With Christmas just days away, many holiday shoppers may be looking for some last-minute stocking stuffers or gift ideas for the angler in their life.
But finding the best deals can be tricky, and those who aren't familiar with the fishing industry may not know where to start when looking for fishing gear.
Luckily, ol’ Saint Josh is here to tell you which brands are naughty and which brands are nice when looking for some quality gear at a low cost.
You may see a lot of their products with major discounts this Christmas, but I personally think these Scrooges are way overpriced to start with. Sure, $6.99 is a great deal on a $14 crankbait, but I’d much rather spend $2.99 for a $10 Storm Arashi Deep crankbait that I know will run true and catch gobs of fish. And at that price, you could buy a few to fill that stocking up!
Nice: Missile Baits
The Missile Baits D Bomb and Baby D Bomb Creature Baits are favorite lures of many a bass fisherman, and they have a pretty decent price point to boot. Tackle Warehouse offers six-packs for $3.99 that make excellent stocking stuffers, as well as 25-packs for $12.99 for those seeking a low- to moderately-priced gift. Black Red Flake and Candy Bomb are my personal favorite color patterns, but there really isn’t a bad option, and you can't go wrong with green pumpkin. These work great as jig trailers or worked weedless as a Texas rig with an extra wide gap offset hook and a bullet weight slip sinker. For those who prefer a smaller, more finesse-style bait, check out their Ned Bombs.
Naughty: Googan Baits
A package of Googan Baits soft plastics may sound like a deal at $5.99 for a pack of eight, but don’t be fooled. Though they can definitely catch fish, these lures tear easier than wrapping paper on Christmas Day. If you’re going to buy a Googan lure this Christmas, I suggest their crankbaits instead. They have a wide variety of crankbaits for sale at https://shopkarls.com/new-googan-crankbaits that can work in a ton of different situations, from the deep-diving Grande Recon to the flat-billed Banger and even a lipless crankbait in The Klutch.
On the opposite end of the toughness spectrum are Z-Man’s ElaZTech lures, which are just about impossible to tear and are fairly inexpensive in their own right. For those who like finesse fishing, I suggest the TRD TicklerZ. The tube-style bait is a great smallmouth lure and comes in a variety of excellent colors — Bubble Gut might be my personal favorite — and at $4.49 for a pack of eight, it won’t break the bank. For those who prefer bigger bass baits, Palmetto BugZ are also a solid choice at $4.49 for a pack of five, as are the Giant TRDs and Floating WormZ. Or, for that special someone who you don't mind paying a little more to please, get them a ChatterBait JackHammer. You can order them online at https://www.zmanfishing.com or find them in stores.
Naughty: 13 Fishing
For those more expensive gifts, a new fishing reel can be a great surprise on Christmas Day. However, buyer beware when it comes to baitcasters. I‘ll preface this by saying I’ve never purchased a 13 Fishing baitcaster, so I can’t go into depth on their quality, but I will say there is a reason I’ve never bought one. They are severely overpriced for the quality you get in return, and they honestly just don’t feel good in my hand when I’ve tested them out. If you’re going to drop $180 to $250 on a baitcaster, I would definitely recommend Shimano’s SLX DC 150 or Curado DC instead. The difference in quality is astounding for the same price point.
Their rod-and-reel combos are probably my favorite ultra-light poles I’ve ever used, with fantastic sensitivity, great casting distance even with light lures and an incredibly smooth reel. The Classic Spinning Rod makes for a great crappie or bluegill rod but packs enough toughness to handle a big channel catfish or bass. Tie on their micro-braid line for added sensitivity. A whole other naughty/nice category could be made for their Smelly Smax, which basically make Berkley's Crappie Nibbles obsolete as these things absolutely refuse to come off the hook and pack way more of a punch. Honestly, there isn't a product from them that I've tried that I haven't loved. Check them out at https://www.flefly.com/.
Naughty: Cajun Line
Fishing line can be a good stocking stuffer item, as the winter is the perfect time to respool your reels. There are tons of different brands and types of line, all with different strengths and weakness, but I would say to avoid Cajun, Stren, Trilene and SpiderWire in general. Cajun is a strong line but far too stiff and difficult to cast, while Stren and Trilene are just plain too weak. SpiderWire frays and gets wind knots easily and can also reportedly damage your guides. Among the fishing lines I recommend instead are Yo-Zuri H.D. Carbon fluorocarbon for a leader line (use their Hybrid Fluorocarbon if you intend to spool your reel entirely with fluoro), Sufix Performance Braid or 832 Advanced Superline (more expensive) for braided line and Sufix Siege for monofilament. Other anglers seem to like P-Line and Seaguar, as well, but I've never used them myself. In general, the best test weights I've found, depending on which species you are targeting, are 4 to 6 pounds for crappie, 6 to 15 pounds for bass and 20-plus for channel catfish. Anything larger, however, and Trilene actually comes back on the table as an option thanks to its saving grace, its Big Game Monofilament Line. But it probably won't be cheap, and honestly I would prefer the 832 braid for heavy-duty fishing.
Nice: Team Catfish
A good one for the catfish anglers out there, Team Catfish produces some excellent circle hooks, as well as their Red Dead Red Treble hooks, and puts out some nice sinker slides that help prevent fish from being spooked by the weight of a sinker on the line when they pick up the bait. Or, if you really want to knock their socks off this Christmas, get them a tub of Triple S Catfish Bait (formerly Sonny's) from Scheels.com or your local bait shop and watch with wonder as they get super excited about something that smells absolutely raunchy.
Hope this friendly gift guide helps you out this Christmas, and I'd like to wish all of my readers a very happy holidays!