Essentials for 2014Each year at Fish Alaska magazine, we make our way through piles of gear, testing, re-testing and winnowing down the competition until we can tell you with confidence the products that are going to keep you stylish, safe and catching fish. All that research gets compiled into our Fish Alaska gear review, published each March with a lot of excitement (and a little relief).

But sometimes it’s hard to wait all the way until March to tell you about the products that are knocking our socks off! And since we have this shiny new website, well, now we don’t need to. So check back here often because once a month – or maybe more, depending on how impatient we get – we’re going to highlight one of the Gear Review frontrunners. It might be something totally new or an old standby, but either way, you’ll know that it’s a product that straight-up delivers.

It’s been another great year on the water and in the woods and several pieces of new gear increased our success in the field in 2013. Here’s a look at a few items you should consider putting in your arsenal for 2014.

Ahi USA Assault Jigs 

On several saltwater excursions in 2013, these jigs out-fished most everything else on the boat. We landed lingcod, halibut, salmon and rockfish on the lure. While other anglers onboard experienced moderate results using live and dead herring to catch halibut, those of us who used the 12-ounce Assault jig experienced non-stop catching. In our opinion, that’s about as much of a real world gear test as you can get.

Eagle Claw Trokar hooks 

We used a range of different-sized hooks from Trokar this year – saltwater circle hooks, octopus-style hooks in the rivers, and a range of J-hooks for fishing salmon and trout. All performed really well, were incredibly sharp and strong.

Umpqua Deadline 3500 Wet / Dry duffel

We appreciated how this backpack kept our gear dry in the rain, and on several trips to the river, the downpour evoked images of Noah. At 3500 cc, there’s plenty of space to carry the gear you need on the water for an extended trip. Testers also commented on the extensive pocketing, allowing the angler to stay organized even when bringing terminal tackle for multiple techniques and species.

Icebreaker Sierra Full Zip Jacket 

Merino wool is a wonderful fabric for its warmth, odor resistance, non-itch feel, and breathability. These are all excellent properties for a fishing and hunting garment, and we loved the functionality and style of this mid-weight full-zip jacket. It’s made from 260 gm brushed New Zealand Merino wool and equipped with zippered side-pockets and a chest-pocket with a media cord port, making it multifunctional for any outdoor enthusiast. It’s availablein 5 colors and 6 sizes.

Vasque Scree 2.0 Low Ultradry 

These shoes combine a beefy Vibram sole with a leather upper married to a waterproof membrane to create a hiking shoe fit for Alaska conditions. The ankle stability in these shoes allows for the wearer to handle fairly steep terrain. Pretty awesome shoe.

Highliner Rods Custom Spinning rod 

Another gem of a rod built by Bill Amerongen, the 10-foot, 8- to 12-pound Lamiglas blank is well suited for drift fishing for steelhead and coho salmon. What stands out to even the most novice rod-buyer is the incredible threadwork and craftsmanship that Bill put into this work of art. We love fishing Bill’s rods because not only does Bill use the best components to produce a highly-technical rod that catches fish, but they are the best-looking rods on the water. And he made this one in Seattle Seahawks colors for me. Nice Bill, Go Hawks!