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2021 Boat Buyers Guide: Gear

Gear to make your fishing easier and safer.

December 16, 2020
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When you buy a new boat, some key gear needs instantly come to mind, such as batteries and an anchor. But not every necessity is as obvious, and quite a few nonessentials make sense for boating anglers. Here are 27 gear items that make boating and fishing easier, more enjoyable, and safer.

Fishing Accessories

AFTCO fishing harness
AFTCO Alijos Fighting Belt Courtesy AFTCO

AFTCO designed its lightweight Alijos fighting belt for use with 20- to 50-pound lines. Stamped from marine-grade gold-anodized aluminum with an overmolded, closed-cell polyurethane pad, the Alijos accommodates the same quick-clip nylon straps as the larger AFTCO fighting belts. The stainless-steel gimbal cross pin can be removed. The thermal-formed nylon liner inside the aluminum gimbal pocket helps resist scarring. $89; aftco.com

Columbia’s Force XII ODX foul-weather-gear jacket and bib
Columbia Force XII ODX Foul-Weather-Gear Courtesy Columbia

Columbia’s Force XII ODX foul-weather-gear jacket and bib feature Outdry Extreme waterproof, breathable construction, and they’re fully seam-sealed. The jacket comes with watertight comfort cuffs and cargo pockets, and is available in sizes S through XXL and in azul (blue) and carbon fiber (black/dark gray). Bibs come in S through XXL and in carbon fiber, and offer partial elastic at the waist, reinforced knees and bottom leg zips. $300 (bib), $350 (jacket); columbia.com

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Calcutta’s Keeper dry waterproof duffel
Calcutta Keeper Courtesy Calcutta

Made from TPU, Calcutta’s Keeper dry waterproof duffel is abrasion-resistant and fully waterproof at the seams and zipper. It features a removable and padded shoulder strap, large exterior web pocket, and second sealed exterior pocket. It measures 12 inches wide by 12 inches high by 23 inches long, and offers 35 liters of internal volume. The bag is gray and black, and comes with four webbed loops on the sides for attaching to a boat or vehicle. $50; calcuttaoutdoors.com

Frabill ultralight conservation net
Frabill Conservation Net Courtesy Frabill

Frabill’s ultralight conservation net features a 48-inch carbon-fiber handle with a molded rubber grip, the company’s patented Pow’R Lok yoke, and a unique hoop shape. To best protect fish for release, the ultralight comes with a completely knotless mesh netting, and a flat linear bottom to reduce fish rolling. The mesh-guard hoop resists wear and reduces lure catch points. The hoop measures 18-by-21 inches and is 18 inches deep. $129.99; frabill.com

Accurate Knot Puller and APXL-7 Pliers
Accurate Knot Puller and APXL-7 Pliers Courtesy Accurate

When anglers tie a knot with braid or heavy mono, they take a few wraps on their hands to cinch it, and that can cut the skin. The Accurate knot puller is covered with rubber for a nonslip surface and comes with two holes atop the tool to secure hooks. The puller comes packaged with APXL-7 pliers; both are made from 6061 T-6 lightweight aluminum. $125; accuratefishing.com

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SeaQualizer depth release
SeaQualizer Courtesy SeaQualizer

Descending devices help fish recover from barotrauma by lowering them to a depth that recompresses their air bladders. SeaQualizer makes three versions: shallow (set release depths include 30, 50 and 70 feet), standard (50, 100 and 150 feet) and deep (100, 200 and 300 feet). As a rule of thumb, fish should be sent back to at least half the depth at which they were caught, SeaQualizer says. $59.99; seaqualizer.com

Costa Tailwalker sunglasses
Costa Tailwalker courtesy Costa

A recent addition to the sports-performance collection, Costa’s Tailwalker was inspired by the way a sailfish greyhounds along the surface. Featuring a regular frame fit and the new adjustable locking-lever temple tips, Tailwalkers have an edgy appeal. Available in matte black, matte fog gray and matte wetlands frame colors, Tailwalkers can be fitted with a variety of glass or plastic 580 lenses. $189 to $269; costadelmar.com

Xtratuf 6-inch ankle deck boots
Xtratuf 6-Inch Ankle Deck Boots Courtesy Xtratuf

Xtratuf’s 6-inch ankle deck boots were crafted specifically for recreational anglers. Goring around the ankle, and back/front finger tabs make these easy to slip on. The interior boasts a durable fabric that lets the foot breathe. This lightweight waterproof boot (3.16 pounds) features the same nonmarking, slip-resistant Chevron outsole as the company’s iconic Legacy boot, worn by Alaskan commercial fishermen. New colors include the green/camo for men (pictured) and black/scales for women. Men’s boots come in sizes 7 through 14; women’s boots are available in sizes 5 through 11. $95; xtratuf.com

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Bubba’s Multi-flex interchangeable blade syste
Bubba Multi-Flex Interchangeable Blade System Courtesy Bubba

