10 items of equipment I’d recommend from 2019
As per last year, I have curated a short list of equipment, ranging from rods, reels, lures, line and clothing that I personally recommend following consideable use (and abuse!) over the past 12 months. So in no particular order then…
Airflo Airlite Breathable Stockingfoot Chest Waders
For me, breathable, stockingfoot waders are an essential, yet ultimately perishable item. I go through them very quickly, and there have been a couple of times this season when I’ve been ‘in between’ waders, when the ones that I’d been given to test or had purchased myself began to fail.
Not wanting to spend a fortune, I had a search around late one night and came across the Airflo Airlite chest waders here at what I considered to be a price worth taking a punt on at £59.99. When they arrived (the next day I must add), although they were (as expected) very basic, I was pleasantly surprised at their overall quality. Slipping them on, they felt light, airy and very comfortable too.
Bearing in mind that, at the time, I was out either guiding or fishing everyday for long periods and walking/ climbing over some pretty shocking terrain, in addition to standing (up to waist deep) in the water for hours on end, I didn’t expect them to last very long at all… Well, the first pair lasted me 10 weeks (this is excellent for me, trust me!) and the second pair have, so far, lasted 6 weeks and aren’t showing any immediate signs of deterioration.
There’s some good news and some not so good news though… The good news is that they are currently available for an unbelievably low price of £39.99!!! The not so good news is that they are only availble in X-Large and XX-Large sizes. That said, I am a Large, but I am currently wearing the X-Large, and although I do feel like a clown with big baggy trousers on, they are exceedingly comfy – both around the waist, in the foot and most importantly, when walking. Go and get yourself a complete bargain!
Savage Gear Seeker (23g)
A lot has been written about metal lures this year, with a great deal of it involving casting them extreme distances and retrieving them through the surf in relatively shallow water. However, the technique that served my clients and I extremely well (particularly in the early part of the season when the water was calm, clear and cold) was whacking them out into deep water, often with a fair tide running and where the seabed was essentially pure sand, and by retrieving them using a standard ‘sink and draw’ technique.
Personally, I found the Black Pearl/Silver Green and White Pearl to be the most effective, with the 23g/28g version here being more than capable of covering the distances I required. That S-Curve action on a linear/straight retrieve is very enticing, but it was when the lure was descending through the depths (sometimes in 30ft+ of water), with that beautiful fluttering in full effect, that accounted for most of the hits and the bass.
As an aside, I do use the single hook supplied with these lures over the treble, as I think you get a better hook up rate. However, I have noticed that the singles can create a rather large hole in the fishes mouth as a result of it moving around during the battle – just something to be aware of, especially if you’re thinking of crushing the barb…
Seaguar Ace Hard Fluorocarbon Leader
I am exceptionally fussy when it comes to braid (I’m still using the superb 0.15mm/20lb, Dark Green Savage Gear Silencer here) and although I still rate the fluorocarbon I was using earlier this year and last (the 0.39mm/21lb Savage Gear Soft Fluoro here) since switching to the 19lb/0.33mm Seaguar here I haven’t really looked back.
As I always say, if something comes along that I believe is ‘better’ than what I am already using then I’ll switch, if not, I stick with what has already proven its worth. A few people had suggested the Seaguar to me, and wanting to scale down the diameter and breaking strain of my leader just a touch, so far, this stuff looks as invisible as it gets to my eyes and has been just brilliant, both in regards to knot strength and abrasion resistance – absolute quality.
Seadra Spitta 110 & 125
In last year’s list of recommended equipment here the Xorus Patchinko 125 proved to be a superb bass catcher, and I was thoroughly looking forward to watching clients land lots of bass on them! However, when Veals Mail Order sent me a few prototypes of the 12.6g/110mm here and 17.g/125mm here Seadra Spitta to try I was instantly impressed – courtesy of catching a bass on one first cast would you believe!
