Coastal Report and Slayer Observations

The danger of planning a trip to the coast months in advance is the unpredictability of the weather. The forecast continued to worsen as our trip neared and backup plans were formed. As we arrived Thursday with kayak seating for 5, we saw that an assault on the gulf wasn't going to happen. Winds, cross currents and angry seas greeted us as we emerged on top of the seawall. The 20 minute drive west was spent scheming and looking for other possibilities. A new kayaker was in our mix and I didn't want his first time out to be a bad one. We arrived at camp and setup, checking weather forecasts, tide charts and wind predictors. There was a window on Friday that seemed doable so we planned for that.

Thursday evening was spent procuring bait (shrimp and squid) and fishing in the surf out past Beach Access 25. Within two hours we had landed a 27" redfish, a huge stingray and myriad whiting and hardheads. I nicknamed the red Homer Simpson because he had a huge gut and a donut for a spot. He is pictured over to the side. The big shark rigs squealed only once and a 20 inch hardhead was the culprit. All of the big fish came on a St.Croix Mojo Bass medium heavy rod with 15 pound HALO P-Line Flouro.

Slayer Thoughts

Thursday night I ventured out into the canals and was nearly blown off the water. The 12 foot Native Slayer has a lot of surface area above the water and it showed. I could see well in the high seat position and almost as well in the low position. I decided I would use the front well with the added hatch as a fish box if I caught fish but sadly never got the chance to use it. I discovered that the square console with the track in front of the seat does not fit a GearTrac t-bolt without removing the hatch and loosening the track. That is disappointing. The side tracks have no issue but the sides of the recessed molding on the front square come up to high. I also quickly discovered that using a Park-N-Pole in the large scuppers is a bad idea. The scuppers are so large that it allows the boat to climb the pole in wind. It was tipping the boat. Make sure you install and anchor trolley. While you are installing things, know that this boat doesn't come with rod holders or a paddle clip or bungee to strap down a paddle. You might want to pick those up as well. The front well is greatly improved with the hatch cover. Even in the driving rain coming home it did not take on any water. That's at 70 MPH in a monsoon! To give you an idea of how bad the storm was, it peeled half of the vinyl decaling off of the kayak. Paddling the Slayer is fairly easy. I would recommend a rudder for turning. I didn't have one and it showed. The secondary stability in the boat takes a minute to get used to but you quickly figure out where the points of no return are.

The Slayer is very similar to the Jackson Coosa in some respects. The chair, the open deck layout and the room/ability to stand are qualities they both have. The huge difference to me is the Slayer's incomprehensible lack of storage below deck. A hatch could be made in the front well or floor that would allow you to stow rods and gear, especially in the salt. The only access you have is a 4" hatch with a bucket in it. Not going to cut it.

I do like the wheel on the back. While it is lousy in sand, moving it to and from places on grass and concrete is easy. It can be a touch tippy from side to side if you are loaded down so be aware to keep center when pulling it. The wheel also adds a nice assist for car toppers. Combine that with the handles at midships and most folks can put this on a car solo.

To be fair and thought out as much as possible, I will be spending a few more weeks fishing the Slayer in freshwater on lakes and rivers/creeks. I want to really put it through the paces and see what it can do.

Back to the fishing report.

John on his first paddle ever
Friday saw more fish being caught in the morning including but nothing noteworthy other than some additional  black drum. Friday afternoon came quickly and we wanted to get the kayaks wet. We found what we thought would be an out of the wind spot on the far west side of the island and launched. 20 yards into the bay we felt the wind pushing us every direction. Anchors wouldn't hold so we paddled a bit, fished very little and after an hour we could see our newly initiated kayaking brother was wearing out. We all headed in with smiles and high fives though the wind was still beastly.

We arrived back to unload and decided to go pound the waves again. This time it was significantly different than the morning run. We couldn't make the third gut because of the tides so we had to settle for second gut fishing. That made a lot of difference. In a short 90 minutes we landed four more black drum, three large gafftops, another stingray (much smaller) and a 35" red. Sprinkle in another 30 or so whiting and it was a great afternoon on the water. Exhausted we turned in fairly early and planned one last assault on the surf.

