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Holiday buyer’s guide

Holiday buyer’s guide

That little span between the end of fall fishing and the beginning of spring fishing could be a depressing period of time if not for the winter holidays. Not only is Christmas a time to rejoice and celebrate with family and friends - it's a time to rack up on great new fishing gear.

We've spent a great deal of time playing with the newest rods, reels and lures, just so you can have a leg up when making your list (or buying for others). It's a tough job, we know, but after extensive research, we've narrowed things down to the coolest of the cool.

New rods:
Few things will bring about looks of envy from your fishing buddies more than a really sweet, really sensitive, shiny new fishing rod. There are a ton of new ones on the market this year, and we'd love to feature them all. Space permits us to only talk about a few, however. These are some of our favorites:

Fenwick Intercoastal and Inshore rods (saltwater)
Along with its new Inshore rods, the Fenwick Intercoastal provides the perfect blend of quality components and ideal action for powerful inshore fish. We tested the 7-foot casting version in-house, and we were impressed with the fast tip, perfect balance and comfortable cork handles. We plan to give it a workout in Venice, La., this spring. The Intercoastal rod series is available in a 6-foot, 6-inch casting version, two 7-foot casting versions, two 7-foot spinning versions and a 7-foot, 6-inch spinning version. All actions are medium or medium-heavy. Retail price is $99.95. (fenwickfishing.com)

E21 Carrot Stix (bass & walleye)
Sporting a bright-orange finish, the E21 Carrot Stix rods scream for attention. They get it, too. A high-strength epoxy matrix is created from cellulose fibers taken from carrots and then wrapped around a graphite skeleton. Rods are then checked using a process known as Finite Element Analysis. Whatever that is, the end result is a rod that is free of weak spots and always loads evenly. These rods aren't just strong; they are ultra-sensitive due to their fully exposed grip. Members of the outdoor media were so taken by the rods that they selected the Carrot Stix freshwater rod as Best of Show for new products at the 2007 ICAST. The rod will retail for $300. (e21fishing.com)

New reels:
A new fishing rod is great, but pairing it with an old, scratched-up reel is a definite bummer. Fortunately, there are as many smooth new reels on the market as there are rods. Each season, we see the trend going to smaller and lighter without sacrificing power - this year is no exception.

Abu Garcia Cardinal 700LX (bass, walleye & saltwater)
The Cardinal 700LX series includes a body and rotor crafted from lightweight aluminum, seven High Performance Corrosion Resistant bearings, and stainless-steel components. It features a waterproof Carbon Matrix Drag system and is available in gear ratios 5.1:1 and 4.8:1. There are five sizes in this series, ranging from a 701 to a 707. Suggested retail is $109.99 to $119.99. (abu-garcia.com)

Shimano Stradic FI (bass, walleye & saltwater)
The Stradic FI marks an evolution in reels for Shimano. Incorporated into their classic line of reels are several new technologies, including Paladin Gear Durability Enhancement, Propulsion Line Management System and Aero Wrap II Oscillation System. Basically, these technologies drastically improve the components of an already great reel series to produce a brand new series. The reels comes in seven sizes, and each one casts incredibly long and reels incredibly smooth. If you're looking for a smooth-casting, long-lasting spinning reel for a reasonable price - $160 to $200 - then this one is worth a look. (fish.shimano.com)

New baits:
It never ceases to amaze us how innovative lure manufacturers are each new fishing season. New scents, new actions and new materials continue to make lure making the fastest-changing aspect of the fishing industry. This year, seductive swimbaits and premium crankbaits, along with an array of new scents and flavors for soft artificials, reign supreme.

Berkley Gulp! Alive! (bass, walleye & saltwater)
At this year's ICAST convention, Berkley won the best of show in the Soft Lure category with its new creation, Gulp! Alive! The baits come in stackable buckets filled with Gulp! juice. This allows the bait to suspend in the juice and maintain its shape and scent. The freshwater line includes Minnows, Minnow Grubs and Leeches, all in various sizes and colors.

Berkley claims their original Gulp! outfishes live bait, and considering a used bait can be put back into the bucket to recharge its scent, it may be more economical, too. A 32-ounce bucket sells for $39.99, and a 16-ounce bucket goes for $19.99.

Gulp! Alive! Attractant has also been captured in a convenient spray bottle. Spray it on everything, from crankbaits to fishing line, Alive! makes fish bite. Retail price is $8.99 for an 8-ounce bottle. (berkley-fishing.com)

Berkley PowerBait Realistix Manic Shad (bass & saltwater)
Last year, the ChatterBait took professional bass fishing by storm. This year, small swimbaits have been all the rage. The Berkley Manic Shad takes the best of both worlds with an innovative swimming collar on the lure's head that creates a unique swimming action.

