Fishing gear can be a tricky purchase. There are hundreds of gadgets out there, but who has the time to sort through them all? And how do you know which ones are worth your hard-earned money?
Every angler has different needs based on their budget and the kind of fishing they enjoy. But take it from a diehard angler — certain fishing accessories are hard to live without once you’ve tried them.
As you load up on gear for the 2018 season, here are a few key items that will make an immediate and lasting impact on your fishing experience:
1. Tackle backpack
X-Factor: Makes it easy to store, carry and organize your gear.
The Scoop: When I go fishing, I’m going on an adventure. Which means I don’t want to be bogged down carrying all my gear. Years ago, I started carrying my tackle in a backpack to keep my hands free on long hikes. Then, Cabela’s came out with a new tackle system that seemed custom-made for me — a backpack specifically designed to carry several small tackle boxes, along with countless handy compartments for other gadgets. I bought one and fell in love immediately. I later purchased the smaller day-pack version, which has since become my go-to tackle bag. Because both packs use the same tackle inserts, I have organized my gear by species. Before a trip, I simply load up the box(es) I’ll need for the day and I’m ready to rock. There are many fine tackle box options out there, and you can still use them to store and organize gear in your boat or garage. But for everyday use, go buy the pack and you’ll never go back!
2. Fishing shoes
X-Factor: The support of an athletic shoe meets the convenience of a sandal.
The Scoop: Whether you fish from a boat or on foot, shoes are a big deal. You don’t want to ruin your tennis shoes by getting them wet all the time, but flip-flops just don’t cut it for hiking or wading along muddy or rocky river bottoms. After I spent years trudging around in old sneakers, several retailers finally came out with waterproof, durable tennis shoes that drain quickly and protect your feet without weighing you down. My Under-Armor kicks quickly became one of my favorite fishing accessories — Huk, Columbia and Evair offer similar products. The shoes’ amphibious design makes them perfect for wading through streams, hiking along the bank, launching a boat or virtually any activity where your feet might get wet.
3. Power ice auger
X-Factor: Opens up a whole new world of wintertime fishing opportunities.
The Scoop: Up until recently, I was an ice fishing novice. I had always enjoyed it, but I could only go if I was tagging along with someone who owned an auger. So, I made the investment in an entry-level gas model. It has proven worth every penny. If you want to get serious about ice fishing, the auger is the key to the whole operation. It’s a relatively substantial investment (I got mine, an Eskimo Stingray, on sale for $225), but once you have the auger, the rest of your gear falls into place pretty quickly. Both gas and propane models exist. I have found my gas-powered model to be reliable and easy to maintain — and it can drill a dozen holes in a matter of minutes.
4. Float tube
X-Factor: Takes you many of the places a boat can — and a few it can’t — for a fraction of the cost.
The Scoop: Float tubes are a perfect marriage of convenience and affordability. If you have been itching to venture offshore but lack the budget or storage space for a fishing boat, a float tube is just what the doctor ordered. For less than $100, you can get into a nice tube. They are powered by foot (you, wearing scuba fins), they fit in the trunk of any car, and they are light enough to carry just about anywhere. Small, wakeless bass lakes, high mountain lakes and local ponds are prime tubing waters. I recommend the tube models you inflate by mouth — they have fewer losable parts and you won’t need to carry a pump. Relaxing in a float tube and watching largemouth bass destroy top water frogs on a warm summer evening is about as good as it gets, in my book. It’s definitely worth a $75 investment!
5. Worm threader
X-Factor: Saves bait and increases hookups when fishing with night crawlers.
The Scoop: Not every game-changing gear buy is an expensive one. If you fish with bait and haven’t been using a worm threader, buy one ASAP! This little tool only costs a buck or two, and it will pay for itself in one trip. Threaders allow you to put the entire worm on your line, with the hook only sticking out the tail. This gives your bait a more natural look as it drifts through the water, and it also makes it much more difficult for a fish to bite without getting the hook. You’ll set the hook on more fish, use less bait and save time and money. Be warned — it is easier for fish to swallow a threaded worm, so be quick on your hook sets and avoid bait fishing if you intend to catch and release.