Saturday found only a pair of us in the water at daybreak and we fished the second gut again. One more slot red yielded to our fresh dead shrimp and several additional whiting. After a couple of hours we called it quits with the looming storm. We cleaned our fish and headed for the mainland. It took 6 hours to reach home, two hours more than normal because of the blistering rain and I had to pull the scupper plugs in the Slayer but the trip home was fairly uneventful. Cars were still moving slowly as we traveled through Houston but right after we hit 290 the bottom dropped out of the clouds and made the news. Between the hail, floods and swamped out cars it turns out looking at the weather paid some dividends. All in all a good trip with good friends and a new kayaker. Looking forward to the next trip already.

Side Note: I have had a few additional things come into play so the paddle reviews will be later this week. 

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At this weekend's Get Together of kayak anglers and hopefuls at Lake Grapevine I visited with lots of people about kayaking, kayak fishing and this blog. I heard lots of good things, some points for improvement and one other question that came out time and time again.

"Is your website your job?" or sometimes "Do you make money doing this?"

When I gave the answer, the followup question was usually, "Really? Why?"

It became apparent that while many of you know me through the blog, you didn't know the background of how it came to be and why I do it. I've done a poor job of communicating that and the answers are very important to the success of PPF.

For those who are curious, keep reading. For those who aren't, I'll be back with some regularly scheduled content at the end of the week.

The Beginning

I finished my grad degree in August of 2012 and had been on a blistering pace of writing to finish quickly. My wife was also in school and we had two kids under the age of 8. I needed to be done with school therefore, I finished as quickly as they would allow (16 months). What I discovered during that year was my love of writing. I didn't ever think of myself as a writer but my course loads demanded thousands of words a week. When August came and my classes were done, I missed the writing. I missed being able to convey information through my keyboard, I missed the sound of the letters being clicked out on the plastic keys and I missed the connection of brain to computer screen. I decided I would start a blog.

Blogs are great outlets for writers and desiring nothing but an outlet I started a free blog on Blogger. I wouldn't be out anything but time and I could do it late at night when the kids and wife were tucked away in Sleepy Town.  My first post just said a little bit about how I got into kayak fishing and I wanted to pass it along to my kids.  I love kayak fishing and this blog would allow me to be passionate about a subject and write as much as I wanted.

As the blog started to form I found myself doing reviews, talking safety and trying to tell people in the sport and interested in the sport about the mistakes I had made along the way. I tried to give good information and unbiased information. The blog readership was starting to grow and my kayak fishing had become a new focus in my life. I didn't know the direction I wanted to take the blog, my kayak fishing and whether I should join a manufacturer team if one offered or what. So much to think about for a hobby and a late night electronic legal pad.

So what do you do when you don't know? You call someone who does. The biggest name in the sport I could think of was Chad Hoover. Many of you know Chad through , HOOK1 or through one of his media outlets like his fishing shows on WFN and NBC Sports. Chad and I had visited through Facebook a few times but I needed to have some real guidance. I messaged him and he said "Call Me."

That conversation helped me to see what he and many others felt the real value of my site was to the kayak fishing community. Having a non-biased voice that can say what I want, respectfully of course, and be honest about equipment, gear and boats was something that didn't exist in many forms. To pay the bills, people need sponsors, endorsements etc. Being as this was not my job, I just needed a few partners to help me get going.It wasn't money I was in need of (since it's a hobby), but access to product.

I visited at length with other folks familiar with the kayak fishing scene in Texas (where I am at). Guys like Rob Milam, Alan Sladek and several others encouraged me to do what I wanted to do and helped me get in front of the people I needed to talk to. I continued to weigh options, talk with Chad and formulated a game plan. The thing that kept me going was something he said in the wee hours one morning.

He said, "Be patient. Know exactly what you want and pursue it. Don't settle."

That still rings in my ears. I was looking for a partnership that so many had told me was just not a deal that existed. I needed access to kayaks for long periods of time to do reviews. I needed access to gear to do reviews. I'm not wealthy. I have debts that could make you shiver. I needed help if the blog was going to succeed. I couldn't pay for any of it.

