas.

  1. Make sure your cell phone has a full battery.

However, even the most prepared person still winds up in a predicament every now and then. So the next time you find yourself trapped inside a giant snowball, remember these strategies…


            -Call for help, remain calm and do not leave your car.


                -Try to tie the florescent marking tape on your antenna to make it easier for rescuers to see you.


- Run your car for about 10 minutes at a time with the heat, headlights and dome light on. Beware of carbon monoxide poisoning and leave the window vented a little.


-Put on extra clothing such as gloves, a hat, socks, boots or anything else you have available in your car. You can also use the candle in the empty soup can for extra heat.


You now have the proper knowledge to prepare yourself for Mother Nature’s wrath in the winter. Stop in to your local Bass Pro Shop, head up to the camping department and let one of our friendly staff members get you set up with everything you need for your emergency winter car kit.

Safe travels and good luck out there!

Holly, Camping Lead



Tritoon vs. Pontoon - Which One is Right for You?

Are you considering whether to buy a tri-toon or a pontoon?  In order to decide which one is right for you here are some things you need to consider.  A buyer needs to know the difference in price, performance, comfort, resell value and what kind of water conditions they will encounter when boating. These boats are designed for two different types of people.


Folks who like to just cruise slower speeds around a calm lake with their friends and family may be completely satisfied with a pontoon. But if you would also like to use your boat for some faster water recreation a tri-toon might be a better fit for you. With a Tri-toon, like the Party Barge 254 XP3, you can ski, tube and wake board.  A Tri-toon will also allow you to cruise over rough water with ease. A pontoon will not handle the rough water like a tri-toon can.  It is amazing!


The ride on a tri-toon is unbelievably smooth across rough water.  The boat gets a lot of lift from the center toon creating a feeling that you are just skimming across the water.  A pontoon can become a very bouncy ride on choppy waters.   A tri-toon in the same conditions cuts across the water like it has shock absorbers.  The  Sun Tracker Party Barge 24 XP3, like all Sun Tracker Tri-toons, has “lifting” strakes welded onto the outside of the toons to minimize the “wetness” of going so fast and helping get the boat up on top of the water and going faster sooner!!


The tri-toons resell value is off the charts. Just try and find a used one for sale. There are not many of them out there.  It seems that tri-toon owners do not what to part with them.  So, weigh your options.  For some a traditional Pontoon boat will meet their boating needs.  Others should seriously consider a tri-toon for a much more versatile and comfortable boating experience!

Tritoon vs. Pontoon


Staying Warm throughout a Cold Game

                           GO BEARS!!!

I recently attended a Chicago Bears football game at Soldier Field with my dad. The weather outside was very cold and windy (10 degrees with 16mph winds). With the game being held in Chicago I made the decision to wear my Under Armour long sleeve compression mock underneath my clothes in Bears orange of course. I chose the Under Armour because of its light weight 4-way stretch fabric that lets you move while keeping you warm and dry. As you can see I was able to sport my Bears jersey without all the extra bulk and layers. This created extra comfort and warmth that lasted throughout the whole game.

Being that I planned on tailgating all day as well, I thought the use of Hot-Hands would be very helpful. I purchased the value pack of the hand warmers and feet warmers. I knew that if I was going to last the whole day in the Windy City I would have to keep both my hands and feet warm. The hand warmers were extremely pleasant to have in my gloves. I could not believe that my hands did not get cold once during the whole game. I was even more pleased with the fact that one pack actually lasted me the 8 hours of warmth it promised. The feet warmers were also a success! My toes stayed warm the whole time. Watching the game in warmth and comfort made the experience a lot better, even if they did lose! GREENBAY PACKERS ugh!

I was able to find these items and much more online at and also at our very own local Bass Pro Shops.


Late Muzzle Loader Season

Both muzzle loader and late archery seasons start December 7th. Muzzle loader season runs through to December 22 and late archery season ends on January 2. “These seasons are a great way to extend your deer hunting season and are crucial in managing the state’s deer population,” said Chad Stewart, deer management biologist. In 2009, muzzle loader hunters took 18,553 deer, 80 percent of which were antler-less deer. This accounted for 14 percent of the total deer harvest. Last year, late archery season accounted for 1,598 deer, 1 percent of the total harvest. Eighty-one percent of the late archery season harvest was antler-less deer. Crossbows are legal during late archery season without the use of a disabled permit. Crossbow hunters took 182 deer statewide during last year’s late archery season. A muzzle loader and late archery license allows you to harvest one deer of either sex. If you have already taken an antlered deer, you can only take an antler-less deer. If you purchased a bonus antler-less license during firearms or early archery season and didn’t use it, then you are able to use that license during muzzle loader and late archery season.

To find out more information visit today!