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.

Bennett SLT10 Self-Leveling Tab System Review

We added a pair of Bennett self-leveling 10″ trim tabs to our Gulf Coast Classic 18 and could not be more pleased with the performance! One of the best investments ever at only $123. They have made a dramatic improvement in our hole shot while fishing the flats.

Like most boats, our Gulf Coast will run on plane shallower than its draft. That frequently leads to a bit of apprehension as we slow to a stop – will we still be floating? Kind of tough to gauge the depth at speed when you can clearly see the bottom is only about a foot deep. The follow up question is, can we get out of here?

Our Gulf Coast tends to squat quite a bit as it takes off. We raise the jack plate all the way up, trim the motor in tight, and punch it. This immediately causes the bow to rise, the stern to sink, and the motor digs into the bottom. Sometimes we can get out by easing off the throttle, and then trying to surf the follow up wave. That extra 2″ of lift can make all the difference. Other times, we can “spin” or “snake” our way onto plane. Sadly, other times we are forced to idle out a ways before we can get up.

Amazingly, the Bennett tabs have proven to be a revelation. It took a while to mount the starboard tab because we debated endlessly where to place it. In reality, there was only one good spot but it is crazy how you go down the rabbit hole of moving it 1/8″ one way or another. Probably spent an hour on the starboard tab and five minutes on the port tab. A cordless drill, screwdriver, and 3M 4200 is all you need.

Bennett SLT10 Self-Leveling Tab System
Bennett SLT10 Self-Leveling Tab System

First trip out we were coming out of the marina and I goosed it. I wasn’t entirely impressed by any improvement to be honest but I chalked it up to being in the deeper water. Second test, we were in about knee deep water, and again I wasn’t that impressed. It seemed like the prop was catching lots of air and the hole shot was so-so. Jack plate all the way up, motor trimmed in tight, same as always. To be fair, the bow rise was greatly reduced but we were kind of sluggish taking off.

Third test, knee deep water or shallower, but this time I bumped the jack plate down just slightly. Like a half-second bump, maybe lowered the motor less than an inch. Hit WOT and wow! The boat jumped up and forward like out of a slingshot! Stayed flat, bow flat, stern didn’t squat, and it just leaped onto plane. Amazing difference. I found the sweet spot for our rig.

My brother took the wheel and experienced the same sensation. Night and day improvement in hole shot performance.

The Bennett SLT10 Self-Leveling Tab System is highly approved!

Bennett SLT10 Self-Leveling Tab System
Bennett SLT10 Self-Leveling Tab System

Port O’Connor Redfish

We made a weekend trip to Port O’Connor post cold front. For our part, the fishing was fairly slow with bait hard to find. Perhaps we didn’t hit all the right spots but we ended up scratching out a few fish.

Interestingly, all of my reds were caught on top-water! Always a blast watching the fish hit a Super Spook Jr!

Mike Coker
Mike Coker

Jackery Solar Generator 1500 Review

The Jackery Solar Generator 1500 is a great choice for both work and play. Living on the Gulf Coast has taught me the importance of having backup power for when the electrical grid gets knocked out by a hurricane (or freak ice storm!). Jackery is a leader in clean, green, portable power solutions and their Solar Generator 1500 kit includes the Explorer 1500 battery pack along with four SolarSaga 100W solar panels. Featuring over 1500Wh capacity and 1800 running wattage, this awesome device includes a variety of output ports to power electronics, home appliances, and tools.

Unlike a traditional gasoline powered generator, the Jackery Solar Generator 1500 can be used inside as there is no dangerous carbon monoxide exhaust. It is also virtually silent, which is a real plus while camping. Who wants to be enjoying the great outdoors with an old noisy generator hammering away in the background?

One of the things that I like best about the Jackery is its versatility. The Explorer 1500 can be charged by solar panel, 110V outlet, or vehicle 12V port. So even though it is marketed as a Solar Generator, you can easily charge the battery pack from a 110 outlet or from your vehicle. The unit can power up to 7 devices at the same time via one USB-A port, two USB-C ports, three 110V outlets, and a 12V vehicle port (cigarette adapter). In addition, each SolarSaga panel includes USB-A and USB-C ports that can directly charge electronics.

Jackery produces a robust product line and the Solar Generator 1500 is near the top of their offerings. Your choice from the 160Wh Portable Power Station all the way up to the powerful 2000Wh. You can purchase the power stations and solar panels separately or buy the Solar Generator kit which includes matched Explorer Portable Power Station, appropriately sized SolarSaga panels, and the ancillary cables to put it all together.

Jackery Solar Generator 1500
Jackery Explorer 1500 battery pack

In direct sunlight, the MPPT technology can charge the battery from zero to 80% in approximately four hours. That is quite remarkable. The Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) charge controller optimizes the match between solar array and battery pack for improved efficiency and faster charging. A while back I added several USB rechargeable lanterns to our emergency kit. It is awesome that even while off the grid we can recharge the Jackery battery pack through the solar panels and then charge up all of our lanterns, flashlights, and cell phones in preparation for the evening.  Personally, I don’t take a tv camping (isn’t the point to get away from tv?) but you can easily watch the big game by plugging a television set into the battery pack, hooking up an old-fashioned tv antenna, and watch the game in HD from the woods or lake.