I'll spare the details, as this is getting long and robust, but I pursued the partner I wanted, turned down other offers that didn't meet up with my needs and began working with Mariner-Sails of Dallas. Aris agreed to let me pursue my dream. He knew what my goals were and allowed me to "do my thing". I am beyond glad to work with his team. Mike and Aris and the gang at Mariner have helped me achieve things I never thought possible and access to other companies and gear I couldn't have done without their help.

At this point, the snarky people in the room make lots of assumptions so let me answer a few questions for you.

Am I paid by Mariner? No.

Do I get kick backs or commission from Mariner for recommending them? No. I get to demo their boats but that doesn't pay the bills. I still work my 8-5 for that.

Do I get to keep the boats I demo? No. I just gave them back the Outback and took home a Slayer. I keep each kayak for 6-10 weeks to get ample time in to give valuable feedback on the boats.After that, they go back, rigging and all.

Do I ever say anything negative about the products I review? Yes. I try to always give points for improvement. (How many of you guys have heard me complain about the handle position on the back of the Hobie Outback or the toe box in the Astral Brewer?)

To be clear, I have never cashed a check written out to me for this blog or anything associated with it.

So why do I do it?

I love this sport. Kayak fishing is a beautiful symphony of man and nature that no other experience I have had can match. The community of kayakers is an amazing fellowship of brothers and sisters in water that will help each other at the first opportunity. Do we have our knuckleheads? Sure. Every group does. They're few and far between with us though.  My hope is that people looking into kayak fishing will come to my site to get information before they purchase. I hope they will make purchases that they still love after three months of on the water time. I hope vets in the sport can pick up some info here and there about new products or kayaks. I hope that my safety posts will some day save a life. I hope that every person who comes to my blog knows why I do this and can tell how much I love kayak fishing.

It's a lot of work to design, write, update, review, shoot pictures, video, interview, travel to and from events all out of love for the sport but I would do it all again with no regrets if you hit the reset button. I'll wake up tomorrow and think about kayak fishing. I'll try to think of new ways to share the passion we all share with those that don't know and I'll go to sleep late late at night knowing if one person learned about kayaks and safety today it was a growth in the sport.

Will I always do this? I don't know. Things change. New opportunities arise. But I will always be an ambassador for the sport of kayak fishing, no matter that hat I wear or the kayak I paddle.

If you have any thoughts for improvement, have ideas for gear or kayak reviews or other comments feel free to leave them here or even better yet, click on one of the sharing icons below and let me know that way. Please tell your friends!

In the state of Texas, you don't have to register your kayak in most cases. If it has a motor, trolling or otherwise yes, but in most cases no. Here is how it reads:

The following vessels when on Texas public water are required to have current registration, including when docked, moored, or stored.

  • All motorized boats, regardless of length;
  • All sailboats 14 feet in length or longer or any sailboat with an auxiliary engine(s); and
  • USCG Documented vessels (New — see section below).
  • Exempted vessels — Non-motorized canoes, kayaks, punts, rowboats, or rubber rafts (regardless of length) when paddled, poled, or oared and sailboats under 14 feet in length when windblown. Adding an outboard or trolling motor to one of these types requires titling and registration.
  • An exempt boat may have previously been titled as a motorboat. You can check whether a title has been issued for free.
That is great news! Slow down there buddy. Just because you don't have to register your boat (as long as you meet the above criteria) doesn't mean you can stroll down to Mariner-Sails and pick a boat and a paddle and be on the lake before sunset. There are some other things to look at within the laws. 

Just to get on the water you need to read this:

All vessels, including canoes and kayaks, must be equipped with one Type I, II, III or V wearable PFD for each person on board. A Type V PFD is acceptable only if used in accordance with the specific instructions on the label of the device.

Need some help picking one out? Visit a kayak dealer and try some on. For more info, check out this post here. And if you want a direct link to a recommended manufacturer? You should check out MTI or Stohlquist. PFDs are what they do. 

If you are going to paddle at night:

Remember that you must carry one bright white light that can be exhibited in time to prevent a collision. It is recommended that you carry a lantern, flashlight, or other attached white light that will be visible from 360 degrees. Regulations state that canoes, kayaks, and all other manually driven vessels may exhibit sidelights and a sternlight, and shall exhibit at least one bright light, lantern, or flashlight from sunset to sunrise when not at dock.

