All posts by Mike Coker

Publisher of Tactical Gun Review and Texas Outdoors Network. Mike wisely spent his youth hunting and fishing in South Texas.

Trinity Oaks StarKids Saltwater Extravaganza

Trinity Oaks is a charitable organization dedicated to providing hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation activities to those in need or at risk. They offer up to 100 events per year to veterans, families with special needs, and underprivileged youth.

One such event is the StarKids 2020 fishing trip to Port O’Connor. Six children who have lost a military or law enforcement parent were invited to attend this incredible outdoor adventure.

Please consider supporting Trinity Oaks, a 501(c)3 non-profit.

Waterloo Salinity Rods

The Waterloo Salinity is my favorite rod for fishing the mid-coast for speckled trout and redfish. It is a great combination of reasonable price and outstanding performance. The Waterloo shop is conveniently located in Victoria and offers a wide selection of rods, reels, and accessories.

I currently run a Salinity 7’0″ spinning rod – Medium/Moderate – with a Shimano Stradic 3000. We primarily fish artificials although we might occasionally throw shrimp or croaker (although, I really hate messing around with bait!). The Salinity has the power and control to cast top-waters, spoons, and soft-plastics in all conditions. Walking a Spook Junior or bouncing a DSL, the Salinity gets the job done.

My 7’0″ Salinity casting rod is fitted with a Lews. This is my first Lews and I’m still getting used to it so a full report on this rod will have to wait. However, given the number of days I have fished the spinning version, I’m confident the casting Salinity will do just fine.

The cork split grip handle has become my favorite style. I have these split handles on a number of rods, including other makes.

In the picture below, we were wading the outside of Contee when I spotted a tailing red up in a grass pocket against the shore. Given the prevailing SE wind and distance to target, I had to put everything I had into the cast. The bone/silver Spook, Jr landed within a bucket of my aim, and, the red exploded on it! It wasn’t until later that night did I learn that my brother had captured the cast.

Waterloo Rods
Into the teeth of the wind! Waterloo doing work at Contee.

Waterloo Rods

Waterloo Salinity 7’0″ Medium/Moderate $169.

Sad Day: Evinrude is Gone

Full Disclosure: My family was an Evinrude dealer for years. Although my allegiance has switched to Yamaha, I had many great days on the water powered by Evinrude and hate to see this latest development. Evinrude experienced bankruptcy with OMC only to rise from the ashes. Hopefully, they will return.

Evinrude built the world’s first outboard motor.

VALCOURT, Quebec, May 27, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — BRP (TSX: DOO; NASDAQ: DOOO) announced today it has re-oriented its marine business by focusing on the growth of its boat brands with new technology and innovative marine products. We will discontinue production of Evinrude E-TEC and E-TEC G2 outboard engines. Our Sturtevant, WI, facility, will be repurposed for new projects to pursue our plan to provide consumers with an unparalleled experience on the water.

We remain committed to our Buy, Build, Transform Marine strategy which has been underway since 2018 with the acquisition of Alumacraft and Manitou boat companies in the U.S., followed by the acquisition of Australian boat manufacturer Telwater in 2019.

“Our outboard engines business has been greatly impacted by COVID-19, obliging us to discontinue production of our outboard motors immediately. This business segment had already been facing some challenges and the impact from the current context has forced our hand,” said José Boisjoli, President and CEO of BRP. “We will concentrate our efforts on new and innovative technologies and on the development of our boat companies, where we continue to see a lot of potential to transform the on-water experience for consumers,” he added.

Discontinuing outboard engine business and signing an agreement with Mercury Marine
Following our decision to discontinue E-TEC and E-TEC G2 outboard engines, we have signed an agreement with market leader Mercury Marine to support boat packages and continue to supply outboard engines to our boat brands.

We will continue to supply customers and our dealer network service parts and will honour our manufacturer limited warranties, plus offer select programs to manage inventory. These decisions will impact 650 employees globally.

Pursuing new opportunities within Build and Transform phases of strategy
With this announcement, BRP will be positioned to expand its presence in the pontoon and aluminum fishing markets through technologically advanced solutions. We will leverage our track record of ingenuity through our R&D resources to enhance the boating experience with unique new marine products, such as the next generation of engine technology with Project Ghost and the next generation of pontoons with Project M, code names for new products we expect to transform the industry.

