It’s Time to Gear Up!

It’s Time to Gear Up!
I never got tired of watching these beauties come to the boat. (Photo by Peter Van Dingstee)

I’ve always mentioned select items when the opportunity presented itself within the context of my stories but I’ve never actually devoted an entire article to brands of gear, equipment, products, etc. This being said, I feel like with the warmer (and busier) months approaching this is a great time for anglers to get started on the right foot using the right stuff. After all, using inferior gear will usually give us inferior results. I will try to cover as many of the products as possible that help contribute to my success as a professional fishing guide on a daily basis. Whether I’m partnered with them or not, I use these products only because I believe they are the best of the best.

As I type this story we are in the midst of our winter-to-spring transition here on the Upper Texas Coast. With hordes of shad and glass minnows flooding our bays trout can be difficult to catch, especially on lures. We often downsize our baits but even then the bites can be very subtle. I am truly blessed to be able to use what I consider the best rod on the market enabling me to feel even the softest of bites. I’ve been using Waterloo Rods for about 15 years and couldn’t be happier. Their rods are not only ultra-sensitive and lightweight, they also possess a solid backbone when setting the hook and fighting a fish. It doesn’t matter if you’re chunking magnum-sized topwaters or Salt Water Assassins rigged on 1/16 ounce Pro Elite jig heads, Waterloo has a rod for every application. The top three on my boat every day are (in no particular order) the Carbon Mag, HP Lite and UltraMag, but there are many different styles and models that can be tailored to your needs and preferences, even freshwater rods! Give them a visit for all of your fishing gear needs including reels, lures, and everything in between. (

Just like putting new tires on a car further enhances our driving experience, we can maximize the performance of our rod by equipping it with a high-caliber reel, line and leader. I’ve recently started using the Hundo reel from Bates Fishing Co. and I must say I’m impressed. It’s silky-smooth operation enables long casts to reach spooky trout on bright, sunny days and whenever the water is clear. Longer casts also mean that my lure is staying in the water longer, which increases my odds of getting bit even more. I love the smooth drag system and the Hundo just has that strong and tight feel, if you know what I mean. The foundation of the reel is its one-piece frame that is uncommonly rigid, which incidentally is CNC machined entirely from a solid bar of 6061-T6 (excellent corrosion resistance) aluminum bar stock to create this sharp looking gunmetal grey reel. It casts quietly, is lightweight, and fits comfortably in my hand so I don’t get fatigued from casting all day. (

My favorite braided line is Seaguar Smackdown Tournament Braid in 30 pound test (8 lb. diameter). I start out by putting 15 or so yards of 10 or 12 pound monofilament backing on my reel and then filling the rest of the spool with braid before finishing it off with 5 or 6 feet of 20 pound test Seaguar Gold Label fluorocarbon. The smaller diameter of the Gold Label gives me an added edge when it comes to tricking finicky fish and the longer than usual leader gives me that little bit of stretch that I like, not to mention the extra sink rate and invisible properties fluorocarbon provides. I typically use a uni-to-uni knot to splice the backing to the braid and the braid to the leader. I use a loop knot most of the time when tying my lures because I like the added action it allows. (

I can’t talk about the rods, reels and line required to feel those subtle bites without discussing the baits we use to get those bites. Once again, I am very fortunate to have what I believe are the most effective saltwater lures in my daily arsenal. The baits we throw on my boat most often, year-round, are soft plastics comprised mainly of Bass Assassin and MirrOlure brands. The beauty of these baits is their versatility. Being able to change jig head styles and sizes for different water depths, current velocities and feeding moods gives us a huge advantage, not to mention the wide selection of colors to suit virtually every scenario.

Twitchbaits are not to be overlooked, especially with the pattern we’re currently experiencing. The tiny suspended forage typically leads our trout to hover near the middle of the water column, sometimes putting them in a non-aggressive feeding mode. It’s almost like they’re in a trance. This is when twitchbaits such as Texas Custom Lures Double Ds, MirrOlure Paul Brown Corkys and the Isca Borboleta LeLe come into play. These baits hover in the strike zone longer and will typically draw strikes when other lures will not. Stubborn, suspended fish have also given in to topwater plugs for us lately. Sometimes you just have to tick them off! The constant rattle and commotion of a MirrOlure She Dog or Rapala Skitter Walk will eventually be more than a predatory fish like a speck can handle.

I recently traveled to Costa Rica where I was able to partake in some of the most phenomenal fishing I’ve ever experienced. I fished on some of the finest boats in the world and one thing I quickly noticed was that the captains and their crews used some of the same gear that we use here. My first day there we were aboard a 58 foot Viking named Maya. We were fortunate enough to be invited aboard as they prefished for an upcoming billfish tournament. On the ride out I noticed that Mile’s (the owner) right-hand man, Mario, was wearing Fish Monkey gloves while rigging teasers. In addition, he had a nice pair of Danco pliers in a sheath on his hip. The second day we fished with my good friend, Bubba Pyle, on his boat, The Charmer, and I noticed the same thing as the day before. The captain and deckhand (Jose and Christian) were wearing Fish Monkey gloves. They especially came in handy when leadering our sailfish and other species we caught!

The older I get the more I realize that I need to do more to protect myself from the elements. If only I would have thought this way earlier in life. For years I never thought of wearing gloves while fishing but after seeing what the sun and just overall wear and tear does to our hands it’s been a game changer for me. They also provide warmth on chilly mornings while still maintaining the firm grip and functionality of your hands. Fish Monkey not only offers gloves of every variety from fishing to hunting but also masks for sun and wind protection, hoodies, caps and even socks! Do yourself a huge favor and check them out! (

Last but most definitely not least I want to talk about my boat. While there are some unbelievable new bay boats being manufactured these days, I have chosen to stick with my old Boston Whaler Outrage through all these years. Those who have ever fished with me know that I tend to be a little excessive when it comes to entering and leaving fishing areas. Quiet and stealthy are two words that immediately come to mind. When we’re drift fishing I don’t like noise from slamming cooler lids or floor hatches and I’m not fond of clients barreling into the water off of my ladder when we’re wading. Lord knows our trout are spooky enough these days without us sending them Morse Code through the water column. One major move I made several months ago was to have Safefloor installed in my boat. My boat was already pretty quiet because of its design but it’s 10 times quieter than before. In addition, it’s extremely slip resistant and easier on my feet. My Safefloor is also a lot easier for me to clean, which means I now have more time to spend on other things. It also looks tidy and professional! (

There are other products that I wouldn’t want to do without, like all my Simms gear, or my Garmin GPS and my lithium ion trolling system from Breakwater Marine Electronics, but there’s only so much time and only so much paper. Hopefully my story gives someone enough product insight to where they too can gain that little extra edge toward becoming more successful on the water. Tight lines!