Sportsman’s Wish List: 30 Great Holiday Gifts for Fishermen
Are you an angler that’s worried about what Santa is going to leave under the tree this year? Are you...
Are you an angler that’s worried about what Santa is going to leave under the tree this year? Are you someone taxed with buying a gift for an angler and have no idea where to start? In either case, Field & Stream Fishing Editor Joe Cermele and Editor-At-Large Kirk Deeter are here to rescue you from more fishing-themed Christmas ornaments and lures that look like cans of Budweiser.
Below are 30 gift ideas for fishermen of all skill levels that fit any budget, from stocking stuffer to main-event-style gifts. They’ve all been field tested and given the F&S stamp of approval. Happy shopping.
Chef’s Choice Mariner Sharpening Station
Before I got my hands on the Mariner’s Sharpening Station, I had a drawer full of dull fillet knives. It’s not that they couldn’t be sharpened by other means, but I’m lazy. This rig is specifically designed for fillet and sports knives. Plug it in, make a few passes over the 2-stage diamond abrasive wheels and your dull throw-aways become fresh razors. Suction cup mounts let you stick it on the boat, counter, or fillet board, and built-in scissor and hook sharpeners sweeten the deal. According to the company, it also won’t corrode in saltwater environments. —J.C.
Costa Del Mar Cut Sunglasses
Costa Del Mar
What I like about Costa’s Cut sunglasses is that they offer both exceptional on-the-water functionality with a classic, more stylish look than typical polarized shades–you know, the ones with the thick side panels. The thin frames are weightless on your face, and the large fit is perfect for folks with big noggins like mine. But the lenses are still wide, covering your entire eye including the corners so you get 100% glare blockage. The Cuts are available with any frame color and lens option Costa —J.C.
Redington Butter Stick
Whether you’re already a freak for fiberglass fly rod or you’re looking for a new angle on your favorite small creek, you’ll want to check out this model from Redington. It has a classic silky-sweet action (hence the name) that puts the angler in direct feel with the cast, which makes it a great training tool. This rod has punch, but it is really all about delicate dry-fly presentations. Plus, it makes an eight-inch brookie feel like a bonefish. Reasonably priced, it’s perfect for the angler who wants fiberglass in the arsenal. —K.D.
Gear Wrapz & Strapz
When I first saw Wrapz & Strap, I thought, huh, they’re glorified rubber bands. But much to my surprise, they’re actually pretty clever (and inexpensive) little things that I’ve found about 1,001 uses for. Thicker, longer models feature snap buckles, while shorter versions simply have a plastic tie-off post that lets you loop around and secure whatever you need to pin down. I have a supply of 4- and 7-inchers in the garage and my truck at all times. They’ve held down coolers on my raft, lashed rod tubes together, served as a makeshift net holder on my wading belt…you name it. —J.C.
Cabela’s Advanced Anglers Backpack
This is just an all-round solid backpack for anglers that won’t break the bank. I’ve been using one this fall and am really impressed. The lower compartment is specifically designed to hold three medium tackle trays, so I just keep swapping them out based on the trip at hand. The bag isn’t over-worked. A small front pocket holds your keys, wallet, and phone. A larger front pocket is perfect for a small box of terminal tackle, leaders, or an extra fly box. An especially nice feature is the side mesh pockets that can be zipped closed so you don’t lose your packs of soft plastics. Even with trays loaded, the main compartment still has plenty of room for my camera or a rain jacket. —J.C.
In case you haven’t noticed, the original BUFF has really become a staple in the fishing world, especially with anglers that live in hot, sunny regions. While these face masks/bandanas/neck gaiters are great for keeping the sun off your ears and bugs out of your mouth, until now they haven’t been considered winter apparel. The new Cyclone BUFF has a GORE Windstopper fleece lower to keep your neck toasty, and a slightly thicker upper than a traditional BUFF to add a bit of warmth while stopping sun glare and wind burn from killing your cheeks and snout. Ever since the temps dropped, I’ve had one with me from the striper coast to the steelhead river. —J.C.
