With Christmas approaching and the mailbox stuffed with fishing tackle catalogs, this month is the time to compile a wish list. The tackle industry continues to offer us remarkable products to make our fishing more interesting. Here's our roundup of promising gear for Chesapeake anglers.
Super Series--Shimano has spruced up its moderately priced Clarus A rod series to the point that it won Best New Freshwater Rod at the ICAST tackle show last summer. Good thing for us that the series also includes five Inshore Spinning and four Inshore Casting rods ranging from 7 feet to 7 feet 6 inches. They're still IM-7 graphite with over-the-counter limited lifetime warranties, but now they come with Fuji New Concept aluminum oxide guides and lightweight Fuji graphite reel seats for $69.99-$89.99. Shimano, Irvine, Calif.; 877-577-0600; fish.shimano.com.
Hot Rods--St. Croix builds its new Triumph Saltwater rods of SCI fiberglass and SCII graphite for fishing from piers, jetties and boats. These moderately priced rods ($120-$140) are strong and durable, with slick butts on conventional models and EVA on spinners, plus EVA foregrips on both. Fuji guides, reel seats and butt caps, double coats of slow-cure Flex Coat, and the tough blanks allow for a five-year warranty. Lengths range from 6 feet 6 inches to 7 feet 6 inches, for line ranges from 15-30 to 40-80. St. Croix Rod, Park Falls, Wisc.; 715-762-3226; www.stcroixrods.com.
The Reel Deal--Penn's new mid-priced Sargus spinning reels ($74.99-$99.99) feature full metal bodies to keep the main shaft, stainless-steel ball bearings (5), gear trains, and Techno-balanced rotors in precise alignment. For saltwater work, the drag knob is sealed. Sizes range from the light SG2000 (115 yards, 6-pound line, 9.1 ounces) to the large SG8000 (240 yards, 25-pound line, 29.2 ounces). Penn Fishing Tackle Manufacturing Company, Philadelphia, Pa.; 215-229-9415; www.pennreels.com.
Radical Red--Not content to rest on the laurels of its wide-spool spinning mills, U.S. Reel has introduced its new SuperCaster SC1000 and SC1000 Pro round bait-casters. These reels lack the reciprocating level-wind guides that have been standard on plug reels since the late 1800s. Instead, the SuperCasters feature a slanted bar that tilts back and forth to guide line being cranked onto the reel. On the cast, the reduced friction of the bar increases distance while reducing backlashes. $199.99-$249.99. U.S. Reel, St. Louis, Mo.; 314-962-9500; www.usreel.com.
Tiny Dancers--Shimano's reengineered Curado E bait-casting reels won the ICAST Best in Show award. These ultralow-profile reels weigh only 7.6 ounces and have a substantially reduced profile for easy palming. Even so, they retain powerful high efficiency gearing, seven high-quality bearings, and plenty of line capacity, for $179.99-$249.99. If those are too rich for your budget, the good news is that the Citica E now gets the same treatment for $119.99, making it arguably the best reel value on the market. Shimano, Irvine, Calif.; 877-577-0600; fish.shimano.com.
Casting Call--Stren Microfuse (125 yards for $18.99) is a superline braided from Dyneema microfilaments. The surface is super-slick with small diameter, and there's just enough memory to reduce wind knots, making for a line that casts very well. Meanwhile the line's low-stretch characteristics make it quite sensitive. Color is traditional Stren light fluorescent blue, readily visible above water but nearly translucent below. We've used it on everything from stripers and panfish to Pacific salmon this year and recommend it highly. Stren, Spirit Lake, Iowa.; 866-447-8736; www.stren.com.
Super Stealthy--Sufix has introduced a castable, 100-percent fluorocarbon fishing line available for $18-$25. Like fluorocarbon leader material, the new line becomes almost invisible below the surface and delivers high-abrasion resistance and low-stretch properties, yet it remains supple enough to cast easily without tangling. Sufix fluorocarbon is also waterproof, (which allows the line to sink more rapidly than nylon monofilament) and offers excellent knot strength. The new line is available in a Stealth Clear finish, in 4- to 30-pound test. Sufix; www.sufix.com.
Big Fish Lure--That's the name behind the acronym for DOA's new 8-inch BFL crank bait ($15.99). In development for the past five years, the BFL features a soft plastic body with indented sides to give it great swimming action, interchangeable lips to vary the running depth, and an internal hook harness. The BFL extends DOA's tradition of fish-catching innovation. DOA Lures, Stuart, Fla.; 877-DOA-LURE; www.doalures.com.
Shiny School--June Bug Tackle's 7-inch Striper Spoon Umbrella Rig ($16) is a four-arm rig with four oval hookless 3-inch spoons swimming in front of another 3-incher with a large, bucktail-dressed single hook. It tows more easily on lighter tackle than conventional umbrellas and catches plenty. June Bug Tackle, Baltimore; 410-644-4855; www.junebugtackle.com.
Spillproof--They may not be completely idiot-proof, but Berkley's new oval containers for Gulp Alive soft lures reduce the mess associated with these very effective lures ($19.99/pint). Even better, the length of the containers makes it possible to keep lures like the 8-inch Gulp Alive Eel in them. Berkley Fishing, Spirit Lake, Iowa.; 800-237-5539; www.berkley-fishing.com.
