Though the solstice takes place in June, May is the unofficial start of summer in much of the coastal United States. And in the northern reaches, many fishing seasons are just kicking off. Whether you chase inshore favorites like striped bass or snook, prefer bottomfish like flounder, or pursue pelagics, odds are good that you’re out on the water chasing your favorite species.
Here’s a selection of gear to help you out on the high seas, at the dock, and even on the back deck.
Pelican Dayventure Cooler Backpack
Pelican’s Dayventure backpack ($289) is perfect for taking lunch and a couple of extra layers on the boat or to the beach. The unique design offers two insulated compartments, letting you keep food and other items separated. The bottom opens via a leak-resistant zipper, and keeps a six-pack of cans or a couple of lunches chilled. The top compartment features a roll-top closure that sheds water, and light insulation that can keep fillets cool or provide padding to protect delicate items like cameras or other electronics. The padded straps have kept me comfortable, even when both compartments are fully loaded. I recently took one on a day-long expedition that involved an early morning fishing trip and ended with a picnic at the zoo, and it kept a day’s worth of food and beverages cool and at the ready.
G-Loomis IMX-Pro Offshore
G-Loomis built the rods in the IMX-Pro Offshore series ($535-$575) for West Coast anglers that target yellowtail, dorado, or tuna around kelp paddies or on the open water. The purpose-built 20 to 80-pound class rods feature a range of technique-specific actions for casting irons or dropping jigs to whatever species is starting off summer fishing in your area. The multi-taper design places extra material around potential weak points to ensure the rod survives surging runs and accidental contact with gelcoat, but minimizes it elsewhere to keep weight down. Built in Woodland, Washington and covered by a lifetime warranty.
Hobie Coastal Float Sunglasses
Spend enough time around the water, and you’ll donate a few things to Davy Jones’ locker. Hobie’s collection of floating sunglasses ensures your eyewear isn’t one of those items. The Coastal Float ($99) offers stylish protection from the sun’s rays, complete with a floating frame that keeps them on the surface if they end up in the drink. The polarized nylon lenses are available in four different tints to suit varying light conditions. Also available in prescription models.
Berkley Cane Walker
One of the best parts of the early season in the Northeast is the topwater striped bass bite. Berkley’s Cane Walker ($8.49 and up) is perfect for calling stripers up from the depths, with a loud rattle that rings the dinner bell even in heavy seas. The heavy tail weighting allows for long-distance casts and provides plenty of side-to-side action without giving your wrists a workout. Available in 10 different colors and two different sizes, it will work just as well for snook or reds looking for an easy meal on top.
Shimano Saragosa SW
Though they have been around for a while, Shimano Saragosa SW ($269 and up) series of spinning reels offer saltwater anglers serious performance at a reasonable price. With sizes ranging from 5,000 to 25,000, there’s a model for everything from redfish to billfish. Carbon fiber drag washers stop surging runs and dissipate heat to outlast even the toughest fish. And the ‘Gosa resists the harmful effects of saltwater with an IPX8 waterproof rating, sealed spool and drag system, and corrosion-resistant alloys used throughout the all metal body for a lifetime of service.
No matter what the season, it pays to have a good knife handy. Benchmade’s Meatcrafter ($270 and up) makes short work of cutting groundfish, prepping tuna steaks, or just getting ready for a backyard barbecue. The hybrid design combines the best qualities of a boning and filet knife, offering just enough flex to separate meat from skin with enough rigidity to tackle stubborn bones. The form-fitting sheath lets you take it on the boat, and the high-quality steel resists the ill effects of saltwater. Handcrafted in Oregon, with a variety of custom touches available.