Marc Coulson's best carp tackle of 2017

2017 was a vintage year for carp tackle, as Marc Coulson details in this in-depth look at the best kit to hit the market over the last 12 months.

Solar Tackle P1 Sod Pod

RRP: £249.99 | www.solartackle.com

Why it’s in: “A timeless classic with significant material upgrades"

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The early 1990s saw Martin Locke’s Solar launch the original stainless-steel Sod Pod, which soon lined the banks of carp lakes the country over, such was its build quality and ultra-carpy look.

I remember swooning over the Sod Pod in the yearly Tackle Box catalogue and then, some years later, when out shooting features with the likes of Derek Ritchie who used one.

Eventually I was able to get one of my own and I thought I was the absolute bees’ knees, and that pod lasted me over a deacde.

Last year saw Solar upgrade the Sod Pod with the P1 stainless range of components, yet maintaining the original’s fold-away general design.

The legs are slightly shorter than the early model and the front upright is a little shorter than the rear, to account for the additional height of the alarms. Other than that, it’s the classic Sod Pod and I love it.

Pods have come a long way in recent years, but similarly to a Daiwa Tournament reel, for example, some classic designs remain timeless and I’m thrilled to see the Sod Pod make a return. Bravo for that, Solar!

Delkim 25 Plus Special Edition

RRP: £84.50 | www.delkim.co.uk

Why it’s in: "The 25 Plus celebrates Delkim’s silver anniversary perfectly"

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Sharing an anniversary with Korda, Disneyland Paris, and the topical Maastricht treaty, Delkim also celebrated their 25th year in 2017 and launched a limited-edition alarm to mark the occasion.

It’s not, as I’ve seen claimed by some unknowing and half-witted internet trolls, “just an EV with silver dials”.

What it is, in fact, is the Standard Plus – essentially the top-of the-range Tx-i Plus but without the integral radio transmitter.

As such, it features the twin sensitivity range settings, along with the dial settings giving a huge range of options including Delkim’s legendary ultra-sensitive options.

All of the other top-end features are also here, including ‘night marking’ mode, twin LEDs in six colour options, volume and tone controls, exceptional battery life and, of course, Delkim’s vibration-sensing system.

Having used this set on several occasions now I can see absolutely no difference between these and my Tx-is, aside from the remote system.

They’re extremely sensitive and reliable, as I’d expect from any alarm from Delkim, and performed brilliantly on every trip.

Although it took me a little while to make my mind up, I actually quite like the special livery, with the silver name sticker and dials along with an all-silver special-edition protective cover.

To do anything successfully for 25 years is worthy of celebration and some considerable congratulations, especially having done so at the very top end of the market.

With the 25 Plus, Delkim has marked the occasion appropriately and, if you don’t necessarily need a remote system, I’d definitely recommend a set.

Carp Porter Power Porter MK6

RRP: £700 | www.carp-porter.com

Why it’s in: “Not cheap, but makes a tangible difference to your angling”

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Mention carp barrows to most anglers and the first name that comes to mind is Prestige Engineering’s Carp Porter.

Prior to the Carp Porter brand breaking the mould in tackle transport, most of us used something more akin to a builder’s barrow, with some even ‘borrowing’ theirs from the local building site!

A decade after first introducing a motorised version, the Power Porter MK6 now leads the way in modern barrow design and, if we’re honest, is the barrow we’d all love to own.

The most recent development has been the fully sealed motor which is now removable along with the wheel section, making stowing it in your vehicle much easier than before.

It also reduces the amount of space needed to store the MK6 compared to previous models.

The motor itself has been upgraded and offers far more torque than before and the battery and dedicated charger are also greatly improved.

Reinforced handles, no-loss hand knobs, deluxe Y bar, all-terrain wheel, variable-speed hand control, zip-top barrow bag and much more combine in this brilliant piece of British engineering.

Yes, Carp Porters are all made in the UK. The result is a barrow which follows the Carp Porter template but with an ease of use which must be experienced to be believed.

I first tried one of these when out with Dave Lane who, after the ‘old man needs an electric barrow’ jibes, gave a wry smile as I, his chief tormentor, experienced just how easy the MK6 made shifting kit.

Trust me, if you ever try one, like me, it will be straight on your carp-fishing bucket list.

Not only will it make life easier, but by doing so it will make you a more efficient angler, removing the excuse of having to lug your gear when moving on to showing fish.

Trakker Levelite Oval Bedchair System

RRP: £399 | www.trakkerproducts.co.uk

Why it’s in: “Changes the shape of bedchair design”

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Last year saw Trakker literally change the shape of bedchair design with the Levelite Oval.