Need some help? For the absolute best you need to look at the YakAttack VisiCarbon Pro Light. You can find it here with a Mighty Mount (others are available). It also has a hi-vis flag so people will see you during the day as well. 

A general warning to have your safety items:

Operating Vessels without Required Equipment is Prohibited - No person may operate or give permission for the operation of a vessel that is not provided with the required safety equipment. An operator may not permit a person under the age of 13 to be on board the vessel while the vessel is underway if the person is not wearing a USCG approved wearable PFD. Marine enforcement officers regularly perform vessel safety checks to ensure the safety of boat owners and passengers.

One more thing you will need by law:

Any vessel less than 12 meters in length (39.4 ft.) is required to carry a whistle or horn, or some other means to make an efficient sound to signal intentions and position in periods of reduced visibility.

As you are thinking about total purchase price, a weekend trip down the Brazos, Guad or just a play day at the lake, make sure you have a PFD (life jacket),  whistle, and if paddling at night, a 360 light. 

Stay safe, not only will it save you money but it might save your life!

Anger! Outrage! Lots of four letter words are running through my head. The fact that this has been going on for 50 years and I am just now hearing about it means it is not getting near enough attention.

Tarpon are being slaughtered only for sport (seriously sport?) by divers in international waters off the coast of Louisiana.

Here is a link:

I believe in catch and release, I only harvest certain species, and like for the big mommas to grow and make more babies. These spear fishermen are boating trophy tarpon for bragging rights. Is it legal? Yes. Technically it is. The tarpon are in international waters when they are harvested. Does the meat go to good use? Nope. It goes in the garbage. Kill it. Weigh it. Dump it.

The other problem with this scenario? Tarpon migrate. These fish they are killing are not only Lousiana fish but Texas, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida fish too. I've never been lucky enough to even hook into one of these majestic giants. Now it is starting to become clear that it may never happen. If we don't protect tarpon in international waters too they will be poached and gone. The group is called the Hell Divers Sportfishing Club of Louisiana. They say this is happening in the name of research. 

Read this from the leader of the group about an upcoming event:

$300 reward for a spawning capable female tarpon. 1 award will be given for each of the 2 largest spawning capable female tarpon. Tarpon will be dissected but spawning status may take 3 weeks to determine.
Total possible awards $900.

Nice. A bounty for breeding females who have to pass through these waters. 

This is the equivalent of having a big bass tournament at Lake Fork to see who can spear the biggest females off of their beds, weigh them in and then dump the carcasses. Would that EVER be thought of as good for the sport, ecosystem or population? 

I am a little worked up about it but so should every fisherman who cares about the sustainability of a natural resource. PLEASE PASS THIS ON. Share it using the buttons below via every available network you have. Keep sharing it and passing it along. Something must be done.

Not What I Wanted

“Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted. And experience is often the most valuable thing you have to offer.” 
― Randy PauschThe Last Lecture

With a two hour window Sunday afternoon, I decided to see if I could get in some father-son fishing time. I packed the camera, hawg trough, net, gear, baits, paddles and all the other necessary gear to have a great time. If I could nab some extra Kayak Wars it would be a huge bonus but I really wanted to catch some fish.    

I had located a schooling spot for some whites and hybrids last week so I figured it would be the perfect spot to take Z. We loaded up the tandem and headed out. Launching was fairly uneventful and before long we were setting up on my spot. I lowered the anchor and we started fishing. The wind, boat wakes and open water made for a pretty bumpy time and 10 minutes into fishing I decided to pull up anchor and move. As I tugged on the line I knew something was wrong. I could pull the anchor toward me but it the weight didn't equal what I knew I had tied on. With my polarized shades I could see a large shape rising, an old folding chair, that had tangled my anchor line. This was not what I wanted. With the chop, the added weight and being unable to free the anchor I had to disconnect it. Safety is always paramount and the situation was worsening so I did what needed to be done. 

