Best Gear for 2014

Here are our picks for the gear you’ll want to have with you on the water this season.

Best Gear for the Coming Year

Sophisticated reels, stronger lines, fine-tuned rods and dazzling lures: It was all there as we walked the aisles at the annual ICAST tackle show in July. It’s an impressive lineup in new tackle for 2014, and here are our picks for the gear you’ll want to have with you on the water this season.
— Salt Water Sportsman Staff

Yo-Zuri Crystal 3-D Minnow Jointed Waker

Yo-Zuri has introduced the new lineup of Crystal 3-D Minnow Jointed lures, including eight now featuring true UV colors. The lures are available in two styles, floating and deep-diving. The floating version is a -shallow-running “waker bait,” featuring a Triangle Lip design enabling the lure to be fished slowly; the deep-diving version goes deep and stays there, attracting multiple species, casting or trolling. Both styles -feature new jointed, natural minnow-shaped bodies, which produce a responsive darting action, further enhancing the 3-D prism effect. The Yo-Zuri joint pin is extra strong to hold onto the big ones. The Crystal 3-D Minnow Jointed lures feature a patented 3-D prism finish that produces a brilliant shine in all directions, attracting fish from a distance. The lifelike color patterns incorporated with 3-D body technology and lifelike eyes make it a proven fish catcher in the salt. Available in 16 fish-catching colors, eight of them featuring true UV attack points. The 3-D prism finish and jointed swimming action is joined by new, stronger and sharper round-bend treble hooks. $17.99 to $19.99;

Williamson Speed Pro Deep

On the reefs or rips, the new Williamson Speed Pro Deep tracks true and deep at speeds up to 15 knots thanks to its deep-diving lip and patent-pending Auto-Tune system. It’s the ticket for wahoo, dolphin, tuna and grouper, nearshore and offshore. The Auto-Tune free-moving line-tie system self-centers for proper alignment at high trolling speeds. The Speed Pro Deep’s swimming action allows the lure to be fished on lighter line, even with a light drag setting. The Speed Pro Deep is available in two sizes: The smaller is 61⁄4-inches long and weighs 2 ounces, with a running depth of 12 to 18 feet; while the larger, 7-inch model weighs in at 21⁄2 ounces and runs from 15 to 20 feet down. Both sizes come rigged with VMC Perma Steel treble hooks, heavy-duty oval split rings, and laser-cut, plate hook hangers to withstand abuse from offshore species. Six color combinations include blue sardine, green mackerel, bruised purple, red head, ayu and white tiger. $12.99 to $14.99;

Livetarget Shrimp

Livetarget enters the injection-molded soft-plastic-bait arena with the Shrimp, featuring anatomical detail and colors that rival the real thing. Available in 3-inch and 4-inch versions, the baits are precisely balanced with internal weight to sink slowly and enticingly. Lifelike legs flutter naturally, and a proprietary shrimp scent is infused into the plastic during the manufacturing to appeal to predators’ sense of smell and taste for additional realism. Rounding out the ruse, a built-in rattle chamber replicates the distinctive “ticking” of a live shrimp. Six available color configurations include brown, sand, glass, pink, glow and white to suit water color and clarity in a variety of saltwater and estuary-water conditions. Premium saltwater hooks are prerigged in the Shrimp as appropriate to each model’s size and custom-weight system. Livetarget Shrimp are sold either singly or in four-lure packs. $4.49 to $11.49;

Shimano Coltsniper Casting Jig

The ColtSniper Casting Jig from Shimano is a flutter-jig-shaped lure made for casting. The sleek bullet design enables extremely long casts with a minimum of wind resistance to reach busting fish in a hurry. Once deployed, the center-weighted balance and faceted sides create a smooth swimming retrieve that mimics injured baitfish or fleeing prey. Stainless split rings anchor a beefy treble hook at the tail, and a cast-in eyelet offers maximum strength and security. Four different sizes are offered: 42 grams/1.5 ounces, 62 grams/2 ounces, 80 grams/2.75 ounces and 100 grams/3.5 ounces. Each are available in pink/blue, blue sardine, brown aji, green mackerel and white/silver to mimic a range of inshore and offshore baitfish. $7.99 to $9.99;