Why break with tradition and make a bedchair anything other than the usual oblong, you might ask.

Well, Trakker offers up one very good reason, which, like so many of the best ideas, is both simple and clever in equal measure.

By making the sides slightly rounded it can be pushed further back inside a bivvy, filling that void which we’re often left with behind the bedchair and which is largely wasted.

Ok, but why? Well, by getting the bed further back in the shelter it creates a considerable amount of extra room in the front, more than you might imagine, in fact.

I tested the theory when pushing this one into the back of my Tempest and, while it did exactly what Trakker claimed, it wasn’t until I placed it under my brolly that it really impressed.

The ability to get it right back under maximum cover proved a godsend and I immediately lamented the fact that this one had to go back once this article had been penned.

I then worked out that there was an additional benefit of the oval shape over my current bed.

I am most comfortable when sleeping on my side with one arm and one leg out, in something akin to the recovery position. The additional width in the central area would prove a godsend, I’m sure.

The flat nature of the Levelite system, along with the adjustable lumber support, make for a comfortable sleeping position and I particularly like that the sleeping bag is not fleece lined. 

It’s also surprisingly light given how substantial an item it is and it folds away easily and without fuss.

You’re waiting for the ‘but’, aren’t you? There’s always a ‘but’, right? Well, not really.

Sure, the price tag won’t be to everybody’s liking, however, there are other systems out there which are similarly priced but do not offer what this one does.

That aside, the features and benefits of the Levelite Oval truly make it an object of some considerable desire.

Gardner Ready Tied Ronnie Rigs

RRP: £4.99 (for three) | www.gardnertackle.co.uk

Why it’s in: “Very well tied versions of the rig of the year”

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Not all of the best products of 2017 have to be big ones, but these rigs had to go in to my selection down to the sheer popularity of the presentation over the last year or so.

While I prefer to tie my own rigs, there’s no doubting the popularity of ready-tied versions and these tick all the boxes.

As well as being ultra modern – the Ronnie has undoubtedly been the rig of the year – they’re expertly well tied from Gardner’s quality components.

The Mugga hooks need little introduction, but they are the perfect pattern for the Ronnie and they’re wickedly sharp, while the rest of the bits in the rig are equally suited to the rig.

There are a lot of excellent ready-tied rigs on the market these days, but these are up there with the very best and, as such, deserve a place on my list of products which made 2017 a good one for carp anglers.

Korda Tackle Safe and Compac 140

RRP: £24.99 & £14.99 | www.korda.co.uk 

Why it’s in: “Easily two of my favourite products of 2017 and beyond”

Ok, so these are actually two products, but because they work so well together I felt compelled to include them both, especially as they have each found their way into my own kit.

The Tackle Safe was a big impact product for me as it saw me switch from a Fox Box for the first time in nearly two decades.

I’m extremely particular about how I store my tackle and in the last year or so I have streamlined what I take and what stays in the spares box.

The Tackle Safe, despite initially looking a bit small, has been a revelation and helped me safely and neatly store my rig bits.

A whopping 29 individual compartments, all but one featuring a clip-lid closure, house an amazing amount of tackle items and the only drawback is that it doesn’t hold many hooklink spools… that’s the where the Compac 140 comes in.

As well as the Tackle Safe, Korda also launched the Compac range of zipped storage pouches, the 140 size perfectly hosing the Tackle Safe with room below for larger items such as hooklinks, leaders, rig tools and much more.

I’ve been able to compact what used to sit in a larger box and a separate pouch into just the Compac 140, complete with Tackle Safe inside.

I know that both of these items have been extremely popular and sales have been impressive, but it is for the sheer impact they have had on my own tackle storage that sees them take their place in my lineup of top products of 2017.

Shimano Power Aero 14000XTB

RRP: £399.99 | www.fish-shimano-eu.com

Why it’s in: “Shimano makes its mark again in the top-end big-pit market”

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While there are undoubtedly some impressive ‘other’ big-pit reels out there these days, few can doubt the dominance that Shimano and Daiwa have shared in recent years.

Each has battled for decades over number-one spot, or at least a perceived position at the top, with the balance of power often see-sawing.

The Power Aero harks back to an era when Shimano’s big pits were considered the pinnacle in terms of reliability – before looks and weight, or lack of, seemed to overtake this in terms of anglers’ preferences.

Today’s Power Aero, which launched at the end of 2017, has combined all of those factors into a reel which, despite its price tag, has flown off the shelves of many tackle shops.

