6. Cast net Its origin is long lost in some primitive culture, but anglers wanting natural baits fast and injure free grab a cast net in a hurry. While used mostly in saltwater and tidewater areas, freshwater fishermen wanting free, abundant baitfish, should look into this ancient invention that is so simple to use a youngster can toss it.
1. Spinning Reel This remarkable casting tool is so simple a 5-year old can master it in no time. Yet it’s capable of casting tiny lures for panfish and giant plugs and baits for billfish. Oversize ones with skirted spools and expensive drags have caught almost everything big with fins, freshwater and saltwater, worldwide. Spinning reels have opened up distant, accurate casting for almost everyone.
2. Bass Boat The concept of a boat that is sleek, fast, efficient and allowed an angler to get from here to there in a hurry has enabled more people to catch more fish almost everywhere; and not just bass, but panfish, pike, muskies, stripers and in saltwater, too. While its origins are a little murky, Ranger of Arkansas, with Forrest Wood at the helm, helped pioneer the bass boat into a fish-catching platform with few peers.
3. Chest-High Waders Trout fishing would still be in its infancy without the innovative, high-tech waders available today. Insulated ones, Gore-Tex models, felt-sole and cleat-sole versions, and others with zipper flies have made river fishing a passion for people who now never would get wet without their waders and suspenders on.
4. Braid Fifty years ago braided lines were about all we had. Then monofilament made braid obsolete, until gel-spun poly braid came along and took over much of the cutting-edge fishing world. With amazing abrasion resistance, ultra-fine diameter, no stretch for sure hook sets, and distance casting made simple, modern braids are a godsend.
5. Soft-Plastic Lures Nick Creme is credited with creating the first soft “plastic worm.” It was a monumental breakthrough in artificial lure design that quickly led to heavy catches of bass, smallmouths, and then other species in places far and wide. Today’s soft plastic lures catch almost everything in freshwater and saltwater, trolling, casting, drifting and vertical jigging.
6. Cast net Its origin is long lost in some primitive culture, but anglers wanting natural baits fast and injure free grab a cast net in a hurry. While used mostly in saltwater and tidewater areas, freshwater fishermen wanting free, abundant baitfish, should look into this ancient invention that is so simple to use a youngster can toss it.
7. Kayak The Inuits are credited with devising this ancient, quiet, efficient and shallow-draft craft. Over the last couple decades river-runners and anglers looking for a low-cost, low-impact mode of transport have learned they can catch plenty of shallow water fish (freshwater and saltwater) in places so remote other people rarely visit.
8. Electric Fishing Motor How could American boating anglers today exist without these incredible marvels. Portable units run all-day on small, lightweight batteries that have been improved beyond imagination. Large, power units that fit on bow or stern of oversize and heavy boats enable anglers to approach fishy areas in a stealthy and controlled manner that has produced countless limit catches worldwide.
9. Fluorocarbon Fishing Line This innovative, almost invisible, line has gone far beyond what monofilament fishing line did 20 years ago. It is virtually invisible to fish in even the clearest of water. Freshwater and saltwater anglers have duped fish like never before because of this remarkable space-age material.
10. Slip-Bobber ****The simple little sliding float can be positioned along an angler’s line almost anywhere, and allow him to fish baits or lures in water from 2 feet to 50 feet without changing rods, lines, lures or baits. Slip-bobbers come in a huge variety of sizes, and are effective for everything from cobia and amberjacks, to smallmouths, walleyes and bluegills.
11. Drive-On Boat Trailer We take them for granted today when launching even 30-foot marine boats. But these highly-engineered, low-maintenance trailers have allowed anglers to tow boats far and wide, and launch and retrieve their skiffs and oversize boats for easy, all-day fishing.
12. Baseball Cap Okay, maybe they were designed to keep the sun out of the eyes of ballplayers, but few are the fishermen who leave home without one to shade the eyes. They reduce sun exposure, and aid in spotting fish. Don’t leave home without it.
13. Spinnerbaits As weedless lures go, few are better than this simple lure, brought pretty much to the national scene with the old “Beetle Spin.” The flash and dash of the lure is attractive to many species, from panfish and trout, to smallmouths and largemouths. Bigger spinner-baits thump pike and muskies, and in saltwater, few lures are better for red drum.
14. GPS Thank the government for something. Without space technology, and the Global Positions Satellite system, modern anglers wouldn’t be able to plot their hot fishing spots, or return quickly right back at the dock after sundown.
15. Graphite Fishing Rods In their day, bamboo and fiberglass rods ruled the waters. Before that there were steel rods, and later experiments with boron and even Kevlar. But graphite is best, for lightweight, sensitivity, durability, and the price is right these days, too.
16. Float Tubes Fifty years ago anglers took truck tire tubes and used them to float around ponds and creeks to reach remote fishing spots in a stealthy mode. Today, float tubes as fancy or as expensive as you can afford allow anglers to tap ponds and rivers, lakes, and saltwater, too, to catch a staggering variety of fish.
17. Polarized Sunglasses Try fishing without them and you’ll quickly realize how vital they are to anglers everywhere fishing for everything. They cut glare and allow fishermen to spot structure, weed beds and even fish, so lures are cast accurately and well.
18. Fathometer Lowrance electronics started back in 1957 with its “Little Green Box” portable sonar depth finder. Today many boats have more than one sonar device, with some capable of detecting a pimple on a crappie nose at 30 feet, or a drop-off in the ocean down over 3,000 feet.
19. Portable Bait Bucket Okay, chuckle, but the portable bait bucket with holes for overflow drainage and a handle is a never-leave-home item for millions of fishermen, in saltwater and freshwater. The simple bait bucket is reliably used by boaters and waders, bank fishermen and pier walkers.
20. Outboard Motor Evinrude pretty much started it a lot of years ago. And while they were loved by anglers, they were not always reliable and could quickly ruin a day’s fishing when they wouldn’t start. But today’s high-tech, highly-engineered outboards are fast to fire, fuel-efficient, quiet and are as reliable as most automobiles.

Fishermen have come up with some pretty nifty ideas that have served us all well for decades. Here are 20 fishing inventions we can’t do without.