Here's a list of a few things that I consider essential to my fishing this year.
Every year I make notes on things I need to change, add or discard in my fishing. Like most anglers there are items that immediately become must-haves, as well as products that start out as "wants" but eventually become "needs".
Of course it's easy to convince ourselves that some new-fangled lure or boat accessory absolutely needs to join the arsenal of lures and gear we already have. That's part of the fun of fishing too, is it not?
I've narrowed my long list of essential items down to ten. Some of these (such as new lures) are products I've told myself I need and am eager to try, while others have proven via experience to be a necessary part of making my fishing more productive and enjoyable.
I should add that I'm primarily a bass, northern pike and walleye angler, although I also fish Lake Michigan and its tributaries for salmon and trout, and my preferences reflect that focus.
I'm really pumped about throwing this beast into some of my favorite big bass and pike waters this summer. Half hard body, half soft tail, this thing just looks like it's going to be a killer for fat largemouths, monster northerns and musky on the lakes and flowages that are on my calendar this year. The Savage Gear Hybrid Pike has an interchangeable soft ribbon tail or kick paddle tail, and a break-away hook system to remove the leverage a fighting fish might have when trying to throw the lure. In addition to ordering direct from Savage Gear, you can get the Hybrid Pike from Cabela's. I'm going with the Blue Silver, Black Orange and Natural Pike colors.
I'll tell you what sold me on this lure, and that is a glowing testimonial by Gene "Flukemaster" Jensen. "I have not caught small bass on these," says Jensen. "My very first fish was a six-and-a-half pound, the very next one was a five...the next one was a big four-and-a-half pound spotted bass. This thing catches big fish." That was enough for me to put a few of these on my 'need list' and now in my bass box for a good workout this year.
After a couple near disasters on slippery river rocks a few years ago I decided that enough was enough. My once-ninja-like reflexes and balance aren't what they once were. It only made sense to give my stream footwear some serious reconsideration.
After scouring the Internet and reading a ton of reviews on various wading boots I settled on Simms RipRap Wading shoes. The reviews were good and the price was in my range at around $120-$130. They're light and comfortable, and I also like that I can install metal studs if conditions warrant, although I haven't needed to use studs yet. These wading shoes have been one of my smarter buys.
The RipRap were my choice, but the more important point here is that anglers really do need solid, comfortable, slip resistant footwear, whether you're in rocky, swift water or fishing from shore or boat . It's not entirely accurate to call shoes or boots like this 100% slip resistant - you still have to be conscious of your footing - but water makes things a bit more precarious, and it's a smart move to wear shoes designed to help keep you out of the drink.
A good travel mug is most definitely a 'need' item. Especially when heading out the door to the river or lake during the colder months. Those cheap, thin-walled travel mugs that you often find at the end of store aisles won't cut it for keeping coffee hot in winter (or, as I often prefer during ice fishing season, hot chicken or beef broth). Thermos brand made a great mug with their 16-ounce Stainless Steel King. It keeps liquid hot for a few hours and is ruggedly built. I don't leave home without it.
For a few bucks more you can get one with a handle if you like. I also use a Thermos 40-ounce Insulated Beverage Bottle - the kind that we associate with construction workers - almost as much as I do the 16-ounce travel mug, often taking both with me when heading out.
You need a headlamp, simple as that. Headlamps just make life so much easier, whether you're changing lures or tying knots in the dark, changing a boat or trailer tire, walking to your deer stand or putting your boat in at the ramp before the sun comes up, or hunting for nightcrawlers after dark to fill a baitbox.
I have headlamps in my vehicles, bug-out bags, and various drawers around the house. Some of them are inexpensive baseball cap clip-ons, others are pricier and more robust depending on their intended purpose.
There's quite a range of prices and features in the headlamp field. The Pelican 2760 is a good one at a midrange price of around $40. It's got features I like, like multiple light options, including a red light to save your night vision, and it won't accidentally turn on if it gets jostled in your gear bag or pocket (at least it hasn't yet).
I have a couple of lakes that I've fished forever and that by midsummer pretty well qualify as weed-choked. They are also a couple of my favorite lakes for largemouth bass and northern pike. Last summer I lost what would have been my personal best bass to date on one of them. I was heart-broken but super excited too. I'm going back after that bruiser this year, and I'm going to be throwing Live Target's Sunfish Hollow Body at her.
The Sunfish Hollow Body is basically a plastic jerk bait that looks exteremely lifelike. The weedless part is essential for my particular quest, and the sunfish part fits the bill perfectly as panfish are the primary forage fish in this lake. I can't legitimately call it an essential lure just yet, but if you fish weedy, shallow lakes like those I describe here, the Live Target Sunfish might become a 'needed' part of your bass and pike arsenal. You can pick 'em up at Cabela's.
By the way, I lost that largemouth on another lure I consider an absolute must-have: the old reliable and versatile Johnson Silver Minnow in the color black. Don't leave home without 'em!
This is another product that I've predetermined as essential based on the overwhelmingly positive reviews and testimonials of other anglers who've used it. I only learned of JJ's Magic Fish Attractant this winter. I was intrigued, researched it more, and immediately ordered some jars. Based on what I've seen and read, this stuff is dynamite. Check out this in-depth video on JJ's Magic.
8. Dry Bags
Dry bags are one of the most useful items that any outdoor sportsman can have on hand. The name is the description, and should be enough to tell you why they are a necessary item for just about any outdoor activity.
Keep a dry bag on the boat or back in the car with a change of clothes. Use them to store dry foods inside a cooler. Keep a small dry bag handy to store your phone, wallet and other personal items. There are a number of manufacturers of good dry bags out there. Sea to Summit makes a great line of tough, durable bags that do what they're supposed to do: keep your stuff dry.
This little gadget is really ingenious. It keeps your leader spools neat and orderly and completely eliminates those 'rat nests' or trailing loose lines that sometimes occur on spools, even with the rubber bands most of us use to prevent that very thing. The Shark Tooth functions on a similar principle as dental floss dispensers, with line holder and cutter combined in a single piece attached to a sturdy rubber band. I first learned of this cleverly designed product last month when I shared a video from Uncut Angling's Aaron Wiebe on great Christmas gift ideas for anglers.
If you can't find it at any of your local tackle shops you can order it over the Internet from a few sites. The link above takes you to BassTackleMaster.com where you can watch a brief video on how the Shark Tooth works and order a handful of them. They run around $5 apiece, and if you buy $50 worth you'll get free shipping from BassTackleMaster.
I only recently downloaded the free Fatsack app and started playing around with it. Already I will boldly declare, you need this app. The Fatsack app allows you, with a push of a button and a few thumb swipes to record your location, weather conditions, lure and tackle, fish sizes, and more. It'll store all of that data and as your data bank grows, will analyze it for you so that you can find patterns that have worked consistently for you.
On top of all of that you'll also get to share your fishing pics on a braggin' board. Get it, it's FREE!
There you go. What's on your must-have list for fishing gear?