Fishing and boating websites and the 2012 catalogs are brimming with new and improved products. Below are a few that 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.
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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 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.
Free fishing seminar: "Deep Water Winter Fishing For Stripers, Bass and Perch." Fishing guide Drew Montgomery, author Jake Bussolini and I will discuss using shaky-heads, drop shots, Alabama and Sabiki rigs. This 90-minute session will begin at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Gander Mountain, Exit 36 in Mooresville. For additional information, call 704-658-0822.
Tips from Capt. Gus
Garnish catfish baits with the scent of garlic, licorice, shrimp and shad. Blues and channel cats can't resist the aromas.
Hot spot of the week
Spotted bass and perch fishing continue to be very good to excellent. Occasionally, 3- to 6-pound stripers are showing up.
Stumpy, Hagers, Mountain and Reed creeks have been productive in recent days.
The surface-water temperature varies by location but is mainly in the 40s and low 50s. The lake level is about 4.5 feet below full pond on Lake Norman and 3.4 feet below full on Mountain Island Lake.