The next ten minutes I tried to hold us in place to fish against the wind and chop but soon realized fishing in this spot was no longer a possibility. The only way to have a shot at fishing the spot was to bank the kayak, get out and try to make long casts so we did. Again, not what I wanted. A few minutes into bank fishing I could see Z was getting bored. He had constructed a tower of rocks, was milling about and had his head down looking for something interesting in the rocks. Ugh. Not what I wanted. I had to do it. I had to ask about home.

"Z, do you wanna head home? This isn't really panning out for us today," I sheepishly commented, dreading the answer.

"Not really. I was hoping you could show me how to skip a rock," came the answer.

His answer caught me off guard. It seemed pretty simple but teaching an eight year old to skip a rock can be difficult. My patience was already on the short side and this really wasn't what I had envisioned for our trip but ok. Sure. Let's work on skipping a rock. 

A small physics lesson later and a couple of tries he did it! Even better he was able to repeat it. Cool. 
A few tosses later he said he was ready to go home. We piled onto the tandem and shoved off. I had stowed all the gear underneath so he decided to stretch out a bit. I took a quick picture and then paddled for the ramp. 

After I loaded the kayak on the roof rack and started up the hill I asked if he had fun, again dreading the hem hawing that was about to commence. Again, Z surprised me. He said he had a lot of fun. 

Less than two hours removed from the house, no fish caught, little paddling done and me feeling like a failure on what I promised the day would be like this day had been a failure to me. Not at all what I wanted. I had to know more. Was he just being polite?

When I asked him, he said he really liked being able to paddle some, he finally learned how to skip a rock and it was sunny. He had no expectations of catching fish and didn't really care. He wanted to paddle and skip rocks. 

Kids and experience are amazing teachers if you will just listen to the lesson they are teaching. I viewed the day as a failure but to the one who really mattered it was a great success. He had accomplished a new milestone and got to paddle too! 

I included the Pausch quote today as a reminder of what my attitude should be when I don't get what I want. I wanted to catch fish. I wanted him to catch a bunch of fish. I wanted to paddle quite a bit, take some pictures and maybe even bank some KW points. He wanted to paddle and learn to skip a rock. I am so far from being a great dad but I am getting plenty of experience. I hope I can accidentally stumble into more good times for him when I don't get what I want for me. My son is a great teacher. He just doesn't know it yet.

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Yesterday I did a little math post and said expect to spend more than your original budget when buying a kayak. That or adjust your price. Different comments, emails and conversations got me to thinking. I think some of our new guys, sniffing around, thinking about kayaks are missing a big secret. It's possibly the biggest secret in kayak fishing. My friend Shaun R. reminded me of it this morning.

Are you ready?

Are you sure?

Here it is:

You don't have to BUY a kayak to TRY kayak fishing.

It is awesome when you have your own kayak, can load up and go where the wind takes you and feel the freedom from beating the banks. It really is. I whole heartedly believe most people are too shy to ask to borrow a kayak to try it out. Sure we talk about demo days but that's paddling around for a few minutes. We talk about rentals too, but let's be honest here for a second. Very few rental fleets are made up of fishing kayaks. Can you fish from them? Yep. Is it ideal or likely a kayak you will purchase down the road to fish from? Nope.

There are lots of people who have multiple kayaks in the garage that are more than willing to bring an extra and have you join up for a fishing trip. We want you to like it. We also don't want to see you frustrated after dropping $200 on a garage sell, Craigslist special that makes you hurt all over. Do what you can to get into the sport but let us try to help.

Not every person has extras. Not every person is comfortable meeting new folks to fish with all day. But, some of us are. Actually, I think a lot of us are.

If you think you need to buy a kayak to try kayak fishing, don't feel that way. Make a post on a local fishing forum or Facebook group. Tell people you are interested in going on a kayak fishing trip but don't have a kayak yet. Offer to help pay for some gas or bring snacks or something. Be kind, considerate and thankful and you'll make new friends who will gladly help you on your journey. Remember, we don't know who you are yet, so you'll have to be forward and ask for an invite. When you go with us, it's not a test paddle of a kayak, it is a learning experience. Soak up all the info you can. It will help you make a better, informed decision when it does come time to visit Mariner-Sails to buy that Hobie or Ride, calling HOOK1 to order that Knot Right Camo special or even strolling into the Academy to get that Pescador12 or Heritage Angler 10.

