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Showing posts with label Show all posts

Picking a Life Jacket for Kayak Fishing

You have the kayak but now you need a life jacket (Personal Flotation Device,PFD). What should you look at? What should you buy?

In PFDs there are three basic styles.

#1- Inflatables- These are lightweight and do not float you until you hit the water, at which point it inflates and floats you to the top. These are easy to wear but also easy to forget so be aware. It is also important to test them and if it has been inflated once, you have to go buy a new cartridge so it will work next time.

#2- Permanently Buoyant- These are the typical life jackets that are worn. They can be a bit bulky and usually get stowed because of it. A stowed PFD rarely saves a life when compared to one that is worn.

#3- Hybrids- These are a mix of the two types and offer some flotation with being inflated.

The US Coat Guard classifies PFDs into five different types.

Type I- This is a PFD that will float a person right side up in the water. It is typically used in ocean vessels or places where rescue will be a long way off.

Type II- This is similar to a Type I. It doesn't have the same flotation power however and may not right you in the water. These are for offshore uses where rescue may be a bit faster and you can see land.

Type III- This is your typical recreation life jacket. It will float you but won't right you and this should only be used in lakes, not open water, and rescue should be at hand.

Type IV- Remember the life preservers from the Love Boat? Ok, maybe not. Remember the big ring at the lifeguard stand? That's a Type IV. Anything you can throw that will help someone float that isn't worn typically falls under this category.

Type V- These are specialized PFDs for activities like kayaking, skiing, and other water sports.

One last thing before we get to the selections:
Remember that in Texas:

  • Children under 13 years of age in or on vessels under 26 feet must wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved wearable PFD while underway.
  • All vessels under 16 feet (including canoes and kayaks) must be equipped with one Type I, II, III or V for each person on board.
  • Vessels 16 feet and longer, in addition to the Type I, II, III or V for each person on board, must have one Type IV throwable device which must be readily accessible. Canoes and kayaks over 16 feet are exempt from the Type IV requirement.

Ok, so I am assuming that if you are here you are a paddler, boater or family member/friend. Moving on that assumption there are two types of life jackets that work best for paddling, Type V and Type III. In these, there are several choices to make.In the styles, I want permanence. This is strictly a preference but I don't trust inflatables. They work great 99.9999% of the time but I need one that'll float me regardless. 

Call me old fashioned but if I am going down the Devils River, far away from rescue, fall out of my kayak, my PFD inflates and then it gets punctured by a rock, limb, fishing hook etc, I am then in very bad shape. I don't want multiple life jackets for different scenarios. I want one. One that will do everything I need. I paddle in a PFD that will always float me and not fail me because a mechanism went out. Or a cartridge. There is plenty to think about as safety goes without worrying about maintenance on a PFD. So here are my recommendations:

If you are fishing from your kayak, I like these- 

The Stohlquist offers good arm clearance, shoulder webbing, good cinching to avoid ride up, the back cushioning is high enough to avoid that backrest on your seat and has multiple tethers and pockets to keep everything close at hand. This is a universal fit jacket up to a 54" chest so almost everyone can enjoy utility and comfort at the same time. It even has a net ring on the back collar so you can dip up that prize catch without fumbling for the net. This is the PFD I have fished out of every single trip for more than a year. I love it. It is a Type III PFD.

The Chinook has pockets, pockets and more pockets. The total count is seven. Throw in a tool tether, strobe holder, net ring and eight adjustment points and you can have your gear and be comfortable at the same time. This is quickly becoming one of the most popular PFDs among kayak fishermen. It is also a Type III. 

You don't have to buy these to be safe but if functionality and safety are a must at all times for you, these two will give you good bang for the buck, last a long time and become part of your paddling equipment that is a "Don't leave home without it". 

The best way to make sure it is what you are expecting is to go into a local paddle shop and try it on! In the Dallas area, Mariner Sails has both of these in stock as well of an assortment of inflatables. Try it on before you put down the cash and you too could have a lasting relationship with a PFD that could one day save your life. As long as you wear it. 

Used But Not Abused

What to do? You have a limited budget to get a kayak. You hear great things about a couple of kayaks that you feel would fit your needs. Now you go to a demo day and pick the one you like but there's one problem. You are $200 short of the asking price.

It can be a very deflating experience but it doesn't have to be. If you know where to look, you might be able to get that kayak for the price you can pay.

How? Buy a used kayak. If you follow a few simple rules that I talked about last week, buying a used kayak can get you on the water at your price.

I've bought used several times and even my current Commander 140 had a previous owner. On top of that, buying used has many advantages.

A Used Kayak Typically Comes With Accessories

My Commander already had the rudder, a bow skirt and some additional Gear Trac installed. I saved money and time.

A Used Kayak Holds Value

A new kayak is hard to sell for the money you paid for it at the store especially once it's been out. If you buy a used kayak, the chances are you can get what you paid and maybe even a little more as long as you don't over pay (within the first year or so).

A Used Kayak Can Have Mojo

Fish catching mojo transfers with a kayak. Call me superstitious but it does. Find a fish magnet and buy it.You won't be sorry.

There are several different places to look for used kayaks. Sometimes Craigslist can be ok but lately it is filled with people asking new retail prices for used, worn down kayaks. If you want to find a bargain from people who can tell you about the kayak you are buying, look at your local fishing forums.