Last year, Fishpond acquired Nomad nets, and anglers will be hearing much more from that brand next year. I’ve been field testing for a year, and have yet to find a net that is more durable, yet light. They’re made of composite materials, and the basket is rubberized mesh, so they’re easy on both anglers and fish. If you’ve broken or scratched too many expensive wooden nets, $115 for a lifetime hand net is a good call. —K.D.
Duluth Trading Company Co. Flapjack Flannel Shirt Jac
Is it a shirt? Is it a jacket? Does it matter? Not really. With a 100% polyester fleece lining and a cotton flannel outside, the Flapjack keeps you warm whether you wear it all day on a fishing trip, or just need something to throw on while cutting a few logs for a night at fish camp. What I like most are the special F.O.M (Freedom Of Movement) armpit gussets that keep the Shirt Jac flexible. It won’t bind up across your back like that old flannel jacket your gramps handed down. —J.C.
Farm To Feet Cedar Falls Socks
Farm to Feet
For the diehard fisherman, wading doesn’t stop when the temps plummet. Maybe I just have bad circulation, but the only trouble I ever have in winter is keeping my feet warm in waders. I’ve tried every sock under the sun, but at present Farm To Feet’s Cedar Falls are my favorite. They hug your calf tightly so they won’t slip down in your boot, and they have cushioning throughout the entire leg and foot that makes winter wading a touch more comfortable. Made in the U.S. with a mix of Merino wool, Spandex, and Nylon, so far I haven’t had cold feet, and you can’t beat the price. So confident is Farm To Feet in their product, they offer a lifetime guarantee. —J.C.
Finn Utility Essex Sidebag & Four Reel Case
If you're big on handmade, quality products, you'll dig the wares offered by Finn Utility. The brainchild of Ryan MacDonald, all of the company's bags, leader wallets, and reel cases are hand-stitched in Vermont and constructed of tough-as-nails materials, such as waxed twill, brass, waxed canvas, and English bridle leather. MacDonald's Side Bag holds just what you need and nothing you don't, combining the stripped down functionality of a simple chest pack, but held comfortably at your side (minus the cumbersome waist belt and over-packing tendency of many hip packs). I've already started beating one up on trout streams in conditions ranging from downpour to freezing, and I have feeling it's a bag that will take all I can dish for years to come. If you're looking to spend a bit less, MacDonald's Four Reel Case stows…well…four reels in a bed of genuine sheep shearling. It's a classy accessory for any serious flycaster. —J.C.
Smith Chromapop Lenses
Most people pick sunglasses for how they look on their faces… not how well their eyes see through them. The latest technology from Smith, called Chromapop should make many rethink that. What it does is block certain color waves as they pass through the lens, and that makes for clearer contrast and definition. I've fished them most of this past season, and do think that I see fish better, because colors and shapes do indeed "pop" as advertised. Prices vary by model but high-end frames average around $200. —K.D.
Cortland Carp Boss Fly Line
In the event you missed it, flyfishing for carp is growing in popularity very quickly. And why not? Carp live just about everywhere, they're a challenge to hook, and they're bulldog fighters. Cortland stepped into the carp market this year with Carp Boss line, which I've been using for all my carpy pursuits since mid-summer. With a faster, more aggressive front taper than a standard weight-forward line, Carp Boss is designed to increase distance and accuracy. And I must say, it shoots very smoothly. I also like the muted "mud" color, which I believe can make a difference when "golden bonefish" are grubbing real shallow. - J.C.
Garmin VIRB HD Action Camera
Garmin has its work cut out for them going up against GoPro in the mini action-cam market, but after playing with their new VIRB, I can tell you there are some perks to their offering if you're looking for one of these gizmos. For starters, a display screen is built right in--not a separate accessory--so you won't have to guess what you're shooting. My favorite feature is the motion-activated recording function. No more flipping the camera on and off or letting the battery drain while you wait for something to happen. In terms of ease of use, you'll find navigation a snap compared to a GoPro, and in terms of video image quality, I can't tell the difference. There are plenty of mounts and harnesses available for the VIRB as well, and it's also waterproof right out of the box…no extra case needed. —J.C.