In essence, the Seadra Spitta is very similar let’s say to the Patch 125, with the exception of an additional treble near the head (which I don’t think is necessary and have, therefore, removed) and a vented head for added ‘water dispersion’ as they put it. Moreover, unlike the Xorus range of similar lures, these float/rest horizontally on the surface rather than with the tail section hanging beneath the water – a feature, again, I actually prefer.
Tailwalk EGinn 88M (Max 35g)
I first picked up one of these rods on the Art of Fishing stand at The European Sportfishing Show just over a year ago and I knew instantly that they were ‘the business.’ I wanted one, but at the time I was still in love with my Major Craft Skyroad 862ML (and had just taken ownership of a spare that I’d managed to track down), therefore, I resisted… for about 6 weeks!
Incredibly light (at 125g) and supremely balanced in the hand with a 190-200g reel attached, throughout the winter and early spring I landed a lot of bass on this rod and was really enjoying using it. The greatest accolade I can bestow on it is that I sold my spare Skyroad because I didn’t think I needed it anymore…
But then things started to go wrong… not with the rod, just how I began to feel about it… The short butt section (42cm) was always something that I’d struggled with as the Skyroad’s was 50cm. Indeed, even though I am right handed I’d always cast lure rods over my left shoulder, as I found that I achieved more power, speed, distance and above all, accuracy. But with the EGinn this just felt too uncomfortable, therefore, I started casting over my right shoulder instead – bonkers, I know!
Furthermore, the lack of a duplon sleeve on the section below the reel seat (there is just a long, very slim, slippery section of blank) and the small, equally slippery carbon knob at the very base of the butt was fine when I was catching bass from beaches at night, with the rod up at 30º and tucked in under my armpit. But when I started catching more and more bass from the rocks in daylight during April/May and in more turbulent sea conditions, there were times when I was finding it difficult to control the fish! Not good…
I was eyeing up a new rod (that turned out to be a disaster!) and when I inadvertently bumped into a former client of mine whilst fishing with my daughter (who took a real shine to the rod after I let him fish with it for 20 minutes) the deal was done… Since then, I’ve used my old rod fleetingly, in addition to a couple of other clients who have turned up with the EGinn 88M here for a guided session, and I have to say I do have a soft spot for it – hence why it has made it into a list of items that I wholeheartedly recommend.
In my honest opinion (and remember that I get to ‘have a go’ with rods and reels across the complete spectrum, ranging from the cheapest to the most expensive depending on what my clients turn up with) this is an outstanding bit of kit. Yes the EGI or Squid connotation may be a bit confusing, but as a bass lure rod, it handles everything from 12g soft plastics to 30g+ metals with consummate ease and agility – most definitely up there with the best rods I’ve had the pleasure to use.
Shimano Stradic Ci4 3000HG
A ‘spinning’ reel that probably hundreds (if not thousands) of lure anglers have used or are currently using might seem like a strange item to add into my list! However, the reason I have added it, is because this is the reel that has brought me back to Shimano after a five year break (whilst using Mitchell and Abu Garica spinning reels).
The one to go for is the HG or ‘High Gear’ as the 6.0:1 gear ratio is absolutely perfect (you retrieve 88cm of line per full turn) when using all manner of lures ranging from soft plastics to large surface lures. I also feel that the 3000 size is ‘just right’ for the 8′ 6″ or 8′ 8″ rods I use, but it would still work brilliantly with 10-30g rated nine footer.
There are a number of things that stand this reel out: it looks great and has a quality feel about it, there are quite a few of the Shimano features applicable her (such as the Core Protect, Hagane Gearing’ and Magnumlite Rotor), but above all, it is it’s incredibly lightness (at 190g) that is most impressive. Admittedly, this might not matter to some, but to someone who prefers a high degree of sensitivity to their set up this is a dream.
