Supporting small businesses is important to me. Those dollars you give for that product don't go to fund a yacht; they pay for dance lessons for a daughter or the new alternator on the truck. These folks work hard. They deserve a look when you're in the market. They will be the ones who answer the phone if you have a problem with the product down the road. It's hard and almost near impossible to get that with larger companies. A special mention to some of my friends in small business at Mariner SailsHag's Tornado BaitsYakAttackHOOK1Papa Chops Rod and Reel Repairand SuperNova Fishing Lights.


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You probably know a small business owner. Heck, you may know several. According to the Small Business Association, America is experiencing a significant rise in small business, cottage industry startups. Unlike the dotcom boom of the 1990s to early 2000s, these are typically not money grab startups. Most of the small businesses that are cropping up are about passion. Whether it's a rod making business, shirt printer, custom lures or fishing accessories, new businesses enter the marketplace everyday. You've probably been asked to "Like" a Facebook page for some of them. You've probably bought some of their stuff because it's a new twist on a technique or look. Not all will succeed however.

Lots of these companies start as or maybe still are garage start-ups. All the money they make is poured back into the business and sometimes the owners work another job to supplement it. They believe in their idea that much. They like to have quality control close at hand because the name on the package is a direct reflection on them. But passion is not enough. Lots of passionate people fail.

A good business plan will go a long way. After successfully selling a couple of products, a savvy owner will do a return on investment calculation (and many already have done a predictive ROI before the first sell). If it takes 10 hours and $24 worth of materials to make a rod and you sell it for $44 you may be "making" $20 but you are also only paying yourself $2 an hour. If you are after money, you can make almost four times that working a side job at the minimum wage. If it's a hobby and the money isn't important that might work. Just breaking even is enough for some folks. Only you can decide. If you are looking at expanding past a hobby business where you are the only labor cost, this model will fail.

Price point is another make or break. Entering the marketplace at the right tier level can set you up for success or failure. Have some outside sources, not your best friends and fishing buddies, give you a valuation. How much would they pay for this new bait? What companies would they compare it to? You need to know your competition. If I pour a plastic worm that looks like a Yamamoto Senko and sell it for the same price, will people buy it? Doubtful. Why not by the proven bait at that price. If it cost half, then you might get some looks. Even Yamamoto does this. He has his signature GYCB at the $6-8 price point and then the Kinami line that is a couple of dollars cheaper. He is offering product at different price points.

Volume is also important. If you sell expensive items, you'll move fewer but will have more money per transaction. Basically, you may only have to sell a couple of products to collect $1,000. If you sell $3 crankbaits, you may sell lots of them but you will need to sell over 300 to hit the $1,000 mark. It just depends on the product.

Understanding the customer is perhaps the least known entity in business today. Just because you cater to fishermen does not mean they are all the same. More specifically, it doesn't mean they all purchase products the same. The market is made up of three different types of customers. I won't go into great detail here but I'll give you some high level info.

Let's start with Bobby. Bobby is a young guy, usually between 18-29, single with some disposable income. He likes new things.

Next is Joe. Joe is the most common customer. He is 25-55, usually married and middle class. Joe works hard for his money. He likes new things but does his research, sometimes to his detriment, on new products.

Last is Terry. Terry is 30-65, married or single, but makes his own money decisions. If he wants to make a purchase, he does so without asking anyone else. Terry is typically middle to upper middle class if not wealthy.

All three of these customers can overlap in some areas. Some Terry customers will be a little older. Some Bobby customers will be older as well. Joe, however, is pretty standard across the board. In most markets across the US, Joe will be 65% of your purchases (once he finally decides to buy).

As a small business owner, you should know how to sell, market and advertise to these different customers. All three of these types have female counterparts too (Ashley, Mary and Karen respectively). The same strategy rarely works for all 3 (or 6) customers. Knowing how to present your product to each one, differently, will allow you to close more purchases.


  If you want to know more, shoot me an email or a Facebook message. It is a ton of info so be prepared. Maybe a seminar is in order. Hmmmm.


Not all small businesses will make it but if you know and execute these strategies, you'll have a much better chance.

