Catching Canada: The essential equipment

Great rods, reels, electronics and tournament-style fishing tools gear from St. Croix, Shimano, Hummingird, Lowrance, Frabill and others

Best fishing reel



The new Nasci series of extremely affordable reels features Shimano’s X-Ship and HGN Gearing technology, usually found on its higher-priced offerings. At the core is a cold-forged aluminum drive gear supported by a pair of high-performance bearings, providing significantly more torque and a silky smooth retrieve. And the gears never flex, bend or twist, so you can’t burn out the reel fighting a big fish. Available in 10 models for everything from light freshwater to medium saltwater applications, the Nasci lineup covers the bases.

Shimano, 1-877-577-0600;

Best fishing rod



In its new Legend Glass line, St. Croix has created baitcasting rods that are lighter, stronger and more precise than anything from the good old days of fibreglass. While useful for many applications, the rods are a dream come true for anglers casting crankbaits. Why? When you’re fishing cranks, you want the fish to take the lure well into its mouth before setting the hooks, which is easier to do with a fibreglass rod. The same applies to jerkbaits in colder water and topwater lures. Beating the odds, the Legend series won ICAST’s Best Freshwater Rod category.

St. Croix, 1-800-826-7042;

Best portable sonar



The Humminbird Ice Helix 7 Sonar/GPS does for you in the winter what the ICAST award-winning Helix series does in the open-water season—put you on the fish. I especially like the giant seven-inch screen and the ability to switch between high-speed chart and real-time digital flasher modes. Add in the eight-times zoom and jigging-mode features and you have unparalleled target separation for spotting bottom-hugging walleye, perch and crappies. And the built-in chartplotter means there’s no need to carry a stand-alone GPS unit.

Johnson Outdoors, (905) 634-0023;

Best mid-level sonar



The features Lowrance has built into its new Elite Ti series of sonar/chartplotters is nothing short of amazing, considering the units sell for under $1,000. Structure Scan HD, DownScan imaging, CHIRP and Broadband Sonar are all included—and that’s just for starters. There’s also integrated wireless connectivity for downloading software updates and Insight Genesis maps directly from your smartphone or tablet, all by simply touching the screen. The Elite Ti comes with a five-, seven-, nine- or 12-inch screen. Lowrance, 1-855-361-1564;

Best fishing tool



Easily opened with one hand by simply squeezing the non-slip, scale-patterned grip, the Cuda Jaw Spreader is great because it frees up your other hand to remove the hook from the fish’s mouth. And the wide, fish-friendly paddle tips will never slip or dig into the soft tissue of the fish’s mouth. Measuring more than a foot in length and constructed of the strongest stainless steel wire I’ve ever seen, the spreader also features a handy lock for safe and easy storage.

Cuda, 1-800-265-2310;


Best tournament tool



Frabill’s Weigh Bag System may be the finest tournament fish tote ever conceived. When held in a plastic weigh bag, a five-fish limit of bass or walleye will routinely use up all the oxygen in the water within five minutes, often leading to post-release mortality. This new system avoids that with a three-part portable livewell consisting of a removable inner mesh bag, a soft, reinforced, free-standing weigh bag and a compact, portable aerator. The system is so fish-friendly, it should be mandatory for all catch-and-release tournaments.

Frabill, 1-800-226-9868;

Best fishing net



Say goodbye to multiple nets for different fish species. With this modular system, you can screw the light, anodized aluminum handle onto one of four different hoops to accommodate the various sizes and species of fish you’re targeting. The handle features a low-profile contoured grip near the hoop, making it easier to lift heavy fish. And should you ever drop the net overboard, it floats. You can order the hoops in a variety of materials, including UV-resistant nylon that’s hook resistant and fish-friendly. No wonder the S1 won ICAST’s FishSmart award.

Adventure Products, 1-800-698-6841;