Every once in awhile I am fortunate enough to field test new products that most anglers have not had a chance to try yet. In this feature, I'll write about how the ones that passed the test performed while in the boat or on the ice.
Over the last few years landing nets have made some remarkable innovations. Foremost amongst them in my mind, has been the move to fish-friendly material that won't remove excessive slime coat nor injure the fish destined for release. Retractable extended handles have also been an outstanding addition to many models of landing nets. When I heard of a net though that combines these two features, I was more than intrigued and anxious to try it out.
Frabill's Hiber-Net arrived in a cardboard cylinder not unlike the way many fishing rods are shipped. Once opened it looked like this:
I pulled the black grip forward to open the retractable net hidden inside the extruded aluminum handle similar to the way you would open up an umbrella, and voila, out popped this large landing net. What I really liked was that there wasn't a button to push or slot that you had to align just right before the net would open.
I have always looked upon landing nets in my 18 1 foot Nitro Bass Boat as a 'necessary evil'. Most of the newer ones I have tried over the last several years have performed well enough when called upon - but in between fish they can't help but get-in-the-way. I just could never find the perfect place in my boat where the darned thing wouldn't be tripped over, take up valuable space or even worse- become fouled up with hooks from one of several rods invariably laying in the boat.
I was able to try the Hiber-Net the day after it arrived in a Bassmaster Club tournament near Gravenhurst ON. Fishing wasn't fast and furious but four nice largemouth were brought alongside the boat and scooped up easily and without incident.
More impressive though, was that the broom-like pole was either laying unobtrusively in the bottom of the boat or on top of the bow or stern casting decks where it sat harmless between fish. It fit perfectly sideways in my boat on the floor next to the seats between trips.
The next day it would be field-tested once again this time up in beautiful Gloucester Pool near Georgian Bay ON. I was fishing in an Ontario BASS Federation Nation Junior Bassmaster "Mentor's" Tournament with two fine young men who love bass fishing as much as their older counterparts. Here the Hiber-Net would definitely get more use as the bass were quite cooperative and we were culling early on. In fact for awhile we decided to leave the net 'open' just to make it quicker and easier to land the fish we were catching. This actually turned out to be a mistake!
You can imagine that with two keen young anglers not knowing what type of fishing conditions they would be up against that they would bring enough tackle to overload that kitchen sink. Combine that with yours truly - who has never been known to 'travel light' and that bass boat was jam-packed with rods, tackle and bags of all sorts. The last thing we needed was to trip over the net and when it was open that was difficult. The solution was simple a little practice opening and closing it and before we knew it the simple procedure was done so quickly and effortlessly that it seemed counterproductive to allow the net to lie open between fish. So within a few minutes, the Hiber-Net was closed up and barely noticed on-board until needed.
"The beauty of the Hiber-Net lies in its simple, foolproof design," says Frabill Engineer, Ryan Kleckner. "There are no buttons or confusing push connections. All you do is slide the handle upward. You feel, see and hear the net lock into place, so there's no way to overdo it. Hiber-Net retracts instantly, too. Just pull the Slide-Grip back toward the handle. This unlocks the hoop and draws it back inside the tube."
When it came to actually landing the bass - we all were rather impressed with the ease this particular net did the job. All of the previous landing nets we used were round in design yet the Hiber-Net is triangular with a straight outer edge that seemed to offer more space for the fish to be guided into the awaiting scoop below.
All in all the Hiber-Net exceeded expectations and is destined to become a permanent fixture in my bass boat. For larger fish a new Hiber-Net XL will hit tackle shops in 2011. It will be 72-inches in length, with a triangular-shaped hoop 31- by 27-inches wide and 32-inches deep. The original Hiber-Net is 52.5 inches long, with a 24" x 26" hoop and is currently available at Bass Pro Shops.
Junior Bassmaster Mark Morrison (above) caught several bass during the first Junior Bassmaster Tournament of the Year. He was impressed how easily we scooped his fish up with the Frabill Hiber Net.