This article is provided to AAA courtesy of Mr. Vince Froehlich – North Fork Angling LLC
Being an avid drift boat angler, a professional fishing guide and a fanatical oarsman; I have pulled the sticks on about every configuration of oar powered craft there is. From pontoons and whitewater outfitter rafts to the latest in modern drift dory tech. For the majority of the last twenty years, my choice in oars & oarlocks was pretty much run-of-the-mill. Not really any different then what most weekend drift boaters use. And while there are some good traditional oarlocks available; From the Sawyer Cobras, Don Hill Customs, to the NRS Superston Alloy series, etc. They are all pretty much the same; Varying only slightly in design and materials and basically utilizing the same standard U-lock system that has been around since before the days of the ancient Vikings.
Not knowing any better, my choice in oars was always about getting the best shafts and blades that I could afford on a meager budget. My first set was a simple pair of wooden Sawyer Lights; Mid-wrapped with cord and stuffed in factory bronze magnesium oar locks. These superb light duty shafts were nimble and quick; However due to the size of my dory, I found the blades not nearly wide enough to give me the power needed to easily avoid obstacles in class water or take tight corners with a loaded boat. So, I traded-up to a set of Carlisle Outfitter shafts with 6 1/2″ blades and added polymer sleeves with Tom Grant’s Oar Rights. Even in standard oarlocks, this was a great affordable whitewater combination; …Or so I thought for many years.
Enter Dan Little of RBF Excursions. Dan is a veteran fishing guide with over two decades of river experience behind the oars; And he certainly knows a little something about rowing a boat on a whitewater river. Never one to stop looking for ways to improve performance and make things easier, safer and inevitably better for those long days pulling oars; Dan recognized the problems associated with a standard U-lock and cord wrapped shafts. Problems which are numerous and very obvious from the first pull rearward. Traditional corded shafts have to be manually positioned and constantly manipulated in the oarlocks for proper balance and precise strokes. The loose tolerances between the cordage sleeve and the oarlock affects everything from noise transfer throughout the stroke to the physical power that’s wasted and lost within the stroke itself; Including the return. This is a pretty big deal if you row a boat for a living !
Dan came up with a rugged and simple workable design for a full-capture oarlock system that utilizes modern technology and quality materials. After running the design for a few seasons and making some minor changes to the original prototype, Dan hit a home-run with what is now known as the Pro-Loks Rowing System. And so he started a small business manufacturing, marketing, and selling this system under the Pro-Loks label.
Now; The shaft-through oarlock design is not a new idea within the industry and various models have been available for a number of years. However, Dan’s Pro-Loks Rowing System takes this design concept to a whole new level. The main-shaft & upright horns are built on solid 5/8″ stainless steel rod, holding a polymer full-capture housing (or collar) pinned in from the sides with stainless machine button-head bolts & lock nuts. A very well thought-out and extremely tough design. Additional features include a removable oar shaft ring collar that serves two purposes. One as a stopper (much like the rubber doughnut used on corded shafts) and also as a blade righting index. Which in turn is available as the Pro-Rite Collar. Essentially, the Pro-Rite Collar is a Quick-Detachable polymer compression ring tightened by a custom stainless clamp. The collar incorporates the head of a stainless shoulder bolt that fits neatly into a righting tab on the topside of the Pro-Loks polymer capture housing. Hugely beneficial to rudder your oar blades when sitting on anchor in current, reducing that annoying swaying or rag-doll phenomenon. There is also a stainless steel aircraft cable tether that rounds the main-shaft of the Pro-Loks system and connects to the capture housing. This keeps your oar shaft from being lost in the event of catastrophic failure or a crash; Allowing the oarsman to return the shaft back into the upright and get the boat to safety as quickly as possible.
Exclusive and unique to the Pro-Loks Rowing System, is the necessary use of a properly sleeved oar shaft that will fill the inside diameter of the capture housing – Which actually is very clever from a marketing perspective. (Note: Carlisle, Lamiglas, or Cataract shafts can be used with this system, however a custom sleeve must be fabricated to meet the inside dimension of the Pro-Loks housing.)
Dan teamed with Sawyer Oars and Paddles to come up with a Dynel Sleeved MX series “Pro-Loks” oar shaft that fits with a tight tolerance inside the housing; Yet still allows for the shaft to move horizontally and roll freely. Not used is the conventional cord wrapping, but instead a factory applied epoxy resin & fabric lay-up done on the center portion of the shaft.
This makes for one of, if not the strongest oar shaft available today.
Once the oar shaft is slid up into the Pro-Loks housing, the fit is perfect, and there is absolutely no slop at all; None – Ever !
This alone is one of the most prominent features of the Pro-Loks Rowing System. Another huge plus is absolutely zero noise from the beginning of the stroke to the end and then back to the return. Feathering and sculling of the oars becomes flawless. You can feel the increase in power immediately !
You really need to row a boat with this system to fully appreciate how much of a difference it makes; Especially on a long float or several consecutive days on the water – Fatigue is a killer on the river. I have been running these oarlocks for two seasons now, and I so wish these were available when I first started rowing a boat, because I had been working way too hard – For years !
In a nutshell, Pro-Loks offer the perfect balance of simple harmonic motion and full range articulation throughout the oar-stroke; Making for the smoothest, quietest and most powerful stroke possible, without wasting or losing precious energy. The Pro-Loks Rowing System matched with Sawyer Dynel sleeved MX series shafts and Dynelite Wide Blades is by far the best rowing combination available for serious fisherman or professional use. While this set-up will cost you a little more to outfit your boat, pontoon or raft; The massive gains that you will experience in performance are worth every penny. This is an outstanding revolutionary system that will change everything about how you row for the better, making you a better oarsman.
For more product and purchase information, or to contact Dan Little about the Pro-Loks Rowing System; Please visit the website at: (www.pro-loks.com) Or give Dan a call at either of the numbers listed below.
Peace & Tight Lines – From The North Fork
About the Author: Vince Froehlich is a full-time professional fishing guide and owner of North Fork Angling LLC; Operating currently in SW WA and seasonally in Alaska.
Website: www.northforkangling.com; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org