Let us help you. And help me help others by sharing this secret.

Every week, if not every day, the kayaking bug strikes a new angler. Having the ability to get off of the bank without registrations (in most states), no gas to buy, and no winterizing to worry about lures many to try kayak fishing. The question that comes up so frequently it’s almost predictable is, “What kayak should I buy? I want to get into kayak fishing but don’t want to spend a ton of money.”

The vets grin. We know the process. We were all once there. We see it week after week. And just to be clear, we don’t mind the question. It means we have a new brother or sister joining the kayaking ranks soon. It’s a celebratory occasion.

This question prompts other questions from the potential answerers. How much is a ton of money to the asker? How will you be using it? Sit in or Sit on? Tons of questions. The answers help experienced kayakers guide the potential kayakers to the right choice. For today, I want to focus on the money.

More often than not, potential kayakers list $500 as the ceiling. “I want a good one but can’t (or don’t want to) spend more than $500”.  Ok. $500. The problem is that the $500 is for just the kayak. Time to raise the ceiling. You need more than that to be legal on the water. In Texas, you need a PFD and a whistle for daytime paddling. Add a 360 degree light for night trips. If you are buying a kayak for $500, it is going to be the paddling kind, not the pedaling kind so throw in a paddle for your purchase. The $500 ceiling is strained now. The dreams of a new store bought kayak are either fading or your budget is expanding. Let’s sharpen the pencil and look at the breakdown.

With all the things you will need for just daytime kayaking, if you go to a store and buy all the minimum needed gear, your $500 kayak is going to run you just over $650. If you’re set on only spending $500, for all the gear, you are going to have to purchase a kayak for $375 or less.

Maybe you should look at a used kayak. Maybe not. That’ll be a choice you will have to make. Just know that there is more to kayaking than just the kayak.

If you still have questions, shoot me an email. I’d be happy to help point you in the right direction. [email protected]

No Man is Born an Angler

“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 Lone Star 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 manufacturer, traveling the country preaching kayak fishing, safety and even wet a line in some new places. Do you know why I don'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.  
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The Next Kayak Review(s) Announced and "The Truth"

I asked and you responded.

The next kayak to get a full review from Payne's Paddle Fish will be the Native Slayer 12.

But wait! There's more!

In addition to the Native Slayer 12, I will also be reviewing the Native Slayer 14.5

To add to that, I will also be testing the new front hatch cover for the Slayers and some other cool products after they are released in May.

First, I want to say thanks for all of you that voted in the polls and left comments and feedback. Whether it hailed from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or the Texas Fishing Forum, your voice was heard. This won't be the last of the reviews either.

I would also like to introduce a new title for the reviews. The reviews that are on this sight will be branded as "The Truth. All of it."

I won't hide flaws. I won't gush unless it's worthy. If you have a product you can send me or I can pickup that you want reviewed, please let me know. Just understand that you will get valuable feedback that has been developed over a longer period of time than most. I spend a minimum of 40 days with a kayak and a minimum of 40 hours on the water in addition to another 20 in the garage and on the rack. I film, take pictures and thoroughly go over all the details.  And you'll get the truth. All of it. If you want it public, I can do that. If you want private feedback, I can do that as well. Just let me know.

I will pickup the Slayer 12 on April 20 and have it until the end of May. After that I'll pickup the Slayer 14.5, hopefully the front hatch and should finish up by the end of July. I'll be able to give feedback along the way with both but won't do a full review until both kayak terms are completed. Yes, that is a long time.

I realize my review turn time is longer than most but I want to give you a thorough, thought out analysis of the pros and cons, not a weekend of paddling to give buyers advice.

Thanks for reading, commenting and recommending the Native Slayer.

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Changes are Complete

Now back to regular programming.

Thanks for your patience. The biggest difference in the site is actually the ability to translate from English to a massive list of languages including my new friends native Finnish. I also have a growing readership in the Pacific Rim so I wanted them to be able to have options as well.