A first-of-its-kind product, Bubba’s Multi-flex interchangeable blade system is designed to deliver the strength and durability of a full-tang traditional fillet knife while providing the ability to swap different styles of blades to tackle small, medium or large fish in any environment. The kit includes a 7-inch tapered flex, an 8-inch ultra flex, a 9-inch serrated flex and a 9-inch stiff blade. The nonslip handle features a squeeze-and-slide mechanism that allows you to switch blades quickly. A locking mechanism keeps the blade secure. The kit comes with an EVA carrying case. $126; bubba.com

Boating Accessories

Yeti LoadOut 5-Gallon Bucket
Yeti LoadOut 5-Gallon Bucket Courtesy Yeti

The LoadOut 5-gallon bucket from Yeti, made from high-density polyethylene, stands up to the tough demands of offshore fishing. The bucket features Anchor Point tie-down slots, a Hefty Hauler handle for comfort and reliability, and a nonmarring Bearfoot nonslip ring on the bottom to prevent sliding. Accessories include a gear belt, and a lid or caddy for expanded functionality. The LoadOut comes in white, sea foam, desert tan and charcoal. $39.99; yeti.com

Tigress Poseidon dredge boom
Tigress Poseidon Dredge Boom Courtesy Tigress

With the Tigress Poseidon dredge boom, center-console boats can pull double and triple dredges down deep to raise boat-shy fish that would otherwise not come up to the spread. Designed to work with 80-pound-class bent-butt rods and Lindgren-Pitman or Hooker electric reels, this accessory features a 7-foot black fiberglass boom, heavy-duty block pulley, and stainless-steel hardware, and it comes with a safety tether and stainless carabiner. $649; tigressoutriggers.com

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Star brite Magic Sponge Xtend
Star brite Magic Sponge Xtend Courtesy Star brite

To create the Magic Sponge Xtend, Star brite took its popular Ultimate Magic Sponge—a melamine foam scuff and streak eraser with a reinforced core—and gave it a swivel head that attaches to any handle with both a quick connector and screw-thread adapter. The attachment pad can also be used with all Star brite scrubber handles. Clean without straining your back or knees. $34.99; starbrite.com

Edson ComfortGrip PowerKnob
Edson ComfortGrip PowerKnob Courtesy Edson

Edson took the features of its proven Stainless PowerKnob and added ComfortGrip to cushion the fingers for greater ease and control. Strap the ComfortGrip PowerKnob to any wheel rim measuring 5⁄8 to 11⁄8 inches in diameter, or bolt it onto any solid rim. With its Delrin ball bearings, the knob makes maneuvering any size boat easier. $137; edsonmarine.com

Gemlux Deluxe Outrigger Bases
Gemlux Deluxe Outrigger Bases Courtesy Gemlux

Gemlux says its deluxe outrigger bases allow center-console boat owners to deploy outriggers like sport-fish-boat captains at a lower cost. The bases still feature the same under-the-T-top operation as the company’s Bluewater Bases, as well as many of the same internal components. The one-handle design allows for adjustments up, down, in or out. The bases support 16- to 18-foot poles, including the 16-foot internally rigged hybrid outriggers (pictured) and the 18-foot collapsible hybrid outriggers, both made from a proprietary blend of carbon-fiber composite materials. The collapsible riggers can be easily stored in compact places. $1,680 (pair of bases), $1,600 (pair of 16-foot hybrid poles); gemlux.com

Mustang Survival MIT-100 Automatic
Mustang Survival MIT-100 Automatic Courtesy Mustang Survival

A Type III recreational life jacket for inshore and coastal use, the Mustang Survival MIT-100 Automatic features a minimum of 25.1 pounds of buoyancy when inflated—1.5 times more buoyancy than regular foam devices. The high-tenacity nylon used in the face fabric allows this jacket to be softer, suppler and lighter weight than previous versions. The adjustable belt creates a customized fit for most adults. Large arm cutouts provide comfort and mobility. A manual inflation handle is easily accessible when needed. $159.99; mustangsurvival.com

Chevron Products Company Techron Marine fuel additive
Chevron Products Company Techron Marine Courtesy Chevron Products

Chevron Products Company’s Techron Marine fuel-system treatment—an alcohol- and emulsifier-free formula—does not contribute to water uptake, and provides boaters with enhanced fuel stabilization, corrosion protection and cleaning power. Techron Marine can be used in any vessel with a gasoline engine. The treatment stabilizes fuel up to 24 months. One ounce treats 10 gallons. $5 (4 ounces), $12.99 (10 ounces), $99.99 (128 ounces); chevronlubricants.com

Pittsburgh Battery Tester
Pittsburgh Battery Tester Courtesy Harbor Freight

Boating anglers often deal with electrical problems. And while this tool is no replacement for a digital multimeter, it can help a boater narrow down the cause of battery or battery-charging problems on board. Determine at a glance whether a weak battery is caused by a faulty alternator or a failing battery. The device offers three alternator readings and three battery readings. It has 28-inch leads with an alligator clip and test probe. $3.99; harborfreight.com

Fujinon 14x40 Binoculars
Fujinon 14×40 Binoculars Courtesy Fujinon

Offshore fishermen in particular need powerful binoculars; the more powerful, the better—to a point. When binoculars get too powerful, the motion of the boat and the hands make it difficult to clearly view targets. Fujinon eliminates that in these 14×40 highly magnified optics with electronically stabilized imaging. The subject—whether a bird flock or floating log—remains steady in the eyepieces. $1,300; westmarine.com