Here in Texas I would search out and a Buy/Sell/Trade group on Facebook. Each region will have their own websites where fishermen swap lies, sell gear and give fishing reports. They are a good place to start.

If you have your doubts, take a knowledgeable buddy. Don't be afraid to ask questions and definitely go and read my article on called "Buying a Used Kayak? Don't Get Swindled!"

A Real Drag


     In early 2004 my Dad heard from a friend of a friend about some public water that was full of bass and rarely fished. We called it Lake X.

     Hearing of such things was a lot more common in the 80s and even 90s but in this new millennium where land owners had purchased almost everything available to make it private, this small parcel of land with two lakes existed. Possibly.

     We planned a trip and found it to be everything promised. It was remote, full of bass yet hard to fish from the bank. I immediately started planning a return trip with my kayak.

     Two obstacles presented themselves that I needed to plan for. The first was very primitive access. No vehicles could get within a mile of the water. The road was blocked off. The only way in was on foot. How could I transport the kayak that far?

     The second obstacle was the distance. The drive was a little over two hours but it was remote and cell phones didn’t work out there. I needed another kayak buddy to be safe while out in this barren country just in case something happened. I only knew one other kayaker at this point in my life and he was up for the challenge.

A couple of hours before the drag
     In April of 2004 we set out for our little oasis in the scrub brush with hopes of catching every bass in the lake. I had rigged a golf club caddy as a cart to tote my kayak the mile down the road needed. Aaron stacked his kayak on a make shift cart as well and we headed off. 20 minutes later the water greeted us and huge smiles broke across our faces. A minute later we were racing across the water to different spots and after the first few casts we landed a pair of bass.

     This pattern repeated itself throughout the day and we lost count after 150 bass. This truly was an unknown, untapped resource willing to reward those determined enough to reach her banks.Sun kissed and weary, we decided to head back around six that evening. Darkness was only an hour away and the barren landscape would be full of wild hogs, snakes and bobcats sooner than later.We strapped in our kayaks and headed back down the path to our vehicles. Less than 50 yards from our departure spot disaster struck. The axle of my cart gave out and dropped my kayak and gear to the ground with a thud.

     A mile from safety we quickly became desperate. We tried to stack my kayak on top of Aaron’s to cart back but it quickly folded his cart. We were able to repair it and decided to scrap the piggy back idea. The only other option was to turn my anchor rope into a harness and drag the kayak back. Either that or leave it until we could return. I wasn’t prepared to give up my freedom or my investment so the harness was made. It quickly became apparent that the walk to the water slanted downhill which made this more of a gradual climb back to the vehicles.

     An hour after we started, darkness setting in and after being startled by a rattlesnake and a herd of wild hogs, we saw the last stretch of road. A welcome sight if ever I’ve seen one. The last of the expected guests scurried across the road and the deed was done. I said a quick goodbye and loaded my kayak, exhausted and weary.

     The long drive home blurred into highway stripes and headlights. I remember both exhilaration and exhaustion equally.

     It turned out the kayak was ok. Scarred but war proven we would make the trip just one more time.

New Buzz in the Action Camera Market

A new camera company has emerged in the action camera market and their latest offering is creating a lot of buzz. WASPcam, which hails from Canada, has pushed the envelope in feature and price with two new offerings which just launched January 15th.  
The WASPcam Gideon is possibly the most feature rich camera currently on the market straight out of the box. The Gideon records HD video up to 1080p60 (and also 1080p30, 960p60 and 720p120), takes still-images up to 16MP and has built-in WiFi. You can connect the camera to your iPhone or Android phone for live viewing.
The Gideon sets itself apart with its wireless wrist remote, which connects to the camera via Radio Frequency, giving users a live viewing screen and remote control. The wrist remote connects from up to 15 feet away and also doubles as a watch.
In addition to the camera and wrist remote, the Gideon also comes with several accessories in the package. Two different camera mounts, fog inserts, waterproof and vented backs for the waterproof case, a wall charger and Velcro strap top the list.
Possibly the biggest surprise with the Gideon is the price. MSRP for the Gideon varies slightly based on the state purchased but in most markets it is $319.
As more of these cameras reach consumer hands, side by side comparisons of video performance in varying conditions will become more readily available.
 Piquing the interest of consumers looking for a value priced camera with plenty of options is the second new offering from WASPcam, the JAKD. 
The JAKD camera can shoot 1080p@25fps or 720p@30fps.
While it may not be ideal for video pros, the novice and intermediate videographers can enjoy capturing their adventures without wiping out the bank account. At only $139 in most areas, the JAKD camera is low on price and high on options.
The most impressive option that is included is the two inch LCD touch screen on the back of the camera. Additionally, the JAKD comes with a waterproof case, helmet mount, handlebar mount, wall charger and more. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, the JAKD camera also has infrared night vision and auto loops when recording so if you didn’t get that shot you wanted in the first pass, keep it running and it will record over it!
 While I can’t make a formal recommendation because I haven’t tried the cameras yet, the specs and price point for each seem very appealing. For someone looking to getting into shooting some action videos, the offerings from WASPcam warrant a look. 

