2015 Top New Tackle Picks
June 16, 2015
While tried-and-true tackle provides a comfortable
confidence when heading to the lake, it's generally wise to consider some innovations as well. Today's tackle designers and engineers strive to offer technologically superior products that can make fishing easier and more fun. Here is a selection of items for avid panfish anglers.
While some anglers overlook line, they often pay the price in missed bites and lost fish. Because panfish anglers often must "go light," it's particularly important to select products carefully. The rebirth of Berkley's Iron Silk is great news. When first introduced in 2002, it showed great promise, but long-term durability became an issue. This year, the new version, touted as a "super-polymer" mono, won acclaim as the Best of Show in the line category at the annual ICAST industry show last summer. Field tests have shown this new stuff is amazingly abrasion-resistant, but unlike most tough lines is also extremely supple, coming off spinning reels with no coils. It's green and available in 300-yard spools from 6- to 20-pound test, $9.95 — berkley-fishing.com.
Gamma's new Polyflex Panfish is a high-tech copolymer mono in hi-vis yellow. The company's "Molecular Alteration" process reportedly endows it with a combination of flexibility, shock resistance, strength, and abrasion resistance, a suite of characteristics once thought incompatible. Available in 2- to 12-pound tests, $9.95 to $11.95 for 330-yard filler spools — gammafishing.com.
Who doesn't need a new spinning reel, particularly one that incorporates innovations based on new technology. The Penn Battle II won over voters at the ICAST Show. A new HT-100 drag system increases power and smoothness, while five bearings and an anti-reverse bearing are sealed to keep grit out and the reel performing smoothly for many years. Panfish anglers will appreciate the 1000 and 2000 sizes, $99.95 — pennreels.com.
St. Croix Rods' Triumph X series includes a bundle of fine new panfish actions, from a 5-foot ultralight model for pond bluegills to a 7-foot medium-light slinger for perch and offshore crappies. They feature premium SCII graphite, hard aluminum-oxide frames, premium-grade cork, and Fuji reel seats, $90 — stcroixrods.com.
A variety of neat softbaits feature new shapes and sizes, eye-catching colors, and flavor additives to turn on picky panfish. Bobby Garland adds the Itty Bit Swim'r, measuring but 1.25 inches, but packing some fish-attracting power. Matched with a 1/32- to 1/48-ounce head, the delicate swimbait kicks along like a hatchling minnow, $4.29 per 20-pack — bobbygarlandcrappie.com.
In their Mr. Crappie series, Strike King introduces the Shad Pole CT, a 2-inch, fat curlytail. And the 2-inch Shadalicious is a mini-swimbait. Both come in 17 bright and natural hues, $2.99. To match them, Mr. Crappie Jigheads are available in 1/8-, 1/16-, and 1/32-ounce sizes, $3.99 — strike king.com.
This could be the year of the panfish-size swimbait, as Northland Tackle brought out the Impulse Paddle Shad in 3- and 3.5-inch sizes that match 1/16- to 1/8-ounce jigheads, $3.99 per pack — northlandfishingtackle.com.
Johnson Fishing introduces a lineup of Crappie Buster products,including softbaits — Shad Tubes, Shad Tails, and Crappie Tubes. Use Shad Scales to add shad scent and the flash of falling scales. Shad Cranks are a bit over 2 inches long and run 4 to 8 feet deep, $1.99 to $3.99 — johnsonfishing.com.
Acme has added a miniature version of their storied Kastmaster spoon, just 1/24-ounce, ideal for panfish in open water or under the ice, $3.19. And in the Meat series, Uncle Josh has a new 2-inch Meat Leech, of supple pork fat that stays on the hook and adds action and flavor to a plain hook, jighead, or spoon, $4.99 per jar — unclejosh.com.
Gamakatsu has two new hooks that pan fans need to try, the A1-Hard, with a straight eye and slightly beaked point; and the G-Code LS-3513F, which has a Kahle-style bend and straight eye. They're available in panfish sizes from #4 to #14 to present everything from maggots to minnows, $2.99 per pack — gamakatsu.com.
No category is advancing faster than the realm of sonar and GPS mapping. Innovations include touch screens, side-, down-, and 360°-imaging, as well as the ability to improve accuracy of your maps and to transfer data among units and users. Navionics new SonarCharts Live system give you the ability to instantly map waterways large and small, using a SonarPhone Transducer and T-Box from Vexilar. Mount the transducer permanently or use it as a portable for kayaks, rental boats, and more. The T-Box's WiFi connection enables your smartphone or tablet to function as a sonar screen, in combination with a free app from Navionics. Save new maps and share them if you like, $149.95 (for T-Box and transducer) — vexilar.com/navionics.com.
Humminbird's ONIX series represents the fourth consecutive year the company has won the Electronics category at ICAST. Four models in two sizes feature touch-screen menus, as well as AutoChart and SmartStrike technology, which allow users to create their own high-definition maps without connecting to a PC, server, or cloud, $1,999.99 to $3,199.99 — humminbird.com.
Garmin has incorporated CHIRP technology (short for Compressed High-Intensity Radiated Pulse) into their DownVu and SideVu scanning sonars to provide images of amazing clarity. This system emits a sweep of various sonar beam frequencies that are instantly interpreted for crisp screen images, $2,199 to $3,999.99 — garmin.com.
For shore-fishing, Flambeau's Bucket Wrap lets you carry loads of gear, as the circular carrier cinches around a 5-gallon bucket, offering pouches for tools and small tackle boxes, as well as rod holders, $28.99 — flambeauoutdoors.com.
Another neat bucket accessory is the Bucket Grip, which fits onto the bottom of a 5-gallon bucket to prevent it from tipping, slipping, or dripping. UV-resistant rubber wont' slide or mar surfaces, $9.99 — bucketgrip.com.
For trolling minnows, Bullet Weights introduces the Troll-Tech Double Drop Rig in their Mr. Crappie series. The kit includes three sets of weights and rigs with a swivel at the top to tie onto, wrapped on a handy plastic keeper, each with a pair of #2 Aberdeen hooks, $6.99 — bulletweights.com. â–