Berkley Gulp! Alive! 6-inch Squido

The newest member of the Gulp! Alive! lineup from Berkley, the 6-inch Squido, lends itself to a number of different rigging styles for a wide range of presentations. The most popular way to rig it is with a 1-ounce swivel jig head for a versatile configuration that’s an efficient casting lure, and is just as effective for bottomfishing. Featuring three “crazy legs” that are designed to provide unmatched action, the biodegradable Gulp! Alive! Squido can be reused by returning it to its container of Gulp! Alive! Formula for recharge. The 6-inch Squido comes in a pack of six in a 20-ounce container, and comes in eight colors: camo, chartreuse, glow, new penny, pearl white, pink, rootbeer red fleck and watermelon red glitter. $19.99; berkley-fishing​.com

Sebile Fast Cast

Sebile has developed a first-in-class metal lure that’s dual-mission specific, designed for both casting and jigging. The Fast Cast combines distance-casting capabilities, lively swimming action and hooking versatility in one lure, whether you are dropping to the bottom or casting to blitzing schools on the surface. The aerodynamic shape was CAD developed with aviation software for both consistent action during the retrieve and enhanced casting, which makes it an ideal long distance lure. The full-wire design delivers maximum strength, allowing a large weight range for fishing at any depth and retrieval speed. There are two options for tying the Fast Cast for jigging action: Tie to the nose, hook at the back, for a quick sink and fast swimming on the retrieve, or switch the hook to the nose and tie off to the tail loop for spiral and flutter action on the drop. The Fast Cast is available in 10 models from 1⁄2 ounce to 11 ounces, in seven colors. $10.60 to $25.70;

VMC Boxer Jig Heads

Anglers fishing swimbaits in shallow water now have another choice in jig heads. VMC’s new Boxer Jig Heads feature the traditional “boxing glove” head design that gives them their name, and they are ideally designed to work with today’s jigging and swimming soft-plastic baits and grubs. The 3⁄4-ounce and 1-ounce sizes are ideally matched to the most popular inshore soft-plastic -favorites, and are also an ideal choice to be fished as part of an umbrella rig. The new jig heads feature 2x strong needlepoint hooks, complete with a forged shank, high-carbon steel construction and traditional round bend. The heads feature realistic 3-D eyes and a molded-in bait keeper that holds onto soft plastics longer. Boxer Jig Heads are available in five colors, 1⁄8-ounce to 1-ounce, with 3/0 to 6/0 hooks. $4.59 to $5.79;

Eagle Claw Lazer Trokar

Eagle Claw has added three new hook styles to the successful Lazer Trokar saltwater lineup that cover the ­gamut from live-baiting inshore to trolling for the toughest blue-water species. The nonoffset Trokar TK6 Kahle Circle hook, from 1/0 to 9/0, couples two perennially preferred hook conformations — the kahle and circle hook — wedding superior hooking ability of the kahle to the release advantages of a circle. The nonoffset TK12 and reverse-offset TK13 Vapor Bait — straight-shank J hooks in sizes from 1/0 to 7/0 — are both designed to withstand the demands of heavy lines and gear, and tough species, whether it’s white seabass or kingfish. As with the rest of the Trokar line, the new models have a brazed eye in the larger sizes, Eagle Claw’s black chrome finish, and surgically sharpened points. Sold in packs of varied count, depending on size. $21.99;

Okuma Makaira MK-16II

Makaira offshore reels from Okuma define design, drag power, drive-system strength and long-term durability, and in this mold, the new Makaira MK-16II fills a niche squarely between the existing 15- and 20-size Makaira reels as a long-range tuna reel. A capacity of 500 yards of 30-pound monofilament splits the difference between the 310-yard capacity of the 15 and the 20’s 660 yards. The two-speed 16 gathers up line fast in the 4.3:1 setting, while the low end at 1.3:1 is perfect for West Coast “rail fishing,” where the angler sets the rod on the boat rail and grinds the fish to the boat. The MK-16II is available in both the standard gold-anodized configuration and the premium gun-smoke-and-black SEa model. Both are backed by Okuma’s five-year limited warranty. Starting at $499.99;

Daiwa Isla Spinning Reels

Benefiting from the advanced design concepts and technology of the company’s popular Saltiga line of spinning reels, Daiwa’s new ISLA spinning reels offer some enviable features at a price that won’t put you into bankruptcy. The reels feature Daiwa’s proven Magseal technology to keep salt water out of the reel body and away from internal components, which include nine ball bearings and a roller bearing for smooth retrieves. The reels boast “High” 5.7:1 and “Bull” 4.3:1 gear ratios, and carbon Tournament drags to stand up against tough customers. The machined handle features a soft-touch grip to fight angler fatigue, and the forged-aluminum spool can hold up to 550 yards of 80-pound braid on ISLA 7000BULL, which can also handle 66 pounds of drag. The ISLA reels come in four sizes: the 4000H, 5000H 7000H and 7000BULL. $699 to $899;

