When I was a young boy in the 1970s, there were two basic types of fishing attire that an angler would wear on a warm summer day, all tailored from cotton fabric.
If you were a professional bass angler — like my Memphis, Tenn. hometown angling hero Bill Dance — you wore a short-sleeved zip-up jumpsuit complete with sponsor patches that helped provide a living on the fledgling professional bass fishing tournament trails.
And if you were a freckle faced boy eaten up with bass fishing, you wore shorts — usually cut-off blue jeans — and a t-shirt or a tank top. And some days, when I'd forget about the previous week's sunburn on my fair skin, I'd go shirtless and have to get a reminder about the sun's powerful effects.
These days, the attire of anglers, both professional and amateur alike, is different since there are ample new materials out there that give lightweight and breathable performance, not to mention vital protection from the elements and what we now know to be the harmful effects of too much direct sun exposure.
And when an angler gets off the water, many of those same articles of clothing transfer into the fishing lifestyle that anglers lead when they're not in a boat or casting a line. As fishermen, we want clothes that perform on the water along with clothes that look good when the boat is back on the trailer and the night is young.
One company leading the way in recent times, in both performance based fishing clothes as well as in lifestyle apparel, is Realtree, the Columbus, Ga. based camouflage pioneering giant founded in the 1980s by president and CEO Bill Jordan.
While Jordan's Realtree company might be best known for its revolutionary camouflage patterns that assist deer hunters, duck hunters, and turkey hunters in their annual autumn quests, he also says that fishing is a big part of the outdoors recreational package that drives Realtree employees and customers alike.
"I grew up not only in the woods but on the water," said Jordan last fall in a news release as Realtree announced a partnership with FLW (Fishing League Worldwide), the parent company of the FLW Tour. "My family lived an outdoor lifestyle. It was core to everything we did."
"Fishing has been a huge part of my outdoor life," Jordan also added when the company announced its new fishing pattern. "My father and family were in the boat business, I fished tournaments for years, and today I spend as much time as I can fishing with my children. It was just natural to extend the Realtree brand into the fishing market."
With that Realtree Fishing idea in mind, what are some of clothing options available to summertime anglers this year? Here's a sample of what's available from head-to-toe:
Hats: One of the most important items that an angler can have for a hot summertime day is a good hat that allows for air flow and/or sweat wicking while protecting the fisherman's scalp and face from sunburn.
In the headgear department, they offer a variety of trucker style hats with a variety of logo looks, graphic designs, and colors, including the AmeriBass mesh back hat ($18) featuring an American Bass with the Realtree Fishing Hook Logo on a woven embroidered patch sitting on a royal blue front panel. Combine that with the white mesh back, a wicking sweat band, a slightly pre-curved visor, and a mid-profile fit and this hat does double duty as a protection layer from the sun, as well as offering stylish good looks for lunch back at a dockside café.
If saltwater fishing is in your summer plans this year, another option is the Realtree Fishing Performance Feather Light Hat ($16.99), which features a low-profile fitting hat constructed of quick cooling, quick drying material. With a Velcro back closure, a low-profile fit, a slight pre-curved visor, and a wicking sweat band, this lightweight 100-percent polyester performance hat looks sharp and keeps an angler cool as he or she stands ready to make a cast at a school of tarpon cruising by a flat's boat.
Prefer a visor to a regular hat? Then take a look at the Realtree Fishing Performance Visor ($14.99), which features a charcoal gray color with the Realtree Fishing Logo embroidered on the front in white lettering. With a moisture wicking sweatband, soft and flexible construction, and an adjustable Velcro closure, this high-performance visor offers protection and style without the danger of hat-hair after a day on the water.
Facemasks: It took a little while for the use of facemasks — or neck gaiters, as some call them — to catch on with anglers. Widely used by saltwater anglers in such sun-soaked hotspots as the Florida Keys, the lightweight tubes of fabric — some of it breathable, most of it highly SPF rated — slip over an angler's head and keep sunburn at bay on a fisherman's neck, ears, and face.
