Five Lifejackets

We’ve learned about gift cards and fish finders for your special anglers. This week let’s get into “specialty” fishing as well as to explore some very practical additions to your fishing arsenal.


My first experience with downriggers was on Calaveras Lake, near San Antonio, Texas. My friend Brent Daybell and I knew absolutely nothing about the lake nor if we could even get the bass to bite.

We tied on small Rapala crankbaits, set the downriggers to 20 and 25 feet respectively, and proceeded to troll around the small lake. After one of the most boring hours spent on the water, we finally decided to reel in and check our lures. Brent’s lure was covered with grass, and mine held a poor, dead, 10-inch largemouth bass that had been dragged around the lake for an hour, too small to “trip” the release.

It took me 10 years to recover from that first experience. Even now, I am relentless to check my lines when using downriggers, still haunted by that poor, dead bass.

When looking at current-day downriggers (which are great additions to almost any boat on the water) it is important to ask one specific question that will lead you to the correct types of downriggers to consider: “How many times a year will you use your downrigger(s)?” If the answer is just a few times, then you could easily choose a hand crank version. If the answer is several times a month, then I would recommend getting an electric downrigger system.

When shopping for downriggers, do your research. Google “downriggers” to see the various sizes and features on at least four main brands. Cannon and Scotty are two of the best available and a quick trip to your local sporting goods store will confirm it. While at Sportsman’s Warehouse in Provo the other day, I saw at least eight models that included hand cranks, electric, short booms and long booms. Remember, hand crank models start around $100 while electric models start just under $400.

Choose a boom size that will look most comfortable on your particular boat. My downriggers have shorter booms (easier to store) and still get the job done. Many of you may never remove your downriggers, so you will simply have to decide how you will maneuver around your deck should there be a permanent fixture aft.

If I had to choose a brand — from my experience — I would go with Cannon and would target the electric version since I find myself fishing alone at times. The electric versions are much easier to handle by yourself.

Practical Gifts

Each time I read about another drowning death on our local reservoirs, I am reminded that there are life jackets that can be worn all the time (in comfort) while in a boat and will keep you safe should the unexpected happen. The Onyx AM 124 is a great choice for under $100 dollars. These life jackets are easy to wear, can be automatically employed when inundated by water or can be manually inflated. I know this might not seem like a “great gift idea,” but trust me, all it would take is one potential disaster averted by its use to become the most important gift idea yet.

The next suggestions is a lanyard that goes around your neck and enables you to hook a plethora of fishing devices like threaders, scissors, a magnifying glass of other items that can be easily reached when needed. I particularly liked “The Loop” lanyard for around $20 dollars.

Finally, the “Super Snip” is a handy tool that could go on your lanyard or on your belt that makes it easy to cut line. In fact, I haven’t found a better tool to cut braided lines as well as monofilament, copolymers and fluorocarbon. For under $20 dollars, they make great stocking stuffers and I must tell you I have four of them. One for my boat, one for my lanyard, one for my shore angling tackle box and one for my truck. Next week, it’s all about ice fishing.