Penn Squall Lever Drag

The new Penn Squall Lever Drag two-speed conventional reel is designed to change big tunas’ minds. The graphite frame and side plates house machined stainless main and pinion gears, drilled out for weight reduction. Four shielded stainless bearings deliver smooth cranking power, and the Dura Drag system eliminates hesitation and surge under heavy pressure. The forged- and machined-aluminum spool has etched line-capacity rings for a -midfight reference point. The double-dog ratchet anti-reverse eliminates back-play in the handle. The 38.5-ounce 16VS -model has a high-speed retrieve of 4.5:1, gathering 39 inches per turn, and a low ratio of 2.1:1 for an 18-inch retrieve. Maximum drag is 26 pounds, with 20 at Strike. Spool capacity is 540 yards of 30-pound mono or 865 yards of 65-pound braid. The 47-ounce 30VSW model has a high-speed retrieve of 4.2:1, spooling 41 inches per turn, with a low speed of 1.8:1 for an 18-inch retrieve. Maximum drag at Full is 32 pounds, 24 at Strike. Spool capacity is 595 yards of 50-pound mono or 1,435 yards of 80-pound braid. Starting at $159.95;

Fin-Nor Marquesa Pelagic Series

Fin-Nor’s new pair of light-line-designed lever-drag Marquesa Pelagic Series reels are purpose-built for targeting sailfish, white marlin and small tuna on lighter lines, such as 20-pound mono. Stainless carbon-fiber drag -s-ystems were designed to be ultra-smooth with no startup spike. The two-stage drag cam features a broad profile along the low end to provide predictable and precise control when fishing strike settings of 12 to 15 pounds. Beyond “Strike,” the drag-cam profile steepens for close control. Both models in the lineup feature high-speed retrieve: the MA30TP with a 6.1:1 ratio, and the MA40, geared at 5.2:1. The forged and machined one-piece frame and side cover stand up to both mono and braid. Capacity on the 30 Pelagic is 450 yards of 20-pound mono or 670 yards of 50-pound braided line; the larger model 40 Pelagic holds 440 yards of 30-pound mono or 700 yards of 65-pound braid. $369 and $399;

Accurate Boss Dauntless Dx2

The Boss Dauntless DX2 from Accurate carries on the tradition established by its predecessor, the BX2 Boss -Extreme. Designed for every-day fishing needs — from trolling for pelagic species to deep dropping and bottomfishing — these two-speed reels are designed to work especially well with braided lines. The 400 series, geared 6:1 and 3:1, carries 300 yards of 15-pound mono or 400 yards of 40-pound braid. The 500, with the same gearing, holds 300 yards of 20-pound mono or 450 yards of 50-pound braid; the largest, the 600, with 5:1 and 2.2:1 speeds, has a capacity of 350 yards of 30-pound mono or 600 yards of 65-pound braid. This reel was built with proven materials and design: lightweight 6061 T6 aircraft-aluminum frame and spool, sized for braid; an oversize gear case holding 17-4 heat-treated stainless-steel gears; and a supersize 17-4 heated gear shaft for rigidity, reliability and additional torque. $629 to $679;

Wright & Mcgill Blair Wiggins Flats Blue Inshore Rods

The already popular Blair Wiggins Inshore saltwater rod series has undergone a face-lift and a number of improvements behind the scenes in blank design. Each of these new models has been designed around proprietary S-Curve blank technology, which boasts improved weight, strength, sensitivity and lifting power, and now features a faster firm-tip section. The custom split-rubber cork foregrip allows for fingertip recognition of subtle bites, while the oversize fighting butt helps to get fish to the boat. The cosmetics on the handle have been updated with a metallic-pearl white finish which, combined with the “Flats Blue” rod blanks, create a one-of-a-kind color combination that makes the rods almost invisible to fish in clear water. The new rods are available in seven spinning and casting specialty actions in lengths from 6 feet, 9 inches to 8 feet. $99.99;

AFTCO Roller Guides

AFTCO has introduced black, tungsten-coated 316 stainless-steel roller assemblies for all of its guides and tip-tops. These new assemblies allow custom builders to order their favorite AFTCO roller guides and tips with all black rollers, pins and screws, or they can be fitted as replacements. The tungsten-coated roller assemblies can be fitted to standard AFTCO frame colors such as chrome, black-oxide chrome or gold. The tungsten coating on the new black assemblies is applied through a vacuum-bonding process, impervious to flaking or fading, and adds an extra measure of corrosion protection. AFTCO guides and tops equipped with the new assemblies cost the same as those equipped with the popular gold titanium-nitride assemblies, and the roller guides and tops with the new black assemblies are available now through all AFTCO part dealers. $7 to $22;

