Any price lure rod 2013 - The category that fries my brain the most, and quite simply it is because I have an absolute fascination with modern lure fishing rods - which perhaps makes a bit of sense if you have come to this lure fishing addiction relatively late in your fishing life like I have. Whatever the case, it continues to fascinate me what lure rods can do and I love messing around with different ones - with a big thanks to those kind people who enable me to do this. That 9' Graphiteleader Argento Nuovo was everything I hoped it might be (incredible, review here), the 8'6'' Lamya Thief Slash is just a peach of a lightish lure rod (review here) and I am having some very serious issues with the APIA Foojin'X 10th Anniversary Limited Edition Grove Stream 93ML, max 32g. I will review it in due course, and like with the Aero C14+ spinning reel, if I had had the rod for longer then it might well have taken this category - but instead my best "any price lure rod" goes to a rod that I personally think should be more expensive than it is, the £199.99 Major Craft Skyroad SKR-902ML 9' 10-30g (review here). Ignore the 10g lower casting weight because you can easily fish lighter stuff if needs be, and this rod wins because firstly it's just a fantastic rod to fish with, and secondly because of the price - nope, £200 is not "cheap" when it comes to a fishing rod, but if I compare this rod to other stuff that I get to play with them it represents very good value for money.
Braid mainline 2013 - This is the year I have come to understand why the Japanese YGK brand is so revered as a line manufacturer, but I am going to hand the title to the rather awesome Sufix 832 braid, and especially in the 20lb (0.15mm) breaking strain (review here). I have fished loads and loads with this line this year, and it has never remotely let me down. Sufix 832 casts great, knots well, doesn't get unduly affected by say a crosswind, and it's as strong as hell if you use decent knots. I was in love with Sufix lines years before I ever started doing any work with Shimano if that helps (Sufix Tritanium, Synergy, Zippy etc.). I know that Sufix 832 is not a high-end Japanese braid that claims all kinds of strange PE numbers, but it's just a braid that is working very well for me, and since my review and subsequent "examination" of line lays on spinning reels (see here), it seems that any issues I might have had with the stuff on the smaller reels are unfounded. Killer line at a reasonable price that I just wish was more easily available here in the UK in the brighter colours - which if I was to get my way it would be. Also make sure to check out the great value for money YGK G-Soul X3 4-strand braid (review here), the scarily-good YGK G-Soul WX8 8-strand, and also the stunning Toray Sea Bass Power Game 8-strand. And yes, I like spare spools for reels because it makes it somewhat easier to play around with different mainlines !!
Best hard lure 2103 - I have fished with a few new hard lures this year, but to be honest I can't think of anything I have used that has performed better than the stuff which already resides in my lure boxes. I have high hopes for the "baby" IMA Hound 100F Sonic, but I have not used it enough yet, and whilst the MegaBass Cutter 125 for example has caught me some fish and I really like it, does it do more for me than the already awesome and better casting IMA Komomo SF125 ? The Salt Skimmer continues to be my go to surface lure above anything else, but they are just so hard to get hold of that I dread losing any of the few that I have here. I admit to being surprised at how good the 90mm/15gRapala X-Rap Walk is as a surface lure for bass, and I will give it a really good workout in 2014. I suppose my difficulty here is that weather conditions this year have really forced my hand into fishing more and more soft plastics, and as much as I always carry hard lures and I continue to use them a lot, without a doubt my eyes are opening more and more to what we can achieve with the soft lures. There are any number of great hard lures out there that will catch you a heap of fish, but I can't think of one that has really stood out above the rest for me this year.
Best waders 2013 - If I am fishing mainly shorter local sessions ? These rather special Bassboots waders (review here). For long days involving long walks, climbs and scrambles ? Still my hideously expensive Simms G4 waders (review here), and although mine have been officially condemned by Simms Europe, they continue to perform flawlessly albeit they don't half look beaten up now. No pair of waders I have ever worn feel as natural or as easy to move around in as my G4 waders. I will be buying a pair of the brand new issue Simms G3 waders when they are released around Feb 2014 I think it is.
