There are some obvious extreme sports out there—wingsuit flying, solo climbing, cave diving. But fishing is often left off that list. Don’t be fooled. In addition to the unmitigated joys of hauling in that monster marlin or sweet sailfish, there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes blood, sweat, and tears. And even if you only go with pro guides, once you step off the sidewalk and onto the bank or boat, you’re subject to the whims of Mother Nature. And once you’ve felt the force of the wind, rain, and even snow, you know that fishing gear is truly survival gear.
No one does fishing apparel like Columbia; each jacket, shirt, short, and pant is tested in the most extreme conditions on earth by people who live the sport—not just treat it as an occasional hobby. So if it works for them, know it’ll work for you.
We picked five of our favorites and checked out how they held up to string winds, splashing water, monsoon rains, and all that exertion that’s demanded when you have the big one on the line and adrenaline is at an all-time high.
“We found fish and adventure,” says Columbia athlete Cindy Nguyen. “I love the fact that Columbia’s PFG (professional fishing gear) Force 12 collection not only stands for protection in the worst of conditions, but also for bringing awareness to what’s happening with one of the world’s most valuable resources.”
Columbia PFG Force 12 Zero Women’s Long-Sleeve Shirt
Ladies – listen up. Fishing is fashionable—both the activity and the apparel. The new Force 12 Zero Long-Sleeve Shirt fits like a dream….the flowy ripstop nylon doesn’t cling or bunch up and is as light as a summer breeze. We love the zippered mesh Napoleon chest pockets to keep a phone, chapstick, or hair tie handy. Omni-Free Zero provides sweat-activated cooling, so when you’re fighting to land the catch of the day, you’re not battling overheating as well. While the shirt cuts a stiff breeze, it also thwarts the sun with Omni-Shade UPF 50 protection. Our fav feature? When we want to cool off even more, there’s a vented back yoke, plus sleeves that roll up, elbow height, and are secured by an easy-to-adjust button and strap.
Columbia PFG Force 12 Zero Men’s Long-Sleeve Shirt
This is a serious fishing shirt that you’ll want to wear everyday (whether you are fishing or not). The Force 12 Zero Long-Sleeve Shirt rip-stop nylon material has a slight stretch, so there’s no binding when you’re casting or pulling in line. Fav features include the nifty sunglass-cleaning patch (someone was thinking!), button-down collar (you can turn it up for more sun protection), and a back vent. But it is the technology that really makes a difference. The Omni-Freeze ZERO sweat-activated cooling kept athletes dry and comfortable from dawn to dusk. Plus, there’s a slick rod holder and dual zippered Napoleon chest pockets big enough for an iPhone, plus a couple of energy bars.
Columbia PFG Men’s Force 12 Short
There are a couple of things that are simply required gear on a fishing trip. One’s your favorite rod and the other’s a pair of well-fitting shorts. The Men’s Force 12 Shorts have everything you need for a day on the water or bank, and nothing you don’t. And they don’t soak up stains or water thanks to Omni-Shield Blood ‘n Guts technology. The soft-but-rugged polyester fabric has 15 percent Elastane. Athletes loved the shorts for their awesome range of motion, with nothing to restrict high steps, squats, or even the occasional cannon ball. Omni-Shade UPF 30 kept the anglers burn-free, even after scorching days off the coast of Vietnam. The sleek shorts have bonded seams, so there’s no chafing (or worries about stitching failure). Zippered pockets keep valuables secure, plus there’s a reinforced pliers pocket and strategically placed venting.
Columbia PFG Men’s Force 12 Pant
You may have watched the classic film, The Shoes of the Fisherman (Anthony Quinn and Laurence Olivier, 1968, which really doesn’t have much to do with fishing), but even if you haven’t, consider the Force 12’s The Pants of the Fisherman. The Force 12 Pants are part of every anglers self-chosen mandatory wardrobe. The pants are sleek and stylish (you can easily wear them from boat to brewery), but totally bomber. The seat and knees are reinforced with ripstop nylon; the rest of the pants are a soft but durable polyester. One angler in the Indian Ocean reported that the slight stretch was “perfect” as it allowed him to climb around the boat with no discomfort or restriction of movement. Columbia’s Omni-Shield Blood ‘n Guts water and stain repellency let’s you wipe off guts, spilled coffee, and even Champagne (yes, we test these pants thoroughly!). And yes, these miracles of modern apparel technology block rays and feature strategic venting, zippered pockets, and sturdy bonded seams.
Columbia PFG Men’s Force Jacket
The Force is always with you when this jacket’s in your fishing kit. The Force 12 Jacket gives you a sense of confidence; it handles the toughest rain and has unbelievable durability. Plus it is almost impossible to work up a sweat as the jacket breathes better than anything in its class thanks to Columbia’s award-winning OutDry Extreme, with the tough, abrasion-resistant waterproof breathable layer on the outside. Inside is a soft, wicking fabric that’s not sticky or plasticky like so much raingear out there. The exterior sheds water (and mud and slime) like a duck and has a buttery feel and great look. Our athletes love the wide brim on the adjustable hood, and two-way center zipper is great for venting or opening up when wearing a belt or harness. Plus there’s a clear-covered, waterproof front pocket that is touch screen-compatible—awesome if you’re checking the weather or tide table.
For an insider’s glimpse of this rad apparel, check out Columbia’s groundbreaking film, Force 12. The movie follows Columbia’s fishing ambassadors from Vietnam to the Seychelles as they explore some of the world’s most iconic fisheries. It focuses on the history of fishing, and the sad reality of overfishing. Columbia’s athletes continuously search for pristine waters, and, not-so, surprisingly, are confronted with the fact that many historic areas are “fished out.” They work with local fishing legends to find out just where fish are flourishing; an adventure that takes them into wild places and, often, unexpected conditions.