Bright ideas for personal illumination.

The LED revolution paved the way for powerful lighting in small packages: Hat lamp, left, and selection of pocket-size lights and common smart phone.

On some of my earliest Tampa Bay explorations, I’d wade the Courtney Campbell Causeway flats at night with a cheap plastic flashlight hung across my neck and shoulder with a sling fashioned from an old electrical cord. Did it work? Yep. But was it convenient, efficient, comfortable? Not so much.

Today’s illumination options offer a broad array of functionality; also a broad array of features and terms to get straight.

Lumens — Measurement of the intensity of the light throughout the entire beam, on the highest brightness setting and powered by new batteries (more accurate measurement than “candlepower”).

Beam Distance — How far the light will shine before brightness diminishes to the equivalent of a full moon.

Light Emitting Diode (LED) — More efficient, brighter and longer lasting than incandescent bulbs, an LED gives you a solid beam, as opposed to the splotch common to flashlights of yesteryear.

Water Resistance — Not to be confused with the self-explanatory “waterproof,” this rating system uses the IPX (Ingress Protection) standard. Shoot for IPX4 or higher and your light will hold up to the frequent splashes of bait buckets, flopping fish and brief rain exposure.

Beyond these standardized ratings, flashlight designs vary greatly. Considering how often you’ll need to operate a flashlight while holding a rod or some other item, push-button styles are more convenient than those with twist on/off operation.

Slim designs fit well into the back pocket, while a pocket clip offers handy accessibility. Wrist lanyards have little use for fishermen. Neck lanyards are somewhat more practical, as long as you tuck the flashlight inside your shirt or jacket between uses. Otherwise, the dangling object can turn into a real tooth cracker.

Lanyards keep flashlights handy and prevent drop loss on bridges, piers and jetties. Coil style lanyards can tangle in your fishing line. Better is a straight connection made of heavy monofilament or paracord fitted with a split ring for flashlight connection and a stainless steel snap hook or carabiner for clipping to belt loops, waders or gear belts.

Jacksonville’s Capt. Chris Holleman wears a head lamp with a pivoting head around his neck. This allows him to fix the beam without relying on head angles, while keeping the light closer to his rigging “work station,” which is right about chest level.

Cap lights offer the simplest hands-free option. Tilting or angling the bill lets you light up your spot while maintaining comfortable head posture. Make sure yours has a metal clip, as hard plastic clips tend to break.

Even with a fully waterproof design, saltwater eats everything, so clean your gear after every marine adventure to preserve any metallic parts in the handle, or lanyard clip/ring.

Look for flashlights and head lamps with spot and flood options. The former focuses a powerful beam on a specific target, while the latter lights up a broad area with a less intense beam and consumes less battery life.

Luminescent casings like the Pelican 3310PL facilitate location in the dark (this model also features a strobe option for emergency signaling.) Modify other flashlights with night glow adhesives available at craft stores.

Rechargeable lithium ion batteries cost more, but generally last longer than disposable alkalines and ensure you’ll never run out of juice on extended road trips. With either, remove batteries from your device if you’ll have several weeks between usage.

What about your smartphone? Most phones include flashlight options, while simple screen illumination offers enough glow for tying knots or selecting hook size. Set your phone’s auto lock function to at least a couple of minutes so you’ll have sufficient illumination without having to keep turning on the screen. FS

First Published Florida Sportsman Magazine March 2017

Load Comments ( )

Don’t forget to sign up!

Get the Top Stories from Florida Sportsman Delivered to Your Inbox Every Week