Three Fishing Techniques Everyone Should Try

Almost any fisherman you talk to has a confidence bait. Give them two hours to catch a fish on a lake they have never fished and usually, the first thing they throw will be the confidence bait. I have one. It's a four inch soft plastic from Hag's Tornado Baits, the F4. People who have fished with me know I throw this bait a lot. I really like two colors but the bait is the same (Watermelon/Chartreuse and Purple Haze for those wanting to know). I fish it on a split shot rig and have caught fish just about everywhere doing so. When conditions are tough I'll throw it and of course even when they aren't I'll throw it.

This year and last I have branched out some and started fishing baits and styles I had been hesitant to try in the past. All three of them have produced fish for me and I find myself using them more and more often. I am now of the opinion that everyone should give these a go if they haven't. With a little patience and time on the water, these three techniques will put fish in your kayak.

#1 Jigs

Lots of people fish jigs already but I am always surprised by how many don't. It takes some research, some patience and time on the water but jigs can produce big fish year round. There are several different types of jigs designed for different types of structure. For reference you can check out this article: Jig Styles

Find a good trailer that will help slow the descent in the water or cause a disruptance/gain attention. I use the Hag's Jr Undertaker with great success. It stands on end when submerged to imitate an attack stance of a crayfish. Others use similar craw imitations. If you are going to be swimming it, more like a spinnerbait, add a paddle tailed trailer.

What I have learned is to find an area that has good structure, right temp and depth for that time of year and bang your jig on every single stick, rock and piling in the area. Usually the fish will hit it on the fall or the first twitch. Don't lose faith. Keep practicing. You will catch fish.

Warbaits Slayer Swim Jig

#2 Drop Shot

Not too far removed from split shot rigs, this was an easy one for me to pick up. It is more finesse than a lot of people fish and if you are a cast and burn type of fisherman, this will take some getting used to. Put the weight below the hook, tie a special knot, add a small plastic and cast. Keep your line tight and either dead stick or lightly twitch. That's it. We could talk about it for days but in all actuality, look at the diagram below and give it a shot. Chances are you've got most of the stuff already.

Courtesy of

#3 Swimbaits

When I say swimbaits, I am NOT referring to those little four inch, paddle tailed, hollow bodied soft plastics. While technically those are swimbaits, it's not what I am referring too. The swimbaits I am talking about are big, heavy and catch monsters. Well, at least they don't catch dinks as often (though they still can). It takes a special discipline to throw swimbaits. They range from $10-$400 in price, require special rods and reels to handle them and you could go weeks without a single bite. Some popular baits are the Huddleston Trout, 3:16 Wake Jr, MS Slammer, 21st Century Triple Trout, Spro BBZ, and Mike Bucca's Bull Shad. Of course there are others but most of these are very well known. Forums of people talking about nothing but swimbaits are becoming more and more abundant. The bait looks so big in your hand you wonder how some bass would ever eat it. You'd be surprised at what a bass will try to inhale. In the video below you'll see one of my first swimbait fish. I was throwing a white 7" MS Slammer. The bass crushed it after the first big twitch. It was only 13" long. I had reservations about throwing big baits until this happened. I found this creek on Lake Belton that wound way back and the only access was by foot. I decided to try it and bam! Fish on. Here is the video:

Don't be afraid to get out of your comfort zone a little bit. Try new things. Keep your confidence baits at home. One day one of these three may become your confidence bait!

Have another technique you think others should try? Tell them! Spread the love!

Are You a Poser?

No one else is talking about it so I will.

Posing with fish. How do you feel about it?

I'm not talking about the "I just caught this huge fish or this cool fish" picture where a guy or gal is holding up something they feel is picture worthy. I'm talking about the one guy holding four or five really big fish in a picture at the end of the day.

The origins of these pictures came out the bass tournament world where guys would hold up fish that have just been weighed after a day in a livewell and will soon be released. The thing that kind of itches me wrong though is when it's done out of a kayak. I see more and more people posing with several big fish, caught from a kayak. How did you get those fish? Most likely not all at once. So you've been accumulating these fish on a stringer then?When you move from spot to spot or go back to the ramp, do you drag them behind you by the lip or gill through the water or do you put them in a fish bag?

As kayak fishermen we pride ourselves on our sensitivity to catch and release, doing what's right by the fish for survival and various other topics. Just ask a room full of people about how to hold a fish for a picture or measuring fish on a Hawg Trough and how it should and shouldn't be done. People will start talking about fish slime, mortality rates, elastic bands should be banned and issues I don't have time to dive into right now. So for all of that outrage at whether someone wet a measuring board before taking a length, I have heard almost nothing said about posing for stringer shots. Folks may ask if the fish were released but how much have they been through?

Granted a livewell isn't a great environment to keep a fish in all day but we are talking about kayaks. Is damage to the fish worth a picture so you can brag? Personally I'd rather see four individual fish pictures of some giants. A quick picture on a measuring board tells a ton about the size of the fish and adds perspective to the size.

It's been cool and a thing of lore in the past to take the pose from tourney fishermen but can we please stop. If you are keeping the fish to eat, ok. No harm done, but if the fish are going to be released, please don't leash them or bag them for hours only to take a picture with other fish you may or may not catch. The potential damage and possible mortality should be our concern.

So that's my take on it. What say you? Is there a strong case for multi-bass posing? Let me know what you think.

Stop Apologizing!

Hey, new guy. Don't be sorry and stop apologizing!

At the boat show this weekend, myriad people walked up and chatted for a bit. It was great to talk about rigging and fishing and all the fun things associated with our sport. The recurrent theme that kept coming up was a bashful, almost apologetic air that was taken on when I asked several people if they had a kayak already.

