Wading Bar Boot Review - The HuntingPA.com Outdoor Community
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post #1 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-29-2017, 07:54 PM Thread Starter
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Wading Bar Boot Review

As a lot of you have seen over the years I tend to take a lot of dunks into streams haha. More then a lot of people. I definitely don't look at myself as clumbsy, but moreso overly aggressive on the water. I move too fast on a trout stream for todays wading footwear traction to keep up with. So in an effort to continue to improve not only my fishing success, which I am always chasing, I've also been chasing better safety, which in turn will lead to more fish caught anyhow. This lead me from straight rubber soles to Vibram rubber soles, to felt, to felt with studs, and then back to felt as the ultimate for in-stream traction. Over the past 2-3 season I've been seeing and reading about these 'bars' that could go on your wader soles. It said they improve traction but it never made any sense to me. When I moved to carbide studs on my felt I always found that they would be very slick on smooth rocks and I fell several times based on the stubs alone. I figured felt was the best I'll ever do. More and more I read about the bars and finally read an article on 'Troutbitten' a few weeks back sent to me by Kwright (google 'Troutbitten DIY Bar Boots' for the article) which was very enthusiastic about bars being better than felt. I figured what the heck. I ordered the Padagonia replacement bars which weren't exactly cheap at $32 but I didn't feel like ordering the pieces separate for the first time and making my own bars without some sort of template to go off of. Going forward I will though.


The pack came quickly and the install, while not easy, wasn't terrible either. With the exceptions of a few inserts not lining up with the screw holes all the bars went on well with about 2 hours of labor and fuss. I used my old, but still in excellent shape and EXPENSIVE Simms Rivershed boots. I never use them anymore because of the Vibram soles that were as slippery as $&^T on a hot tin roof. Figured if I ruined them I wouldn't care.


IMG_20170825_184527221 by Zak Appleby, on Flickr


It still didn't look so great and I figured it was too good to be true. In fact when I arrived at the stream Saturday for what I felt may be a longer trip I wore my felts so to not risk ruining a perfectly good outing slipping and sliding around. After my first hour of fishing was poor I decided to move down stream for a short run before leaving for home so I figured that was a good time to try the bars out. Bear in mind that this stream is notoriously slippery so as I entered the water I was very cautious........for about 20 seconds haha. It took no time to be stunned by how well the aluminum bars gripped the slick rocks. It was seriously crazy. But the end of the trip and into the next day I was simply flying around the stream (which probably isn't a good thing haha). The grip was definitely better than felt and rubber isn't even worth comparing. The only negative that I could find was that they were noisy on the rocks. Metal on hard rock is a bit clunky. I doubt that's really a concern though as I'm not catching many trout in long slow pools where sound might travel anyhow. Comfort was fine and it wasn't awkward to walk on at all. Out of water traction was good as long as I wasn't side stepping down a hill. That was dicey too for obvious reasons. All in all though I have to recommend a change to these at the first chance you get. Granted it was just 2 days on the water which is hardly enough time to say this is the greatest thing ever but I will tell you that my initial impression is pretty mind blowing. The real test will come in a few weeks when the Lehigh River comes back into play. Thumbs up to Bar Boots!
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post #2 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-29-2017, 10:00 PM
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Great write-up and review. You phrased it perfectly as I feel the same way on a stream: " I definitely don't look at myself as clumbsy, but moreso overly aggressive on the water. I move too fast on a trout stream for todays wading footwear traction to keep up with."

I know you mentioned a few posts ago that you were having issues with your Korkers, but did you look into their Alumatrax soles (AlumaTrax Sole | Interchangeable Soles | Korkers The Korkers' version will run you $60 Vs. the $32 DIY version you completed, but won't take up any of your time. I'm a big supporter of Korkers and have considered the Alumatrax soles in the past, but have stuck with their Studded Rubber soles for slick / difficult terrain streams and the felt soles for the easier streams.

I like to get away with the lightest footwear as possible, but I would think these boots with these soles would be pretty heavy especially if you're trying to cover a lot of ground over several hours. With the aluminum bars, how much do your boots now weigh?
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post #3 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-30-2017, 09:09 AM Thread Starter
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I read your item about Korkers on my other post. That's nice to hear. I've been meaning to contact them with photos and stuff and I have no doubt they'll do something being only 3 months old. Issue is that every low end Korker boot (Less than $150) I purchase falls apart real fast so I'm not sure I really care cause the next pair they send me will be ruined next summer too just like the pair before this one. Pretty much any brand of wading boot in that price range are crap so I don't hold that against Korkers. Their interchangeable sole are a great idea so they are hard to move away from. The Simms Rivershed Boots I have cost me $239 a few years back (before moving to Korkers) and you can definitely tell the difference in quality top to bottom. Like every single thing about the boot is better. Amazingly comfortable and easy on/off too. One should expect that in a boot that much more expensive though. Korkers and the DIY method are an issue though as you can imagine.


