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Gifts they’ll actually use!
  |  First Published: December 2015



No matter what our Christmas budgets are, we all want to give our loved ones presents they’ll actually use. Just don’t forget that the present should also be fun! Your loved one may well use a loo brush, but it’s not a Christmas experience they’ll look back on fondly. And neither will you, seeing as you’ll probably end up being beaten over the head with it.

A much better gift option is some new fishing or camping gear. If you’re not sure what to buy for the angler in your life, you’re in luck – here are some great gift ideas! And if you’re an angler wanting ideas on what other people can buy for you, just circle one or two products in this article and discreetly place the magazine where your loved one will see it. For maximum effectiveness, try draping the magazine over your loved one’s head when they’re trying to brush their hair, or boldly thrust it in front of their face while they’re driving. They’ll get the message.

LATEST LURES AND EGI

Lures make a great present, and they suit all budgets. If you don’t want to spend a fortune, you can just give one or two – or you could buy a bunch and present them in a lure wallet (more on that later).

For the angler who loves squidding, one of the most impressive squid jigs on the market is the hi-tech Yamashita Live Search 490. It was developed in conjunction with university researchers in Tokyo. These days, too many scientific studies focus on boring stuff like curing diseases and saving the planet. These Tokyo researchers, on the other hand, have their priorities right, working out the best light for squid to detect so we anglers can catch more. The Yamashita 490 has special paint to achieve this. And like other Live Search jigs, it has a 600hz rattle, which is the sound that squid are proven to be most attracted to. Go science!

Other features include Warm Jacket (the thermo storage cloth transfers any light into heat), double crown stainless steel hooks, and a slim nose design that gives the jig a sharp, darting action with minimal angler input. The 490 comes in 2.5, 3 and 3.5 sizes, and retails for roughly $20.

And I also have to mention the new bigger Cranka Crab. The original Cranka Crab is hugely popular, having blitzed the bream tournament scene. If you haven’t used it yourself, you have to check it out on YouTube to see how lifelike its movements are. Just search for ‘Cranka Crab Morgan’ to see Steve Morgan’s interview with designer Steve Steer, who swims the Crab in a tank to show viewers how it moves.

Now, in response to public demand, Steve Steer has released a larger Crab for species like jew and snapper. The bigger Crab still has those lifelike floating claws, which mimic the defensive behaviour of a threatened crab, but instead of trebles on the claws it has a bigger single through the body. There’s a locked split ring at the rear, and if you remove that you can dismantle the lure and switch its parts around to match the colouring and/or claw size of your local crabs. And of course you can change the weight to suit the conditions. The SRP is around $20.

Finally, if you want a truly superb lure for fish like cod and big bass, the Megabass Derby X mouse imitation is awesome. This 3/4oz surface lure has metal wings that fold away when you cast it, and they then unfurl during the retrieve. It wobbles enticingly along the surface, making a commotion with its paddling wings.

As you’d expect, a big Megabass lure like this one doesn’t come cheap (SRP is over $80), but the quality is absolutely top notch. Collectors of fine tackle will love it. But yeah… you really don’t want to lose it. Unless you have stacks of money, in which case you should send a big donation to me so I can buy more Derbys for my own personal use. Don’t worry, I won’t keep all of them for myself – I’ll donate a couple to other anglers eventually… if they’re prepared to dive down to a snag to retrieve them.

Apparel

A quick drying, sun protection shirt makes a great gift, especially if it’s a cool sublimated one from an Australian company like Big Fish Graphics or Tide Apparel. Tide has some cool looking jew and mangrove jack shirts, plus a new shirt with the Tide and Fishing Monthly logos on the front and back. All Tide shirts are made from top quality materials so they’re super comfortable, and they have a flattering cut so you don’t look like you’re wearing a colourful sack. Tide makes other clothing like pants and gloves as well (see tideapparel.com.au).

Big Fish Graphics is best known for its huge range of fish species shirts; no matter what fish you chase there’s a Big Fish shirt with that species on it. One of the latest models is a squid shirt, which features the most badass looking tentacled beast you’ve ever seen. It would easily scare young children, which could be handy if you’re on a crowded jetty. And designer Josh Ker says it’s already ‘inked’ so if you get squirted it won’t matter. These Aussie-made shirts are incredibly soft, cool and lightweight, and you can see the full range of species at www.bigfishgraphics.com.au .

With most good quality sun-protection shirts like these you’re looking at about $80-$90, but this price worth it because they’re super comfortable and last forever. And if you’re prepared to pay a bit more, you can get the cool Nosilife shirts that have insect repellent built in – and it won’t wash off. Having built-in insect repellent is a great idea, seeing as mozzies have no problem biting through traditional fishing shirts and pants (there are Nosilife pants as well). These shirts have a vented back and gusset, plus some handy pockets including a hidden zippered one. Nosilife shirts might not be dazzling to look at like the Big Fish and Tide shirts, but they’re good if you fish in sandfly/mozzie infested locations and don’t like drowning yourself in bug spray.

