December 8, 2011
Editor's note: This article is from the magazine editors at FLW Outdoors. -------------------------------------------
TrendsIt was difficult to ID a trend in reel manufacturing this season. Many companies upgraded and redesigned existing lines, including Pflueger, Abu Garcia and Shimano. Probably the most notable trends were toward extremely lightweight reels, along with tournament-grade reels designed to match accompanying rod lines. Companies have converted the combo from an entry-level tool into a tournament-level tool.
What to look for
- Exterior magnetic brake adjustments on baitcasters make fine-tuning easy without opening up the reel's body.
- If you're buying a reel for a specific task - flipping, fishing braid, casting big plugs, etc. - consider one designed specifically for that task.
- Spin the spool to see how long it rotates. This is a good sign of how smooth it casts.
- Choose a retrieve ratio around 7:1 for high-speed lures, flipping or pitching; around 6:1 for all-purpose use; and around 5:1 for deep-diving crankbaits.
TrendsThe most appealing trend in rod making for consumers in 2011-2012 is pricing. That is, mid- to low pricing. An overwhelming number of new rods released this year fall into the $100 to $160 window, a stark contrast to what we saw in the last several years, when better materials and ultra-high-end construction dominated the scene, no matter the dollar figure. Also this year, virtually every manufacturer released a micro-guide model, and that technology has begun to be refined and perfected.
What to look for
- Technique-specific actions make it easy to find the right rod.
- Clean fit and finish indicate a quality product.
- Name-brand guides and reel seats guarantee components won't fail prematurely.
- Quality warranties of high-end, high-dollar rods provide peace of mind.
- When handling a rod in the store, ask to attach a reel to get a true feel for how it balances.
ElectronicsPower-Pole Blade Edition power-pole.com In just a few years, Power-Pole has become a household name in fishing, with many tournament pros rigging two of these anchoring devices on their boats. Now anglers have an even better option, the Blade Edition, which is lighter, thinner and capable of reaching deeper than previous units - down to 10 feet. Deploying is convenient via a wireless dash control and remote. 8 foot - $1,795; 10 foot - $1,995 Minn Kota i-Pilot Upgraded Remote minnkotamotors.com A redesigned remote for i-Pilot stores six Spot-Lock locations and six GPS routes, whereas the old remote only stored three of each. Minn Kota expanded the LCD screen by 20 percent and added larger buttons for better readability. Battery replacement was also simplified with the upgrade to a twist-open compartment. The new remote now comes standard with i-Pilot units and is available separately for existing units. $159.99
What to look for
- Strong hooks and split rings are a good indication about the rest of the lure.
- Quality finishes look great, but they might not be worth the price tag depending on the body of water you fish.
- Most major manufacturers nowadays have the same styles of lures, so find the brand that best merges quality with your budget.
- If you're thinking about buying a new brand or type of lure, just buy one to see if it's really something you will use; you can stock up later.
TrendsDub 2011 as the year of the hollow frog ... or mouse. Close to a dozen weedless, hollow topwaters were released at ICAST, each with intriguing characteristics. Companies also released several soft-plastic lures with air-trapping pockets that make them float or move in unique ways.
What to look for
- The number of lures per pack is as important as the price tag.
- If possible, take a lure out of the pack to make sure the plastic is soft, not rigid.
- New attractants come out every year, but it still pays to buy salt-impregnated lures.
AccessoriesPlano Hydro-Flo planomolding.com The Hydro-Flo series from Plano was designed to prevent the gut-wrenching experience of opening a tackle box to find everything caked with rust. Hundreds of small holes allow moisture to flow out and air to flow in, helping wet lures to dry. It's a great place to store all the lures you used in a day so that they can dry out before you return them to their permanent storage location. The Hydro-Flo is available in the 3600 and 3700 size standard and deep boxes. $7.99 to $12.99 Boomerang Tool The Snip boomerangtool.com Backed by a one-year warranty, The Snip is a handy tool for making clean cuts in braid, fluorocarbon and monofilament line. A retractable cable keeps it stowed where you want it after every use - just let go and it returns to its perch. Unique locking handles secure into the sides of the tool, storing the jaws in the closed position once locked. Just give them a squeeze to deploy. $14.95 Soft Lines Dock Lines softlinesinc.com You'll never lose a tie-up line to the bottom of the lake again with Soft Lines Dock Lines. The lines are made of polypropylene, which floats and is also soft and pliable even in cold conditions. Lines are available in more than a dozen colors and can be custom-labeled. They come in 3/8-, 1/2- and 5/8-inch diameters from 10 to 35 feet long. $12.54 to $50.14
TrendsSeveral promising new rain suits and cold-weather fishing suits have been introduced, but by far the biggest trend is toward sun-protective clothing. Hats, face wraps, neck guards, pants, shirts, gloves and more are designed to be breathable and airy in high temperatures, and to keep the sun from damaging the skin. Sun protection is all about warding off melanoma, or skin cancer.
What to look for
- Avoid outdated cotton and wool; stick with modern materials that wick moisture, shed rain or hold in body heat.
- Look for fishing-specific features, such as cuffs that tighten, sunglasses attachments and hand-warmer pockets.
