Outdoor Life Online Editor

This issue features our sixth annual tackle test, in which our team of experts puts the latest rods and reels through several torturous days of on-the-water evaluation to determine which are the best (our Editor’s Choices) and which represent the best value (our Great Buys). As usual, the field was huge, with more than 40 new spinning and bait-casting rods alone, for example-so many that when we lined them up on the dock at Migis Lodge on Sebago Lake, Maine, we weren’t sure we could get through all of them in three days.

On average, we made several dozen casts with every rod and reel we tested, which put each of us at well over 1,000 casts total. This accounts for the cramped shoulders, tired hands and need to reach for the Advil bottle at the end of each day. We then took some of our favorites and spent several early-morning and late-evening shifts chasing Sebago’s lively smallmouths to get a feel for what this equipment would do under actual fishing conditions (tough work, I know, but somebody has to do it). In the end, what our ratings give you is the unbiased truth based on the aggregate scores of the entire panel-not just the opinion of a single reviewer-so when we say a particular rod or reel is best, you can take that to the bank.

This year we added a whole new dimension to our tests by inviting a video crew from Warren-Miller Entertainment (a sister company of ours based in Boulder that specializes in skiing films) to come videotape the test. These clips, which you can view on outdoorlife.com, will give you a behind-the-scenes look at how we test and rate equipment. (We’ll have clips available online from our upcoming gun, optics and bow tests later this year.) They’re a lot of fun to watch, but they also serve a practical purpose. For the first time, you’ll be able to see what our individual favorites were. Remember, the winners in our test are based on aggregate scores of the entire panel, but they may not represent the favorites of each member on the panel.

We also thought this would be a good way for you to get to know us a little better. No, we’re not television personalities; we’re just regular guys like you who happen to love fishing and playing around with a lot of new toys. We also like catching fish, so we hope you’ll enjoy the fishing fun and put some of the tips from our experts to work for you this season. And if that’s not enough to start filling your livewell, check out the special bass package on page tk. When we sat down to plan the April issue, we asked ourselves: What are the two most important things every fisherman wants? Well, we all want to catch more fish, but we also want to make the most of our time on the water and fish in the most efficient way possible. Alan Clemons lays out a game plan that will help you dissect any lake you plan to fish to maximize your fishing time. Catching more fish is one thing, but there’s a growing number of guys out there who just want to concentrate on taking bass 10 pounds and larger. This requires a whole new strategy (and tackle). You’re not going to get many bites, but as our group of big-bass maniacs explains, the bites you do get are going to be worth the wait (and the effort). If you’ve ever wanted to target the biggest bass in your lake, this story is for you.

Finally, our own Jerry Gibbs weighs in with his picks for the greatest bass lures of all time. So whether you’re looking for a new rod or want to catch the most (or biggest) fish on the lake where you live, we’ve got you covered.