Passion.
Business Plan.
Volume Expectations.
Knowing Your Customer.

Do you know/have all of them?


As a pro staff director I field emails, messages and texts all day about people wanting to be on the HOOK 1 Crew or Team. I also get plenty of inquiries about how to get on a pro staff.When considering anyone for a position I do a few things. Hopefully knowing this upfront will help you in your future forays into the pro staff realm.
Over the last year I've been impressed with the saltwater baits I've been using from Treasure Coast Tackle. Based in Florida, these guys sell what they use. You don't get tons of hype and it's likely why you may not have heard about them. Until today.

I've ordered several of Paul Van Rheenen's Unfair Lures baits from TCT and love the action and ability to catch fish. When Erica contacted me about checking out the Monster 3X line of soft plastics I was more than happy to oblige.

Here's what I liked and what I think can be improved upon for each of the three styles I tried.

3.75" X-Move Shrimp




The Good:


This segmented shrimp bait has a ton of tail flutter and mimics a fleeing shrimp very well. The colors it comes in are the typical coastal colors you would expect. (In silty water try the chartreuse color but in clearer water look at the natural brown or moss.) As claimed, the baits are tough. You really see this when you penetrate the hook. The X-Move isn't like some of the competitors that have a sandy gum feel to them. This is flexible yet rigid plastic.

Improvements:


The issue I had with the X-Move was actually the segments. If I used a longer shanked hook or even just a larger jig head, the penetration point was in the segments which hindered the action. This won't be a problem in the larger 4.75" version but if you are fishing the smaller shrimp you have to size down on the hook. When doing that, you may miss some short bites. After some abuse from small sound trout after a few dozen casts, the tail can become a nub. Or maybe I need to work on my hookset. These also don't work well with jig heads I already have. I really like the Rockport Rattler jighead but it won't work with this bait. A no collar jig head is best.


3.75" Ultrasoft Shrimp



The Good:


This non-segmented shrimp bait has a realistic look to it and seemed to work best under a popping cork which gave it a little more action. The colors varieties are good.  As claimed, the baits are tough. You really see this when you penetrate the hook. The Ultrasoft is an even more durable option to the X-Move without the segments and has a super soft feel to it which should allow a few more seconds of retention when eaten.I really liked fishing this on a split shot rig to let the bait fall naturally with just enough weight to get it where I wanted. Try a sharp 1/0  offset worm hook.  

Improvements:


Collared jig heads are a no go here as well. The bait needs a little more action so varying your retrieve is more important with the Ultrasoft than with the X-Move. I'd like to see a thicker body too. This is a pretty skinny bait and won't put off as much disturbance in the water as a thicker bait. Feed it some fast food and I think you have a winner. Also a note, don't mix these baits with others, they'll color blend. 



3.75" Slimshad 



The Good:


This was my favorite of the three baits to throw. The Slimshad is versatile as it can be fished in fresh or saltwater and appeals to a wide variety of fish species (and snakes but that's a different story). White bass, black bass, redfish and trout all like the Slimshad. I used the pearl color exclusively and it slayed the fish. I paired it with a belly weighted hook to make it weedless and swam it through dang near everything. They come three to a pack and I still have two that haven't been used. This is tough material and the toothy trout and angry whites haven't torn it yet. Spend the $6 and you may have enough swimbaits for a month or more! The Slimshad doesn't lean side to side and swam true right out of the package. If you really wanted to get crazy, try a couple of the 2.75" Slimshads on a tandem rig under lights at night.

Improvements:


The only real problem I had with the Slimshad is getting scent to stay on it. More specifically getting a ProCure gel to stay on it. The bait isn't very porous so my guess is the gel eventually just washes off. It's really my only knock on it. If it came super impregnated with a menhaden smell, it'd be the most deadly bait in my arsenal.


Final Thoughts


I'm looking forward to getting back down to the Texas coast during the flounder run and test these out for the flatties. It will also be a good test as to durability. I'll make sure and report back in the middle of October. If you haven't tried them yet, it's worth the $20 to try a three pack of each of these. If you'd like a little help with that price use code : TEXAS7 at checkout to get an additional discount. Thanks to TCT for allowing me to help you out with that. Whenever I can pass a savings on to you, I'll do it.




