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Online the way to go for your gear

Published: Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014 12:17 a.m. CST

Don't look now, but here comes another round of snow, high winds and cold. I tell you, this is getting old ... I mean really old, and really fast. I mean, I am pretty easy-going and usually find ways to entertain myself pretty easy, but come on. There just doesn't seem to be an end to this at all.

So, to avoid losing my mind – which would be a perty short trip anyway – I have taken to extra preparation for the upcoming fishing season. Now normally, my preparation consists of tying up leaders for the season. Usually about a hundred-size ones, maybe a couple of hundred 2/0, and then the same with 4/0. Then I tie up a few hundred 7/0, which is my go-to flathead size, just perfect for big live baits as well as good-size cut baits.

But this winter, with the extra time on my hands, I tied up about 8 other sizes. I am not running out of anything; if anything, I'm gonna run out of room to store them.

This year, I have taken to the Internet a lot, and done some real studying up on several products near and dear to me.

Reels, being one of my favorite tools of the trade, were first on my list. Now, for years, I have been working with Zebco brands, and have used their products religiously. Zebco is the parent company of other brands such as Quantum, Fin-Nor, Cajun, Martin, and Van Staal. I have used the Fin Nor level-wind reels, as well as the Quantum baitcasters.

For my money, they're about as good a line of reels as you're going to find. However, I did find some other reels that are pretty darn good, and as with products of any kind, time and technology really levels things out in the end.

Penn reels, which was a brand I wouldn't have bought with your money, has really stepped up their game. After talking with them, they were eager to send some reels for me to play around with.

The reels I received were from their squall series. These are a level-wind reel with a star drag, stainless gears, and anywhere from 20 to 40 pounds of drag. In other words, they are much like what I use now. I have not used them on fish yet, but I have done a lot of other little tests, and let me tell you that these babies are stout little reels.

I'm not going to venture into line at all, because I use Cajun … and I always will. You can cast it, you can rough it up, and heck, you can tie up the horse to the hitchin' post with it. You flat ain't gonna break it, which no matter what anybody says is the most important thing you should look for in a line ... unless you fish for bait.

Finding fishing gear, especially reels, is best done online. Whether you're looking for reels or anything else, going to an individual company's homepage is the best way to see their full line of products. Then from there, you can go to whoever they list as their distributors, and find the best prices for you. You are able to compare and fully study products, and get the best bang for your buck this way.

You also can always go to eBay, which has always been a very popular way to buy and sell fishing products … and holy cow. That place is like a fisherman's paradise. The selection and the deals are sometimes mind-blowing. Shipping is usually quick, and most people seem to be very honest and forthcoming. Also, you will find every make and model and brand of just about everything outdoors you can imagine. So check it out.

Now, I'm not trying to beat up places like Bass Pro, Cabela's or Gander Mountain, but they just don't carry a great selection, and their sales people ... well, let's just say they don't know a ton about what they're peddling.

So use the Internet to check out gear, like fishing reels. You'll be shocked to learn how many reels some of your big brands create that you never hear of or see. Again, why some of these big stores have thousands of things in their catalogs and virtually nothing on the shelves ... well, that's beyond me.

So, while sitting around waiting for this everlasting winter to wind down, do a little in-home surfing … and go into this season better prepared than ever before.

Until next week … Go Catfish!

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