Sultry dark looks adorn the XTE model, which is reassuringly sturdy, super smooth and, yet, far lighter than its predecessor.

A relatively small aluminium body takes care of this and gives an all-spool appearance. With line loaded on to this spool it looks superb with the ultra-slow oscillation making for immaculate line lay and, with it, huge casting potential.

The downside is it will take the tackle tarts a long time to get their spools and handles all perfectly aligned!

Bang-up-to-date features such as HAGANE gearing and the new X-Protect combine for smooth, life-long performance in a reel that is built very much with longevity in mind, very much in keeping with the Shimano ethos. And rightly so when paying this sort of money.

Finally, if it’s your thing, the new Hi-Speed Drag allows even quicker switching from free-spool to locked up.

I would like to think there will be a limit on this soon as I personally prefer a clutch that has a little more range for when playing big fish.

That’s just my personal preference in a front-drag reel and it shouldn’t detract from what is a wonderful piece of engineering.

Sturdy, light, packed with technology and with looks very much in keeping with modern desires, what more could you ask from a top-end big-pit reel

FOX HORIXON X5 RODS

RRP: £250-£299.99 | www.foxint.com

Why it’s in: “The X5 is an outstanding piece of carp-rod engineering”

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With huge-selling models like the Warrior, Fox has made rods of some considerable quality in the lower price range for many years.

However, more recently the focus has also included those in the upper levels of the market, the culmination being the X5, a rod that has impressed me as much as any other for many years.

In fact, I was asked recently if I ever switched from my current Free Spirits what would I choose, to which I immediately replied, “the 12ft 6in 3.5lb X5.”

I needed no time to consider my answer, which previously would have been a flat, “I wouldn’t switch!”

There are a number of models in the range, including 12ft and 13ft fishing models and a dedicated Spod/Marker rod in both lengths, each of which boasts 50mm butt rings and either abbreviated or full Duplon handles.

It’s in the blank where the strength of the X5 lies, literally. They’re far from poker stiff but they boast a huge amount of power throughout, while the action is not the type that sees you having kittens when playing fish at closer quarters.

I don’t believe there is a rod in existence that can genuinely be powerful and forgiving, but this is a great example of one that is probably as close as it gets.

I’m a huge fan of the Fuji K-Series guides, especially as I use braided mainlines where allowed, but even with mono lines they considerably cut down the potential for frapping. Instead, they encourage a smooth transition from reel to tip ring, helping to maximize casting distance from the rod and its user.

It’s difficult to portray much further just how impressed I am with these and they have certainly, in my mind, elevated Fox into the upper echelons of rod manufacturing.

If you’ve never really thought of the Essex-based firm as a maker of top-end rods, then you should do so now… and for that reason the X5 definitely makes my list.

ESP Quilted 25k clothing

RRP: £149.99, £149.99 and £109.99 | www.esp-carpgear.com

Why it’s in: “The best waterproof, winter clothing set on the market”

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Another launch from the tail end of 2017, ESP finally released a quilted version of its excellent jacket, trousers and salopettes.

I’d previously written that the Supergrade was some of the very best clothing I’d seen produced by a fishing company – certainly at the time the closest to some of the top outdoor brands, and I stand by that opinion.

The new version, with a quilted inner, took the waterproof and wind-resistant design to another level in terms of comfort and warmth.

The 25,000mm hydrostatic head is as waterproof as you will find, even way beyond the angling market, and the rip-stop material is also ideally suited to the rigours what we year-round carpers put our clothing through.

As well as the new quilted inner, warmth comes from the considerable shield that the outer offers against even the most biting wind.

Generous proportions abound in all three garments, allowing for additional clothing to be worn beneath.

The jacket and two options of bottoms combine to create the perfect weather shield and, while some anglers may prefer the ease of the trousers in terms of getting them on and off quickly, my preference is definitely for the salopettes.

The additional insulation these offer around the small of the back make them perfect for winter use.

Neoprene cuffs, high collar and hood and YKK zips all feature on the jacket, while the zipped lower section on the two bottoms makes for ease of use with bulky footwear.

I’ve long waxed lyrical about the merits of buying the best clothing you can afford – a comfortable angler is an efficient angler, after all – and the 25k is the perfect example.

Not too long ago, ESP would have struggled to sell clothing in this price range, but thankfully carp anglers are switching on to the fact that you get what you pay for, and long may that continue.

Avid Carp Outline terminal tackle

RRP: Various | www.avidcarp.com 

Why it’s in: “Great range in a genuinely stealthy design”

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I do not generally believe that the colour of terminal items is as important as many companies will have you believe, but I do think that it’s important to break up the lines of such gear.

