10 Items of Equipment I’d Recommend from 2022

10 Items of Equipment I’d Recommend from 2022

All season long, I have genuinely thought about and considered the items of equipment that I would, and have indeed already recommended directly to my clients, my friends, readers and followers. If you’ll recall, I didn’t actually compile a designated list last year, deciding instead to incorporate my recommendations into the two-part ‘Year in Review 2021’ posts that I released here and here, the main reason being that I just wasn’t using anything ‘different’ or that stood out enough, to what I had using in 2020 in all honesty…

But a year on, and I can say ‘hand on heart’ that there are ten (more actually if you include the two other lure rods and the smaller version of a specific lure I’ve covered herein) items of equipment that have either:

  • Allowed me to so something different in some way.
  • Filled a void.
  • Offered an alternative.
  • Proved to be exceedingly robust and reliable.
  • Altered my thinking.
  • Made my fishing/guiding more comfortable.
  • That I just love using.

What I hope is apparent, is that these are ‘bits of kit’ that I have personally used, and that have also been used extensively by my clients over a period of time spanning two years in some cases. So in addition to the above, you could most definitely say that they have batted off the pretenders, and/or stood the test of time. You’ll also notice there aren’t any breathable waders listed… Tut, tut, tut fishing tackle/clothing companies – you can do much better I feel…

1. Shimano Exsence 21 C 3000 MHGA

What I believe is essentially a Vanquish (and I’m sure you know how much I loved a reel that served me brilliantly for over two years and that I understand is still going strong Liam?) wrapped up in a newer Exsence coat, I like very light spinning reels, and I love very light spinning reels (it weighs a meagre 180g) that are built in Japan… Now, this is important, as Shimano’s Vanford 3000 is a fantastic reel that weighs the same, but the difference (and I have witnessed this first hand) is that although the Exsence is more than double the price of the Vanford at currently £399 from Veals Mail Order, it will, with a bit of care, last twice, if not three times longer.

My winter set up – with the 3000-seize Exsence sitting beautifully on the Major Craft Tidrift 862L/ML.

In a similar fashion to the Vanquish I reviewed two years now (here) my Exsence 21 has been properly dunked, in addition to surviving a nasty fall that I took on the ice a few weeks back – a clear sign that it has been well-screwed together by the Japanese engineers utilising what I think our superior components to those placed inside the still very nice Stradics and Vanfords built elsewhere. The ‘long stoke spool’ is something that I was a little suspicious of previously however, after moving across to the excellent Sufix 131 braid, and owning an Exsence 18 for 6 months with a shorter 3000 spool, I concur that the braid slips off the spool a lot ‘slicker’.

So why do I like a very light spinning reel so much I hear you asking? Firstly, they compliment the very light, yet powerful rods I personally like to use for my bass lure fishing (more on that later) and I don’t want the weight of a reel to ‘kill the feel’ I like to experience when I am fishing – which I find crucial if am to catch in darkness. Secondly, as the vast majority of my fishing nowadays doesn’t involve my set up being continually splashed by the waves and surf, I don’t require something with heavier and more waterproof ‘in-ards’ such as a Penn Slammer or Daiwa BG. Thirdly, when I am physically working the lures (more especially a surface lure) I do not want to risk getting ‘wrist, elbow or shoulder ache’ which personally, if I use a reel weighing over 250g I do get. It’s all personal choice at the end of the day.

2. Savage Gear 6/0 weighted (3g) weedless hooks

From the most expensive item on my list to the least. I have added these superb hooks (that are available either in the Savage Gear Gravity Stick Sets (here) or as a packet in their own right (here) because they are my ‘go to’ weighted, weedless hook in the vast majority of the scenarios I am faced with, and fish or guide within.

Readily available un-like similar hooks and the ‘right’ size and ‘weight’ for a high percentage of my fishing, these 6/0 , 3g, Savage Gear Corkscrew weedless hooks are excellent.

