Clever New Tackle

The best sonar, tackle systems and gadgets of 2003.

Outdoor Life Online Editor

Fishermen are a hip, gear- loving crowd, sure enough. For every angler who devoutly debates the virtues of his night crawlers, there are a dozen perusing tackle shops and peeking into other fishermen's boats in search of the latest developments. To save you the trouble, we rounded up affordable sonars with all the options, a trolling-motor remote control small enough to fit in a hip pocket and tackle systems that keep hooks untangled. In case you're wondering where the rods and reels are, in the next issue we'll tell you how all of the latest freshwater casting and spinning equipment did in our annual tackle test and we'll give you a rundown of the season's fishiest new lures. **

ELECTRONICS**
**Eagle **
The hot ticket in entry-level fish finders is Eagle's Cudas. The 128 and 168 models are named for the number of vertical pixels in their displays. Both Cudas deliver depth readings to 600 feet and come with low-profile, wide-angle 200kHz transducers that deliver signals at speeds up to 70 mph. Both models also offer GRAYLINE, fish ID, alarms, built-in temperature sensors and zoom with bottom tracking. Unlike many other low-cost units, Cudas models feature continuous screen display even while you're accessing menu items. ($79.99 for the 128 and $99 for the 168; 800-324-1354; www.eaglesonar.com)

**Garmin **
The Fishfinder 320C is the first stand-alone color sounder Garmin has made. Its 16-color display is viewable in direct sunlight, which can be a problem for some other units. Its color display makes it easier to determine the bottom type and to tell the difference between large and small fish. The background color can be configured to make it easier to read in day or night. The unit can be linked to a Garmin GPS. ($850; 800-800-1020; www.garmin.com)

**Humminbird **
Six models in the Matrix sonar series give anglers a wide range of features and prices. There's the affordable Matrix 15, the big-screen 25, the wide-coverage 35, the sunlight-readable color 45 and two GPS-equipped units, the 55 and 65. All have 240 pixels vertically. An optional plug-and-play WeatherSense unit gives on-screen barometric pressure readouts. All matrix units have a quick connect/disconnect mount system, a four-way control button, a depth capability to 1,200 feet and a selective fish ID+ that filters out false fish signals. ($179.99 to $549.99; 334-687-0503; www.techsonic.com)

**Minn Kota **
The CoPilot is a wireless remote system that lets you control some Minn Kota electric motors from anywhere in the boat. It eliminates foot pedals and extension wires completely. The remote control is about the size of a whistle. It floats and can be attached to your wrist or clipped to a fishing rod. It allows you to control speed, to steer and to control the on/off functions. The receiver unit attaches under the right side-plate. The system was a "Best of Show" winner at the last ICAST trade expo. ($149.99 for freshwater and $169.99 for saltwater units; 800-299-2592; www. minnkotamotors.com)

ACCESSORIES
**Finovationz **
Remove the lid from the Tackle Rack Lure Management System, snap it to the bottom as a base, and you have a bin that allows instant access to lures and tools. It'll hold up to 70 lures tangle free. The tackle system has two storage compartments for small jigs and sinkers, removable dividers, a slotted handle for tools and a special spinnerbait section. ($37.99; 877-881-3662; www.tackle-rack.com)

**Lindy ** Even if your rod has a hook keeper it might not be in the right place to hold a baited hook or a drop-shot rig. The Hook-A-Loop, a silicone ring with a hook-keeper tab, is more versatile. Slip the rig over the rod butt of your fishing rod and position it where you like.

Catfishermen and other anglers who hunt large fish at night should check out Nite Brite Lighted Floats. These 6-, 8- and 10-inch balsa pole floats accept micro-battery lights that cause them to glow brighter and longer than luminescent products and other lighted bobbers. ($2.30 for a pack of two Hook-A-Loops; $8.60 to $9.59 for Nite Brite Floats; 218-829-1714; www.lindylittlejoe.com)

Precision Angling
Precious few fishermen know just how deep their crankbaits run and how quickly the lures get to their maximum depth. Precision Casting uses charts to illustrate how different crankbaits behave when they go for a swim. The guide also shows the lure's dive curves at various cast distances and on different test lines. ($24.95; 800-353-6958; www.precisionangling.com)

Shimano
The Shimano Lure Storage Box separates artificial bait in individual compartments and uses foam "hook channels" at each end to secure each lure in place. There are three box styles-one each for crankbaits, minnow stickbaits and topwater lures. They come in different colors to make it easy to sort lures by type. The Lure Storage Boxes have clear plastic lids and unbreakable latches. ($7.99; www.hyiusa.com)

**Texas Tackle **
The right tool for the job can turn a hassle into an easy chore. Such is the case with Texas Tackle's Split Ring Pliers. One side of its jaws bite into the split ring separating wire wraps. The pliers are made from corrosion-resistant surgical stainless steel. ($14.95; 800-437-3521)