Okay, I’ll admit it – I’m a tackle junky. I spend entirely too much time obsessing over, tinkering with or researching tackle. I fish multi-species just so I can “need” more tackle. Yep, I love fishing and fishing tackle and I bet you do too! So, without further ado, may I present you Fishful Thinker’s 2014 Tackle Review.

Plano SatchelPlano Flex’N Go Satchel
Plano Molding Company is virtually synonymous with the term “tackle box”. After all, this leading plastics company produces dozens and dozens of tackle management products and works with some of the biggest names in fishing to come up with new and uber-useful designs.  The Flex’N Go tackle storage and carrying satchel is among those designs. Like many Plano offerings, this system features a two-sided design; one deep side with a see-thru polypropylene “Duraview” lid and adjustable compartments and the other side has a rubber strap that securely holds two Plano 3650 series clear plastic boxes. The beauty of that is that the two smaller 3600 series boxes can be readily swapped out for a day’s angling. Perhaps you have small trout stream items in a couple of boxes and bass pond items in another couple; in seconds you’re carrying only what you need for that particular trip. Staple items like pliers stay in the more permanent side. The 3600 boxes are very affordable and can be purchased in several configurations separately, making for a very modular system.  Overall dimensions are about 15”x11”x5” and the Satchel is light in weight, yet will contain tons of tackle. All the latches and straps are typical Plano, which is to say beef, and the main handle recesses for easy shelf or boat storage. Retailing at $25.99, the Flex’N Go Satchel is a great choice for anglers that value versatility in their tackle management.

SONY DSCCosta Corbina 580G sunglasses
I don’t fish without sunglasses, period. Between eye protection and glare reduction, you just have to have quality shades to fish safely and effectively. There is no variance on that and there is little variance in the actual sunglasses I wear. For 10 years now, it’s been Costa exclusively and it’s often their Corbina model. The Corbina frame is constructed of Hydrolite which is non-slip and in my experience, extremely durable. The frame size is well suited for large faces and the angular look is bold and modern without being overdone. The design stays put on your face during physical activity and does an excellent job of blocking all extraneous light trying to sneak around the potent lens. The Corbina frame is available through SportsmansWarehouse in two colors, black and silver. Both feature Costa’s proprietary 580G glass lens in Silver Mirror color. The 580G family of lens colors is Costa’s top offering for their ability to block blue light at 400nm to reduce haze and blurring as well as yellow light at 580nm to cut glare. The Silver Mirror color is not as mirrored as the name implies; actually it’s a subtle effect using encapsulated mirrors on a copper base. This lens color is excellent for all around fresh water fishing including streams and sight fishing. Like all Costa products, Corbina features a lifetime warranty and comes with a hard protective case. Costa Corbina lets you “see what’s out there!”

Berkley Trilene BraidBerkley Trilene Braid
If you’re still fishing your grandpa’s monofilament, consider this a wake-up call! Today’s angler has so many great choices in line selection and materials that many of us match our lines specifically to our presentations. Around my shop, the majority of our spinning reels and many of our casting reels are spooled with some sort of braided “superline”; very often it’s Berkley’s Trilene Braid. We’ve been fishing this stuff since it was introduced 18 months ago and the results have been stellar – fewer tangles, excellent durability and castibility and extreme breaking strength. Trilene Braid is produced by braiding Dyneema fibers and then coating the ensuing line for smoothness and quiet performance. The color is moss green and is fairly colorfast; it will lighten slightly with enough use, but that slight fade does not affect breaking strength. We still have the original line we tested on a reel and it’s doing just fine even after 18 months of use! Trilene Braid is available in 20, 30, 40, 50, 65 and 80 pound tests, yet the super thin diameter and excellent handling allow it to fish like lines with much lower breaking strength. We fish 20 and 30 pound on spinning rods for a range of applications and use 50 and 65 pound on casting tackle, typically for fishing bass or pike around very heavy vegetation or wood cover.

Eighty pound is best reserved for salt water or perhaps muskie fishing. Trilene Braid is a premium braided line for serious anglers looking to get the most from their tackle.

Cmap Chef Camper's ComboCamp Chef Rainier Camper’s Combo
Okay, so maybe this isn’t technically fishing tackle, but what true angler doesn’t enjoy eating their catch now and then or at very least cooking lakeside on a camping trip? We certainly do, so much so that the Camp Chef Rainier Camper’s Combo stove now spends most of the open water season in my boat. The Camper’s Combo is a propane powered, two burner stove and grill/griddle combo that cranks out 18,000 BTUs total in a compact and easy to stow unit that even comes with a carrying case. Dimensions come in at about 13”x23”x5” and weighing 17 pounds including a one pound propane cylinder. It fits neatly in the zippered bag and sets up with a three sided wind screen in about 20 seconds. One burner is 8000 BTUs and has a swappable 10.5”x13” aluminum non-stick grill for direct flame access and a griddle for more gentle cooking of things like pancakes without the need for a separate pan. The other burner is a 10,000 BTU traditional stove burner for a myriad of uses. Both feature matchless ignition and precise heat control knobs. The stove has an easy to clean stainless drip tray. We’ve used ours to cook everything from fresh fish to grilled cheese; it sets up in seconds, heats up quickly and has more than enough power to brown or boil, coupled with enough control to gently scramble eggs. We love cooking outdoors and Camp Chef’s excellent Rainier Camper’s Combo makes that easy in all our travels. Retailing at $90, this stove is a steal!

