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Gear Guide 2012

Rapala X-Rap Pop

Editor's note: This article is from the magazine editors at FLW Outdoors. -------------------------------------------



It 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.
Quantum EXO PT Quantum EXO PT quantumfishing.com Quantum derived the name EXO for its new reel from the term exoskeleton, which accurately describes the unique appearance of the reel's frame. Engineers started with an aluminum frame and then cut away any unnecessary material, leaving only the bare bones where needed for strength. They created an incredibly light 5.9-ounce reel that is still impressively strong and powerful. Power comes from what Quantum describes as 150-class-strength gears in a 100-class-size reel. It features EVA grips, a microsized version of Quantum's ACS cast control system and a compact spool. All three models - 7.3:1, 6.6:1 and 5.3:1 - are right-hand retrieve only and have a 10+1 bearing system. Also available in a spinning model. $249 Abu Garcia Revo MGX abugarcia.com You won't feel much of anything except your lure with this compact reel. It weighs in at a freakishly light 5.4 ounces. Abu engineers achieved such a light weight by using an alloy frame and carbon side plates to build the compact body. It's available in 7.1:1 and 7.9:1 gear ratios, but because of its size, those ratios actually equate to about the same line take-up as a standard Revo's 6.4:1 and 7.1:1 gear ratios, respectively. For an idea of size, the MGX holds 115 yards of 12-pound-test monofilament or 110 yards of 30-pound-test braid. $349.95 Shimano Stradic FJ fish.shimano.com Shimano Stradic FJIt might have the same name, but the Stradic FJ is all-new for 2012. First, Shimano brought back the classic white color. Then it added the X-Ship double bearing-supported pinion gears that were originally designed for the much pricier Stella. In a nutshell, the X-Ship adds support in a way that assures smooth, powerful operation. The reel has five shielded bearings and a one-way roller bearing. It's available in seven sizes from the 1000 model up to 8000. For bass and walleye anglers, the 1000, 2500 and 3000 sizes are best. Each has a 6:1 gear ratio. $179.99 Pinnacle Optimus XiHS pinnaclefishing.com Not only did Pinnacle design a reel with quality features for its Optimus line, but it offers it in a hand-Pinnacle Optimus XiHStuned version. Experts at Pinnacle put each hand-tuned reel through a series of eight checks and make any necessary adjustments to achieve optimum performance from the get-go. The reel features a fast 7.3:1 gear ratio, Pinnacle's X-Bone metal frame, 10 double-shielded stainless-steel bearings plus a roller bearing, and external brake adjustments. It costs about $50 more than the standard version. $249.99 Abu Garcia Orra SX abugarcia.com The Orra series of baitcasting reels was a midpriced hit for Abu Garcia. Now comes the spinning model. The Orra SX is available in fize sizes, from a 10 class to a 60 class. It features Abu Garcia's X-Craftic corrosion-resistant alloy frame, eight stainless-steel bearings plus a roller bearing, and "slow oscillation," which means it neatly and evenly wraps line on the spool The aluminum spool features a unique reverse corkscrew design that allows you to spool up braid without concern for it slipping, even without using tape or a rubber washer. There's also a standard high-capacity spare spool included for using monofilament or fluorocarbon. Gear ratios and line capacitites vary by model. A value-priced Orra S version is also available for $69.95. $99.95 to $119.95 Daiwa Ballistic daiwa.com The T3 Ballistic is the more modest-priced version of Daiwa's clever new T3 system reels, the standard T3 being top dog. Both reels feature the new T-Wing System (TWS), which is a combination of a mechanical hood and T-shaped line guide that work together to control line flow. When the cast button is pushed, the hood lifts up, revealing the top, horizontal part of the line guide (the top of the T). During the cast, line flows straight out throughout the guide from across the spool rather than having to angle through a single point as with a traditional reel, which i9ncreases friction. When the reel handle is engaged, the hood closes and line is forced through a smaller opening tin the bottom of the T, which oscillates and distributes line evenly on the spool. It comes with five ball bearings plus a roller bearing and in 6.3:1 and 7.1:1 retrieve ratios. $249.95 Click here to view the rest of the best in reels for 2012.