Whether it is a 12cm Pirate Lures Teaser, a 5″ Keitech Easy Shiner, Bamboo Stick, OSP DoLive Stick, 4-5″ Fish Arrow Flash Shad or of course, the 140mm and even the 120mm Gravity Sticks, they all find themselves skewered via the corkscrew element to a SG 6/0 3g hook, and hopefully, inside the cavernous mouth of a 5lb+ bass! For my own operation, and I suspect that of the many anglers who routinely use 4-7″ soft plastic lures, the 6/0 is a universal size, with the 3g enough weight to not distort the action of a SP, whilst enabling the angler control and good presentation when there is a degree of current involved. All we need now is 6g version…

3. IMA Chappy 100 + 80

I don’t tend to deviate from a proven pattern of lure, or an item of equipment in general unless I am convinced it’s an improvement on what I am already using, or indeed allows me to approach something in a different way. Now, I’m not saying that the ‘Chappy’s’ are better than my beloved Patchinko 100, 125 or the Whiplash Factory Spittin Wire, but they definitely appear to offer a now proven alternative, alongside the attributes required in a consistent surface lure: namely great casting ability and a superbly consistent action.

I haven’t had the opportunity to fish the Chappy 100 on the open coast in anger, but they work well in the estuaries that’s for sure!

That fairly wide, snakey, yet subtle action, that if you fish a top water lure with the rod up is easier to perform with the 100-size is something the bass adore in all manner of environments, yet I have found this be especially effective in very calm, clear water. Yet, even in some pretty choppy sea conditions, the IMA Chappy 100 is surprisingly stable, retaining the required presence in the process – a rare feat for a lure of this size.

A bit different – which is a good thing sometimes, these little IMA Chappy 80s are going to catch me a lot of bass!

Oh and the bijou IMA Chappy 80. I have to say that I didn’t think I’d be regularly pulling out an 80mm hard lure, and certainly not a surface/top water pattern as I’ve specifically steered clear of the tiny Patchinko 85 for fear of bass swallowing them and becoming deep-hooked. But they really do have their virtues, with the principal one being that they appear to appeal to bass when they are laying up within or interrogating the weedy estuarine margins in extremely shallow water – their comparatively ‘deft’ action enough to attract bass rather than to spook them in these environments, when even a delicately worked Patch 100 can see them move towards, follow and then frustratingly ignore the offering…

4. Overboard Pro-Light 30L Waterproof Backpack

I don’t really get all that excited about jackets, waders, boots and bags, but I have to pay homage to a purchase I made over 18 months ago, and that despite being continually dumped on the rocks, weed, sand and mud, and then lobbed’ back into my boot has performed admirably – the Overboard Pro-Light 30L Wayterproof Backpack.

It is 100% waterproof, very light for a dry bag of this size, and is very comfortable to wear and adjust depending on what you have inside. Above all, it is showing very few signs of wear and tear, neither on its base or the straps, all of which is impressive for the abuse it has taken.

It wasn’t cheap (from here at £104.99) but I vividly remember it ‘paying me back’ when a wave took it (and my camera, phone and car keys inside) off the rocks and into an adjacent and frothed-up gully! It floated high in the water, and after snagging it with a Patchinko 140 and bringing it back to my stance I was amazed to find my jacket, hat and everything inside completely dry! Now I know this is precisely how it should have performed, but how often does something advertised as being ‘shit hot’ let you down… All the time!

5. Fortis Vista Sunglasses

Currently available from Veals Mail Order for £74,99, I purchased my blue-lensed (Code VA003) Fortis Vista Sunglasses off the back of reading Henry’s initial review back in Jun 21 (he updated it in March 22 here). I am very happy to report that they are, without a shadow of a doubt, the best pair of fishing sunnies that I’ve ever owned – much better than my Wayfayers that I don’t take fishing, but then my missus isn’t overly keen on me wearing my fishing glasses whilst shopping in Dartmouth! ha ha ha.

Just for you! My double-chined, crooked neck pose that you all ‘ribbed me about’ as I ‘model’ a pair of Fortis Vistas!

Like most of my gear – I don’t really look after it all that well. I do try with expensive rods and reels, but it’s like tyring not to make any noise when you creep back in or head out fishing at 2am – you end up dropping the coffee cup, knocking over a plant pot, or in the case of a rod, standing on it as you unhook a fish (which I did this year) no matter how careful you’re trying to be! So although the lenses are scratched pretty severely now, I don’t seem to have any issue seeing out of them! Joking aside, as far as I can tell, they have protected my eyes during those long summer sessions, and they’ve most certainly enabled me to spot many a bass! I’ll be purchasing another pair for sure, as I don’t really see the point in spending any more when these are so damn good.