Maximizing operational and functional efficiencies
Lastly, we will consolidate Alumacraft operations from two sites to one. All Alumacraft operations will be transferred to St Peter, MN and our site in Arkadelphia, AR will be permanently closed. In addition, we want to upgrade the boat production facilities to reorganize manufacturing sites and apply the modularity model used elsewhere. This move is designed to enhance productivity and efficiency and to allow us to respond with even more agility to demand.

History of Portland Marine

Portland Marine officially opened at the end of 1967 with a new building, which was quite an improvement over the rented three car garage which served as headquarters for the oilfield and charter boat service operated by Liz and Glen Coker for 11 years. The new 1200 sq. ft. building was split equally between showroom and shop and Portland Marine employed one full time and one part-time employee. The business was located at 500 Moore Avenue next door to the Portland Volunteer Fire Department.

Family legend has it that one day Glen came home and informed his wife, “Liz, I just signed with Chrysler, we are in the boat business!”

Glen Coker Portland Marine
Glen Coker Master Boat Mechanic

All was well until 1970 when Hurricane Celia destroyed all buildings and stock. While rebuilding, a 1400 sq. ft. shop was added and a storage lot purchased across the alley (next door to Royal Foodtown which was owned by Buddy Ganem).

Portland Marine
Original Portland Marine abandoned circa 2015 (after Richard Foley moved to new location)

In 1972 a new 5000 sq. ft. air conditioned showroom was purchased along with the city block it was situated on. The old quarters were converted into the South’s most modern shop including the first full-size drive-in test tank for testing motors under power. By the late ’70s, Portland Marine employed seven full-time and five part-time employees (including myself).

Portland Marine
Portland Marine showroom circa 1978

Along the way, Liz and Glen won many national sales contests. Their hard work resulted in Portland Marine being recognized as one of the premier dealerships in the country and they earned international reward trips to such exciting destinations as England, Ireland, Jamaica, and the Canary Islands.

Liz and Glen Coker
Liz and Glen Coker in Jamaica 1974

Portland Marine was one of the first Yamaha Outboard dealers in the USA. The Yamaha 200 was revolutionary and simply outclassed the domestic makes. At the time, Portland Marine had strong sales of both Chrysler and Evinrude. It soon became a fact that those boaters who could afford it always picked the Yamaha. It was superior in every way.

Throughout his life, Glen had a deep hatred for those black Mercury motors. He strongly believed that they were heavy, slow to spin up, overly complicated, and did not survive in the harsh salt water climate.

Portland Marine
Liz Coker in center. The Butt family (HEB) were customers of Portland Marine

Glen was President of the South Texas Boat Dealers Association. He fought to protect the interests of recreational fishermen – at times putting him at odds with his commercial fishermen customers – and made many trips to Austin to lobby against gill nets and trot lines.

Glen Coker fishing in Mexico
Glen (far right) fishing in Mexico

Our number one selling rig was a Robalo 21′ with a Yamaha 200 horsepower outboard. Boats have grown tremendously in size (and price) over the years but at the time this was considered an ideal boat to run down to Baffin Bay or to take 30 miles offshore. Outfitted with a T-Top, and sometimes a 20hp “kicker” for safety, it was an awesome boat to troll for kingfish in the open Gulf. From personal knowledge, it had the performance and quality construction to jump Gulf swells – clearing the prop always produced a distinctive scream combining excitement and terror. Glen ran full-throttle. In rough water he would shout, “Get her on top!” as he put the hammer down.

Ronnie Hubbell started working at Portland Marine part-time while in high school. Turns out that Ronnie is a master mechanic and quickly rose in rank to service manager. Ronnie eventually left Portland Marine to start his own dealership in Aransas Pass. Ronnie’s Marine grew into three locations – the original store in Aransas Pass, a second location in Corpus Christi, and a third dealership outside of San Antonio. Ronnie and Glen were two of a kind.

Ronnie Hubbell
Ronnie Hubbell

Thinking of Glen, Ronnie recently commented, “the most important thing I think I still remember day to day, was if you’re gonna do something, try like hell to do it right.”

Glen was always trying to bring value to his customers. He designed and constructed at least three different boats to offer performance at a lower price point than the name-brand boats. The Apollo was a 19′ center console that was an alternative to the much more expensive Robalo. The Salty was similar but featured a square bow. The Apollo and Salty were both manufactured in Florida. The Critter was a simple fishing boat designed by Glen and built by Johnny Majek (yes, that Majek).

