The Best Fishing Gear of 2017
Want to up your game? These products, all used by Field & Stream editors, can help you catch more fish
Yes, it’s pricey, but it’s made with Type III military-spec anodization (so it’s very hard to scratch or ding), and a unique ball-and-ramp drag system that can stop a donkey. The best attribute of the drag, however, is that it adjusts at 330 degrees, so you can really home in on the setting that perfectly matches your rig and micro-tune it on demand when you tie into something big. —Kirk Deeter
Surface Seducer Double Barrel Popper Bodies
Just when you thought a popper head was a popper head, in comes the Surface Seducer. Available in four sizes, these foam heads have a deeper cupped mouth and extended top lip to create a louder, splashier pop than flies you’ve tied in the past. Thanks to recessed eyeholes, the days of eyes with subpar glue jobs falling off your poppers after 10 casts are over. A rear guide hole also makes it easier to poke straight through the body for a cleanly centered hook shank. —Joe Cermele
Penn Parallel Pliers
For the angler who spends one weekend chasing muskies and the next hunting bluefish, Parallel Pliers are a must. They’re crafted from stainless steel with a nickel-titanium coating. The jaws stay parallel along the length of the pliers when squeezed, creating even pressure from end to end. That makes cutting everything—say, 50-pound braid, 400-pound mono, and steel cable—a lot less arduous because the pliers operate with far less hand pressure. —J.C.
The second generation of Sébile’s Stick Shadd has undergone enhancements to the face, gill plate, and body texture to create incredibly lifelike detail. The huge selection ranges from a tiny 3⁄16-ounce Stick Shadd to a massive 8-ouncer suited for blue-water fishing and high-speed trolling over 10 knots. —Mark Modoski
L.L. Bean Ultralight Packable Wading Jacket
This light, waterproof, breathable wading jacket packs down to the size of a softball for compact stowing in a vest or pack. The full-coverage hood, zip-to-the-chin collar, and elastic cuffs keep the elements at bay; slightly stretchy fabric and a roomy cut give good mobility. It’s stripped down in everything but performance. —Ted Leeson
Just a few years ago this fast-action fly rod would have been at the top of the price range, but by minimizing some of the glitzy components and sticking with proven graphite, Scott kept the price under $500 for the 5-weight version. The company didn’t skimp at all on engineering, and this is a very capable all-around workhorse, adept at tossing both weighted streamers and delicate dry flies. —K.D.
Simms DownStream Jacket
The blend of down and PrimaLoft Gold insulation is treated for water repellency and further shielded from the elements by an ultrathin, water- and wind-resistant breathable membrane. It isn’t completely waterproof, but in core-chilling damp and drizzle, the jacket retains its loft and insulating value, keeping you warm and allowing you to fish on rather than go home.—T.L.
This bag is ideally proportioned for smaller boats where deck space is at a premium. Yet the 732-cubic-inch capacity holds plenty of gear for a day, and five movable (and removable) interior dividers and pockets allow for efficient organization of smaller items. From the rigid plastic bottom to the TPU-coated nylon shell, this is a rugged, waterproof bag that gets high marks for storage versatility. —T.L.
Guides can get mighty picky about footwear, especially if they think the soles will mar the surface of their drift boats. The Rassler is essentially a sneaker with high-friction rubber outsoles. They’ll grip river bottom when you get out to wade but won’t leave any marks in the boat. The canvas uppers have a hydrophobic coating to limit water absorption, plus snug heel cups and padded ankle support. —Slaton L. White
With a variety of setup options, this tackle organizer and workstation attaches to pretty much any cooler, as well as gunnels and boat rails. The nine pockets, a pliers holster, retractors, and tool-attachment points keep the gear you need front and center—no rummaging through a tackle box. It’s an ingenious unit that simplifies your equipment life.—T.L.
Filson Rod Case
Built like a suitcase, this sleek organizer has the tough cotton twill and bridle leather exterior that longtime fans of Filson gear know so well. The padded interior will swallow four-piece rods with ease; adjustable dividers, zippered pockets, and webbing straps make it easy to customize space for multiple reels, tools, spare clothing, and trout nets. Next stop, New Zealand. —T. Edward Nickens
This topwater bait uses an innovative keel and weighted tail to enhance the classic walk-the-dog retrieve. The bait cuts hard from side to side, making the topwater action easier to achieve for beginners and more controllable for experienced finesse anglers. The 4-inch, 1⁄2-ounce lure comes with two No. 4 VMC round-bend hooks. There are 10 color patterns for bass and saltwater gamefish. A single ball bearing enclosed in the body makes a clickety-clack racket, further enhancing its appeal to fish. —Peter B. Mathiesen
Why the lofty price tag? MGXtreme from Abu Garcia is packed with specs that you will not find in any other reel. The durable and rigid magnesium frame keeps the overall weight at an insanely light 4.5 ounces. Eleven ball bearings mean the MGXtreme can handle even the lightest lures, and the 8.1:1 gear ratio quickly recovers line at a rate of 32 inches per turn. There’s only one model, offered in both right- and left-handed versions. —M.M.