Thank you all for reading and the great outflow of ideas, questions and comments you have been emailing and Facebooking.(Is that a verb yet?)

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I am making a few changes. At least I hope to. Please check back early next week. Thanks for reading and we hope to see you again Monday if not sooner.

One of the great features of writing a blog is the conversations I get to have with folks from all over the world. I get emails, Facebook messages and Tweets every week that teach me something new, ask great questions and constantly reaffirm why I love kayaking and kayak fishing.

This week I learned something that I should have thought of but never did. When Jason Y. from Texas recommended it to me I was dumbfounded, so much so I wanted to share it this week!

For most folks in the outdoor community, a Buff is nothing new. The benefits of sun protection, some versions' bug protection and multiple use flexibility are a known quantity. Did you know what else it is good for?


Yes, you read that correctly.

Because of the way our ears are shaped, wind can reduce our ability to hear. Most conventional ear muffs reduce voices because of their thickness. A Buff however, is able to block out the wind but still allow sounds in.

Lots of folks who ride motorcycles use a Buff to cut wind noise. They have to deal with it everyday. On a kayak it can help in wind, even more so at night when your vision is limited, too hear boats or other things coming into your area. Want to hear what is on your six? Try a Buff. I know next time out I'll be trying mine. For the folks who don't like things on their face, this is another use for a Buff where you don't have to wear it over your nose and mouth. Wear it like a skull cap and cover your ears. It will mostly hide under a hat and leave the sunscreen guys the uncovered feel they prefer on their face.

Thanks so much Jason for the tip! 
*This is a revived article from last summer. Lots of people are asking these questions again so this is a good way to give some answers.

One of the first questions a first time kayak owner asks is " What paddle should I get?".

"I could tell you but it probably wouldn't be right" or some variant is usually my answer. The problem is not every paddler has the same boat, do the same things, are the same height and have the same financial resources. A few resources exist but usually it is a recommendation or a price point that causes a new kayak owner to buy the paddle they get. There is no one perfect paddle for everyone.

Folks, this is the engine to your kayak! The paddle can make or break the experience but it is often thought of as, well, an afterthought.I'll tackle a few tips and techniques for choosing a paddle here but the important thing is, go try one in the water. April 20th at Grapevine Lake will be a huge get together of kayakers from across Texas. Go try one after you narrow it down. It will be well worth it.

This is done from a fisherman's perspective but can also apply to touring kayaks and general recreation. 

Length: Paddle length is tricky but maybe this will help. Find a paddle at a shop and stand with it at your side vertically. Now reach up with one hand and curl your fingers around the top of the blade. If the paddle hits you in the palm, it's probably a bit short. If you can't reach the end, too tall. But hang on! Keep reading. Take into consideration the width of your kayak. If you are in a boat wider than 26" you need to bump up a size. Paddles are typically measured in centimeters and range from 210cm-240cm and usually by 10cm increments. At 6'2", I need a 230cm paddle, (monkey arms, I know), but I also paddle two wider kayaks at 31" and 36" so a 240cm is really best so I don't spend all day playing the drums on the side of my yak with my new paddle.

Blade Style: There are basically four categories of blades. You have wide and flat blades, narrow and flat blades, wide and scooped/winged blades, and narrow and scooped/winged. Variations are all over the board for these but two things are needed to decide properly. The wide blades are going to give you more power. They move more water and can allow you to turn faster, accelerate in choppy water better and fight the weather. These work great for fishermen because of their versatility. They also work better in wider boats, which are typically heavier and require more to move them. Narrow blades are more efficient. If you are paddling more than 2-3 miles in a day you might think about this option. Just understand if you are in a big, heavy, wide kayak, the advantage of the more efficient paddle is nullified. The decision about a flat blade versus scooped/winged blade is up to you. Sides are split as to added efficiency etc. I will say however that a flat blade is typically more durable for fishermen when used as an alternative to a push pole.

Material: Blades and shafts can be made of aluminum, plastic, carbon fiber, fiberglass, wood and a host of blends. Carbon fiber is lighter and can reduce weight for a long day on the water but if you are fishing oyster beds or rip rap it can make your paddle into splinters if you aren't careful. At this point let me say, I would recommend if you are buying a carbon fiber paddle, invest in a push pole or backup paddle so you don't cry when it breaks. And it will break if you abuse it. Aluminum and plastic are durable but usually heavy. These are also cheaper alternatives and what most folks will be using on the water. Nothing wrong with that! Just understand you will work harder throughout a day than you would with a carbon.

