Despite the constant urge to simplify—whether that be by limiting the number of colors of plastic worms you use or through a technique like tenkara—anglers are, by nature, gear hounds. We always think that there’s a better way to do something, whether that’s a reel that adds casting distance, glasses that’ll help us cut the glare more efficiently, or a lure so good “that it has been banned in 30 states,” as the hyperbolic ads tell us. That gear addiction makes finding fishing gifts easy, but the challenge is finding the best fishing gift for the person you’re shopping for.
- Best for Techy Anglers: Garmin LiveScope
- Best Spinning Reel: Shimano Stella
- Best for Bass Anglers: Uncle Josh Pork
- Best Fishing Hoodie : Gill Langland Technical Hoodie
- Best for Topwater Fanatics: River2Sea Whopper Plopper
- Best Sustainable Gift: AFTCO Saba Recycled Boardshorts
- Best for Budding Swimbaiters: Dobyns Fury Swimbait Rod
- Best for Anglers on the Go: Plano Atlas Backpack
- Best Boating Footwear: Grundens Seaknit Boat Shoe
- Best Rain Gear: Simms CX Bibs and Rain Jacket
- Best High-End Crankbait: Water Wood Custom Lures Echo 1
- Best Bargain Baitcasting Reel: Abu Garcia Max STX Casting Reel
- Best Boat Accessory: Power Pole Blades
- Best for Smallmouth Bass Anglers: Berkley Flat Worms
Fortunately, fishing gear is better than ever: lighter, more durable, and more technologically advanced, so even if the angler in your life has an item that’s perfectly broken in, odds are that it can be replaced with something even better. With the industry starting to emerge from supply chain woes, inventories are growing, but it still pays to act fast so your favorite fishing fanatic has what they need to enjoy every day on the water.
Best Fishing Gift for the Techy Angler: Garmin LiveScope
Not long ago, the best fish finders only told you if fish were under the boat. Today’s forward-facing sonar has made a marked change in the ability to identify structure cover and, most importantly, individual fish from afar and then target them. Love it or hate it, it’s here to stay, and Garmin was the first to popularize it. Others have come along since, but Garmin’s still the leader in this space with what amounts to a plug-and-play interface. If you really love the fishing gift recipient, get them a matching Garmin trolling motor, which will allow them to maximize the capabilities of both. You might also want to buy them some ibuprofen because some users get so fixated on the screen that not only do they not cast until they see a fish, but they get a crick in their necks from looking down all day. It’s that deadly.
Best Spinning Reel for Fresh and Saltwater Anglers: Shimano Stella
I never believed in the value of super high-end spinning reels until I chased two species: giant northern smallmouths and giant Central American yellowfin tuna. Both would have made mincemeat of even mid-level spinning reels because their runs were so erratic and so powerful that anything short of flawless gearing and components would have resulted in failure. I beat my personal best smallmouth by over a pound this fall using a Stella, and then a month later used a larger version to tackle triple digit tuna. On the latter, my arms and back gave out before the reel even experienced the slightest hiccup. If you have a multi-species angler who needs one of the best spinning reels, get them a Stella in the 2500 or 3000 size.
Best Fishing Gift for a Bass Angler: Uncle Josh Pork
For years, savvy anglers used Uncle Josh pork frogs on the back of their skirted jigs, especially in cold water. Unfortunately, the bi-legged pork was difficult to store (the jars tended to rust shut), leading most anglers to use plastic substitutes, which came in more shapes and colors. Further, it was difficult for Uncle Josh to procure the proper materials, and eventually they discontinued the lineup altogether. The pork frog addicts hoarded the ones they had and searched online sites and garage sales to get whatever additional amounts they could. Now, a few years later, Uncle Josh has heeded the call of a small but loud cadre of adherents and brought it back in multiple sizes and colors. If you’re looking to give someone a biodegradable product that will nevertheless last through more fish than any of the competition, this is the perfect fishing gift.