The 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.
Dobyns Savvy Series Micro Dobyns Savvy Series Micro dobynsrods.com Following the success of the recent re-release of the Dobyns rod brand, the company launched a new series of micro-guide rods called the Savvy Series. It includes four spinning rods and seven standard casting rods, plus two flip-and-pitch casting models. Every rod is technique-specific, ranging from various finesse presentations to heavyweight tactics. One flip-and-pitch model has a full cork handle; the rest have split cork grips. $149.99 to $169.99 G.Loomis GL2 gloomis.com Named best freshwater rod at ICAST 2011, the G.Loomis GL2 series is an upgraded version of the original series, which was unveiled in 1994. The series includes 22 jig and worm models (16 of them casting and six spinning); six crankbait casting rods; two models each of spinnerbait, swimbait and drop-shot rods; and a flipping stick. All have split-grip handles of alternating species of cork and composite, turned with a unique hourglass shape for a comfortable grip. The butt cork even has flat sides for comfortably tucking under the shoulder while fishing. $185 to $245 Airrus Rods Nano Fusion rodsbyairrus.com From rod-making wizard Ken Whiting comes the next generation of Airrus Rods, the Nano Fusion Series. All blanks are filament-wound, which affords the manufacturer increased control of flex throughout the rod over the more common practice of varying the taper. They're wrapped near the handle and rod tip with Bucky Paper, a Carbon Nanotube Layering system designed for strength and durability. Each one is lined with micro guides, although the stripper guide has been left taller for a less dramatic line angle coming from the reel. Finally, the grip is designed with what Airrus calls the Megaphone Effect 2.0. Shaped like a megaphone, the grip enhances vibrations and sensitivity in the handle. The series includes four casting models and two spinning models. $250 Damiki Dark Angel Skipping Rod Damiki Dark Angel Skipping Rod damiki.com Few anglers in fishing are as adept at skipping a jig under a dock as Chevy pro Bryan Thrift. He proved his mettle with the technique by using it to win the Lake Norman tour event in 2010. During that time, he was in the process of designing a premier skipping rod with Damiki. Recently perfected, that rod has been released as the Damiki Dark Angel Skipping rod. It's a 6-foot, 9-inch rod available in medium-heavy or heavy action. The blank is carbon graphite, with an EVA foam split-grip handle and Fuji guides and reel seat. A limited number will be available as part of a Bryan Thrift autograph series, with his signature emblazoned on the blank. $179 Okuma Helios okumafishing.com Built with extremely sensitive 40-ton graphite blanks, the five rods in the Helios line all come in at 5 ounces or less. The 7-foot, medium rod weighs a feathery 3.6 ounces. This is made possible in part because the rods are tied with micro guides, a first for Okuma. The series is comprised only of baitcasting models, each with split Pac Bay reel seats and split EVA grips. Okuma removed the foregrip to reduce weight and carefully balance each rod. Anglers will appreciate the unique hook keeper, which slides up and down the rod to be wherever you need it. It folds down flat and out of the way. $174.99 Quantum Lindner Signature Series Quantum Lindner Signature Series quantumfishing.com Few names are as synonymous with freshwater fishing as Lindner. Yet, the family has never put its name on a series of rods until now. The new Quantum Lindner Signature Series of technique-specific rods includes 20 models. Four of those are musky rods. The rest are carefully balanced for bass and walleyes. They're packaged with hang tags that suggest the tactics they'll excel at for each species. The Lindners designed the rods to be affordable and lightweight, the latter a result of downsized line guides. Two walleye trolling rods excluded, they are made of high-modulus graphite with split grips. Bass and walleye models have EVA foam grips. $119 to $169 St. Croix Rage stcroixrods.com Once again St. Croix comes to the party with a value-priced rod packed full of features. The Rage series is technique-specific. It includes 12 casting and five spinning models, all tied with micro guides. However, the stripper guide is downsized from standard, yet still larger than a micro guide. This allows for improved line flow by reducing the line angle from reel to guides. St. Croix also designed a cool, custom two-part handle for each rod. First, a core is machined to a contoured shape for comfort. Second, a neoprene skin is attached. The grip is extremely tacky, even when wet. St. Croix backs the Rage with a five-year warranty. $150 to $170 Power-Pole Blade Edition Click here to view the rest of the best in rods for 2012. (Rod and line selection guide for bass anglers)


Power-Pole Blade Edition power-pole.com Minn Kota i-Pilot Upgraded RemoteIn 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