"Yeah, I do, but it's one of those cheap ones from {Brand X Store}."

My immediate reply was my elevator speech about how I spent the first six and a half years of my now 11  years of kayak fishing in a $200 sit in kayak and loved it. I would always remind them they were off the banks and out there doing it and that was what is important.

After mulling over the number of times this happened over a two day period I have come to a conclusion.
I think the kayaking world needs to apologize to all the new guys. I'll start.

I'm sorry. I'm sorry that I may have given you the idea that kayak brand was ever more important than kayak fishing. It's not. Being on the water and enjoying the sport outweighs ANY brand or marketing scheme.

You can kayak fish out of near anything. You will not hear me decline an invite based on a kayak brand. I will never be too cool to fish with someone in a Brand X boat. I am the antithesis of cool already. No need to alienate the rest of the world.

Many, many, many of the kayak anglers I know will fish with anyone on any given day as long as the drama stays in your truck. I love to fish with new folks. Crowds are ok. Not my favorite but ok. Get me on the water and I'll talk your ear off.

Kayak fishing is about that first moment you paddle out. Reliving every time the peace and serenity that washes over you as you glide across the water. The water doesn't care what brand your kayak is. The fish don't care either. Kayak anglers shouldn't either.

Some of the happiest kayakers I know are paddling Pescadors. Would they take a Slayer Propel or a PA14 if someone handed it to them? Probably but enjoying being off the banks is what it's about. The great thing about our sport is the buy in. You can get into it for $100 or $4,000. You can make all your own accessories or you can buy them. There is room for everyone.

To you new guys, welcome to the sport. Don't let the brand snobs discourage you. 95% of us are pretty good folks and we'd like to go fishing with you. You should stop apologizing. The experienced kayakers should be the ones to say sorry. We've mislead you to feel like you don't belong. On the contrary, maybe it is us who don't belong.

Review: The Malibu Stealth 12 Fish-N-Dive

When searching for a paddle kayak this fall, I had very specific criteria. I wanted lots of under deck storage, higher weight capacity, a wide boat for standing and casting and a decent rocker if I ventured into windy waters or out beyond the breakers.

The kayak I decided on was the Malibu Stealth 12. I have had it out a dozen or so times including a tournament for approximately 100 hours of on the water time.

The Specs:

Length: 12' 4"
Width: 33"
Weight: 55 lbs
Weight Capacity: 450 lbs
Features: Multiple large hatches including the gator hatch, a standing area for secure footing, Lowrance transducer ready mount and a livewell.

Some notes about the specs. The width feels wider than 33". Standing and sitting is a breeze because of the graduated hull design (not flat) that gives multiple levels of stability. The large front gator hatch, aside from offering roomy access to the hull interior also doubles as a child seat up front. The livewell is not pre plmbed save for a drain plug. This is easily done from a youtube video and a kit however. The transducer mount works great and was a solid fit.

The Good:

The Stealth 12 is pretty lightweight compared to other kayaks of similar length and width. This makes it easy to cartop or throw in the back of a truck. The gator hatch gives a cavernous access to the interior. Previous models had issues with water intake around the hatch but with a redesign, new buckle securing positions and a better seal, this has not been an issue in any of my outings. No kayak is watertight so less than 4 oz of water in the hull after eight hours on the water is a good thing especially in rough conditions.

The FND version has four flush mount rod holders pre-installed and work well. The specialized shock cord cleats throughout the kayak hold the bungees in place and keep you from getting snapped with the larger head on the cleat. There are multiple places throughout the kayak to mount rails and accessories which is nice.

The livewell is under a large oval hatch and also has a quick entry port in the middle. This keeps your bait from being able to escape when they see the hatch open. The hinge opens the hatch away from you so it's easy to access the entire space if needed. It does not come plumbed so you can use it as dry storage as well as long as you leave the drain plug in. Additionally, if you fit a screen in the drain hole you can keep bait in with fresh water without having to run a pump.

The rear tankwell is large and has room for a crate and a small cooler as well. It does come with multiple scuppers in the tankwell as well as the main deck so water has an escape point.

Needs Improvement:

The Stealth 12 needs to come with a standard seat and needs to have connection points at the hinge of the seat that will connect to the hull. The standard Crack of Dawn seat tends to slide forward, covering the lip of the livwell hatch causing you to have to adjust to get in there. Obviously padding on the lumbar and glute sections of the seat would be nice.

The back tankwell has no hatch installed. There is a circular raised section that I installed a 4" hatch to allow access for rigging and in case something gets wedged in the hull. It's a small change but well worth it in my opinion.

The side handles for lifting should either have longer straps or be rigid. The soft handles tend to pinch your hand up against the side wall when lifting with one hand and sometimes two. Rigid handles I think would be the way to go.

The black hatches in the middle of the kayak have a raised texture on them but the plastic can be a bit slick when wet. Putting an EVA foam in the standing section or offering aftermarket pre-sized foam with adhesive for the two sections where you feet rest would be optimal.

Final Thoughts:

The price point on this kayak (around $1100) makes it a great value for those looking to stand, fish rough water and be able to transport easily. It is not the fastest kayak on the water but handles different water types well. In smooth water it will be slower than most but where it really shines is in the rough water scenarios. The graduated hull and scooped rocker cut white caps and allows you to keep pace with most kayaks. The wind doesn't affect it like a lot of high walled kayaks and the ride is pretty dry. I'm using this kayak throughout the 2014 tournament season.