CAR, CAMP AND BOAT

If you’re buying a present for your partner, I reckon the best kind of present is one you can share. Plus it means you can spend more money and get something more flash! Just be sure to both agree on the purchase before you spend the money, unless you like living dangerously.

If you and your partner are on the road a lot, you’ll love having a fridge-freezer in your vehicle (and campsite). It won’t be long before you’ll wonder how you ever did without it. On long trips you just reach back to grab a cold drink, and you can stop for lunch and make sandwiches or chow down on a cold chook. No more stopping at servos for expensive food and drinks! Plus you can feel superior to all the other people who don’t have fridge-freezers in their cars.

There’s a host of options to choose from, and one of the latest is the Evakool TravelMate series. These fridge freezers come in both side-opening and top-opening versions in sizes from 38L to 80L. Features include: a rugged casing; a lid that opens from either side or can be removed completely, all in one action; no protruding hinges or latches; Secop (formerly Danfoss) compressor; low power draw; silent operation; multi-voltage operation DC 12V and 24V, and AC 240V; heavy-duty handle with built-in magnet to stop rattling; USB port and bright LED internal light. They have a five-year warranty and are priced from roughly $1080, depending on size.

And while we’re on the subject of trips away, let’s talk about showers. Nobody likes those awful camp ‘showers’ consisting of a black bladder that’s heated by the sun. When you hang it up so it can trickle lukewarm water on you, it feels depressingly like getting dribbled on by a bulldog. Those cheap 12V camp showers aren’t much better, and in my experience they break easily. Usually when you’re particularly filthy.

If you want a real shower, the Glind Cape Yorker Maxi (approx. $400) is for you. Its water pressure can be adjusted so you can wash dirty dishes, clean fish, wash the boat or fill water containers. It’s a compact unit that’s built with quality components including an efficient and reliable Flojet pressure pump, and it’s all housed in a heavy-duty case. It has a flow of 13.2L/min and the pressure is 40psi. You can match it with a Glind heat exchanger for hot water, or heat water in a drum over a fire. A Sand Spear Filter comes as standard. The team at Glind have a very slick, classy slogan to sum up their product range, and it’s this: “We don’t build crap at Glind.”

It’s blunt but true. I wish more companies had slogans like that. Think how much more interesting toilet paper commercials would be.

Another present that’s guaranteed to be well received is a quality camp chair, and you’re looking at about $60 for a good one that’s comfy and durable. A good choice is the new Wilson Deluxe Camp Chair, which is built to withstand 150kg. The build is also extra wide, so they’re comfortable for anyone to sit in. All materials are double stitched with reinforcement around the rubber eyelets, and features include a silver lined cooler bag on the left arm, an insulated cup holder in the right arm, a powder-coated steel frame (reduces rust and damage) and the attractive Wilson print in either blue or pink. They’re at tackle stores now, so drop in and rest your rear in one.

Finally, I know I said presents should be fun but sometimes a super-practical gift can be awesome. For example, do you know someone who likes to keep their boat clean? I am one of those people. Friends I’ve fished with have accused me of being a boating neat freak, to which I respond that if you don't like my rules, you can jump overboard and swim home. No, no, don't go moaning that we're 60km offshore, you should have thought of that before you gutted a snapper on the damn carpet.

Anyway, if you want to keep your boat squeaky clean, I have three pieces of advice. The first is to not install marine carpet (I don’t know what I was thinking). The second is to avoid fishing with people who, for some reason, can’t seem to lift a kill tank lid. The third is to use a purpose-built cleaning solution like Salt-Away. It washes away salt and other contaminants, and protects surfaces from corrosion. It’s designed to not remove lubricating products, and it has the bonus of being non-toxic. For 2015 the manufacturers released the A-Salt Mixing Unit, which has a throttle-type control valve to switch between ‘rinse’ and ‘Salt-Away’ settings. You can put it with their Deluxe Muffs to flush out the engine, or add the Spray Gun to wash down the boat and gear.

Salt-Away is highly concentrated, so a 946mL bottle (RRP $42.50) will last for ages. It also comes in a ready-to-use spray bottle (RRP $13.25) for rods, reels and other tackle.

Another way to clean your salt-encrusted gear when you’re away from home is with a portable, pressurised shower. As well as the first-class Glind Maxi that I mentioned earlier, there’s a new unit called RinseKit which is much more basic but also more affordable (RRP $149). Somehow it manages to deliver pressurised spray for up to four minutes with no pumping and no batteries. It has an 8L pressure chamber and fills with hot or cold water from the tap in as little as 20 seconds.

