Soft plastic lure 2012 - WaveWorms 5'' Bamboo Stick. Deadly when fished weightless with a slowish sort of twitch/pause/let it drop retrieve. The Irish lads I fish with really got me into using them earlier in the year. It is no more than a slightly heavier and thicker than normal Senko-type worm or stickbait, but it flies out there as well as many hard lures and it catches fish. I would guess that the 5' Bamboo Stick would work well on various jig heads as well, but for me it has really helped open my eyes up to fishing weightless soft plastics. In strong current runs you can of course simply dead-drift it down the current almost like fishing a salmon fly. I have a long way to go towards becoming competent at fishing weightless soft plastics for bass, but catching a bunch of nice fish on these WaveWorms has really boosted my confidence big time.
Wading product 2012 - Best Grip studs. After my Simms studs wore down far too quickly I got hold of some of these "Best Grip" studs here, and so far they are going great guns. Easy to put in and take out, not too expensive, they are lasting me well and they provide outstanding grip. The simple stuff is often the best.
Lure fishing rod 2012 - MegaBass XOR Shadow XX SXX-85L - see my original blog post about it here. Over in Ireland on my last trip I used the slightly longer 9' version a fair bit, the MegaBass XOR Shadow XX SXX-90ML 8-28g, and I have completely fallen for it as well. What a rod. If I had spent longer with it the 9' version might well have taken first place here. They are both a shedload of modern lure rod for the money and are sublimely easy and smooth to fish with. I don't believe it sitting still and not striving to learn more and more all the time, and these rods have really made me sit up and think about all those rods over in Japan that I am sure are more than perfect for the ways in which we lure fish. Choice is good, but I accept it can also get a little confusing !! Money no object and I would think seriously about the 9' French Daiwa Branzino (see here) which is also really, really growing on me as a serious shore rod, but there is no getting away from how much a Branzino costs. They are utter class though. As for the cheaper lure rods, I can't really look beyond those awesome Sakura Shinjin ones at the moment. Proper lure rods for sensible money, and I am so glad that we are being offered all manner of "proper" lure rods at all the price points. I will be really interested to see how well that new, longer Tenryu Injection does for anglers next year............
Braid mainline 2012 - the bright green Daiwa Tournament 8-Braid, and especially in the 20lb breaking strain for me. I just can't fault this stuff, and I have been using it as my main braid for most of my lure fishing this year. For ages now I have implicitly trusted the Varivas Avani Sea Bass Max Power PE, so I should really be using other stuff long term to see how it stacks up for me. That bright green Daiwa Tournament 8-Braid is just awesome. Why that particular bright green colour seems to me to be the best of the bunch I have no idea, but it just works for me. I blogged about the knot I use the other day - see here.
Fluorocarbon leader 2012 - Varivas SeaBass Shock Leader. I have played around with various fluorocarbons this year, but I keep coming back to this Varivas stuff because I just get on with it really well. I accept that a part of the reason might be because this was the first fluoro I really started using a lot for lure fishing, but from the off it has done me proud.
Gear-carrying item - the OverBoard Pro-Sports Waterproof Backpack. Does what it says on the tin and you can't ask for more than that, and especially at this price. I blogged about it a while back - see here.
Lure clip 2012 - Decoy Spiral Snaps. I seriously dig those little Delalande Agrafe Rapide INOX lure clips, but for a large part of the year I have been using and hugely liking these tiny little Decoy Spiral Snaps. They take a little bit of getting used to, but they work well. I also feel pretty comfortable using soft plastics with them as I reckon the hook can move around just fine with that round profile on the Decoy clip. Yes I could use a loop knot on my leader, but where possible I just like being able to clip lures on and off without retying.
Clothing for fishing 2012 - Under Armour. No competition here, even if it is not technically fishing clothing. The Under Armour HeatGear (see here) and ColdGear (see here). Just outstanding stuff. Men in tights.
Waders 2012 - the Greys Platinum breathable waders. They are doing just fine for me, although I do wish they would take the outstanding gravel guards from the Hardy EWS2 waders and put them on the Greys Platinum waders - the ones on the Platinum waders just fall to pieces on me. I am doing my best though to resist the urge to invest in a pair the Simms G3 or even G4 waders for my lure fishing. Not remotely cheap, but then I do genuinely reckon that my waders are as important to me as my rods and reels.
Favourite bass fishing area 2012 - without a doubt southern Ireland, and especially the coastline between Dungarvan and say Fethard on Sea. I can't tell you how much I am in love with Ireland, and I know of no better shore fishing for bass than over there - but then if you read this blog you will know that already !! Do yourself a serious favour and drop in on the guys at Absolute Fishing in Tramore and ask them all about it. They know this coastline backwards and are always on hand and willing to help out. I am lucky enough to be able to call them my friends. Here's to 2012........
And last but not least, the big one - my album of the year 2011 - "The Great Mass" by Septicflesh. Holy frigging cow. This monster of a release came out in early Spring and I dread to think how many times I have played it since then (see a review here). It seems that an album or two comes along most years which you know pretty quickly is going to be a tough one to beat, and "The Great Mass" by the Greek band Septicflesh was that kind of album from the off for me. The mix of some crushingly heavy, catchy death/black metal with some serious orchestral arrangements is not an easy one to pull off at all, but if you ask me then Septicflesh have done it arguably better than any other band I have ever come across. Their preceding album "Communion" was awesome, but "The Great Mass" is another massive step up. I just can't tire of listening to this album, indeed I find something new to love about it every single time I hear it. A true monster with a flawless production that lets each and every instrument shine through. Greece is home to what I believe are two of the best metal bands on this earth - Rotting Christ and Septicflesh. Somewhat daft names I grant you, but they both make metal to die for. Check out a couple of Septicflesh tracks here and here and tell me that you aren't banging your head against the wall and jumping around the room in rapturous delight !!