With Santa Claus's arrival only a few weeks away, this might be a good time to think about gifts for the fisherman on your Christmas list, or, what the heck, for yourself if nobody in your family is likely to think beyond ties and socks. There's some neat stuff out there in the catalogs as well as in your local tackle shop.
Let's start with some basics. How about fishing line? Have you tried one of the new synthetics? Spiderwire or Fireline? This stuff is definitely not your father's Oldsmobile and gives you a chance to use a lot stronger lines, yet retain the small diameter for impressive distance casting. As an example, you can wind thirty pound test Spiderwire on your spinning reel and still have roughly the same diameter as eight pound test standard mono. Or, how about the new fluorocarbon lines? Nothing like them for fishing clear water because they virtually disappear. A bit more expensive than even the premium monofilament lines but worth it if you need to keep your line out of sight.
Have you tried circle hooks yet? If not, why not stick a few packages in the Christmas stocking? And don't forget how important a hook sharpener can be; anything from a twenty dollar, battery operated device from Berkley, to a simple file will do the trick. One caveat, though, if it's for salt water fishing get the diamond -type hook sharpener. They're only a buck or two more and less likely to rust.
Naturally, this will be the year that the trophy striper arrives on deck and you'll want to know the exact size. Stren and Berkley both offer a thirty dollar digital scale that handles up to fifty pounds, and Shimano has a ten dollar item that reads up to twenty pounds and stops at the heaviest weight recorder for easy reading.
Remember the day you sat out there on the salt staring at the glare off the water until you thought you'd gone snow blind? Sunglasses are nearly as important as having the right lure at hand. Just be sure to get the polarized version so you can get a good look at what's happening beneath the surface. When you want to drop that popper right on the tail of that big bass, there's nothing like a good pair of polaroids tolet you see where you need to land your cast.
Maybe it's time to think about replacing that old spinning reel that keeps locking up the drag just when you're trying to turn that lunker away from the rocks. Personally, I advocate for Penn saltwater spinning reels, if for no other reason than they are tough, reliable and you can get parts at most any repair shop. Besides that, they just seem to have a smooth as cream action and I don't know of a more reliable drag even on much higher priced reels. My own favorite is the old reliable model 730. Of course, Shimano also offers some pretty good specimens in the moderate price range. If you're looking at baitcasters, the Shimano Calcutta 400 and 700 series deliver plenty of bang for the buck, and there's also the old reliable Abu Garcia Ambassadeur. And don't overlook Fin-Nor's line of stainless steel/Titanium beauties. This is a company that's been around a while and sells a tough, beautifully engineered, six ball bearing reel with a fine braking system to help prevent backlashes.
As for lures, I say go with the classics: Rebels and Yo-Zuri swimmers; anything by Stan Gibbs; Atom poppers, as well as Striper Swipers; you can never have too many jigs, and the multitudes of plastic eels on the market make a colorful, and useful, addition to the working tackle box. Speaking of which, maybe it's time to survey that ole box with the broken hasp that keeps dumping your gear at just the worst times. Plano is the eight hundred pound gorilla in the tackle box market and has something for everybody. Personally, I only use my tackle box as a gear carrier that I stash under the console of my eighteen foot DellQuay Dory, but I keep the lures I work with most in a bucket with holes slotted around the rim so that they're right at hand and easy to see and grab when I need a change.
Good sidecutting pliers, multipurpose tools and needlenose hook removers can be invaluable. Make sure they're stainless, though, or you'll spend the offseason trying to break the rust loose from the screw pivot. Fillet knives usually get beat up pretty badly so a new one might be appreciated. Stainless is best aboard boat but I keep a good carbon steel fillet knife at home because it takes a much better edge than the stainless blades. In any case, pick up a good knife honing stoneand some oil; sharpening knives with your high speed bench grinder is the direct road to blade ruin. (If you simply must use the grinder, be sure to cool the blade frequently with water or you'll lose the temper and the blade will be ruined).
Gaff vs. net? It's a personal choice, I guess, but I've found that the net generally tangles just at the worst possible moment. I use a gaff, but only if it's clear that I'm gaffing a keeper. The new lip-lock device that costs about eighty bucks is probably the best compromise solution. Look for it in your favorite tackle shop. And by the way, do patronize your local shop. These are the guys who freely offer good tips on what's happening during the season, who's catching what where, and what kind of bait is working best. Sure, maybe you can save a couple of bucks at WalMart but let's keep the local guys in business. Like us, they're fishermen, too. Nobody gets rich running a tackle shop; you've got to love the sport to endure the hours and the aggravation.
Have a Happy Christmas and may all your stocking stuffers help bring fish to the table next season. Ho ho ho.