Gear of the Year 2013 - Part 1

It's that time of the year again when firstly you can't believe that we are nearly celebrating Christmas again, and secondly where I like to take a look back at some of the fishing gear I have come across and try to pick my favourite stuff out - which in turn I hope might help some of you with those difficult decisions that are choosing what fishing tackle to get. I continue to be pretty amazed at how the appeal of lure fishing continues to grow, and as a result, how much good gear we can increasingly get our mitts on at all kinds of prices. I make no apologies for liking some of the higher end fishing tackle, but I have also used some great, more budget priced stuff this year...................

Spinning reel 2013 - The Shimano Sustain 4000FG (review here). Yes, I also love the smaller 2500 Sustain, but the slightly larger 4000FG for me is about the most complete spinning reel that I have ever fished with. I just absolutely love fishing with this reel and I feel comfortable raving about it so much with the amount of time I have fished with one now, in fact it's this one reel that has pulled me away a little bit from the smaller reels because this Sustain 4000FG just sits so well on the lure rods I fish with. Most spinning reels at this kind of price are smooth, you know that, but some I suppose just feel that bit more "together" than others, albeit it's a very personal thing and through my doing some stuff with Shimano it's easier for me to get to play with some of their gear. I must say though that if I had had this Shimano AR-C Aero C14+ 4000 spinning reel for longer than I have done then this one might well have taken the top spot (review here). Wow is this one reel to go lure fishing with, but then those Sustains are as well.

Lure fishing rod under £100 2013 - I am actually going to pick two here. If you want a lure rod that is very French in feel and action, then the excellent Shimano Stradic 8'1'' 10-35g rod is a complete no brainer (review here). It's a huge amount of rod for the money if you are after a stiffer kind of lure rod that in my eyes is as close to a (considerably more expensive) red Tenryu kind of action as I have come across. If you want a more Japanese style of lure rod, then the £60 TronixPro HTO Lure Game 9' 10-40g is what I would term almost a silly amount of lure fishing rod for the money (review here).

Best soft plastic lure 2013 - Some of the best bass I have caught and seen caught this year have once again come on the Fiiish Black Minnow (which won this category last year), and I have seen some cracking fish taken on 6'' senkos rigged weedless/weightless in that watermelon/pearl colour. I am hugely excited about the new (and slightly more manageable than the 7'' version) 5.8'' MegaBass DOT Crawler for next year, plus the largest Yamamoto 5'5'' Swim Senko, but the one soft plastic that has really done the business for me this year is the Fish Arrow Flash J 5'' which I rig on one of those 5/0 Owner Twistlock hooks that has a small belly-weight on the shank, although you can fish these lures weightless in really calm conditions. I do no more than whack them out (and they cast really well) and then retrieve them nice and slow with my rod tip up, and this seems to promote a kind of lazy, slalom-type action which bass seem to love. Plenty of calm conditions this year have made me do a lot of stuff differently, and these Flash J lures in the 5'' size for are now a soft plastic that rarely if ever leave my box of tricks. The way I fish them means I don't use them all the time, but it's one of those lures I like to have for when the conditions are on the calm side.

Best wading accessory 2013 - Believe me, I have tried any number of different kinds of wading boot studs now. Some are good and some are pretty useless, indeed it amazes me how such an awesome brand as Simms can make perhaps the worst yet most expensive studs I have ever used for example. I have been using the Orvis PosiGrip Screw-In Studs ever since I blogged about them this earlier this year (here), and I just can't see any discernible sign of wear on them - bear in mind that when I tried the Simms HardBite Star Cleat Studs, they lasted me less than a week on one of those Ireland trips I do. I don't know what on earth Orvis makes these wading studs out of, but nothing I have used has come close to them. £30 they might be for a set, but when they grip and last like they do, it's going to be a long, long time until you go replacing them.

Best leader material 2013 - Gone from my rucksack are those 30m and 50m fluorocarbon spools that run out just when you need a new length of leader to tie on. Nope, these days it's the 100m spools of YGK Nitlon DFC fluorocarbon in 12lb, 16lb and 20lb breaking strains for me - this fluoro has yet to let me down and it's some seriously good value for money as well (check here). What's not to like about it ? I even like the design of the spool which makes it really easy to pull line off and not have it just fall of the spool in a springy tangle.

Best wading boots 2013 - I am hoping that these new to me Five Ten Canyoneer SAR boots might have a say in me needing to spend what it takes on Simms wading boots, but so far Simms (frustratingly) are the only wading boots that I have proper confidence in as regards lasting for a decent amount of time. I so wish that say the Simms Rivershed wading boots did not cost what they did, indeed I can't help but feel slightly aggrieved when you compare them to the cost of a decent pair of hiking boots, but the simple fact is that my Simms Rivershed boots are very good indeed, and nothing I have used so far at any price has come that close to matching them - except for other Simms wading boots that is. Let's see how these Five Ten boots do over time............................

Find of the year no.1, 2013 - Morocco. I don't get the impression that bass fishing in Morocco is about serious numbers of fish, but I am not personally aware of anywhere else that has genuinely thrown up 20lb plus bass on lures, from the shore. A country that I can envisage visiting plenty of times in the future. Yes, I know completely that fishing is not remotely all about big fish, but come on, tell me you wouldn't want the chance at seeing a 20lb plus bass from the shore ? But Morocco ain't remotely all about the bass fishing...................