One of the leaders in making these facemasks is BUFF, which makes a 100-percent seamless Realtree AP camouflage version ($25) that can work double duty on a summertime bass lake, then in a dove field, the deer woods, or a duck blind come fall. Thanks to the gaiter's COOLMAX PRO fiber material, the lightweight tube wicks moisture away from the skin, dries quickly, resists sweat-caused odors, and blocks up to 95-percent of ultraviolet rays. What's more, the BUFF UV can be worn 12 different ways, giving users a number of ways to stay cool, comfortable, and protected while out on the water.
With the Fourth of July coming up in a few weeks, maybe the BUFF UV Realtree AP camo facemask/neck gaiter isn't what you're looking for. If not, try the Realtree Tactical Patriotic Fishing Neck Gaiter ($19.99) with its stylish good looks, which comes with the Realtree Fishing Logo in Red, White and Blue. The lightweight neck gaiter protects an angler's neck and face from sun exposure, while delivering moisture wicking abilities thanks to the fabric it is constructed of (the same material used in Realtree Fishing's high-performance t-shirts and headbands). With a blend of 89-percent polyester and 11-percent spandex, the Patriotic neck gaiter stretches to fit and resists odor.
Lightweight Shirts: While it might seem a little odd to some to wear a long-sleeved shirt while fishing on a hot summertime day, the truth is that when a shirt is made of the right material and weight, it can actually aid in keeping an angler cool while also keeping sunburn at bay.
Realtree Fishing offers a variety of options in the shirt department including the Men's Fishing Offshore Performance Long Sleeve Shirt ($24.99), a loose fitting long-sleeved crewneck t-shirt that comes in heather gray with a blue-hued sailfish outline on the back, the Realtree Fishing hook logo on the front, and the words Realtree Fishing emblazoned on the shirt's forearm sleeve.
Another option is the collared and buttoned Men's Fishing Angler Performance Fishing Shirt ($54.99). And don't forget to look at other options including the Men's Fishing Performance Short Sleeve Shirt ($22.99); the Men's Scaled Lime Performance Fishing Graphic Tee ($29.99); the Men's Tech Performance Fishing Hooded 1/4 Zip ($34.99); and the Men's Tech Performance Fishing Hoodie ($29.99).
For the ladies, there are plenty of options as well including the Women's Fishing 1/4 Zip Performance Windshirt, a stylish lightweight pullover that has a stand-up collar, thumbholes, and comes in black with gold trim and lettering ($28.99).
Other possible options include the Women's Tech Performance Fishing Hooded 1/4 Zip ($29.99); a Women's Tech Fishing Long Sleeve Shirt ($24.99); Women's Tech Fishing Short Sleeve Shirt ($19.99); Women's Fishing Reversible Tank ($26.99); and a Realtree Fishing Gold Performance Headband ($15.99).
Lightweight Pants/Shorts: To complete your sun protection this summer while spending a day out on the water, don't forget lightweight, breathable shorts and/or pants that wick moisture away from your lower body as you toss lures and flies from a boat's front deck or while hopping out and wading for species like bass, redfish, bonefish, and even tarpon.
For men, consider long wading pants like Academy's Magellan Outdoors Men's Back Country Zipoff Nylon Pant ($24.99), along with similar lightweight nylon shorts by the same company. Other brands that make long backcountry wading pants and high-tech fishing shorts include Columbia Sportswear and Simms Fishing among others.
For the ladies, there are long wading pants options too, along with things like Realtree Fishing's Women's Ascend Fishing Workout Leggings ($42.99) and the company's Women's Active Reversible Shorts ($28.99).
The bottom line here this summer is that the weather will likely be hot and humid, with sweaty days and sunburn awaiting the unprepared angler tackling a day out on the water.
But since the fishing action will be pretty good and in some places, even great this summer for a variety of freshwater and saltwater species, don't let a little summertime sun, sweat, and humidity scare you away from a memorable day on the water.
With the right clothing set-up from Realtree Fishing and their partners, you can achieve cool and dry performance, stylish good looks, and a little extra help in landing the catch of a lifetime, all without breaking the bank.