One Shot Outfitters Fishing Buddy
One Shot Outfitters
Rod transport can be a hassle. Laying them in the bed of a pick-up is about the easiest way to damage or break your sticks, and if you need to cram an SUV full of other gear, it may not leave much room for rods. Enter the Fishing Buddy. Available in 4-, 6-, and 8-hole models, these rod carriers/transport systems are relatively inexpensive and work with any standard trailer hitch. Mount the Fishing Buddy to your hitch with included hardware, and you can tote rods safely and vertically just above the rear bumper. Once you get to the dock or your spot, quickly unhitch the base and carry the rods to the boat or bank in the holder via a built-in carry handle. You can even fill the base with water to add counter weight if you need it. Even though I have rod holders in the bed of my truck, I've been using this on runs to the boat, because I can easily carry all my rods down the dock at once instead of making multiple trips. At day's end, the base also makes a nice place to secure rods for cleaning. —J.C.
3-Tand Pliers & Sand Spikes
3-Tand jumped into the ring just last year with some exceptional fly reels that have proven tough to break in both salt- and freshwater. This year they're entering the accessories market with two new products that are of the same high quality as their reels, and just as affordable. The SURGEX S-6+ pliers are made of aircraft-grade aluminum, have tungsten carbide cutters, and swappable jaws. With a few turns of an included Allen key, you can switch the conventional-angler style jaws with a split-ring tooth and crimp slots to flat jaws more often found on flyfishing pliers. Both sets of jaws are included. They are also nice and light, and the surgical-style rubberized frames and handle offer a really nice grip. If you're a surfcaster, 3-Tand's new foldable sand spikes will make fishing the beach a little easier. Both the 40-inch and 23 ½-inch models are lightweight and collapse compactly into a carry bag that fits nicely in a backpack or bucket. Made from anodized aircraft aluminum, I strap the short model to my plug bag and use it to hold my rod while changing lures. For $30 and $40, you can't go wrong. —J.C.
Sweetwater Saddlery Hemo Holster
Looking for a better way to carry your hemostats than on a retractor (which break, get in the way, and allow your line to get wrapped around your hemos)? For $60, the folks at Colorado-based Sweetwater Saddlery will make you a beautiful leather Hemo Holster that clips on your wader strap, keeps your hemos from catching line and leaders, and holds them more securely than just clamping them to your chest pack. When I'm on the river, I reach for my hemos a thousand times a day. With a Hemo Holster, I always know where they are, and, more importantly, know they'll be there when I reach for them. Gone are the days of clamped hemos falling off or snagging brush when I walk through the woods. Not too mention, these handcrafted holders are rugged and will last a lifetime. You can have a holster tailored to your favorite hemos, or order one that comes with a new pair. —J.C.
Gunk Tough Series Truck Wash
Bugs smeared on the windshield from the trout stream? Bait cooler spill in the back seat? Tires caked in mud? While some of these things make a truck look manly, if you've got a hot date or something, it might be time to spruce up the old fish mobile. Gunk's new line of Tough Series truck cleaning products range from windshield cleaner, to heavy-duty bug remover, to exterior soap, and as someone who's truck often stinks and looks like it hasn't been washed in months (because it hasn't), I was pretty pumped on the Gunk's performance. The deep-clean upholstery cleaner got rid of a mackerel blood stain on my back seat that's been there since April, and as an all-purpose cleaner, the wash noticeably cut through that nasty film you get on the paint better than products I've picked up at the local auto mart. - JC
Morankniv Comfort Fillet Knife
New from Swedish knife maker Morankniv comes the Fishing Comfort Fillet 155. This is what I'd call a solid "tweener" fillet knife. It doesn't cost $100, so if you drop it in the drink you won't cry. It also doesn't cost $5 and rust after one trip or refuse to take a sharpening. With a cold-rolled stainless blade measuring 6 inches and comfortable handle with terrific grip, what I like most about this knife is the blade's thin diameter and flexibility. It's exceptionally sharp, but because of the flex I've found it to be more efficient at skinning fillets than some of my other knives. One clean pass, and in the fridge they go. —J.C.
