In the past few days, someone pointed out to me that I have often described a trip to ICAST (International Convention of the Allied Sportfishing Trades) as a lot like visiting Santa’s workshop. I stand by that comment. It really is like a sneak preview of Christmas during July. Well, now we’re approaching Christmas and some of the ICAST goodies are in production and available. The question that always pops up is what family members and friends should get for their favorite fisherman for Christmas gifts.
Fishermen play favorites and this can make them a bit difficult to shop for. Some are creatures of habit and others like to experiment. So, how do you pick the perfect gift?
Most fishermen like to talk about fishing and have already been dropping hints – even if they don’t realize it themselves. Quit nodding your head and start actually listening to those stories of “the one that got away” and you will hear things that should point you in the direction of his or her ultimate gift. Another way to learn is to ask their fishing buddies. If that doesn’t work for you, make a visit to their favorite tackle shop and see what the folks their recommend. If your fisherman visits there often, they may know just the right gift.
Another option for selecting the perfect gift is to peruse the depths of this article. There are a variety of suggestions and multiple price levels. All are not right for everyone, but something should be right for just about every fisherman. Hopefully some of the suggestions below clear the water and help you reel in the perfect gift for your fisherman.
Don’t overlook gear that has been around for a while. In addition to the new goodies, there are old standards fishermen can’t live without. It’s not quite like getting married where something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue seal the deal, but that might just be a good mixture.
Fishermen who read this and see something they like should find a way to leave a hint. Don’t be subtle either. Be sure your intent is understood. Most of these goodies should be available from local tackle dealers, but a few will require ordering. I have listed the website when available so they can be seen before shopping.
Every fisherman needs lures. They can be given as gifts or used as stocking stuffers. MirrOlure (www.mirrolure.com) is a third generation family company that is well known for making lures that catch fish. The MirrOlure family is L&S Bait Company (www.mirrolure.com) and includes MirrOlure, Paul Brown Originals and Tidal Surge Lures for inshore fishing and Iland Lures for offshore trolling. Their Top Pup and She Pup Series of topwater lures have been favorites of fishermen for years. These lures catch speckled trout, red drum, striped bass, snook and ladyfish well.
This year MirrOlure introduced Skins lures in the C-Eyes Pro Series of their popular MirrOdine lures. Skins lures use photograph reproduction to exactly resemble the colors and patterns of baitfish. The MirrOdine series are suspending lures that are available in two sizes. Fish seem to like them as much as fishermen do.
Soft plastic lures are available in a variety of shapes, sizes and weights. I fish slower than almost all of my friends and believe shrimp shapes are the perfect soft plastics for fishing slower. It also helps that everything in salt water eats shrimp, so shrimp shapes should be naturally productive. I like the Betts Perfect Sinker (www.bettstackle.net) and have become a fan of the Flutter Shrimp and Paddle Prawn shrimp shapes from Australian tackle company Halco (www.halcotackle.com). The Halco shrimp use a paddle tail combined with a little buoyancy to flutter as they fall.
Several other companies make very realistic looking and acting shrimp shapes. Savage Gear (www.savagegear-usa.com) and Vudu (www.egretbaits.com) come to mind immediately. Gulp and Gulp Alive shrimp from Berkley (www.berkley-fishing.com) don’t look very realistic, but draw fish in, especially when the water is either very cold or very warm. The Gulp scent compound is a serious fish attractant.
Pro-Cure Scent Gel (www.pro-cure.com) is a scent product used and recommended by many guides. It comes in a small squeeze bottle and can be applied to any lure. There are numerous “flavors” for fresh and salt water fishing.
I love to fish broken or flooded grass. This typically holds redfish, but there may be a speck, flatfish, snook or something else lying in wait. Nothing fishes flooded grass and broken cover like weedless spoons. The 1/2 ounce Flats Intruder from Cajun Thunder (www.thecajunthunder.com) is one of the best and gold is the go-to color. Copper also works well on bright sunny days as it doesn’t flash as brightly and spook wary fish.