Best Fishing Hoodie: Gill Langland Technical Hoodie
The classic cotton hoodie is ubiquitous in the closets of anglers and non-anglers alike, but while it’s great for drinking your morning coffee on the deck it’s terrible when exposed to the elements. Not only does it fail to block wind, but once it gets wet it gets remarkably heavy and seems to hold the moisture forever. Fortunately, Gill took the time-tested design and updated every aspect of it, using a proprietary “XPEL” material that is not only water-repellent, but will also shed fish slime and blood (as well as that morning coffee, if you choose to wear it for that purpose). It takes other elements of the best fishing apparel and integrates them as well. That includes thumb loops in the cuffs and a zippered compartment in the front hand-warmer pocket.
Best Fishing Gift for the Topwater Fanatic: River2Sea Whopper Plopper
Poppers may do better around cover, and walking baits may have a longer-term track record, but no topwater produces more jarring strikes on a consistent basis than the Whopper Plopper. I’ve used it for northern smallmouths, southern and Mexican largemouths, and a variety of toothy and otherwise nasty critters in the Amazon, and they all strike it like they want to kill its next three generations of offspring. Furthermore, while the bass pros rely upon it heavily, it’s equally deadly in the hands of a beginner because you can cast it a country mile and then a slow and steady retrieve may be the best way of all to work it.
Best Sustainable Gift for Anglers: AFTCO Saba Recycled Boardshorts
AFTCO has long been a leader not only in creating and marketing stylish and effective fishing clothing, but also in consistently acting in the best interests of angling resources. Time and again they’ve shown a commitment to putting their money where their mouth is, and this ICAST Best of Class product is another example of that dedication. They’re 88 percent recycled polyester and 12 percent spandex, which produces a feather-light mix. With “seam-free” construction and four-way stretch, you’ll hardly know they’re there. They’ve even good looking enough that you can wear them from the boat to the bar and be heralded as a fashionista.
Best Fishing Gift for the Budding Swimbaiter: Dobyns Fury Swimbait Rod
Swimbaiting is an increasingly popular technique, but to throw the big baits properly and effectively you may need some special tackle. Unlike other recent trends—which allowed you to use gear you might already own—if you’re going to throw the big stuff and get the fish to the boat without wearing yourself out, you need a dedicated rod. Dobyns has higher-end gear for that purpose, but this one hits the pricing sweet spot for the budget conscious angler while performing like something that costs much more. It may be daunting to look at an 8-foot rod rated for lures up to 8 ounces if you’ve never used something that big, but this stick is light and balanced so it won’t feel out of place with your other more conventional gear. To put it plainly, it’s the best baitcasting rod for the money if you want to throw big swimbaits.
Best Fishing Gift for the Angler on the Go: Plano Atlas Backpack
Whether you’re hopping a plane to the Seychelles or engaging in an afternoon of urban pond hopping, you need an ergonomic way to carry your gear, ideally via a backpack. Unfortunately, most standard packs aren’t comfortable or made to carry fishing gear, but this one conquers both of those problems. It combines the best attributes of hard and soft tackle storage solutions to remain lightweight yet protect all of your valuable gear. It has a waterproof base and a water-resistant cell phone pocket to ensure that nothing gets damp or ruined. With straps to hold your rods and others to hold your tools, it’s effectively a mobile tackle station built to handle whatever the baggage handlers the jungle or the subway can dish out. That’s why it’s my pick for the best fishing backpack, and a great fishing gift for any angler.
Best Boating Footwear: Grundens Seaknit Boat Shoe
Grundens hasn’t left behind their role in making ultra-durable gear for commercial fishermen. They’ve just taken that knowledge and applied it to the recreational angler as well. The Seaknit Boat Shoe may look like a regular tennis shoe, but it’s meant to keep you stable, comfortable and upright whether standing on one leg to operate a trolling motor or trying to remain balanced and making quality casts in five foot waves. The EVA midsole absorbs shock, and while they’re not completely waterproof, they are water-resistant and stain-resistant, so fish blood and slime can be hosed right off. The uppers have no seams to bind or pull, and the “metal” look goes well with just about everything.