I recently purchased the DownLoader from Malone for my wife's minivan. We've been able to take our kayaks on the van a little over 1,000 miles and put them through the ringer. I'll give you the dish below but first a little from Malone:
The DownLoader™ is the keystone of our J-Style carrier line and features every possible option for low clearance requirements; ease of loading; boat protection and universal fit requirements.
A quick pull on the Release Pins allow the carriers to rotate up for transport or down for garage access. We added thick adjustable foam padding wrapped with tough nylon sleeves to protect the boat's finish. The built-in boarding ramps completely eliminate the need to lift the kayak up and into the carriers. Simply set the boat up against the ramps and slide it in!
The "no tools required" installation is one step with the Jawz universal adapter system that fits round, square or factory oval load bars. For extra thick bars, there are optional length bolts available in the BUY SPARE PARTS section of the website.
Furnished with all hardware, heavy duty load straps and bow & stern safety tie-downs for one kayak.
Features:
  • Fold-down design with release pin activation
  • Integrated kayak boarding ramps
  • Three layers of corrosion resistant coating
  • Oversize padding with nylon sleeves
  • Universal fit hardware for round, square and factory oval load bars
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Optional MPG351 Telos Kayak Loading Assist available
Specifications:
  • Capacity: For kayaks up to 36" wide and 75 LB
  • Dimensions: 17" (L) x 6" (W) x 19.5" (H) raised and 6" (H) lowered
  • Frame: Coated steel, Injection molded nylon
  • Weight: 16 LB (set of 2)




The Good




Installation was easy. Everything you need to do the install is right there in the box. I already had Malone crossbars so it wasn't a problem. The approximate install per set was less than five minutes. 

I love the ability to lay these hooks down and lock them when not in use. They are pretty low profile and allowed us to get into low clearance areas. 

The straps and rope that come with the kit were more than plenty to secure the kayaks. Driving through rain, wind gusts and fields of grasshoppers we still had no issues (other than a dirty car). 

The price is right too. At $159 per set, these beat out several other brands selling similar models with fewer features at larger prices. 


The Needs Improvement





On the back of the hook is a U that the strap runs through to keep it close to the hook. While strapping up, these came out a couple of times (loading by myself). I'd like to see the U enclosed to become an O so that once threaded, the strap will keep its place.

The locking mechanism is plastic and could be a little more sturdy. It's a push in pull out type secure button that needed a little coaxing the first time I used it. Eventually I was able to figure where to apply pressure to get it to lock. An aluminum interlock would be better here for longevity and more precise fitting. 

The padding is still good but seems a bit thin. I worry that in the Texas heat the adhesive might start to give way in the future. It hasn't yet and this is just speculation. Time will tell. 


Final Thoughts



Overall, this is a great product that performed well on the fly, is easily installed and removed, and helped us turn mom's minivan into a fun adventuring machine with kayaks. I'd definitely recommend purchasing these to friends and family. 



The age old question with a fishing twist: What's your favorite color?

Family discussions at my house always gravitate toward fishing. Almost every time, color and style comes up. We fish a lost of soft plastics in our family. They are versatile, fairly inexpensive and produce every season of the year. The styles and colors however, are diverse.

My brother loves to throw a Junebug colored Yum Dinger. He especially likes to throw these when he can find it in the 3" variety but now they're almost all 4". I'd call him crazy but I've seen him consistently put fish in the boat.



My Dad throws a lot of different baits but if I made him choose one, and he could find it, I'd bank on the 4" Berkley Power Worm in Camo. A close second would be a sandworm.



For me, it's a 4" Hag's Tornado in Watermelon Chartreuse. Is it any wonder I do a lot of finesse fishing? My whole family does it and has for decades. 



So if we fish the same waters primarily,together much of the time, why different color preferences?

Catches and Confidence.

