Gear of the Year 2016, part 1

Can it really be nearly Xmas again? I was sitting in a room in Derriford hospital yesterday afternoon, waiting for another three monthly check-up, and wondering where on earth nearly twelve months have gone since they took a chunk from from my leg and successfully got the melanoma out of me. I am a lucky sod this time around and far too many people sadly aren’t with the bastard cancer. One of the most powerful and emotionally wrenching photographs I have ever seen can be found here, and I don’t mind admitting that I struggled to read about this. Go through to the Facebook page and you will read that the little girl died recently. What a brave family. Things like this hit me so much harder these days for a number of different reasons. Anyway, another year of fishing, working in fishing, being married to an awesome woman, and having the two most awesome daughters. I am here, I’m not going away anytime soon I hope, and a big thanks as ever to you guys for reading this blog of mine that I so love doing. As has become a bit of a pre-Xmas tradition it seems, here’s Part 1 of my Gear of the Year 2016.

The best “regular” lure rod I have used in 2016 - Easy. The rather fantastic HTO Shore Game 9’6’’ 7-35g lure rod. I’ve read some speculative garbage about this fishing rod online yet I take it out fishing and I wonder yet again if the anglers who spout this sort of stuff have ever actually seen the rod, let alone fished with it - too stiff, made for HTO by so and so, begat by a demon, various conspiracy theories, and so on. Balls! This 9’6’’ HTO is about as a good a 9’6’’ lure rod as I have fished with, and whilst in a perfect world I’d like a different handle on the thing, as a rod it’s done me proud with all manner of lures, techniques, conditions and indeed bass. I know who makes the rod for HTO and it doesn’t change a damn thing because most tackle companies have rods made for them to their design by specialist rod making companies - this is one hell of a fishing rod and I love fishing with it.

Best lighter lure rod 2016 - I so love fishing with weightless/weedless soft plastics, and this style of lure fishing often means I am fishing in calmer, clearer conditions which don’t call for a more powerful lure rod. I got to fish with the outstanding Major Craft Skyroad 9’ 7-23g lure rod this year and yet again with this family of lure rods I am left wondering how on earth this Japanese company can make such good lure rods for the the price. Give me this lighter Skyroad, a smaller spinning reel and a 6’’ OSP DoLive Stick rigged weedless/weightless and I am in heaven, and even more so if a few bass are jumping on the end and making my giggle like a child at how much fun it is to fish with such balanced fishing tackle.

Worst buy 2016 - The Patagonia Ultralight II wading boots. Do yourself a favour and don’t whatever you do buy these (not remotely ultralight at all) wading boots if you do any fishing in saltwater. In a word? Crap, and the crying shame is that I hear such good things about the Mark 1 version of these wading boots from some saltwater lure guys who I know absolutely hammer their gear. Why on earth does a company make new stuff that is worse than the old stuff? Maybe Patagonia and Simms are doing it deliberately to wind saltwater anglers like me right up? Or maybe they should be honest and state on their websites when certain items of gear are not suitable for use in saltwater so muggins like me can avoid the buying mistakes that I have made.

Best hard lure 2016 - I have got a thing for long-casting, shallow-diving hard lures, and from the off the little IMA iBorn 98f Shallow has done it for me. It casts like a little bullet, it swims beautifully just under the surface, and it catches bass, including a few for me at night on this lure. I like how it’s offering me a different action to my beloved IMA Komomo SF125, indeed this iBorn 98f reminds me a fair bit of the killer but discontinued Daiwa Shoreline Shiner R50+SSR FG. Another shallow diver that I feel very comfortable putting in my lure box.

Best waterproof jacket 2016 - I’ll take either of the excellent Vision Kust or Scierra C&R jackets. Both have done fantastically well for me this year and I can’t really think of much about either of them that I would like to change. When it rains properly over in Kerry I reckon you find out a lot about your gear, and I was never given any cause at all to doubt how these two jackets work for me and my lure fishing, photography and guiding. If I had to choose the one jacket? I like them both and I’d go for whichever one I could find the best deal for.

Best accessory 2016 no.1 - The Breakaway Mini Link lure clip which I have used all year for my lure fishing, and if a client needs a lure clip when we’re guiding over in Kerry then this is the one we use. Perfection in a lure clip? I reckon so, and they’re cheap as chips as well. Same as last year so apologies for being boring, but these simple lure clips just do it for me.

Best waders 2016 - Still the Vision Ikon waders, albeit mine are now on their last legs and I must either send then off to Diver Dave or buy a new pair. Waders and hard use in and around saltwater aren’t the best of long-term bedfellows, but out of all the breathable/lightweight waders that I have fished and photographed in for any number of years now, the Vision Ikon waders are the ones that I feel most comfortable dropping my money on and getting a proper amount of hard time versus cost.

Item I can’t be without 2016 - As ever it’s my Costa del Mar polarised sunglasses, and for me it’s specifically their Permit frames with the Green Mirror 580G lenses. Perfection, plain and simple.