Find of the year no.2, 2013 - That FC leader knot - see here. Tie it right and it's one hell of a knot, indeed I know that I have saved a number of snagged lures this year because the strength of the knot has allowed me to pull a few lures out that I know I would not have got back otherwise. Not once have I caught this FC knot in my rod rings when using it for longer fluoro leaders. Modern braids in my opinion deserve good, modern knots, and this FC knot here that I stumbled upon earlier this year has really done it for me.
It's the little things no.1, 2013 - If you have any use for a Texas rig in your lure fishing then I reckon that I have found some of the best value for money bullet/worm/Texas weights you can find. The TronixPro Worm Weights are dirt cheap and they just do the job without unduly bothering you if you go and lose a few. Worth tracking down.
It's the little things no.2, 2013 - The Delalande Agrafe Rapide lure clips. So simple to use, they work great and I can't find a lure clip that I like better than these ones. I heard of a couple straightening out during the summer, but my view is that doing the rounds was a dodgy batch of them, because I have never had one single problem and I haven't heard anything remotely negative anytime recently amongst the anglers I know and fish with.
It's the little things no. 3, 2013 - APIA pliers sheath, although it might actually be designed for a fish-grip tool. Whatever the case, I think it's a brilliant product that in some cases could well outlast some of the dodgier pliers out there. I think the IMA pliers are pretty good for example, (a good split ring and barb crushing tool), but the sheath they come in is perfectly useless - hence this APIA one.
Can't not mention item 2013 - With that awesome summer we had I found myself wearing my polarised sunglasses even more than I usually do, and nothing over the last few years has come close to persuading me that there is a better brand of sunglasses out there than Costa del Mar. Give me one lens to wear forever more and it has to be the 580G Green Mirror. I love playing around with new stuff, but with the amount I wear polarised sunglasses for my fishing and the importance I attach to them, I can't find a reason not to wear Costas.
Lots of money but horribly good no.1 2013 - The Shimano Vanquish C3000 spinning reel. I have held back from doing a review of this reel because the cost of it is pretty damn scary (close to Stella money), but it's one ridiculously special fishing reel. You know when a reel's so smooth that you could sit and turn the handle for hours just because it feels so incredible ? That's the Vanquish. So nice to fish with I can't bring myself to do so too much in case I get too used to it. Yes, I accept completely that "our" bass hardly need a reel like this if you think purely about the size and power of them, but the fact is that some anglers want the best regardless of what they are fishing for - and if they can afford it, then why not ?
Lots of money but horribly good no.2, 2013 - Van Staal Titanium pliers. Horribly expensive and complete overkill for our lure fishing, but I swapped a Van Staal spinning reel for a pair of their Titanium pliers as I just wasn't using the reel and to be honest I didn't like fishing with it. The pliers move as freely and easily as the first time they came out fishing with me, and the cutters deal with the thinnest 8-strand braid with ease. I have looked closely but for the life of me I can't find any signs of rust etc. on the pliers. The leather sheath is good, but my Van Staal Titanium pliers now reside in that APIA sheath. Far too good for what I do with them, but holy cow are they a special pair of pliers.
Best way to carry lures 2013 - Same as last year, see here. There must be something else out there that works along the same lines as the HPA bag, but I have not come across it yet and aside from adding a shoulder strap to my simple setup, this way of carrying my lures when fishing continues to work really well for me.
Album of the Year 2013 - I so wanted it to be the new Rotting Christ album, but as good as it is, it doesn't scale the heights of their 2007 release "Theogonia". Nope, this year I am going to have to split the award between the awesome "Sunbather" by the US progressive black metal band Deafheaven, and what is perhaps the best comeback (metal) album of all time, the mighty, how on earth do they produce something like this after 17 years "Surgical Steel" by the UK band Carcass. Christ, I was banging my head to these guys in some sweaty London venue when I was a mere nipper, but after all that time away, Carcass have gone and released a death metal album that I hope might wake up some of the older bands into producing some good stuff all over again. Obituary, Entombed, Morbid Angel ? The bar has been raised. And as for Deafheaven's "Sunbather" ? Lose yourself in it, end of. Savagely beautiful ? I like to think so.