- Proper sleeve length is essential, as long sleeves are a burden when fishing.
- If buying an outer layer, make sure it will fit over mid- and underlayers.
- For summer, look for clothing that shades vulnerable skin areas, such as the ears and neck.
Sunglasses for the fashionable fishermanby Colin Moore The most interesting press conference of this year's ICAST fishing tackle show might have been that of Onos Trading Company, which featured Patrick Hemingway, Ernest Hemingway's eldest living son. Patrick's appearance was significant because Onos Trading Company announced the introduction of its new Ernest Hemingway line of sunglasses, with sporty frames and even sportier names that hearken to the life and times of their famous literary namesake. During the question-and-answer session that followed the press conference, Patrick was asked about the sunglasses that his father wore when he went fishing. "I don't recall ever seeing my father wearing sunglasses," says Patrick, who's now in his 80s. "Sometimes he wore a hat when he fished." Of course, if Ernest were around today, he would know that wearing sunglasses while out on the water would help save his eyesight from the degenerating effects of UVA and UVB rays. He would also appreciate the fact that lenses of various colors would help him spot fish, avoid hazards or just enjoy his fishing day more: Amber lenses to bring out contrasts in the water and make it easier to see fish in low light; gray or green lenses for all-around use; and some variation of rose to cut out haze. While it's difficult to imagine anyone spending a day on the water without sunglasses, these important fishing tools haven't been around long, relatively speaking, and it's not inconceivable that Ernest never got hooked on wearing them. Besides, in his heyday, Ernest didn't have that many choices and most were inadequate anyway. Sam Foster, a New Jersey entrepreneur, is credited with making sunglasses popular. Founder of a plastics molding company - Foster Grant - that produced women's hair accessories, Foster started selling sunglasses at a Woolworths store on the Atlantic City Boardwalk in 1929. In 1936, the polarized glass developed by camera inventor Edwin H. Land was first used in sunglasses, and the same year a company named Ray-Ban first offered polarized lenses in metal frames. Thus began the famous Aviator line, and sunglasses became firmly entrenched during the ensuing decades as both useful tools and fashion statements. Nothing much has changed in that regard. Nowadays makers are challenged to come up with more attractive plastic, nylon, aluminum or titanium frames and better lenses each year, and usually they succeed. Even the cheapest glasses are good, and the more expensive models feature lenses that make colors pop out and reduce glare to practically nothing. Cheap or costly, most glasses are polarized and block all UV rays. Here's a look at what's new for 2012, ranging from inexpensive glasses for those who go through lots of lost glasses in a season, to the pricier models that let your fellow anglers know how you roll: Onos Ernest Hemingway onos.com Features: Six style models are named for various names associated with author Ernest Hemingway or his literary works: the Pilar (Hemingway's boat), the Walloona (named for Walloon Lake in Michigan where the family vacationed), the Cojimar (the village of "The Old Man and the Sea"), the Pamplona (from "The Sun Also Rises"), the Irati (the Spanish river where Hemingway fly-fished) and the Torero (matador). Single-vision or bifocal polycarbonate lenses are available. The polarized "low reader" bifocal ranges from 1.5 to 2.5 magnification power. Frames have nonslip nose and ear pads, plus rubber brow bumper. Lens colors: amber, gray Frames: brown plaid, tortoise, black, woodgrain, all with a Hemingway swordfish icon mounted in frames on either side; bifocal power printed inside frame Extras: hard zippered carrying case Price: $189.99 Typhoon Aloha tyhphoonoptics.com Features: Injected polycarbonate lenses incorporate proprietary AquaView Hydrophobic technology that sheds water and dirt. Oversized full-wrap frames are designed for the biggest heads. Broader side and temple frames help block out ambient light. Lens colors: gray, sunset brown (dark amber) Frames: shiny black, striped two-toned brown Extras: storage bag is also a lens wipe Price: $59.99 Strike King strikeking.com Features: Fully rimmed plastic lenses are said to have improved contrast and sharpness with Advanced Polarization Technology; coated to protect lenses from scratches. Lens colors: amber, gray, vermillion, yellow Frames: tortoise shell Extras: sold unpackaged Price: $22.95
Lines for 2012New space-age fibers and manufacturing processes will help keep you in touch with the fish by Colin Moore Life was much simpler when the only lines available to a fisherman were Dacron or monofilament. Now he's faced with a dizzying array of copolymers, unifilaments, monofilaments, superlines and fluorocarbons that are somehow extruded, woven, fused, bonded, braided or spun. We fish with this stuff, even if we don't quite understand how it got here. We know it's tough, limp, doesn't have memory, yields wonderfully strong knots, tends to sink or tends to float, resists abrasions, and is invisible to bass. In the fishing tackle department, all the labels convey the same message: This is the best line you'll ever use. All hype aside, monofilament stretches and is virtually invisible; braid doesn't stretch and its diameter relative to its strength is unmatched; copolymers and superlines combine some of the best elements of monofilament