It’s no secret that those who write about the outdoors sometimes get a no-cost opportunity to try out neat stuff.

It was most dramatic way back when I wrote new-product stories for a magazine serving fishing tackle retailers. Manufacturers felt strongly that the best descriptions would come from in-hand experience. OK, then, says I. …

So, my daughter was maybe six years old when she ran, excited, into my office one day. “The UPS truck is here,” she exclaimed, “and it’s backing in,” the delivery being too large for trotting to the door from the curb.

Playing with no-cost stuff is fun, even though I don’t often write about equipment sent to me, never praise something I don’t truly like, and almost never pan something I dislike. I’m barely a reviewer, and not much of a critic.

Still, from time to time, somebody rightly claims to have something worth touting.

Rapala knows more about “hard” baits than just about anyone, including the two attributes of a great bait: its appeal to the fish, and its appeal to the angler.

Rapala’s new RipStop series has both, with a shimmering shimmy three or four feet below the water’s surface, a hard tail that instantly halts the forward motion of this “rip” bait, and a slight, seductive head nod after stopping.

“Cast & wind, wind & stop, twitch, snap, rip and suspend, fish it your favorite way for all species of gamefish,” the company encourages.

You feel like a puppet-master, maybe even a dog trainer, as the lure does your bidding. You won’t be surprised when a pike, bass or other gamefish slams the lure. You may well be surprised how long you keep trying even if it doesn’t. It’s just fun to fish.

The RipStop, 31/2 inches long, is armed with a pair of VMC black nickel fine-wire treble hooks, sizes 6 and 7. It retails at $9.99.

Last winter, walking my new puppy twice a day, often on longish dog-park visits, I wore a pair of Walls 833 Original Outdoor Work Pants which the company sent me. The wind-sped cold never made it through the 11-ounce duck fabric.

Comfortable from the get-go, the fabric gets softer and softer. I like the elastic waistband, gusseted crotch and relaxed cut.

Come hunting time, doubled-fabric knees are sure to turn back most brush and briars, like traditional bird-hunting pants but far more comfortable. I’ll plunk down the $44.99 retail when — read “if” — these ever wear out.

I’ve grown to love center-pin fishing for steelhead, but C-P gear is pricy. The G. Loomis rod which I consider my main stick cost more than the first couple of used cars I bought in the 1970s.

Imagine my surprise when I tested a 11-foot, 3-inch, four-piece Clarus center-pin rod from G. Loomis’s sister company, Shimano, and found it nearly as good as its sibling — despite its far-lower $99.99 retail price.

Where I most often fish C-P gear, Tippy Dam on the Manistee River, anglers often bring two rods down to the water, one a back-up in case of disaster.

The Clarus is an economical second-stringer — but don’t be surprised if you grab it first. If you’re just getting into center-pin fishing, or just busting out of the beginner ranks, it’s a great choice.

The new-edition Clarus is made of IM8 graphite for lightness and sensitivity, and has Fuji guides. It comes in 11-foot, 3-inch and 13-foot models; the latter’s a better bet for most Michigan fishing, while I like the shorter rod for smaller water.

Email freelance outdoors writer Steve Griffin at



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