Best Rain Gear for Fishing: Simms CX Bibs and Rain Jacket
There are plenty of rainsuits that lock water out, but few do so while remaining breathable and allowing you to go through the virtual gymnastics required by a day of full-force fishing. Simms says they have fixed that through their CFLEX3 fabric, which provides the best possible blend for dry warmth, range of motion and comfort. Even the zippers are specially formulated to slide easily and keep water out, including the leg side zippers which allow you to get in and out of the bibs easily. The bibs are reinforced in the seat, knees and at the hem. The jacket has an adjustable hood so that you can keep your head dry while maintaining maximum visibility, and the jacket also has an integrated sunglass cloth. They’re available in both a classy black/camo combo, as well as a mostly black version with Simms’ signature orange accents. If you know someone that loves to fish, no matter the weather, this is the best rain gear for fishing for them.
Best High-End Crankbait: Water Wood Custom Lures Echo 1
Brazilian native Marcos Malucelli has taken sustainably harvested Marupa Pedra wood from the Amazon region and used it to craft lures that combine American crankbait heritage, Japanese precision and Brazilian resiliency. The Echo 1 is his workhorse, a square bill meant to be banged into heavy cover and then extract the biggest bass in your lake or river. They come in a full palette of gorgeous color options based on proven patterns, and they’re outfitted with heavy through-wire construction and premium hardware so that they can stand up not just to largemouths and smallmouths, but also to harder-pulling creatures like peacock bass and even saltwater species.
Best Bargain Baitcasting Reel: Abu Garcia Max STX Casting Reel
The bargain reels of yesteryear were just backlashes waiting to happen, but Abu Garcia has taken some of the best attributes of high end reels and placed them in a bargain package that includes a graphite frame and a total of six ball bearings. It comes in left- and right-handed retrieve models, both with a 6.4:1 gear ratio, and weighs a remarkably light 7.4 ounces. The reel even has an integrated flipping switch that allows an angler to engage the reel immediately without turning the handle. Combined with the maximum 15 pounds of drag, this means you can pull even giant bass out of the thickest cover on your local lake or river. The best baitcasting reel is the best fishing gift for someone that’s looking to progress from a spinning reel or add an affordable reel to their collection.
Best Boat Accessory for the Angler Who Needs to Slow Down: Power Pole Blades
Many of us spend plenty of money on high-powered outboards and trolling motors that will almost put our boats up on plane, but as the old saying goes, “no one ever caught a bass going 70 miles per hour.” Power Poles burst onto the scene a generation ago and were originally thought to be good only for bed fishing, but they’re so much more than that. They can prevent you from banging into a dock or barge; allow you to quietly pick apart a grass mat without running the trolling motor; or sit down to eat lunch or take a phone call without fear that you’ll drift over prime habitat. They can take a beating, too, and if by some chance you manage to mess them up their customer service is the best in the business.
Best Fishing Gift for Smallmouth Bass Anglers: Berkley Flat Worms
By mid-summer, serious northern smallmouth anglers were begging, borrowing and on the verge of stealing their buddies’ supplies of these finesse-oriented worms. Even pros sponsored by other companies were obsessed with them, that’s how effectively the MaxScent formulation operates making it a great fishing gift. No matter where your favorite angler chases bronzebacks (and, no surprise, they work on largemouths, spotted bass, and non-bass just as well), a pack or two of these will make the perfect stocking stuffer. They now come in two sizes. For universal applications, get them in black and green pumpkin, but there are also color patterns meant to match regional forage including shiners, shad, and gobies.
The beautiful thing about shopping for fishing gifts for your favorite angler is that it doesn’t take much to make us happy. Often we’re just as thrilled by a bag of soft plastics that cost five or six bucks—especially if they’re hard to find—as we are by items that cost many multiples of that amount. There’s something for every price point and budget that’s sure to make someone happy.
Just take care to get the good stuff that’ll last so you can move onto another category next year. We’re always looking to accumulate more and better gear.