I will have the "Green Goblin" my lime Malibu Stealth 12 on display in the Mariner Sails booth at the Texas Tackle Hunting and Boat Show this weekend in Mesquite, TX. Come by and say hi!

Sunscreen in the Winter?

With winter upon us please remember, your face needs some help too. This mistake from last year left a scar on my nose. I won't be repeating it. 

It was chilly that morning, at least for Texas in October. Temperatures had just topped 40 degrees and the North wind was whipping at 15-20 mph. I had gloves on, a cold weather hat, three layers, wool socks and my bibs. I was determined to shoot some test footage with the two cameras I had in tow and wanted to get some time on the water and in my haste had hurried. As I unloaded the boat I went down my mental checklist and had my whistle, my PFD, my paddle, pretty much everything but the kitchen sink. The sun was coming out and I had high hopes it would warm up soon as I shoved off and began a great day on the water. 

Fast forward four hours and I was beaching the kayak and envisioning the footage I had shot. I backed down the ramp to load up and felt an itch on my nose. I scratched it and my face lit on fire! A glance into the mirror reminded me of what I forgot. Sunscreen. 

I have been a big advocate of SPF 80+ for several years and had been on a three year streak of no sunburns. The end of my nose is a thin venous covering because of the years of damage I did in my 20s. Skin cancer is less likely an if, but more of a when for me. I am trying to do everything I can but this English nose hides under few caps and without sunscreen it burns. 

I think my fatal flaw was not writing down a list. A mental checklist is only as good as the next distraction. Sunscreen didn't cross my mind because it was cold. That's stupid looking back on it. It's sunscreen, not heat screen. It is the light and reflection of light that chars me, not the presence of warmth. The sun reminded me of that. 

5 days later I was still dealing with the unsightly reminder of my blunder. Please remember to either sunscreen up before every trip or wear an item like a face Buff to protect you. A big wide brimmed hat can also help but is often left behind on a very windy day. 

The action you take today can yield better results down the road. Skin cancer is no joke. Safety is more than just a life jacket. Protect yourself out there. 

In the winter months a cold cream is very unpleasant (at least for me) to put on. Though some people dislike them, a spray sunscreen is much easier on a cold face. You can also put a cream sunscreen on in the car while you are warm if you think about it. (That's where that list comes in.)

One final note, if you can find it at sports stores, sunscreen is usually highly discounted this time of year. Even if it isn't, be safe and be smart. If you're outside, protect yourself. 

Need Kayak Selector Beta Testers

As I teased on the Facebook page earlier in the week, I am getting ready to release in the next few days, an online kayak selector, meant to help folks who aren't sure what they should look at. It asks you to rank on level of importance for 12 different categories. It includes 18 popular selling kayaks currently. This is just a beta and I couldn't put every single kayak in there just yet. I have tried to represent several brands and multiple kayaks from that manufacturer if available. I did not include certain brands or makes if I had not paddled them or been in a predecessor so that I could measure the initial logic myself based on my wants and needs.

In the final release I expect to include 50+ kayaks and 20 to 25 questions. Certain categories are hard to put an objective number on so they were omitted. Others were tied to physical characteristics. It is by no means perfect and will be under constant refinement. 

What I am looking for are beta testers. I need to find 20 people to help and give feedback. If you just want to look at it, use it once and then never say anything productive, this isn't going to work out for me or you. I am trying to build something massive and need constructive thoughts about changes, inclusions, exclusions etc. If you want to be involved in helping fine tune something that could be a major help to new comers to the sport we love, here is what to do:

Beta Testers should email me at:

In the subject line please put: Kayak Selector Beta Tester

If you are selected you will receive a confirmation and I will release the link to you via email on or before Tuesday of next week.

Please provide feedback via the email address above within two weeks. Try it multiple times with different criteria. See what kind of results you get. Do they seem accurate or is something throwing it off? What seems to be a recurring kayak regardless of what you put in? Other thoughts?

If you're interested, let me know. It comes with zero money but the pride of knowing you helped a new guy select a kayak in a more informed way. 

I Want You To Do This in 2014!

Making resolutions to ring in the new year has been around for more than 4,000 years now. How did it get it's start? According to

Revelry and resolutions have been essential to ringing in the New Year since 2000 B.C. when Babylonians held semi-annual festivals around the spring and autumn equinoxes. Back then, people marked the beginning of a New Year by paying off debts and returning borrowed goods. The practice carried over into Roman times with worshippers offering resolutions of good conduct to a double-faced deity named Janus, the god of beginnings and endings. When the Roman calendar was reformed, the first month of the year was renamed January in honor of Janus, establishing January 1 as the day of new beginnings.

One of my goals this year is to get you to do one of my resolutions with me. I'm not going to ask you to lose weight, stop smoking, drink less coffee or send me money. What I am going to ask you to do is this:

Take three people, who have never been, kayak fishing this year. 

Seems simple enough right? Not only will it bring others into the sport but it will also allow you to share your passion of the outdoors in a new way with these folks. 

Every time I take a new person out for that first paddle, they remark on the quiet, the peace and how close they feel to nature. Something about gliding across the top of the water where the sounds aren't horns and radios but birds and fish calms the soul. Why would you not share that? 

