This Fish Wrap Summer Gear Guide was one surprise after another, as each product surprised me in a different way. Whether I didn’t really think I would ever use one, never considered owning one or even wasn’t interested because I didn’t know enough about one, everything on this list has impressed me or anyone with whom I shared them. It’s good to be surprised and it’s always good to have new gear.

Maine Fly Company Penobscot Bay 9’ 7-W 4 piece fly rod

A very sweet four piece Penobscot Bay fly rod

A handsome, embroidered rod tube is no way to judge a fly rod, but it made for an impressive introduction. Thoughtful packaging clearly reflects respect for the craftsmanship of a well-constructed fly rod, built by Jeff Davis. His Maine Fly Company has been patiently creating rods in the Great State since 2018, a relatively short time to build lines of beautiful, quality rods and a solid following.

My impression is that the Penobscot Bay is balanced, the butt section is comfortable with clean corks and a well-tuned Full wells style grip. Ferrules hold each section securely, although I’m a big fan of matching dots or designs to help align them in low light early mornings. The brushed granite coloring of its anti-glare blank finely matches thin yellow and orange guide wraps.

Superior attention to detail

I used a Van Staal VF7LW 8 weight reel from Rhode Island’s The Saltwater Edge tackle shop, in a local salt pond to test drive the Penobsot Bay. It’s ease, true flex and clear strength made it easy to use with only a small learning curve.

such a pretty fly rod

This is a sweet and true, easy to grip and control masterpiece. Even in a fresh southwest wind, the Penobscot Bay held the line while presenting a 20# leader perfectly, cast after cast. The Penobscot Bay is a joy to cast. Really, it just feels right, right away.

It was no surprise that the Penobscot Bay was built for catching striped bass and holding them tight.  Given how here in southern New England, fly fishermen and women might also cast for bluefish, shad, weakfish or even black sea bass, the Penobscott Bay 9’ 7-W may be your most complete fly rod decision.

You also may be surprised at how many anglers ask where you discovered such a pretty and strong fly rod.

Maine Fly Company,, 207-239-0119

RIOT PWR ESL Pro Controller

With anglers in high gear, hunters have to wait months for their next season, so RIOT PWR created a lightning connected controller for your favorite video hunting games. With an adjustable device stand, pass through charging and an audio jack, the ESL Pro Controller dock connects IPhones to the controller while the share button lets you connect with other gamers. What’s not surprising is that there are an estimated 3.2 billion gamers in the world and many are playing outdoors games like Carnivores, Big Foot, Hunting Simulator 2 and Duck Hunt. Use it with the LUDO MAPP app to play over 1000 controller compatible games while you wait to get back in the woods or steam offshore to the tuna grounds.

But Life Is Not All Play…

Jimmy Houston’s “Catch A Better Life”

With 246 Bassmaster tournaments, 83 Fishing League Worldwide tourneys, almost fifty years on television, six books and five Classics, Jimmy Houston has shared his laugh, fishing tips and love of Jesus with millions of people. His newest book, “Catch A Better Life” is a daily inspirational blending faith and fish throughout the year. I was anxious to read it but hesitant to review it, given my “the sea is my church” route around white steeples but there was something wonderfully simple and inspiring about him mingling faith with fish. Jimmy exhudes clear, deep devotion for both. Outdoors folks are generally thankful, considering how we love to spend our free time with Nature so he offers thoughts and observations on each page to connect that thankfulness with daily devotions. I found myself turning pages for tackle counsel then being drawn in by his love of Christianity.  Jimmy Houston genuinely wants to help us catch more fish with seasonally appropriate tackle seasoned with words from The Good Book. I mean, Jesus was a fisherman after all.

Sunrise sure makes you think about the big picture

Timothy 6:6 “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” That quote, matched with Jimmy Houston’s advise on using Ned rigs, really struck me. We take to water for all sorts of reasons and if we are happy and thankful, there is indeed great gain to be had. You don’t need not be a practicing Christian to enjoy and appreciate Jimmy Houston’s newest book but I know you will be surprised by how much you learn from it.

“Catch A Better Life” Thomas Nelson Publishers,

Years ago, I learned about God and fish and devotion from Qutaiba Albluwi, Imam of the Muslim Community Center in Kingston, Rhode Island. His devotion to God humbled me. His concern for all peoples surprised me becuase, frankly, I had not recognized such spirit and simple love in the small world I often inhabit. And he helped me understand concerns for his large world, often by relating them to fish. Please read about Imam Qutaiba Albuiwi here.