Hard lures

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.
Rapala X-Rap Pop rapala.com Rapala X-Rap PopAll it takes is one look at the mouth of this lure to realize it's not like any other popper. Instead of a circular or ovular mouth, Rapala designed a triangular mouth. It catches more water and causes the lure to have one of the deepest "bloops" you'll ever hear. Better yet, it does it every twitch. The designers also incorporated an internal cast mechanism that doubles as a rattle. The 2 3/4-inch lure weighs 3/8 ounce and comes in six colors. $11.49 Luck "E" Strike Upshot luck-e-strike.us Anglers looking for a new lure to toss at suspended fish need to take a look at the Upshot. It might look Luck E Strike Upshotlike Luck "E" Strike put the diving lip on the wrong side of the lure, but the location is intentional. The Upshot is designed to sink and flutter. However, instead of diving when cranked or jerked like other hard-plastic lures, the Upshot shoots toward the surface, just like a fleeing or stressed shad would. The lure measures 3 inches and weighs 3/8 ounce. It comes in six colors. $6.95 SPRO Big Daddy 70 spro.com Since its launch of the Little John series, SPRO has become a big name in the crankbait market. So it's fitting that it now launches the Big Daddy 70. SPRO designed this crankbait to reach the depths (12 feet on 10-pound-test line) with the rolling, hard-wobbling action of a typical shallow crankbait. The Big Daddy 70 is also silent, following the trend in crankbaits of recent seasons. At 2 ¾ inches and 5/8 ounce, it's a stocky offering that comes in eight colors. $10.99 Law Death Shimmer deathshimmer.com We were skeptical at first of the bent wire on the Death Shimmer. However, seeing - or rather, feeling - is believing. The patent-pending bent wire on this spinnerbait intentionally catches fmore water than a straight wire, which causes the spinnerbait to throw off more vibration than other spinnerbaits without the need for an ultralight wire that could bend or break. Anglers who fish murky water or after dark will appreciate this lure. The Death Shimmer comes in five colors and three sizes - 3/8, ¼ and 1/2 ounces. $8.49 Lucky Craft Fat Smasher Lucky Craft Fat Smasher luckycraft.com Is it a crankbait? Is it a swimbait? Actually, the Fat Smasher is both. Lucky Craft took the best characteristics of a swimbait (the natural swimming action) and a crankbait (the wobble and vibration) and combined them to create a perfect lure for "cranking" the shallows. The lure sinks slowly, and once it reaches the right depth, it stays at that depth throughout the retrieve. The Fat Smasher comes in a 2 ¼-inch, 1/2-ounce model and a 3 1/2-inch, ¾-ounce model in 13 of Lucky Craft's famous colors. $15.99 to $18.99 ABT King Dawg abtlures.com Allen Borden, owner of ABT Lures, is known for designing various lures for Strike King, such as the King Shad. Now he's designing lures for himself and coming up with some unique products. Along with some realistic swimbaits, ABT released the King Dawg, a jointed walk-the-dog style topwater. The beauty of the joint is that is makes it easy to "walk" the lure back and forth. It also creates a sound bass haven't heard as iit skims the surface. The 5-inch lure comes in six colors and weighs ¾ ounce for long casts. $11.99 Click here to view the rest of the best in hard lures for 2012.

Soft lures


Dub 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.
Jackall Clone Gill, Clone Fry and Super Cross Tail Shad Jackall Clone Fry, Clone Gill and Super Cross Tail Shad jackall-lures.com For 2012, Jackall created some of the most life-like finesse soft plastics on the market. The 3-inch Clone Fry and 2 1/2-inch Clone Gill are realistic down to the smallest details, and both were designed to be drop-shotted or fished on a jighead. The Clone Gill has been especially effective on bedding fish. Clone Gill - $12.99; Clone Fry - $9.99 Meanwhile, the Super Cross Tail Shad is a prettier version of the already successful Cross Tail Shad, a lure that has become a staple of drop-shot anglers everywhere. All three lures come in eight colors. $9.99 Big Bite Baits Wacky Stick bigbitebaits.com It looks like a regular soft-plastic stickbait, but this one has a secret inside designed for wacky rigging. Molded inside the center of the Wacky Stick is a rummber O-ring. Ditch the O-ring you've been putting around the lures to hold it on the hook, and instead pierce through the lure's built-in O-ring. The 5-inch lure comes in eight colors and retails in packs of seven. $4.99 Damiki Air Craw damiki.com Damiki Air CrawMost crayfish-imitators have flat arms that catch water. The arms on this lure catch air. Each "claw" is actually a hollow tube, which traps air and causes the claws and body of the lure (depending on the weight and rigging) to rise off the bottom like a crayfish on the defense. The lure comes in 3- and 4-inch sizes and seven colors. The 3-inch model comes in a 10-pack; the 4-inch model an eight-pack. $5.99 Koppers LIVETARGET Hollow Body Field Mouse koppersfishing.com Dubbed best soft lure at ICAST, the Field Mouse continues the Koppers tradition of creating the most realistic lures on the market. The hollow-bodied topwater looks exactly like the real thing, even down to the rubber tail. A custom hook seals the deal. The lure is available in a 3-inch, 5/8-ounce model and a 3 1/2-inch, ¾-ounce model. It comes in six colors. $11.49 Strike King KVD Sexy Frog strikeking.com Strike King KVD Sexy FrogIn a year when multiple hollow frogs were released, this is the frog that got our attention. The lure has all the quality components a frog fisherman looks for - sharp Gamakatsu hook, free-floating rattles, sealed nose - but at a reasonable price. The lure comes in 10 colors. $7.99 Trigger X Hodad triggerx.com Is it a tube? Is it a creature? No idea. We just know the Hodad will catch fish. A thick-walled tube inspired the lure's body, making it perfect for fishing on a jighead or as a flipping lure. However, instead of tentacles, two "feelers" and large paddle arms move water and resemble a crayfish. Trigger X pheromones enhance the package. The 4-inch lure comes in 13 colors and packs of six. $5.99 Click here to view the rest of the best in soft lures for 2012.