Critter boat
Critter, designed by Glen Coker built by John Majek
Portland Marine
Portland Marine Boat Show Special

Sample pricing from 1977-1978:

  • Chrysler 30 hp outboard $695
  • 16′ Commerical Polarkraft $553
  • 18′ Richline aluminum boat, 30 hp Chrysler, and trailer $1495
  • Starcraft 15′ with 75 hp Chrysler $2795
  • Manatee 18′ bow rider with 130 hp Volvo I/O $5466
  • Salty 19′, 135 hp Chrysler, EZ Loader trailer, fully loaded $5995

Glen Coker and Portland Marine were actively involved in racing boats and sponsoring races down at Sunset Lake. With ace driver Ronnie Hubbell on the throttle they won numerous state and national races.

Glen Coker Portland Marine
Glen Coker and Mike Coker with Race Boat 1968
Ronnie Hubbell Portland Marine
Ronnie Hubbell accepting winning trophy as Glen proudly looks on

In 1978 the dealership was sold to Mr. Justice. Quite frankly, he drove the business into the ground.

Richard Foley soon stepped in and bought Portland Marine in 1980. Richard steadily restored Portland Marine to its position today as a top boat dealership in the Coastal Bend. Richard had been the service manager in the shop earlier and was the right man to carry on the tradition. The dealership was relocated into the old Jeff’s Auto Parts building on 7th Street. Sadly, Richard passed away in 2008. Today, Portland Marine is owned and operated by Carol Foley. Stop in, they will treat you right.

Although it has been 41 years since my family sold Portland Marine, the values I learned while working there still guide me to this day.

Portland Marine
Portland Marine
Portland Marine
Portland Marine

Glen Coker story on Tactical Gun Review

Tecovas Boot Review “The Earl”

As with any good Texan, I own and wear boots.  Through the years I have developed a fondness for Lucchese dress boots, Ariat work boots, and Wolverine hunting boots.  I was in the market for a new pair of brown ropers and started looking at the Lucchese boots and balked at the $400 – $600 price tag.  That is when Tecovas caught my attention.  Tecovas promises, “Handmade, high-quality boots that don’t break the bank.”

What is a roper?  A roper has a lower heel and, generally, a shorter shaft than the traditional cowboy boot.   They are often described as being a bit more comfortable to wear and look great with jeans.Tecovas The Earl

Browsing through the Tecovas website, I quickly landed on The Earl.  The Earl is a calfskin roper available in four colors – bourbon, chocolate, desert, and midnight.  I really liked the bourbon, a dark brown.  Price?  $225, roughly half the price of the Luccheses.  Sold!Tecovas The Earl

Tecovas operates on the direct to consumer model.  This means I would be buying the boots on faith, without trying them on first.  No fear, Tecovas offers an excellent refund or exchange program.  They even include a special card and return postage in the box.  My other boots are size 11 D, so that is what I ordered.

There was more good news.  Tecovas are based in Austin so I would be supporting a Texas company.   And they are made in Leon, Mexico.  Now for those not familiar with Leon, it is a city in the state of Guanajuato which is my favorite part of Mexico.  I have been to Leon several times and I know it has a strong reputation for manufacturing excellent leather goods.  These are skilled craftsmen with generations of tradition.

Tecovas The Earl

I anxiously awaited delivery.  When the shipment arrived, I was impressed with the attention to detail in all areas.  You can tell the company takes pride in their products.

Tecovas keeps the price at a reasonable price point through several good business decisions.  First is the direct-to-consumer model which is gaining popularity.  Internet shopping and fast home delivery make this possible.  Second, they have streamlined the product line.  You won’t find square-toe boots or a crazy variety of models.  They focus on making a straight-forward high-quality traditional cowboy boot.  A simpler model lineup results in lower production costs.

Tecovas The Earl

Everyone comments on how “soft” the Tecovas are.  And they are.  However, I also have boots that are not quite so “soft” and yet are very comfortable.  The fine leather surely makes a great first impression but how do they fit and wear?