So definitely consider giving – or receiving – the gift of cleanliness this Christmas. Looking after your gear properly will save money in the long run, which means you’ll have more spare cash to buy more gear! It’s like the circle of life, only better.

BUYING ON A BUDGET
Everything in its place

If you’re on a tight budget there are still plenty of excellent gift options available. A lure wallet is always handy, and a good quality one makes an affordable gift at around $18-30. I particularly like the latest Daiwa Lure Wallet, which can be worn as a mini shoulder bag when you’re land-based. It’s built tough, and has a fold-out section for jigs, jigheads, and lures. The back of the bag is perfect for storing packets of soft plastics. There’s also a zippered accessory pocket in the lid that’s ideal for terminal tackle.

And if you like chasing squid, you can’t go past the Shimano Egi Case. It accommodates a range of jig sizes, and it’s designed to withstand a hose-down at the end of the day. It has nylon zippers and 10 piece dividers, and has a SRP of $17.55. If you’re buying it as a present, you can make it look extra good by stealing some of your gift recipient’s squid jigs from his tackle box and put them in the Egi Case before you wrap it. Then he’ll be doubly pleased on Christmas day to find the missing jigs he’s been stressing about for weeks! On second thought, maybe don’t do that.

For the land-based angler, a great gift is the Ugly Stik Cooler Bag (RRP $29.95). It holds six cans and keeps a full day’s worth of food. The zippered closure ensures you’re always ready to enjoy a cold drink. Plus, the back of the cooler bag folds down to reveal two drink holders, so you’re not constantly bending down to put your drink on the ground. An Ugly Stik stubby cooler is included for free.

A hat for your hat

Another affordable present is a hat accessory called the CapHat (www.caphat.com.au). It’s an alternative to those serious sun-protection hats whose fabric drapes over your ears and neck. Those serious sun hats are great – they’re so much better than slathering sunscreen everywhere – but in photos they do make you look like Lawrence of Arabia. Sure – you could take your desert headwear off for a photo, but that would reveal your wild, sweaty, hat hair. The horror!

Enter the CapHat accessory! It’s a one-size-fits-all attachment that goes on top of your favourite cap or hat to protect your ears and neck. You just slip it over the crown of your cap, tighten the CapHat’s toggle and you’re away. If there’s a lot of wind or glare, you can close the Velcro tabs at the front to cover everything but your eyes. Prices range from around $15-$20.

Save the reef

You’ve probably seen news stories about how sunscreens are harming the marine environment. A 2015 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) study found that around 14,000 tons of sunscreen ends up in coral reefs worldwide every year, accelerating coral bleaching. In light of this discovery, it’s clear that we outdoor lovers have to immediately throw away our sunscreen and start roasting ourselves as red as beetroots to save the coral.

Or do we? It turns out that there’s a less painful way to protect the marine environment – it’s Surf Livesaving Australia Marine Friendly spray (RRP $17.49). This clear mist spray comes in a 175g can and is certified SPF50+. It’s been tested and proven to be non-toxic to marine life, so now you can have the benefit of maximum sun protection with minimum eco-impact.

This product is oxybenzone and preservative free, provides up to four hours of water-resistant sun protection, and comes in a recyclable aluminium can. And by purchasing Surf Lifesaving sunscreen, you are helping support surf lifesaving training and development programs around Australia – so you’re saving human lives as well as coral! You can find out more at www.surflifesavingsunscreen.com.

On the nose

Catch scent is a budget gift that keeps on giving, and Squidgies’ much-loved S-Factor scent is now available in a larger and more user-friendly 35mL tube (approx. $15). The tube has been designed to prevent leaks, so nothing will get smelly except the lure. This scent has the added bonus of being UV enhanced, to add a visual attraction aspect as well as an enticing smell. Anybody who’s enjoyed success with S-Factor-impregnated Squidgies will love having the option of adding this potent scent to their other lures.

The range of Liquid Mayhem scents are also worth a look. These scents are made from real baitfish, which have been distilled into a super concentrated liquid. To this the manufacturers have added special enzymes and other proven bite stimulants.

Liquid Mayhem scent is easy to apply, and it’s thick and sticky so it holds onto the lure for up to half an hour before needing to be reapplied. Liquid Mayhem costs a bit more than other scents (RRP $26.95 for 2oz tube) but it’s very concentrated so you only need to apply a smidge of it to your lure. It’s available in four flavours, all with extra UV enhancements.

You might be suspicious about whether catch scent actually works, but I reckon it’s one of those inexpensive things that you might as well use as not. Besides, the best tournament pros all use it, and you have to respect anyone who’s figured out how to get paid to fish! Lucky buggers, getting paid for doing what they love. I have asked them how it’s done, but they start talking about horrible things like ‘commitment’, ‘dedication’ and ‘putting in the hours’. Oh well.

