OTW’s Field-Tested Favorites of 2017

Every winter, the staff at OTW compiles a list of the products they used and loved the previous season or everything from small pond bass to offshore tuna. Here’s a list of our Field Test Favorites from the 2017 Fishing Season.

Jimmy Fee broke in his Tsunami Forged 10 on this 9-pound fluke on Nantucket Shoals.

Tsunami Forged 10

I first saw this reel on the floor of the Somerset Saltwater Show last March, but it wasn’t until July that I had the chance to put it through its paces. As soon as I used it, I was a smitten, a feeling helped by the fact that my second fish on the reel was a 9-pound fluke.

For a lever-drag conventional that retails for less than $200, I was impressed by how the drag stayed smooth from throughout its range from locked down to just above freespool. Just as impressive, the Forged 10 had true freespool when disengaged, making it easy to drop lighter weights or jigs quickly and cast, with no resistance.

Throughout the season, I used it to catch fluke, bonito, blackfish, and cod. The Forged 10 is a versatile size that matched well to a variety of my rods from slow-pitch jigging sticks to stout blackfish rods. From July to December, I used the reel to catch fluke, bonito, bluefish, blackfish, and cod. I plan to add football bluefin to that list in 2018 when acre-sized schools of baby bluefin return to the waters of the Northeast. With 20-pounds of drag pressure, and spool capacity of 440 yards of 30-pound braid, the Forged 10 is more than up to the task.

Jimmy Fee

Sebile Magic Swimmer 228 SSK

For the past seven years, the Sebile Magic Swimmer has been a reliable bait for Canal fishermen all season long through a variety of conditions. Tthe Magic Swimmer’s free-swimming motion has been well known to trigger violent hits from picky fish holding in rips that pass on every other offering thrown their way.

In 2017 Sebile reworked their Magic Swimmers and I wasn’t sure how I felt about them. They had made some changes to the slow-sinking 9-inch model that I had come to trust and sadly I had lost my last one to a lobster trap in the early days of the season. I stopped by Red Top and found the new 9-inch slow-sinking models in green mackerel color so I gave one a try.

Sebile found the magic again and I couldn’t have been more pleased. The new life-like finish is durable and the upgraded hardware makes the Magic Swimmer ready-to-fish right out of the package. The action of the slow-sinking Magic Swimmer proved to be just as deadly as first generation, and in the end I had one of the best seasons of my life on the Canal.

Tip: swapping a dressed single hook teaser onto the rear of the Magic Swimmer is a simple addition that adds even more to the effectiveness of this already great lure.

Ed Giordano

 

Product Review Tog Jigging Blackfish Tsunami Slimwave

Eddy Stahowiak with an 8-pound blackfish he jigged up while using the Tsunami Slimwave.

Tsunami Slimwave

Dropping crab baited jigs to blackfish has become a fast favorite of fishermen throughout the Northeast, and I jumped on the bandwagon this spring when tog returned to the shallow structure. The nice part about using jigs instead of rigs is that you can lose the heavy sinkers and use lighter gear to really feel the fight of a bulldogging blackfish.

Still, a rod without the proper backbone will lead to more frustration than fun if it can’t keep a tog away from the structure. The Tsunami Slimwave seemed to have the perfect balance between sensitivity and strength. It would bend down to the grip, but keep pressure on the fish, putting big blackfish in the boat—it was the most fun I’d ever had fishing for blackfish.

Unfortunately, the biggest tog caught on the rod hit when I’d passed it off to Eddy Stahowiak, who wanted to give it a try for a couple drops. The 8-pounder put a savage bend in the rod, but tired before getting back to the rocks, and after a couple exciting minutes, Eddy slid his personal best blackfish aboard his kayak.

-J.T.F.

SUPRABEAM Q7XR

Good Lord this is one heck of a flashlight.

If you’re a secretive surfcaster looking to keep a low profile, this is definitely not the light for you. But if you want a compact flashlight that can illuminate a target over 1,000 feet away, look no further, this is the flashlight of your dreams.

Even at a steep cost of $200, I couldn’t resist buying one after seeing my friend use it one night while we were spotlighting blue crabs. The Suprabeam was twice as bright as my rechargeable spotlight, and froze the crabs in their tracks. I quickly developed flashlight envy, and went online the next day and bought one.