The lure is available in four sizes ranging from 3 to 7 inches. A pack containing one acrylic head and replacement bodies retails for $6.49. (berkley-fishing.com)

Lindy Rattl'n Flyer Spoon (walleye)
Can't decide whether to throw a spoon or a jig? Why not both? That's what you get with the new Lindy Rattl'n Flyer Spoon. The Rattl'n Flyer combines the action of the traditional Lindy Flyer but in jigging-spoon form. Throw in the built-in rattle, and this spoon is all set for winter ice fishing trips, casting or trolling.

Available in three sizes and six colors, the Rattl'n Flyer also features Techni-Glo eyes and holographic foil for extra flash. It is constructed of a non-lead alloy for a balanced fall and lively action. Prices vary from $4.41 to $4.74, according to size. (lindyfishingtackle.com)

Electronics:
If you've been really good this year, perhaps you had an electronics upgrade in mind. If so, you couldn't have picked a better year to curb questionable behavior.

Raymarine LifeTag (saltwater)
Anglers may look to big water to make a living for their family or just to live it up with their family members. But whatever the reason, safety can never be overlooked. That is why Raymarine developed the LifeTag wireless Man Overboard System.

The system works by affixing a small, 1 1/2-ounce pendant to each passenger. Each pendant broadcasts a signal back to a receiver, indicating the wearer is within a specified distance of the boat. Should that passenger fall overboard, the signal will be broken and an alarm will sound onboard, or the alarm can be manually triggered. Systems come with two pendants but can support up to 16, and they are compatible with SeaTalk chart plotters, radars and instruments. The system will track elapsed time, location of boat at the time of the accident, water temperature and bearing back to the victim. Base packages retail for $685, and additional pendants sell for $115. (raymarine.com)

Lowrance (bass & walleye)
Lowrance won best of show in the Electronics category at the ICAST show in July with its LCX-38C HD. The unit features an 8.4-inch screen, SVGA, 16-bit color with the SolarMaxTM TFT display to make it more visible in bright, sunny conditions. With 8,000 watts of peak-to-peak power, this unit can probe the depths and identify big fish in the lake. The 30GB hard drive comes preloaded with a lot of enhanced mapping software for exact depth positioning when on the water. The unit retails for $1,899.

For those wanting a larger LCD display, check out the LCX-113C HD with an amazing 10.4 inches of screen. And to get the finest detail in the industry, add a Broadband Sounder-1 sonar optimizer. The Broadband Sounder-1 delivers peerless echo clarity and the highest underwater definition ever achieved to any of the LCX or LMS units with screens larger than 5 inches.

For your travels to and from tournaments, fishing trips or vacations, an iWay 600C relieves some of the hassle of traveling. It has a 5-inch display with three mapping modes and a built-in database of turn-by-turn directions. It can store 1,000 addresses, five gigabytes of MP3 audio tracks that can be played through a full spectrum FM modulator on your car stereo and 25GB of detailed maps. Even if you are old-school and like using an atlas, this unit can still be valuable in showing you good places to eat, stop for gas and lodge along the way. The unit retails for $699.99. (lowrance.com)

Accessories: (bass, walleye & saltwater)
"Accessories" is a broad term, but it's one we had to include. Rare is the angler who can't use a few more accessories - from a new set of pliers to state-of-the-art bug repellant, or simply a good set of new polarized sunglasses.

Berkley Tec tools
Berkley has redesigned many of its fishing tools and accessories, and the results are impressive. Everything from digital scales and culling kits, pliers and sharpeners, superline shears, fillet knives and locking trigger grips for taming toothy fish are available. Tools for the garage, such as line-spooling stations and rod racks, are handy as well. Suggested retail prices vary from tool to tool. We particularly liked the Superline Shears ($24.99 with a sheath), the Power Pliers ($49.99 for the 6-inch model), and the Digital Scale and Culling Kit ($69.99). (berkley-fishing.com)

Solar Bat glasses
Dr. Gary Nesty's Solar Bat line of polarized sunglasses is regarded as one of the best in the industry. With various sleek frame styles housing quality, impact- and scratch-resistant polarized lenses of three different grades (Noctular PNV, Noctular and Ecolar for all budgets), Solar Bats are always a good choice when shopping for new glasses. New for 2007 is the MPCY-Mossback Gradient Polarized lens tint, which combines the Mossback tint in the top of the lens with the HiConY tint in the bottom, creating maximum versatility for spotting fish in all conditions. Prices vary according to the frame and lens style, but expect to pay $110 to $165 for the Noctular PNV lenses. (solarbat.com)

ThermaCell mosquito repellent
If ever there was a better mosquito repellent than the ThermaCell, we'd like to see it. Without dealing with messy, smelly sprays or lotions, the ThermaCell repells mosquitoes and other flying bugs with amazing effectiveness.

