Fishing and boating websites and the 2012 catalogs are brimming with products. Below are a few that might be of interest and could make your next fishing trip easier and more productive.
Fish finder/chart plotter. Black & white units as low as $199: An affordable fish finder/chart plotter combo is a must for every angler. Even the occasional angler will find it useful. What could be better than seeing the exact depth and location of the fish displayed on a screen?
Prices increase with screen size and features. Humminbird, Garmin and Lowrance brands are industry leaders.
Auto-piloted electric trolling motors: Minn Kota offers a series of trolling motors with auto-pilot. This feature allows a 55-, 80-, or 100-plus-pound thrust electric motor to guide the boat along a set compass course.
The auto-pilot motor is a favorite with deep-water fishermen on Piedmont lakes. The co-pilot, an added feature, allows for wireless remote-controlled operation.
A deluxe version comes with a built-in sonar transducer. When connected to a fish finder, the transducer provides an underwater view from the bow.
Better yet, the top of the line I-Pilot has its own GPS system that keeps the boat within 5 feet of a designated spot or cruises a predetermined course at a set trolling speed.
Cockpit wash-down kit. Less than $200: Clean the cockpit of your boat with a high-pressure 12-volt DC pump and wash-down kit. Fresh/saltwater is easily accessible for cleaning decks, muddy anchors or for filling bait tanks. Wash-down kits with Surflo and Jabsco pumps are available at local marine dealer outlets.
Rubber landing net: A rubber net with an extendable handle is both fish- and angler-friendly. The rubber webbing doesn't remove the slime from a fish, as does a monofilament. Hooks are also less likely to tangle and snag, which makes unhooking easier and less aggravating.
Marine binoculars: Binoculars make it easier to locate channel markers and diving seabirds from a distance. Upscale models are waterproof with built-in compass and range finding capability.
Gore-Tex outerwear: Gore-Tex allows for maximum comfort in adverse weather conditions. Gore-Tex jackets, parkas and pants not only keep out the wind but resist water and allow body perspiration to escape. Outerwear is available with or without insulation.
A complete, noninsulated outfit can be purchased for less than $200. Insulated winter sets are more expensive.
Catalytic cart heater. Less than $100: Catalytic heaters are designed for golf carts but work equally as well on fishing boats. The heater has an adapter that mounts in most cup-holders. The 3000 BTU output operates up to eight hours on a 16.4-ounce disposable propane cylinder.