Best value for money lure rod 2016 - Still the ridiculously good Major Craft Skyroad Surf 9’6’’ 5-28g, and I really like how it’s that bit of a lighter class of rod than my rod of the year, the HTO Shore Game 9’6’’. Try as I might I still haven’t come across a sub-£200 lure rod that I like as much as the 9’6’’ Skyroad Surf. Seemingly born to propel a white senko out there at night or work my beloved Salt Skimmer along the top, this is a truly versatile, do it all in regular to pretty lively conditions lure rod, and it’s going to take one hell of a rod to knock this one off its perch. Oh, and I did get to use a couple of lure rods the other day that could have retailed for about £100 - holy cow these rods were absolutely fantastic, but I don’t know if and when they might end up on the UK market. Here’s to hoping they do…………...
Best spinning reel 2016 - In some respects it should be the Penn Clash 3000 because it did great for me for a decent length of time, but the smaller Clash 2500 went all rough on me too quickly and then the Penn person I spoke to in the US when I was at the iCast show tried to fob me off and talk down his nose at me which doesn’t do it for me at all! I have had a few rather more expensive reels than the Clash fail on me this year and I am still waiting to hear what actually went wrong with them, but then along came this Shimano Stradic FK 3000 and I completely fell for it. I can’t tell you long it’s going to stay nice and smooth, but for the sub-£150 prices that I am seeing it for it’s almost too good to be true. Is it? Not so far. I can’t really give you my out and out best spinning reel of the year, but the reel I have been enjoying the most has been this “budget” Shimano Stradic FK 3000.
Best braid 2016 - Take your pick from Daiwa J-Braid, Sufix Performance Pro 8 and the SpiderWire Stealth Smooth 8. I’d happily use any of these braids for my lure fishing and they have all done me proud this year in all manner of conditions. The Sufix Performance Pro 8 is I believe the hardest one to get hold of here in the UK which is a crying shame because I love it, but you should be finding the Daiwa and SpiderWire braids all over the place now - and I think it’s brilliant how these three braids should be costing you well under £20 for a 150m or so spool. I’ll keep trying the expensive braids if I get the chance to, but when it comes to buying a braid to use I can’t see any point any more in spending more than it takes to get one of these three braids onto my spinning reels. We have never had it so good when it comes to serious braids for our lure fishing.
Best wading boots 2016 - Gotta be my Dunlop Safety boots at about £25 for the privilege! As I said in a recent blog post, if these things make it do the end of the year then that’s me done with so called “wading boots”. Buy, use and abuse until they fall apart (whenever that may actually be), bin them and buy another pair, but without hurting one’s wallet anywhere near as much as what passes for wading boots that are apparently designed to be used in and around water.
Best headlamp 2016 - Same as last year, the Coast HL44 Dual Colour LED headlamp. I got about a year and a half with my first one before it stopped working, so I bought another one at the end of last month for precisely £27.45 delivered. Bear in mind that my first one was used in all kinds of weather and then dumped back in my rucksack with never a second’s worth of care and attention, so a year and a half at the price sits just fine with me.
Best accessory 2016 no.2 - The Owner Twistlock 5/0 (Gary Yamamoto spec, code 5167-151). Whilst I can’t fault the Lunker City Texposer weedless hooks, I do like a twistlock/hitchhiker system for my DoLive Sticks especially, and this particular Owner hook in the 5/0 size works absolutely perfectly for this lure.
Best soft plastic 2016 - It’s not new and I have come back to it with a fervour bordering on obsession - yes, my go-to “twitchbait” style, frigging killer OSP DoLive Stick in the 6’’ size, and whilst I have caught bass on this lure in various different colours this year, still it’s the sandeel like wakasagi colour that I suppose I turn to the most. Fish this thing with a twitch, twitch, pause, reel a bit sort of action or simply dead-drift it in a run of current with the odd twitch and it’s almost uncanny how bass nail it. I love how it’s dense and heavy and casts like a missile, and whilst I have experimented a bit with belly weights and inserting nail-weights directly into the lure, I have come to the conclusion that the OSP DoLive Stick fishes better for me exactly as it is - plain and simple, unweighted, mounted on a 5/0 or 6/0 weedless hook, and looking frigging irresistible in the water. It’s not a cheap soft plastic and they can be hard to track down, so if the fishing is on and my DoLive Stick starts to tear up I will put a new one on and then repair the damaged one with Mend-It when I get back home to get more life out of it.
Best way to carry my lures when I’m fishing 2016 - Same as last year, and most likely the year before as well. Sorry! This HPA bag here, with a shoulder strap (I use a neoprene camera strap). I am very open to something better coming along, but so far I haven’t seen a system that works better for me than this so I am sticking with it. I reckon I get a year+ out of an HPA bag before it starts to come apart and that’s fine with me and how much I use it and don’t look after it.
Best album 2016 - I knew this within a couple of days of listening to it - “Rituals” by the mighty Greek band Rotting Christ. Every single thing about this metal album does it for me - dripping with emotion as unfettered heaviness pours forth from the speakers, laced with the most ridiculously catchy melodies, every song flows magnificently into the next as a wave of pure listening pleasure. I had to stop listening to this album for a while because it was on rotation for weeks and weeks on end, but then I had the distinct joy of coming back to it all over again and realising that yes, there’s nothing I have listened to this year that I enjoy as much as Rotting Christ’s monstrous album Rituals. Do yourself a favour and make your Xmas a whole heap better - get this album, shut yourself away, and let it wash over you. Perfection for the weekend!