Having looked after this reel (to a certain extent!) it is still running very smooth, including the roller bearing, which I believe can be their achilles heal – although a replacement is cheap. At around the £150 mark this reel offers tremendous value for money, and with an updated version possibly just around the corner (I imagine based on the release of the excellent Stradic FL 2019 this year?) there could be a real bargain to be had. Indeed, Uttings here are currently selling the 3000HG for £114.99!
Scierra X-Force Wading Boots
Did I ever think I would recommending a pair of designated wading boots ever again? In a word, no! And as much as I still think a pair of cheap (£30-40) safety trainer boots with studs screwed in is an excellent alternative, I have to report that these Scierra X-Force Wading Boots have surprised me this season. I need to stress something here though, and that is you need to shop around in order to find them at the right price… The particulars are as follows:
- Hardcore, lightweight and extremely comfortable wading shoe with the benefit of a trekking outsole for the ultimate wading shoe.
- A durable and strong mix of microfiber and mesh construction resisting shrinkage and expansion
- Made on a wide last for maximum comfort and easy access
- High ankle cuff thickly foam-padded for maximum support
- Reinforced at toe and heel by tough rubber
- Removable EVA foam inner sole
- Non-corrosive drain holes
- Superior lace system for easy and tight tie & non-corrosive buttons
- Lightweight, yet very strong sole construction with EVA midsole and full rubber outsole bonded with high quality felt sole
The RRP is £209 (which I certainly would not pay) but the pair I am currently wearing were purchased at the much more palatable price of £98.95 from Fastmail here. Out of all of the attributes listed above, the only one I would question is the ‘superior lace system’ as everything else I have found to be entirely accurate.
They are very light, they are wide fitting and easy to get on and off and above all, they have proven to be very strong and most importantly, extremely hard-wearing and supportive when clambering over an inclusive and demanding range of terrain. The best thing about them though is that I have found the cleated/rubber sole (incorporating the studs) to be very ‘grippy’ and highly reliable – both in the sense that I haven’t taken a tumble and that the studs (by and large) remain within the sole – especially the ones on the ball/toe section of the boot as you may need to replace the occasional stud in the heal section.
APIA Dover 99F
Long casting (50m+), the perfect weight to size ratio (15g and 99mm respectively) and with a great swimming action within that ‘kill-zone’ that is the top 60cm of the water column, the APIA Dover 99F here is a versatile lure in the extreme. Moreover, with a well thought through range of colour options you might be forgiven for purchasing the entire range (only joking!).
I do have a preference for smaller (80-110mm) hard diving minnows nowadays, primarily because of what I think is an improved ‘hook-up to bass landed ratio’, their casting prowess and ability to be worked in very shallow water, in addition to (generally) being cheaper than their larger stablemates. What’s more, although my favourite lure of this size and type is the Daiwa Shoreline Shiner 97F, they are becoming increasing difficult to obtain and these APIA lures are the closest alternative I think.
Shimano Dialuna 18 S86ML 6-32g
I am still searching for my perfect bass lure fishing rod, which is something very light, crisp, sensitive, powerful, well-balance (not tip heavy), consistent in the cast and sublime in the hand and able to cast and effortlessly ‘work’ all lure types of various weights… I know I’m not asking for much!
Essentially, what I want is a ‘stepped up’ Major Craft Skyroad, which is still, for me, the best lure rod I have ever used. The only reason I moved away from it is because they are like rocking horse poo to get hold of, plus, the urge to ‘find’ a truly updated and if you like ‘modern’ (they were released in 2012!) version of it burns away at me! It doesn’t help that every single time I pick up and use my friend’s 8′ 6″ 10-30g Skyroad I just purr…
Considering all of the above, I have found a rod (alongside the Tailwalk EGinn 88M) that I like a hell of a lot – it is the Shimano Dialuna S86ML 6-32g (the 2018 model). I had this rod imported (as I haven’t seen it in the UK) from Japan via a company called JDM Tackle Heaven here back in late October.
