Fishing is an age-old summer pastime — the perfect excuse to hop on a skiff, crack open a cold one, and spend a quiet day away from the hustle of life. As the water in your favorite fishing hole reaches its summer mellow — with warm water resting on top of a cool under layer — it’s a great time to head out in pursuit of a great catch. Warm weather water conditions mean that, with a little know-how, you can catch a variety of species at different depths. Of course, you can’t count on a hefty haul without good gear to back you up. So, to prep you for your summer fishing sessions, we’ve rounded up a list of some of this year’s best fishing gear for amateur and experienced anglers alike.
There’s lots of fancy schmancy tools that make everything from finding fish to reeling them in to weighing and filleting your catch easier — and we’ve got plenty of recommendations for those categories. But, before any day on the water, you’ve got to remember to pack the basics. Here are a few items that every fisherman should have in his kit, regardless of where or when you’re fishing:
- Lures: There are plenty of lure options that cater to specific fish or water conditions, but a couple well-rounded options are Curly Tail Grub and the classic Kastmaster Spoons, both of which work well for several varieties of fish. If you’re aiming for big mouth bass, consider stocking up on some Jigs. If it’s trout that you’re after, make sure you’ve got some Panther Martins in your kit. Their spinning design makes them irresistible.
- Weights and ainkers: As with lures, there are tons of options when it comes to sinkers and it’s worth doing more research if you’re going hard after a certain catch. For a weight that will stay in place in rougher water, pyramid sinkers are a good choice. If your favorite fishing spot has a rocky bottom, go for walking sinkers, specially designed to glide smoothly over rough surfaces without snagging. Other popular choices are split shot sinkers (which easily pinch onto the line) and egg sinkers (a snag-resistant predecessor to the walking sinker).
- Fishing line: Monofilament line is most common and what you’re likely to use if you purchase a pre-spooled reel. While versatile, monofilament is visible in water and has a habit of stretching or molding to its spooled shape, which can cause knotting and make it tougher to reel in fish. Flourocarbon line is significantly less visible in water and resistant to stretching, but can have similar issues in holding its reeled shape, so it can still cause frustration with knotting. Finally, there’s braided line, which is tougher than mono or flouro line, with practically no stretching. It is visible in water, but won’t mold to its reeled shape, which makes knotting unlikely and helps increase your casting distance. Each variety of line is available in multiple weights, so make sure you’re buying a size that fits your reel.
- First aid kit: In all the excitement of picking out gear, it’s easy to forget that you need to take safety into account before a fishing trip. With hooks, knives, and nature’s elements, accidents can happen while you’re out on the water. Be sure to keep a first aid kit on hand just in case.
- Sunscreen: You should always lotion up before spending a day out in the sun, and it’s especially important if you’re going to be out on the water. Sunlight reflects more easily off water than land, so a burn can sneak up on you fast even if it doesn’t feel like a bright day. Keep your favorite sunscreen well within reach, and be sure to slap on a generous coat before you cast your line and settle in.
- Life vests: Just because you’re not sailing the high seas doesn’t mean you don’t need to take some standard precautions for spending time on the water. Make sure to bring along a life jacket for everyone on your fishing expedition.
Rods and Reels
Once you’re all set on the basics, it’s time to stock up on the fun stuff, starting with the absolute must-have: a reliable rod and reel.
If you’re a beginner — or if you’re planning to spend the summer coaching a beginner — this starter set is a great go-to. The set comes with two basic spincast setups, one with a medium-lightweight rod and the other with a medium weight rod. Both reels are made with stainless steel and sturdy ABS with built-in hook keepers. Each reel comes pre-spooled with 75 yards of line so you just need to set up your bait and you’re ready to start fishing. The rods feature EVA foam grips for added comfort during long days on the lake.
An upgraded offering from Zebco, this combo is loaded with high-performance features designed to help you reel in quality catches. The graphite rod has a cork split-grip handle for comfort and dexterity, and the reel’s five-bearing system make smooth casting a cinch. The reel is covered with aircraft-grade aluminum for durability, has an adjustable drag system to help you pull in frisky fish without snapping your line, and can be reversed for equally accessible use for right-handers and lefties alike.
If you’re ready to take your angling adventures to the next level, this premium setup from Pflueger is a worthy investment. Its aluminum shaft, carbon handle, and rubber cork handle knob make for a lightweight feel that still delivers top-notch durability and performance. The reel system features stainless steel ball bearings for corrosion-resistance, and the spool is capable of handling braided line. The combo is available in a variety of sizes, each with EVA grips and a split grip handle design for added comfort.
You’re gonna need a good way to transport those new rods, especially if you want to hit a lot of different hot spots.
This rod rack has a customizable design that fits most cars and SUVs with rear access and pickups with rear cab windows. There’s no permanent installation required, so you can quickly and easily move it from one vehicle to another. Adjustable-tension handle holders let you store any type of rod-and-reel combo, while foam tip holders protect their most sensitive parts from damage. You can fit up to six rods at a time.
Tackle Boxes and Bags
Something else you absolutely don’t want to leave home without is a high-quality tackle box or bag for effectively storing your gear.
This basic tackle box design has been around for a long time, and there’s a reason it has remained a fisherman’s staple. It has a rugged, weather-resistant exterior with secure snap closures on each side. Open it up and you’ll find seven trays, which can be split into up to 59 separate compartments in whatever configuration suits you best. It also includes hanging bait racks and a locking handle. With ample storage space and the ability to divide and rearrange each tray’s compartments, you’re not likely to find yourself struggling to fit all your favorite gear in this box.