Plano Hydro-Flo planomolding.com Plano Hydro-FloThe 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 Boomerang Tool The SnipBacked 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 Soft Lines Dock LinesYou'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



Several 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.
Frabil FXE Windproof Fleece Jacket frabill.com Frabil FXE Windproof Fleece JacketEngineered specifically for anglers, the FXE Windproof Fleece can serve as an underlayer or a stand-alone jacket thanks to a special laminate that cuts the wind. An extended-height collar adds protection on cold days accompanied by long, blistery boat rides. Pre-curved, ergonomic elbows offer comfort for fishing and performing various chores. There's also a water-resistant cuff so moisture won't run up the sleeve from the livewell or the lake. Finally, an underarm zipper vent, cord-lock adjustable hem and multiple zipper pockets round out the jacket. $129.99 Glacier Glove Abaco Bay Glove glacierglove.com Hands are often overlooked when it comes to sun protection, especially among anglers who are fearful of getting sunscreen from their hands to their lures and potentially spooking fish. Glacier Glove, which makes some of the most innovative cold-weather gloves specifically for fishing, has a sun-safe solution. Its Abaco Bay Glove is a fingerless design created for protecting the hands from sunburn and long-term sun-related health problems. The glove is made of Lycra/spandex for a comfortable, breezy feel, and it's rated to 50+ UPF for blocking harmful sun rays. The gloves are available in two sizes: small/medium and large/extra large. They also come in three patterns. $19.99 to $22.99


Sunglasses for the fashionable fisherman

by 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. Onos Ernest HemingwayNothing 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 Typhoon AlohaFeatures: 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 Strike KingFeatures: 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 2012

New 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. Sufix Castable Invisiline 100 Percent FluorocarbonAnd 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 Sunline FX2Walmart 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.

Terminal tackle

Hooks, jigheads, weights and rigs

No 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. Damiki D-HoldThe 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 Lazer TrokarThe 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.

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2014 Buyer’s Guide: Soft plastics

No category of lure is as flexible as soft-plastic lures – both in action and in use. Not only do soft plastics move freely, even when deadsticked, but the range of their use is limited only by the angler’s imagination. READ MORE »


2-D sonar strategies

There was a time when experience almost always trumped equipment when it came to finding fish. If you wanted to be a better fisherman, you got out there on the water and paid your dues. You learned the spots that produced at certain times of the year, and culled the 90 percent of the water that was almost always void of bass. The last decade or so of fish-finding technology has changed the paradigm, however. Now anglers can buy a Lowrance HDS unit, cruise likely looking spots on any lake and literally see bass. READ MORE »


Swim-jigging winter grass lines

You can rip rattle baits through winter grass beds like everyone else, or you can offer bass something different: a swim jig. Veteran bass pro Ron Shuffield says a swim jig is one of his preferred cool-weather lures when bass set up camp on grass-line edges. It’s a lure that can be worked quickly, or dragged more slowly when conditions warrant a change-up. READ MORE »


Hog hunters

A five-fish limit is the first measure of success and job one in a tournament. But it’s how you see that quintet shaping up that sets the tone for your performance. Is it an open audition where anything that measures will do, or do you want five stars that’ll rock any stage? READ MORE »