Take an afternoon or three and show someone why you love this sport. It will pay dividends down the road. 

Last Minute Shopping Ideas for the Kayak Fisherman

You waited and waited. Surely something would pop into your head. What do you get the kayak fisherman who has everything? Time is ticking quickly and you need to make a decision stat!

One thing that a fisherman always needs is more tackle. Maybe it's hooks. Maybe it's swimbaits but either way, he'll find something he needs. When it comes to tackle, the first place to stop and where you can still get it right now is Tackle Warehouse. They won't get there goodies they select by Christmas day but chances are they won't be on the lake Christmas Day.

Speaking of gift cards, if you know your giftee has been checking out some electronics or gadgets but you aren't sure which one it was, get a gift card for that too! The two places I trust the most with my time and money for kayaks and gear are Mariner Sails and HOOK1.

Not really into the gift card thing? You might have time to get to a local sporting goods store and pick up some baits. If you really don't know which ones to get, try asking a sales associate. At some of the outdoor specialty stores (NOT WALMART), the associates will have an idea of at least what they like. Try to get soft plastics in watermelon color and hard baits in a silver or white pattern. Most importantly of all, get a gift receipt. They may say to your face they love it but just in case, give them an option to return it.

Still at a loss? If it's not gift cards and not lures, a handful of cash works wonders.

May all your Christmases be bright and your stockings stuffed with soft baits and football jigs. Or cash. Cash is always good. 

Duck Dynasty and Freedom of Speech

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It's been all over the news. Phil Robertson from Duck Dynasty said some things that his employer, A&E, suspended him for. I have seen lots of takes from both sides that have seemingly polarized the country. The right, the left and in between have exhaustively argued over what he said. Some have even pointed to other parts of the interview that have been glanced over that touch on subjects like race. I don't know Phil and I am not going to support or decry what he said. What I do want to talk about is another lesson that up and comers in kayak fishing (and other sports) can learn from this example.

All week people have questioned why Phil doesn't have the right to say what he wants. In actuality he does but the First Amendment only protects him so far. When you are talking about individual liberties, Phil can talk about all of the things he wants with whomever he wants. When you are talking about an employee, whether exempt, non-exempt or contracted, of a company, most have had to agree to abide by a code of conduct and/or sign a contract. Employment can be ended based on a breach of said contract. In most cases, it is loosely termed as anything that could bring bad light upon the employing entity  and left at that. Lots of wiggle room. They also generally have a clause that says doing so can lead up to and/or include termination. A&E is most likely acting on that. I am not saying it is right or wrong but what I am saying is that this is a company looking out for its image as it deems needed, to stay in the good graces of what it perceives is its viewing demographic.

That's lots of contract and employment jargon so let's use another example.

If Bob Jones works at WalMart as a cashier, would WalMart allow him to keep his job if they have a recorded conversation of him, while at work, using derogatory terms towards customers who dressed a certain way, in front of the actual customers dressed that way? Fill in your own stereotypes for that scenario.While you can say what you want as a representative of you, you cannot do so while acting as a representative of the company you work for and expect no recourse, especially when it becomes public. When agreeing to do Duck Dynasty, Phil stopped being just Phil. Celebrity demands a different set of rules for those who pay you. You are now representing that entire company. Why do you think all of those companies dropped Tiger Woods? He can sleep with whomever he pleases legally but with Woods as the face of those companies, some of them chose to disassociate with him. It may seem they are not the same but in actuality they are. An action or statement happened that made the companies nervous and/or displeased as to how it would affect their image.

Herein lies the lesson: If you are on a Pro Staff, work for an outdoor company, get promotional items, money or other benefits from being associated with a company, be careful what you say and do. Whether it is truth, fiction or somewhere in between, whether it is a one time thing that happened because you had a few too many at the bar or just an off the cuff comment where you ostracize a lifestyle, it can bite you.

What you say in your homes, amongst your family and friends is one thing but understand that if that becomes public or happens in public, you might risk losing relationships with companies if they feel differently than you or it causes their association with you to shine a bad light upon their name. And the bad light thing is purely a company decision.

As you seek to advance your numbers of commercial partners, understand it tightens the reins on what rights you choose to exercise, at least if you plan to stay employed with those companies.

Be purposeful with your speech. You never know who is listening. 

Advent and Fishing: One Day

Though it's not always worn on my sleeve, I have a deeper, spiritual side. It's personal and not paraded. I realize people have many different beliefs and often association with religion has its own stereotypes that don't necessarily line up with my own beliefs. All that being said, if you're checking out the blog and Christendom is really not your thing, I understand. This is a kayak fishing blog and that's why you read it (I think). Today I have a guest post at that is designed around the Advent season. I wanted to also post it here to share just a little bit of me. I'm usually pretty veiled with topics like this but it's important to say publicly how you feel now and again. Hopefully you'll see it as a look behind the curtain. We'll be back to regularly scheduled topics later this week. 

One day. One day I will catch that elusive fish.

For the better part of my life I have been a fisherman. For the last ten years it has been mostly from a kayak. Day in and day out, paddling, hauling gear, making casts and waiting has been my routine. Reel in, cast out and wait some more. Repeat the process several hundred times and the day is complete. Chasing a record setting fish seems like a lot of work for something that few believe will ever happen, especially from a kayak. It has a lot to do with my mode of transportation.