Electronics

Raymarine Axiom+ Displays
Raymarine Axiom+ Displays Courtesy Raymarine

Available in 7-, 9- and 12-inch models, the Raymarine Axiom+ displays feature a quad-core processor and ultra-bright IPS screen. Raymarine has also introduced a HydroTough coating to the new units to repel water and oils. Axiom+ comes with four built-in sonar channels, including RealVision 3D, and an ultra-sensitive 10 Hz GPS/GNSS receiver, as well as Raymarine’s new LightHouse charts. Prices start at $749 (7-inch), $1,099 (9-inch), $2,499 (12-inch); raymarine.com

Garmin OnDeck System
Garmin OnDeck System Courtesy Garmin

Garmin’s OnDeck system offers boaters a remote monitoring and management solution. When paired with the ActiveCaptain app, OnDeck monitors battery status, door/hatch sensors, GPS location and more. The system includes a door, temperature and shore-power sensors, and a relay switch. OnDeck can be used with a multifunction display and has a 48-hour internal backup battery. $849.99 (subscriptions: $19.99 per month flexible or $12.99 per month for a year); garmin.com

Furuno TZT16F
Furuno TZT16F Courtesy Furuno

TZT, Time Zero Technology, is lightning fast when you change from fish finder to chart to radar, and redraw is seamless. There’s no waiting on the TZT16F. It’s more iPhone-like than anybody, with up, down, left and right swipes to bring up pages and menus. It features true, full CHIRP, not the modified chirp of lesser systems so bottom targets are painted in exquisite detail. MapMedia, CMAP, Navionics or CMOR mapping compatible, plus pin-code security. $5,595; furunousa.com.

Lowrance Elite Fishing System
Lowrance Elite Fishing System Courtesy Lowrance

The most powerful Elite series fish finder/chart plotter Lowrance has ever offered, the Elite Fishing System (FS) combines ActiveTarget Live Sonar and extreme high-res Active Imaging with chirp, SideScan and DownScan to offer anglers multiple views. C-Map Contour+ Fishing Maps come pre-loaded. Available with either a 7- or 9-inch screen, FS comes in a variety of models—some with all of the sonar bells and whistles, and others with a smaller selection of features. $649 to $2,499; lowrance.com

Humminbird third-­generation Solix ­multifunction display
Humminbird Solix ­Multifunction Display Courtesy Humminbird

Humminbird’s third-generation Solix multifunction displays feature a new dual-core processor and an expanded range of Mega Imaging+, seeing to deeper depths and farther distances (up to 250 feet deep and 250 feet to each side). Available with 10.1-, 12.1- or 15.4-inch sunlight-viewable screens. Solix G3 comes with dual-spectrum chirp sonar. Available charts include CoastMaster and Navionics. $2,199.99 to $3,499.99; hummingbird.com

ACR ResQKit and ResQKit Pro
ACR ResQKit and ResQKit Pro Courtesy ACR

ACR’s ResQKit and ResQKit Pro provide ultimate ditch-bag essentials, including a GlobalFix V4 EPIRB (Cat. 2), electronic distress flare and flag, strobe, and more. The Pro also comes with a ResQLink 400 PLB (see photo above) and a Firefly Pro Waterbug light. The RapidDitch express bag can float up to 15 pounds of gear. The ResQKit weighs 6.7 pounds, and the Pro weighs 7.03 pounds. $599.95 (ResQKit) and $849.95 (ResQKit Pro); acrartex.com

Icom M93D VHF radio
Icom M93D Courtesy Icom

Icom’s M93D 5-watt handheld VHF comes with an internal GNSS GPS receiver that ensures an 8- to 12-second fix on your location, critical for DSC distress calling or navigation to specific waypoints. The M93D can save 50 waypoints and gives steerage information on the LED screen, including speed and course. The radio floats for added safety and security, and comes with a battery pack, an AC adapter/charger, and a 12-volt outlet cable. $249.99; icomamerica.com

Fusion Apollo WB670
Fusion Apollo WB670 Courtesy Fusion

Fusion’s Apollo WB670 hideaway system and ERX400 wired remote eliminate the need for a stereo head unit on the dash. Controlled through the remote or a compatible MFD, the WB670 inherited its key audio features from the Apollo RA670, including digital signal processing. Available sources include AM/FM, Bluetooth, Apple AirPlay2, USB and more. It mounts behind inside a center console. $449.99 (WB670), $229.99 (ERX400); fusionentertainment.com

Sirius Signal C-1002
Sirius Signal C-1002 Courtesy Sirius Signal

The USCG-approved Sirius Signal C-1002 two-color, electronic visual-distress-signal device (classified by the Coast Guard as an eVDSD) is five times brighter than any approved device on the market, according to the manufacturer. Its 13 LEDs shine an SOS in visible light and infrared. It includes an app for creating float plans, one-touch check-in, and SOS notifications to first responders and contacts. $299.95 (kit with light, flag, whistle, batteries); siriussignal.com

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