Gear of the Year 2018 - Part 1

I was going to put these annual Gear of the Year posts up next week, but thanks to the sodding weather and the coastline being in such bad shape at the moment I thought I’d get on with it. As ever these Gear of the Year things are no more than my opinions after a decent amount of time with the various items - I know what I like and no doubt you will like different stuff, but if my thoughts and opinion manage to help a few of you out then that’s more than enough for me. If there is a bit of fishing tackle which has done particularly well or particularly badly, then please let me know down in the comments section at the bottom of the blog post. Enjoy……

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Product of the year no.1 2018 - An auto-inflate lifejacket that comes with a crotch strap. Take your pick from the lifejackets I have either reviewed (check here and here) or that I am continuing to wear and will review in due course. A complete no-brainer to me for much of the lure fishing that so many of us do here. Easy items to find online, and please keep an eye on the Art of Fishing website or speak to them if you are going to buy a lifejacket as their profits on lifejacket sales are going to the RNLI.

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Best lure rod that you can buy here in the UK 2018 - Major Craft Triple Cross EU Custom 9’ 10-30g. I thought about this a lot, because whilst the awesome but a lot more expensive HTO Shore Game S932ML 9'3'' 7-30g remains for me the best all round lure rod we can get off the shelf here in the UK (review here), the brilliant Major Craft Triple Cross EU Custom 9’ 10-30g crept up on me for a few reasons - it’s a truly fantastic fishing 9’ lure rod, it is somewhat cheaper than the 9’3’’ HTO Shore Game rod, and I am so pleased that we now have a lure rod here in the UK that replaces and improves upon the discontinued Major Craft Skyroad 9’ 10-30g. Review here of the rather special Major Craft Triple Cross EU Custom 9’ 10-30g and hats off to the nice people at Chesil Bait’n’Tackle for getting this rod made. Available here and here in the UK. Special mention but I haven’t had enough time with it to consider it here - the seriously lovely Tailwalk EGinn 96ML-R 9'6'' Max 35g lure rod, review here.

 This Spiderwire Smooth Stealth 8 braid has been on this reel for two years I believe, and the guy fishes hard

This Spiderwire Smooth Stealth 8 braid has been on this reel for two years I believe, and the guy fishes hard

Braid of the year 2018 - Spiderwire Smooth Stealth 8. Is it because the name “Spiderwire” is in there that this brilliant Spiderwire Smooth Stealth 8 braid doesn’t seem to be getting the love it deserves? (I never used the old Spiderwire braid, but I heard all manner of differing reports about it). I have used this newer Spiderwire Smooth Stealth 8 braid a lot though and I know one angler in particular who has had the same 20lb Spiderwire Smooth Stealth 8 braid in the red colour on his spinning reel for a couple of years now and it has hardly lost any colour and the braid truly feels as good as new. There are four braids that I trust completely which come in at under the £20 mark for a 150 yard or so spool - Sufix 832, Sufix Performance Pro 8 (just discontinued but still readily available, replacement coming soon, fishing with it at the moment and it’s fantastic), Daiwa J-Braid, and then this Spiderwire Smooth Stealth 8 braid which is the cheapest of the lot but is just as good as the others. Review here, and if you go looking online it’s not a hard braid to find.

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Leader material of the year 2018 - Varivas Hard Top fluorocarbon. What’s not to like? I have a thing for Varivas lines as indeed I seriously do for Sufix, and I really like how this Varivas Hard Top fluoro comes in 80m spools that cost only £8.99. A fluoro leader has to feel right to me, and whilst I know that is not remotely scientific, this Varivas Hard Top just felt good from the off, and the 15lb and 20lb versions I have used for a while now have performed perfectly. It knots very well - I only use the FG knot for my braid to leader connections - and I can’t prove this but it does seem to me that this Varivas Hard Top fluoro is a very tough leader material with high abrasion resistance. I have written the breaking strains on the spools because I don’t do PE numbers and fluoro yet! My only complaint would be to ask why Varivas couldn’t have put 80m of fluoro on somewhat smaller spools that then take up less room in a rucksack. Veals Mail Order is the place for this line, see here.

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Hard lure of the year 2018 - Whiplash Factory Spittin’ Wire surface lure. I don’t use hard lures as much as I used to, but one hard lure I have ended up using a hell of a lot this year because I have found it to be absolutely bloody lethal for bass is the Whiplash Factory Spittin’ Wire surface lure - with my eternal thanks to the Spanish angler who so kindly told me all about it and convinced me to part with my cash. Damn am I glad I did! Casts great, looks lovely on the water, and I can’t get away from how this Spittin’ Wire has caught a bunch of good bass for me this year, plus for a few anglers I know and fish with as well. Search “Spittin’ Wire” in the search box over on the right of this page and you will see what I mean. Oh, and I removed the split ring that comes rigged on the lure and I caught my biggest ever bass after doing so, so I guess it doesn’t matter. Not an easy lure to track down, but I believe the Art of Fishing still has a few that they are not putting on their website - I bought mine from a website in Spain, here.

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Best way to carry my lures when I am actually fishing 2018 - HPA Chest Pack, again. I make no apologies for continuing to praise this HPA Chest Pack which in fact I wear around my waist with a shoulder strap connected to it. I do keep my eyes open for similar systems and I have seen and indeed tried on a few different ones this year, but nothing has come close to how unobtrusive and easy to wear the HPA Chest Pack is. I have used them for so long now that I know I’ll get about a year to a year and a half out of one before where the shoulder lugs attach to the bag end up giving way, but at the price and how well this HPA Chest Pack works for me, I can live with that just fine. I can’t find this item for sale in the UK, so have a look for the HPA France website and find it on there.

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Waterproof jacket of the year 2018 - Vision Kust, again. I really like the Hodgman Aesis Shell waterproof jacket (review here), but it’s the minimalist design of the mighty Vision Kust that continues to do it for me that little bit more. It just works, as do their Vision’s Ikon chest waders, and I can’t really ask for much more than that. The closest to perfect waterproof jacket I have ever worn for my fishing. Easy to find online. Review here.

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Wading boots of the year 2018 - Dunlop safety boots, again. I was about five months into a brand new and not cheap pair of wading boots that were easily the most comfortable wading boots I have ever worn and I was about to blog about them being a bit brilliant but then they went and failed on me. I have used a pair of Simms Freestone wading boots which I found for a nice price a fair amount this year and I do really like them - and especially because there are no metal eyelets unlike on their previous generation and truly rubbish G3 Guide boots - but I have lost a bunch of studs now that just disappeared from the soles when I have never, ever lost a single stud from a pair of Simms wading boots in the past. So it’s back to the cheap as chips Dunlop safety boots being used as wading boots, all details here. You will need to go to the hellhole that is a Sports Direct shop to find these boots.

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Accessory of the year 2018 no.1 - VMC 7554B BN (Black Nickel finish) 2X-Strong Inline Barbless Treble hook. If I am putting new treble hooks on a hard lure then these are now my trebles of choice. Pretty much perfect if you ask me, but for whatever reason they still aren’t that easy to find for sale here in the UK.

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Accessory of the year 2018 no.2 - STURME Locking Carabiner Aluminum D Ring Clip. I bought these cheap as chips carabiner type clips off Amazon (check here) and I use them for attaching various bits and pieces to the neoprene belt on which my HPA Chest Pack sits, as well as onto my rucksack or whatever. Obviously at this price they are not for climbing!, but as a simple way of say clipping a fish-grip to my belt which I can then easily clip on and off, then these STURME Locking Carabiner Aluminum D Ring Clip are just about perfect - very lightweight, very cheap, and showing no signs of rust either.

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