As a result, I have flecked a lot of my terminal gear with a marker pen for years, or more recently chosen items with so-called ‘camo’ designs.

In 2017, Avid launched its Outline range, which includes multiple items that feature a flecked finish.

In the packets they look very good, but it’s only when you combine them and place a rig in the water that the true benefit can be appreciated.

I combine the QC Lead Clips, which have a quick-change swivel incorporated inside, along with the tail rubbers and (Korda’s weed-green Kable) leadcore together and they look superb.

Having shown this combination to several of my angling mates they’ve immediately switched from their own similar items.

That, for me, is the ultimate indictment of a tackle item and further cemented the Outline’s place in my line-up.

Nash Titan TC Pro

RRP: £549 | www.nashtackle.co.uk

Why it’s in: “Quite simply one of the best bivvies ever made”

I’ve cheated a bit here, because the TC Pro actually launched in 2016, but my first experience of it came last year and it impressed me so much that I have shoehorned it into this article.

If there is one bivvy design that has stood the test of time over any other, it has to be Nash’s Titan. In various forms, this king of bivvies has evolved over its 25 years, yet has stayed true to the original principle of outright strength.

Rock-solid is an oft-used adjective when it comes to shelters, but nowhere is it more relevant than here.

I actually bore witness to this strength at Linear Fisheries a decade ago when, during an horrific storm, a large section of a tree fell on to a Titan.

It would be no exaggeration to say that the bivvy’s design probably saved the unsuspecting resident angler’s life. He was certainly shaken by events, but escaped unscathed.

Essentially, the frame of today’s Titans have changed very little in design – they haven’t needed to. Materials throughout, however, have been upgraded significantly, meaning what has to be one of the very best bivvies on the market is now indeed even better.

Historically, one drawback of the Titan was its weight, but this has been reduced significantly without any loss of that famous strength and rigidity.

In keeping with modern trends, the back of the frame has also changed to allow anglers’ increasingly large bedchairs to be pushed right back, maximising internal dimensions without affecting the Titan’s footprint.

With four models in the Titan range, my favourite is the TC Pro. The two ‘TC’ Titans are a more compact, lightweight design, with the Pro boasting the top-of-the-range Aqua Sense outer material and rear vents (an absolute godsend in the summer).

Both versions can be upgraded with an additional inner mesh ‘pod’, creating, in effect, a twin-skin shelter for year-round use.

This is not essential to the Titan, but it’s a great additional extra if you’re that way inclined.

Don’t let the word ‘compact’ fool you too much. Sure, it’s significantly smaller than the TC Pro’s bigger brethren, but there is still ample room for what most of us carry.

One huge improvement since my Titan which I owned around 18 years ago is the supplied bag, which is among the best I’ve seen. This may sound like a small and insignificant element, but not being blessed with patience following a two-night stint on the bank, it can mean the difference between driving home with my sanity intact and, well, not.

It’s a while since a product, especially a bivvy (which I am extremely fussy about) has impressed me quite as much as these new-age Titans, especially this version.

It’s a genuine upgrade to what has been a truly brilliant shelter, trusted by very many anglers for very many years. I’m thrilled to include the Titan here as it was my very first ‘top-end’ bivvy and the memories of that first one still live long and true.

RidgeMonkey Connect Combi Pan

RRP: £32.99 | www.ridgemonkey.co.uk

Why it’s in: “Great item, hugely popular with carp anglers in 2017”

It would be very difficult to compile a feature such as this without including something from RidgeMonkey, which could surely lay claim to being the company of 2017.

From humble beginnings supplying what was essentially a toasted sandwich maker, to now producing a huge range of cookware, line, tech and even terminal tackle, RidgeMonkey made a huge impact last year.

I’d like a quid for every pan RidgeMonkey has sold, that’s for sure, and the name has become a generic term for similar products, a bit like vacuum cleaners being referred to as Hoovers, regardless of brand.

The Combi Pan has made my list of top products of 2017 largely due to its sheer popularity, plus the slight design change which allowed both sections to be used independently.

The single pan can be used as a conventional frying pan, albeit a pretty deep one, as well as to cook one-pan dishes, where the other section features four compartments, perfect for cooking multiple ingredients separately.

Carp fishing is, sadly, littered with haters and RidgeMonkey has had some stick from the internet trolls for making what is largely quite simple cooking kit available to carp anglers. I think that’s unfair.

Sure, the Combi Pan is just a pan, but it’s an extremely useful one that carp anglers have bought in the thousands and, so, rightfully deserves a place in my list of products of the year.