Revo SXAbu Garcia Revo SX Casting Reel
I’ll admit it; I’m a sucker for a good value. Show me a reel that performs great, looks great and is priced much lower than a lot of its competition and I’m a willing buyer. Enter the Revo SX – Abu Garcia’s amply endowed yet reasonably priced workhorse baitcasting reel. Yep, I bit, several times actually! The Revo SX adorns several rods in our rack. The whole Revo family has enjoyed accolades from across the globe due to the performance levels achieved. The reels are lightweight, durable and made in a variety of models to fit specific needs. The SX is, in our mind, the best overall value. It’s priced at $159.95 which certainly is not cheap, but compared to other brands and even many of the other Revos (which can come in as high as $500 for very high end models) it’s a steal. This is the third generation of the Revo lineage and the best in our book. It’s available in 6.4 or 7.1:1 retrieve ratios in both left and right hand models, all featuring nine stainless ball bearings and one roller bearing housed in a proprietary X2-Craftic alloy frame sandwiched between C6 carbon side plates. The Carbon Matrix drag system is one thing Revo is famous for; it delivers 24 pounds of drag and the MagTrax cast control system is very consistent. Overall, the SX is compact and the bent handle and star drag make it even more ergonomic. The “Gen 3” SX lost 25% of its previous weight while gaining a more powerful and durable Duragear gearing system. Our SX’s see tons of use from flipping heavy cover to casting lipless crankbaits while spooled with everything up to and including heavy braided line; they hold up day in and day out and purr right along. Sure Abu Garcia makes fancier reels, but who needs fancy? I’ll take performance and Revo SX delivers!

St Croix Eyecon 2St. Croix Eyecon
St. Croix Rod Company is headquartered in Wisconsin. Word has it there are a few walleye anglers there. So, it stands to reason that a Wisconsin family-owned rod company employing a bunch of Wisconsin walleye fanatics might just have a handle on producing a superb walleye-specific fishing rod. St. Croix did one better; they produced a whole series of them! Enter the Eyecon Series – 18 purpose-built rods designed to do one thing – put more walleye in your diet. The series is comprised of mostly spinning rods with a casting rod and several trolling rods as well. Since we do no trolling in our guiding, we use the spinning rods. The series is built on St. Croix’s famous SCii graphite blanks with technique-specific actions. The 7’ medium Light powered model we use most often is very light in the tip for sensitive bites and powerful through the mid-blank for fighting. It has a super comfy Fuji IPS up locking reel seat with a foam palm pad and premium cork split grip. The guides are Kigan Master Hand 3D models; strong and slim aluminum oxide rings and there is two coats of Flew Coat to beautify and protect the blank. The whole series has a 5-year warranty. Our guide clients often comment on how comfortable this rod is to fish with when paired with light fluorocarbon or braid.

Frabill Lure RetrieverFrabill 15’ Lure Retriever
I’m notorious for being stingy with money. I’m also notorious for using very expensive jerkbaits and crankbaits to catch fish. How does that fit together? Easy, I rarely lose a hardbait. I use quality line and reels, tie fresh knots often and never leave the dock without my Frabill 15’ Telescoping Lure Retriever. Let me be blunt; this is a true “must have” item for boating anglers. Look, even cheap plugs are upwards of $5 these days and even the best anglers will snag them. But very few plugs will reach deeper than 15’ meaning that they are easily salvaged with this retriever. Similar to a golf ball retriever, Frabill’s Lure Retriever is quickly extendable from 57-inches to 15’ and can even be used to free lures inadvertently cast into a tree or up on the bank due to it’s rigid design. It fits into a rod locker or storage compartment when collapsed and we leave ours on the deck of the boat for instant use when cranking snaggy stuff. It’s built from strong, yet lightweight tubular aluminum and extends/locks using a quick turn Cam Lock system.  At $39.99, this tool will pay for itself in short order and ours has saved us hundreds of dollars over the several years we’ve had it. Like I said, gotta have it!