Fish Caller--Rapala's new Clackin' Rap ($9.99) is a lipless crank bait shaped like a peanut menhaden, with one stainless steel ball bearing encased in a sound chamber with stainless steel disks on the sides. The Clackin' Rap's body surface is textured and translucent, with internal holographic foil in seventeen different finishes. At 7/8-ounce weight in a 31/8-inch body, the lure sinks quickly enough to count it down to specific depths before beginning a steady retrieve. It's a natural for rockfish, but blues, weakfish, and even fluke will like it too. Rapala; www.rapala.com.
Bait and Switch--Storm WildEye Pro Swimbaits ($4.99-$5.99) feature translucent Paddle Tail and Curl Tail swim bait bodies equipped with interchangeable internal jig heads of 1/8-, 3/16- and 1/4-ounce for 31/2-inch bodies and 3/16-, 1/4-, and 3/8-ounce heads for 41/2-inch bodies. A top slot in each body allows changing it without retying the jig head. The Paddle Tail lures swim slowly with a subtle thumping action and body roll, while the long Curl Tails remain stable at high retrieve and trolling speeds. Storm Lures; www.stormlures.com.
Winning Finish--Luhr-Jensen's Crippled Herring ($3.99-$5.99) has developed a strong following with jig fishermen all over the world. Its compact, lifelike body shape and fluttering action on the drop make it a great tool for multiple species of fish. Now the company has added eight new highly reflective SmashFlash holographic finishes that allow the lure to imitate a wide range of baitfish. Sizes range from 15/8-inch (1/2-ounce) to 31/2-inch (3-ounce). Luhr-Jensen; www.luhrjensen.com.
Spit & Strike--Stillwater Lures Smack-it Poppers ($7.99-$9.99) are weighted and balanced so they cast well but still float, allowing for a wide variety of slow and fast retrieves. The cupped and slanted faces spit water just right, and the feathered tail hooks keep waving even when the popper sits still, provoking powerful reaction strikes. Choose from six classic and six holographic finishes. Sizes are 5-inch, 11/4-ounce and 33/4-inch, 3/4-ounce. Stillwater Lures, Lilitz, Pa.; 717-949-4022; www.stillwater-lures.com.
Eyes Have It--The Lonely Angler's 11/2-ounce Mega Eye and 3/4-ounce Mini-Mega Eye Poppers come with faces cupped to chug and spit plenty of water, while an internal weight-transfer system gives distance on the cast and rattling sound on the retrieve. Laser-engraved holographic finishes, especially including large reflective eyes, make these lures hard for a rockfish to refuse. Both sizes come with strong internal anchor systems, split rings and hooks. Lonely Angler, 240-350-0183; www.lonelyangler.com.
Terminal Tackle & Tools
A Cut Above--The HotWire line cutter ($25) from Berkley uses heat to slice through the heaviest and toughest braided and mono lines without creating frayed ends. The replaceable tungsten tip heats up to 1,200 degrees to cut and cauterize all types of line, and it can also be used to repair soft-plastic baits. The HotWire is powered by a single CR-1216 battery and two AA batteries, and features a non-slip handle and lanyard. Berkley Fishing, Spirit Lake, Iowa.; 800-237-5539; www.berkley-fishing.com.
Cool Tool--The 2Handee Fishing Multitool ($14) is a clever and inexpensive device that makes a great stocking stuffer. Made of nickel-plated hardened steel with a chromate finish for added corrosion-resistance, this well made tool features a built-in sharpening stone, a stainless steel serrated knife blade, a hook-eye reamer, and a sharp clipper with a slip-resistant handle. 2Handee, Nicholasville, Ky.; 859-223-2277; www.2handee.com.
Clear Solution--Why hasn't someone had this idea before? The Invisible Sinker ($2.99-$3.99) replaces the ubiquitous lead egg sinker with a heavy glass counterpart, either clear or pale pink (a color that disappears quickly underwater). Increase your strike rate in clear water where fish shy away from egg sinkers they can see. Invisible Sinker, Gulfport, Fla.; 727-328-1800; www.invisiblesinker.com.
Easy Rigger--Inshore anglers are quickly discovering that soft plastic jerk-baits from companies like DOA, Berkley Gulp, and Mr. Twister aren't just for largemouth bass. The two problems in bringing them to the coast are getting them rigged straight on saltwater-grade hooks and casting them unweighted in the wind. The new Owner Twistlock 3X Weighted Swimbait Hook with Centering Pin (1/16-ounce, 3/0, 3-pack: $6.00; 1/8-ounce, 4/0-5/0, 3-pack: $7.00) solves both problems. For rigging, this black nickel hook with a 30-degree offset offers a spring with a centering pin that makes it easy to attach the nose of a jerk-bait firmly and precisely before sliding the wide-gap Super Needle Point into the bait's hook slot. Meanwhile, a 1/16- to 1/8-ounce weight fixed on the hook shank makes the rig cast well and sink horizontally like a wounded baitfish. This sinking attitude gives long-tailed soft jerk-baits a subtle, seductive, strike-provoking wiggle. Owner Hooks, Costa Mesa, Calif.; 714-668-9011; www.ownerhooks.com.