By Andrew Ragas
I don’t get paid to endorse. This prevents me from ever publishing a biased review. Thankfully I am blessed to fish a lot, and use a lot of different fishing equipment and accessories. If I get lucky with items I’ll write about how good they were, like this list below. Meanwhile if they were bad and led to a poor fishing experience, I’ll also make sure you never buy them or make the mistakes I did.
Over the course of every fishing season I have the privilege of testing and employing new sponsor products and provide manufacturers feedback for R&D. Being on the water almost daily spring through fall, I even experience gear shortages or malfunctions that require me to make emergency (and well researched) purchases of items I need out of necessity.
I have compiled a short list of some of the newest, proven, and successful tackle and fishing gear I recommend for anglers. Showcased are some favorite rods and reels, lures and baits, apparel and accessories, and marine equipment used from the 2016 fishing season that helped further my game.
The Rod Glove
Price: $5.49 to $8.99
I’ve religiously used Rod Glove productssince first obtaining Jim Van Ryn’s products in 2012. He’s set the industry standard in fishing rod protection. Most of us can’t afford to buy brand new rods every year. That’s why it’s so important to take care of equipment, and make it last.
I have a rod hoarding problem. THE ROD GLOVE both helps foster this problem for me, and protects my investments during storage and transport. At one point this year I kept as many as 25 rods tucked away into my storage compartment. That’s a lot, and all made possible by my assortment of rod gloves for casting and spinning rods.
The Rod Glove is made from an expandable mesh material that is super easy to slide over your rod and slide off. It provides you with tip, blank and guide protection, eliminates frustrating tangles with other rods inside of your boat’s rod locker, and it allows you to organize you rods by the wide range of colors offered. Besides the rod gloves, the bait glove to prevent sharp hooks from being exposed, and rod wrapz for travel and bundling your rods together are must-have items as well. Want to protect your investment and prevent messy tangles and boat clutter? Look no further than these products. It makes rod storage and your life on the water easier, more organized, and hassle free.
Coast HL7 LED Headlamp
Price: $59 retail ($34 Amazon)
I night fish for bass and walleyes a lot. I’ve also gone through many different headlamps too, most of which seldom last longer than a year before breaking or shorting out. There’s a ton of junk and crap out there, and its embarrassing that a lot of major distrubutors continue selling them. An emergency purchase for a new LED head lamp in October resulted in one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. It couldn’t have been made possible without thorough reviewing from Outdoor Gear Lab, and other independent sources first. High praise and ratings led me to the COAST brand, outdoor and recreation lighting specialists.
The HL7 Headlamp gives anglers the ability to shine a ultra wide flood beam and then quickly twist the bezel to a long reaching spot beam with transition halo so that you can be ready for anything and see everything clearly in the dark. With the Variable Light Control Technology onboard you have the ability to adjust the light output with the control lever to any point between the lowest low and the highest high so you can have highly personalized output and runtimes. With Coast’s commitment to quality, the HL7 Headlamp is impact resistant, weather and water resistant and its LED is virtually unbreakable. The HL7 Headlamp is backed by Coast’s lifetime warranty against defects in materials and workmanship.
This headlamp comes very highly recommended, and my experience with it each night this fall made that obvious. It has incredible beam power and beam control, and is available at an unbelievable low price. Before looking at the price tag, you one would think this is an easily $100+ product, a price point more common with construction head lamps. However, it’s not. The only reason some folks say not to get the Coast lamp is its short battery life on the high frequency setting. But when fishing, you really only need a lamp turned on when checking your lures, unhooking fish, and maneuvering around the boat and on shore. For all purpose usage, the low frequency setting is superb and even stronger, capable with battery life of lasting up to 24 hours. This is by far the best head lamp I’ve ever owned, and a must-have night fishing accessory for anyone who fishes hard core at night.
Quantum Icon PT Casting Reel
Available Gear Ratios: 7.0:1 Burner; 6.3:1 High Speed
In March, I ordered and received my first two Icon PT’s, one in each gear ratio. The Icon is an incredibly sturdy and powerful reel equipped with a smooth drag, oversize and comfortable handles, and is sold at an excellent and affordable price point. I’m not a fan of flashy, fancy fishing reels because exterior features always guarantees a more expensive price tag. The Icon is the complete opposite, a minimalistic appearance that matches any rod of any color. For its lack of color, the Icon makes up for its solid construction and assembly. Throughout 2016 I’ve enjoyed fishing the Icon. The burner model is a workhorse for power and casting applications such as topwaters, small compact swimbaits and spinnerbaits. Meanwhile the high speed model was comfortable and smooth all year long for my aggressive jerkbaiting tactics I fish frequently. The Icon PT offers the high-end features that avid tournament anglers expect while being exceptionally budget-friendly. With that being said, I’ll be stocking up on a few more……
Vexan Bass Rods
Price: $139 to $149
Available Models: 15+
Built using legendary and proprietary TI blank technology, Vexan rods offer light, responsive, balanced, and incredibly strong blanks teamed with an all alloy guide system and competition styled, and incredibly comfortable handles. The new guides are perfectly placed, super light, and allow both mono and braided line to stream off the reel with little guide resistance guaranteeing ultra-long and accurate casts. The lack of ceramic inserts also means no brittle breaking, and prevents inconvenient visits to the rod repair shop. Vexan bass rods were designed to fit the need for a high quality rod at an affordable price point with technique-specific models for every angler’s need. Exposed reel seat allows anglers to feel every bite, and EVA grips and split grip design also reduces weight and increases comfort to each rod. Such a joy to fish with!
