Best spinning reel 2014 - Apart from spending one rather glorious evening with the new Daiwa Certate Mag Sealed 3000, I don't think I have used a different spinning reel this year to the ones that I had already used and reviewed. My Shimano Sustain 4000 continues to impress me, save for the bloody handle snapping on me just when there were a bunch of bass around (see here). You can't help but trust a reel a bit less after that. The Shimano AR-C Aero C14+ 4000 also continues to impress me (review here) - whilst it's a fantastic reel, it really niggles me that you don't get a spare spool with it - and especially when the cheaper Shimano Aero Spin 4000 (review here) comes with a spare spool that then fits perfectly on the far more expensive Aero C14+ version. Where is the logic? Apologies, but I can't give you a best spinning reel for 2014.
Best lure rod regardless of price 2014 - Well it was going to be the 9' 10-30g Major Craft Truzer (review here), and especially after I fell head over heels for the rod during a week's hard lure fishing in Ireland. But then the longer 9'6'' 10-30g Truzer (review here) came along and messed things up - but in a very good way. One of the first times I would personally choose the 9'6'' version in a range of lure rods that I have had at least some experience of, this 9'6'' Truzer is so good and suits me so perfectly that I wonder if there is another rod out there that I could possibly like this much. A big step for me to fall so hard for a 9'6'' lure rod, but yes, it's the Major Craft Truzer 9'6'' 10-30g lure rod that wins this category for me.
Best waders 2014 - My Simms G3 waders are very comfortable and are a joy to wear for long periods, but in my opinion they just aren't tough enough for the price - I have had to locate and mend a number of small leaks in them throughout the year and to be honest it really annoys me. Nope, the most impressive lightweight waders that I have used this year are without doubt the Vision Ikon ones - a full review will be coming in due course, but rest assured that these "close to budget" waders are as good as I have heard about for a while now.
I tried hard to love it but I can't quite 2014 no.2 - The Rivalley RBB Fighting Hip Bag. It looks so good, it seems to be really well made, and I wanted this to work for me - but I just can't get on with it properly. The belt is quite deep and it gets in my way when I am lifting my legs say to walk up a steep slope, and as much as I know this bag would work much better for me if I simply threw the really annoying belt away and used say my Simms neoprene one, this means I then can't attach a shoulder strap because the lugs are on the belt. The bag has a good capacity, it's the right kind of size for how I want to carry lures, and it works well for a couple of mates - but sadly not for me.
Best leader material 2014 - I have played around with a few different leader lines this year, including the Duel Hardcore Powerleader Carbonylon which I didn't particularly like, and recently I have tried some of these Asso fluorocarbons which seem to be really good. I like messing around with different gear, but I find it hard to pull away from using the excellent YGK Nitlon DFC fluorocarbon. I like the price, I like the 100m spools, and I just like the line. Boring I know, but this stuff takes the prize for the second year running.
Best soft plastic lure 2014 - As much as I feel increasingly comfortable fishing with soft plastics for bass, I can't recall coming across anything new this year that has suddenly gone and produced a load more fish for me. I know it's not a new lure anymore, but with the fish it catches for me and guys I fish with, I have to go for the Fiiish Black Minnow. I am going to fish more with it like I described in this blog post here, and as with certain other lures, I just wouldn't go bass fishing without at least a couple of Black Minnows in the box. And yes, it's meant to be soft, but no, it's not a cynical ploy by Fiiish to get you buying more - the whole point to the Black Minnow is how that body moves at slow speed. I reckon there is a lot more ground to cover with this lure.........
Best wrasse fishing soft plastic 2014 - Some of the almost indestructible Z-Man soft plastics, albeit they are a pain in the arse how you can't mix them with other soft lures, and sometimes it's not terribly easy to rig them right and then bury the hookpoint away. Persist though, because holy cow though wrasse love these things, and I have done particularly well with the Z-Man Punch Crawz. Sure, you can lose the odd lure from snagging in the bottom or a fish ripping them off the hook (rare), but so far I haven't seen a wrasse do any meaningful damage to these soft plastics. Amazing things, and I am convinced that the lure's natural buoyancy helps with their appeal to the wrasse.
Best way to carry my lures 2014 - I experimented with a couple of different ways of carrying my lures with me so that they remain out of the way but also close to hand, but I still can't find anything that I prefer more than my tried and trusted HPA bag - see here, and it's an even better way to carry lures now that I have added a shoulder strap to it.
Best fishing item I simply can't do without 2014 - As per last year, and the year before if I remember rightly, it's a pair of Costa del Mar polarised sunglasses. The Permit frame is not a new design for Costa, but with my big face and head they fit me perfectly - I don't like stray light coming in from the side when I am wearing polarised sunnies, and these things float my boat. As much as I have warmed to the very neutral 580G Blue Mirror Costa lens this year, yet again it's their 580G Green Mirror which continues to amaze me how good it is. When I am at fishing shows or other such events I do take a look at other polarised sunglasses to try and keep abreast of what is out there, but nothing has come close to supplanting my feeling that Costa del Mar continue to make the best.
Best sort of fishing item I simply can't do without 2014 - My Lifeventure Thermal mug - see here. Simple, perfect, I feel lost without it now.
Tackle company which has impressed me the most 2014 - Considering that I waggled a couple of the cheaper Major Craft rods a few years back and thought nope, not for me, I can't believe how much I have come around to the fact this hugely impressive Japanese fishing rod company are making some of the best lure fishing rods out there - in my opinion of course. All kinds of prices, all kinds of rods, actions, handles, guides etc., and the more I get to see and play with a variety of Major Craft rods, the more they keep on impressing me. The 9' Skyroad was a complete game changer for me, and their top of the range Truzer (sea) bass rods are up there as some of the best lure rods I have ever fished with - if not the out and out best in truth. That 9'6'' 10-30g Truzer is insane it's so good. Here's to hoping that more UK and Irish lure anglers get to find out how good the Major Craft lure rods are. They seem to do "proper" lure rods to suit all budgets.
Album of the Year 2014 - My obsession with music is as strong as my obsession with fishing, and as much as one might perhaps develop wider musical tastes as one gets older, who the hell cares about conventional wisdom? Nope, it has and always will be all things metal for me, and this year I have listened to one album more than any others - the mighty, knew I'd love it from the first track "The Division of Antiquity" by the UK black metal band Winterfylleth. These guys have been getting better and better over the last few years, and with their latest album I know think that they are up there as one of the world's best black metal bands. They play a kind of black metal that is gloriously harsh yet also very melodic and emotional, with such strong melodies that I find myself humming along to them and then nearly weeping with the sheer levels of emotion that pour forth from this album like a never ending stream. Awesome stuff and a standout album from a year that has seen some seriously good metal from all over the place.