A gift from the kids

If you want gift ideas for under $10 – the typical kid’s Christmas budget – a simple packet of plastics is a great choice. And it’s always good to get plastics that are new on the market, because new stuff is always more exciting than old stuff!

Something that’s a bit different is the Boom Bait range from Samaki. These plastics have special marker dots along their backs to represent different sizes of worm hooks or jigheads. This makes it super easy to rig them nice and straight. You just match, say, a 2/0 with the appropriate marker dots and you can rig it easily and perfectly right away. There are 10 models, starting with little smelt for trout and bream, right up to larger paddle tails and shads for barra and reefies. All have impregnated scent.

Or, for the angler who chases big fish, you could go for the huge ZMan 10” HeroZ jerk bait. It’s made from buoyant ElaZtech plastic so it’s perfect for everything from walking across the surface to being fished on a jighead or paternoster rig. When retrieved at speed, it has a life-like, snaking action that has been the undoing of tuna, cobia and trevally. It should also do well on kingfish and mackerel, as well as bottom fish like snapper, coral trout and other reefies. Like all Zmans (Zmen?) the HeroZ are made from ElaZtech plastic – a super-tough, super-stretchy plastic that’s practically bomb-proof. The only time I’ve seen one of these plastics damaged was when it got attacked by a mackerel, whose teeth left little slits like razor cuts, but didn’t demolish it as I had expected.

The most affordable gift though that I’ve found is the Rod Ruler sticker (www.therodruler.com.au). You just peel off the backing, stick it on your rod and then you can quickly and easily measure your catch. It measures 8mm wide and 1m long (you cut the sticker to suit your rod), and it’s UV and water resistant. As well as rods, it can also be fitted to your boat or kayak. No more stuffing around looking for a brag mat or ruler! The RRP is just $6.95.

RECORDING THE MOMENT

It seems everyone is getting into the fun of using waterproof action cams on fishing trips. They’re easy to use (the good ones are, anyway), and you can mount them almost anywhere – on a headband, up high on a rocket launcher or on the end of a pole to hold down at the waterline when fish come boat-side. Enterprising anglers have even worked out ways to lower their camera into the depths (and keep it stable) to see what the fish are up to. There’s some amazing underwater footage on YouTube and on fishing DVDs that’s been shot on action cams, showing fish just quietly doing their thing, as opposed to going berserk on the end of a line.

Garmin’s latest action cams are the VIRB X and VIRB XE (RRP $429-$529). They shoot HD footage and are waterproof to 50m. The flat lens makes underwater shots crystal clear, and it also repels droplets. The XE shoots at 1440p/30fps and 1080p/60fps with super slow-mo, image stabilisation and zoom levels. The X shoots at 1080p/30fps and 720p/60fps with slow-mo and zoom. Both versions can capture sharp still photos (even while recording) and photo bursts up to 12MP. They have secure mounts, and the microphone delivers clear audio, even underwater. Through the mobile app, users can get a live stream of video. One-touch controls make it easy to wake the device and start/stop recording.

If I had to list a downside, it’s that there are fancy sensors built in that cater to those annoying people who are gloriously fit and talented at cool outdoor sports, which I am not. If you are one of those energetic people though, you’ll get a kick out of getting data from the GPS and accelerometer, plus compatibility with other sensors that detect everything from heart-rate to G-force.

Of course, I can’t talk about action cams without mentioning the latest GoPro, which is the Hero4 Session (approx. $450). It’s 50% smaller and 40% lighter than other Hero4 cameras, it’s compatible with current GoPro mounts, and has a new low-profile frame and ball joint buckle for extra mounting flexibility. It captures 1080p30 ultra-wide video and 8MP time-lapse photos at 0.5 second intervals. You can also operate HERO4 cameras using the GoPro App or Smart Remote. This camera is waterproof to 10m, and a single press of the shutter button powers the camera on and begins capturing video or time-lapse photos automatically. A second press of the shutter button stops recording and powers off the camera. There’s a stack of other features as well, plus plenty of amazing videos on YouTube.

You might have noticed I haven’t mentioned any rods or reels. That’s because they’re risky things to buy as presents; you really need to know exactly what rod or reel the recipient wants. If you just try and guess, you’ll be greeted with a frozen, pained smile when your loved one removes the wrapping paper. It’s the same smile that I made last year when I was hoping for box of Ferrero Rochers and instead got a new age music CD that sounded like someone turning a fire hose on a room full of cats.

Having said that, if you read on you’ll see we’ve listed a few of the latest rods and reels to give our angling readers ideas of what they might like. They’re all in stores now for you to try out.

Happy gift hunting and Merry Christmas!

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