This summer brought screwy times for us all, but resulted in an uptick in fishing. All over the country, anglers are reporting more people on the water, license and tackle sales are up and boat inventories have been reduced at most dealers.

With the purchase of all this new gear comes the great debate over whatís necessary to catch bass, and whatís viewed as excessive. Now this viewpoint is relative, of course. I have a few buddies here in town that think a foot-control trolling motor is overkill. Others canít be without sonar that borders on virtual reality.

Anyway, letís just say you're one of these new participants weíre hearing all about and youíve got a few bucks burning a hole in your pocket. In your quest to outfit yourself with the essentials for catching bass, you consult the web and do some digging, paying special attention to the latest tournament results and advice from the pros.

Stop right there.

In an attempt to keep you from being overwhelmed, or making purchases that youíll later regret, Iím here to talk some sense into you. Pardon me if I sound like your dad, or my dad, or some guy that wears a cell phone on his belt, but these are things you need to know.

Letís look at some of the latest, greatest gear and peer through the smoke.

> New fishing lines: Many manufacturers are reporting superior performance of fishing lines that are tighter, rounder, tougher or slipperier. Is it worth the hype? It seems so. Given some time to get acquainted, youíll be surprised at the things you can do with the ultra-small, strong lines of today, believe me.

> Forward looking sonar: Without question, the biggest ďplugsĒ in pro fishing have come as shout-outs to the depthfinder companies for 2020. But how key is this technology to your fishing? Do you spend much time scanning the depths on your trolling motor, attempting to mark fish in relatively deep water, and then dropping a bait on them, or casting to them? If you answered no, then your local fishery probably doesnít set up well for this type of technology. Where it works, itís invaluable. But those places remain a small percentage of our fishing, when you think about it.

> New-wave soft baits: Here Iím talking the indestructible models, as well as newly formulated scented lines. To each, I scream ďYESĒ. The ElaZTech stuff is a no-brainer. Sure, itís not the answer to every application, but where it shines (Iím thinking dropshot fishing, swimbaits on jigheads, other tear-friendly applications), itís life-changing. And the newest scented baits are obviously smallmouth killers, judging by the results of summertime fishing across the North.

> Lithium batteries: Call me a fuddy-duddy, but the fact remains that the average bass fisherman will never be able to justify the cost based on performance because these items simply donít deliver the advertised benefit to most traditional bass fishermen. Again, are you regularly in a high-speed boat race to get to your fishing spot? Do you often have less than 3 hours to charge? Do you plan to keep your boat at least 30 years? If you answered no to any of these, Iíd suggest doing the math.

> Shallow water anchors: Had I penned this column a decade ago, I might have had a different opinion. But, in 2020, shallow water anchors are, in fact, a must-have. This equipment has simply changed bass fishing Ė something we probably should have adopted sooner. Go for it.

> Extreme high-end rods: Here, my insight is mixed. Iíve recently had the opportunity to fish with some of the lightest, most sensitive rods in the world, and I will say the technology upped my game. Itís most apparent in long-line, deep-water situations Ė imagine a strike at the end of a long cast. But nearly all rods today are light years ahead of those of just a decade ago. Face it: a hundred-dollar graphite rod is pretty remarkable these days. My suggestion is to treat this one like a gift to yourself, similar to a fancy deer rifle or expensive bottle of bourbon Ė something youíll appreciate owning, even if temporarily.

I hope this list helps you sift through the possibilities when it comes time to buy. Sometimes we have a tendency to place too much emphasis on technology over the tactics; Iím as guilty as anybody.

Always in search of the shortcuts in a world where success is determined by the mood of a fish.

(Joe Balog is the often-outspoken owner of Millennium Promotions, Inc., an agency operating in the fishing and hunting industries. A former Bassmaster Open and EverStart Championship winner, he's best known for his big-water innovations and hardcore fishing style. He's a popular seminar speaker, product designer and author, and is considered one of the most influential smallmouth fishermen of modern times.)