I’m not the pedigreed guy in the fast glitter boat. I’m the guy sitting on a piece of plastic, paddling through God’s country in search of something I’ve longed for. Day after day. The same thing. And it hasn’t happened yet. But it will. One day.

I don’t think it is coincidence that I often find God in the wilderness I trek. From the beautiful scenes of earth rushing to meet clear flowing streams to the Great Blue Herron stalking its dinner in the marsh, I see Him. The beauty of it all reminds me of Him. Every whisper through the wind calls out “I am here.” Every song from a bird, breeze from a wind and shade from a giant oak reminds me.

God has a special place in His heart for fishermen.  Who surrounded His Son during the deadliest three years of His life? Fishermen. They know the lulls. They practice patience on a daily basis though some are more excitable than others. (Admittedly I lean more toward a Peter temperament). Fishing soothes my soul. It connects me with God on a level that is hard to explain.  I paddle ever so slightly to take it all in.
Slowly soaking in the masterpiece of creation, I patiently wait for one.

The patience I must evoke while searching for the one record fish reminds me of James, telling Christ’s followers to be patient like the farmer waiting on the rains. It’s also akin to the thousands of years awaiting the first coming of the Savior that Isaiah told of. The excitement, the doubt, the second guessing and then faith triumphing in that manger truly must have made all that waiting and searching seem like seconds rather than centuries.

Christ was truly only with those who sought Him for three short years. All of that waiting to realize Him for a brief moment in time. A moment that made all the difference and is why we once again wait.
And as I continue to fish, awaiting the record, we Christians also wait. We are patient.  
I paddle on and you continue with your journey but we know. We all know.

He is coming!

Santa Claus Knocked Me Out

Santa Claus knocked me out. More specifically, The First Annual Santa Claus Classic. I'll have a full tourney report later next week for Cap City Kayak Fishing but for now, here is my story. 

I knew Saturday was going to come early. This weekend was my son's birthday and we wanted to do it up right so we went to his favorite restaurant and then to see the new Hobbit movie. The movie got out and we arrived home Friday night at 11PM. I had a 3AM wake up call to get loaded and down to Austin by 5AM. Unfortunately at 1:30 alarms started going off and it wasn't my clock. It was my back. I had a burning, searing pain between my shoulder blades. I couldn't turn my head and I had to roll carefully to get up out of bed. This was not good. I had Robert Field down from Dallas, already set up in Austin and I couldn't let him down. I gulped some Aleve and Tylenol and closed my eyes for a few minutes. The alarm went off again, this time an actual clock, and I got out of bed in more pain than previously. 

I struggled. 

I ran through my mind whether or not to keep stretching and hope the medicine would kick in or call Robert and admit defeat. After 35 minutes of agonizing physically and mentally I decided to load up, fight through it and go. It was for charity after all. 

I sent the red bearded Aggie a text saying I was about 30 minutes behind schedule and he said no problem. 

We checked in, chatted for a minute and headed to the launch spot. I took forever to get unloaded and the sun was starting to peek out before we launched. Thankfully Robert has a lot of gear to set up as well.  

The weatherman predicted gusts up to 30 mph and cold. As we launched we chatted about the cold part being right but the wind seemed to be a non-factor so far. I know better than to say that out loud.

We headed for a well known creek and started tossing baits. I adjusted and fussed at my seat and my back for over an hour. I also got a face full of water and some water down the front of my waders when trying to get out for a shore break. Cold and miserable I battled on for another hour. With little to show for it and a boat parade already formed we decided to move. As we rounded the corner at the mouth of the creek the wind proved the weatherman right again. We paddled for what seemed like six years against the wind to go try some deeper water. We wasted an hour before regrouping. 

At this point I was biting my lip from the pain. The medicines I had taken seven hours previous were useless. We decided to grind out the rest of the tourney in the creek, out of the wind. As we ventured back into the mouth we saw we weren't the only ones with that plan. 

The plan paid off pretty well. We landed five keeper fish in the creek that measured for the tournament. The Hag's Tornado F4 in Purple Haze was my go to. I used my Smith Optics Tenet Glasses to sight cast all of the fish I caught, including the keepers. The five were good enough for 5th Place which was pretty cool. What I didn't count on though was the other fish I caught. I thought at the time it was a big bluegill. It turns out it was a redear. It wasn't the state record I thought it was (and subsequently made myself look like a fool) but it was big enough to qualify for a big fish award from Texas Parks and Wildlife. I'll send off the paperwork this week to get it documented. The redear measured 13.5" long. It was released unharmed and feisty!

The after party at Joe's Crab Shack was festive and merry as always. Boxes of toys for Toys for Tots overflowed and the Lone Star beer did as well. (I can't have it because of my celiac but many others enjoyed it.) A lot of good happened but at the weigh in I was spent. I probably seemed like a scrooge and a bit aloof but I felt like Freddy Krueger had julienned my back. Paddling against that heavy wind twice, meds not working and being cold all day meant for a Grumpy Cat looking Chris at weigh in. Sorry fellas. I feel awful I wasn't more talkative but I was done. 

I'll get the full recap with some video from Robert up in a few days but until then, check out the only smiling pics of me known to exist from Saturday.

