We may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post at no additional cost to you.
What is the Best Tactical Flashlight for Fishing?
In a perfect world, the sun would always be shining on you wherever you fished, but anglers know that’s not the case. Whether it’s pre-dawn hikes to the perfect fishing spot or dark clouds making things tough – every angler needs a great flashlight for fishing.
Picking up a flashlight for fishing seems straightforward but the unique environment and needs of fly fishing make choosing a fishing flashlight much different than picking out a camping or at-home flashlight. Let’s help you find the best tactical flashlight for fishing including what qualities to look for and recommendations you can buy now. Every angler needs the right light in their life.
What to Consider When Buying a Flashlight for Fishing
Output – How Bright Is It?
Obviously, the main priority for your flashlight is brightness. In the flashlight world, brightness is measured in lumens. The higher the lumens, the brighter the light. Standard household flashlights produce anywhere from 10 to 100 lumens, but tactical flashlights are much brighter, clocking anywhere from 100 to 1000 lumens. Think of how much pre-dawn hiking or night fishing you do and where you are to gauge how many lumens you need.
Pro Tip: More always seem better but that’s not the case in lumens. 90% of anglers only require a decent amount of brightness, and rarely will need more than 100 lumens to get the job done. More is better – but it’s not necessary.
Yesterday’s powerful flashlights required a full array of heavy, chunky batteries to light up your world – but not anymore. Thanks to LED and lithium-ion technology you can get as much more light with a tiny fraction of the power old school flashlights required.
Flashlights come in rechargeable and non-rechargeable models. Rechargeable models have a shorter battery life but can continuously be recharged while non-rechargeable models last hundreds of hours on a single battery. If you like to fish in “the sticks” a non-rechargeable model is recommended but if you don’t often fish far from home a rechargeable model is a better idea.
Weight and Bulk
Take it from an avid angler and hiker; an extra half-pound doesn’t seem like a lot of weight, but it makes a big difference over a day and especially on multiple day trips. When looking at flashlights look for the most lumens when compared to weight for the best overall choice. You’ll rarely need a flashlight that weighs more than a pound.
Handheld vs Headlamp
Headlamps are a godsend for anglers. With a headlamp, you can pop your flashlight on your head and leave both hands available for carrying equipment or tying your line. We recommend anglers carry both a handheld flashlight for misc. use and a headlamp for general use.
In case you haven’t noticed things can get wet when fly fishing, both intentionally and unintentionally. You don’t want to lose your investment but luckily there are several water-resistant and waterproof models of tactical flashlights.
In the tactical world, water tightness is measured in IPX. You don’t need to know the ins and outs of IPX except the higher the IPX rating, the more watertight the flashlight is. Think of IPX3-IPX6 as water-resistant (good against rain and splashbacks) and IPX7-8 as more waterproof (can be submerged to a meter or more.)
Does it Float?
Unfortunately, flashlights need a lot of help to float, and that help equals bulky extra material that makes them impractical for anglers. If it’s important to you there are floating flashlights available, but buoyancy should generally be on the low end of your flashlight priorities.
Look for other features that can make a flashlight more beneficial for fishing. Extra beneficial features include:
Clips, fasteners, and other accessories that make clipping the light to your fishing vest or pack easier.
Light features like strobe to signal distress or the ability to focus the light for digging through your tackle box in low light situations.
Easy button/motion sensor so you can turn on the light with little fuss.
The Survival Frog Mini Tactical Flashlight is a versatile flashlight that you can stow in your fly vest, tackle box, or in the glove box of your pickup. The Mini Tactical is impact resistant and comes with 3 modes providing 130-250 lumens depending on the setting. With a USB charger, you can charge the flashlight while on the road to your favorite fishing spot.
The Coast G20 is the most compact tactical flashlight on our list. Though it’s under 15 bucks the G20 features moderate water resistance, moderate impact resistance, and 10 lumens to light up your life for fly-tying. As a bonus, Coast covers all their flashlights with a lifetime warranty, even the little G20.
No angler should be without a decent headlamp but if you don’t want to fork over a ton of cash the Everbeam H6 is an ideal choice. The H6 provides 650 lumens for 2.5 hours and 10 hours on low setting which is more than plenty for most anglers. An IPX4 rating protects the Everbeam H6 from rain and direct splashes. Ever get frustrated when you need to reach for your flashlight, but your hands are already full with line and flies? The Everbeam comes with a motion sensor allowing you to wave your arm or hand to activate your light instead of pressing a button.
At only $19.99, the LA Police Gear W900 is an affordable and slim flashlight that at 4 inches long and under 50 grams without the battery, is small enough to go in virtually any pocket or any tackle box. Despite its slim profile the W900 can produce 900 lumens for 4 continuous hours and run on low settings for almost an entire day. No need to change batteries as the W900’s lithium battery is rechargeable. You can expect 50,000 lifetime hours from the 219D LEDs and a strong IPX8 waterproof rating.
Take the La Police Gear W900, beef it up, add some water-resistant qualities and accessories, and you have the Recon C1. Surprisingly the Recon C1 offers a tad fewer lumens at 850 compared to the W900 but is much tougher for fishing and outdoor use. The Recon C1 is rated impact resistant up to a 24-foot drop and most importantly for anglers – comes with a strong IPX8 rating.
The Nitecore clocks in at – holy cow – 1000 lumens. Nitecore produces some of the best lumens to weight tactical flashlights out there, and the P12 weighs in at only 3.1 ounces. On top of seriously bright light and seriously low weight, the Nitecore P12 features multiple settings and an intelligent memory to save your preferences. The Nitecore can resist impacts up four feet and is carries a top-end IPX8 waterproof rating.
Headlamps allow you to light up your world hands-free and are a must for every fly fisher’s tackle box. The Streamlight Protac hosts a variable of 20 to 635 lumens, providing more than enough light for any situation. Its gasket-sealed construction makes it IPX 4 water-resistant and it’s anodized aluminum protects from minor impacts. With its powerful beam, the Protac can light up the trail to the water, the bottom of the boat or your tackle box, and the whole pond if you’d like.
The Biolite is slim, ultra-lightweight, and is hardly noticeable on your head. The Biolite is put together with ‘3D Slimfit’ construction which gives it a sleek and comfortable profile no matter how big your head is. The 300 lumens can be adjusted to spot or flood settings depending on if you’re hiking to the water or looking in your tackle box. The battery life of 3.5 hours on high setting does leave you wanting, but it can be charged quickly for more use. The Biolite 330 can handle moderate rain and splashes but is not meant to take a bath.
SOG makes tough equipment and the Dark Energy 247A is no different. At 263 lumens it’s not the most powerful flashlight on our list but 263 is many times the strength of a standard household flashlight and will light up anything on or near the water you need to see with ease. The pride of the Dark Energy is its tough Class III anodized yet lightweight exterior and aggressive checkering for extra durability and grip. One reviewer uses the Dark Energy 247A to look down throats in the Emergency Room!
Finding the Best Tactical Flashlight for Fishing
Choosing the right tactical flashlight for fly fishing can be the difference between a fun and frustrating day so do your research and choose wisely. Look for plenty of lumens, a tough build, and water-resistant properties that match your day on the water. With the right flashlight at the right price, you’ll see your way to the right catch.