The Vapor Elite employs a three-layer Gore-Tex C-Knit fabric that makes it lighter and more breathable than other shell laminates. That may not sound like much, but it makes a huge difference if you’re hiking in to fish or traveling with weight restrictions. It also allows better range of motion for casting. I fished a rainy week in Siberia with it and never felt a drop. —K.D.
Patagonia Merino Air Crew
This base layer combines Capilene and specially lofted wool yarns with a waffled, air-trapping surface to provide excellent warmth for its low-bulk featherlight weight. Continuously knit as a single garment, it has no stitching, which eliminates seam chafing and gives plenty of stretch for easy upper-body mobility. You barely know you have it on—except that you’re warm for a change. —T.L.
13 Fishing Muse Black Swimbait Rod
Ideal for throwing the biggest baits in your box, these sticks are built from a 36-ton Poly-Vector Graphite blank and quality components. The result is a lightweight, responsive, powerful rod. I used the heftiest one to throw everything from 8- to 24-ounce muskie baits for a full day without fatigue. The rest of the lineup covers everything from lunker largemouths to pike and inshore saltwater species. At about $200, they are a steal.—M.M.
After years of carting gear in dry bags hoping for the best in the rain, I finally found a roomy, reliable, waterproof hauler in the Tuff Truck Bag. With 26 cubic feet of space, shielded zippers, and heavy-duty D-ring tie-downs, I’m confident enough in this bag to tote anything in a downpour, and it keeps extra clothes, boots, and food from clogging the cab on fishing trips. —J.C.
Low-bulk, sonically welded seams provide flexibility and comfort, and the four-layer breathable fabric and stitchless construction are rugged enough to withstand hard use. There are fleece-lined handwarmer pockets, two interior and two exterior storage pockets, a wide tool-attachment strip and, of course, the big waterproof TiZip front zipper, which is entirely self-explanatory to anyone who’s spent a full day in chest waders. —T.L.
Haibike Sduro Full FatSix
I fished the beach off an electric fat bike all summer. These don’t do all the work—you still have to pedal. What they do is give each stroke extra kick. This pedal assist let me shred that bike like I was 14 again. Pedaling on sand was a breeze. A good ebike is quieter than a dirt bike and will get you into spots nobody else can touch. The real-world price is $4,800. —Nate Matthews
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The Striker series ranges from a 3½-inch Chirp fishfinder with GPS and DownVü that retails at $180 to a wide-screen 7-inch model with GPS, DownVü, and SideVü that sells for $500. There are three others, two of them portable for kayak and ice fishing. If you’ve ever wanted all the fish-finding capabilities of the pros, but don’t have a couple of grand hidden under the couch cushions or a secret account in Switzerland, Garmin has your solution here. —M.M.
Triple Aught Design Intercept NS Pants
Constructed of waterproof, breathable Polartec Neoshell, these are real pants (not over-pants) with traditional five-pocket styling, a button waist, and a zippered fly; think of a favorite pair of jeans, but weatherproof. Sizing by waist and inseam measurements means a comfortable fit, and the slightly stretchy fabric lets you move easily. You can fish all day, through foul and fair, without adjusting layers. —T.L.
Grundens Dark and Stormy Jacket and Bib Pants
This breathable rain gear is a combination of advanced materials and technology that stays true to Grundens’ decades of experience protecting fishermen from the elements. The jacket has a waterproof front zipper and recessed neoprene cuffs to completely seal out rain, spray, and cold. The bib pants have an adjustable waist cinch and straps, in addition to a waterproof crotch zipper for convenience. —M.M.
Never before have I seen a 5-weight fly rod that matches this type of fast, line-speed-generating action with a taper that allows an angler to feel the rod load so deeply into the cork handle. That translates to a more intuitive connection to the line itself. And while that can account for added distance to the cast, the real benefit is supreme accuracy in the 25- to 50-foot range. —K.D.
Souplefly Bug Visor
If you’re tired of tearing up your vehicle’s sun visor by sticking flies in it, try this genius little sheath that you can also hang around your neck and take to the river. When transformed into a fishing pack, it will also carry floatant and spools of tippet, and you can clip your hemostats to an edge. It’s ideal for the frugal minimalist angler who prefers to fish light. —K.D.
Equipped with shoulder and waist straps, this compact and weather-resistant pack rides comfortably, without shifting, on your hip (or at the small of your back), leaving your upper body unencumbered for casting. A wide-mouth double-zip top flap gives easy access to the interior, and with 732 cubic inches of storage it carries plenty of tackle for a day’s fishing. —T.L.