A few other upgrade aspects of the bars. First, they halt any wear to the sole of your boot. The bars take all the wear so assuming the uppers of your boots are of high quality, boots will last you for years and years which will be a first for me. The bars are aluminum so they are pretty light. The package was 1.5lbs and considering your dealing with leg muscles it was a completely unnoticeable difference. I, of all people, understanding getting caught up in the smallest of details of spinner fishing though so if the extra lb is a hang up than these are definitely not for you and I could appreciate that haha. The one other HUGE item to me is that, yes the bars are better than felt, but they also don't transport organisms from stream to stream as well as felt and to me that is a major thing. I hate felt for that reason but also used it for safety. To not have to worry about that eases my mind a good bit.

I have looked at the alumitrax sole from Korkers but $60 is too rich for this fisherman. I think Korkers and bars are probably not the best idea in the world as it ends up costing a lot more then other brands of boots that allow you to change the bars only. The bars will wear out and need to be replaced and other boots you can do it for half the cost. I think this is the one area where Korkers fall short.
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post #4 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-30-2017, 09:25 AM
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Many of my friends work in streams over 100 days a year. Everyone of them will tell you to avoid korker brand. Simms with kold kutters.
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post #5 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-30-2017, 10:29 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by indianahunter View Post
Many of my friends work in streams over 100 days a year. Everyone of them will tell you to avoid korker brand. Simms with kold kutters.
Ok, but why? Is it the durability? The Korker boots I've owned (always the low end model) have held up pretty decent and feel like an athletic shoe. I also like the ability to change the sole to fit the terrain I'm fishing and not have to invest in 2 pairs of boots.
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post #6 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-30-2017, 11:14 AM Thread Starter
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I think if you buy any >$150 boot you're only going to reasonably get a season out of it if you are fishing a lot and fishing hard (hard is relative to the angler). If you don't fish so much or spend a lot time fishing pools for periods of time then you'll get a few years out of any boots. It's just like with any equipment. The more you demand of your equipment the more money you need to spend to make it reliable. I have little doubt that the highest end Korkers that are over $200 will bold up to just about any beating I can give them cause if there didn't the word would already be out and they'd probably be out of business. Korkers makes more lower end boots then just about any other boot company. You can buy a boot from them for as little at $90 from Dicks. They're like wearing a sneaker and your feet take a complete pounding but I'm sure they sell a ton of them to the casual angler. I burned them up in like 2 months but that's me. Other guys may keep them forever. My buddies had a pair for years now but he trout fishing 4 times a year. They're filling a business nich and filling it well. My Korker days are probably over for the time being but only because I've found a much better traction option. Maybe someday I'll go back. When I do it will be to a higher end model though. At this point in my life I will not skimp on wading boots anymore.
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post #7 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-30-2017, 11:19 AM Thread Starter
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As for the Kold Kutter Carbide tips....no thanks. Unless you are a careful wader, to me, carbide is one of the worst options, especially when combined with rubber. When it bites into a rock it bites without question. Amazing grip. The only issue is that when you hit a slick smooth rock there is nothing more slippery on this planet than a carbide stud on your boot. Almost all of my worst falls have been due to carbide hitting a rock it didn't like. I'll never ever use or recommend carbide soles to anyone ever again. To me they are straight up dangerous. When they go there is absolutely no warning and it's FAST. You're down just like that.
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post #8 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-30-2017, 11:39 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trout 2003 View Post
I think if you buy any >$150 boot you're only going to reasonably get a season out of it if you are fishing a lot and fishing hard (hard is relative to the angler). If you don't fish so much or spend a lot time fishing pools for periods of time then you'll get a few years out of any boots. It's just like with any equipment. The more you demand of your equipment the more money you need to spend to make it reliable.
You do make a good point here, as my number of hours on the stream has drastically dwindled in the last few years due to kids sports and other obligations. From that aspect, the Korkers may be a good fit for me right now. If I start to put in the intensity and time you do every season, a better boot may be warranted. God only knows when those days will return (not that I'm complaining as I really do enjoy watching my boys play sports).
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post #9 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-30-2017, 11:47 AM Thread Starter
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When your kids are too good for you to coach them.....that's about when you start to fish more haha. For me that happened around 12. Hopefully you're not an elite level coach.
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post #10 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-30-2017, 11:58 AM Thread Starter
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This thread is morphing all over lol but I was just looking at Simms boots and they have a new 'Intruder' line just for wet wading. OMG! I'm in love!! I'm definitely going to pick up a pair for next year. That neoprene booty for debris control and the dang thing looks like a hiking sneakers! Wow does that look like a nice boot.
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