Cajun Thunder also makes the Cajun Sleigh. This is a Flats Intruder spoon with an in-line spinner blade and it occasionally catches just about anything. Another benefit is that spoons are extremely easy to fish. Just cast them and retrieve them. I start with a slow retrieve speed and my rod tip low and gradually increase the retrieve speed and raise the rod tip until I find a combination the fish like that day. I typically have the best success moving slow enough to feel the spoon hitting bottom.
Everyone that fishes for Spanish Mackerel should know what Clarkspoons and small planers are and that they catch Spanish mackerel, bluefish and more. Clarkspoons (www.clarkspoon.com) are available in multiple sizes and colors, including some that use prismatic flash tape. The best colors vary some, but size 00 and 0 are usually the best choices for spring and summer Spanish macks and blues, with size 1 becoming popular in the fall. They also make small planers to pull the lures under when the fish are holding deep.
Nothing will ever replace sea witches for offshore trollers. They are sold in every coastal tackle shop. There are standard colors, like blue and white, crystal and while, yellow and green, red and white, purple, purple and black and such that will be hanging on the hooks at every tackle shop. For those who would like something a little different and made to their specifications, Short Rigger Tackle (www.shortriggertackle.com) in Myrtle Beach and Joe Shute Lures (www.fishfindertackle.com) in Atlantic Beach will gladly make custom colors in small amounts. They also make custom chuggers and other offshore trolling lures.
Iland Lures (www.mirrolure.com) are also popular with offshore trollers. They feature chrome and painted heads in a variety of shapes, sizes and weights. Some are bullet heads while others are turbo heads to create a more robust bubble trail. Pretty much every offshore fisherman has some Iland Lures in his tackle box and blue and white or blue and crystal are preferred colors.
Halco Tackle (www.halcotackle.com) makes a variety of offshore trolling lures. Their Giant Trembler has produced for me for years. This is a fish-shaped swimming and diving lure that works well for wahoo, plus catches tuna and occasionally dolphin and billfish. It can be trolled from 3 to 15 knots and vibrates at a frequency that calls fish. Giant Tremblers are also virtually indestructible, which is good when dealing with hard strikes and razor sharp wahoo teeth.
Rods, Reels and Line
New fishing rods, reels and line make excellent Christmas gifts. However, they are difficult to contain as a surprise in order to get exactly the right one. This is a situation where the staff at your fisherman’s favorite tackle shop could recommend a rod and/or reel he has been checking out for a while. I believe most would be willing to trade to a different size, length or action as long as it hasn’t been used. Another option is a gift certificate to allow the fisherman to select it themselves.
I like Star Rods(www.StarFishingTackle.com). They make several different series costing from less than $100 to more than $250. The Seagis Rod Series is a mid cost line that offers a lot of bang for the buck. There are inshore casting and spinning rods in regular and fast tip options, plus split grips or cork grips. For boat rods you will need to move up to the Paraflex or down to the Stellar series. The top of the line rods are the VPR and Plasma Series and they are sweet.
Reels are also personal favorites. there is a wide variety of spinning and inshore baitcasters from Penn (www.pennfishing.com) and Shimano (www.shimano.com) who have won best of class awards at ICAST for the past several years. Okuma (www.okumafishing.com) Abu Garcia (www.abugarcia.com) Daiwa (www.daiwa.comand others also make good inshore reels. For offshore reels, most fishermen choose Penn Internationals or Shimano Tiagras, but Okuma and Fin Nor (www.finnorfishing.com) also make good offshore reels.
Accessories and Extras
Most fishermen consider cast nets a necessity. If you can’t catch your own, you must buy live bait to use it. Inshore fishermen use small cast nets to gather minnows and shrimp, while king mackerel fishermen chase menhaden, mullets and more. I’m going to suggest Betts Cast Nets (www.bettstackle.net) for the complete line of cast nets. They have multiple series of smaller (4 to 8 foot) cast nets at various mesh sizes, weight and price points.