The Q7XR flashlight is blindingly bright. At 1000 lumens at full intensity, it is one of the most powerful handheld flashlights on the market, yet it is also one of the most compact at just 6-1/2 inches long. It features three different settings: 1000 lumen, 450 lumen, 200 lumen, as well as a mind-altering strobe function. It’s telescoping lens can adjust the beam focus from a powerful 5° spotlight to a 70° floodlight. It runs for up to 9 hours on one of the two supplied rechargeable, ultra-high capacity lithium-ion batteries.

This is an excellent light for anyone who wants searchlight-like functionality in a compact flashlight.

Andy Nabreski

 

Buffalo Wool Company Bison/Merino Socks

I’m always looking for a new pair of socks to wear in my waders to keep my feet warm during the cold months, and I was very interested to learn about the Buffalo Wool Company Bison/Merino socks. According to the press release, bison down keeps feet warmer, drier, and comfortable longer. If you’ve ever seen a picture of a snow-covered bison in Yellowstone, it stands to reason that these Great Plains grazers are equipped with some next-level insulation.

The socks were comfortable and warm, but not so warm that they were unbearable when I wore them to the office after a before-work session.

J.T.F.

 


Z-Man Chatterbait

To be honest, when I first saw “the original” Chatterbait on the shelves I thought it was an “as seen on TV” gimmick. But, I’m a big spinnerbait guy, so I figured I’d give it a try. After that, I never used a spinnerbait again. My father used to always say in a southern accent, “The spinnerbait is the most versatile lure known to mankind,” which was true at the time, but Z-Man changed the game with the Chatterbait. You can throw it at structure, and you can throw it in open water. You can let it sink and fish it deep, you can fish it in the shallows. It’s essentially weedless and the vibration is deadly, the Chatterbait has the versatility of a jig, the vibration of a crankbait, and the flash of a spinnerbait—and big bass love it.

Jonah Olsen

The XtraTuf Ankle Deck boot is comfortable enough to wear all year.

Xtratuf Ankle Deck Boots

I find myself wearing these ankle boots around the house and even in the office when the weathermen call for rain or snow.   They are so comfortable that when out on a boat fishing or floating around on a kayak, I forget they are even on!  I highly recommend these to anyone looking for an easy-on easy off deck boot that can hold a grip on a slippery deck.

Eddy Stahowiak

 

Sean Jones used the 7’6″ Shogun 4-16 oz to keep this 16-pound blackfish out of the wreck.

Jigging World Shogun – 7’6 MH, 4-16 oz

 I got my hands on a Shogun Series rod from Jigging world this fall just in time for blackfishing.  After fishing with the rod, I really think it can handle just about anything you throw at it when it comes to inshore species. The first thing I noticed about the rod was the acid wrap guide system.  I have never fished with a guide layout like this before, but after using the rod I like the concept and how it fishes.  It handled large seabass and blackfish without any problem.  The rod is very sensitive, but also has a ton of backbone which are two key components in a rod when targeting blackfish.  I think this rod could handle a variety of species from off shore wreck trip to targeting monster fluke at the Nantucket Shoals.  I know it will definitely be on board when we head out on the Fishin’ Fever targeting trophy tog this upcoming January.

Editor’s Note: Sean wrote this review before he used the rod to catch a 16-pound blackfish on the Fishin’ Fever on January 22.

Sean Jones

Savage Gear Sand Eel – 8-inch, 5 1/3-ounce

I admit, I was late to the Savage Sand Eel party that’s been happening the last few years on the Cape Cod Canal. I was reluctant to drop my straight tail soft-plastics and deep-bodied paddle-tail shads for what seemed like a combination of the two. But, in hindsight, I don’t know why.

The slender bodied paddle tail bait combined the fast-sinking quality of the slender, straight tail jigs with the fish-attracting action of the shads. And fishing them couldn’t be easier. Cast slightly up-current, let it hit bottom, and begin a super-slow retrieve while the current sweeps the Sand Eel toward the rocks.

When packing along the sand eels, you’ll want to have some Super Glue as well. Short-striking fish and retrieving against the strong current will have them sliding down the hook, especially catching a few fish on one. A dab of super glue to attach the bait to the head will extend its life.

Also, while the Savage Sand Eel tails are made for their jigheads, they worked just as well attached to any 3- to 5-ounce bullet or ball jighead—provided it had a strong enough hook to handle good bass in strong current.