6. Sufix 131 9.10kg/20lb Lo-Viz Braid

I choose my braid very wisely, as when you’ve witnessed as many issues when guiding clients as I have, like most items of equipment, you get to know what is reliable and what isn’t. I could bore you with the technical side of what Sufix calls a ‘Superline’ and how its ‘unmatchable roundness’ enables it to cast farther etc. But instead, I will tell you that the Sufix 131 is a very, very good braid, that is worth the ‘additional dollar’ in my honest opinion, because you just know from the second you touch it, spool your reel, and then cast with it, that it is most probably the nicest stuff on then market. An easy decision to make if you’re looking for a quality braided mainline.

7. Sealskinz Waterproof Cold Weather Socks

Breathable stockingfoot waders are absolutely terrible and quite frankly, highly perishable items in my hands (feet)! Therefore anything I can do to remain comfortable or prolong the inevitable when (and I mean when) they begin to leak through the neoprene sock, behind the knee, or along one the ridiculous amount of seams they are stitched up by, is worth investigating. So when a client and now friend of mine (Joe) suggested wearing the Sealskinz Cold Weather Socks because “your feet will genuinely remain dry Marc – even when your waders are leaking like a sieve beneath the sock-line” my attention was caught.

Every so often something comes along and after using it, you wonder how on earth you ever did without it – well, these Sealskinz sock are that item! Breathable, very comfortable as they stretch too, and even after ringing them out after a session (like I did a week ago) my inner sock, and my foot was completely dry. They aren’t cheap at £43 a pair, but if the lower section of breathable waders were lined with them they would change the world – now there’s an idea!

8. Rods… (Subjective!)

Around 2/3rds of the clients that I guide will have their own equipment (especially a rod), which means that in the course of a session or a 3 Day Package I will often have an extended ‘dabble’ or two with what they are using. By virtue of this, as I’ve mentioned before, I get to use everything from the cheapest to the most expensive. Furthermore, I do get bits and pieces sent to me to test, with the better rods ending up as client ‘set ups’ and is why I have included the Tailwalk and Savage Gear rods here – as quite simply, they have been workhorses!

But again, as I’ve said many times also, what may suit one angler in a fishing rod, quite possible won’t suit the next. Moreover, a lot of it depends on the type of ground or the conditions in which they’re regularly fishing over or within, plus the lures you normally use. I have my own preference which you can read all about in the candidly-titled narrative I wrote called ‘What I personally look for in a lure rod‘ – a post that has received more views than any other I’ve written incidentally!

Tailwalk Hi-Tide SSD 86ML + 90ML (both rated to cast 7-35g)

The very first bass I landed on the 86ML (with my 3000-size Vanquish attached) that whacked a Patchinko 125 at range within a tide race – good fun!

I have included both the Tailwalk Hi-Tide SSD 86ML and 90ML here, not just because of the 6″ difference in length, but because they are very different feeling rods. Aesthetically very pleasing with a black, grey and silver finish, both rods have the ideal length of ‘grip section’ (the total measurement between the top of the duplon grip above the reel, the reel seat itself and section down to the end of the butt) at 44cm on the 86 and 45cm on the 90 which makes them extremely comfortable to cast, retrieve and handle a hooked fish with.

Although both rods are rated to cast 7-35g, the 86ML feels much softer and lighter (it weighs 120g) in the hand, with a much lighter and more sensitive tip section over the more ‘tip heavy’ 90ML that weighs 135g. The immediate ‘power barometer’ that I and many others I suspect like to conduct of course, is how they perform when blasting either the 26g ‘Patchinko 140 or a 30/35g Savage Gear Surf Seeker’.

The 86ML can handle it, although you feel that you need to be fairly delicate with the blank, whereas the 90ML ‘enjoys’ both of these lures due to that tip section being more powerful – it’s almost as if they should be rated at 7-28g and 10-32g respectively. Working the actual lures is far easier with the 86ML because it is shorter and lighter, and when it comes to pulling an angry bass away from the rocks and snags, or dragging them through the wrack or undertow, you can sense that the 90ML has that extra bit of grunt despite the same power ratings as such.