Orra SAbu Garcia Orra S Spinning Reel
Face it, the spinning reel is the quintessential fishing tool for conventional anglers. Everyone owns one, we all fish them and even the hardcore fly guy probably has one laying around somewhere. We have tons of them in my mancave and one that gets a lot of use is the Orra S. Abu Garcia makes a bunch of spinning reels including the ubiquitous Cardinal series, Revo and even other Orras, but it’s the distinctive red and black Orra S that we keep gravitating back to. Orra S is a true workin’ man’s reel; built well but without pageantry, with performance to match its looks and priced for those that would rather be fishing. Its heart is the 6-stainless ball bearings and 1-roller bearing all working in a one piece gear box inside the X-Craftic alloy frame. Abu’s venerable sealed Carbon Matrix drag protects your line while bullying fish and the Everlast bail system does just that – last, for a long time. Our Orra S’s were purchased two and a half years ago and have endured a bunch of guide trips without fail. We fish a lot of braided line, which can be tricky to work with, but Orra S handles that aplomb with a slow oscillation spool bob speed that lays the line in even wraps even with super thin braid. Cooler than that even is the spool that features a corkscrew type machined aluminum spool that requires no backing when attaching braid; the spool will prevent slippage while the solid anti reverse bearing is positive and solid even on robust hooksets with no-stretch braid. Orra S is available in four sizes, all with reversible handles and geared at 5.8:1. We use the size 20 most often.

Johnson SpriteJohnson Sprite Spoon
I have a long history with the Johnson Sprite spoon dating back to the 1990s when I fished Florida’s inshore saltwater. In those days, the 3/4oz Sprite in gold was a go-to bait to target redfish, sea trout, snook and others. Fast forward to now and I’m still tossing the Sprite, only these days it’s most often for bass, walleyes, trout, pike, white bass, wipers – you get the point. Yes, the Sprite is that versatile. Back in ‘The Day’, I ripped the spoon across turtle grass covered salt flats or fluttered it in the Gulf of Mexico surf swash channels. Now I rip it across weedbeds on shallow flats or flutter it semi-vertically around deep structure or just reel it across the river – it’ll get bites regardless. The key is the balance of profile and weight coupled with a bomb-proof chrome or gold extremely shiny finish. The profile yields a signature wobble on retrieve and flutter on the fall, while the shine produces profound flash to grab the fish’s attention. The Sprite is very easy to cast and is armed with a high quality treble hook to nab pescado. In fresh water we typically use sizes from 1/8oz to 3/4oz, with the 1/2oz doing the heavy lifting. Though I haven’t tried it personally, I’m told the 1/8oz size makes a great spoon attractor on ice, too. I do know that brookies in the high country love the littlest Sprite. We rarely hit the water without a Johnson Sprite within reach.

St Croix Bank RobberSt. Croix Bank Robber
I’m not a fly fisherman in the traditional sense. I don’t own a nymph or “strike indicator” (let’s be honest, it’s a bobber folks) but I love to fly cast and catch fish. What do I do then? I streamer fish – a lot. Enter the Bank Robber. St. Croix Rod enlisted streamer guru, Kelly Galloup to help them design a streamer specific fly rod and the Bank Robber is the result. This rod is purpose built using all of St. Croix’s technologies including ART and IPC along with NSi resin to beat the banks of a river with large heavy streamers and it does that exceedingly well! I chose the 9’ 6wt; it’s very accurate and loads easily, yet is somehow very powerful due to the multi-modulous blank. The machined aluminum reel seat has a hook keeper and the stripper guides are tangle free designed. The Bank Robber has a lifetime warranty and is built in Park Falls Wisconsin, USA.

Johnson ThinFisherJohnson ThinFisher
Blade baits are a guarded secret in many angling circles. They don’t look like much when compared to a snazzy crankbait, but don’t let the simplicity fool you; blades are extremely effective for a range of species. They can be trolled, cast or jigged vertically and the wobbling shimmy on the fall goads even negative fish into biting. Johnson has been a leading producer of spoons – probably the closest cousin of the blade bait – for many years, so it was a make-sense move to put that expertise to work when they created the Johnson ThinFisher last year. We’ve been working them consistently since pre-production models and they just flat work. We use a range of sizes and a couple of the available eight colors, usually casting them across large flat structure on braided line and then employing a rip and fall retrieve. The heavy vibrating rip gets the fish to look, the seductive shimmy on the drop gets them to eat. The vibration pattern can be changed by moving the included quick snap and is bolstered in the ThinFisher by the use of a sonic rattling chamber. The blade is equipped with quality black nickel treble hooks and has a super durable finish with distinct red eyes.

Lowrance Mark5X DSILowrance Mark 5X DSI Fishfinder
Do you have sonar in your boat? Ever wonder what exactly the screen is telling you? Well, wonder no more – just get a Lowrance Mark 5X DSI. Before you think I’m up-selling you, consider that this unit is only $199 and will show you exactly what is on the bottom. Lowrance’s DownScan Imaging Technology has changed what we look for and what we can discern on the screen. This unit is no frills, all work; 16 level gray scale with a 480×480 pixel, 5” Film SuperTwist display that is easily readable in bright sun. A high speed skimmer transducer is included, as is an easy to use manual. If you have not experienced DownImaging, the Mark-5X DSI should be all the incentive you need to do so!

So there it is – our list of items we feel will help you enjoy our great sport even more than you do. If you have questions, email us at Chad@Fishfulthinker.com. Check all these items out at your Sportsman’s Warehouse store or buy them online at SportsmansWarehouse.com. Thanks a bunch for reading and Fish Big!