Unfortunately, I do have a minor complaint about the Tecovas.  There is a bar (for lack of a better description) that runs across the front part of the heel.  This is noticeable to me and detracts from an otherwise comfortable cowboy boot.  You can see this in the photo below.  I did get used to it but I still notice it.  Not a deal killer by any means but if they could improve this I would give the Tecovas an A+ rating.  Tecovas The Earl

As I wore the boots around the house on carpet, it became apparent that they were too snug, or tight, for me.  I had ordered 11D because that is what I wear in Lucchese boots and Johnston & Murphy dress shoes.  However, that was not going to work.  This is where Tecovas customer service really shines.  The exchange process was super simple, fast, and free.  I returned the old pair, along with a card explaining the problem, and quickly received a replacement pair in 11.5 D.  The new pair fit perfectly!

Tecovas The Earl

I have worn The Earl for several months now in a variety of circumstances.  Around town, out on the ranch, and to the dance hall.  I very much like the Bourbon Calf color and overall high-quality appearance.  Great looking boot!

Tecovas The Earl.  $225.

Tecovas The Earl

Leica Geovid 10×42 HD-B 3000 Review

Leica has deservedly earned a reputation for superior optics. The new Leica Geovid 10×42 HD-B 3000 binoculars uphold that fine tradition. I have had the opportunity to carry these for twenty-plus days deer hunting in South Texas and have been impressed with their performance.

My experience was primarily glassing for deer out to 500 yards. In that capacity these are superb. Animals just seem to “pop” in all conditions. Color, contrast, and resolution are amazing. Most impressively, the depth of field blows away anything else I have used. When scanning a distant tree line, it is critical to “see” back into the woods as far as possible. Most binos require a constant “nudge-nudge-nudge” of the focus adjustment knob as you scan into the tree line. The new Geovid HD-B binos eliminate most of that annoying fine-tuning of the sight picture. Instead, when focused on the front tree-line your eyes just see into the woods without any adjustments of the knob. This eliminates some eye strain and allows easier one-hand operation.

Leica HD-B 3000 binoculars
Leica HD-B 3000 binoculars

I am not an optics engineer and not qualified to speak intelligently regarding roof prism versus Porro prism systems. The Leica HD-B 3000 utilizes a Perger-Porro prism. Porro prism is actually the older design with roof prism products becoming more popular in the 1960s. However, it is said that the Porro prism design is simpler, with better light efficiency and higher contrast.

The unit is remarkably compact considering it also contains a world-class laser rangefinder. Measurements are quick and the scan mode provides a continuous reading every 0.5 seconds on multiple targets. The HD-B 3000 will range from 10 to 3,000 yards. I was previously using a dedicated mid-price range finder that seemed to take forever to lock onto measurement. The Leica is way faster, almost instantaneous. It is quite impressive to see something way, way off in the distance and receive instant feedback. I was routinely locking in on deer or cattle at 1,000 plus yards. For fun, I picked out some objects way out there, and the Leica never failed to lock on. In complete fairness, I did not have a professional level control unit to verify the Leica readings on distant targets but I’m confident, given their expertise, it is within their published tolerances. Measurement can be displayed in yards or meters.

Leica HD-B 3000 binoculars
Leica HD-B 3000 binoculars

The Advanced Ballistics Compensation (ABC) system applies range measurement, inclinometer, atmospheric pressure, and temperature to twelve pre-set ballistic curves. Or you can truly customize ballistics by coding your own microSD card. Read more here.

Cons:

I do have two minor complaints about the HD-B. Neither of these are deal-breakers considering the overall high performance.

First, the LED display automatically adjusts to real-time light conditions. This usually works fine but there are times when I would like to manually brighten the display. This seems to occur during low-light conditions on a busy background. I sometimes have trouble reading the display and would like to simply turn up the intensity.

Second, the objective lens covers have fallen off several times. I wish they were more securely attached to the binocular body. I will figure out a solution to this as I don’t want to lose them in the woods.

Conclusion

Leica quality is not inexpensive. In the case of the HD-B 3000 you are receiving best-in-class binoculars with a built-in 3,000 yard range finder and a ballistic calculator. The open bridge design, rubber armor coating, forgiving eye-box, and easy two-button operation make it a pleasure to use for long hours in the field. This could be the best, and last, pair of binoculars you will ever need to purchase.

MSRP $2,999. Street Price here.

Leica HD-B 3000 binoculars
Leica HD-B 3000 binoculars

Weekend fishing POC and Seadrift

We checked in to the Reel Time Lodge in Seadrift mid-afternoon Friday prepared to chase redfish until dark.  We put the boat in the water and, nothing.  Motor would start up fine but not keep running. Perhaps we were ahead of ourselves and jinxed our luck by already planning to have Bubba’s cook our catch.   Well, crap.  Abort mission.  We ended up replacing the fuel line, primer bulb, and spark plugs.  Who hasn’t been there before?