Tacky boxes use an innovative and durable silicone anchoring system to hold flies in place. This new lightweight version has a deeper well compartment to house dry-fly patterns with stand-up posts and hair wings that would otherwise get smashed or deformed in a box with a slimmer profile. It holds 199 flies but is compact enough to fit comfortably in any vest or pack. —K.D.
Slinging heavy or wind-resistant streamers demands a fly line with some authority. This one has serious beef up front and a short front taper to punch out large patterns. It quickly loads even fast rods and shoots like a grenade launcher, and the ultra-low-stretch core minimizes energy loss when you strike for quick, solid hooksets. —T.L.
You’re lucky if you can get three sticks inside most travel fly-rod tubes. With the Rod Cannon, you can tote six with ease. Rod sleeves around the interior save space by letting you ditch the rod socks, and an adjustable shoulder strap lets you carry the tube comfortably. It has a built-in reel case that will hold one reel, a retractable luggage tag, and dual locking zippers. —J.C.
Just like rear-entry ski boots are more comfortable to slip on and off, Korkers HatchBack wading boots allow you to step right in, cinch up, and go. They feature the Boa closure system (wire that’s cranked tight) instead of laces, and you can swap out the treads—from felt, to studs, to hard rubber—depending on where you’ll be walking and wading. —K.D.
The new Mirage 180 is a simple upgrade to the time-tested Mirage Drive that gives the nonmotorized kayak angler full-power reverse. Pull a cable to flip your fins and you can stop in your tracks, back up, set up on a drift, and hold your line with more precision. Stand-alone drives to fit all Hobies will be available later this spring. —N.M.
Cabela’s Guidewear Coolcore Long-Sleeve Crew
As the guide prepped the drift boat for a full-day float, my partner smirked as I got in wearing this shirt. But at the end of the day he looked like a steamed lobster. I did not, thanks to the fabric’s UPF rating of 50. The polyester construction also has an odor inhibitor as well as Coolcare technology, which wicks away moisture. —S.L.W.
The Berkley Glowstik is made for the nocturnal catfishing angler, but there’s no reason the rod can’t be used during daylight hours. It has a fiberglass blank, stainless-steel guides with titanium oxide inserts, and a full, rubberized, shrink-wrap handle. Almost the entire length of the blank illuminates with the touch of a button, which is conveniently located beneath a screw-off butt cap. The LED core has a sharp, red glow that is battery operated for long life. There are still plenty of things to misplace during an evening of catfishing, but this rod won’t be one of them. —M.M.
Patagonia Ultralight Wading Boots, Felt
At only 3.4 pounds a pair, these boots are a natural for hike-in fishing. The synthetic leather upper, wide rand, and toe cap resist abrasion, while the rigid toe box and EVA midsole protect feet from rocks. A flexible monofilament mesh tongue and ankle padding let you strap these down tightly for a foot-hugging fit.—T.L.
Monic Phantom Tip Fly Line
Pay attention to this little Boulder-based niche fly-line company, because it is pushing the design envelope with interesting PVC-free materials that differ from popular production lines. In this case, the last 10 feet of the Phantom tip are clear, but it’s still a floating line. That camo advantage applies equally well to presenting dry flies and casting streamers with a short leader. —K.D.
Filson Fishing Pack
I wore this convertible waist-chest pack for three straight days chasing Deschutes River rainbows, and it has stayed packed and in use ever since. Made of Filson’s signature Oil Tin Cloth, it’s loaded with interior and exterior pockets all put together in a streamlined form that minimizes fly-line fouling and makes bushwhacking a breeze. The entire front unzips to form a handy work table. —T.E.N.
Cabela’s Salt Striker Travel Rods
Cabela’s new breakdown Salt Striker travel rods might have been designed for ocean-roaming targets, but don’t rule them out for pike, salmon, and steelhead. With an improved high-modulus graphite, reduced weight, and stainless-steel guides with zirconium oxide inserts, there’s nary a drag-ripper these rods can’t handle, and you can count on them lasting for years. Twenty-two available models let you dial in exactly what you need. —J.C.
In the premium cooler market, Pelican’s entry provides smooth-rolling heavy-duty wheels for painless transport to boat, camp, or truck. Designed to keep food and beverages cool for 10 days, the cooler is also rated bear-resistant by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee. Other features include molded-in tie-downs and a built-in bottle opener. —P.B.M.
G. Loomis Pro4x LP 9-Foot 5-Weight Rod
This light-presentation rod may be a bit specialized, but it’s every trout angler’s favorite specialty: dry-fly fishing. From the smooth, moderate action to dead-on tracking to responsiveness in the hand, this rod is all about control—bull’s-eye deliveries with a soft touch, even using long leaders and light tippets. But it also has some range if need be. —T.L.