|photo via Chad Hoover|
7/17/2014 No comments
7/10/2014 2 comments
7/03/2014 1 comment
Having lived in Texas all my life and kayak fished all over this great state the last 11 years, it's time that I let you in on my favorite hot spots. These lakes may or may not be places you are familiar with but you will definitely want to add them to your list. If you are searching for black bass out of the kayak, try these lakes.
6/26/2014 1 comment
|Turtle: Also known as flipping a kayak while you are in it|
The idea of falling out of a kayak is the exact reason why people either:
#1 Don't/Won't buy a kayak
#2 Buy a particularly wide kayak
This is nothing new. People don't buy any floating vessel only to end up bobbing beside it shortly after launch but maybe they should try it.
Known as the engine of a kayak, the paddle plays a more important role than most people realize. Having used several different types of paddles over the last 11 years, I have discovered what I like and what I don't like, what I need and what I don't need. The Bending Branches Angler Pro meets a great deal of paddlers' needs and wants. As always though, I have a few suggestions.
I have the 240cm Angler Pro with the sea green blades. I chose the sea green, which is more like a chartreuse, for visibility and in that area it does wonderfully. Even in low light conditions the blade sticks out on the landscape especially when slicing through the air.
|Sunset and the AP still bright|
The fiberglass blades and carbon shaft measure in at 30 ounces which is even lighter than it sounds. Coming from a Carlisle Magic that was over 36 ounces, this was a big change. At 30 ounces, fatigue is greatly reduced but that's not the end of it. To get maximum efficiency, you have to have a tough rigid blade that can move water. The 104 square inches of surface area on the blade is the reason. For mid to high angle paddlers this is going to be very important to maximum your paddle stroke. After several miles my shoulders still feel pretty good and I can make better progress into a stiff headwind. The Angler Pro really shines in every day use and paddles under six miles. Since most paddlers are mid to high angle, this paddle fits the bill for a great majority of the population.
My greatest fear in going to a paddle with fiberglass blades was shattering it on the rocks pushing off. I can say it has not done that. I've been as rough or rougher with it than all the other paddles I've used and it has done wonderfully. The one fall back you get is a little bit of "fuzziness" on the edges and a couple of small chips. After almost five months and a dozen trips, the fiberglass is starting to feather just a very little bit on the edges. Bending Branches makes a product to help with this called Rockgard that is applied to the wooden paddles. A version of this for the fiberglass paddles would be great!
|Some fuzziness on the edges and a couple of small chips|
The other glaring issue is weight. Another manufacturer is selling a paddle that is 7 ounces lighter. While higher in price (about $150 more), anglers and paddlers both understand that a long day on the water demands light and efficient. An even lighter version of the Angler Pro called something like the Angler Air or the Bending Branches Whisp would be beneficial. Something lighter than 25 ounces can be the difference between six miles and 10 miles at the end of the day.
I do love this paddle. Do I wish it were lighter? Sure but I also wish my bank account were more full but in both situations, I am thankful for what I have. This is a tremendous upgrade for most folks. The Angler Pro retails at $300 and comes with camo or sea green blades. Check it out at your local paddle shop today!
|Going to work!|
KC (Kajun Customs) Kayaks is a kayak company comprised of four graduates of Louisiana State University. It's no surprise that their K12 design is thought of with the saltwater and skinny water fisherman in mind. Recently I spent a few days in one, a bit out of its element in a deep freshwater lake. At the same time I tested out two new offerings from KC, the white bass boat style seat and the metal support frame that goes with it.
This is a skinny water kayak. As soon as I pushed off from the ramp I could feel the glide. I wanted to try to turn and with one paddle stroke the kayak spun about 135 degrees. It was impressive. Paddling was an easy task as well. At 12 feet, the K12 tracks pretty well. It has minimal nose walk. Sitting up high in the upgraded seat you will want a longer paddle (probably 260 for most folks) and it will also help when standing and paddling.