Orvis Encounter Fly Outfit
It's fair to say that most inexpensive fly combos tend to get instantly labeled "entry level." Maybe the price of Orvis's new Encounter Combo is "entry level," but the performance is far from it. In fact, if you didn't know how much it cost, you'd never guess the whole shebang went for under $200. Available in weights 5 through 8, each outfit comes with a utilitarian workhorse large-arbor reel pre-loaded with line and backing. Matched with the Encounter rods, which have a fast action without being overly powerful, these combos are great for casters of any skill level, and will take whatever you can dish. The rods are also four-piece for your travel convenience. —J.C.
If you're an avid angler and don't own a YETI Tundra cooler, you should. Yes, they're more expensive than the ones you buy in K-Mart, but they are an investment, not a disposable plastic box. If you don't have one, get one. If you do (or know someone who does), it's always fun to accessorize, and YETI is making some pretty sweet add-ons for their coolers. New this year is the beverage holder and rod holder, both of which snap right into the anchor-point tie-down slots on Tundra coolers of all sizes. If you want to turn a YETI into a casting platform, boat step, or impromptu poling platform, grab a SeaDek. These non-skid pads stick to the coolers lid and keep your feet firmly planted. If you want an old-school accessory to stuff your stocking or the stocking of a YETI owner, pick up a vintage bottle opener. It's cool. It's classic. It opens beers. —J.C.
Dublin Dog KOA Collars
Don't lie; you like Christmas shopping for the dog as much as you do your family and friends. So spruce Rover up with a wicked trout pattern color from Dublin Dog. You might be thinking, "I've seen those before." Not these you haven't. Unlike traditional cloth collars that can get nasty and stink up the place if Ajax is an active K-9, the KOA collars are coated in medical-grade urethane that makes them 100% water-resistant and dirt impenetrable. Read that, "no odor-causing bacteria growth, so no dogs with stank necks." The collars are available in brook, brown, and rainbow trout patterns (and other more fashion-show-like patterns but c'mon, you know the dog wants the trout). —J.C.
Simms Currents Hoody
Old-school hoodies have a classic look, but they lack in the performance department. Simms' new Currents Hoody maintains the style, but does more than keep you slightly warmer until you sweat or get wet. Featuring UPF-30 sun protection, moisture-wicking material, and an antimicrobial finish that will keep you stench free even after a long day on the water, the Currents isn't as heavy as a traditional cotton hoody, but provides that extra layer of easily-removable warmth. This is a great option for those days with chilly mornings and warmer afternoons. During the mid-day heat, ball it up, toss it in your bag, and break it out again at sunset. —J.C.
Columbia Powerdrain Cool PFG Shoes
Think of the Powerdrain as boat shoe meets sneaker meets sandal meets water shoe. They're incredibly lightweight and designed to slip on and off easily whether they're wet or dry…though they're certainly made to be wet. Drain slots get rid of water fast, and Columbia's Omni-Grip soles hold tight even on slippery surfaces. They get the "cool" in their name because the liners are made of Omni-Freeze ZERO material, which is sweat-activated to cool down hot feet. Perhaps best of all, if you like summer wading for bass and trout like I do, you know an old pair of tennis sneakers can smell pretty bad after a few trips. These shoes won't ever need to be burned to fend off their foul, swampy odor. —J.C.