The 86ML is more at home casting and retrieving soft plastics in the 8-12g bracket, medium-sized hard lures in the 12-20g range and metals in the 20g range, with the 90ML more of an all-rounder, capable of all that the 86 can do, with the added ‘umph’ to take a 30g metal and the larger surface lures in its stride more capably.

The 90ML made short work of yanking these 60cm+ client bass during the 2021 season.

At around the £200 mark, unlike similarly-priced rods, you don’t feel that the Tailwalk Hi-Tide SSD is mass-produced, and rather, a quite exclusive bit of kit. Further, with all of the clients who have used them commenting on the finish, whilst massively enjoying how they handle all that has been thrown at them over the past two seasons, ultimately, this is why I am recommended them to you. Ben at The Art of Fishing is your man if you’re looking to purchase one.

Savage Gear SGS8 Precision Lure Specialist 9-35g

Henry and Savage Gear did a great job conceiving and building this rod.

As you would have noted, I do love an ‘all-rounder’, primarily because I don’t want to be deciding which rod to take with me every time I head out (I know many anglers love this process based on the venue, conditions etc. but this just isn’t me). Similarly, when I am in the throws of a guiding season, I don’t want to be worrying about whether a rod is suitable for this or that venue, as I will very often guide my clients on two or three very different types of marks, in contrasting sea states in the course of a day/night if I deem it necessary.

Short range, light lure estuary work, or long range heavier lure open-coast savagery – the SGS8 copes brilliantly.

This is where the absolutely superb Savage Gear SGS8 Precision Lure Specialist 9-35g lure rod has made an impression, again, not just on me, but the dozens of clients who I have entrusted its use with. It isn’t perfectly suited to me (like I said, these rods are just so personal) as the grip section is just a little too long at 47cm, but the sensation and sensitivity of the actual blank is up there with some of the finest rods I’ve used. There’s a Brucie Bonus too – it is also rung with Torzite Guides, all for the amazing sale price of £239.00 currently at Veals which, for this amount of ‘bunce’ is a total bargain.

Major Craft Tidrift 862 L/ML 5-30g

I am not sure how many of you reading this would have had the pleasure of fishing with what is an icon: the 8’6″ Major Craft Skyroad 10-30g. If you have, then you’ll know what I mean when I say that it was in many ways the benchmark that many subsequent rods ,from many other companies, was set and compared to. It was and still is an outstanding bass lure fishing rod, with that sexy cork handle just adding to its appeal – even if it does feel a tad long in the (50cm) grip section nowadays.

What really stood them out was how ‘special’ the blank was/is, just how effortlessly delightful it is in the hand, and more especially, how lovely it was to fish with, to the extent that if you blindfolded me and lined up countless rods to take out fishing here and now I’d probably still take one home 10 years+ from their introduction . But this isn’t about the legendary Skyroad 862ML – a rod that was never built to be an all-rounder I hasten to add. No, this is about the overall feel and balance of a blank that conjures up happy rod bending memories, with the added benefit of being about as robust and as bullet proof as an ultra slim, precision-engineered piece of carbon fibre can possibly be. Yep, Major Craft have gone and built a modern version of a classic – and one that isn’t on the brittle side either.

Lure fishing at night, when ‘feel’ is paramount is when you really find out what a new rod is capable of, in addition to its characteristics.

But there is a slight problem… When you’ve been utterly spoilt by using what is the most perfect bass lure fishing rod I’ve ever owned in the Major Craft Seabass Custom 882M 7-35g for the past two seasons, then in reality, I have to be honest and tell you that as sublime as the Tidrift 86L/ML is, my personal requirements have shifted to those ‘do it all’ kind of rods.

But this is just my personal preference remember – which isn’t what this post is about necessarily, and rather what I’d recommend to the angler who has £300 to spend, and is searching for something that can blast and work the bigger surface lures if need be (the Tidrift just absolutely ate the Patch 140 when I hammered it out), alongside delicately twitching an unweighted 3″ soft plastic through the weedy margins and everything else in between very, very well.

