2002's Fishiest Ideas

Bargain sonars, lures that glow, an invention that beats snags...

Outdoor Life Online Editor

A flood of low-cost products from China and some shake-ups in big-name tackle companies have made the fishing market both turbulent and competitive; manufacturers are belching out deals and racing to develop smarter products in an attempt to maintain market share. Mentioning all of the new gear here would take as much room as a Cabela's catalog, so we've focused on the most clever products and the best deals of the bunch. (If you're wondering where the new rods and reels are in this mix, just wait until next month; we had a test panel evaluate all the smartest new entries.)

Electronics
Minn Kota Riptide
Others have tried and failed to make a trolling motor that can handle salt water, but Minn Kota says its line of Riptide motors is different; it has a secret weapon: a zinc "sacrificial anode." Obviously this innovation wasn't named by a marketer, but what it does is revolutionary, because when two dissimilar metals come into electrical contact through salt water, corrosive forces will attack zinc rather than other metallic surfaces on the motor. And because sacrifices alone won't win the ballgame, Minn Kota also used a five-step coating process to give the motors a resistant finish, employed stainless steel for all of the hardware and encapsulated all electronics in hard urethane.

Both bow-mount (including one autopilot unit) and transom-mount models are available in various power configurations. All Riptide motors are backed by a three-year warranty. ($449.99 to $769.99 for bow-mount motors and $219.99 to $579.99 for transom-mount motors; 800-299-2592; www. minnkotamotors.com)

Eagle's FishEasy 2
The big news for anglers who are hunting for an affordable sonar this spring is Eagle Electronics' FishEasy 2 series. The units are available in both boat-mount and portable versions. The latter version operates on eight D-cell batteries and has an optional Ice-Dapter that holds the transducer at the proper angle for icefishing.

Both models have a 240-high/160-wide pixel display, for a screen resolution that's equal to those of more expensive sonar units. The FishEasy 2's power is 1,200 watts peak to peak, making depth readings to 800 feet possible.

The series has incorporated a new receiver that offers a higher resistance to electrical interference than others at this price range. And there are four "gray-tone" levels in the FishReveal feature, which helps to make fish stand out from surface clutter, weed beds and flooded timber. ($129; 800-324-4781)

Lowrance LMS 240
Lowrance's LMS 240 does more than just marry a sonar unit with a GPS; it also uses postage-stamp-sized memory cards to expand its memory with GPS coordinates and maps from a PC. Think of these memory cards as floppy discs. You can use different ones to store waypoints and maps of various bodies of water, so that when you head afield all you have to do is grab the right card.

The depth/fish finder has 3,000 watts peak-to-peak power and can take depth readings to 1,000 feet. The GPS segment has 12 parallel channels for quick lock-ons. A one-touch control offers a split-screen display mode for viewing different chart ranges and sonar signals at the same time. The memory saves up to 1,000 waypoints and 100 routes. ($579 for the combo unit; 800-324-1356; www.lowrance.com)

**Humminbird Piranha **
The new Piranha fishfinder sonars from Humminbird are economical and easy to use. All units have structure identification, grayscale, fish identification, fish alarm, depth alarm, zoom and sensitivity control. The entry-level models, Piranha 1 and 2, have 240- and 600-foot depth capability, respectively, and 128-vertical-pixel displays (a sharper resolution than other sonar units in this price range offer). Models 3, 4 and 5 have 160-vertical-pixel displays plus Whiteline bottom identification. Piranha 4 proves the water's surface temperature. The Piranha 5 does all of the above and has a Dual-Beam Sonar. Models 2 and 4 also come in portable versions. ($79.95 for Piranha 1, $89.95 for Piranha 2, $99.95 for Piranha 3, $119.95 for Piranha 4 and $139.95 for Piranha 5; 334-687-0503; www.techsonic.com)

Accessories
Hartman's Bait-Up Lift System
Getting a minnow out of most bait buckets means sticking your hand in and fumbling around until you catch one of the slimy little critters. Hartman offers the Bait-Up Lift System as a better alternative. Just tug the bucket's handle and the bait is served up on a tray that lifts out of the water as an access door swings open. Pick out your minnow and dunk the rest back in by lowering the bucket's handle. ($17.99; 877-718-7113; www.bait-up.net)

Du-Bro Stik-It Jig and Lure Holder
You can't just put a sharp, barbed hook anywhere...unless you have Du-Bro's Stik-It Jig and Lure Holder. It comes with two replaceable six-inch foam strips to hold lures. Attach the strips where you need them most. ($14.95; 877-776-3474; www. dubro.com)