Hundreds of big bass fell to the Sand Eel in 2017, and I have little doubt that 2018 will be any different.

J.T.F.

 

Jimmy Fee with a spinning rod longfin albacore taken with a Twinpower 14000 aboard the Gambler.

Shimano Twinpower 14000SW

I first used this reel with Captain Dom Petrarca in 2016 while casting plugs to school bluefin south of Martha’s Vineyard. After landing a 50-inch bluefin with the reel matched to a Jigging World Ghost Hunter 150, I bought an identical setup for myself shortly after that trip. The 14000 is a perfect size for casting to small and mid-size tuna, with ample line-capacity (315 yards of 65-pound braid) and 55 pounds of drag pressure. It also has a super-fast retrieve of 53 inches per turn of the handle, making it perfect for jigging or plugging.

I gave my own Twinpower its baptism by tuna aboard the Gambler party boat out of Point Pleasant, New Jersey. It’d been a slow, fishless night of chunking, so I racked my bait rod and rigged up my spinning setup with a RonZ, hoping the action of jigging would at least keep me awake.

On my second drop, a fish picked up the bait on the fall, but I missed the hit, and several others, before finally coming tight.

“When I saw you hooked up with a spinning rod, I rolled my eyes,” admitted one of the mates. But the setup made short work of the 60-pound yellowfin, and a few minutes after that, a similar size longfin.

J.T.F.

 Buff ThermoNet

For years I’ve been using Buff face shields to cover up from the sun and wind during long hours on the water in the spring and summer. For fishing in the Fall and Winter, fleece neck warmers would inevitably get ruined by continual wear and moisture.  The new Buff ThermoNet is my go-to when I need the extra warmth during cold weather fishing trips. It’s still lightweight and comfortable and features Primaloft yarn that is four times warmer than regular microfiber. It wicks away any moisture, retains the heat inside and keeps me comfortable and dry in winter weather so I can fish longer.

Patrick O’Donnell

The Century C2-D casts long and has plenty of backbone for turning big bass.

Century C2-D Command and Control Distance – 11’3”

It was love at first wiggle when I picked up the C2-D at the Jersey Shore Surfcasters Surf Day last winter. The rod was super light, had a great feel, and I was told it could launch plugs. I found out for myself a couple months later.

The rod uses a high-performance resin that actually is part of the structural makeup of the composite—not just a glue holding the fibers together. This process adds power, and makes the rod faster on the recovery, adding casting distance. For more details on the tech behind the rod, click HERE.

The rod was a pleasure to fish, with its effortless casting and responsive action. I matched it with a Van Staal VS200, and later in the season, a Zee Bass ZX25. Both balanced the rod well. I fished bucktails, darters, needles, pencils, bottles, minnows, and metal lips with the rod, and it performed well with all of them. The action was perfect for pencils and plugs, but a bit fast for bucktails and eels—at least the way I like to fish them. I had bass to 44 pounds on the rod, and while it had the guts to keep good fish away from structure, it had the sensitivity to feel the soft taps of finicky fish swiping at the plug without fully committing.

While the website lists the rod’s sweep spot at 2.5 to 5 ounces, it cast lighter lures well, and I had great success using it with SP Minnows, loaded Red Fins, and lighter needlefish.

It’s one of the most technologically advanced surf rods out there, and it has the price tag to prove it. With the blank itself costing in the $500 neighborhood and a built-out model clocking in around $1000, the C2-D isn’t the choice for your first-ever surf rod—or even your second—but for the surfcaster who’s been around the block, and is looking for the top of the mountain, this is it.

J.T.F

Loon Nip & Sip 2.0

If there are two tools that fishermen always need within arm’s reach, they are a pair of line cutters and a bottom opener. Loon has combined the two in the Nip and Sip 2.0, for rigging up before and during a trip, and cracking open a frosty beverage when the lines are cleared and fishing is over. The stainless steel cutting jaws effortlessly cut even heavy lines and leaders, and grated pads make the tool easy to grip.

P.O.