Speaking of standing, the KC is pretty darn stable. At 34" wide with a lot of surface area on the hull, the K12 is one of the easier kayaks to stand in that I've tested. Having a higher seat makes that task even easier.
The other place where the K12 will shine is with fly fishermen. The deck layout is very clean and free of clutter. The additional non slip foam in the floor also helps you keep that stance while whipping a fly.
The Needs Improvement
It's no secret that I like under deck storage and this kayak has almost none. One hatch toward the bow gives you some access but not enough to store camping gear below deck. It does have large tank wells above deck where you could lash things down. A curious thing about that, though there are eyelets mounted throughout the kayak, there is no bungee included.
While the K12 is stable, it is also tall. Tall in the water and the ease with which it glides also causes it to be windblown. You will want an anchor trolley (if not two) if you plan to hold your position in any kind of wind.
Probably the most frustrating thing on the K12 was the included tracks. The seat is anchored to these tracks. Unfortunately the upgrade seat that mounts to the metal frame and then slides into the included track doesn't fit. The frame uses t-bolts and they wouldn't fit in the included track. I also tried my RAM rod holders which use t-blots and then my small screw ball mounts. None of them fit. The track was too small. I had to use some southern ingenuity to get the seat to mount and it didn't feel as stable as it should. If you are going to offer track, it has to work for multiple items.
For the fly fisherman, the flats stalkers and the river runners, this is a pretty good kayak for you. If you are going to be on lakes, you'll want to look into the trolling motor mount or go a different direction. Stability is pretty good so if you want to stand and fish, this could be a great option for you. It's not versatile enough for my uses but has a definite market out there.
Florida is no stranger to Paul van Reenen's Unfair Lures but folks around the country are starting to discover these baits. Paul's Rip N Slash is perhaps his most popular. Demand is greater than supply so I had to wait almost a month for a new production to come off of the line. That might have been lucky. It could have been longer.
Last week I was able to put the lures to the test in some less than ideal conditions (wind, muddy water and a temperature drop) on the Texas Coastal Bend. Here is the verdict.
The Rip N Slash comes in several colors to meet the conditions. I chose a black and gold, chartreuse pearl and black backed color schemes to try to give as wide of an array as possible without having to buy each color. At around $8 each, the bait is priced right with other slash baits on the market and has better finish out detailing. The red frilled gills and large eye stands out on these baits. Add in the rattles inside and you can definitely get their attention. The Suspending Rip N Slash pulls through grass like a champ and didn't hug the shell bottoms like some other baits. Even in three feet of water it suspended like it is supposed to. I could cover a lot of water very quickly with the bait and the flash was pretty good even in the stained water.
The supply for this bait needs to be ramped up. Demand is growing as people across the country are finding the bait and what it can do for them. The Rip N Slash is currently made overseas. I would love to see production moved back to the United States. Currently it is available in the 70 model. A 90 is in the works (90mm) which will be nice for some variety for when conditions call for something else. Expansion into Texas would be nice as well. Tackle Town in Rockport would be a good start.
If you are fishing along the Gulf Coast this summer, the Unfair Lures Rip N Slash is an additional bait that will put fish in the boat. If you'd like to check them out or order some see the folks at Treasure Coast Tackle. Online orders (when the bait is in stock) are processed very quickly and ship out without delays. Their site also tells you when something is unavailable so you don't waste your time. If you'd like to save a little money, Treasure Coast Tackle gave me a code you can use as well. Enter TEXAS7 at checkout.
Bass Pro Shops has been selling kayaks for several years but took a new step this year which could change expectations. Previously only kayaks in the $1,000 range had a frame seat (think lawnchair style). That all changed earlier this year with the introduction of the redesigned Ascend FS12T. Here are my thoughts:
The seat is definitely comfortable. This is such a vast improvement over the previous strap in seat that I had to mention it first. Stability is pretty good as well. I stood up without an assist strap and was able to rock back and forth.