Saturday morning we decided to put in at Charlie’s Bait Camp and fish the Dewberry / Shoalwater area.  A thunderstorm smashed us hard before we could even get underway so we waited it out for about thirty minutes.  Fair warning – the boat launch fee has gone up to $8 and that lady will collect.

Tide was high so we had no trouble making a hard left in the cut and heading up through the lagoon. Continue reading Weekend fishing POC and Seadrift

Snook in Seadrift!

Capt. Chris Martin, owner of Bay Flats Lodge, pulled me aside at breakfast and asked if I wanted to hook up on something special.  Yes, I do!  He then introduced me to Capt. Garrett Wygrys who explained that he had located a pod of Snook that had somehow found their way into the Seadrift area.  Snook?  You bet!

Texas snook
Capt. Garrett Wygrys with Snook

Snook are plentiful in Florida and can be found in the Lower Laguna Madre of Texas.  However, it is rare to catch snook in our middle Gulf Coast.  Capt. Garrett found these fish some months back and has been keeping tabs on them ever since.  They are growing about 1″ a month so they could be something truly special in another year if they stay local. Continue reading Snook in Seadrift!

Polaris Ranger SuperATV LED Light Bar

Installation of SuperATV 6″ LED Combination Spot / Flood Light Bar on 2017 Polaris Ranger XP 1000.

This project kicked off because I wanted to add a cargo bed light to my Polaris Ranger.  My initial thought was of a modest solution that would provide just enough light to see what I was doing at night.  I’m frequently out at night on the ranch.  As I started looking at possible solutions, it quickly became apparent that what I really wanted was not a minimal bed light but a robust work light that could illuminate a camp.

It didn’t take long to settle on the SuperATV 6″ LED light bar.

  • Combination Flood / Spot.
  • Kit comes complete with rocker switch and wiring harness.
  • 12 CREE LED bulbs.
  • 2880 Lumens.
  • IP67 Water resistant
  • MSRP $135.

    SuperATV 6" LED Light Bar
    SuperATV 6″ LED Light Bar

I could have pieced together even cheaper options but SuperATV has a great reputation in the UTV community.

As with many projects, this took me longer to complete than anticipated.  That is mostly because I am a “measure twice, cut once” kind of guy.  I also wanted a clean installation.  From beginning to end I spent about 2.5 hours on the job but it could easily be done in half that time (or less).  For instance, I had to get the volt meter and confirm the busbar operation.

My first step was to mount the light bar.  Easy enough.  The kit did not include locking washers so I added those.  I did not want anything above the roof line so I made sure to position it in a sleek profile.

SuperATV 6" LED Light Bar
SuperATV 6″ LED Light Bar

Next was to install the rocker switch.  I simply used a utility knife and gradually cut away the opening large enough for the rocker switch to snap into place.

SuperATV 6" LED Light Bar
SuperATV 6″ LED Light Bar

I then removed the bottom two screws from the center panel and pulled it down,  then out to get at the wiring.  I ran the wire through the firewall and made the connections.  Bolted it back up.

SuperATV 6" LED Light Bar
SuperATV 6″ LED Light Bar

SuperATV 6" LED Light Bar
SuperATV 6″ LED Light Bar

SuperATV 6" LED Light Bar
SuperATV 6″ LED Light Bar

My 2017 Polaris Ranger XP 1000 Hunter Edition comes with a factory installed winch.  The side benefit is that means the under hood busbar is already wired hot.  Using a volt meter, I determined that the posts were Hot – Ground – Switched Hot (left to right).  I mounted the relay to the frame.  Black wire to Ground and Red wire to the Switched Hot.

SuperATV 6" LED Light Bar
SuperATV 6″ LED Light Bar

My biggest concern was how to run the harness from the hood to the light bar.  Ideally I wanted to run it inside the frame but then determined I could make a fairly neat installation by running the wire under the windshield and inside the metal roof.  Zip tied everything up neat and tight and installed the windshield.

All in all, very pleased with the installation.  The light is fantastic and is exactly what I want.

SuperATV 6" LED Light Bar
SuperATV 6″ LED Light Bar

SuperATV 6" LED Light Bar
SuperATV 6″ LED Light Bar

SuperATV 6″ Light Bar