 

StormR Strykr

Last Christmas, my girlfriend surprised me with the StormR Strykr jacket.  I had heard great reviews about the product before owning one, and was excited to use it this season.  After a full season of use from both boat and in the surf, I can honestly say, I don’t think I will purchase another fishing jacket. In the past, I would have to layer up before heading out, looking like Ralphie’s little brother from A Christmas Story.   This spring, fighting big blues here along the South Shore of Long Island, I could wear a t-shirt under the jacket and be warm and dry all day long.  Also, as any blackfish fisherman knows, fall and winter can be brutal on the water.  The strong, cold winds are relentless, but the jacket blocked the  wind, making my trips much more enjoyable.  The jacket also has a ton of pockets to keep your belongings safe and dry.  Overall, the Strykr jacket is my go-to in any condition, and might even come in handy while shoveling snow this winter!

S.J.

Real Prey Alewife

2017 was the first year I started swimbait fishing for largemouths. And while I haven’t yet caught a fish on my Real Prey Alewife, the first fish I saw taken on one sold me on the bait, big time.

We were trying to film our first On The Water Short Video, Cape Bass, with Kevin Gould, a local, multi-species sharpie who catches a few monster bass each spring. Within a few minutes of filming, Gould, tossing a Real Prey Alewife, caught a 7-pound, 13-ounce bass, one of several monsters he’s caught on the bait.

In addition to Real Prey being a local Northeast company (located in Real Braintree, MA), the baits are made from silicone, which gives them a greay, natural action, while making them extremely durable for a soft bait. I can’t wait for the ponds to warm back up for my opportunity to catch my own monster with a Real Prey.

J.T.F.

The Daddy Mac Albie/Bonito jig casts far and has a great action on a straight, fast retrieve.

Daddy Mac Albie/Bonito Jig

My first time attempting to land a funny fish was with my father a few years ago, we were in a sea of boats in front of Waquoit Bay throwing 5-inch swimbaits at pods of albies with no luck. Meanwhile, it seemed every boat besides ours was hooking up, I asked the boat next to us what he was throwing and all he said was “metal.” I ended up coming across Daddy Mac’s Albie/Bonito jig shortly after in a local tackle shop, and I bought it. After throwing no more than three casts with it, I was into an albie, and like most people experiencing the drag-burning run of a hooked albacore for the first time, I was hooked. These jigs cast far, swim nice and downright catch fish. Consistently throughout the short albie season, Daddy Mac’s outfished similar jigs, even with paint missing. My personal favorite is the 1-ounce plain chrome. This finish seems to last the longest, and is a good imitation of the small peanut bunker that show up in aall. Don’t limit yourself to just albies either, drop the 1.4-ounce models of these jigs in the spring and summer for keeper black sea bass!

J.O.

Pat O’Donnell fights a Martha’s Vineyard albie on the Redington Crux.

Redington Crux Rod

The new fast-action Crux was my go-to fly rod this fall for the epic false albacore fishing we had here in the Northeast. It’s just as effortless delivering flies at the mid-range level, with a quick back cast, when fish burst close, as it is capable of turning over 90 feet of line for the hero shots from a boat. The Angled Key Grip, which is a denser cork material, reduced my hand fatigue noticeably.  I was genuinely impressed with the lifting power in the butt section capable of turning hard charging albacore and bruiser bluefish. If you’re looking for a fast-action dependable rod that won’t break the bank, I highly recommend you check out the Crux series.

P.O.

Penn Slammer III 5500
$269.95; pennfishing.com

While Penn has produced some fine offerings like the Battle and the Conquest in recent years, it’s the updated versions of their oldest offerings that I get stoked about. The Penn Slammer III features an upgraded power knob for comfortable cranking, a full metal body, sideplate and rotor, and packs 40 pounds of drag. The reel overpowered some mahi this summer, and was well matched to the football bluefin that parked off New Jersey last October.  The reel did a few tours on a surf rod, dunking bait for sharks, and handled a couple dunkings in stride, and continues to fish smooth after a couple seasons of use.

J.T.F

A hungry pickerel T-boned this Shadow Rap.

Rapala Shadow Rap Shad

This lure quickly became my go-to for fall largemouth and pickerel.  Using a medium action spinning setup with 8-pound braid, I was able to cast the baits a long way to cover water with an ultra-slow retrieve made up of short snaps and long pauses. The slow rise of the bait on the pause with its inherent action triggered most of the strikes, and provided some memorable cold-water catches.

E.S.

