A few years ago a company called Bubba Rope brought a kinetic towrope to the off-road aftermarket. Since then the company has continued to think outside of the box with a few innovative recovery-related items. Next to come was the Gator-Jaw, an easy-to-use and lightweight soft shackle that takes the place of heavy steel D-ring shackles. The light- weight helps keep down your overall vehicle weight and increases safety because the soft shackle won’t store as much energy while under load. This means that in case of failure, people are less likely to get injured by flying cables, hooks, or shackles.
Most recently, at the 2015 SEMA Show in Las Vegas, we spotted a new Bubba Rope Replacement Winch Line. The winch line uses some of the technology from Bubba’s recovery ropes as well as some of the innovation seen in the Gator-Jaw. First, the rope, available in 80- or 100-foot lengths, uses a Gatorized vinyl coating that protects the rope from UV and environmental abrasion (like sand or mud). Also available is a nonmetal, lightweight Gatorized Victory Eye on the end of the winch line for the ultimate strength without the weight of any metal (the ropes are also available with a smaller standard Gatorized eye for use with aftermarket thimbles). With that in mind, we had to get a Bubba Rope Replacement Winch Line for ourselves for a good old 4-Wheel & Off-Road beat down.
We decided to break out the kitchen scales and take some nonscientific weight measurements. What’s the point? Just to drive home how much lighter and thus safer this stuff is.
Victory eye: 3.7oz
Standard forged steel hook: 1 lb 2.8 oz
Competitor’s aluminum thimble on synthetic rope: 13.1 oz
Gator-Jaw 7/16-inch rope (32,000-lb breaking strength): 5 oz
Standard 3/4-inch D-ring shackle: 2 lbs 3 oz
The Gatorized Victory Eye can be looped over towhooks and takes the place of a traditional forged hook or billet aluminum thimble. Its size prevents it from getting sucked past the fairlead of the winch. In the event of a hook breaking, the only heavy object that could cause damage is the part of the hook that breaks off. The winch line has very little weight compared to a steel cable or a synthetic rope with a heavy steel hook or even an aluminum thimble attached to it. Also, since the winch line is made right here in the USA, Bubba Rope is happy to repair any ropes you might damage.
The Bubba Rope Replacement Winch Line is coated with vinyl “armor” that helps protect the rope from abrasion and intrusion from dust, dirt, sand, and mud. Another nice feature of the winch line is the red marks (arrow) every 10 feet of the usable rope. This helps give the operator an idea of how much rope is out during use. We are not sure how we feel about the tan color of the line, although it would look great on our desert-brown flatfender.
The winch line also comes with a Gator-Jaw Soft Shackle and Life Guard antichafing cover. The Life Guard helps protect the line if you need to run it over a sharp rock or other obstacle. The Gator-Jaw is a soft shackle that does the job of a steel D-ring shackle. According to Bubba Rope the Gator-Jaw is stronger than steel, and that’s nice. We also found that it can be used in places where a winch hook or even a D-ring shackle won’t fit, like on this frame-mounted tow point.
The Gator-Jaw is made of plasma rope and is easy to use with its special knot and self-tightening loop design. It also is one piece, so there is no pin to loose. It won’t rust, and it floats just in case you drop it in the mud or water while working on a recovery. The Gator-Jaw is lightweight and stows easily. It also won’t damage other stuff in your vehicle.
The Victory Eye and Gator-Jaw combine to make a very secure and light way of connecting a winch to just about any sturdy mounting surface. Hooking a winch line to a cage to right a flopped vehicle is simple. With a traditional winch you’d need a tree saver to wrap around the cage, the winch cables hook, and a D-ring shackle to connect the two; that makes for a much heavier combination of parts to do the same job.