The gear highlighted below will not make you a master fisherman, but it will ensure you have the tools necessary to look the part and to use if you ever get there.
About the only thing lacking is a slate of easily remembered fish stories to help address the one we have all had that got away!
Orvis Mirage Reel
Yes, it’s pricey, but it’s made with Type III military-spec anodization (so it’s very hard to scratch or ding), and a unique ball-and-ramp drag system that can stop a donkey. The best attribute of the drag, however, is that it adjusts at 330 degrees, so you can really home in on the setting that perfectly matches your rig and micro-tune it on demand when you tie into something big. —Kirk Deeter
Surface Seducer Double Barrel Popper Bodies
Just when you thought a popper head was a popper head, in comes the Surface Seducer. Available in four sizes, these foam heads have a deeper cupped mouth and extended top lip to create a louder, splashier pop than flies you’ve tied in the past. Thanks to recessed eyeholes, the days of eyes with subpar glue jobs falling off your poppers after 10 casts are over. A rear guide hole also makes it easier to poke straight through the body for a cleanly centered hook shank. —Joe Cermele [Buy the Surface Seducer Poppers Here]
Sébile Stick Shadd
The second generation of Sébile’s Stick Shadd has undergone enhancements to the face, gill plate, and body texture to create incredibly lifelike detail. The huge selection ranges from a tiny 3⁄16-ounce Stick Shadd to a massive 8-ouncer suited for blue-water fishing and high-speed trolling over 10 knots. —Mark Modoski
Fishpond Castaway Roll Top
This bag is ideally proportioned for smaller boats where deck space is at a premium. Yet the 732-cubic-inch capacity holds plenty of gear for a day, and five movable (and removable) interior dividers and pockets allow for efficient organization of smaller items. From the rigid plastic bottom to the TPU-coated nylon shell, this is a rugged, waterproof bag that gets high marks for storage versatility. —T.L.
Umpqua Zero Sweep Cooler-Gater Organizer
With a variety of setup options, this tackle organizer and workstation attaches to pretty much any cooler, as well as gunnels and boat rails. The nine pockets, a pliers holster, retractors, and tool-attachment points keep the gear you need front and center—no rummaging through a tackle box. It’s an ingenious unit that simplifies your equipment life.—T.L.
Filson Rod Case
Built like a suitcase, this sleek organizer has the tough cotton twill and bridle leather exterior that longtime fans of Filson gear know so well. The padded interior will swallow four-piece rods with ease; adjustable dividers, zippered pockets, and webbing straps make it easy to customize space for multiple reels, tools, spare clothing, and trout nets. Next stop, New Zealand. —T. Edward Nickens
Rapala Skitter V
This topwater bait uses an innovative keel and weighted tail to enhance the classic walk-the-dog retrieve. The bait cuts hard from side to side, making the topwater action easier to achieve for beginners and more controllable for experienced finesse anglers. The 4-inch, 1⁄2-ounce lure comes with two No. 4 VMC round-bend hooks. There are 10 color patterns for bass and saltwater gamefish. A single ball bearing enclosed in the body makes a clickety-clack racket, further enhancing its appeal to fish. —Peter B. Mathiesen
Abu Garcia Revo MGXtreme Baitcaster
Why the lofty price tag? MGXtreme from Abu Garcia is packed with specs that you will not find in any other reel. The durable and rigid magnesium frame keeps the overall weight at an insanely light 4.5 ounces. Eleven ball bearings mean the MGXtreme can handle even the lightest lures, and the 8.1:1 gear ratio quickly recovers line at a rate of 32 inches per turn. There’s only one model, offered in both right- and left-handed versions. —M.M.
13 Fishing Muse Black Swimbait Rod
Ideal for throwing the biggest baits in your box, these sticks are built from a 36-ton Poly-Vector Graphite blank and quality components. The result is a lightweight, responsive, powerful rod. I used the heftiest one to throw every¬thing from 8- to 24-ounce muskie baits for a full day without fatigue. The rest of the lineup covers everything from lunker largemouths to pike and inshore saltwater species. At about $200, they are a steal.—M.M. [Purchase Here]
The Striker series ranges from a 3½-inch Chirp fishfinder with GPS and DownVü that retails at $180 to a wide-screen 7-inch model with GPS, DownVü, and SideVü that sells for $500. There are three others, two of them portable for kayak and ice fishing. If you’ve ever wanted all the fish-finding capabilities of the pros, but don’t have a couple of grand hidden under the couch cushions or a secret account in Switzerland, Garmin has your solution here. —M.M.
Tacky Dry Fly Box
Tacky boxes use an innovative and durable silicone anchoring system to hold flies in place. This new lightweight version has a deeper well compartment to house dry-fly patterns with stand-up posts and hair wings that would otherwise get smashed or deformed in a box with a slimmer profile. It holds 199 flies but is compact enough to fit comfortably in any vest or pack. —K.D. [Purchase Tacky Dry Fly Box]
Hobie Cat Mirage Outback
The new Mirage 180 is a simple upgrade to the time-tested Mirage Drive that gives the non-motorized kayak angler full-power reverse. Pull a cable to flip your fins and you can stop in your tracks, back up, set up on a drift, and hold your line with more precision. Stand-alone drives to fit all Hobies will be available later this spring. —N.M.
Cabela’s Guidewear Coolcore Long-Sleeve Crew
As the guide prepped the drift boat for a full-day float, my partner smirked as I got in wearing this shirt. But at the end of the day he looked like a steamed lobster. I did not, thanks to the fabric’s UPF rating of 50. The polyester construction also has an odor inhibitor as well as Coolcare technology, which wicks away moisture. —S.L.W.
The Berkley Glowstik is made for the nocturnal catfishing angler, but there’s no reason the rod can’t be used during daylight hours. It has a fiberglass blank, stainless-steel guides with titanium oxide inserts, and a full, rubberized, shrink-wrap handle. Almost the entire length of the blank illuminates with the touch of a button, which is conveniently located beneath a screw-off butt cap. The LED core has a sharp, red glow that is battery operated for long life. There are still plenty of things to misplace during an evening of catfishing, but this rod won’t be one of them. —M.M. [Purchase Berkley Glowstik]
Pelican 45QW Elite Wheeled Cooler
In the premium cooler market, Pelican’s entry provides smooth-rolling heavy-duty wheels for painless transport to boat, camp, or truck. Designed to keep food and beverages cool for 10 days, the cooler is also rated bear-resistant by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee. Other features include molded-in tie-downs and a built-in bottle opener. —P.B.M.
G. Loomis Pro4x LP 9-Foot 5-Weight Rod
This light-presentation rod may be a bit specialized, but it’s every trout angler’s favorite specialty: dry-fly fishing. From the smooth, moderate action to dead-on tracking to responsiveness in the hand, this rod is all about control—bull’s-eye deliveries with a soft touch, even using long leaders and light tippets. But it also has some range if need be. —T.L.
in choosing what to highlight, we tried to keep functionality and price in mind; whether we succeeded is an open question.
What is not in question is whether the gear we covered would make you the best-outfitted fisherman on whatever body of water you are fishing!
To see even more gear, check out Field and Stream.
Featured Image via Flymen Fishing Co.