Cousins Tackle Light Saltwater Series

Cousins Tackle has introduced a full line of new Light Saltwater Series (LSW) rods engineered and handcrafted in America to suit a range of bay and inshore light-line fishing techniques. This premium rod series includes 10 conventional trigger casting models and 10 spinning models, as well as the five specialized Surf Perch Beach spinning rods designed specifically for tossing small plastics and hard baits. At the heart of each new LSW rod is a premium-quality graphite blank. Actions and tapers are fine-tuned to deliver the precision tool for the job. If you’re into tempting spotted seatrout with plastics, fooling reds with lures, or making the perfect presentation to finicky bonefish, Cousins offers an LSW rod to raise your game. Each model features Fuji K-Series guides with braid-proof Alconite inserts, distinctive metallic wrappings and hand-sanded cork handles, and is backed by a limited-lifetime warranty. $205 to $340; cousinstackle​.com

Star Rods Paraflex Surf Series

The Paraflex Surf Series from Star Rods is put together with the same Duratech epoxy and graphite blend as the successful Paraflex Boat rods, with thin diameter, high-density graphite walls, and a combination of Fuji Low Rider and K-Frame tangle-free guides with Alconite rings to maximize casting distance. CrossWrap -PowerGrip handles allow for a comfortable grip during a long day in the surf. Ten models are available, including Surf Spinning in 8-, 9-, 101⁄2- and 11-footers, rated for line testing 8 to 17, 12 to 25, 10 to 20 and 15 to 30 pounds. Surf Cast rods are 10-, 101⁄2 -, 11- and 12-footers that are line rated at 12- to 25-, 12- to 30-, 15- to 40- and 20- to 50-pound-test. The 8-foot Surf-Spin is a one-piece rod; all others are two-piece, with a low separation point for smooth casting and efficient fish fighting. $169.95 to $269.95;

Seaguar Threadlock

Threadlock from Seaguar is an exceptionally strong, high-impact braided line, with 16 strands in a high-density weave for extreme tensile and knot strength. Its smooth finish offers unmatched resistance to abrasion, and the hollow-core weave makes for easy, knotless leader connections to Seaguar Fluorocarbon for wind-on leaders. -Threadlock high-impact braid is designed for offshore saltwater anglers tangling with tough pelagic species, as well as offering security and strength in wrecks, structure, and kelp paddies. Available in 600-yard and 2,500-yard spools, in pound-tests of 50, 60, 80, 100, 130, and 200, each is available in green, white, yellow, or blue for easy differentiation when multiple rods are rigged with different pound-tests. 600 yards, $129.99 to $159.99; 2,500 yards, $549.99 to $749.99;

Ande Line Ghost Monofilament

The latest fishing line from Ande is Ghost nylon monofilament, with an easy price but all the quality Ande has provided to saltwater anglers for 55 years. The matte-white finish on Ghost makes it practically invisible in the water, thus the moniker. A smooth finish and extra-soft lay make it especially easy to cast, while retaining its high abrasion resistance and excellent knot strength. The diameter to pound-test ratio is as low as any line on the market. Smaller diameters cast more easily and present reduced drag in the water, whether trolling or fighting long-running fish, so it’s especially efficient for its rated strength. In short, it has all the characteristics of Ande Premium, for less cost. Ghost is available in matte white in tests of 12, 15, 20, 25, 30, 40 and 50 pounds. 1⁄4-pound spools, $6.99; 1⁄2-pound spools, $13.99; 1-pound spools, $25.99; and 2-pound spools, $45.99;

PowerPro Zero Impact

PowerPro Zero-Impact microfilament braided line features an innovation that eliminates weak spots in the line due to connections or knots. A characteristic of braid is the 30 to 50 percent loss of strength when a connection is made or a knot is tied. Zero-Impact addresses this with Termination Zone Technology: Every 20 feet in the line, there appears a highly visible 32-inch section of black braid that’s 50 percent stronger than the pound-test rating of the line. When this black portion — which is detectable only by color — is used to tie knots or make connections, the entire line retains 100 percent of its rated break strength. In field testing, the line has proved especially valuable in situations where full strength of the line is critical, such as when casting heavy, oversize lures and poppers for big tuna in open water. Zero-Impact comes in high-viz yellow and aqua green, and in pound-tests 20, 30, 50, 65, 80 and 100, in 150-, 300- and 500-yards spools. $25.99 to $79.99;