It's that time of year.
The tree has been decorated. The halls have been decked. The stockings have been hung by the chimney with care. You've been making your list and checking it twice. Trouble is, there are a lot more names on the nice side than the naughty side.
Not to worry. It's easy to play the role of Santa Claus when you share the gift of fishing. Talk about the gift that keeps on giving.
Unlike a tacky tie from Aunt Edna, a screwdriver set from Cousin Ernie that happens to be your seventh or that two-small, itchy sweater from Grandma Grace that inevitably gets passed on to Goodwill, most of the people on my list will actually use a Shad Rap, a package of Uncle Josh plastics or a handful of Fin-Tech jigs.
All year long, I've been storing away tidbits of information that will help me select appropriate Christmas gifts for my family and friends. And now that shopping season has arrived, I'm leafing through catalogues and checking out the advertisements in the newspapers and magazines I read for more ideas and bargain prices.
For that brother who loves to ice fish but always stops by to borrow a flasher, I'm wrapping a new Humminbird Ice 45 three-color flasher that I know he will fall in love with.
For the father-in-law whom I've watched struggle for years to anchor his boat, a MinnKota DeckHand 40 electronic anchoring system will be a perfect gift.
For the nephew who just discovered the joy of fishing, I'm providing him with a contour map of his favorite lake complete with GPS waypoints for my best spots.
For the neighbor I introduced to planer board fishing last summer, I'm wrapping a set of Off-Shore Planer Boards equipped with Tattle Flags to help him detect both bites and debris.
As for the other anglers on my list, I'll match them up with a gift that best suits their favorite type of fishing.
If they're into spring jigging for walleyes, a selection of Fin-Tech jig heads and Uncle Josh plastics will be perfect. If they're into casting crankbaits for walleyes or bass, I'll set them up with a couple of my favorite Shad Rap styles and patterns.
Of course there are those avid anglers who seem to have everything they need in terms of jigs and lures. They are prime candidates for a couple of spools of Suffix line. Now is the time to respool those reels, anyway, after a season of serious use.
I've also got names on my list that never seem to think ahead or prepare themselves for the adversity that sometimes occurs on the water. I know one angler who doesn't carry a spare prop for his MinnKota trolling motor and another who doesn't keep a first-aid kit in his boat. My gifts to them will someday salvage a day on the water or prevent a trip to the hospital.
Angling tools are another inexpensive gift that will be used and appreciated. There never seem to be enough scissors, needle-nosed pliers or hook sharpeners in some boats. In others, things are so disorganized you can't find them when you need them, anyway. Those anglers will be grateful for both the tools and the organizers they'll be getting from me.
If you are among the do-it-yourself crowd, you may not even have to leave home to complete your holiday shopping. From jig heads to hair jigs, sinkers, in-line trolling weights, spinners, blade baits, etc., you can delight many of the anglers in your life with hand-crafted items that don't cost much to make.
Know somebody with young children about to become part of the angling experience? Why not get that person a child-sized lifejacket?
Know a kid down the street who seems interested in fishing but doesn't have the equipment to get started? Set them up with a beginning rod-and-reel combo.
Got a relative who never seems to dress right for the elements? Maybe you can help them out with a pair of wool socks or Gore-Tex gloves.
Sometimes, I simply can't make up my mind what to get. That's when a gift certificate from the local tackle shop, marine dealer or one of the major sporting goods chains is the perfect solution. Let the recipient decide what he or she wants or needs.
There are always a couple of non-traditional anglers on my list, too, who enjoy the sport occasionally, but don't share the everyday passion some of us have for fishing. Give them a personal gift certificate for a guided fishing trip where you provide everything and all they have to do is show up and fish. Or, invite them to a special fish dinner. Those are great gifts for employers, clients or business associates, too.
If you look hard enough, there's an ideal angling gift for nearly everyone on your list. Even Aunt Edna.