Powered by a butane cartridge that provides heat under a repellent mat, the device emits a powerful vapor that, while nearly odorless to humans, aggravates mosquitoes and black flies to no end.

Two of the smaller devices provide enough protection to keep mosquitoes out of the boat. For a handy night-fishing gadget, check out the ThermaCell Patio Lantern, which provides not only mosquito repellent, but also a little extra light. Refill packs for both devices are sold separately. Retail prices begin at $22. (thermacell.com)

Stearns raingear
The words "quality raingear" and "lightweight" don't often go together, but Stearns' Breathable Nylon outerwear line fits the description. We've been using the Diamond Ripstop Jacket and Pants over the summer, and together they've kept us dry without being too hot and heavy. Numerous pockets with ample space are ideal for anglers. The jacket retails for $45.99 while the pants are $32. (stearnsinc.com)

Stren Microfuse
What would a superline be called if it changed to match the conditions? Stren Microfuse, most likely. This amazing superline, which won best of show in the Line Class category during the 2007 ICAST show, is a thermally fused braid that, while nearly translucent underwater, glows a hi-vis fluorescent blue in daylight and blue neon under a black light at night. It's really something you have to see to believe. The line is available in pound tests ranging from 2 to 30 in spools of 125 yards, 300 yards and 1,100 yards. Retail price is $18.99 for a 125-yard spool. (stren.com)

Shimano sandals
The new Evair Marine/Fishing Sandals will be a hit with all serious boaters and anglers. With a scant weight of 6 ounces per shoe, the sandals are made of ultra-light EVA foam, which absorbs heel shock and reduces foot fatigue. They feature non-slipping, non-marking, water-channeling outsoles, as well as an air-channel system for keeping your feet cool and dry. The Evair Sandals retail for $39.99. (fish.shimano.com)

OSP/Bass Medics
The folks at Outdoor Specialty Products (OSP) keep raising the bar in terms of aftermarket products for keeping fish healthy and strong in your livewell. From the Next Generation Rejuvinade products, to the V-T2 Ventilation System, OSP has one thing on their minds - the health of our resources. The V-T2 Ventilation System provides a necessary airflow in your livewells that not only removes buildup of harmful gases, but more importantly lowers the temperature of the water in the livewell. It wouldn't surprise us at all to see these as standard equipment on bass boats in the future. Look for new key products to be introduced in 2008. (bassmedics.com)

Hamby's boat bumpers
One of the best investments you can make to protect your boat's hull is a Hamby's Light Beaching Bumper. This aftermarket version of the factory installable Original Protector Beaching Bumper caters to the do-it-yourself angler who beaches his boat often and wants to protect his hull from damage. The protector weighs a mere 4 pounds, but is made of super-durable urethane. Following the instructions and moving carefully along, the protector can be installed at home in less than an hour using the super-adhesive 3M VHB adhesive provided. The bumper retails for $189.99. If you're ordering a new bass boat for next season, be sure to ask for a Hamby's Original Beaching Bumper to be installed at the factory. The expense is well worth the provided protection. (hambys.com)

Sospenders inflatable PFDs
The advantages to inflatable PFDs are many, with the primary one being that they're more likely to be worn when needed. With both automatic and manual inflation options, Sospenders PFDs are designed to inflate automatically via a CO2 system when submerged. They're light, cool and comfortable enough to wear all day, even on hot days, and they're compact enough that they don't get in the way while casting and reeling. Sospenders are approved by the U.S. Coast Guard. Retail price for the 1220 World Class Series is $168.99. (stearnsinc.com)

Jay Kendrick Q&A

Jay Kendrick Q&A

I don’t want to come off cocky or overconfident, but I don’t remember having that feeling like I’d made it or anything. I never doubted I would. It was just a matter of time. Just like I have no doubt I’ll win an FLW Tour event. It’s just a matter of time, though I think that’s close. READ MORE »

Buddy Gross Q&A

Buddy Gross Q&A

I’ve never been one to watch all the tournaments on TV. I’m not a good spectator; I’d rather be actually fishing. Now my best friend and tournament partner, James Milling, he’s always watching them and keeping me informed. He shows up all the time with the latest and greatest fishing lures. He gets on me about it. READ MORE »

Tom Monsoor Q&A

Tom Monsoor Q&A

He liked to fish, but it was my mom, Lola, who loved to fish. Every chance she got she’d drag us out to go fishing. She lived to fish. In fact, to the day she died, she had a wooden, flat-bottom rowboat on Blue Lake in La Crosse. READ MORE »

2014 Buyer’s Guide: Soft plastics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Look

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

Drawdown tactics

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

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 »