So with almost everyone I knew, in addition to most of my clients, purchasing 9ft+ rods, here I still am casting and retrieving lures with the once ‘en vogue’ eight and a half footer! I intend to write a blog post as to why I like this length and the 8’8″ so much early in the New Year, but for now I’ll stick to describing the rod in question.
I’ll start with the price. All in, including the postage and import duty, the rod cost me £270 which is what you can purchase the Dialuna 90ML 6-32g (weighing 141g) for in the UK if you can find one (I know that Osborne & Cragg in Plymouth had them). The only 86ML I can currently find available anywhere is here, and although I haven’t (admittedly) fished with the 90ML, I can tell you that they feel very different in the hand.
Out of the bag as they say, the rod is about as asthetically pleasing as it gets – with chrome effects and the ‘Dialuna’ name adorning a smart grey sleeve to the blank. The cross-weaving gives the rod a powerful and rather exclusive feel to it too. The rod’s entire duplon handle section, including the reel seat, is a comfortable to cast with 45cm, however, the slightly raised hand-grip/duplon section above the reel seat area (precisely where the blanks is inserted through it) might not be everyone’s sup of tea – especially if you’re used to a more tapered joining of the handle and blank.
Onto the weight and feel of the rod, and at 121g it does feel feather-light if ever so slightly ‘tip heavy’ which is a pity, as when I actually sellotaped a 10g weight to the very end of the butt the rod instantly felt ‘better’ in my hand (a heavier reel to either my 3000 size, 190g Stradic or 170g Vanquish didn’t make any difference at all incidentally).
Once you’re on the coastline with this rod it is a total joy to use. It literaly eats up 30g metal jigs (I could see the spool on my Vanquish following one cast!) and large surface sliders such as the Rapala Walk n’ Roll and of course, the Patchinko II. But it is equally at home gentle lobbing my beloved Wave Worms and OSP DoLive Sticks, and will effortless cast the 15-20g variety of hard minnows and medium-sized sliders/poppers as you’d expect.
I’ve struggled to find anything I don’t like to be honest, although I can’t say that it is ‘the one’ just yet. I’m still adapting to the way the whole blank soaks up the vibrations of the lure and I know it sounds daft, but I wish it was rung with slightly smaller rings – a feature of these JDM rods seemingly. Overall, I’d give it an A- with still a little room for improvement!
Wave Worm Tiki-Bamboo Stick
Did you really think I would miss these off of my ‘recommended list’ after they’ve accounted for so many bass in the past 12-18 months! As I mentioned in a recent blog post, the Needlefish and Albie Snax have served me well since I started to lure fish for bass in darkness, but for now, the black/blue-flecked and white Wave Worms here fished weightless and weedless (on a 6/0 Owner Twistlock Hook in the Gary Yamamoto Spec) are my ‘go to’ soft plastics during twilight and night time respectively.
I really don’t know what a bass ‘thinks’ these inocuous-looking and acting ‘ribbed’ worms are, but what I do know, unequivocally, is that bass utterly obliterate them. Do they ‘think’ there are a small fish, a squid, a cuttlefish or just something so unusual (especially in the bright white colour) amongst their domain that they chase it and eat it out of spite or malevolence? And to think, all I am doing or asking my clients to do is retrieve them on a straight trajectory, at slow-medium pace whilst holding the rod perfect still – no twitches, nothing! The mind boggles…
So there you have it, my list of recommendations for 2019 based on extensive use. If anyone has any comments or feedback I would be delighted to here from you. Have a great Christmas and thank you for reading.
New book is stalling at present as I’m doing up my house – But I’ll get there… Re the EGinn, great rod, terrible handle. The Triple Cross EU 9ft is not a great rod IMHO and the 8′ 6″ Dialuna a better rod than both of them. Hang fire though, as there is a Major Craft in the pipeline (that I’m currently testing) which is superb…
Mum’s the word!