An early-winter 5lb bass for me landed on the 862L/ML Tidrift that needed to be ‘wrenched’ out of and across the wrack.

The 862L/ML 5-30g Tidrift (available here) feels steely on first inspection, yet it is also highly elasticated when you’re fishing with it or dragging a bass ashore (there have been many in the short time that I have used it!) all of which must take some doing as a designer of these rods and testament to the types of carbon they are built from, added to the overall manufacturing process.

I really like the graphics and the overall quality feel to the rod, and although that handle/grip section (I do bang on about this but it can make or break a rod IMHO) is shorter at 43cm than the 45cm on many other 8’6 – 9′ rods nowadays I have got used to it quickly – more so I think because the majority of the time I have spent with this rod has been whilst utilising smaller, lighter lures like the Patchinko 100, IMA Chappy 80, OSP Dolive Sticks, IMA Sonic 100F, Savage Gear Gravity Sticks and the PAatchinko 125 in and around quiet bays and estuaries, where I believe, it is more at home.

9. HPA Seabass Pliers & Case

Clearly they aren’t only for ‘Sea Bass’, but when a thrashing, writhing, muscled-up monster with sharp-edges and spines all over it is laying before me I do like to have a set of unhooking pliers that don’t slip when my hands are wet, and have the guts to just get in there! At £37.99 for these HPA Sea Bass Pliers you’d be annoyed if they failed, and as they are built using marine grade stainless steel they really shouldn’t rot or rust, as some of the others I’ve used eventually end up doing.

10. Pirate Lures Teaser (12cm)

Yes, I am good friends with the owner of Pirate Lures (Dave Major) and he also happens to be one of my most regular, and most successful clients, but that is not why I have added the 12cm Teaser in to the equation I can assure you. Nope, these wonderful little lures have accounted for a hell of a lot of bass for anglers all over the country this season – and some whoppers too.

No messing! Which seems to be the case when a bass ‘homes in’ on a Pirate Lures Teaser.

From my perspective, the 12cm Teaser offers a touch more subtlety to the Gravity Sticks, Keitech Easy Shiners and Megabass Spindleworms that I routinely rely on to bring in the bass… Firstly, their bodies are rigid in comparison to those lures and many similar-sized designs out there, which means they cast extremely well, and they don’t fall apart within two or three hook-ups. Secondly, the way the Teaser swims, especially when rigged onto one of the 6/0 Savage Gear belly-weighted 3g corkscrew hooks I covered above, and even more so, the way that the tail section really ‘quivers’ is what stands these lures out.

The 12cm Teaser fishes nicely on heavier weight, weedless hooks too – this was a 6g, and was required to combat the powerful, laterally-running tide.

Bright sunshine, clear water, darkness and in muddy water (day and night) – I have clipped these on myself, or have asked my clients to use them more and more as the season progressed and I really, really like them, and more importantly, the bass do too!

An easy 4lb+ bass that snatched the 12cm Teaser in awful weather conditions, at night, in water that was exceptionally turbid.

My Books

The Lure of The Bass & Bass Lure Fishing – A Guide’s Perspective (Volume 1)

Volume 2 of Bass Lure Fishing – A Guide’s Perspective (which will be my 3rd book) will be released in March 23. I will contact everyone who has previously purchased either of my titles once my new book is at the printers. But for now, I recently commissioned another print run of ‘The Lure of The Bass’ and ‘Bass Lure Fishing – A Guide’s Perspective (Volume 1)’ and I have them both IN STOCK.

To reserve my second book (March 2021) Bass Lure Fishing – A Guide’s Perspective Volume 1 (Bass Anglers’ Sportfishing Society review here and Henry Gilbey’s review here) or my first release (October 2018) ‘The Lure of The Bass‘ (BASS review here) please contact me via the contact form at the bottom of this post. Alternatively, you can email me directly at southdevonbassguide@yahoo.com and I will replay as soon as I possibly can.

Happy New Year!

It looks like it’s going to be a long winter, and if Santa hasn’t been kind to you then perhaps one or some of the items above may well end up being delivered or placed on your ‘wish list’ in preparation for the 2023 season. I shall end this post by wishing you all a Happy and prosperous New Year.

Thanks for reading, and for your continued support.

Marc Cowling

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