King mackerel fishermen will want one of the new Morada Cast nets from Betts. This series of nets is brand new and were made with input from many fishermen. The early reviews are excellent. Morada nets have 1.6 pounds of weight per foot to sink quickly and are available in 8, 10 and 12 foot sizes in mesh opening to 1 inch.
Fishfinder – GPS Combo units vary from the Lowrance (www.lowrance.com) Hook2 that is inexpensive and designed to be simple to operate to upper end units like the Raymarine (www.raymarine.com) Axiom that can do just about anything and have loads of options.
The Hook2 is a great unit for beginners or even experienced fishermen that want an easy to use unit. Some of the advanced bells and whistles aren’t included, but it comes with the choice of Chirp, Chirp and Downscan or Chirp, Downscan and Sidescan transducers to give all options of how fishermen like to view the water. Even better, all run surprisingly well on the standard automatic setting.
The Axiom is an advanced fishfinder – GPS unit. It has all the bottom views with infinite user controls, plus can add radar and SiriusXM Weather (www.siriusxm.com/siriusmarine). The Axiom can also pair with a Mavic Pro drone from DJI Technology (www.dji.com) and the drone can be flown from the touch screen of the Axiom. This is a great gift for fishermen considering a drone for filming while fishing.
A special feature of the Axiom – Mavic Pro combination is a program called “Fish On.” With “Fish On,” a single command launches the drone and has it circle while filming you fighting fish.
I first found Stealth Quick Release Rod Holders (www.stealthrodholders.com) when looking for rod holder additions for my kayak. They are strong and adaptable to a lot of mounting options, with the ability to optimally set all angles either fore and aft or up and down. What sets Stealth Rod Holders apart is they have a cam strap that you push the rod into to hold it. The cam releases when the rod is pulled upwards so the rod can be lifted to set the hook without having to remove it from the holder first. It is a big plus on my kayak and I like it on my boat too. The fish doesn’t feel anything unusual until the hook is digging in.
Area fishing schools are a good way to help an aspiring fisherman shorten the learning curve. There are several of these in N.C. each winter. The Saltwater Sportsman National Seminar Series (www.nationalseminarseries.com) is considered the granddaddy of fishing schools by many and will make a Wilmington stop on January 5, 2019. This brings a national touring faculty supplemented by local charter captains.
The Oak Island N.C. Recreation Department (http://oakisland.recdesk.com) hosts several excellent fishing schools each winter and spring. There will be four for 2019, beginning with The Oak Island Saltwater Fishing Schools on February 2 and 9. These schools feature Captains Butch Foster and Jerry Dilsaver, who know the Southport – Oak Island waters well. These events have a history of filling in advance, and a Christmas gift registration guarantees your fisherman can attend. The two later events are the Women Anglers In Training (WAIT) ladies-only weekend at the end of April and a kayak fishing event on May 4.
The Inshore Institute (www.neuseriverfishing.com) will return to Pamlico County, N.C. again at the end of February. This event includes sessions by a group of guides that ply the Neuse River waters on a daily basis. The 2019 date will be February 23 and the event will again be at Pamlico County Community College.
Your favorite fisherman will also welcome tech fishing gear that sheds sun and water while keeping them cool, dry bags, rain gear, hard and soft coolers, landing nets and more under the Christmas tree. If nothing mentioned here turns on that light bulb over your head, you have two options for personal information on your favorite fishermen. One is to ask his fishing buddies. They are going to know what he has been talking about. The other is to visit his favorite tackle shop and speak to the folks there. They should know what he has been looking at and can make a suggestion.
Fisherman that read this, you can help themselves too and leave hints. Don’t be subtle with your hints. Folks that don’t fish won’t understand. You might even talk one of your fishing buddies into making a presentation of your wish list – which, of course, would be totally unknown to you.
Best wishes for a safe, happy, healthy, prosperous and fishy New Year!