Weight: Since we are talking about it above let's continue here. Typical paddle weight is between 20-40oz. It doesn't seem like a ton of range but after a few thousands strokes, your shoulders and back will let you know the difference. I recommend the lightest, most durable paddle you can find for you situation. Durability and light are usually not synonymous so this is a decision that needs to be weighed carefully.

Cost: So many variables exist when you talk cost. All of the things mentioned above will play into it. Paddles range from $29 to infinity. There is a huge difference between that Academy $29 paddle and a $199 paddle from a name brand. There is much less difference between a $200 paddle and a $700 paddle as far as performance, materials etc go. The sweet spot for a very nice paddle is usually from $149-$229. This isn't in everyone's budget so buy accordingly.

Shaft Style: I won't spend much time on this but the new line of thinking is that a bent shaft puts less torque on the wrist and arms throughout the day, especially for inexperienced paddlers. A straight shaft works for most folks.

Brands: If you spend your time on the clearance aisle, some of these may be new to you. Check out the full line at places like Mariner-Sails and others. Some names you should know are Werner, Bending Branches, Aqua Bound, AT, and Carlisle.

That's about it. I've poured it all onto paper for you so now you just have to try one or twelve. Find a demo day or a get together and go. You can thank me later.
Yesterday I snuck away for a few minutes to run through Academy. I try to go by once a week and check
on clearance type things, see if any new baits have made it into their rotation and just spend some time looking for treasures. As I strolled down the kayak aisle I saw a couple visiting about kayaks. I just couldn’t help myself.

I asked if they were looking at getting into kayaks and it turned into a half hour infomercial about what to look for. They had tons of great questions and expressed appreciation for the visit. It reminded me that the questions I asked years ago often go unheard by people who actually kayak. Just a few resources exist for folks who aren’t in the community yet. At least they don’t know they exist. Sometimes we stay in the bubble and assume people buying kayaks are hooked into all the networks that lots of folks reading this are connected to. Fact of the matter is, they aren’t.

As I mulled over the conversation last night, I started to build this article because of a question.
“If I had to tell a first time kayak buyer everything they need to know, in a very limited space and time, what would I tell them?”

Here is what has materialized:

In Texas you need two things to be legal during the day. You need a lifejacket and a whistle. If you paddle at night, you need a 360 degree light visible for up to two miles. Get a waterproof whistle and a lifejacket that has mesh on your lower back. It will be much more comfortable.

A sit on top kayak is more versatile than a sit in kayak. You might need to wear more clothes in the winter but if you fall in, you’ll be glad you have a sit on top.

Don’t spend all your money on accessories. For a first time paddler, you won’t appreciate the difference between a $50 paddle and a $500 paddle.

When you pick a paddle, hold it up beside you. You should be able to reach up and barely get your fingers over the edge of the blade. If you can’t reach it, it’s too long. If your hand goes over the top, too short.

Get the best kayak you can afford. Don’t stress over what other people will think. If it gets you on the water, you are in the club. Very few kayakers, especially fishing kayakers, will judge you by the type of boat you paddle.

Kayak with other people. If you are going by yourself, tell folks where you will be and what time you will be home.

The kayaking community is great! Almost every person you meet is friendly and will help however they can if you are in a bind.

Visit Payne’s Paddle Fish for more details on any of these items.

Join a forum or two to ask for help and talk to folks who are kayaking and/or kayak fishing.
If you can, demo, demo, demo. Many shops have days each week set up for demos. Mariner-Sails in Dallas has appointment days every Thursday and some Saturdays as well (weather permitting).

Go to a Get Together (GTG). April 20 is the date of the next one at Grapevine Lake. For more info check out this link:

If you ever have questions, ask! I’d be happy for you to email me or leave a comment. [email protected]

I know the list could go on forever but as succinctly as I could, these are the things I would want to make sure I covered.

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