Outstanding bass rods, especially the multi-purpose 7ft medium heavy spinning and casting models that suit all of my major bass fishing needs. James Haworth (Owner) has every type of rod, in spinning and casting, my guide guests and I will ever need. Strong and sensitive, there hasn’t been a challenge Vexan Rods was unable to meet in 2016. Avid tournament anglers and recreational fishermen will truly appreciate the incredible sensitivity, strength, craftsmanship, and durability of the Bass Series of Vexan rods. I’ll be ordering more for 2017…..
Plano Double Cover Lock Jaw
A purchase my dad made by mistake for his tools, led to this item being a gift for me. I take pride in my organization of baits and terminal tackle. Double the amount of space for small parts and accessories with the Plano Molding 5231 Double Cover Stow N Go Organizer. Includes lockjaw latches for added security, a carrying handle for your convenience, and see through covers to find whatever hooks I need EASILY. Its dimensions measures 14.5-Inch by 11.75-Inch by 3.38-Inch, ensuring it’ll fit in most storage compartment sizes.
The Plano Double Cover Lock Jaw offers strong, secure portable storage for all of my terminal tackle. The latches keep jigs, hooks and weights, and spools of fluorocarbon line locked away safely in my storage compartment while providing easy transport. It’s large enough to fit all of my terminal tackle in one convenient place, and strong enough to support the heavy weight of jigs and sinkers. In 2016, this simple system le to easy storage inside the Ranger deck. Lots of organization and easy access for my Trokar hooks, Freedom Tackle Jigs, ‘brella rigs, and other terminal items. For $15, it’s the most affordable storage container you will find for this type of product and what it’s meant to do.
Lake-X Fat Bastard
Price: $29.99 retail
Available Models: 15+
The Fat Bastard muskie topwater has taken fishing by storm. Its limited production has led it to being one of the most in-demand products in musky fishing. While retailing for an affordable $29.99, the laws of supply and demand has enabled its sales on the secondary market to fetch an outrageous price, to more than $100 apiece in some instances. It’s easy to understand why; it’s a unique one of a kind lure, and it’s a powerful fish catcher. One of the best muskie fishing surface baits ever made.
Constructed from solid plastic with a thru-wire construction, it measures 4-1/2″ long (8″ overall) with a weight of 3 oz. During the retrieve, the Fat Bastard pushes a substantial amount of water across the surface, way more than the average prop style surface bait. This property coupled with its unique prop shape and sound triggers more strikes than the average surface lure. Obviously in order to still catch the elusive muskie, a lot of technique and execution needs to be employed by the angler as no lure is truly a magic lure. After two-plus years of searching, I finally obtained my first Lake-X Fat Bastard in September. In my first 4 days of using it, I boated 8 muskies. Just last week, I was lucky enough to purchase myself a second.
Amsoil HP Marine Synthetic 2-Stroke Oil
Available Models: Quart; Gallon
I won’t feed my 2 stroke outboard with anything else. Amsoil is the first in marine synthetics. It’s a pleasure and runs so clean! A 1 gallon container gets me through almost a full month of fishing with my Evinrude 115 hp. It’s expensive, but worth every penny. My outboard has never ran cleaner and more efficiently – though exclusively using 100% pure gasoline helps!
High-quality motor oil is critical for maximum performance in modern two-stroke marine motors. Direct fuel injection (DFI) improves combustion efficiency, delivering the extra power enthusiasts want, while leaner gas-to-oil ratios provide the reduced exhaust emissions the government mandates. The leaner ratio leaves less oil to lubricate and protect these hotter, more powerful motors, which invites deposits and wear that threaten engine performance and life. Amsoil HP Marine is proven to excel in these harsh conditions. It controls performance-robbing friction, heat and wear, yet produces low smoke and has low aquatic toxicity properties. It’s an oil as advanced as the engines it protects.
On the fishing gear and accessories front there’s a lot of winners and an equal amount of losers as far as quality, useful product is concerned. The winners far outweighed the losers this year. Look into these winners for 2017 if wanting to try something new, looking for improvements in your fishing, or seeking last minute Christmas gift ideas for someone.