Product of the year no.2 2018 - Nitecore NU25 rechargeable headlamp. It still amazes me how light and small this headlamp is, it continues to perform flawlessly for me, and in my opinion it’s a complete steal for the money. This Nitecore NU25 rechargeable headlamp is just bloody brilliant and whilst the world of course moves on and new stuff comes out all the time, I will be amazed if a rechargeable headlamp that is so perfect for my night fishing these days appears on the market anytime soon. Review here, and easy to find online.
Spinning reel of the year 2018 - Penn Slammer III 3500. Sure it’s a bit heavier than a comparably sized Shimano 4000 or Daiwa equivalent, but put the Slammer III 3500 on a bunch of different rods and go out fishing with it rather than analysing the weight and/or “balance points” and it feels fantastically reassuring. The one I have been using this year is not technically my reel so I have been deliberately drowning it in saltwater on regular occasions and then washing it down under the hose when I get home and re-oiling occasionally as I would any other spinning reel - and it’s as smooth as it was when it first came out of the box. Treat an often far more expensive but admittedly buttery-smooth and lighter-weight Japanese spinning reel the same and it simply ain’t going to take it. The Penn Slammer III 3500 is a frigging machine and I love fishing with it in the surf and rougher conditions especially. Review here and available to buy here in the UK. And I love that handle!
Special mention hard lure of the year 2018 - Shimano Exsence Responder 109F. It casts great, it swims nice and shallow, and it catches bass which of course helps, but it’s a combination of how well the lure works AND how it’s remaining in such good condition that has brought about my mentioning this lovely little Shimano Exsence Responder 109F (109mm 15g) here. I have used it a fair bit this year, it’s in my lure box most of the time I guess, and I do wash my lure boxes in freshwater after most fishing trips but I’d expect my hard lures to start showing signs of rust and so on - and let’s be honest, some of these not remotely cheap hard lures should be staying in good condition a lot longer if you ask me (the regular Patchinko anyone?) - so what the hell Shimano Japan are doing to their hard lures I have no idea, but I can’t find a single sign of rust or discolouration anywhere on this killer little Shimano Exsence Responder 109F that has become one of my go-to shallow diving hard lures. The photo above is of the one that I own which first got used in anger in April when it caught me my first two (small) bass of the year, and I shot the photo above the other day - that is how good this lure still looks. And yes, those are the original split rings and treble hooks that the lure came with - it’s as good as brand new. Available here in the UK.
Waders of the year 2018 - Vision Ikon chest waders, again, plus the Vision Ikon waist waders. This is getting somewhat repetitive now, but once again it’s the Vision Ikon breathable chest waders because to me they are by miles the best value for money waders we can get our hands on, and in my opinion they compare more than favourably to waders costing far more. How do I know this? Well I have had two pairs of more expensive breathable chest waders fail on me this year as a pretty handy example, yet I go back to the Ikons and they keep on going. I’d love to be able to tell you about a new pair of chest waders that did a whole lot more for less money than the Ikons, but if they exist then I haven’t come across them yet. Review here. I am also putting the Vision Ikon waist waders into this waders of the year 2018 because they are bloody brilliant for any number of different reasons, as per here. You can often find a good deal on the Ikons if you go looking.
Soft plastic of the year 2018 - 6’’ OSP DoLive Stick again, but in the newish white colour. There are various soft plastics out there that you can fish like the DoLive Stick, but I still haven’t found one that floats my boat nearly as much as the DoLive Stick does, and now we have it in a solid white colour, well that was my year kinda made! The biggest shore/lure caught bass I have personally heard of this year came on the 6’’ white DoLive Stick (see here), and I have caught a bunch of bass on them from bright sunlight through to those wonderfully dark nights, and almost every condition in between. Here’s me hoping that either these solid white 6’’ long DoLive Sticks remain available forever, or that I have now panic-bought enough to last me for evermore! White DoLive Stick available here in the UK, other colours here.
Best lure rod regardless of price or not being able to buy it here in the UK because the powers that be haven’t got a clue when it comes to “modern saltwater lure fishing” and what more and more anglers are looking for and increasingly prepared to buy - Shimano Exsence Infinity S906M/RF 9’6’’ 6-38g lure rod. On the one hand I wish it wasn’t the case that two not cheap and not available to buy here in the UK rods really were as good as these ones are (although this lot here in Ireland are now doing these rods), but on the other hand I am of course very pleased that what was a calculated gamble turned out to be by a distance the best two lure fishing rods I have ever used for bass fishing - the Shimano Exsence Infinity S906M/RF 9’6’’ 6-38g (review here) and the shorter/lighter Shimano Exsence Infinity S900ML/RF 9’ 5-32g (review here). I have gone for the longer and slightly more powerful 9’6’’ 6-38g as my “best lure rod regardless” here though because it continues to amaze me after so much time fishing with these rods that a 9’6’’ rod which really can handle 38g can also be so ridiculously good at the sensitive stuff as well. If I had to choose one lure fishing rod to bass fish with forever more it would be this outrageously good Shimano Exsence Infinity S906M/RF 9’6’’ 6-38g - it really is that good in my opinion, and even after all this time fishing with these two rods they continue to surprise me. I have never gambled in my life, but I am so pleased I took the punt on these two lure fishing rods. Available to buy here from a website in Ireland.
Accessory of the year 2018 no. 3 - VIMOV Fishing Lanyard. Cheap as chips from Amazon (check here) and really handy as simple, springy-type lanyards for fish-grips and pliers etc. Dispose of the split ring and carabiners that come with them and instead use the excellent STURME Locking Carabiner Aluminum D Ring Clip to make a pretty handy lanyard system for attaching various items to your belt or lure bag and so on. Obviously I am not going to hang really heavy items off these cheap lanyards, but they have worked perfectly for me attached to say a fish-grip.
Polarised sunglasses of the year 2018 - Costa del Mar, but with the perfectly brilliant Sunrise Silver Mirror lenses that to be honest I started off using mainly in more overcast conditions, but I now find myself carrying them virtually all the time for my UK and Ireland fishing - whatever the light is doing. For sure they take a bit of getting used to in brighter conditions especially, but over time I have come to seriously like a pair of Costa del Mar sunnies with these Sunrise Silver Mirror lenses in them. Costas are available here in the UK, but you might need to go looking for these specific lenses.
Some gear that I haven’t had enough time with yet but I am really interested to see how it continues to perform:
The replacement for the sadly discontinued Sufix Performance Pro 8 braid - this new Sufix one is great so far, it’s due sometime soon I believe, and I am pretty sure at around the same price as the Pro 8.
Van Staal VR50 waterproof spinning reel - I need a lot more time with this thing, but so far so good. If all goes to plan (saltwater lure fishing gear going to plan?!) this lightweight and smooth Van Staal VR50 has the potential to become a classic, but it’s far too early for me to tell. Loving fishing with it so far………
Penn Spinfisher VI spinning reels - I have got the 4500 and 3500 versions here and for the money they seem to be a bit of a steal, but again, time will tell. Lighter than the Slammer III reels and I am led to believe just as well protected against saltwater - not 100% sealed though like the Van Staal VR50 claims, and Penn do not say so to be fair - I have high hopes for these Penn Spinfisher VI reels, and I am looking forward to the smallest 2500 model turning up for a bit of a thrashing.
A brand new, high-end and not cheap Sufix braid that does indeed seem to be a bit special. I am not here to say that we will catch more bass if we spend more money on a braid, and especially when there are a bunch of outstanding and great value for money 8-strands out there now, but this new Sufix one is rather lovely and I believe it will be on the UK market early next year.
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