Kayak Tournament Discussions Missing Something

Amongst all the banter back and forth about tournaments this month, a valuable piece of tournament fishing is being lost. Winnings, camaraderie, food and fun are all reasons people fish in tournaments but one I think is often overlooked. As kayak fishing blossoms into a nationwide and worldwide sport we are failing to recognize this one thing: innovation.

Kayak fishing isn't the first to go through this stage and won't be the last. When Ray Scott first launched the idea of competitive bass fishing in June of 1967, he saw innovation and adoption immediately. In an article for Texas Parks and Wildlife, Scott talked about it:

“One boat had the trolling motor mounted on the bow instead of on the stern, where everyone put them in those days,” Scott says. “People were standing around in the parking lot looking at it, and the owner, Stan Sloan, explained that he figured it was easier to pull a chain than to push it. Sloan won the tournament, and at the next one, all the trolling motors were on the front. I realized we don’t learn new things from our usual fishing partners."

That's an interesting thought. When I think about how I have rigged out my kayaks, it is from seeing new kayaks at events like tournaments and get togethers. Others have also looked at different ways I have modified and rigged my kayaks to get ideas. As the cycle of ideas goes around, improvements are made and ideas are hatched. Sometimes these ideas are picked up by manufacturers and they can then mass produce a finished product for everyone to enjoy. Sometimes it becomes a DIY project that is adopted by thousands. Seriously. How many of you have looked at the plans for the PVC cart on the Palmetto Kayak Fishing website? How many of you have made it or a variant of it? (I first saw those plans after I saw one in person when fishing with new friends. They referred me to the site.)

We can get referrals and ideas from the internet but it really doesn't take on that super cool / gotta have it fever until you have actually seen it in person. Then, at those gatherings, we decide whether it's worth trying.

Kayak tournaments won't be going away, love them or hate them. A great benefit of them that no one seems to be talking about though is innovation. Keep an eye out next time you are on the water.You just might see something that could help you out.   

Peer Pressure Kayak Purchases

Please stop.
Take a deep breath.
Count down from 10.

I'm going to save you some possible headache if you'll take 5 minutes and read this. I hope you take this advice to heart because I sure didn't. I've bone headed this scenario twice and finally learned my lesson. I'll try to save you the same trouble.

Here is how it starts:

Talking heads (yes me included), start telling you about all these cool new kayaks that are coming out. We show you fancy pictures. Then maybe you find a walk through video. "Man, that's a cool yak." You see some pretty cool features you like. "I might buy one of these!," you think while you try to figure out when the next lump sum of cash is coming in. Tax return? Christmas cash? Returning all the crappy gifts you got for your birthday and the three extra blenders from your wedding gifts.

Then you go look at the fishing forums. I wonder what the kayak guys think of this boat? So maybe you ask the question but you ask it too vaguely. Typing in "What do you think about a Great Fork Spearyak 13?" is too vague. What do you want to do in the kayak? What limitations do you have? I could go through a big long checklist here but I have already created it. Check it out:

Think about these questions and think about the answers specifically to the kayak you think is so cool. Does it fulfill my wants list? If so, it could be great. If not, better keep looking.

At this point you may be too deep in the hype and advertising to even listen. I know I was. I had decided that even though it wasn't everything I wanted and it might not deliver, I was going to buy Boat X. So I did. I bought into all the pomp and circumstance surrounding it. While it is a very good kayak for some people, for me it was awful. I hated it. It didn't do what I wanted it to do, I felt some of the things talked about were oversold, and the hype sucked me in. I was more attracted to a brand name than the function. 

What could have avoided all of this headache? A demo. 

I should have paddled the kayak first. That would have told me everything I needed to know but I didn't. I was anxious, in a hurry and didn't want the deal to get away. Whoops.

People who own a certain brand will inherently recommend the kayak they paddle (or pedal). It says they really enjoy the kayak they have and it fits what they want to do. A little quieter are the people who don't really like what they are in but made a HUGE ordeal when they bought Boat X so now they are a bit bashful. Somewhere in that mix are people who are looking for something else but don't want to say anything because they so highly recommended a different boat. 

The plain truth is, sometimes when you think you know what you want, and then you go paddle it, you change your mind. The time to change your mind is BEFORE money changes hands. Getting recommendations will be easy but it will be diverse. If you are going to ask questions on a public forum, make them as specific as possible. 

"How does the Spearyak 13 handle in wind on large open water?"

That is a direct and specific question. 

Additionally, make sure the person giving you the advice/opinion has actually paddled the kayak you are talking about. I've had a couple of dozen people ask me about the Predator from Old Town. I have looked one over but have not paddled one. I am very upfront with that info and recommend whenever possible a person to talk to about it. 

I now find myself with a primary kayak that not a ton of fishermen in Central Texas are paddling. I own a Malibu Stealth 12. It met more of my wants and needs than any other kayak I looked at. I think several eyebrows were raised when I didn't get another Hobie or a Wildy but for the fishing I do across the state, salt, fresh, the way I transport, the specific places and ways I fish, this was the best kayak for me right now. Will I always be in it? Don't know. Was it a better decision than one I would have made three or four years ago? Dang skippy. 

All of that to say, if at all possible, please demo a kayak before you buy. If you need to find someone who might can help with that, message me on Facebook. I'll try to do my best to find you a shop or person within an hour or so that has that kayak. If nothing else, I can find you someone to talk to about it. 

Be smarter than I was and be happier in your kayak. Don't peer pressure kayak purchase.