Light My Fire Swedish FireKnife
Light My Fire
Here's a good one for all the riverside campers, high-mountain trout lake hikers, and Alaska fly-in addicts. With a sturdy, razor-sharp Sandvik 12C27 stainless blade and high-friction rubber handle, the Swedish FireKnife is the kind of knife that can easily become an old friend. It can also save your hide (or at least keep you warm while drinking an after-fishing beer). An original Swedish FireSteel fire starter is nestled snuggly right in the handle, and it will throw a spark no matter how wet it is or what altitude you're fishing. A rugged sheath that clips securely to a pack or wader belt rounds out the package. These knives come in 5 colors, and even if you're not climbing a mountain, it's not a bad little tool to stash in the truck or boat just in case. - JC
Remember that old 704Z you fished years ago? It was a simple workhorse of a reel that never let you down, and with minimal guts, was easy to grease and take care of. Well, it's back thanks to overwhelming consumer demand. Produced in Penn's original Philadelphia plant, the new 704s are the old 704s. With the exception of a different spool and drag cap, the company is advertising that any parts you have from vintage 704s are perfectly interchangeable with the new ones. The gear ratio is low, they have weight and a feel that takes getting used to, and technically they're built to fish mono, but if slow-crawling plugs or working rigged eels for stripers in the surf is your game, this retro reel is for you. I've been putting the screws to one since mid-summer and it hasn't let me down yet. —J.C.
Sage Method Humidor
If you know the angler or are the angler that enjoys a fine stogie on the water, here's a much safer solution for toting cigars than the old Zip-Loc baggie. Featuring an aluminum shell, gasketed cap, and cedar insert, the Method Humidor is guaranteed to keep the finest Churchill and the cheapest Backwoods dry and fresh, even if you take an unexpected dip in the river. —J.C.
St. Croix LegendXtreme Inshore
St. Croix is always pushing the envelope with rod design, and in my opinion, the new LegendXtreme inshore series is their finest offering to date for any angler that plays in the redfish, seatrout, striper, and snook arenas. I've gotten to fish with a medium-action spinning model this fall, and although when you pick it up it feels too light to battle with much more than a speck, it's whipped 20-pound stripers on my boat with zero effort. The fast taper and fast tip provided incredible sensitivity, which is a huge plus when finesse fishing with smaller soft-plastics. With this rod, I can feel every tail beat of a swim shad, and subsequently, even the slightest nudge from a striper. St. Croix's new Extreme Skin handles are very comfortable and repel dirt and slime, but they still have superb grip. Another nice feature is the uniquely angled Zero-Tangle guides that are both corrosion resistant and add noticeable distance when firing light lures on braid. —J.C.
Pedco UltraPod Go
Whether you're a GoPro user capturing flats bonefishing or a Nikon CoolPix user shooting rising trout, this little gadget will come in handy. Weighing a mere 2 ounces and easily stowed in your pocket, the UltraPod Go is specifically designed to assistant sports videographers and photographer using POV cameras. Sturdy tripod legs will support cameras weighing up to 1 pound, while a ball-and-socket head easily swivels to help you get exactly the angle you want. With the legs folded up, you can also use the UltraPod as a pistol grip handle that may help you get more stable footage than hand-holding the actual camera. My favorite feature is the Velcro strap that lets me quickly mount a GoPro to anything from a chest pack, to a tree branch, to part of a raft frame. —J.C.
Gerber MP1 Multi-Tool
Multi-tools always make great gifts for sportsman, but this one is particularly appealing to anglers, and the kind that I'd recommend live in any boat bag or truck console. First, the textured grip gets rid of sharp edges like you'll find on other multi-tools. Sounds insignificant, but it's not when your hands are cold or wet. You'll only find the tools you really need in the MPI, some of which include high carbon steel pliers (think hook removal), drivers (think about that loose reel seat screw), fine-edge and serrated 420 HC stainless knives (think everything from gutting to line cutting), and a bottle opener (think celebrating a good day on the water). —J.C.
Bozeman Reel Company (BRC) 527
Bozeman, Montana, is certainly an epicenter of American flyfishing culture, and this relatively new reel company is cranking out a product that appropriately reflects that. I've been testing a BRC 527 and what I like most is the smoothness of the drag system at the initial tug. Many reels these days are engineered for salt, and dialed back for trout. This one is built with the style and class of trout, with a sensitive, self-enclosed drag that can hold its own in the salt. These first models will be artifacts, as Bozeman Reel is going to be a hot brand in coming years. —K.D.