If you find yourself hiking to your favorite fishing spots, you may want something that lends itself to hands-free portability without sacrificing storage space. This backpack is loaded with space and designed with an eye for comfortable transport. It features two exterior tool holders and several interior sleeves to keep tools secure, while deep side pockets and large mesh pockets provide plenty of room for miscellaneous storage. One side pocket includes a dedicated space for your line-spool, with an exterior grommet that allows for easy access. The main compartment easily accommodates the two included plastic tackle boxes. A waterproof vinyl pouch offers extra protection for your wallet, phone, or other electronic devices, and a fishing rod attachment lets you carry up to two rods. Padded shoulder straps, water-resistant fabric, and an adjustable chest tether make it a breeze to carry, even when its fully loaded.
For something that combines the best of both worlds, look no further than this tackle bag from Plano. It comes with four plastic StowAway tackle boxes that fit snuggly into its main compartment and keep your lures, weights, and hooks neatly organized and protected. A specially molded top design lets you store yet another StowAway box on top so you can keep gear in easy reach. The bag’s exterior has several large storage pockets, including a dedicated plier holder and a waterproof pocket for your phone or other electronics. Built on to the exterior are 34 different attachment points where you can hang extra tools, and the interior of the bag is lined with bright red fabric to make it extra visible in fog or darker conditions.
Even the most experienced fishermen can benefit from a little help when it comes to tracking down their favorite species, especially in deeper water or areas with a lot of foliage.
This handy little device takes all the reliability of Garmin GPS, adds their CHIRP sonar technology for fast and accurate imaging, and throws in a user-friendly interface for easy navigation. Garmin’s CHIRP sonar can reach depths as far as 1,600 feet in fresh water, and its continuous sweeping range of frequencies provide a massive range of info that you simply can’t get with a lot of other devices. At just 3.5 inches, the screen is small enough to make the whole unit perfectly portable, but its bright, full-color display remains easy to see in any conditions. Use the Finder to track your speed, mark waypoints for easy navigation, and save hotspots to return to later. The Striker does have some optional upgrades (including a larger display size and more advanced sonar technology), but even the base model is an indispensable tool for serious anglers.
Pliers are used for removing hooks from fish or keeping a strong grip on your line when tying, and often include cutters for easily clipping tangled or knotted lines.
These aluminum pliers are super sturdy and feature spring-loaded handles for easy use. The handles are extra slim and made with a heat-treated aluminum alloy for intense durability without added bulkiness. Built-in tungsten carbide cutters are powerful enough to cut through even thick braided line, and they come with a handy coil lanyard so you can clip them onto your belt, vest, or tackle box for easy access.
These itty-bitty pliers pack a powerful punch. At just 1.8 ounces, they’re insanely lightweight, and their 5.5-inch length makes them easy to stash in your tackle box, bag, or pocket. Their small stature doesn’t detract from their toughness, with stainless steel tips and replaceable steel cutters that are equally durable and effective. An included belt sheath and lanyard make them easy to carry and hard to lose track of.
These 7-inch pliers from Cabela’s are made with aluminum and stainless steel, as well as an anodized finish that is both lightweight and corrosion-resistant. The powerful steel cutters can slice through any type of line you throw at them, the tough jaws are great for gripping fish and removing hooks, and the sturdy handles make them easy and comfortable to use. They also come with a nylon sheath and lanyard, all at a price point that won’t break the bank.
Scales and Rulers
Whether you’re participating in a tournament, making sure you follow local fishing guidelines, or just trying to reel in a new best catch, a reliable scale is a handy tool to keep in your kit.
This scale from ReelSonar has a bright back-lit LCD screen that’s easy to read, can weigh fish up to a whopping 99 pounds, and includes a 39-inch built-in tape measure. The unit is made from stainless steel for durability and has an auto shut-off feature to preserve battery life (which can last up to 500 hours). It also comes with a matching fish lip grabber to make handling those big catches easier. Although it’s rust-resistant, it’s not waterproof, so it can’t be submerged — though with so many features at a super-affordable $20 price-point, it’s worth exercising a little extra caution.
If you want some additional features (and don’t mind a smaller weighing range), this scale from Berkley is equipped with major convenience features that you can’t always find at this price. It’s encased in waterproof housing, with a rust-proof stainless-steel hook for easy fish handling. While it only weighs up to 35 pounds, its measurements are incredibly accurate (within .56 ounces) and you can store up to eight in its memory. The back-lit digital display is easy to read, it has an auto-culling feature to quickly identify the lightest fish in your haul, and you can choose to display weights in either pounds or kilograms.
A good fillet knife should be sturdy, sharp, and easy to handle – and this 7.5-inch stainless steel blade is all the above. The blade has a fine edge and ample flexibility for easy filleting of any size fish. The handle is textured for stable gripping even in wet conditions. The knife also comes with a hard-molded protective sheath that includes a built-in sharpener so you can keep the blade in tip-top shape even out on the water.
Rapala is a well-known name in the fishing game, and, aside from being durable and versatile, their knives are some of the most handsome on the market. This Fish N Fillet knife has a full-tan,g Swedish stainless-steel blade with a tapered shape and plenty of flex. The handle is made of reinforced, varnished birch wood for a rustic look and sturdy feel, and the whole thing is protected by the included leather sheath with a free-swing belt loop that keeps the blade safely away from your person at all times. You can select from four different blade lengths depending on the tasks at hand, and each one comes with a sharpener.
Whether you’re just getting started or have been fishing for years, adding this gear to your arsenal can take your summer angling game to the next level. So, load up your tackle box, grab some buddies, hop on a boat, and head out for the ultimate summer fishing trip.