Slow Rolls Win the Fish Race

Live Target 5” Slow Roll Shiners

The proof is in the jaw

As plastic lures evolve in material, shape and detail, I still believe many fish see only shapes in those split second decisions to attack. Bling is important in some situations, like low light or stained water but I’ll take a natural presentation anytime over more paint. Live Target has developed Injected Core Technology to enhance small, realistic details with a clear exo-skin which for me, has meant consistent action with stripers. 2019 ICAST New Product Showcase winners, the paddle tail is perfectly balanced, so with a steady retrieve, the minnow moves and shines naturally. I’m partial to silver and green patterns with ¼ ounce jig heads rigged opposite of the tail. Tail down, hook up. Even rigged with a slightly overweight jig head, they have phenominal action as they bounce and jump off sandy channel bottoms or swim so realistically just beneath the surface. Troll one behind your kayak or bass boat; you’ll see why I love them.

They have brought fish to my boat when bait were abundant because they stand out with flash and authentic presentation. You can add all the computer generated imaging you want, I trust a bait that actually reflects what Nature designed and Slow Roll Shiners do just that.

ZMan Fishing Products 6” ElaZTech Darter Z

Zman Darter Z

Who doesn’t love gear that produces in fresh or saltwater? You can land striped bass in salt ponds with the Smoky Shad pattern rigged on ¼ oz. Z-Man WillowVibe Rapid Vibration Bladed jig heads and largemouth bass with Dark N Stormy patterns rigged weedless.

Z-Man WillowVibe Rapid Vibration Bladed jig heads

In cool waters, let them sit for a few moments after before retrieving so bass have a chance to size up their threat, then start back. Action is true, colors deep and they have just enough sparkle to really shine when the bite is tough. Darter Z’s float so you can skip them under Rhododendrons or rig them with Glasswater lead free jigs to work channel banks.  ZMAN plastics are non-toxic, which we should all appreciate, need to be stored in original bags and don’t mingle well with other brands.

Fish Wrap Summer Gear Guide for Fire, Grills, Snacks…

Northland Fishing Tackle Rumble Bug Crankbait

Crafted from balsa, which is less dense than cork, Rumble Bugs are somehow remarkably strong. The size 4, 3/16 oz. dives from four to seven feet depending on your retrieve speed and has a fantastic wiggle, especially when you pause. I’ve landed trout, chain pickerel, largemouth and yellow perch on Lemon Tiger Rumble Bugs and it was typically at the pause or just as I started to reel again that strikes happened. Northland offers 15 color patterns with natural profiles and I’m a big fan of the steel/chartreuse pattern.

I’d give that Wonderbread pattern a try as well, since it slays bass and walleye out west.

The Looft Lighter X

Camp fires in a back yard or back country, grills, outdoor pizza ovens, anywhere you need to spark, the Looft Lighter will change the way you start a fire. Or a party, for that matter.

The Looft Lighter X

It caught me by surprise because I didn’t understand how much it replaced. Then I took time to appreciate the Looft X and clever packaging complementing its modern design. Settled into its charging station, a circle of lights quickly told me it was ready to work. It’s easy to hold, use and recharge. Push the flame button, get things going, push the boost button and you’re grilling in short order. So long matches, lighter fluid and smelly steak tips. Its superiority over lighter fluid does insufficient justice to the cleverness of this patented fire starter. The Looft Lighter X is just plain cool.

The Looft Lighter X is that tool you didn’t know you needed until you stood over your fire pit or charcoal grill and hit the buttons. Safety wise, it’s perfect for getting things cooking without worrying about matches or traditional lighters. It’s a point-and-push ingenious invention. Maybe it’s a tad heavy for multi-day hike-in camping trips but its power is pure fun. It’s the tool that makes your guests wonder why they don’t have one yet. The Looft Lighter X recharges in two hours, is a classic gift and natural choice for fires anywhere you roam.

Old Trapper Meat Sticks

When you need a protein shot or just a taste of old world jerky, Old Trapper has a line of meat sticks created to keep you going with bold tastes and solid ingredients. Since 1969, Old Trapper has been smoking meats and expanding their product line. Their wide variety of flavors, smokes, seasonings and cheeses offers outdoorsmen and women options to sustain their energy with excellent tastes. We tried a range of flavors and styles and were impressed. Pack a few in your pack or your center consoles’s console because we never know when you might end up drifting along in need of a fish or a snack. They are available nationwide and online. 

Fin-Nor Flybridge Sunglasses  

No sunglasses have ever felt this perfectly or performed so well out of the box for me, ever.  Flybridge sunglasses are strong, well made and fit securely around your head without being irritating. They are lightweight only by weight and feature rubber temple tips with adjustable nose pads and integrated spring hinges.

The lenses are superior and the polarization is nothing shy of incredible. Working skinny waters last week in Wickford Cove, I was able to see bait and schoolies sized bass swirling past my kayak, which was amazing. I chose the Flybridge model for high sun on saltwater and they excel in those conditions. No one needs summer eye fatigue, especially when the bite is on. Fin-Nor has respected their hard-earned reputation with a line of protective eyewear worth every dime.  When tuna are hot on squid or the worm hatch requires perfect fly presentation to skinny water edges, Fin-Nor Flybridge glasses will help you see everything clearly. Cold or hot, they are comfortable and protective. Given the Fin-Nor name, their high quality and construction was no surprise.


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