I feel like I could catch Moby Dick on a 4" Hag's in WC. I have consistently put fish in the kayak. If I have a skunk day going on, I know I can catch fish on it. The first time I thought it could happen and it did, the confidence started to build. As I repeated the cycle and it continued to be true, it became known to me that I could put a fish in the boat with this bait. I proved it again on Friday. No fish the first three hours. Switched back to my confidence bait and bam, two fish in 10 minutes.

I have seen my brother catch what had to be every fish off of a bank on his bait. The same for my Dad. When I try to use their colors the results are underwhelming.

The cool thing is, it might be a color on a crankbait at a certain lake. I know a guy like that. He has won a lot of money (some of it mine) on a Central Texas lake with one particular color. He knows it's special too because that is a secret color only a few know.

I have another buddy who has a particular style and color of trailer he uses on spinnerbaits.

Call it hocum, voodoo, confidence or coincidence but I bet if you think about it for two seconds, you have a color you always go back to.

So, what is it? Let me know here in the comments or on Facebook.




“As no man is born an artist, so no man is born an angler.” 
― Izaak Walton






At one point in my life I fancied myself an artist. I would craft sculptures out of bronze, plaster and found objects. I would paint for hours only to decide to white wash the canvas and start over. I studied art in college and earned a degree from it.

The hardest thing I had to do to learn to be an artist was to learn how to get my tools to do what I wanted them to. Anyone can buy a chisel or paintbrush and create something. It may or may not be successful as art. Fishing is not so different.

I can buy the exact same equipment as the top angler in the country but I most likely cannot match his angling prowess. What's the difference? Preparation, study, practice and a dash of natural ability. So many people have great dreams but are afraid to wake up and do something about them. Chasing your dreams can be fun but it is work. Hard work. Walton had it right. Everyone can get lucky or fish a short lived pattern and appear to be good but even Ernest Hemingway said "Anyone can be an angler in May."

Those anglers on the big stage, the ones whose names are on your gear, they work their tails off to be there. Not one of those top anglers woke up at six years old and started slaying fish on highly pressured public waters. Not one.

What does that mean?

You really can be whatever you want to be but you have to be the first to invest in it.

Chasing your dreams can mean staying up late, studying, preparing, working on your craft, learning the ins and outs of every spring, gear and guide of your equipment. You have to invest in you. When you stay up late with whiskey and cigars, decide you'll work on your craft later, study maps later, retune that bait later, you postpone your dream. You make a choice every morning what to do.

Confession time.

I would love to work for a kayak industry company, traveling the country preaching kayak fishing, safety and even wet a line in some new places. Do you know why I haven't?

I'm scared.

I don't know if it would replace my current income. I don't know how often I would get to see my family. I don't have answers to lots of questions. Is it even possible?

I don't know if that dream will ever become a reality. Whose fault is it? Mine.

I have found a new love. I am chasing a different dream right now. I am finding ways to preach kayaking without succumbing to my fears. I try to reach as many people as I can through this little blog that keeps growing each week thanks to readers just like you. Though it doesn't pay the bills, it doesn't keep me from it either. The throngs that are joining kayak fishing each week right now give me great hope that the world is realizing what many of us have known, that kayak fishing is AWESOME!

Whatever your dream is, plan to put in more than you ever hope to get out of it. No man is born an angler.  


photo via Chad Hoover
ICAST is proving to be a surprise factory as normal but one of the hot chatter items this year hasn't been much of a surprise at all. The Wilderness Systems Thresher (prototype) has had three videos released already showing off its ability to climb the surf and handle foamy chop. A few photos have surfaced as well.

Every day a few dozen kayaks get listed on Craigslist, fishing forums, and Buy/Sell/Trade lists. On these lists are people with buyer's remorse, listing these kayaks as "never seen the water" or "only used twice" or some other variant. If you follow these tips when you get ready to purchase, the chances of you having to flip that kayak to try to get your cash back will be lessened significantly.



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.
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.



Today we take a look at the VISICarbon Pro safety light from YakAttack. I've been using the VCP for a little over a year now. It's been with me on pretty much every single outing I've taken. I couldn't say that about the light it replaced.