The Explorer 1500 weighs 35.2 pounds and is slightly larger than a car battery (14 X 10.4 X 12.7 inches). There is a built in handle for convenience. The highly efficient SolarSaga 100W panels are easy to set up. Simply unfold them, place them facing the sun, and plug in. Adapters are included that enable you to connect all four solar panels to the battery pack. A zippered pouch on the back of each unit holds the power cable and the USB charging ports. A handy kick stand is available to optimize placement. When folding the solar panels, magnets click together to hold it in place.

Jackery Solar Generator 1500
Charge your devices straight from the solar panel!

Jackery Solar Generator 1500
Charge devices straight from the solar panel!

An LED panel provides all of the data you need to manage the device. Jackery has done a wonderful job designing the display and all of the controls. It is very simple to understand the input, output, and battery status. Each output section has a small switch to turn the respective power ports off / on. The entire Solar Generator 1500 kit has a clean, professional, high quality appearance.

Jackery Solar Generator 1500
Jackery Solar Generator 1500

The Jackery Solar Generator 1500 is an awesome choice for outdoor adventures and home preparedness. We were without electricity for three days during the 2020 ice storm that knocked out the power grid in Texas. It is a comfort knowing that I now have this fantastic backup power supply at the ready.

Jackery Solar Generator 1500 MSRP $2,699.

Jackery is celebrating their 9th Anniversary by giving away some fantastic products including solar generators. Enter the picture contest # Outing With Jackery.

Jackery Solar Generator 1500
Jackery Explorer 1500 is a workhorse

Jackery Solar Generator 1500
Jackery Solar Generator 1500

CHECK STREET PRICE

Green LED light bar for hunting vehicle

It frequently amazes me that hunters often feel the need to light up the woods as if it were daylight. I am the complete opposite in that I want just enough light to safely drive from camp to hunting area with minimal disruption. When driving my F-150 I turn off all of the lights other than the amber fog lights. After some research, I purchased the Kaper II L16-0075GR Green LED Hunting light to install on my 2017 Polaris Ranger XP 1000.

I bought the light right before the 2020 deer season so I simply spliced in a cigarette lighter plug and temporarily mounted the light in an existing hole in the Polaris metal roof. Worked well enough for its intended purpose but was not the way I like to roll. I wanted to mount the light in the grill area and install a proper wiring harness and dashboard switch.

Once again, I turned to Amazon and settled on the Nilight LED Light Bar Wiring Kit. This kit includes long wires, heavy 14 gauge wire, fuse block, dual leads, and lighted dashboard switch.

wiring harness and bus bar
wiring harness and bus bar
Nilight wiring harness
Nilight wiring harness switch.

I knew where I wanted to mount the Kaper green LED light but wasn’t quite sure how to access the area required to tighten the nut. Turns out the lower grill insert simply pops out! Super easy installation drilling one hole through plastic. Mounting hardware is all stainless steel.

Continue reading Green LED light bar for hunting vehicle

Jackery Solar Generator 1000 Review

Be prepared for the next weather event with the Jackery Solar Generator 1000.

The polar vortex hit Texas in February 2021 with a vengeance, inflicting freezing cold temperatures that partially knocked out the power grid for days. We were without power in our residence for almost three days but some homes were offline for much longer. Fortunately, I have a Honda EU3000is generator that I faithfully start each month and let run for 10-15 minutes. It has always immediately fired up and run smoothly. Until February 15, 2021 when it would not start despite my best troubleshooting efforts. Unbelievable! Thirty months of flawless performance until the very day I needed it. That is when I determined to get a backup power source, preferably one not dependent on a carburetor.

Jackery Solar Generator 1000

Research quickly led me to Jackery – the industry leader in portable power stations and solar generators. Their best solution for me was the Jackery Solar Generator 1000 which consists of the Portable Power Station Explorer 1000 along with two Solar Panel SolarSaga 100W chargers. The two solar panels can be connected to the power station at the same time using the included adapter. Each SolarSaga 100 also includes a USB-A and USB-C port so that you can charge mobile phones and other small electronics directly from the solar panel. Free, clean, green energy!

Jackery Solar Generator 1000
Continue reading Jackery Solar Generator 1000 Review

Review: J.B. Dillon Chambers Boots

Living in Texas, I have purchased my fair share of boots through the years. Through experience, I have come to rely on certain brands for specific functions. Specifically, Lucchese dress boots, Ariat (with rubber soles) for general ranch work and light hunting, Wolverine for serious hunting, and Red Wing work boots. J.B. Dillon now joins my list of preferred cowboy boots!

I have been wearing the J.B. Dillon Chambers full quill ostrich boots for several months now. They are exceptionally comfortable and easy to wear all day. And they look fantastic in Chestnut!

One question I get asked, is “How do they compare to Tecovas?” This is a fair question as I would consider them competitors working the same space.

Continue reading Review: J.B. Dillon Chambers Boots

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