Never (hardly) ever lose a fish

How many good fish do you lose in a season of fishing, whether it’s in a tournament or just when you’re fishing for the fun of it? If it’s more than you can count on your fingers, perhaps it’s time for some constructive self-criticism. Are the fish at fault, or are you? In case it’s the latter, we offer the following advice, observations and tips from some top pros regarding how to put the odds of landing a fish successfully more in your favor. READ MORE »


X Marks the spot

Two things stand out about winter bass fishing: The fish get a little bit pickier about where they want to be, and anglers don’t want to spend as much time running a bass boat around a frigid lake trying to find them. READ MORE »


Q&A with Andy Morgan

I wouldn’t say it was a perfect season, but it sure worked out. I mean, it was a good year, but not a great year. I was surprised to even have a shot to win after Beaver Lake (he finished 68th). Honestly, it was never even on my mind until someone mentioned right before Chickamauga that I had a shot at winning it. READ MORE »


Last-minute holiday gift guide

Naughty? Nice? Who cares – Christmas isn’t far away, and any bad behavior can be overlooked for a while as we celebrate the season with presents for those nearest and dearest. As is our custom, we’ve appointed ourselves Santa’s helpers and came up with a few gift ideas. We’ve also selected goodies that cover a range of price options. Regardless of their cost, the following gear, gadgets and clothing would make any angler beam with joy. READ MORE »


Boat Care 101: Simple do-it-yourself carpet cleaning

If there is one thing I hate worse than seeing a nice bass boat with a filthy finish, it’s seeing one with dirty carpet. I like to keep my stuff clean, but not just because it looks good. A bass boat is a huge investment, and the more you can do to protect that investment the better the returns if you ever decide to sell or trade it. READ MORE »


The Chilly Truth

Not surprisingly, bass fishing has its own set of myths: Bass don’t eat topwaters when it’s sunny, big fish only eat big lures and so on. Winter fishing seems to take myths to a whole new level. Maybe the long hours in freezing cold numbs the mind as much as it does the hands, but one could write an article about how many myths there are regarding this chilly time of year – and whether or not they’re true. READ MORE »


Ask the Experts

If I use heavy-gauge hooks for flipping grass with braided line, why not use the same gauge hooks for fishing all soft plastics? READ MORE »


Sound effects

Though some anglers contend that rattling baits don’t necessarily attract strikes, and might even deter them, the preponderance of evidence favors the rattle crowd. Virtually every hard lure made nowadays – crankbaits, jerkbaits, stick baits and so forth – can be had in rattling and silent versions. READ MORE »


Guide to treble hooks

As a general rule, the treble hooks on the lures of most tournament pros aren’t original equipment. Less-expensive stock trebles are usually replaced with ultra-sharp premium hooks of the angler’s choice. READ MORE »


Dock cranking

Well-honed casting skills are required to send a crankbait deep into the reaches of a dock. It can’t be skipped on the surface easily, but even an average caster can make a crankbait go where dock bass are likely to be if he employs a trick that Walmart FLW Tour pros Bryan Thrift and Wesley Strader call “driving,” or “steering.” READ MORE »


First Look

The following products were originally featured in the 2013 August/September issue of Bass Fishing magazine. READ MORE »


Drawdown tactics

As summer winds down, however, things can change quickly on a drawdown lake – a reservoir where lake managers reduce the water level in late summer and early fall. Come practice for the EverStart showdown, Dan Morehead’s fish were nowhere to be found. In fact, despite the amazing pre-practice, Morehead didn’t catch a fish during the first day and a half of practice. The dropping lake and progressing season had caused everything to change. READ MORE »


All the right turns

Tournament fishing isn’t just about catching fish. It’s about making sound decisions based on experience and applying the proper strategies to make good things happen when they count the most. Of course, sometimes it’s just about trusting your instincts. READ MORE »


Deep-diving details

Anyone who follows big-league bass fishing knows pro David Fritts is legendary for his ability to sniff out and catch bass on a crankbait. True, Fritts is handy with other styles of lures. But he is the iceman with a crankbait, particularly when the bass relate to cover or structure in deep water. READ MORE »


The right trailer for the task

A jig trailer seems simple enough: a piece of molded soft plastic that dangles from a jig’s hook to add bulk, enhance action, temper the fall and suggest a crawfish or other food item. Those basic functions, though, are somewhat divergent and sometimes work against each other. READ MORE »


Lures for the thick of it

While there is more than one way to get to a fat bass that is buried up in the jungle, few methods are more effective than flipping or punching. Both are short-range techniques built around a hard-core fishing system that includes thick line and a stout rod, and any number of lures and rigs designed to slip in and out of thick cover with the skill of a grass snake. READ MORE »