and braid; and fluorocarbon is in a class of its own as far as low stretch, invisibility and tendency to sink. And now there's unifilament, most notably represented by Berkley's new Nanofil line for spinning reels, which was not only chosen as the best new freshwater fishing line by the media and buyers at the 2011 ICAST, but it got the Best of Show blue ribbon. With props to Nanofil, we nevertheless liked the looks of some other lines that showed up at ICAST: Sufix Castable Invisiline 100% Fluorocarbon sufix.com Castable Invisiline 100% Fluorocarbon offers a limper, more sensitive alternative to the first generation of stiffer fluorocarbons. It's designed to cast like monofilament, yet also offers the advantages of sensitivity and invisibility. It sinks quickly, and its low-stretch formula maximizes the power of hooksets. Castable Invisiline 100% Fluorocarbon is available in 100- and 200-yard spools from 4- to 20-pound test. One hundred-yard spools range from about $13.99 to $21.99, while 200-yard spools retail for about $19.99 to $32.99, depending on test. Sunline FX2 and Reaction FC sunlineamerica.com Walmart FLW Tour pros Brent Ehrler, Brett Hite and Art Ferguson use Sunline, which is a good recommendation in itself. This year the company has added a braided line named FX2 that's designed expressly for frog fishing and flipping. FX2 is available in dark green or a dark green/blue in 125- or 300-yard spools ($18.99 and $41.99, respectively) of 50- and 60-pound test, as well in 90- and 230-yard spools ($18.99 and $41.99, respectively) of 80-pound test. Reaction FC's formula was concocted to provide a touch of stretch - unusual for a fluorocarbon - so it's suitable for use with spinnerbaits, crankbaits, vibrating jigs and such. Two hundred-yard spools are available in 8- to 20-pound tests. Retail price is $22.99.
Hooks, jigheads, weights and rigsNo piece of fishing tackle is more basic than the hook, but that doesn't keep manufacturers from tinkering with the design A bent piece of wire with a sharp barbed point on one end and a place to tie line to on the other: What could be simpler than a fishing hook? And yet manufacturers still test the limits of human imagination by coming up with new renditions for every fishing technique and presentation. The new big things in hooks are finesse models mounted between swivel rings for drop-shot presentations, and soft-plastics hooks with wire or plastic "keepers" designed to keep a really soft swimbait or monster worm from sliding down the hook when you skip it, punch it, cast it or whatever. Of course, there are always trade-offs. Some keepers are rough on soft plastics; they shorten a lure's lifespan. And if a hook is equipped with a wire or shrink-wrap plastic keeper, then it impedes the power of the hookset to some degree. If an angler applies what Chevy pro Larry Nixon terms a "whup set" on a pegged worm that was just engulfed by a bass at the end of a 35-yard cast, what's it going to take to get the point of the hook out of the worm and into the fish? Force is mitigated by the length of the cast, the rod action, the density of the plastic, the sinker (especially if it's a Carolina rig), the place where the toothpick or keeper holds the soft-plastic in place, the bulk of the hook point, and even the resistance of the fish relative to its size. The fisherman has allies, however. If using braid or fluorocarbon, then line stretch doesn't work against him. If using one of the new breed of super-sharp hooks, it helps. And if only fishing a target a few feet away, then most of the force of the hookset is applied, regardless of what's used to keep the lure in place. So, that makes keeper hooks a good choice. Screw-in, shrink wrap or metal - which is best? It all depends on how the angler fishes, the equipment and lures he prefers, and how satisfied he is with the catch-to-bite ratio a particular hook delivers. Here's a look at some of the new hooks and other terminal tackle that anglers will find in their favorite tackle store next year. Damiki damiki.com The D-Hold hook with wire keeper was featured in the July issue of FLW Outdoors Magazine (page 22), and close on its heels is the Mausrin Jig in 1/8-, 1/4- and 1/2-ounce sizes. This rig is unique in that the keel-shaped head (matte green, brown or black) is connected to a Damiki 1/0, 3/0 or 5/0 wide-gap swimbait hook with a split ring. The design allows the lure more freedom of movement and makes it more difficult for a bass to throw the hook. A package of four 1/0 or 3/0 sizes, or three 5/0s, sells for $5.49. Lazer Trokar lazertrokar.com The TroKar TK125 is a blend of the TK120 Magworm hook and the popular TroKar BARB that graces such hooks as the TK130 Flippin' hook. Placed on the Z-bend of the hook, the co-polymer BARB is slim and streamlined for holding soft plastics in place without imparting excess damage during rigging. Once there, a worm's not going anywhere. Offered in 3/0, 4/0, 5/0 and 6/0, the hook sells with four to six in a pack, depending on size, for $11.99. Drop-shot bass anglers and walleye live-bait riggers will appreciate the TK400 Octopus hook. One of the most popular styles of hook ever created, the TK400 Octopus offers proven design with the razor sharp cutting point of the Trokar series. The point is set at a 22-degree offset for better hooking percentage. It comes in sizes from No. 6 up through a massive 9/0. It sells for $11.99 in quantities that vary by size. Lazer Trokar also released two new treble hook versions for 2012, the TK300 (a standard round bend) and the TK310 (a wide-gap). They come in sizes 2 through 6 and are sold in two-packs for $9.99.