Shimano Curado 200 I HG
Photos by Travis Rathbone
The Curado is a great performer and an excellent value. If you’re looking for bells and whistles, you won’t find them here. This reel is just a workhorse that fit well in my hands, was easy to dial in, and threw out fewer backlashes than any other model I tested. It’s supersmooth, whether line is going on or off the spool during a cast or retrieve—or if a nice bass is pulling a little drag. —Joe Cermele
L.L. Bean Kennebec Boundary Pack
Though L.L. Bean calls this a chest pack, it’s really a hybrid that incorporates the best features of a chest pack and a fishing vest. It zips up front like a vest, but in a unique twist, it tightens down with a Boa closure at each side. The result is a comfortable, close-fitting pack-vest with superb stability for hiking, for bushwhacking, and especially for wading heavy water, where a conventional vest can shift and disrupt your balance. —Ted Leeson
Cabela’s + Icebreaker Thermal Zone Half-Zip Top and Bottoms
Cabela’s has partnered with the New Zealand merino experts at Icebreaker to produce these distinctly useful base-layer pieces. The thermal-zone design puts wool of different weights in different areas of the body, based on the need for heat retention. The approach keeps you toasty while minimizing weight and maximizing mobility. It’s ideal for anglers who work up a sweat; the lighter fabric in the armpits and crotch let heat disperse. —T.L.
MSRP: $150 each
The Pompadour has to be the loudest, most obnoxious topwater I’ve ever thrown. Large metal wings splay wide during the retrieve to amp up the sound as this innovative bait chugs across the surface. A rear prop adds to the noise pollution that’s so over the top, I’d bet a hawg bass 10 miles away would hear it. —J.C.
A collaborative effort between Cabela’s and Daiwa, the Verano kind of caught me off guard. Smart, modern features like a rear tapering spool that thwarts tangles and a waterproof drag are often found on high-end reels, yet the Verano is very affordable. During testing, it proved just as smooth and light as some high-priced competitors. Don’t be surprised if this inexpensive little tank becomes your next go-to spinning reel. —J.C.
Simms Dry Creek Boat Bag
With an RF-welded chassis, semirigid sides, and padded dividers, this 33-liter waterproof bag offers rugged gear protection, but there’s a catch—a unique magnetic one that docks itself and clicks shut when you drop the lid. Contents are shielded from the elements, and you can pick the bag up by the top handle without closing the lid zipper. And you can open the latch with one hand, making for unparalleled speed and convenience of access. —T.L.
St. Croix Avid X
The Avid X series includes nine casting models, my favorite being the medium-power 7-footer. Whether I was cranking or dragging Senkos, this rod was incredibly sensitive and comfortable to fish. It weighs next to nothing, and the innovative tapering of the guide heights up the blank allows you to zing any lure a country mile. Best of all, you get St. Croix quality at a sweet price. —J.C.
Waterworks-Lamson Liquid 2 Reel
The Liquid admirably demonstrates what can be achieved these days with a high-quality pressure-cast process. The frame and spool castings are sharp, clean, and attractive. Subsequent machining of critical areas gives a tight mechanical fit, precision, and trueness of rotation to rival many bar-stock reels. More impressive still, the Liquid is built with the same conical drag components that Waterworks-Lamson uses in its considerably more expensive models—among the best trout-reel drags going. —T.L.
Sage Salt 890-4 Fly Rod
Flats fishing often demands quickly executed and, above all, accurate shots between 25 and 75 feet. The Salt loads easily for shorter-distance presentations and for lifting the line head into a single back cast, shooting to the target, and putting your fly on the money. In good hands, the Salt has plenty of reach, but it’s not a top choice for firing to the horizon. What you get instead is more useful: very fine presentations. —T.L.
Umpqua Tailgater Organizer
Many anglers these days use a lidded plastic tub, like a Rubbermaid Roughneck, to transport waders and wet gear. Umpqua has expanded the utility of this setup with the Tailgater, a pair of saddlebag storage panels that straddle the front and back of a tub. It creates an efficient rigging station in a vehicle or a base of operations for surf fishing. So simple it’s brilliant. —T.L.
Hatch Nomad Pliers
A superbly made tool, the Nomad has I-beam arms fashioned from Type II anodized 6061-T6 aluminum alloy for excellent tensile strength, rigidity, and corrosion resistance in a nice and light 4-ounce package. The jaws handle both heavy work and finer tasks, and the tungsten carbide cutters slice through anything from 7X tippet to 100-pound shock tippet with the same clean ease. Both jaws and cutter blades are factory replaceable, and it’s guaranteed for life. It’s the last pair of pliers you’ll ever have to buy. —T.L.
Simms G4 Pro Jacket
This latest version of the Simms G-series jacket not only shaves 15 percent of the weight but improves abrasion resistance and tear strength. This is killer rainwear with a supple, lightweight feel; easy arm mobility for casting and rowing; and excellent breathability. The revamped hood and cuffs draw down snugly to seal out the elements. A good wading jacket shields you from the rain; a great one like this protects you from the weather. —T.L.
Yeti Rambler Tumbler
I know what you’re thinking: How good can a travel cup possibly be? All I can tell you is that Yeti doesn’t make anything that isn’t designed and built extremely well. Once you’ve left the house at 5 a.m. and are still sipping hot coffee on the boat at 9 a.m., you’ll understand why I can’t live without mine. —J.C.
Sébile Action First Bull Minnow
With an external weight positioned low on the body and an overall girth that’s fatter than your average jerkbait, the Bull Minnow has a sexy rolling wobble that’s unique for this class of lures. A big internal mass-transfer bead provides extra casting distance and a loud knock at any retrieve speed, making it a versatile bait that belongs in everything from your smallmouth box to your saltwater striper box. —J.C.
StreamTrekkers by IceTrekkers
I’ve tried several brands of slip-on wading grippers and found most of them don’t stay put or offer the same nonslip confidence of screw-in studs. StreamTrekkers bucked that trend. They strap over any boots easily and won’t shift. Thanks to steel-alloy Diamond Beads that grab from all angles, they’ll keep you glued to rocks even tighter than permanent studs. —J.C.
GoPro Sportsman Mount
Before the Sportsman Mount, I was strapping GoPro cameras to rails and gaffs with handlebar mounts and duct tape. Not only does the Sportsman Mount lock down tight on just about anything, but it comes off in seconds when needed elsewhere. —J.C.
Umpqua Steamboat Sling
The Steamboat raises sling packs to a new level of sophistication. This symmetrical pack rides centered along your spine, and the comfortable straps keep it in place for a balanced, nonshifting load. The 900-cubic-inch capacity can hold a heap of stuff, organized in three zippered compartments, each with interior sleeves and pockets, eliminating that tossed-in-a-gunnysack jumble common with sling packs. —T.L.
Fishpond Sushi Roll
I’m a big-streamer junkie. Thing is, large streamer boxes take up a lot of room. The foam Sushi Roll lets me carry just as many monster bugs as a hard case, but I can tuck them away in a sling pack or drift-boat compartment. Foam teeth along the edges create separation, letting air pass through to dry your flies when the Sushi Roll is all rolled up. Ingenious. —J.C.
Fenwick Elite Tech Bass
Fenwick put just as much R&D into its new bass-specific rods as other brands. The difference is that you can afford the Elite Tech. I particularly liked the spinning rods, which were light and sensitive enough to keep contact with a tube in heavy smallmouth water but had the backbone to steer big fish out of fast current. As a bonus, the hidden handle, made of EVA and TAC, is a lot more comfortable to grip than reel-seat threads. —J.C.