Ugly Stik Tigers, spray-painted neon green, are the go-to rods of trophy catfish guide Joe Gunter.

Ugly Stik Tiger

It had been a good long time since I’d used an Ugly Stik when I stepped onto “Catfish Joe” Gunter’s flathead battlewagon on the Susquehanna last November. The boat was bristling with Ugly Stik Tigers spray-painted neon green. He liked the rods for their durability and toughness, which I got to experience first hand when my first big flathead, a 38-pounder, flipped out at boatside, and it’s last-ditch run for freedom smashed the rod into the gunnel while bending it into a brutal-looking “U.” But the rod survived, the fish was boated, and I regained my appreciation for the low-price, no frills Ugly Stik Tiger.

An Ugly Stik wouldn’t be my first, or even my fifth, choice for a plugging or jigging rod, nor would it be my go-to for dropping bait rigs for fluke or blackfish, but for chucking big hunks of bait for predators like sharks, drum, catfish, or stripers, it’s a great choice.

J.T.F.

Orvis Shoulder Sling

I looked high and low for a shoulder sling that could accommodate a DSLR, a few lenses and some fishing tackle—the Orvis sling was the solution.  Durable, somewhat water resistant, plenty of pockets and a water bottle holder made this gear bag a part of my arsenal on every before- and after-work fishing adventure—all  year long!  There’s a convenient plier holder on the strap that came in extra handy every time I hooked into a fish

E.S.

Grundens Deck Boss Boots
$129.99; grundens.com

The extra height on the Deck Boss boots made them my favorite footwear this past fishing season, no only on boats, but when fishing jetties or ponds, where though I wouldn’t be wading, wearing regular shoes would lead to wet feet. The boots were extremely comfortable, gave me great traction on deck, and easily folded down during warm-weather outings.

S.J.

Gibbs Canal Special Pro Pencil

Although you could have popped a beer bottle across the canal this year and caught a 30-plus-pound bass, the Gibbs Canal Special has been a favorite for me. One of the main complaints you get with throwing pencils in the strong current of the canal is it’s tough to keep the plug above the water line while working it slowly enough to entice stripers. With the flattened bottom, the Canal Special is specifically made to surf across the current with ease. Gibbs also outfits their Pro Series baits with top notch components. The middle hook on the body is equipped with a swivel allowing it to spin freely when that a bass starts thrashing after being hooked. This pencil is easy to work, affordable and helps make a novice fisherman look like a canal rat.

J.O.

GoPro Quik

This season I made an effort to pack along my GoPro more often to get video of my fishing trips. Of course, that resulted in hours of fishing footage, and little time (or ability) to edit it into something I’d post on social media or even just show off around the office. Over the summer, I got a rundown on the GoPro Quik app that makes it effortless to turn your clips into a short video, complete with music, in a matter of minutes.

J.T.F.

Kevin Blinkoff used a RonZ to fool this late-October albie.

RonZ

A few years before he passed, lure maker Ron Poirier of RonZ lures gave me a bag of his smallest-size RonZ lures in a couple different colors to field test. The following spring, the pink ones turned out to be deadly on weakfish and schoolie stripers. But it wasn’t until last fall that I pulled out the bag of silver tails and tried using them on fussy false albacore.

The 4-inch RonZ is a perfect match for silversides.

Even though there were plenty of peanut bunker in the water, the albies were focused on picking out the schools of silversides, and doing most of their feeding up tight to shorelines and jetties. The RonZ was a perfect match, the albies couldn’t resist the action of the lure. While fast-moving metals and epoxy jigs got ignored, the RonZ, fished with short rod twitches and the slowest retrieve possible, produced strikes in the middle of topwater albie feeds and while blind-casting.

Kevin Blinkoff

LoopRope

The LoopRope takes a regular bungee cord, and adds several loops giving it a wide range of uses, but the one most exciting to fishermen is as rod storage in the vehicle and home. Available in 3-, 4-, and 5-foot lengths. Mine is currently hanging my wetsuit over a bin after it’s long overdue cleaning. When the weather warms back up, I’ll be moving it into my truck to store my rods.

J.T.F.

  1. Douglas Freeman

    Thought all these lures were on point. But i think you forgot one. The Al Gag’s whip it fish. Lost count of how many stripers I caught on that lure in 2017. More durable than the Savage too!

    Reply

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