On the one hand I think these Bassboots chest waders are close to being the next best thing since sliced bread, but on the other hand there are various situations when I find that I just can't wear them. I will detail why later on, but it's more my wanting something extra from them that they just are not designed to provide, indeed if they did provide that extra thing I am after then it would take away the very thing about them that is just so damn good - how freakin' tough they are for such a lightweight pair of chest waders.
So what are Bassboots ? Check the website here, but in essence they are chest waders designed purposely for saltwater fishing that are both made to measure and extremely tough and durable - what they are not though is remotely breathable, and to be fair to the Bassboots people they make no claims on this front. The argument is that lightweight breathable chest waders from the fly fishing market are not really up to what we tend to put them through in saltwater, thus these Bassboots waders are made from non-breathable but tough as hell materials that are in fact designed to withstand what we do.
I measured myself up (check these simple to follow videos here) and went for the lightest weight "inbutyl rubber tri-nylon laminate" material that Bassboots offer, in the black colour. I have zero interest in any kind of boot that can be supplied with them as I wear wading boots, hence on their advice I went for the latex sock. Please bear in mind that the Bassboots people kindly supplied these waders for me to try and never asked for anything in return other than my direct feedback to them. I am blogging about them because I want you to know that a viable alternative to breathable waders does actually exist. Bassboots offer three types/weights of material and I struggled to put a sharp knife through the small sample of the heaviest (but still lightweight) material I received. Tough ? Breathables just can't compete on this front.
I was pretty taken aback at how light the waders were when they turned up, indeed I can't prove it but they feel a little lighter than say my Simms G4 waders if that helps. They feel fairly "industrial" in that they are cut well but not awesome, they look seriously well-constructed inside and out with what I think are rubber seals over the seams, plus large knee/arse patches to provide added protection to those areas - they smack of being designed by anglers for anglers. Although you currently need to measure yourself up for the waders, I believe that next year we will be seeing off the shelf sizing become available - I have never worn a pair of chest waders so well shaped or cut as my off the shelf XL Simms G4 waders, to the point that it simply doesn't feel like you are wearing waders when you have got them on. My Bassboots are well cut, but they are not in the same league as my Simms on that front - no other waders I have ever worn are though, and the Simms ones are astronomically expensive.
I have fished enough with these Bassboots waders to know that they do what they say on the tin. I have gone through gorse and brambles, I know I have caught the waders a couple of times on barbed wire and I have slipped and fallen on rocks a fair few times as well - and these Bassboots waders keep on going. I am sure you could put rips or holes in them if you really messed up, but I am left in no doubt that the material used leaves breathable waders lagging way behind on the durability scale - and I include my (not cheap) Simms G4 waders in there as well. As with most waders, get some Aquasure and learn how to use it if needs be.
So far, so good. If you are after a lightweight pair of chest waders to use for your lure fishing that are going to last and last then make sure to check these Bassboots out. I can't help but wonder if the overall "feel" of the waders could be slightly improved by a bunch of lure anglers getting their mitts on them, wearing them for a while and then providing their specialist feedback, indeed for example I really didn't like the latex-style sock that came with my waders when wearing wading boots, but I sent them back and the rather nice and approachable Bassboots people kindly put a pair of the more regular neoprene socks on there for me, plus longer gravel guards which were very much needed. Much better, but that might well be me being used to the slight cushioning effect that neoprene gives rather than there being anything wrong with the latex socks. One thing you do get with Bassboots waders is options, and I really like that.
Again, as good as these waders are, my feeling remains that initially they were born from the imagination and skill of bait orientated anglers rather than from anglers with a heap of experience of fly fishing waders and what they can (and can't) bring to the table for lure anglers. I would like the straps that come over your shoulder to have smaller buckles for example, and the inside pocket is too small to be of much use to me, but it's hardly very important at the end of the day. The perfect pair of waders for saltwater lure fishing do not exist as far as I am aware of, indeed what product is "perfect" at the end of the day, but my honest feeling is that for a number of anglers these Bassboots might just be as close as you are going to get at this current time.
Now you might not walk that much for your fishing and you might be like the England cricket captain Alastair Cook who is well known for hardly sweating at all when batting for long hours in hot weather. Personally I prefer it when my fishing requires that I walk, scramble and climb plenty, and yes, although I like to relax my ample muscles so as not to cause alarm to less well-defined people (ok, not quite true), I tend to walk faster than most people and I do end up sweating a bit. Wasting away I am not. Sure, not all my fishing requires long walks, but if I take a typical, long day that we might do when we go to Ireland then it can add up to a fair few tough miles.
So we come to my one principal issue with these Bassboots waders, and as I alluded to earlier, it's me wanting something that the waders are not designed to do, and that is to "breathe". If these Bassboots were breathable then I would be wearing them and them alone for my fishing, in fact it would be a no-brainer. When I go fishing around where I live and I know the length of the walk/climb and I know roughly how long I might be out, I will wear these Bassboots waders much of the time, except for when it's particularly warm or the mark is a longer than normal walk - whatever "normal" might be. I did try the waders for a couple of days on an Ireland trip but I had to stop wearing them as over the course of hours and hours and loads of walking, I found the build of sweat inside the waders firstly increasingly uncomfortable, and secondly by the end of the day I was getting pretty cold with all that dampness staying resolutely inside my waders and then cooling me down.
Now this might be particular to me and you might well find this lack of breathability to be not remotely an issue at all. I wish it wasn't an issue for me because I would kinda like to forgo chest waders from the fly fishing market and instead wear these Bassboots all the time - but I can't. Breathable is a word that gets bandied about almost willy-nilly, and of course a pair of breathable waders can't "breathe" anyway when they are underwater. Over the last few years I have found that some supposedly breathable chest waders actually "breathe" far more or less than others, and I personally don't think it's possible to expel all sweat out through them anyway, whatever you might wear underneath them and however you are built. Some just do it better than others, and yes, my high-end Simms (Gore-Tex) G4 waders do it pretty well, but no better I reckon than say the (considerably cheaper) Orvis Silver Sonic ones for example.
So I'm in this slightly strange situation of being able to wear these tough as hell, seemingly bombproof Bassboots chest waders for a fair amount of my fishing, but then not being able to wear them for certain situations. If you are after a pair of lightweight waders that are going to last I reckon far longer than most breathables then you seriously need to check these Bassboots things out, and I would hazard a guess that the lack of breathability isn't going to remotely bother many anglers. Is it a fault of the wader ? No, not at all. The waders are built like this to last and last and I personally think that a lot of lure anglers' issues with their breathable waders would be very quickly resolved if they went for a pair of Bassboots and gave up their complaining that breathable chest waders from the fly fishing world aren't cutting it for their fishing - to which I say yet again - they simply are not designed to. For around the £200 mark you could get a pair of Bassboots that might well solve your problems, and I will also be very interested to see how much their off the shelf sized ones are going to retail at.