Choosing Your Fishing Gear Correctly

Three items you should avoid purchasing online

November 11, 2020
A man working and performing maintenance on a fishing rod.
When purchasing custom rods, pay particular attention to the foregrips. Jon Whittle/Marlin

The convenience of online shopping is just that: convenient. Serious fishermen know that there are just some things you need to see—and hold in your hot little hands—before you rattle off those credit-card numbers. As technology advances, fishing products have become more and more personal, which is why I suggest consideration and research before you make an otherwise off-the-cuff purchase.

There’s no debating the fact that sport-fishing equipment and accessories are expensive, and choosing items based on convenience alone could have you rethinking your decisions as your garage starts to bulge at the seams with random impulse purchases.

Taking the time to analyze what it is you really need—and what is the best fit—for you and your program is worth it. Just because your dock mate uses Product A doesn’t mean that you should be using it.


Watch: Learn to rig a swimming Spanish mackerel here.

Fishing Rods

Whether you prefer production or custom-­built, your rods are an important choice, if not possibly the most important. There are far too many options to weigh, so you really want to touch and feel a rod, unlike when purchasing a reel, which you pretty much know what you’re getting right out of the box. Rod choices range from length, action, and one I’m very particular about: foregrips.

Rod lengths vary greatly depending on your style of fishing and what species you’re after. The action—or bend of the rod—correlates directly with the species you’re targeting, and grips, butt lengths and rod diameters should all be heavily pondered.


EVA foam grips are comfortable but might not last long if they are not taken care of properly. They are also prone to sun damage and anything greasy. Classic natural cork grips can take the sun’s beatings and are comfortable, but they might become slippery. The thickness of the foregrip also must be taken into ­consideration because if they are too thin or too thick, your hand can easily become fatigued when under pressure during the fight. Comfort and performance should be a priority whenever selecting a rod for offshore use.

Butt length is a critical option that can make a big difference while sitting in a rod holder, and while fighting a fish as well. And if you are world-record fishing, the rod butt becomes an essential component. According to the International Game Fish Association, the rod butt cannot exceed 27 inches in length when measured from a point directly beneath the center of the reel.

While most recreational big-game rod butts are matched to the rod’s rating, it is just as important for the butt to be long enough that it does not allow the reel to sit too close to the covering board. Shape—straight or bent—also makes a difference, especially on big-fish tackle where you plan to fight the fish either from the chair or on stand-up, where a shorter butt works best, elevating the fish-fighting experience.

A fighting harness for fishing on a wooden table.
Fighting harnesses should fit the individual. Jon Whittle/Marlin

Fighting Belts and Harnesses

These are also personal items that should be tested before purchase. There are lots of choices in belt/harness combos from manufacturers such as AFTCO, Seamount, PlayAction Braid and Black Magic, just to name a few. It’s always good idea to try them on in order to ensure maximum comfort when under pressure while fighting big pelagics and billfish.

When you have the opportunity to put on a combo, you also have the option to mix and match different belts and harnesses. One of the best ways to demo one is to actually wear it with a rod and reel snapped in. When you put the set under maximum pressure, you want it to spread out the pressure and feel comfortable.

Being able to adjust the straps and set it up to the user’s body, you can get a good idea of which type of harness/belt is best for you. Some prefer a shoulder harness and others like a kidney harness, so it’s all about comfort and support, because no two bodies are exactly alike.


Another big consideration is the size of the gimbal belt. If it is too small or too narrow for your body width, it will want to collapse and shift from side to side under pressure, and anyone who has charter-fished knows all too much about being strapped into a generic, one-size-fits-all harness. You end up hating life and praying the fight doesn’t last any ­longer than absolutely necessary.

A collection of sunglasses on a wooden deck.
Sunglasses come in a wide variety of styles as well. Jon Whittle/Marlin


Polarized sunglasses are another ­personal choice when on the water. Every face is different, and although ­sunglasses do have small, medium, large, narrow or wide fits, that is often not enough information in the description copy to guarantee that any particular style will fit your face.

It’s never comfortable when your sunglasses rest on your cheeks all day, especially when fishing, and unlike shoes and other apparel that come in (almost) standard sizes, sunglasses have so many more factors to consider, such as temple width, curvature of the frame, the amount of wraparound, and frame height. Wraparound frames are popular because they let in less light on the sides, further reducing the glare factor, which eliminates eye strain and ­ultimately headaches from squinting.

Read Next: The right pair of binoculars can make a big difference on the water.

You should also take into consideration the color of the lenses when purchasing a pair of sunglasses. Generally speaking, dark gray lenses are best for sunny days offshore, while amber lenses might suit you better on cloudy days or in the backcountry. Before purchasing a pair, step outside to experience the true color and clarity of the lenses.

It’s best you end up with a style that will shield both UVA and UVB rays—both of which are responsible for eye conditions such as cataracts, macular degeneration, pinguecula (those thick, raised, ­yellowish deposits that many of us have on the whites of our eyes), ­pterygia (surfer’s eye) and ­photokeratitis. Fishermen are prone to all kinds of issues revolving around the sun, so the willingness to go that extra mile to protect something as important as your eyes is worth it. As fishermen, we rely on our eyes, and they will thank you.

It’s tempting to go online and order at will, but if you take each of your purchases seriously, you will be less likely to end up wasting money on things you don’t need, or worse, don’t like. Your local tackle shop and/or rod builder should be able to ask the questions ­necessary to help guide you to a purchase—or purchases—that not only meet your ­standard, but are geared toward your style and you are happy with.


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