Lure Savers
An age-old problem in fishing-losing lures to stubborn snags-has been solved. Lure Savers, which look like oval-shaped split rings and are made of NiTi (a titanium alloy), link the hook to the lure. When enough pressure is applied, the Lure Saver opens to leave only the hook in the snag. The device stays with the lure when you pull it free from the obstruction so you can use it to save another $5 plug from oblivion. Lure Savers come in sizes ranging from 6- to 20-pound-test; use one that's slightly weaker than your line's breaking strength. (From $1 to $1.25; 800-999-6484; www.ultimateniti.com)

Plano Guide Series 777
Back before bass pros and their specialized lures, the typical tackle box had a single tray above an open compartment. Today, boxes are full of compartments, trays, shelves and cubbyholes. Plano's latest box, the Guide Series 777, is at the forefront of this trend toward specialization. Plano is calling it "the fisherman's dream" but could just as well have called it "the fisherman's toolshed." Loaded with spinnerbait/crankbait containers, removable storage boxes and an assortment of racks and trays, the 777 certainly makes full use of its 211/4 by 12 by 12-inch dimensions-just don't forget where you put what. ($49.99; 800-874-6905; www. plano molding.com)

TALS 500 Wade Fishing System
Flyfishermen wear vests that have nippers attached to zingers and nets linked to bungees and dozens of pockets stuffed with flies and leaders. But a wading angler who uses a spin or casting outfit has nothing like the flyfishing vest's dapper little pockets in which to store his lures and bait. Now there's the TALS 500 Wade Fishing System from Stycorp Ltd., a unique system of Velcro-backed tubes in a strap-on case that folds out in front of you, offering instant organization and a work surface to boot. ($39.99; 877-882-3255; www.tals-fishing.com)

RodWrap
When cork rod handles get wet and become slick from layers of residue, you can sand them down to restore some of their lost grip but you can never get them completely clean. A better solution is to wind on RodWrap from Better Ways Products, LLC. RodWrap is an ultra-thin material that is not an adhesive-backed tape but a glueless wrap held in place with a piece of finishing tape at its end. RodWrap comes in five sizes for everything from fly rods to large saltwater rods. (From $2.99; 303-485-1222; www.rodwrap.com)

Lines
Berkley Sensation
Berkley's Sensation is a blend of five polymers and is extruded using a newly engineered process. These developments, says Berkley, made Sensation's thin diameter possible without sacrificing the handling and controllability that are usually found only in thicker lines. We tried Sensation on a variety of reels and found you can load heavier weighted lines than normal on spinning reels without the line spiraling off. Sensation also proved to be a good all-around line and worked for everything from pitching to finessing. You can get it in clear or green in sizes from 2- to 30-pound-test. ($12.99 for a 250-yard spool of 30-pound-test; 877-777-3850)

Rapala Long Cast
Fishermen are always looking to zing a bait a bit farther. In a boat, increasing casting range so that you can reach far-off schools is a real plus, and the same goes for onshore fishermen, who always seem to land their baits just a few feet short of the ideal target. Rapala says it can help you get where you want to go, providing you use its Teflon-coated Long Cast monofilament. The line is available in spools of 4- to 20-pound-test. ($5.99 for two reel-fill spools; 800-874-4451; www.rapala.com)

Berkley PowerBait Bungees
Powerbait Bungees from Berkley have tightly coiled tails that whip out when the lure is worked forward. There are four- and seven-inch worms, four-inch Twin Tail Grubs and a three-inch Leech in the series. (From $3.99; 877-777-3850) tried Sensation on a variety of reels and found you can load heavier weighted lines than normal on spinning reels without the line spiraling off. Sensation also proved to be a good all-around line and worked for everything from pitching to finessing. You can get it in clear or green in sizes from 2- to 30-pound-test. ($12.99 for a 250-yard spool of 30-pound-test; 877-777-3850)

Rapala Long Cast
Fishermen are always looking to zing a bait a bit farther. In a boat, increasing casting range so that you can reach far-off schools is a real plus, and the same goes for onshore fishermen, who always seem to land their baits just a few feet short of the ideal target. Rapala says it can help you get where you want to go, providing you use its Teflon-coated Long Cast monofilament. The line is available in spools of 4- to 20-pound-test. ($5.99 for two reel-fill spools; 800-874-4451; www.rapala.com)

Berkley PowerBait Bungees
Powerbait Bungees from Berkley have tightly coiled tails that whip out when the lure is worked forward. There are four- and seven-inch worms, four-inch Twin Tail Grubs and a three-inch Leech in the series. (From $3.99; 877-777-3850)