Looking back over 2010, I can't believe how much new fishing gear we have seen come onto the UK marketplace, and a lot of what I am interested in is of course what we might term "modern bass fishing tackle". This is the year when I have had to finally admit to myself that I might well be a tackle tart of the highest degree, indeed I can not believe how much this kind of fishing tackle appeals to me. Honestly, I am still slightly struggling to believe that it's 8' lure rods and shiny bass lures that get me going more than 13' beachcasters and 6oz grippers used to. But I love change. I love doing different things. I love being forced to learn new stuff. Here is the gear which has impressed me the most this year - and please remember that these are merely my own thoughts and opinions. They are not shaped by any external "forces", and there are no conspiracies involved !!
Value for money lure rod - I can't see how much more modern style lure rod you can get for the money than the outstanding Teklon Concept Spin 8' 802ML 10-40g. I think that lots of people don't actually realise how versatile this thing is.
Out and out "money no object" lure rod - The French designed, Japanese built Daiwa Morethan Branzino 2.4m (roughly 8') MT B 80ML 8-35g, also known as the "SeaBass Quest Custom". From my limited but steadily growing experience of "modern lure rods", this thing is simply off the scale awesome. Plastics, hard sub-surface and surface lures, casting jigs etc., this thing fishes the lot. Incredibly light (first response from anybody who picks this thing up is always "wow, it's so light") and responsive, plenty of power, just sublime. But at a cost.
The lure I've had the most fun using - any time that I can take a fish off the surface, I am one happy angler, and the IMA Popkey has given me more pleasure this year than any other lure I have used. I love fishing with it, the thing smashes fish, and I believe it's improved me as a lure angler via some experiences over in southern Ireland earlier this year (check here).
The most successful lure I have used and seen used - once again it's the MegaBass Zonk 120 Gataride. I know that with all these new lures becoming available that I should perhaps have found or seen something more lethal than the Gataride, but I haven't. We are only human, and as such we often turn to a lure we feel confident in, but the Gataride is an out and out mind-blowing hard bass lure. Yes, the bib is a weak point, but we do retain the choice to use it or not use it.
Best soft plastic - I have played around with more and different soft plastics this year, but as with the Gataride, I can't get away from the fish that the MegaBass XLayer keeps on catching for me and people I know. There are loads of alternatives and other options out there that catch all manner of fish, but this is without doubt still my "go to" plastic.
Best spinning reel - coming from somebody who for ages knew virtually nothing about spinning reels other than Shimano, I am somewhat amazed to be saying that the spinning reel I have most liked fishing with this year is the outstanding Daiwa Luvias 3000. Smooth, very, very light, and just a pleasure to use. Sits as well on a Branzino as it does on say a Teklon Concept Spin. I am going to try and find out more about the cheaper Daiwa spinning reels in 2011.......
(8 strand) braid of the year - this one leaves me a bit torn. Tie me down and tell me I can only use one braid for ever and ever and I would still choose the 20lb light grey Varivas Avani Sea Bass Max Power PE. Old habits die hard I guess. But I have been using the Daiwa Tournament 8 braid for a lot of my lure fishing this year, and I simply can't fault it. I love the fact that I can easily step up to a stupidly thin 30lb mainline if I want to, and lose virtually nothing - and no, this is not a debate on what strength of mainline you or I like to use. I can't put my finger quite on why yet, but I believe Daiwa's new bright green colour of the Tournament 8 braid is the best of the lot (there is a dark green one and a multi-colour one).
Best lure box - beyond any shadow of a doubt the Sakura SK-9165 and SK-9145 washable lure boxes.
Waterproof jacket/shell - the North Face Diad jacket. Such a simple bit of gear that works so well for my bass fishing. My days of wearing heavy and bulky waterproof jackets are well and truly over. Layering is the way.
Wading boots - lost of people know that I do various bits of work with Hardy Greys, but a few years ago I had no choice but to buy a pair of wading boots when I was out on a job in Montana. Nick and I needed to have some felt soles, and we had brought only studded ones. So we both bought the Simms Rivershed wading boots in some fly shop near to Bozeman (one hell of a cool city by the way). When I got back home I bought some of those screw-in studs and put them on the soles. The most comfortable and hard wearing wading boots I have ever used, and I have put mine through a living hell for ages now. The boots you can see above are the next generation ones, and when mine finally give up the ghost, I am going to buy a new pair, but this time with the Vibram rubber soles. I am then going to put another set of those screw-in studs on the soles. Wading boots are what they are (and at a cheaper price I still can't really fault the Greys Platinum ones), but these Simms ones have forever felt to me like wearing your favourite and most comfortable pair of hiking boots, and for the miles and terrain we cover, I can't think of better praise than that.
Polarised sunglasses - I am not going to pretend that my polarised sunglasses are remotely cheap, but personally I view a pair of polarised sunglasses being as important as a decent rod. My Costa del Mar Blackfin 580 green mirror sunglasses are virtually welded to my face. They just work very, very well in all kinds of light and all conditions. Out on the flats the other day at St. Brandon's they were off the scale good. For bass fishing they are perfect. Plus for driving, mullet fishing, eye protection when fishing, etc.
Fishing accessory - why I did not buy a BogaGrip years ago is beyond me, but now that I have had one for nearly two years, I just can't find even one single tiny fault with it. Mine is the smallest and most lightweight 15lb model. Perfection often comes in such seemingly simple things.
Online fishing forum - has to be the excellent Lure Forum. A very thoughtful, fun and considerate bunch of fishing nuts. Very much worth registering and "chatting" away.
Best fishing spot - yeah right !! Had you going there I bet. But if I had to pick an area to go bass fishing, then it would have to be the southern and south eastern Irish coastlines. I get asked about fishing in Ireland all the time, and the best advice I can think of giving anybody would be to head over to the Tramore area and drop in on Cian and James at the excellent and very friendly Absolute Fishing tackle shop. Not only do these guys have an awesome stock of bass fishing gear, but I know that they will always go out of their way to put you on some fish. No doubt I will see you over there one of these days. And if you need any proof about how good a bass lure the Zonk Gataride is, ask Cian how many he takes with when he goes out fishing.........
As I said earlier, these are merely my opinions. If they help you in any way when it comes to choosing what to or indeed what not to get hold of for your fishing, then that's great. I am the same as everybody else out there in that I am always on the lookout for honest reviews and advice, but it is essential to remember that fishing tackle is a very personal thing. You must also note that a part of my job is to keep myself as up to date as possible with new gear - some gear I go and buy for myself, and some gear I get hold of for long-term review purposes. Whatever the case, it changes nothing. All I can do is to say it how I see it. I do not get involved in conspiracy theories and any of this "I heard this", or "my mate heard this" rubbish about fishing tackle and companies. Please don't ever make the mistake of thinking that this fishing we so love is such a big marketplace that companies and websites/shops are ever going to pay people to say nice stuff about their gear. Honestly, you would not believe some of the things I get to hear about...........