The kayak paddles pretty well. Even in chop it avoids nose walking too much. The width is enough to provide stability but not too much to make it a barge in the water. This is not a kayak for the ocean but should perform well in small to medium sized lakes, rivers and coastal bays.
Possibly the best feature in the Ascend FS12T is the price. At the everyday list price of $549, this is possibly the best entry level kayak available under $600.
|The old Ascend model.|
The first thing I would change is the deck layout. There are a couple of recessed areas that don't have scuppers or an ability to drain. I would also stop mounting the rod holder on the right rail. Pre-installed rod holders are rarely where the purchaser wants them, especially the non-flush mounted kind. This one is no different. It's right in the middle of the paddle stroke.
If you are using the seat in a forward position and weigh over about 150 pounds, putting pressure on the foot pegs can move the seat back into the furthest position. This isn't ideal for shorter adult paddlers but works fine for folks at or above six feet tall.
The finish out could use a little work as well. Some padding to reinforce the seat under the deck and a little less sloppy on the sealant around hatches would go a long way.
All in all, the new Ascend FS12T is a great option for an entry level kayak. The frame seat at the sub $600 price point is breaking the ceiling of options for entry levels. This is definitely worth a test paddle.
From Dean Brown at Bass Pro Shops:
If you do have issues BPS has an Ascend Hotline for anyone with part issues.
Just give them a call and they can help with replacement parts for Ascend Kayaks.
Ascend kayaks are made by Tracker Boats, right here in the USA.
A potential fix for the home DIYer to fix the seat issues can be found here:
The Quest 13 is, as the name eludes, a 13 foot long kayak. At 28.5" wide it looks very similar to the Hobie Mirage Revolution 13, sans the Mirage. I've paddled the Quest 13 more than a dozen times in many different situations and it is definitely what I would consider a sleeper. You hear very little about it. Here is the breakdown:
The name Hobie has become synonymous with high end kayaks. The Quest 13 is no different in the quality but flips the script with the price tag. A Quest 13 at regular price is only $1149. Not only that but it comes with a nice two piece paddle ($150 if bought separately), an adjustable strap in padded seat ($100 separate) and large hatch covers front and back.
The Quest tracks pretty well and doesn't get windblown like some taller kayaks out there. Should you decide you have need of a rudder, Hobie has already pre-plumbed the kayak for a twist a stow rudder or after market to work with the foot rests.
Storage is very nice in this kayak. You have a large tank well in the back but you also have access to the entire under hull area for camping trips.
Because of the width and length of the Quest 13, it hugs the water and gets you to your destination quicker than most. The trend is toward wider kayaks but you lose speed as you get wider in most cases. The Q13 is a nice blend of stability and speed.
The Needs Improvement
The tankwell narrows a bit and ends abruptly at the round hatch. After the round hatch is a large flat area that is in essence, wasted space. I would like to see the hatch moved back to the flat area further back. Honestly you won't be able to reach the hatch while underway so moving it further back won't be problematic.
To help the Quest drain a little faster I'd like to see another pair of scuppers just in front of the seat and another pair in the tankwell. It can be a bit of a wet ride in heavy chop.
As with other Hobie reviews, I still am awaiting a better seat option. Hobie offers the frame style seat in the Pro Angler but only adjustable padded seats in the rest. It's time. All of the other major manufacturers in the US have upgraded seating options for paddle kayaks. It's time for Hobie to step up to the plate.
The Hobie Quest 13 is an overlooked kayak that offers a great paddling kayak package right out of the shipping wrapper. The price point is very competitive and for what you get, should be a consideration. The biggest issue the Q13 has is living out its existence in the shadow of the Hobie giants like the Pro Angler, Outback, Revo and Adventure Island. Next time you find youself at a Hobie demo day, ask to paddle the Quest 13. It'll surprise you!