So this is an article I’ve been wanting a write for quite a while; and with the holiday shopping season officially here, now is a great time to put this out. This is my tournament angler shopping guide!
As a serious angler we’ve all been there on Christmas morning, opening up that gift your spouse was so excited to buy you. That fancy new thing-a-ma-jig advertised on TV to catch everything from bluegills to tarpon. You smile and say thanks, knowing full well that it will soon be tucked into a box in the back of the garage, or left to rust in some forgotten compartment in your boat. But let’s face it, shopping for anyone who participates in any activity at a high level can be difficult. It’s because once people get to that level, they are very particular about what they use. Now I’m not here to tell you what the hot baits are right now, I’m not going to tell you what new products are hitting the market that every angler must have, and I’m not going to tell you what you should buy. This article isn’t even for someone who fishes. This is a guide on HOW to shop for the serious angler. So send this article to your spouse, leave the browser on the computer open to here, and when someone says they don’t know what to get you, you can give them all the advice I am providing here! So let’s get to it!
I figure the best place to start is the low hanging fruit. If an angler can’t actually go fishing, and all their gear is re-rigged and organized, their next favorite activity is SHOPPING for fishing gear! Gift cards are the bumper bowling of holiday shopping. You can’t miss! Especially when you get them for one of the major online tackle venues. Fish USA, Tackle Warehouse, Fishing Online, etc. All these sites carry thousands of different pieces of fishing gear and the person you are shopping for will have no problem filling their digital shopping cart.
I also want to offer you a little twist on the traditional gift card, and that is a shopping spree! I know some people really abhor the idea of gift cards because they are very impersonal, but this is a great little way to get involved in the action. Rather than buying a gift card, instead make up a card or a certificate (there’s some free templates you can get online) to take them on a shopping spree at your local tackle shop. This way not only are they getting all the gear the actually want, but you get to see the joy on their face and the vigor with which they cruise the aisles as they pick out all their favorite things.
The next easiest, but not always so obvious option is to simply ask them what to get! I know it’s unoriginal, and it means things won’t be a surprise, but if you want to get them something they will actually use, then there’s no better way than straight from the source. The key here is being specific. You can’t simply say “What do you want for Christmas?”. You will assuredly get the “I don’t know, whatever.” response. Instead you need to target direct items. Ask things like “I’m looking for stocking stuffers, what type and size hooks do you need more of?” They will have no problem spouting off just which type, size, and brand; and they can probably even tell you exactly where they are on the wall of hooks at the local shop. It’s all about asking the right questions, because we know exactly what brand, weight, and color of line we need to spool up before our next outing; or what baits those pike stole from us the last time out that we need to replace. Trust me, we’d rather know whats coming and have it be useful, than be surprised in a bad way!
OK, so we’ve covered the easy stuff. But what if you are dead set on getting them something AND you want it to be a surprise? Well I have a few tips on that as well. One sure fire way to make the holidays a success is to get involved with their tournament goals. I’m sure by now the discussion of travel and schedule has come up for next season. One idea is to pick an event, maybe one they’ve expressed interest in but were on the fence about going, and pay their entry fee! Simply supporting their dreams of chasing a tournament life will mean the world to them and this is a great way of giving them that nudge and letting them know you are behind them.
Now we get into the nitty gritty, the down and dirty, and maybe just a little sneaky. How to find the perfect gift without them knowing? The first thing you need to do is a little social media stalking. Guess what, pro fisherman are also pro advertisers! We are always touting the brands we use, the tackle we’re throwing, or what bait that last giant was caught on. Scroll back through their Facebook or their Instagram and you’ll find hashtags to the brands. You can even sometimes see the bait right there in the picture. Buy them that bait! Even if they have 5 of them already, baits don’t last forever and if they caught a big one on it, trust me, they’ll go through them and want more.
Next talk to their fishing buddies. They will have insight into what techniques the angler in your life is known for. They can tell you what baits they’ve been throwing and what they always seem to have tied on. Inside knowledge is important and their trusted fishing partner will have it in spades.
Another source that can be useful are prostaff or company reps, especially if you are looking to get them something a little more expensive like a rod or reel. If they have a bunch of rods from a specific brand, but they still maybe have some older rod from different brands, here is a great opportunity for a surprise. Contact the rod company and tell them your situation. Tell them you want to replace an old rod with a new one, and they can tell you exactly what model will be best! Or you can give them a list of rods they already have, and they can tell you what models might be good to fill in any gaps in their current lineup.
If you’ve exhausted all those resources and you still need more ideas; it’s time to do some snooping, but BE CAREFUL! Most anglers are fastidious with their tackle organization. They will know if just one split shot is out of place. But go ahead and look through their gear. See what’s kept on top of their boat compartments. See what is currently tied on their rods. If they have a box of various plastics and one color is significantly lower than the others, it means they’re using that one a lot. Buy that one! And take pictures while you’re at it. We can tell the difference between California Craw, Okeechobee Craw, and Alabama Craw, so when you’re in that tackle aisle, you’ll want to be sure you’re getting the right one.
The next few little tricks you can do all year long. The more information you compile about their fishing shopping habits, the better you will be at picking out just what they want. So the next time they get home from the tackle shop look at their shopping receipts (if they’ll show it to you!) to see what they’ve been buying, or look what lure wrappers were thrown in the trash. Check their browsing history on various gear shopping websites. Just because they just bought something, doesn’t mean they wont need more pretty soon especially when it comes to soft plastic baits. Also look around their work bench and see what spools of line are almost gone, that’s a good indication that they might need more of it. But also take note which spools of line have dust on them. That line should only be used to hang ornaments on the tree, not be wrapped up under it.
Lastly look over their boat or kayak and see what might look broken or worn. This is a great chance to replace those things. Take a look around their tackle storage area. Is there tackle piled up loosely? Maybe some new tackle boxes are in order. See what style or sizes they’re already using and pick some of those up. And if there is a pile of fishing rods leaning against the wall, or tucked in a corner, maybe a rod rack is a good idea.
Shopping for tournament angler doesn’t need to be difficult or complicated. We have very simple likes and needs, albeit specific. With a little effort you can be guaranteed that this holiday season your gifts won’t be the gear they lend out to that fishing buddy who always seems to be hung up in a tree; but instead maybe it will be the gift that gets them their new Personal Best or maybe just maybe earns them the big win at this years championship.